Don’t Crowdsource your Disney Vacation Planning

Don’t Crowdsource your Disney Vacation Planning

Don’t Crowdsource Your Disney Vacation Planning

I’m sure you’ve seen it.  Someone posts to Facebook asking for advice.  50 people chime in all with different answers.  Sometimes this is useful – say you are asking for a good Italian restaurant in your town.  Generally speaking, it works out fine to take a recommendation that a few people gave you for a Saturday night date.  But asking how to plan your vacation is something else entirely.  It usually goes something like this:

You: “Friends, I’m trying to plan a trip to Disney World.  I need your help!  Where should we stay and what do I need to know?”

Friend 1: “We stayed at All Star Movies, you should stay there!”
Friend 2: “Definitely check out the Marriott, it was nice when we stayed there.”
Friend 3: “You should buy the FastPass thing!”
Friend 4: “Do Harry Potter for sure!
Friend 5: “My kids didn’t like Epcot, so I recommend skipping that park.”
Friend 6: “The Little Mermaid rooms are really cute!!”

And so on.

Everyone is just trying to be helpful!  But here’s the problem.  None of these people asked you anything about your family, your preferences or your interests.  Instead, they just said what they liked.  Without knowing more, how do you know if any of their preferences will be true for you?

Let’s unpack some of the troubles here.

Friend 1: “We stayed at All Star Movies, you should stay there!”

Friend 1 didn’t ask you what kind of hotel you feel comfortable with.  She didn’t mention that All Star resorts have double beds, not queen beds, and maybe you and your husband are tall and double beds just won’t cut it.  Or you have two teens and sharing a double bed is just a big nope for them.  And we haven’t even gotten into differences in amenities yet.  If a friend likes a hotel they stayed in, does that mean everyone would like that hotel?

 

Friend 2: “Definitely check out the Marriot, it was nice when we stayed there.”

This friend hasn’t given any reason why they liked it, but perhaps more importantly, didn’t think to tell you that by staying here you are giving up some important perks.  It’s possible they had no idea they were lost out on some of these perks, or maybe in their case they didn’t care.  However, it’s just as likely that you would care a lot about these perks.  For example, do you want to have to pay for your transportation?  Do you want to miss out on FastPass+ options for the most popular rides?  These would be good things to know before picking this hotel.

 

Friend 3: “You should buy the Fast Pass thing!”

This statement represents the many things I’ve seen as advice that are actually just flat out wrong.  You cannot buy FastPass.  It’s free.  You can get an earlier start on it when staying at a Disney resort, but it’s free for everyone.  This friend is possibly thinking of Disneyland’s MaxPass, or they are thinking of Universal’s Express Pass, or maybe even the old term for Memory Maker which was PhotoPass, but in any case they are supplying you with wrong and confusing information.

 

Friend 4: “Do Harry Potter for sure!”

Harry Potter isn’t part of Disney’s parks.  It’s at Universal Studios, which is not right next door, requires separate tickets and sometimes is best done as an entire additional stay.  As such, this friend is not really helping with the Disney question asked and is assuming the family wants to visit an additional location for a theme that they may or may not know if the family even likes.

 

Friend 5: “My kids don’t like Epcot, so I recommend skipping that park.”

You could replace Epcot with another park and find people saying the same thing.  But again, the problem here is that the friend is not asking what your family likes- they are assuming you have the same tastes as their family.  Do you have kids who like Frozen and really want to meet Anna and Elsa?  They reside in Epcot, along with the only Frozen themed ride in the parks.  If you were to have skipped this park based on this advice, you’d have missed the chance to make that dream come true for your children.

 

Friend 6: “The Little Mermaid rooms are really cute!”

Yes, they are!  But if you are a family of 5, you’re out of luck.  These rooms sleep 4 people.  Friends tossing out advice on Facebook often aren’t thinking at this level of detail.  Wouldn’t it be better to know which rooms do hold your family of 5 before considering them?

