Okay, so I just read the most recent article posted on Disney's Star Wars Blog and I am totally geeking out!!!
They have given us a small sample of what to expect in the future Galactic Starcruiser resort experience. Imagine living in a fully immersive Star Wars world for 2 whole days! OMG, I need to start prepping now (and probably start saving money for it too)! Rumor is that a cabin that sleeps up to 5 people starts at $3,300. Sounds steep, but we can almost always count on Disney delivering what it says it will. And if they deliver on this, it'll be money well spent! Think of it as a 2-day cruise, in outer space without leaving the comfort and security of Earth. I'm completely content being grounded on terra firma, so this is my kind of cruise!
However, an even bigger barrier than the price to most fans wanting to stay here will be the size of the hotel. It is rumored that there will only be about 100 guest rooms. Imagine millions of people wanting to stay at a hotel the size of a Holiday Inn Express! It is going to be a galatic battle to get a reservation once this opens!
But let's talk about what we have to look forward to! Reading between the lines on Disney World's blog, and based on research conducted by other Disney nerds out there, this is what I anticipate:
Disney World is in the middle of a huge expansion at Hollywood Studios. On June 30, 2018, Toy Story Land officially opened and on August 29, 2020 Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will open. There is a Tier system for your first 3 FastPasses. You can only select one FP+ from Tier 1 and the other two must be from Tier 2.
For those of you who were getting primed to make a mad dash for Galaxy's Edge FastPasses once you are able to get your FP+, don't hold your breath. I just spoke to an agent who said that, as of right now, Galaxy's Edge is NOT going to going to offer FastPass selections as of now, and that he assumes that there will be no change in that. Interesting... it looks like Disney's newest attractions are going to run it old school style. All this to say, as of right now, it looks as though the FP+ tiers and selections will remain unchanged even after Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens. I'll update this post if anything changes.
I will say that if Disney does not offer FP+ for Galaxy's Edge, the only way you are going to get to ride these Star Wars rides will be with a rope drop. So, if you are determined to ride Star Wars and utilize your FP+ at Hollywood Studios, I would say to compeletely ignore the typical "use all your FastPasses first thing in the morning" rule. You are going to be in line for HOURS in Galaxy's Edge (I'm a realist... sorry). I wouldn't book any FP+ until after lunch and would do my best to get Slinky Dog for the evening; really, that is the best time to ride it anyways.
If you aren't interested in riding the Star Wars rides, here are my suggestions....
What to use your FP+ on:
Tier 1 Rides:
Slinky Dog Dash: Currently, this is the hardest to get FP+. However, the queue line is super cool and if you do a rope drop, you'll get to ride this without too much of a wait. We did the rope drop and only had to wait 40 minutes then we were able to hop over to the Alien Saucers immediately after and ride that with only a 30 minutes wait. If you are staying at Hollywood Studios for an entire day, my suggestion would be to ignore the "use all of your FP+ first thing in the morning rule." There is not a lot worth using a FP+ on at Hollywood Studios (at the moment), so I would use the rope drop to ride Slinky in the morning and get a FP+ for the evening to ride it again. The experience is completely different at night! Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the construction on Galaxy's Edge. You get a great view of it from the Slinky Dog Dash!
Another note about Slinky Dog Dash. The photopass photos are not perfected yet. We only got one that has two of us and two strangers. I'm thinking that if we sat together in rows 5 & 6 our pictures would have been better. I think we were split over two cars (in rows 6 & 7 if my memory serves me correct). Try to sit your family in one car if possible to get a good picture together. I don't know why we didn't get a picture of my oldest daughter and husband in the other car. I think they are still working out kinks on the cameras.
Toy Story Mania!: The only Tier ones at Hollywood right now are Alien Swirling Saucers, Slinky Dog Dash, and Toy Story Mania!. This will change in a few months but, for now, if you can't get a FP+ for Slinky Dog Dash, you might as well grab one for either the Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania!. If you can't get a FP+ for Slinky Dog Dash and want to ride all 3 Toy Story rides, I would suggest using your FP+ on this one. Use the rope drop to ride Slinky, jump onto Alien Swirling Saucers immediately after, and set up a FP+ for Toy Story Mania! for the second hour after the park opens. If the park opens at 8:00, try to get a FP+ for sometime between 9-10.
Alien Swirling Saucers: I thought Alien Swirling Saucers would be like the Mad Hatter Tea Cups. It is similar, but more fun, more comfortable seating and you won't get motion sick or dizzy on this one. We were surprised by how fun it was. If the wait is 30 minutes or you have a FP+, then it is worth going on.
As for the Tier 2 FP+, there are only 3 FP+ worth getting:
Rock-n-Roller Coaster: This is not a ride for small kids. It usually does have a long wait and boring queue (a good bit of which is outside) so it is worth a FP+ if you are wanting to go on it. This is like a smoother, more intense version of Space Mountain. It is in the dark like Space Mountain, but whereas Space Mountain reaches a top speed of 30 mph, Rock-n-Roller Coaster reaches a top speed of 60 mph and goes from 0-60 in under 3 seconds.
Tower of Terror: Again, not a children's ride, but because it is currently one of the few rides at Hollywood, it does have a long wait so worth a FP+.
Star Tours: Kids can ride this and, if you have to wait in line, they will enjoy climbing on the rocks in the queue. Also, keep your eye out for a good spot while in queue to take a picture with the AT-AT in the background.
Some extra Hollywood Studios tips:
For the young Star Wars fan, you can sign them up for the Jedi Training experience. I'm a huge Star Wars fan and thought this sounded great! I didn't sign my kids up for it because they just aren't into it yet, and I'm very glad I didn't. I got the chance to see a good portion of it while waiting in line for Star Tours and I'd like to share my observations...
