Monday, October 22, 2012

The Great Mad Tea Party Touring-Plan Destroyer

After a leisurely walk down an uncrowded Main Street, a carefree romp at the Castle Forecourt, and a sunrise breakfast with our favorite princesses, we were ready to tackle our first day at the Magic Kingdom!  I'd reserved the earliest possible slot for breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table, so we'd been granted entry into the park before it even officially opened for the day.  Consequently, by 8:50am, we had finished our meal and were lined up at the entrance to Fantasyland**.  When the Cast Members pulled back the rope at 9:00am, we would be among the first people to enter Fantasyland while everyone else would still be walking down Main Street.  While we waited, I pulled out my touring plan for our first day at the Magic Kingdom and reviewed it.   

Tip TimeAnimal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios can easily be tackled in one day.  You can tour Epcot in one day, but we like to allot a day and a half if we can.  Magic Kingdom takes longer, especially for first time visitors.  To fully soak up all of the magic, plan to devote two full days to Magic Kingdom if possible. 

As I discussed in an earlier post, a touring plan is simply a list of attractions that you wish to visit and shows that you want to see, written down in the order of when you plan to visit them.  Start by making a "wish list" of "must-do" attractions and shows that are the most important to you; you can also designate some "hope-to-do" attractions that you plan on visiting if you have time.  Then, decide which of these attractions you're going to visit first, second, third, and so on (be sure to check Disney entertainment schedules before you leave so that you can insert shows into your touring plans at the right times).  As a general rule of thumb, you should prioritize attractions that will quickly build prohibitively long lines, working in FASTPASSES for headliner rides that you can't get to in the early morning (more on FASTPASS in a later post).  The process of designing a touring plan can quickly become overwhelming, but there are experts (like me) who can craft one for you based on the needs and preferences of your group.

Excited for another magical day at the parks!
At Hollywood Studios, I had experienced first-hand the benefits of having a touring plan: we spent significantly less time waiting in line, and we were able to enjoy many more attractions than we would have without a plan; this ultimately led to an exponentially more memorable, stress-free day at the park.  Consequently, I could not wait to try out my Magic Kingdom touring plan!

Our first ride at Magic Kingdom!

When the rope finally "dropped", I noticed that several families still had their maps out and were discussing which attraction to visit first.  By the time they came to a decision, we had already grabbed our first FASTPASSES and were boarding our first ride of the day. 

Tip Time: Once you design a plan, share it with your family so that you are not wasting precious park touring time arguing about which ride to visit next.  If your children are very young and would be overwhelmed with an entire touring plan, consider telling them: "First, we're going on __________.  Then, we'll head to _________.  After that, I'll tell you what our next step is."

As I had hoped, everything went very smoothly for most of the morning.  We walked onto almost every ride, never waiting in line for more than a few minutes.  It seemed like the crowds were always several steps behind us.  Because we were saving so much time, we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves.  Instead of spending most of our day waiting in line, we had time to soak up all of the little magical details that Disney World offers.  My kids were happy.  My husband was happy.  I was happy.  Everything was right with the world.  And then, it happened.  We stumbled upon our first major roadblock: "The Great Mad Tea Party Touring-Plan Destroyer". 

It began innocently enough.  As we boarded our teacup, we waved to Alice and the Mad Hatter (who were just finishing their morning teacup spin).  The ride began, the kids spun the teacup so fast that I thought I was in danger of losing my breakfast, everyone laughed at my know, normal stuff.  When our teacup screeched to a halt, signifying the end of the ride, I climbed out and started to say, "OK, now we're going to head over to It's a Small World and then...".  Before I could finish my sentence, two adamant voices interrupted me, screaming, "Again!  Again!  We want to ride again!"

Our third (or maybe fourth) Tea Party ride
"Well," I responded, glancing down at my plan.  "We spent a lot of time looking for Hidden Mickeys over by the carousel, and if we don't get to It's a Small World now, we may not be able to get another FASTPASS for Peter Pan's Flight, which means..."  My husband cleared his throat, and I looked up, straight into the pleading eyes of my children.    

In that moment, another crucial lesson dawned on me.  When you are following a touring plan, it is easy to fall into the "commando touring trap."  Sometimes, you have to take a step back and remember that your touring plan is written on a piece of paper, not engraved in stone.  While touring plans are essential guides and are crucial to a successful day at Disney World, they are just plans, and they can be altered. 

Tip Time: Always remember that you are on vacation, so you should be having fun.  Allow yourself a certain level of spontaneity; if you deviate from your plan at times, your vacation will not be ruined.  The touring plan gods will not strike you down.  Ultimately, the purpose of a touring plan is to help you and your family enjoy your vacation as much as possible; if you let the plan take over your entire trip, you are defeating its purpose. 

I knew that the answer I gave to my children's request would effectively set the tone for the rest of the vacation.  As we whirled around in a teacup for the fourth time in a row, my children laughing that deep guttural laugh that only comes out when they are genuinely happy, I knew that I'd made the right decision.

All of the wonder without the wait!
When the kids had finally exhausted their desire to make me vomit in a teacup, we moved on to the next step of our plan.  Because we'd arrived at the park before rope drop and toured efficiently in the first few uncrowded hours of the morning, we truly hadn't lost much time.  We were still able to experience every attraction on our morning "wish list" before lunch.  By then, the crowds had started to build significantly and the hot sun was turning my daughter into a sweaty puddle of grumpiness, so we decided to return to our hotel for an afternoon break.  As we headed out of the park, I couldn't help but notice the throngs of people moving down Main Street toward Fantasyland.  I knew that, by the time we returned to the Magic Kingdom that evening, rested and refreshed, many of those people would have spent most of their afternoon baking in long lines for attractions that we were able to walk onto in the cooler morning.

I grabbed my son's hand as we headed out of the turnstiles.  "Mommy," he said as he looked up at me.  "This was a great morning.  I can't wait to come back."  Me neither, kiddo, I thought.  Me neither.

Next Up: Main Street Electrical Blockade: An Evening at the Magic Kingdom

** The Magic Kingdom is divided into six distinct lands: Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Storybook Circus.

The Magic Minus the Mayhem

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