 

Instead of weeding through other people’s preferences, why not work with someone whose goal is to match YOUR preferences?  Seeking out a Disney specialized travel agent is a good start.  But you’ll want to make sure the person you are working with is a true Disney expert that specializes in very customized vacations.  Look for a consultant that starts with a phone call rather than asking you to check off boxes for which options you want on a form – it’s so hard to know what to check off if you don’t know enough about the options!  When you work with a Disney expert that has a consultant and concierge style (like those of us here at The Enchanted Traveler), they will ask you detailed questions to help find the best matches for where to stay, how long you need, the right tickets, best parks for each day, dining recommendations, FastPass+ reservations and all of the detail down to customized ride by ride plans to keep you out of the long lines.

 

So when it comes to Facebook, just remember that as well meanings as our friends are, they usually aren’t asking questions to find the right fit.  They’re just recommending what they themselves did.  And chances are, you aren’t identical to your friends.

 

Do I Really Need a Plan for Disney World or Disneyland?

Do I Really Need a Plan for Disney World or Disneyland?

Do I Really Need a Plan for Disney World or Disneyland?

Big thunder bright

You’ve probably had friends go to Disney World or Disneyland before, or maybe you went when you were a kid.  And you might be thinking, “Why can’t I just show up and go with the flow?”  You can.  Sure, you can.  But it’s best to know ahead of time what that will mean for you, so you can best decide if “go with the flow” is really what you think it is when it comes to Disney Parks vacations.

Crowds or No Crowds

The first question to ask yourself is if you like crowds.  Because yes, there are always some crowds at the Disney Parks, but they are not all equal.  Different days in different parks, as well as different times of day all, affect the total number of people in the parks.  And that, in turn, causes changes in wait times, but also the very real sense of crowdedness with people all around you.  Thick crowds you have to push through?  Or people easily walking the paths?  There’s a big difference in your experience.

Think About Dining

What about dining?  If you haven’t been to the Disney Parks in a while, you may be surprised to find out that simply walking up with your family to the restaurants at dinner time is likely to lead to some big disappointment.  Popular restaurants book up far in advance.  Want the best dining experiences?  You’ll need to plan for that.  And you’ll want to plan with some consideration – for example, getting the best use of dining credits on the dining plan, timing the meal such that it doesn’t interfere with shows or parades you want to see and so forth.

Time Is Of The Essence

But probably most important for you is the value of your time.  I frequently see people commenting on Facebook or news articles that they can only get through a handful of rides each day because the lines or so long.  Long laments about an hour or more lines fill the internet.  The reality, though, is that these people, for the most part, are showing up with no plan at all.  The assumption that Disney lines are always long is false.  You can absolutely avoid the long lines and get far more done with a good plan.  And for the amount you’ll be spending on your parks experience, isn’t actually getting to the rides and attractions you want to experience important?  Your time is extremely valuable, and the only way to maximize it is to know where to go when.

Speaking of the value of time, get this:  You don’t have to spend the next few months trying to figure out how the heck you are going to plan all of this.  That’s a lot of time and research, I know.  If you enjoy it, that’s great – happy hunting!  If you don’t, there are actually professionals out there that specialize in this kind of planning for a living.  I should know, I’m one of them!  I highly suggest seeking out a Disney expert to help you plan your next Disney vacation.  An expert can listen to all that you hope for, recommend the best options and meticulously put together a plan to keep you in the shortest lines, the easiest days, and the most fun you can have.

What Lack Of Planning Usually Means

So while people often arrive to the Disney Parks with no plan at all, thinking they’ll just go with the flow, what that really means is a lot of aimless wandering, disappointment in the wait times, a lot of standing around waiting for things, and a let down when they run out of time to get to all they had hoped for. Maximize that Disney vacation experience by walking in, plan in hand.  So what if everyone else has no plan and complains about all the waiting around?  You’ll be miles ahead of them.

 

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Don’t Be a Last Minute Summer Vacationer!

Don’t Be a Last Minute Summer Vacationer!

Don’t Be a Last Minute Summer Vacationer!

Disney summer vacation

Ok, look.  I know how this goes.  It’s the last third of the school year, things seem like they’re moving like molasses.  Kids have homework, the weather’s not that great yet, you’ve got what seems like 20 different sports and activities to get to, and summer seems like a far away dream.

But then here’s what happens.  You slug through all that homework, and all those practices, and then starts all the end of year hoopla – recitals, championships, classroom parties, field days, graduations.  And then, one day, well would you look at that?  Summer’s here!