1. Most of the kids were just not that into it.
2. There is a lot of standing and waiting rather than action.
3. It is not for older kids like the description suggests. Your tween is probably going to sigh and roll their eyes throughout the duration while you are wishing they'd smile for one second so you could get a picture.
4. It is rated highly... by parents! I think people love this because they are parents trying to live vicariously through their kids. I understand, I was SO tempted to sign my girls up for this, hoping it would finally turn them into Star Wars fans, but I'm so glad I didn't. It probably would have had the opposite effect. (Watch the video linked above and look at the expressions on the children's faces.)
5. You have to forfeit your chance to use the rope drop on a ride if you want to sign up for this. The only way to get a spot is for you to do the rope drop and head straight to the sign up area by the Indiana Outpost. That means, getting to the park 60 minutes early, waiting in line to sign them up for the event, getting them to the training 15 minutes early to hear directions and get prepared for Jedi Training, and waiting another 15 minutes for them to do the show. By the time you add all that up, you will have spent (and I use the word "spent" because time is $$ in Disney) 90+ minutes on an activity that only a small percentage of your party can participate in.
Bottom line on the Jedi Experience, only do it if you have a very young, imaginative, hard-core Star Wars fan who is patient and good at following directions. And I must say, you have a unicorn on your hands if you have a child that matches that description.
Divide & Conquer
If older kids or a parent wants to go on Rock-n-Roller Coaster and/or Tower of Terror and younger ones can't, you many consider splitting up for a bit. One group could head to the rides (both of which are close to each other) while the other catches a live show such as Frozen or Beauty and the Beast on Stage. My personal suggestion is to go to Beauty and the Beast over Frozen. Beauty and the Beast is truly a live performance while Frozen incorporates a lot of screen watching with characters sprinkled in.
And here's an idea to cheat the system...
Say you have a family of four. Two want to do the intense rides and two want to go to a show. Give all four of your magic bands to the two that want to do rides (it's not worth it to use a FP+ on the shows anyways). Select FP+ for Rock-n-Roller Coaster under 2 of your family members and FP+ for Tower of Terror under the other 2 family members within the same hour time frame. You cannot overlap FP+ times on the same magic band, but you can over two magic bands. Pick your Beauty and the Beast show time (I'd recommend either the 2:00 or the 4:00 so as not to interfere with Indiana Jones, the Jedi Training Experience or rope drop), then select FP+ on the rides for between 1:30 - 2:30 or 3:30 - 4:30. Tricky, right?
Galaxy's Edge coming Fall 2019
If you are a Star Wars fan drooling over Galaxy's Edge like I am, I'm going to give you a little dose of reality. It is going to be a nightmare to attempt with young children. Star Wars fans are crazy (it takes one to know one) and this place is going to be jammed packed for a long, long time. There are estimates that 200,000+ people will be visiting Hollywood Studios/Galaxy's Edge on busy days and that the wait times for the new Star Wars rides are going to blow record wait times out of the sky - estimates are for 10+ hours wait times when it first opens! Holy Crap! (Check out this article for more on that.)
Here's the thing, Galaxy's Edge isn't going anywhere. My personal suggestion is to take your kids to Disney and enjoy all the other wonderful experiences it has to offer. Don't make yourself and your family miserable by "forcing" them to go to Galaxy's Edge until they are ready to enjoy it too.
If you read my previous post on purchasing Memory Maker, then you have already seen a few of my family's magic shots. If you are wondering what the heck a "magic shot" is, then I'll tell you. It is simply a digitally enhanced image. The PhotoPass photographer will ask you to look a certain direction or act a particular way; so, if you've ever wanted to act at Disney, this is your chance. You may feel silly, but the more you sell it, the more you'll love the picture later on. I shared these pictures in the Memory Maker post, but these are two of my favorites where my family got to ham it up:
Below, I'll share with you my favorite Magic Shots by sorted by park. To keep up to date on what is available, check out the Disney PhotoPass Service Facebook page right before you leave for vacation. As you browse magic shots, keep in mind that, although, there are magic shots (such as the Pandora ones) that are specific to a park, there are many (e.g. the balloons, snowflake, mickey and minnie, tinkerbell, and fairy wings) that likely any PhotoPass photographer in any park can do if you ask them. For park specific shots, I added captions with where to find the PhotoPass photographers for them.
Disney Springs PhotoPass Studio
There is another often overlooked spot to utilize PhotoPass that is not even in the parks. At the Disney PhotoPass Service Studio in Disney Springs, you can choose from an almost endless number of backgrounds and utilize costumes/props they have on hand at the studio. Check out this link for the exact location.
When planning a Disney vacation on a budget, you may find yourself pinching pennies where you can. One question you will likely have is, is Memory Maker worth the money? If you are only visiting a park for a day, then maybe not. You could save money by purchasing your PhotoPass pictures individually after your trip. However, if you are visiting more than one park or for more than a day, it is totally worth it. And if this is your first visit to Disney, do not skimp here.
We love Memory Maker and have bought it every trip. I'd like to clarify that having pictures taken by a PhotoPass photographer is completely free. They take the pictures and link it to your account via your magic band or a card. However, you then have to purchase the pictures you want individually; and it is likely that you will have quite a few that you love.
Memory Maker costs $169 (if you purchase in advance) and $199 if you purchase it the day of your trip. With Memory Maker, you have instant access to all your photos and can download them all at no additional cost. Also, the fee covers 30 days of pictures from the first day you use it. Many of us spend several days in the parks, so this fee will cover everyday of your trip. When you compare $169 to the cost of paying a professional photographer to take family holiday pictures, it is a steal!
Now that I've explained what Memory Maker is, let me share with you some of our favorite PhotoPass experiences.
This photo opportunity is hidden by Rapunzel's tower, which is next to the Haunted House. We just discovered this photo opportunity this year and the above are a couple of my favorite pictures of our girls. This shot is only available after dark when the lanterns really glow and there is no way they would come out this great on a camera phone.
