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Surviving (Or Sharing) Disney World with A Non-Disney Fan

Like many of you, I am considered “that Disney guy (or gal)” among my friends and even family.  So, of course, a goal of mine growing up, along with graduating college and finding a job, would be to find the perfect significant other who shared my passion for Disney World. In my mid-twenties, I met a beautiful, smart, ambitious, successful, and funny girl who even loved Disney! Well, almost. She loves the movies, loves the music, loves the Broadway shows, but despises the parks and everything about them. She had been once to the Magic Kingdom as a child for a dancing performance and had nothing but bad memories (Cake Castle and dancing barefoot on boiling pavement). I took this is as a challenge. Spoiler alert: we are now married.

Falling of the Carousel Horse

We all know people like this. People hate waits, they hate crowds, they hate the heat, and their idea of a perfect vacation is lying on a beach at (insert all-inclusive island resort here).  I don’t mind a relaxing vacation either, but we all need some Disney in our lives. My now-wife and I came to an agreement that we would rotate vacations and we would begin with a trip to Walt Disney World (points for her).

First thing to do was to pick a time of year. To me, the best options to avoid the lines, crowds, and heat would be to go in early January and just for five days so she wouldn’t get worn out. Also, the Christmas decorations would still be up, which would definitely get the bad taste of the Cake Castle out of her mouth. Previous trips of mine during that week always had low crowds and comfortable temperatures. Coming from the northeast, even 60 degrees would be comfortable to us. Next step would be picking a hotel. We were trying to go on a somewhat affordable trip (another plus for January) but there is no way that a girl who is used to all-inclusive Caribbean resorts would go for All-Star Sports. We splurged a little bit here, but we were able to get a great deal on a room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We would use Disney transportation to cut back on the costs, something she agreed on. Now it was time to go.

We landed at MCO during the Florida Freeze of 2010. It was actually colder in Florida than it was in New England where we came from. It was thirty degrees all week except the last day when we hit forty. This was out of our control but was not a good start. All the tricks I would typically use to get out of the heat I would now use to escape the cold! No problem! Instead of boring you with an in-depth day by day of the trip, let’s just cut to the chase: cold weather, motion sickness on buses, first floor hotel room that faced the expansive Animal Kingdom parking lot, and animals hiding due to the cold weather. There were incredibly low crowds, but those waits that she hates? We hit them three-four times a day waiting for buses thanks to our decision to go cheap. Deciding to survive mostly on counter-service food also is not a good decision for someone who is used to an all-inclusive resort. A commando-style approach to the parks also did not work (oh, you didn’t really like that attraction? I know which one you’ll like! This quickly turned into a vicious cycle of disappointments).

The trip wasn’t a complete failure. She liked the decorations and enjoyed the shows. She put on a brave face and didn’t complain the entire time like she obviously wanted to.

Getting Back On

So, a honeymoon trip to an all-inclusive island and a (not Disney) cruise vacation later, it was my chance to redeem myself with another Walt Disney World trip. Not only did I have time to forge a better plan and learn from my mistakes, I also came up with a new theory. Instead of making her enjoy my Disney World, I was going to make Disney World enjoyable to her. Unfortunately, we both work full time and are working on our never-ending graduate degrees, so we had to go during the summer. We knew heat and crowds were in the forecast but I had a cunning plan, and thanks to FastPass+ and My Disney Experience, it worked. I want to stress how difficult this would have been to do without FastPass+.

We chose the Beach Club Villas this time. This would solve our bus issues to two parks (three if we wanted to walk through Epcot to monorail ourselves to Magic Kingdom) and we also had a rental car. The Beach Club was a no-brainer because we had taken the Hollywood Studios-Epcot boat launch during our first trip and my wife was in love with the resort.  We also decided to visit for eight days instead of a short trip this time.

The longer vacation allowed for more down-time and relaxation while still able to hit all the attractions we wanted to. Pool time was important and so was dinner. We had the same basic plan for each day in order to mix my Disney World with her relaxing resort vacations. We woke up and got to a park just after rope drop (avoiding the large rope drop crowds). We would then run to… Muppets? The Land? The Jungle Cruise? Yes! Yes! Yes! We would go to all the lower-tiered attractions first thing in the morning. There weren’t small lines at these attractions; there were no lines.  We would essentially hit every attraction we wanted to in just 2-3 hours first thing in the morning and then head back to the Beach Club, which was my wife’s time. She would lay by the pool, usually choosing the quiet pool instead of Stormalong Bay, and relax and read (her perfect vacation). We successfully avoided the heat of the parks. We had dinner reservations at 5:00 p.m. in a park each night and Fast Pass+ reservations at (about) 7:00, 8:00, and 9:00 for the more popular attractions that we skipped in the morning. We could do these attractions with very little wait and had them reserved back-to-back-to-back. Because we were hitting each park twice, the tiering aspect of HS and Epcot FastPass+ didn’t have an effect because, for example, we did Test Track one day and Soarin’ on the other day. We also used our Fast-Pass+ options for parade and fireworks viewing to avoid needing to wait on a sidewalk or stand in a giant mass of people (by the way, completely useless for Illuminations because you’re not guaranteed a spot up against the fence unless you get there early, which defeats the purpose).

Without Fast Pass+, we would not have been able to coordinate our schedule like this. Because we always had dinner in (or near) a certain park, we knew exactly what park we would be in each night and at what time. This allowed us to easily choose our Fast Pass+ options for a specific time which would not have been possible before (popular attractions would either be out of FP for the day or would have a return time of “too late for us”).


A Much Smoother Ride

In conclusion, going cheap the first time was a bad idea. Spending the extra money on the hotel for the amenities and location were much needed. The plan to hit the parks early in the morning for the less-popular attractions and then heading back to the pool worked perfectly. The 5:00 p.m. dinner with reserved attraction times (thanks to FP+) fit flawlessly with what we needed. I didn’t try to force her to enjoy my type of Disney Vacation but I showed her that a Disney Vacation could be enjoyable to her.

Oh, and one last thing: those MagicBands certainly make it feel like an all-inclusive vacation if it’s not your credit card linked to it!


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