BUT WAIT.  Didn’t you mean to plan a vacation this summer?  Weren’t you saying this past month how much you want to get around to that family vacation once the kids are out of school?

And Disney is calling your name.  Of course.  How could it not be?  It’s Disney for crying out loud, and you’ve got kids.  Match made in heaven.

Oh, right, but you’ve heard it’s crowded in summer.  Then maybe you get a little disappointed.  Like, really…when else are you supposed to go if your kids can’t miss school?  Right?!  So how unfair that you have to choose between big crowded days or not going at all.

That is…if you ever get around to thinking about it at all before it’s too late.

Guess what, I’ve got great news for you!  First of all, we can get you around those crowds.  It’s absolutely possible to avoid the hugely long lines and hottest parts of the day, making your trip exponentially better than the rest of the masses.  That’s what we do here.  So check that worry off your list right now.

And as for finding time for planning?  Check that off your list, too.  You won’t believe how easy it is and how little time and effort you need to put in for an amazingly well planned trip.  It takes maybe 30 seconds to email us to get started, and then a simple phone call for us to discover exactly what we need to start planning a highly customized trip for you.  Yeah, how’s that for stress free?

Whatever you do, don’t put this off to the last minute!  You don’t want your options to dwindle until all the best choices have been taken from you, simply because you were too busy and stressed out to finally get that vacation planned.

Your family deserves an awesome vacation this summer – and so do you.  Let’s make it happen!

 (Pssst….it’s as easy as filling out this form to get started!)

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    4 Reasons Why Your Teen is NOT too old for Disney World!

    4 Reasons Why Your Teen is NOT too old for Disney World!

    4 Reasons Why Your Teen is NOT too old for Disney World!

    Rockin Roller Coaster

    photo credit: Christian Lambert Photography via Flickr

    Maybe you took your kids to Disney World when they were younger, or maybe you never got the chance to but now they’re teens and you’re worried they’re too old. But guess what – they’re not! Here are 4 reasons why your teen is NOT too old for Disney World.

    1. The thrill rides will wow ‘em

    One thing families with young children don’t get to experience as much of are the thrill rides because of height requirements (and scared children). But teens are the perfect age group for these rides, including the super fast Rockin Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, Test Track in Epcot, Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, and Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, to name a few. Ride them, then ride them again!

    2. The extras are awesome

    Beyond the rides, there are opportunities for some pretty cool activities for teens. Like how about surfing lessons at Typhoon Lagoon? Or a real race car experience on the track at the Richard Petty Driving Experience? Or maybe some parasailing or boat rentals? There are even special tours at the parks that have age limits where younger kids aren’t able to join – making the teen years the perfect time for your family to try these.

    3. They’re more independent

    Chasing down little kids is a well-known pastime for parents, but traveling with teens means you can get a little downtime, too, if you’d like. Does your teen want to ride Space Mountain for the 4th time? No worries, they can split off from you for a bit and meet back up for dinner a little later. Do you want to relax on your balcony with an ice coffee, but your teens want to play in the pool? Not a problem! It’s a bit of freedom that comes with the kids being a little older.

    4. Quality time with your teen

    As your kids get older, you may have been finding that you have less and less time together. Between school, homework, sports, activities, friends, and part time jobs, many teens are busy. And, of course, they probably don’t hang out by Mom or Dad’s side as much as when they were little. But a Disney World vacation brings everyone together again, even if just for a week, leaving behind the fast paced real world for laughing together on the roller coasters, enjoying great meals together and watching the amazing fireworks together. It’s a bit of bonding time that can be so hard to get otherwise. And maybe, in one of those moments, in the type of magic that only Disney can bring, you’ll catch a glimpse of that childlike joy inside your teen, catching a glimpse for just a moment of that adorable little child they were not so long ago.

    Want to get the most out of your trip with teens?  I specialize in planning personalized Disney vacations, taking the stress of your hands and matching all the right pieces that are just right for your family! 

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    What You Don’t Even Know That You Don’t Know About Planning a Disney World Trip

    What You Don’t Even Know That You Don’t Know About Planning a Disney World Trip

    What You Don’t Even Know That You Don’t Know About Planning a Disney World Trip

    Planning Disney World

    Photo credit: Christian Lambert Photography via Flickr

    That’s a mouthful.

