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Friday, June 28, 2019

how i planned our august 2019 trip to walt disney world

When I finished booking our FP+ plans for our Thanksgiving 2018 trip, I wrote this post about the planning process behind it.  I loved sharing that post with you guys, so I wanted to do it again this year!  I hope this can become something I do for tinkerkait every time my family goes on a trip.  Now that our FP+ date has come and gone, I'm ready to post our August 2019 plans!

Enjoy our timeline of events.

For Context...

Different trips have different needs.  As I found out over Thanksgiving, summer trips are a lot different than trips taken during winter holidays.  This is a late summer trip, so we'll just be missing Galaxy's Edge and the Food & Wine Festival, but we'll be able to catch Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and (hopefully!) one or two other hard ticket events.  The crowds are different and a little smaller during summer trips, so that always eliminates pressure for me.  Smaller crowds mean I can focus more on planning one or two larger experiences and stress less about how much I can cram into the week.  

While the summer heat is still going to be scorching, Walt Disney World will be all decked out for Halloween by the time we get down there.  For those of you who may have forgotten: Halloween is my favorite time of year at Disney!  On any other year, I would have preferred a late September/Early October trip where crowds are low, the Food and Wine Festival is in full swing, and the temperature is at least a little cooler.  But with Galaxy's Edge coming just days after we check out, we decided that a pre-Star Wars crowd trip was in order.

Our Planning Timeline...

September 10, 2018: Our 11-month DVC home resort booking window opens up!  Here's where the planning of our vacation officially began.  Our original dates were from August 10-16, 2019 at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.  We wanted a mid-late August trip this year so that we could visit Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

November 28, 2018: DVC Moonlight Magic Dates are announced/we modify our trip dates back one week.  On November 28, I pushed our trip dates back to August 18-24.  Every year, Disney offers a series of free, hard-ticket event for Disney Vacation Club members.  These events include exclusive access to the parks with rare characters, free food, and special entertainment.  This year, one fell on August 22 at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  We'll still have to wait until June for a chance to register for the event, but since we'll be staying at a resort while it's going on, we'll have a better chance of being able to register for it.  Mom has always wanted to see Pandora at night, and by moving the trip up one week, we'll have an even better chance at catching a Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party date!  We're still at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, but we're looking to modify the resort when our 7-month window opens up and we can book at other DVC resorts.

January 13, 2019: My favorite crowd prediction calendar is updated for August.  Things are quiet for a while, but once we make it to the third week in January, my favorite crowd prediction calendar is updated!  The crowd calendar I normally use is updated 6 and 1/2 months in advance.  This crowd calendar, which is pulled together by Kenny the Pirate (who's been mostly correct in my past experiences), tells me what the crowds are going to look like when I go, and which park will be the best to tour on which days.

Now that the crowd prediction calendar is out, I can start planning our days out!  This is when I bust out Google sheets and start getting my spreadsheets ready.

Our first set of plans look like this:

Sunday-- Magic Kingdom
Monday-- Epcot
Tuesday-- Disney's Hollywood Studios (MNSSHP?)
Wednesday-- Disney's Animal Kingdom
Thursday-- MK/DAK (MM?)
Friday-- Magic Kingdom/Disney Springs

At the time the crowd prediction calendar is updated, Kenny thinks that there will be two MNSSHPs during the week we're there.  I wonder if he's right?

January 15, 2019: We bought our Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Tickets!  I was shocked when I woke up on January 15 and saw that Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Tickets were on sale!  In the past, the dates were announced and tickets went on sale around April.  We were thrilled to buy tickets for our Tuesday, August 20-- just like Kenny said there would be!

January 18, 2019: We put ourselves on the waitlist for the Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  January 18 was the day our 7-month DVC window opened up, which meant if we wanted to modify our resort reservation from the Poly to another resort, we would be able to do that.  As I predicted, we weren't immediately able to get into the resort we were hoping to stay at this August: The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  We were able to join the wait list, which meant if space opens up for it on a later date, our Poly reservation will be cancelled, and a new reservation will be made there.  Fingers crossed!