I love the candid shots that PhotoPass photographers capture! I have so many favorites from our vacations that Memory Maker is a must. With the unlimited downloads, I use the photos to make Christmas cards and photo books on Shutterfly.
Of course, there is also the benefit of all your ride photos loading directly to your account. I share this picture to share a tip also. When you ride Slinky Dog Dash, ask to have your family in even rows, for example, rows 1 & 2 or 3 & 4, etc. I think we were in rows 6 & 7 so half of our family ended up in one picture, and the other half in another. Next time, we'll be sure to get our whole family together in the picture.
One of the coolest things PhotoPass photographers offer are Magic Shots. I'm going to share an entire post about Magic Shots, but here are few of my family favorites.
The pictures I shared in this post are just a handful of the tons of photos I have saved from our 2018 trip. I have many more saved and printed from this trip and our previous ones. For our family, Memory Maker is always money well spent! In my next post, I will share some of my favorite magic shot opportunities. Always ask your PhotoPass Photographer if they have any magic shots they can take and you'll be in for some fun surprises!
When Animal Kingdom was being built in the late 90's, I remember thinking, 'Why would anyone spend a day at an animal park in Disney when they could just go to a zoo for a fraction of the cost?' Well, after one trip there, I can now tell you why. Animal Kingdom is awesome! For us, it is the perfect mix of our family's favorite things: animals, performances, artistic detail, and (of course) rides!
Animal Kingdom also has what people often refer to as the best ride they have been on ever: Avatar Flight of Passage. Unless you've been to Animal Kingdom before and know your way around and exactly what you want to do, make this a full day excursion. You may even want to take a midday break/nap and come back because it is a good bit of walking. That being said... here is what I suggest for your FP+ options. Like Epcot and Hollywood Studios, there is a Tier system and for your first 3 FastPasses, you can only select one from the Tier 1 and the other 2 must be from Tier 2.
What to use your FP+ on:
Avatar Flight of Passage: Flight of Passage has the longest wait of any of the rides in any of the Disney World parks. I personally have never seen it under 175 minutes (except at park closing time) in all our trips there. The line frequently reaches a 200+ minute wait. Crazy!! The truth is, my family and I still have not riden it. My kids weren't tall enough during our first trips to Disney, and now that they are, we still have not been able to get a FP+. We haven't been willing to endure a long wait with the kids (although I hear that Flight of Passage has an amazing queue line), so this remains our family's white whale.
The only way you will have a chance to get a FP+ for this ride is if your are staying at a Disney resort for an extended period of time. We have family in Florida so our Disney stays are short and sweet. If you are staying at Disney for a week, plan on making the Animal Kingdom the last park of your trip so that you have the best chance possible for snagging a FP+. (See more about how FP+ works by checking out my post on FastPass+ Rules). And forget the Disney pros tips on this one about setting up all your FP+ for the morning time. If you see a FP+ available for this at 7:50 pm, do not hesitate! Grab it while you can!
Another tip about Avatar Flight of Passage - If you do not have young, worn out kids with you, and you are willing to wait but don't want to lose out on time enjoying the rest of the park, there is a trick. If a park is closing at 9:00, and you get into line at 8:59, you will get to ride the ride. If my kids were older, I would definitely do this. Don't expect the line for Avatar to be short though. The last time we were there it was still 120 minute wait at park closing time.
Na'vi River Journey: If you can't get a pass for Avatar Flight of Passage, get a FP+ for the Na'vi River Journey since it is the only other Tier 1 ride and there is always a wait. When this ride is described as a slow ride, it means a SLOW ride. It is very pretty, but think of it as Pandora's version of It's a Small World. No fun dips or surprises on this one. Bottom line is, if you wait in line a long time for it, you will feel like you wasted your time. However, if you use a FP+ on this ride, you'll walk away saying, that was pretty and enjoyable. You can then mark it off your list as a ride done and use your saved time to walk around and enjoy the sights of Pandora.
Pandora itself is amazing! I don't know how they created the "Hallelujah Mountains." Be sure to use you PhotoPass to take a picture in front of them while you are there. And if you ask for a "magic shot," a Banshee just might appear in your picture as well.
All the rest of the FP+ options in Animal Kingdom are Tier 2. Here is the list of them in order of suggested priority:
Kilimanjaro Safari: Because of the "nature" of this ride, the line can easily get backed up. I've never seen it less than 45 minutes and it is not an interesting queue. It is worth it though! You really feel like you are on a safari. Giraffes walked by close enough we felt like we could practically touch them and they crossed the path in front of our vehicle several times. The possibility of a close encounter with an animal is another reason why this line can get backed up. Once, my aunt rode it at night and a white rhino bumped their vehicle then took its sweet time walking in front of them. She said it was awesome!! That brings me to another point. The best time of day to get a FP+ for Kilimanjaro is either first thing in the morning or at sunset. Many wild animals are crepuscular (most active during the twilight hours) and such is the case for the animals of the African Safari. If you go in the middle of a summer day, you'll mostly see animals lying around or sleeping in the shade trying to beat the Florida heat.
Oh, and if you like to hunt for Hidden Mickeys, don't miss the one on the safari. It is a little difficult to tell from the angle, but Flamingo Island is shaped like a Mickey head:
Expedition Everest: This is my husband and my favorite ride! (Although that might change once we get to ride Flight of Passage). It will totally depend on the age and temperament of your kids as to whether you'll be able to take them on this. The height requirement is 44," so young kids CAN ride. We took my 6 year old and 8 year old on it and they loved it... but they are also pretty bold and we've been training them to enjoy roller coasters. You can always show your kids the attached video and see if they would be willing to go on it. I've found that showing my kids videos of the rides takes away a lot of anxiety and gives them the control to make the decision for themselves.