    But it’s true. If you are just starting to think about planning a trip to Disney World, there are some things you know that you don’t know. Like, you might not know which resort is best for you. Or maybe you aren’t sure how Park Hopper tickets work.

    But then there are the things you don’t even know that you don’t know. These are the things you might not ever think to google, because you don’t even know the question to ask. And yet, these pieces are incredibly important to a fun, laid back, stress free vacation. Let’s take a look.

    1. You don’t know that dining reservations are a HUGE must. And not just that, but that dining reservations open 180 days before your arrival and many do book up completely quite early on. This is a sad issue for families who arrive at Disney World and wander into a restaurant only to hear that they aren’t accepting and walk ups that day. And then they try the next one – same thing. That’s not what you want for your family.

    2. You don’t know that Fast Pass+ reservations are extremely important and open 60 days before your stay if you stay on property. Having replaced the old system, these new Fast Passes allow you to reserve three rides per day ahead of time – and that’s a must if you don’t want crazy long lines.

    3. You don’t know that afternoons are craziest. Want to see some crazy long lines? Show up to the parks after lunch hour. Want to avoid the longest lines? Show up before the park opens and take a break during the afternoon. I promise it’s not only possible, but highly enjoyable. With a good plan in place, you can still get everything done AND go back to your resort to enjoy the pool or take a nap in the afternoon – while everyone else stands in the longest lines.

    4. You don’t know that WHEN you go is an important factor in what your vacation will be like. Some dates are so crazy that the parks close to capacity and people can be denied entrance. Some dates are much, much lower crowds. Some dates are intensely hot and incredibly humid. Some are warm and pleasant. And then there are the various special events throughout the year that can change the atmosphere and crowd levels as well. Not all times of the year are created equal for visiting Disney World, (not to mention the difference in pricing).

    5. You don’t know that it’s possible to have a strategy to avoid waiting in long lines at all. Most people assume that Disney World is synonymous with long lines, having heard that from friends or family. But what you might not know is that some people manage to avoid the majority of the lines and wait very little throughout their day. How? Through a very carefully and strategically built plan. What’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about spending weeks and weeks researching and figuring this out if you use a planning service that specializes in Disney like this one. I, for example, specialize in arranging all aspects of a Disney vacation including fully customized touring plans for each day so that you don’t wait in the long lines.

    It always seems that one of the most difficult part of planning a Disney World trip is that people aren’t even sure what they are supposed to know before they go.  Now you’re ahead of the crowd with these 5 tips!  If you find yourself really wanting to be ahead of the crowds and having a stress-free experience, with fully customized vacation plans and all arrangements handled for you, be sure to contact me for a free consultation.

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    A Disney Expert: What does it take?

    A Disney Expert: What does it take?

    A Disney Expert: What does it take?

    Disney travel agent and Disney expert

    Graduation at the Disneyland Agent Education Program

    When you’re looking for help with planning your Disney vacation, a Disney expert is what you need.  But what is a Disney expert?  What does it take to be one?

     

    A Disney expert is a travel consultant (also known as a travel agent) who specializes in planning Disney vacations.  Why is this so important?  Well, because Disney is a world of it’s own!  It’s huge and fairly complicated and ever changing.  Here’s the thing: not every travel agent is a Disney expert – not even close!  If what you are seeking is a full service experience with every aspect of your Disney vacation handled for you, the very first thing you need to do is to be sure that you are working with a Disney expert, and not someone who “sometimes books Disney.”

    So what does it take to be a Disney expert?  Constant work and study!  Here are just some of the ways that I maintain an expert status:

    • Maintaining my College of Disney Knowledge certificate and education – a program run by Disney that is an in depth educational component
    • Daily research on the Disney destinations, including news sources, insider tips, blogs, etc.
    • Traveling multiple times a year to Disney Destinations to experience the destinations in depth, test out restaurants and shows, visit the different resort properties and more
    • Constantly keeping up to date with new attractions and shows or attractions under refurbishment to keep all touring strategies that are provided in my custom touring plans up to date and efficient
    • Attending events that I am invited to by Disney, such as the Adventures by Disney showcase I just attended last week
    • In depth study at Onsite Agent Education Programs hosted by Disney in the destinations.  These programs are super intensive with tons of hotel inspections including different room categories, seminar training, in park touring, sampling dining and more!

