The Best Place on Earth
And the magic is in the planning. Lots and lots and lots of planning; every, freaking, detail of your Disney experience. So here is a rundown on what to do, what to avoid, and what not to do if you are anywhere remotely like me and cannot tolerate long lines, obnoxious crowds and rowdy kids.
The dreams do come true, and in this tiny magical land adults turn into children for silly fun and adventures. It’s been my personal fantasy to come to DisneyLand and it has finally happened this holiday season. So first of all, do not visit Disney during ANY holidays, especially around Christmas! It is a busy place on any given day, but during holidays it becomes chaotic.
Not having planned our first time experience in advance, this is what we arrived to.
Last minute over priced booking at Hilton Buena Vista, which was simple without any bells and whistles, but we thought was conveniently placed on the Disney property, and marketed as one of certified Disney resorts. Naturally, we were sure that we would be in the right place. The staff was accommodating when approached, but you really got to ask the right questions. The shuttles to the park were described as easy and convenient reach to the parks. In reality it was an over thirty minute wait for the bus in the ugly parking lot in the back of the hotel, followed by nearly 40 minutes ride to the parking lot of Disney park, long lines of security check point (do not carry any bags! Quick walk through for those without ANY bags), then an option of a train or a ferry ride over to the Magic Kingdom (about another 30 minutes of wait and getting there), and finally you are THERE! But wait; do you have your tickets? I hope so, because if you don’t you better get into another line to either purchase one or pick one up from will call window. Another security check and scanning of your finger print to match up with your card (Disney tickets come in form of a plastic card, which can be linked to your bank account or a credit card so you can buy $5 water with a swipe of your fingertip) and then you are in.
As we entered the park in the morning, the sea of people was overwhelming on the Main Street, but we managed to quickly bypass it and explore the park. It is lovely, pristinely clean (unbelievable achievement with so many children running around), and yes it is magical. Immediately I got myself the cutest Minni ears and was ready to snap a few pictures. The park turned out to be not as big as I imagined, and after we walked around the Adventure, Frontier, Fantasy and Tomorrow Lands, we figured out which rides we wanted to use our speed passes for.
Excited and ready for action we headed to our first pick, only to be turned away. And this is where planning comes in. Apparently every speed pass needs to be pre-reserved for each ride you have picked to use it for, and for a specific time window. No big deal we thought, lets just download the app, reserve and go, right? Oh not so fast. The ride was booked out till 9:30pm! Others were locked out till 10:30pm or later, or not available at all for the rest of the day. So the question comes to mind – How come no one explained it to us as we were making the purchase? And I’ll tell you, as per Guest Services personnel of Disney “We assume it is our guests responsibility to read all limiting factors and make proper arrangements in advance.”
Well, I do not need to tell you the rage of fury that came over me at that time. This was the time to realize the investment made earlier this year of enrolling into Harvard Law School course on Strategy of Negotiations! Let the games begin!
After forty-five minutes of friendly but very convincing chat (during which we cooled off in the waiting lounge, recharged all phones and even posted some viral Instagrams) with a very nice manager Casey, we managed to come to an amicable solution and enjoy the rest of our magical time in Disney.
Armed with FIVE anytime speed passes each, we were off to the races! It was great! The speed ticket does work! No longer than 15 minutes it took us to get on the ride, compared to 100 to 160 minutes of regular wait time. In just one hour we went through three rides in different corners of the park.
Now, what’s for lunch? And in this fantasy land there is candy, ice cream and cotton candy with soda every ten feet. Hot dogs and pretzels dominate the rest of the real estate. There are two sit down restaurants in the park where not only you can dine, but also enjoy a glass of wine – Tony’s Town Square and Be Our Guest. But make sure to have a reservation waaaay in advance of your visit, no walk ins.
Don’t miss the main Disney parade, the times are in the program which also lists all details on the shows and night time spectaculars.
Wait till evening to see the magical transformation of the park at dawn from the daytime sunlit to bright lights glowing streets. The Castle is shining, the laser show is spectacular and the grand finale fireworks are breathtaking.
The My Disney Experience application for a smart phone is actually great and useful. It keeps track of all you planned ahead activities and reservations. Easily links with photopass, allows to deliver all your park purchases to either at the front of the park or directly to your hotel, and for some enchanting extras you can add a private VIP tour of the park, or behind the scenes experiences, reserve a spot to be transformed into a princess or a knight, and even see all of the U.S Presidents on one stage at the same time. There are plenty of websites that detail high and low seasons at the theme park, which may be useful in choosing your dates.
Verdict – go to Magic Kingdom and be a kid for a day, have fun and enjoy the fairy-tale and charm in the air. Simply go while kids are in school and plan every detail ahead of time.