Dinosaur: My kids LOVE dinosaurs. So much so that we've let them watch all the Jurassic Park/World movies. The movie Dinosaur, that this ride is (loosely) based on, was my oldest child's favorite movie when she was a toddler. We read dinosaur books all the time and she could pronounce names like Parasaurolophus. I tell you all this to put my next comment in context... They were not huge fans of the dinosaur ride and are not interested in going on it again. I had heard that this ride is very dark and scary for little kids, but I also knew my budding paleontologists would not want to miss a dinosaur ride. So I let them watch the videos online and we made a FP+ to go. My youngest insists that she wasn't scared, but we have the photo proof to showing otherwise.
We are in the front row in this picture and you can see my youngest hiding from the Carnotaurus. Also, I love what the people in the back are doing. It's obviously not their first time on the ride!
So, all of this to say, if you have dino fans in your house, don't assume that they will like the ride. Watch the video and decide for yourself. Also, I have a bad back and this was the most difficult ride in all the parks on my joints. The SUV gets very bumpy and makes jerky turns. I put this on my FP+ to get list because the line is consistently over 60 minutes long. And, who knows, you may like the ride. It just wasn't one of my family's favorites. However, I think it was worth it for the picture. :)
Kali River Rapids: We always go to Disney for Christmas, so my family has not done the rapids yet. We haven't hit any of those warm Florida winter days yet and haven't wanted to be cold and wet. During the winter, there is no wait. However, I imagine it would get crowded on a hot summer day. I've read that you get REALLY wet on this one so be warned. You might want to use up your first 3 FP+ and try to get a FP+ for this one at the end of the day so you can head to your hotel afterward to change.
Primeval Whirl: My husband and I both get motion sickness on spinning rides so we have never been on the Primeval Whirl. If it is a ride you are interested in, use a FP+ on it because the lines are regularly over 60 minutes. You may notice, after watching this video, that this ride seems cheesy and juxtaposed to the pristine and beautiful environment you would expect from a park named "Animal Kingdom." Your observation would be correct. Dinoland confuses many visitors to Animal Kingdom and they often express a dislike for it. However, if you research the thought process behind its creation, it is quite a political commentary. However, it is way too much to write about in this blog, so if you are interested in learning about Dinoland's purpose, check out this link.
So that is all of the rides for Animal Kingdom... My suggestion is to use your morning FP+ on the above choices and once you have done that, you can try and get another FP+ for the rides you've already been on, or you might opt for one of these choices:
1. Character Outpost: We've taken pictures with most of the princesses/female characters at Disney, but we still haven't met Pocahontas because the line has been too long. If you see a FP+ to meet Pocahontas in the afternoon it would be a good use of one.
2. Finding Nemo or Festival of the Lion King: In general, using a FP+ on shows doesn't give you much of an advantage in your seat choice. However, during a busy season, having a FP+ does cut the length of time you have to wait and guarantees you a seat if you show up in the allotted time frame. For the best seats, arrive at the beginning of the FP+ time frame. We haven't been to Nemo, but I don't think it could possibly beat out the Festival of the Lion King! Definitely put this show on your day's agenda. You won't be sorry!
3. Festival of Lights: I liked having a FP+ for this, because of the fact that the FP+ entry point to and from this section of seats is directly across from Expedition Everest. So if you love Expedition Everest, you can jump on it one more time after the show is over and experience it at night. Because of Everest's location at the back of the park, the wait times decrease significantly toward park closing. When we were there, the wait time for Everest was only 20 minutes around 7:00.
Don't bother with using a FP+ on It's Tough to be a Bug. I've never seen the wait longer than 15 minutes even on the busiest days. This is probably because it is said to be too scary for some kids. Creating a kids show that is too scary for kids probably wasn't one of Disney's best ideas... Never been to it myself - too many other fun things to do!
Also, using a FP+ on UP! doesn't give you an advantage, but I would suggest going to the show. It was fun and the birds flew so close to us that we could almost touch them! I don't know if they do this on the same side for every show (I imagine they would to keep training simple), but you'll get to experience something cool if you sit either on the far right row of the center section or the far left row of the left row of the section on your right coming into the theater. Those individuals got to form a "forest" that one of the birds flew through! I'd go again knowing this just so I could be a part of that.
Epcot doesn't have many rides, but the few good ones they have can get very busy, so FP+ is great for these. Unlike the Magic Kingdom, Epcot does have Tier 1 & Tier 2 FP+ options. What this means is that you can only choose 1 FP+ from the Tier 1 list and your other 2 will have to be from the Tier 2 list. (For more about how FastPass+ works, check out my post on the FastPass+ Rules.) As you will see below, pretty much the only rides at Epcot worth going on are in the Tier 1 category.
I have some suggestions on how best to approach Epcot. Keep in mind, this is from the point of view of planning a trip with young children. If you have older children or going as adults, the way you approach Epcot is completely different. In general, I would say that Epcot is a great park hopper option if you are going with kids. But would make a great park to choose for two adults celebrating an anniversary to spend an entire day in. Epcot's annual special events such as the International Festival of the Arts, International Flower & Garden Festival, and the International Food & Wine Festival are very popular among adult Disney fans.
Now for your Epcot strategy and ride info...
What to use your FP+ on:
Test Track: This was a surprisingly fun ride. Even though you don't really get to create your own car, my kids enjoyed pretending they did and had a blast. They immediately asked to go again, which we could not do because the line was over 90 minutes by that point. If your goal is to ride as many rides as possible at Epcot before park hopping, my suggestion would be to use a FP+ on Test Track. The reason for this is that Test Track has a bad "track" record of closing off and on throughout the day for repairs, so the lines get backed up and very long. To assuage any fears you might have about the safety of the ride, according to former Epcot employees, the ride's computer system is overly sensitive and complex so it gets frequent error codes that they have to work through.