     

    It’s this level of knowledge that you want your travel consultant to have when planning your vacation.  The best way to ensure that your experience is easy, stress free, magical and that you don’t have to overwhelmed with figuring out all of the details is to work with a Disney expert from the start!
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    10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip to Disney World

    10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip to Disney World

    10 Things You Might Not Know About Planning a Trip To Disney World

    Snow White at Disney World

    1.      Disney World is big.  Really big.  There are 4 main parks, 2 water parks, 32 resorts, over 100 restaurants, and over 130 attractions.  It has its own transportation system.  There are a lot of aspects to consider in your planning.

    2.       The sit-down restaurants are very popular and some book up the morning that reservations first become available for your dates.  In fact, reservations open 180 days in advance.  Do be sure to reserve all of your dining early in your planning.

    3.       There’s a lot more here than the rides.  Fine dining, fireworks cruises, princess makeovers, parades, firework spectaculars, shows, tea parties, character meetings…the list goes on and on. Your trip can be extra magical by planning for more than just rides.

    4.       You don’t have to wait in long lines.  You just have to know how to avoid them. (More on that in a bit).

    5.       Your vacation package can be changed up until 45 days before you travel, meaning that if Disney releases a new discount, it’s possible that you can get it applied to your existing reservation.

    6.       It’s a LOT of walking…even preschool aged children may benefit from a stroller…heck, even kindergarten aged kids!  Disney’s strollers are NOT always the best option, though… there are some better places to rent through.

    7.       There are three levels of dining plan: Quick Service, Standard and Deluxe.  Be sure that the one you are booking is the right kind for you – price may not be the only factor in that. 

    8.       You may need more days than you think!  You could stay at Disney World for a month and still likely not do every single thing that is offered.  5 park days is the absolute minimum I recommend.  If you want a little relaxation thrown in, some non park days thrown in the mix can be really nice.

    9.       There are many seasons at Disney World, pricing wise and crowd wise.  School breaks are always the most crowded and most expensive.  If you can manage to go sometime other than these breaks, you’ll find it a little easier on your wallet.

    10.   It takes many, many hours of research to plan a really smooth, enjoyable Disney World experience.  Or, you can have a Disney expert take care of all of it for you!

    Remember how I mentioned not having to wait in long lines?  Just one of the things I do for my clients is creating entirely customized park touring plans to help them avoid the long lines.  And all the rest on this list?  I take care of that, too.  It’s common to think that it’s “just Disney World” when you first come up with the idea to visit.  But if the sheer volume of information starts to get overwhelming and too time consuming, the entire experience can be easier and more magical by having a professional take care of you and your family.  Feel free to contact me for more information!

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      Disneyland: Commando Weekend or Vacation Experience?

      Disneyland: Commando Weekend or Vacation Experience?

      Disneyland: Commando Weekend or Vacation Experience?

      Disneyland Hotel

       

      Let’s clear up a common misconception: Disneyland is not only about theme park til you drop for 2 days and then heading home.  Sure, that’s how a lot of people do it.  And if you’ve only got a weekend and want to make a run at it, that’s fine.  But if you’re thinking Disneyland for your next vacation, and actually want it to be, you know, a VACATION, then it absolutely can be!

      First off, let’s start with the idea that you actually want to enjoy the entire experience.  You’ve got kids in tow, you want this to be special for them, and you want to enjoy your time, maybe even (gasp!) relax a bit.  If we’re starting there, let’s maybe throw the Motel 6 idea out the window.  I know, I know, it’s so common for people to say that the hotel is “just somewhere to crash at the end of the night.”  Except, what if it isn’t?  What if you could actually enjoy your hotel?  What if it was part of the overall experience?

      Well, in that case, let’s consider an actual resort.  There are several to choose from in the area, but I’m talking nice rooms, nice services, and a super awesome pool.  Because honestly, most kids are all about pools and a super awesome pool just makes the vacation so much better.  For example, at the Disneyland Hotel, we’re talking about gorgeous hotel rooms, with Disney touches throughout, on property restaurants (including character breakfasts), characters visiting in the lobby, excellent customer service, and when you walk out your hotel lobby, you walk into Downtown Disney.  How’s that for staying in the Disneyland experience?  Plus, the pool area is amazing.  Two pools and a an entire monorail themed waterslide splash area, with three sizes of water slides.  Now add in cocktails by the pool for the parents – perfect.

