Thursday, October 11, 2012

And the Magic Begins!

After a truly magical start to our day on the observation deck of the Contemporary Resort hotel, we were excited to hit the parks.  Before our trip, I had devoted countless hours to researching and planning our itinerary.  My initial instinct was to visit The Magic Kingdom first, but after sifting through copious amounts of information, I decided that Hollywood Studios would be the best choice for our first day.  In the beginning, I had been a little uneasy about the appropriateness of Hollywood Studios for young children.  I just wasn't sure how much my kids would be able to do (or want to do, for that matter).  However, I had learned about a few child-friendly gems at the Studios that I just knew my kids would love, so I added the park to our itinerary.

Tip Time: Planning an itinerary before you embark on a Disney vacation is crucial to the success of your trip.  Many people feel compelled to visit The Magic Kingdom on the first day of  their vacation, but it is not always the best choice.  Numerous factors influence crowd levels at any park on any given day, including day of the week, special events, and park hours.  Picking the wrong park could be the difference between a frustrating day and an enjoyable one.  Planning an itinerary can be overwhelming, but there are experts available (like me) to help you.

A few days before our trip, however, panic struck.  I was cuddled up on the couch with the kids, watching TV, when a commercial for Disney World aired, featuring scenes from Hollywood Studios.  I almost could not contain my excitement; it took all of my willpower not to yell out, "We will be there, in Hollywood Studios, in three days!!!"  I slipped away in thought, imagining my children holding hands, running through the iconic Sorcerer's Hat.  Suddenly, my idyllic daydream was pulverized by the piercing voices of my children.  "I hope we never go to Hollywood Studios.  It has Disney Junior stuff.  That's for babies," my first-grade son proclaimed. 

"Yeah," my daughter griped.  "It has Star Wars.  I HATE Star Wars." 

Needless to say, as we strolled down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I quickly pushed these worries aside, though, because the time had come to put my first touring plan into action!  When I started researching for our vacation, I balked at the idea of a touring plan.  This is supposed to be a vacation, I thought.  Who wants to plan every minute of their trip?  As I continued reading about Disney World, however, it became clear to me that a trip to Disney World is unlike any other vacation.  Even in the off-season, Disney World is crowded; it's just relatively less crowded than peak season.  The difference between having a touring plan and not having a touring plan (even during the less busy times of year) is simple: if you have a plan, you will spend significantly less time waiting in line and more time enjoying yourself.  I also realized that I didn't have to plan every single minute; I just needed to have a general idea of which attractions we wanted to visit, listed in an order than would most likely decrease our overall wait time.  Most importantly, I knew that my touring plans needed to allow for spontaneity.  If we decided to skip an attraction or spend extra time with a character, we would adjust; if we didn't get to experience every attraction on the plan, we would accept that.  So, after tons more research and countless more hours, I had created a detailed touring plan for each day of our trip.

Tip Time: A touring plan includes all of the attractions you plan to visit, listed in order of when you plan to visit them.  These plans can be as detailed (or as simple) as you want.  Most importantly, you need to know which attractions to visit first if you want to avoid long waits later in the day; it is also crucial to learn how to most effectively utilize the Disney FASTPASS system.  A touring plan for each day of your vacation is essential for "staying ahead of the crowds".  Again, experts (like me) exist to help you with these plans so that you can make the most of your vacation.

So into action we went, following each step on my touring plan.  I was utterly amazed by how smoothly our day went.  By 1:15pm, we had visited five major attractions, met two characters, stopped for a snack, played on a themed playground, and eaten lunch with the Disney Junior characters.  (On a side note, take a look at my son who had insisted that he would never meet the "babyish" Disney Junior characters).

Just look at that smile!
This left us with an entire afternoon to relax, see some shows and revisit some of our favorite attractions (using Disney's FASTPASS system).  I did not realize just how essential my touring plan had been, however, until I was waiting in line to use the bathroom with my daughter after lunch (which was truly the longest wait we had all day).  Sadie had made a little friend in line, so I started talking with the girl's mother.  "I just feel so frustrated," she said.  "We really only got to do two things this morning, and we haven't even met any characters.  The lines are just so long."

Meeting all our favorite characters
"Can I take a look at your touring plan?"  I asked.

"What's a touring plan?"  she responded.

I was immediately brought back to the conversation I'd had with the dad of my son's classmate a few days before we left for Disney World (the man who told me that, on their trip, his family was only able to experience one attraction per hour).  I realized that the difference between our experience at Hollywood Studios and this woman's experience boiled down to one element: our touring plan.

As my daughter and I skipped up the steps of Theater of the Stars (where Beauty and the Beast, one of Hollywood Studios' headliner shows, is currently playing), singing "Be Our Guest", I knew that all of my planning had truly paid off.  I could not have asked for a more stress-free, magical day.  Little did I know, however, that our day was about to get infinitely more magical.

When we got to the top of the stairs, two Cast Members bowed down to my daughter and said, "Could we ask you a favor, sweetheart?  Will you be Belle's princess for the show?"  Of course, she agreed, and we were led to a special seat in the front of the theater, Cast Members bowing to her at each section along the way.  Throughout the show, the performers winked and waved at her. The highlight of this experience, however, came at the very end.  During the curtain call, a Cast Member took my daughter by the hand and led her to the stage.  Belle bowed to her, and the prince handed her a red rose as a memento.  Sadie turned and looked at me, pure joy spreading across her face.  This was the unexpected moment of wonder that I had been waiting for; this is what people mean when they talk about "Disney Magic", and it truly is everywhere.

When we met back up with my husband and son for the afternoon parade, the kids started talking all at once.  "I fought Darth Vader with a Light Saber!" my son exclaimed.  "I'm Belle's most favorite princess!!" screamed my daughter.  And then, "Look, there's WOODY AND JESSIE!" they both shouted, at the top of their lungs.  

The afternoon parade
My husband and I looked at each other and smiled as our kids danced to the parade music, pointing out the characters as they passed and high-fiving Cast Members who were walking in the parade.  If the kids lacked excitement for the trip initially, they were certainly making up for it now.  We were hooked, and there was no turning back!

Next Up: A Room with a View!!

The Magic Minus the Mayhem

No comments:

Post a Comment