Here is an interesting fact... should Test Track (or any other ride that you have a FP+ for) be temporarily closed during your FastPass+ time, after 15 minutes has passed from the beginning time of that FP+, your FastPass+ will automatically become eligible for ANY ride ANY time before the park closes that day (including, of course, the one you initially had the pass for, Test Track in this case). You don't even need to visit a cast member for this to happen. It will "magically" change on its own and show up as a "Multiple Experience FP+" in your plans.
There are some caveats to this special FP+, however. For instance, if you get a MEFP+ at the Magic Kingdom, it will include all rides EXCEPT for the Seven Dwarfs, unless of course it was the Seven Dwarfs that you were on to begin with. This type of exemption would be in place at the other parks as well (i.e. Avatar in Animal Kingdom or Slinky Dog in Hollywood Studios). At Epcot, Frozen Ever After is excluded from the list.
Frozen Ever After: If you have a little princess or Frozen fanatic in your party, use your Tier 1 FP+ on this one instead of Test Track to make sure you do not miss it. And if you have little brothers whining saying, "Not Frozen, again!" make them go anyways. The animatronics are the best in Walt Disney World and a few surprise dips make it fun for everyone. Just so you know, this is another ride that frequently dawns the "Temporarily Closed" label. Again, there are no safety issues. Water rides are just notoriously finicky and this one sees a lot of action. If you select this as your FP+, I would suggest heading straight to Test Track with the rope drop.
Soarin': Even though this is a Tier 1, you should be able to time Soarin' when the wait is short. The downside to waiting for this one is that there is nothing interesting about the queue line for little ones. However, it is a very wide walkway, the crowd sprawls out, and the line moves at very segmented times. I would say to pick this ride to wait in line for, but make sure to bring something special to engage your kids (and yourself for that matter) during the queue. Large groups of people get on the ride every few minutes, so your kids will even have a little time to sit and rest their legs. Just bring something for them to do and wear SeaBands if you are prone to motion sickness. My oldest and I both get motion sick but with our SeaBands on, we were just fine. Also, if you download the Disney Play app, you'll have the opportunity to answer some trivia questions while in line, which is kinda fun.
Mission: Space: I cannot speak from personal experience on this ride because once I read the reviews, I knew this one was not for me or my family. If you are claustrophobic, this ride is a no go. The other complaint I have read is about the G forces. The ride is supposed to simulate a space shuttle take off and the imagineers were very successful in making it feel real... too real apparently. There is a green track that is milder than the orange track and some have had success with this one. Just do your research to decide if this is right for you and take the warnings on the ride seriously. I like what this woman had to say about it on Trip Advisor:
I'm a 50 year old woman who considers herself a bad a$$ so I was up for the challenge of the Orange Mission with my husband. It was the first and last time I will ride that ride. The claustrophobia didn't bother me, the G force did. It felt like an elephant sat down on my body and my organs were being rearranged. It was hard to breathe through it. The disorientation was rough too with the movie playing on the screen. I just concentrated on the letters on the buttons on the console and kept reading them to myself. This seemed to keep me from getting too nauseous. The best part was walking out of the ride and seeing young men laying on benches and sitting along the walls with their head in their hands. My bada$$ status is intact.
Spaceship Earth: Do not get Mission: Space and Spaceship Earth mixed up. This ride is the opposite of what you will experience on Mission: Space. You know the iconic 180 ft Ball at Epic? Did you know that there is a ride in it? Well, Spaceship Earth is the ride. It is a classic ride, kinda of like Epcot's version of It's a Small World. And it is worth doing for the history of the ride alone (check out the ride description for some interesting facts). Also, if you go during the summer, utilize this ride to cool off. The ride is inside with air conditioning... a hot commodity on a sunny, summer day in Florida. Plus, it is one of the longest rides (15 minutes long), so it will give you and your family a chance to rest your feet. If the line is short, you may find yourself wanting to go again just for a break from walking. For this reason, and the ride's proximity to the Sunshine Seasons dining area, your ideal time for this ride would be around lunchtime.
What NOT to use your FP+ on:
The Seas with Nemo & Friends: This ride feels half-assed (pardon my language) and I was mad that we waited even 30 minutes in line for it. They used the same open clam shell seats used on the Ariel ride in M.K. but put no effort into any animatronics. It feels like they let the B team imagineers take a crack at making an attraction. Skip the ride and go straight to the SeaBase instead where you can tour the aquarium and take a picture with Bruce the Shark.
Living with the Land: Like Spaceship Earth, this is a good place to cool off and rest your legs. It is very slow and even longer than Spaceship Earth (20 minutes long). This is not a ride to take if you are park hopping, but if you are spending an entire day in Epcot and want to chill and rest your feet, this may be for you.
Pixar Short Film Festival: This is not a ride. You sit in a movie theater and get to enjoy some of Pixar's short films in 4-D. The Film festival is about 15 minutes long so, again, this is an attraction for people who are spending an entire day in Epcot.
Journey into Imagination with Figment: We have not been on this ride because we park hopped in Epcot, but if you have young kids that love science it sounds like it would be worth a stop. Check out this review for some interesting information about the ride. It never has a wait, btw so it would be a waste of a FP+.
Turtle Talk with Crush: This attraction also rarely has a wait. If your kids are insisting on doing something Nemo related skip the ride and come here instead. This is fully interactive. Kids can ask Crush any questions they want and he may even refer to your kids by name. Pretty cool for young kids.
Epcot 2019 FastPass+ Strategies
Getting FastPasses for your trip may seem confusing the first time around, but it really isn't that bad. I'm going to simplify things my sharing the "rules" for FastPasses in this post. Before I start, I'd like to clarify for any of you wondering if FP+ cost extra money. The answer is no, they are absolutely free. However, they best serve the individuals who spend the most time and money at Disney, as you will see in Rule number 1.
