We’ve often joked that our annual Walt Disney World vacation is our Olympic event, and we train like athletes going for the gold! Only, truth be told, it’s no joke. Just getting there requires strategy, endurance, solid preparation, and the right gear. It’s as much a mental game as it is physical, and just the planning and logistical considerations necessary to realize a ride and restaurant wish list across a 10-day stay that includes miles of walking every day in weather that can range from monsoonal to arctic requires diligence, persistence, and the tactical proficiency of a Jedi special ops unit. And we don’t even have kids!
No joke, a WDW vacation is serious business. The packing list alone is a challenging event tantamount to the long jump after running the hurdles. The weather can change drastically—just in a single day—and one has to be prepared for all contingencies. Or not, and reap the consequences—which we have! FYI, an extra pair of socks in the backpack, in anticipation of a wet ride or an even wetter downpour, is only as useful as your backpack is water-resistant. A pair of soaked socks in a backpack is just dead weight.
Yet I digress, because the packing list is last in the series of milestones that need to be met on the road to our WDW vacation. The first came three months ago when the window for making our dining reservations opened up, which meant predicting our culinary leanings well before the 180-day advance on committing to them.
Seriously, how hard can it be?
Given the many dining options among the 4 Disney parks and 36 Disney properties, including Disney Springs and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, there’s a lot to think about. How does one even go about narrowing down the many possibilities unless it’s already been determined where we’ll be and when? And even then, one has to take into account Extra Magic Hours, special events, and transportation, all of which have to be factored in to the viability of a dining reservation. I, for one, lack the mental agility to perform such a high ask, particularly when I can’t even predict what I’m going to want for dinner the following day. Luckily, though, I’m married to a Jedi with a love of spreadsheets and a good sense of when it’s safe to discuss plans. He at least makes an effort to not initiate the process while we’re still on our WDW vacation—even though he can’t hide the fact that he’s already thinking about it!
Despite the logistics involved in dining decisions, which require a mastery of time and space within the Disney-verse, we managed to score most of our selections when the window opened, while still allowing for some breathing room in which to enjoy the Food and Wine Festival or kick back at one of the hotel lounges or restaurant bars where reservations aren’t required. Fortunately, we weren’t competing for the most hard-to-get tables, such as the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest, the Akershus princess meal in Epcot’s Norway, or ‘Ohana at the Disney Polynesian Resort (not that they don’t hold appeal).
Dining done. Next…
Only 90 more days before we can lock in our FastPass+ selections. Only 90 more days of biting nails, crossing fingers, hoping upon hope, and convincing ourselves that we’ll still be okay even if we don’t get this or that. As it was, we were already accepting the likelihood of sacrificing either Tower of Terror or Rockin’ Roller Coaster at the Hollywood Studios, since both attractions are on the same FP+ tier and we would only be at the park for half a day (&^%$#@).
Nailing down our FP+ itinerary for the length of our stay is, by far, the most fun and nerve-racking part of the reservation process (not including air travel, which is just nerve-racking). It’s fun imagining our flow through the various parks and the attractions we’ll stop to enjoy—some hopefully more than once—but the suspense is nerve-racking. Where the food situation is flexible, the ride situation is a stress point, as having only one shot at a favorite attraction for the whole year can feel like a make-or-break proposition. Needless to say, when that 90-day window for making our FP+ reservations opens, we know we have to be ready. The competition for the “E-Ticket” rides is always intense, and, being Los Angeles residents, we start at a 3-hour deficit. The WDW FastPast+ website was locked and loaded in the browser before we turned in for a shorter than usual night’s sleep.
This is all part of the training!
And our time starts… NOW!
When morning came, so came the quickened footsteps of my Jedi husband, who bypassed making coffee to get down to business. I showed my support by getting up to make the coffee. “Going okay?” I mumbled blearily as I passed. Too intent on making FP+ selections to turn around, he confirmed with a thumbs-up that he was making progress.
By time we were having coffee, one of us was amped; the other was still getting her bearings after having risen to the occasion of making coffee. Aside from not being able to get a second Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FP+ (at least we got one!), we got everything we wanted, and the burden on my beloved Jedi’s shoulders had been lifted. He was breathing again, and although I still hadn’t climbed out of my morning fog, I was, in my own way, over the moon that this threshold that had taken well over 270 days to reach had finally come to pass.
All that remains now is the packing, but at least we don’t have to wait for Disney to open a window. Meanwhile, one of us is already monitoring WDW weather. That’s what’s called being a champion!