When Planning Does Not Go Right

By now, if you are in the know because you read Disney blogs every single day or because you are planning a trip and are “testing” the new MagicBands/FastPassPlus lifestyle that the WDW theme parks have unveiled, you know the point of all of this is CONVENIENCE.

To make the planning experience easier.

To make your days in the park more seamless.

Now, this isn’t a post to talk about my MagicBand experience or even FP+ (okay, maybe a little bit) but it’s to show how even the most seasoned WDW guest paired with the new technology of FP+ could still make a few blunders and not have the most fulfilling theme park day.

Let’s set the scene: It’s a Monday in January and James and I only have one-day park tickets. We decided our last day would be spent at Hollywood Studios because we wanted to catch the earlier Fantasmic show and take a Friendship boat over to the BoardWalk for our 8:50 p.m. dinner.

We did not rope drop. Why? Because we scheduled our FP+ through the MyMagicExperience app before we left for our trip. Because we wanted to try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night so we actually felt rested. We also thought because we had secured FP+ for Toy Story Midway Mania and the Tower of  Terror that we would have no problem getting on Rockin’ Roller Coaster. (Translation: we didn’t mind waiting 40 minutes.)

Gertie the Dino Disney's Hollywood Studios

When we made it to the park, we made a beeline for Starring Rolls and already we could see how crowded the park was. After a vacation of mostly light crowds, we were surprised. But not as surprised as we were when we saw the waiting times at 10 in the morning. Seventy-five minutes for both Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster and no paper fast passes (that’s so yesterday!) left for Midway Mania.

Point 1 to FP+/My Magic Experience: We were ahead of the game.  Times would go down for RRC. Of course, they would.

Before we even stopped to have lunch, James and I had swept through most of the park: Star Tours, check! (FP+) Muppet Vision, check! I lost another game of Midway Mania, check! We walked through the Writer’s Shop and Stage 1 Store. We toured One Man’s Dream and managed to not cry during the movie. Post-lunch we did Great Movie Ride, stopped for a drink at Brown Derby Lounge, and even waited on line to take a picture with Goofy in the middle of the park. By then, we kind of didn’t know what to do with ourselves.

After we ate the wait time for Rockin’ Roller Coaster was only 20 minutes but we had just ate. When we stopped to get a drink, it shot up to 75 minutes again.

No such luck for us.

With nothing left to do, we decided to high tail it out of DHS, head to the Contemporary to watch our last sunset, and zip back to All-Star Music to change for our dinner at Flying Fish Cafe.

THIS IS WHERE WE MADE MISTAKES.

Thanks to the MyMagicExperience App, we kept delaying our Tower of Terror FP+ until the very last one we could get: 5:45-6:45. What we really should have done was go on before we left. Because this is what happened after we left, went to the Contemporary, took a quick break at our resort, and jumped back on the bus, arriving back at the park at 6:45:

– Fantasmic was standing room only at 6:45 for a 7 p.m. show in the middle of January.
– We wouldn’t have even known we could still make our FP+ until Amanda mentioned there was a 10-minute grace period.
–  The wait for Rockin Roller Coaster was still 75 minutes long.

So basically, I screamed on Tower of Terror and we basically had to go to our reservation because there was nothing left for us to do in the park. We couldn’t make the 8:30 Fantasmic and still make our reservation, and we couldn’t reschedule our reservation because we couldn’t reach the restaurant (i.e., the My Disney Experience app does NOT allow you to contact any restaurants in any way). We also would not be able to return to the park for Extra Magic Hours because they ended at 10, and we were pretty sure we would still be at dinner then. (We were correct.)

Pretty Sky Grand Floridian

For two people who like to end their vacation with one of the many awesome nighttime shows at the park, we were shit out of luck. I tried not to  be so sad about it, but… it was a little sad. We did catch a drink with Amanda at the Belle Vue Lounge before our dinner. (They wouldn’t seat us early because they were so busy.)

After dinner, we decided to walk off our meal at Downtown Disney because all the parks were closed. (Since we had a one-day park ticket anyway it was a moot point anyway.) It was about 10:50 when we were on the bus and I asked James to check what time everything closed. The bus was pretty packed, and the MME app was telling us all the stores closed at 11. Shut out once again. Then we got off the bus in the Marketplace, we literally just missed a bus heading back to our resort, so we walked quickly through Downtown Disney and caught a bus at the West Side, passing through a construction-filled Pleasure Island on the way.

You know what they say about the best laid plans? Well. We were totally feeling it by the end of the night. Sure, we had a wonderful meal at Flying Fish, saw (mostly) everything we wanted to see at DHS, but we felt like we could have better utilized our time.

Here are some final theories about the day:

→ Is Hollywood Studios a park where you should be park hopping?
→ Was it so incredibly crowded all day at the Studios because of the EMH? (Sparkly Nicole thought so.) Did these guests envision staying all day?
→ Was this the downside of visiting WDW during the winter? Shorter park hours and not as much to do, especially on a Monday night? Maybe.

So maybe we shouldn’t have left to see the sunset, or planned on making a wardrobe change earlier in the day for our dinner. There are so many scenarios when it comes to planning a day like this one that it could have happened the same even if we swapped some plans around. It just goes to show that no matter how familiar you are with the parks, how prepared you are with attraction and show times, that it doesn’t always go according to plan and what you have to be prepared to do is be flexible.

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

5 thoughts on “When Planning Does Not Go Right

  1. Being flexible is so hard for an uber-planner like me, but the more often I visit, the more flexible I like to think I get. The knowing-I’ll-be-back thing helps, but it makes me sad for those who won’t go back again, or as often.

  2. I think your challenges reveals the restrictions now with FP+. It forces you to choose which is most important and realize that you may be stuck either waiting an hour or having to miss something fun. It sounds like you still were able to do a lot and had a good time, and that’s the best approach at this point. I think it’s just going to be really tricky to maximize time, especially on busier days.

  3. You know, I think what I like about this post is that although it was a negative experience, it puts things into a bit of a positive context (how to learn from this) instead of a negative one (“MyMagic+ sucks!!”).

    To look at this from the MM+ perspective and what it means, though – it kind of clicked for me that the problem with the program is that it fails to take into account that everyone tours differently. everyone structures their day separately, and with a program like this, Disney is kind of shoe-horning everyone into touring the same way. You get to do this, this and this, and this won’t work anymore (hope you didn’t enjoy it!), and in exchange there’s this. There is good and bad, and all told I had a very good experience with it, but I don’t tour the parks the same way four other people in a group of five do.

    I think that’s the real, core limitation of the program: not bugs, not what it prevents you from doing, but that it’s just not an individualized program no matter how they may be trying to present it as one. I think that’s something they can’t fix. I’m saying this with the full awareness that it’s not going anywhere and we’ll all just have to adjust ourselves, and I’m fine with that, but it just is a legitimate issue… and one that can’t really be worked around.

    Oh well. Good post, Estelle. 🙂 Got me thinking. 😀

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