I set our wait list to expire 31 days before our check-in date.  So if we don't hear back by July 18, our waitlist will expire and we'll remain at the Poly this trip.

January 24, 2019: Our Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa waitlist request came through!  I was shocked to say the least when less than a week after putting ourselves on the waitlist, we got an email from Disney saying that our waitlist request came through, and that we had been moved to a Standard View Deluxe Suite at the Grand!  We haven't stayed here since 2014, but it has always been one of our favorites-- we are so excited to visit again this summer!

February 19, 2019: ADR day!  ADR day is by far my favorite day of the entire booking process.  It always seems to go better than FP+ day, and it always makes me excited for the trip.  I woke up at 5:50 so that I would be ready to book our restaurants.  We booked:

Sunday-- Magic Kingdom
The Wave Breakfast (10:30)
The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen Dinner (7:15 PM)
Monday-- Epcot
Chefs de France Dinner (7:00 PM)
Tuesday-- Disney's Hollywood Studios
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (7:00 PM-12:00 AM)
Wednesday-- DHS?
Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White Dinner (8:20 PM)
Thursday-- DAK? (MM?)
Friday-- Magic Kingdom/Disney Springs
Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' Dinner (6:45 PM)

We got almost everything we wanted, exactly when we wanted it for!  There were only two exceptions.  The first was Storybook Dining, which is on the right day, but just a little later than we would have liked to book it.  The second exception was California Grill Brunch, which is only offered on Sundays, and had no tables available.  I tried to book this first, and I'm not gonna lie-- I was super bummed out when I couldn't.  It was the one ADR my family really wanted to do this trip!  Instead of CGB, I booked breakfast at the Wave as a backup.  If we do book CG Brunch, we'll also drop Skipper Canteen.

I set an alert set on mousedining.com for brunch in hopes that I'll be able to book it a little later on.  If a table opens up for California Grill, they'll send me a text message.  Fingers crossed!

June 5, 2019: We Book Moonlight Magic!  After four months of basically just waiting to see if we would be able to book Moonlight Magic, I am so relieved and thrilled to say that we were able to reserve our spots!  If you missed the post where I talk about my MM booking experience, I'll link that here.

Booking this event was the crucial final step towards building our family's touring plan this year.  Mom really wanted to see DAK at night, and she also wanted to rent a poolside cabana this trip.  Booking Moonlight Magic will allow us to do both of those things on the same day, and now we can focus exclusively on Hollywood Studios the day before.

June 16, 2019: We Booked our Cabana.  I found out through the DISboards that you can now book resort pool cabanas ahead of check-in using the reservation hotline (407-WDW-PLAY)!  When we stayed at the Grand Floridian in 2014, mom booked a poolside cabana on a whim for the day and ended up really loving it.  She wanted to make it a priority for this year's trip, so I thought it would probably be wise if we called and booked it ahead of time.  I wasn't sure how easy it would be to book a Poolside Cabana for the date we wanted, especially since we'll be visiting at one of the hottest times of the year, there are only 4 cabanas at the GF, and we needed to guarantee a very specific date and time for it to fit into our plans.  We wanted to book a half-day cabana for the morning half (10 AM-2 PM) on the same Thursday we were planning on going to Moonlight Magic.  This would make everything such a breeze that day: we relax by the pool until 2, shower and get ready for MM, then check-in for the event at 6 and head to DAK for a FP+ or two before the event formally starts at 9.

Other benefits were listed for booking a cabana in advance-- being able to use our Annual Passholder discount, guaranteeing a free fruit basket and a free snack basket.  I called the hotline and was placed on hold for a while, but once I got through, an extremely kind and helpful CM was able to reserve our cabana quickly, and was nice enough to place a note on our reservation that we were celebrating a few things while we were down there.  He also looked for a GF Brunch reservation for us, but there was still nothing available.

Next up is the last leg of planning: FP+ booking!

