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Walt Disney World Trip Review: How I Threw Out My Plans and had the Best Trip Ever

If you're like me, you plan vacations down to the hour. With Disney World, you plan it down to the minute. I am sure you've heard of my infamous 13 tab spreadsheet. When I got to Disney in September, crowds were larger than I expected. The crowd calculators had wildly different predictions from each other and I chose to expect the 1-2 out of 10 that Touring Plans predicted rather than the 4-6 out of 10 that Undercover Tourist predicted. Without fast passes it was hard to tell. We have never stood in lines before and while some just breezed on by, like Splash Mountain, others like Slinky Dog didn't budge from their pre-pandemic wait times. As I mentioned in a previous post, Epcot at a 6 feels more manageable than Magic Kingdom at a 2.

In another post I was concerned that my planning skills were out of date given that fast passes are no longer an option (don't worry I'll come back to Genie). Again, it's hard to tell if I made the mistakes or if Touring Plans did, but the end result was the same. We got to Disney and it wasn't exactly as expected, in huge part to me not really knowing how to navigate without fast passes, and so I tossed my plans out the window.

This was incredibly liberating. Now I need to acknowledge here that we go almost yearly. In the next 12 months I am taking at least 3 trips, not including work trips, and that certainly changes the stakes for my family. I'd ask that you read on because what I am going to say does have application for families who are going to take a once in a lifetime or a once in a blue moon trip. You can have fun, without doing everything. In fact, you can have more fun.

We planned on riding Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Jungle Cruise, Soarin, Test Track, Flights of Passage, Na'vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Rock'n'Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror, Slinky Dog, and Toy Story Mania. That's 15 out of the 50 or so rides at Disney World, but keep in mind we were really there for Food & Wine. We ended up riding Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Soarin, Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Grand Fiesta Tour (twice), Flights of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Rock'n'Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror, and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad. That's 13 rides, 14 if you count Grand Fiesta twice and you shouldn't because we just wanted to get out of the sun. We missed the mark, we didn't get to do everything we wanted, and yet it was the best trip ever.

There's freedom in living in the moment and not worrying about accomplishing everything you want. In life and at Disney World. Instead of hastily running to get in lines my husband and I leisurely walked, holding hands, hitting the bar on the way to most rides. We could not hit the mark on optimizing ride wait times while also enjoying each other's company. This model of vacation applies to families as a whole as well. When I plan a trip for a client, I always ask what do you want to get out of this vacation and quality time is always in their answer. Sometimes the answer also involves doing and seeing everything, and those two answers can't line up for many families.

Normally I tell people you want a balance: doing as much as possible while spending quality time. I have done Disney both ways. Spending quality time and also doing as much as we can accomplish in 4-7 days. I prefer the quality of time over the quantity of activities. Pat and I love cruises. We love that in 7 days we can be on the go for 4 of them and have forced down time for those other 3 sea days. It's all in the balance.

We don't know exactly how Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lanes will work yet. We know the goal is to optimize fun by minimizing wait times for everyone, and yes they'll be charging you to a waitless ride on the top rides. Change is hard, but I believe this will leave many of us with a more relaxing experience. I always tell people that everyone in your travel party should pick their three top things they want to ride, eat or see. If you accomplish that, you'll have a great trip and everything else is just icing on the cake.

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