      By now some are thinking, “When would I use any of that?  I’ll never be at the hotel, I have to get through the parks.”  Back up – we’re trying to avoid that commando approach, remember?  Instead, we’ll head to the parks at opening to beat the crowds, have lunch and then head back to our (super close) hotel for an afternoon break.  Now we’ll have plenty of time for swimming and relaxing.  After we’ve cooled off and had some resort fun, we can head back into the theme parks for the evening.

      Is two park days enough if we’re doing it this way?  Nope.  But we’re aiming for a full vacation experience here, so that’s ok.  In this case, you’ll want at least 3 park days to allow for a good pace, afternoon fun and plenty of time to get all of the rides in.

      What else?  How about a day just for pool fun, exploring Downtown Disney and trying out some of the fun and delicious dining choices there?  Next up, we can take a day trip to nearby Huntington Beach for some ocean fun and relaxing views.  Universal Studios can be a fun day trip, and older kids may enjoy visiting Hollywood as well.  Have a few more days?   You can pack up and head down to San Diego to a lovely resort near the beach, for a visit to Sea World, Legoland and to explore the city of San Diego.

      There are so many ways to make your Disneyland trip into an enjoyable, fun paced vacation.  If that’s what you are looking for, don’t be fooled into thinking Disneyland is a one weekend only destination.  That version is fast, furious, and tiring.  I’d love to help you turn it into a fabulous week of family vacation fun instead!

       

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      Disney Vacation Planning with The Enchanted Traveler

      Disney Vacation Planning with The Enchanted Traveler

      Help with Planning Your Disney Vacation – Meet Your Travel Consultant

      This week I thought I’d post a video introducing myself to you.  Planning an amazing Disney vacation for your family is a lot of work, but I’m here to help you with that.  Watch this video to see me give a short explanation of what I do, and why you might want to work with me.

       

       

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      Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

      Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

      Disney World Planning: Why The Early Bird Gets the Worm

      Crowds at Disney World

      Hoping to avoid some of the crowds? photo credit: rickpilot_2000 via Flickr

      You want to experience Disney World to fullest, skip the crowds, avoid lines, skip the cranky children and have an all around wonderful time.  Yet, you hear people complain about how long they had to wait, impatient children and meltdowns, and you’re worried about how this trip might turn out.  Actually, there are many ways to avoid the famously long lines in the park and make your day much smoother, and today we’ll talk about one of those.

      You see, it seems many people who travel to Disney World are of the mindset that a vacation means sleeping in.  Many people don’t arrive at the parks until after 10 or 11am, after they’ve leisurely gotten up and had breakfast and/or have also driven in from somewhere offsite.  What this leaves is a nice little gap in the opening hours for you and your family to get on the rides first.

      To beat the crowds, I advise my clients to arrive 20-30 minutes before park opening at any of the four major parks.  If you do this, you will see a fairly large sized crowd waiting with you, but don’t worry – this crowd disperses quickly once inside the large parks and is nothing like the crowds that you will see later in the day.  The key is to use every moment wisely once you enter: now is not the time for shopping or eating a meal.  Head straight to the rides and save the browsing for a later part of the day.

      You have about two hours, with the first hour being the absolute best for no to low lines, before the major crowds will start flowing in.  If you use this time wisely, you can accomplish a large amount of rides before lunch.  (I always give my clients a theme park touring strategy to better enable them to skip as many lines as possible, with a customized itinerary of rides).  By about 1pm, the crowds will be out in full force, and this is the time that most rides will have those longgggg lines you’ve heard about.  NOW you can shop, browse and eat and leave those long lines to the throngs of late arrivers.  Or, as I often advise my clients, head back to your resort for a swim, to shower and freshen up or take a little nap.

      Once late afternoon and evening arrive, you can head back to the rides, as more people start leaving the parks again.  Many of them are now tired of waiting in all those long lines and have had enough.  But you?  You rode a bunch of ride this morning, had a great afternoon, and are now ready to go until closing!

       

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