Rule 1: You are allowed to book 3 FP+ prior to your visit to the park. After you have used these 3 passes up, you can book more on the fly while you are inside the park. This is why Disney planners tell you to book your FP+ for the morning if at all possible.
Rule 2: You can only book your initial 3 FP+ for a single park. So even if you have a "Park Hopper Pass," you may not, for example, schedule a FP+ for Seven Dwarfs at M.K. in the morning and Flight of Passage at A.K. in the evening.
Rule 3: If you are staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel (and I highly recommend you do), then you can book your FP+ 60 days before your check-in date. This means, that the people who stay the longest at a resort (or spend the most money at Disney) get first dibs on the FP+. The reason being that you get to plan your FP+ 60 days from your check-in date. So, if you were staying at Disney for a week, then you would get to plan your FP+ for your last day in the park up to 67 days in advance.
Rule 4: If you are not staying at a resort hotel, you have 30 days from the day you are going to the park to book your FP+. Staying in a resort hotel gives you such an advantage in the FP+ game and in having a great Disney trip. My parents and siblings are Florida residents so they have an annual pass and have done many day trips to Disney so they always fall in that 30 day time frame. They have NEVER gotten a FP+ for the Seven Dwarfs, Flight of Passage, or Slinky Dog. You can guarantee you won't be getting FP+ for any of the upcoming Star Wars attractions next year at Hollywood or the future Tron or Guardians of the Galaxy rides with the 30 day out option either.
Rule 5: There are tiers to the rides in every park, except the Magic Kingdom. Planning passes at the Magic Kingdom is so much easier than the other parks. If there were tiers at the Magic Kingdom, all the rides that I told you that you SHOULD get FastPasses for in my post about the Magic Kingdom FP+, would be considered Tier 1. The others would be Tier 2. You would only be able to pick 1 of the Tier 1 rides and your other 2 FP+ would have to be for Tier 2 rides. Here is the current list of Tier 1 and 2 rides as of January 2019. The ones in bold are the ones you should try your best to get.
There are no Tiers at Magic Kingdom, but I'm going to list the rides in order of what I would suggest be your priority. This is based on my experience with wait times and queue lines:
Last Rule: FP+ become available at 7:00 am EST on the day you are allowed to start booking. So set your alarm, grab a cup of coffee, and log onto MyDisneyExperience at the first possible second. Good luck and May the Force be with You!
While waiting in line for Thunder Mountain this past December with a hyperactive 9 year old and a 6 year old that needed to go to the bathroom, I thought to myself, 'I don't want to wait in line for Thunder Mountain ever again.' Although the experience wasn't as bad, I had the same thought in Epcot while we were waiting in line for Soarin.' This got me thinking, there are the few obvious FP+ that you want to get if at all possible, but what about the rest of your FP+ choices? With small children, I'd rather wait 75 minutes in an interesting queue line than endure 60 minutes of, "Are we there yet?"
So with this thought in mind, I'm going to make FP+ suggestions for all four parks. These posts are intended primarily for planning for a vacation with young children. However, I find that I get just as bored or engaged by the queue lines as my kids do, so the adults out there should find this useful as well.
There are plenty of posts about selecting FastPass+ for the most popular rides. However, my blog will be focused on selecting FastPass+ based on ride popularity as well as queue line experiences. When planning our Disney family vacations, I want our kids to have the be experience possible. The magical experience is what we are paying for after all.
So here are my suggestions. You'll find links along the way. Most of these will be to YouTube videos of the rides. I find this very helpful when determining whether a ride is a good fit for my kids. But before watching any videos or planning your FP+ selections, make sure your children are old enough/tall enough by checking out this list of Disney World Ride Age & Height Requirements. Also, check out my post on the FastPass+ Rules.
What to use your FP+ on:
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a super fun, super short ride, that usually has a super long line. It has an okay queue, but nothing to brag about. If you ever see the wait time listed as 60 minutes or below, jump in line even if you have a FP+ scheduled for it so you can ride it twice. The wait rarely drops below 60 minutes and it is a blast for adults and young children. It is also a great first roller coaster for your 4-5 year old as it is quick and very smooth.
Peter Pan's Flight is a Disney classic everyone should experience. It is consistently one of the longest lines in the park, however, this is also my favorite queue line in the Magic Kingdom. While waiting, you move through the Darling's house. The nursery is complete with Tinker Bell darting in and out of drawers and an interactive shadow wall. I still can't wrap my head around how they do this! If you want to experience the queue line without a horrible wait, go right around the time of the evening fireworks show. If you are super lucky, you will emerge from the ride just as the fireworks are going off. Move a few steps towards Prince Charming's Carousel and you will have one of the best views of the fireworks in the park.
Space Mountain is Florida's oldest operating roller coaster. For this reason alone, it is worth riding at least one time. It has been in operation since 1975, but don't let that worry you. It has had refurbishments done over the years including a large scale one completed in 2009. Again, because this is an old favorite, it is always crowded. Get a FP+ if at all possible. The queue line is okay towards the beginning, but towards the end it is very stuffy and crowded. If you have issues with claustrophobia, either skip the line with a FP+ or head to it as soon as the park opens to avoid a long wait. Lastly, as you can see in the pointless linked video, the ride is almost pitch black. This is another ride that should not be your child's first! This was actually the first roller coaster my mom took me on when I was five. She also put me in the very front thinking it would be better for me so I could see what was coming. Uh, total parent fail. I cried and screamed the whole time and didn't ride another roller coaster until I was in middle school. True story... After our kids rode several other roller coasters and were loving them, we took them on Space Mountain. We even went with Nana (my mom). It was the first time I had been on this ride since I went with her as a freaked out child almost 30 years earlier.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was 60 minutes of purgatory in line. There is very little to see or do while waiting and the line was so cramped that when my daughter had to use the restroom 30 minutes into waiting, I couldn't see a way to possible play my parent entitlement card and get out of line to take her then move back into line with my husband and oldest child later. Also, we went during the winter and it was still stuffy waiting in line. Cramped with very little ventilation, I imagine the wait would be hell to endure on a hot, Florida day. All this to say, do yourself a favor and use a FP+ for this ride. The ride itself is great! One of the longest roller coasters in Disney, it is 3.5 minutes of dips, quick turns and speed. We loved it! It is not a smooth ride, but I think that adds to the experience. It would be odd for a runaway train from the 1800's to not be bumpy, wouldn't it?