June 19, 2019: FP+ Booked!  Woke up bright and early to book our FP+ selections as soon as our window opened up.  Booking went great!  There was only one upset, and it wasn't really an upset.  Slinky Dog Dash was completely out for the entire week, which I wasn't surprised about-- it had been a hot topic in the August 2019 planning group I'm in.  You'll notice that I only have two FP+ selections made for DHS and DAK.  Being that our DHS day falls right after our MNSSHP night, I know my family will want to sleep in that day, and there's really nothing outside of TSL that we're dying to do before our late night dinner ADR.  Thursday is our pool cabana/Moonlight Magic day, so we won't get to the park until after we get our MM tickets at 6:00 that night-- which only leaves us a 2 hour FP+ window.  I'm so thrilled that I found the PERFECT FoP FP+ for us, though!

Our official final plans are:

Sunday, August 18: Magic Kingdom
The Wave Breakfast (10:30 AM)
1:50-2:50 PM Meet Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse at Town Square Theatre
3:05-4:05 PM Splash Mountain
6:30-7:30 PM Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen Dinner (7:15 PM)

Monday, August 19: Epcot
9:05-10:05 AM Spaceship Earth
10:35-11:35 AM Mission: SPACE
11:35-12:35 PM Frozen Ever After
Chefs de France Dinner (7:00 PM)

Tuesday, August 20: Magic Kingdom
1:35-2:35 PM Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
2:40-3:40 PM Peter Pan's Flight
3:50-4:50 PM Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (7:00 PM-12:00 AM)

Wednesday, August 21: Disney's Hollywood Studios
4:40-5:40 PM Alien Swirling Saucers
5:50-6:50 PM Star Tours
Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White Dinner (8:20 PM)

Thursday, August 22: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Grand Floridian Pool Cabana Half-Day Rental (10:00 AM-2:00 PM)
5:25-6:25 PM DINOSAUR
6:35-7:35 PM Avatar Flight of Passage
Moonlight Magic (9:00 PM-12:00 AM)

Friday, August 23: Magic Kingdom
10:20-11:20 AM Haunted Mansion
11:25-12:25 PM Peter Pan's Flight
1:50-2:50 PM Seven Dwarf's Mine Train
Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' Dinner (6:45 PM)

Thus ends our 9-month-long planning saga this time around!

The Bottom Line

The more vacations I plan, the more comfortable and confident I feel planning our vacations... and the more excited I feel when everything comes together perfectly!  In the past, my plans would jump around and change as the trip got closer and closer.  But I can't get over how amazing these plans are for this August!  With MNSSHP and MM locking everything in place, everything here looks so fool-proof.  Since I started planning our trips in 2014, I've never felt this way after a first draft of  ADRs and FP+ plans.

As usual, I'll offer some tips in wake of my latest experience planning for Walt Disney World Resort:

  • Stay flexible, even during the "off-times."  We couldn't get Slinky Dog Dash for this trip... even though we were able to book it for Thanksgiving Week, one of the busiest times of the year!  Some people argue that there are no more "off-times."  I don't believe that.  Personally, I think June-August are now the slowest times to go.  But that doesn't mean you'll always be able to book those hard-to-get FP+ and ADRs!  Hope for the best, expect the worst.  Always have a back-up plan in case you can't reserve your first choice of resorts, dining, or FP+.
  • Put yourself on the waitlist, sign up for MouseDining, and POUND THE APP!  With that being said, if you can't book an experience you really want right away, don't fret!  There are several ways you can still eventually get to where you want to go.  The DVC waitlist came through for us pretty quickly.  MouseDining did alert me to a California Grill Brunch opening perfect for us last week, but I was asleep and didn't see it fast enough!  "POUND THE APP" is Disney code for "refresh the My Disney Experience app until your finger breaks," and that's how people eventually find FP+ for the hard-to-get attractions like SDD and FoP.  People cancel resort hotel stays, ADRs, and FP+ reservations very frequently... I would be surprised if you didn't get exactly what you wanted before you arrived at Walt Disney World!

51 days until our next #WDWBestDayEver!


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