Jungle Cruise is not worth the wait. However, it is a classic so if your goal is to hit all the rides in Magic Kingdom it may be worth one of your FP+. You will hate the ride if you wait any more than 30 minutes for it (and it rarely drops below 60). However, you will find it an enjoyable experience if you can just hop right on. If you have little ones who like animals, they will enjoy this slow boat ride. This ride may become even more popular in the future as there is a Jungle Cruise movie starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson being released in October of 2019. For more on that and some interesting ride history, check out this video.
Pirates of the Caribbean is a slow dark ride with one surprise, fun drop. Because it is a classic, it also has long waits. As a side note, we regretted taking our four year old and six year old on this ride the first time we went to Disney. My husband and I remembered from our childhood it being one of our favorites (the park's rides have gotten MUCH better since then), so we were excited for it. We DID NOT remember how dark and creepy it was or all the skeletons... It was the first Disney ride we ever took our kids on and an epic parent fail. We had to immediately follow it up with a happy Dumbo ride to earn back their trust in us and Disney. That being said, if you have brave, swashbuckling pirates in your home, they would be probably be fine and may even love it... Just don't make this the first ride you go on and be sure to send them with their pirate swords to protect the voyaging crew.
Splash Mountain is a popular ride that we have not riden as a family. We go to Disney over Christmas break so a water ride has not appealed to us, since the warmest day so far for our trip has been in the 60's. Plus, it doesn't appeal to anyone else on a cool day so if you want to dawn a poncho and go for it, you'll have to wait 15 minutes or less. However, if you are going to Disney during the Summer and want to ride Splash Mountain, it would be a good use of a FP+. During the Summer it will be one of the most popular rides in the Magic Kingdom because everyone is so desperate to cool off.
Last thought, if you have very young girls, 3-5 age range who are more interested in princesses than rides, use a FP+ on either meeting Cinderella & Elena or Rapunzel & Tiana at Fairytale Hall or Enchanted Tales with Belle. There is always a wait (ranging from 20 minutes to 70+), and it is very boring. Lastly, if you want to meet a lot of Princesses, an early breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table is a wonderful experience, but I'll share more on this later.
Now, onto what you shouldn't use your FP+ for...
What NOT to use your FP+ on:
It's a Small World: At the right time of day, this ride will have wait times as low as 5 minutes. It's one of those rides that everyone should do once because it is one of Disney's oldest and holds a lot of nostalgia for people. For a little background on the ride, check out this link. Also, if you eat at Pinocchio's next door, you'll find a window overlooking the loading dock of the ride.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel: This is almost always the shortest line in the park. It may be the most basic ride in the park, but the atmosphere makes it magical. We have never left the Magic Kingdom without riding it at least once.
Barnstormer: This is a great intro roller coaster for little kids, and if you time it right, you'll find wait times of 30 minutes and even less. Our first year at Disney, we rode it 3 times in a row because the wait time was less than 5 minutes! (I'll be writing another post about timing your route around the Kingdom)
Dumbo: This is a great ride for little kids and is right next door to the Barnstormer. Again, if you time it right you will have a very short wait. Also, this is a great ride for the parents who need to rest their feet and for little ones who need to climb and play for a little while. Even if it is a 45 minute wait for Dumbo, it may be worth it for this reason alone. Halfway through, there is large, fantastic circus themed play area for the kids with benches for the parents. You are given a buzzer just like at a restaurant and when the time is right, it will vibrate letting you know you can get back in line and will place you approximately where you would have been if you had just been waiting in line that whole time. Genius!
Astro Orbiter: A Dumbo style ride with generally low wait times. We haven't bothered going on it because we love Dumbo so much.
Magic Carpets of Aladdin: Another Dumbo style ride with low wait times. There is not much to it and the queue line is boring so we skip this one.
Under the Sea: Consistently one of the shortest waits in the park. Time it around the same time you go to Dumbo, the wait times will be similar.
Meet Ariel: Because of where she is located (next to her ride towards the back of the park), her meet and greet line is always shorter than the ones for the princesses at Fairytale Hall. Also, it is more interesting waiting in her grotto than outside a door in the Fairytale Hall.
Haunted Mansion: If you are taking kids on the Haunted Mansion for the first time, I would definitely suggest going through the queue line. It is highly interactive and sets the tone for a spooky, but also fun ride. You need to amp up the "fun" factor if little kids are joining you on this one. We grabbed a FP+ for this in the evening after using up our first three and I wish we hadn't. The FP+ line just throws you right into the stretching room and it made the ride scary for our kids. They didn't freak out, but they definitely didn't like the ride either. I would suggest waiting on this ride until your child is 10+.
Buzz Lightyear: This ride has waits of about 45 minutes, but with the right timing it could be as low as 5.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor: This is not actually a "ride." It is a theater with a somewhat interactive, digital cast of monsters performing stand up comedy. Most of the jokes were geared towards adults and our (at the time) four year old had to sit in our laps to even see. It was okay, but definitely not worth the a wait or a FP+. We went when there was only a 5 minute wait and it was still only okay. My suggestion would be to skip this one, but if you want to go. Just wait until Tomorrowland is quiet and do it then.
Tomorrowland Speedway is currently closed until this Summer while construction on the new Tron ride begins. So, FP+ isn't even available right now. If it was, I still wouldn't use my FP+ on it, or spend my time on it. If your kids are fans of cars, then take them on Test Track in Epcot instead.
Stitch's Great Escape is supposed to closed for good. We can hope, anyways. Disney has said that before just to reopen it later. If it is closed for good, you haven't missed anything. If they have reopened it again when you are checking out this post, don't, just don't. It is one of the lamest rides in Disney. Just spare yourself the time and the stench of Stitch's stinky chili dog burp.
Theses are the must go to websites when planning your Disney World vacation. There are tons of Disney blogs out there for you to enjoy (or lose all sense of time in), but these five will get you started:
Your other essential digital planning tool is Disney World's app. From here, you'll be able to make instant changes to FastPasses, download photos from Memory Maker directly to your phone, view wait times, and locate hard to find characters like Peter Pan, Merida, or The Tremaine Sisters.
I have spent much time on the Disney app during the planning phase of my vacation viewing the wait times throughout the day to get a feel for how the crowd moves and plan the order of our rides accordingly. I will share my opinions on this in another blog, but my rule of thumb for a great vacation at Disney is to do what everyone else ISN'T doing at the moment.
Lastly, I am designing this blog for the time crunched parents out there that need the Cliff's Notes version of Disney planning. However, if you love to plan and can never have too much information, get the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Don't waste your time or money on Frommer's guide. The Unofficial Guide is the best! And if you are saving up for that vacation, don't forget to check your library to see if they have it before spending money. The library is a resource we pay taxes for but often forget to utilize.
For those who know me well, you know that I am a bit of a Star Wars fanatic (holds up sarcasm sign). So, I'd like to take a moment to say "May the 4th be with you" and to share a few observations I made while re-watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as a few theories I have regarding the story line moving forward. WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE MOVIE, STOP READING NOW. SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD...
I know quite a few old school Star Wars fans were disappointed in some of the repeating themes in this movie. It was quite a nod to Star Wars Episodes IV-VI to the point where many said that it just felt like the three movies smashed into one. I won't disagree with the criticism that it was a bit redundant on some points (e.g. A droid carrying secret plans, a larger version of a Death Star, and an orphan growing up on a desert planet, who almost certainly a Skywalker, who poses a great threat to the First Order and the dark side of the force). However, I think we are in for a few twists which will center around, not Rey, but Finn.
It would be a shocker if Rey was not a Skywalker. I mean, it couldn't be more obvious and to remain true to the Star Wars universe, she needs to be. The prophecy was that there would be one to bring balance to the force, and the Emperor always knew that if Skywalker were to have any offspring, they would be a threat to him. Snoke is facing the same threat that killed his predecessor, Emperor Palpatine, the offspring of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin did not bring balance to the force, despite his best efforts, Luke has not been able to either. The Force will eventually find balance in the battle between Leia Skywalker's son (Kylo Ren - fully embodying the dark side of the force) and Luke Skywalker's daughter (Rey - fighting to restore the light side of the force). All this to say, Rey being Luke's daughter seems almost inevitable. Which leaves us with one mystery character - Finn.
Now, the first conclusion that old school Star Wars fans will jump to is that he is the son of Lando Calrissian. I mean, there weren't exactly a lot of black characters in the series. If we are deducing his relation based solely on characters previously introduced in the movies with the same skin color, then, on the surface, Calrissian seems a given. Some also propose that he could be the decendent of Master Mace Windu, but he couldn't be Mace Windu's son because he is way too young, maybe his grandson, but I find it doubtful that Windu had a spouse or relationship because it was forbidden and he followed the rules of the order. Also, Finn doesn't appear to strong with the force as some have suggested. He is good with weapons because he was trained to be, not because he was born with an innate understanding of the force as Rey was.
My wild theory is this. Finn is neither a Calrissian nor a Windu, he is the offspring of.... wait for it...
Wait, what? How is this possible you ask? Well, I'm not going to go into the birds and the bees in this article, but you may recall that one of the words used to describe the young Solo was "scoundrel." Sure, he turned into decent guy after he met the Skywalkers, but having another son is not much of a stretch. In fact, in the Marvel Star Wars comic books, it was revealed that Han Solo had a wife he didn't tell Leia about, and get this, she is black!
Okay, so this is the Marvel comic books and not necessarily tied to the movies, but are there clues in The Force Awakens that lead to this conclusion as well? I say, yes. I respect J.J. Abrams as a writer and I think he enjoys messing with peoples' heads while leaving a trail of bread crumbs to the truth. First, are there any similarities between Han Solo and Finn? How about these:
Okay, so those are the fun little nods to familiar similarities that I noticed, but are there any substantial clues that there is a backstory to Han that we don't know about? I believe so. Ben (aka Kylo Ren) has some serious daddy issues and Leia and Han have obviously had a rough relationship. Perhaps there is more to this story than just teenage angst gone haywire. Ben tells Rey that Han would have disappointed her as a father, and is obviously very bitter towards him. Why? Perhaps he found out that Han Solo not only had another woman in his life, but had another son as well?
All the clues I listed above have me fairly convinced that FN-2187 is actually Finn Solo, but there are a couple of external clues to consider too.
Before I sign off, I have one last theory about Finn to share... I know this is going to tick some of you off, but I am nonetheless 99% sure of what I am about to say. Finn is gay. Not only that, but Finn and Poe are going to be the romance story of this series. I could provide support for this, but I'll save it for another day. I'll just say, watch The Force Awakens again with this thought, and I think you'll see what I mean.
Now that I've given you plenty to consider, I encourage you to enjoy The Force Awakens with fresh eyes and "May the 4th be with you."
Disney: The Most Magical Place on Earth
Disney is touted as the "Most Magical Place on Earth." Before we finally decided to take our two princesses, I thought, 'This is going to be a disappointment. There is no way Disney is going to live up to the hype.' Man, was I wrong!