Missing Magic Kingdom Rope Drop in the Days of FP+

For this weeks trip review article I want to investigate a question that has become pretty important now in the days of FP+. Can I still have a great park day even if I don’t make it for park opening? In the old days of legacy Fastpass if you missed rope drop and that first chance to grab a Fastpass you were in a little trouble as those return times just kept creeping further and further away. I decided to investigate this on a summer day at the Magic Kingdom.

We arrived at the front gates of the park at 9:40 AM and getting into the park was a madhouse. The new turnstile-less system handles the crowds in a much better method than the older turnstile system so that is one big benefit. Despite the large crowds we were on Main Street in about five minutes. We took our time getting down Main Street and even did a little shopping in the Emporium as we were a little early for when I wanted to start our touring plan. We even spent a few minutes looking at the new fake grass areas in the redesigned hub.

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After a little shopping, including picking up a shirt I had been eying, we headed towards our first FP+ location of the day, Peter Pan. The standby line was well over and hour by this time and the FP line even took us about ten minutes to get on the ride. After this we headed onto it’s a small world for a quick trip on the happiest cruise that ever sailed.

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The line looks pretty long in the picture, but we were on in just about ten minutes. We then had an early lunch reservation at Be Our Guest at 11:00 AM, so by the time we got out of the always present boat backup at it’s a small world it was about time for lunch.

We spent about 40 minutes inside the restaurant for our quick service lunch and at 11:45 it was time for our next FP at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The FP line was quick here and it was a fantastic ride as usual. We took a quick spin on the Carousel for our son before getting on our way to Frontierland. Here was a shot of Fantasyland right around noon as we were passing through.

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While walking into Frontierland we saw Chip and Dale meeting guests and we jumped in line and only waited about five minutes to see them.

We then headed to use our next FP+ at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at 12:15. We had a great ride there and when we finished we headed over into Adventureland for a trip on Pirates of the Caribbean. This line took us about 15 minutes to get through without a FP, which was our longest line of the morning. This was all we had planned for the park this morning because when you take ten day trips like we do you can afford to do shorter and easier park trips like this. We also had a special dinner reservation we had to get rested up for before this evening.

Now, on my way out of the park I did stop at a kiosk that didn’t have a line and at that point of the day, around 12:45 we could have gotten a 4th FP for Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or about any other ride in the park except for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Even after arriving around 10:00 AM we were still able to do six attractions, four of which were headliners, by about 12:30 PM and that included a 40 minute lunch stop. That’s a pretty good morning considering we missed rope drop. So, with all that said, due to the FP+ system you can still have a great morning in the Magic Kingdom even if you arrive after park opening as long as you have those FP+ reservations done in advance.

Let us know your thoughts below on touring the parks after missing rope drop.

Understanding All of the Important Reservation Dates

Trip Planning Tuesday CastleAs you begin the planning of your Disney World vacation there are several important dates that you need to be aware of. We recommend booking your resort package or room only reservation as far in advance as you can. Having a reservation on the books will give you a way to make dining reservations in advance of the general public, which can be a big advantage with those hard to get reservations. Also, it is important to remember just because you are booked into a certain package does not mean you cannot get a discount if one is released. If a package discount or room only discount is released after you have booked your trip you just need to call Disney or your travel agent and the discount can be applied, which means the price of your trip will go down! Awesome! Now, once you have the initial reservation made here are a few important dates you need to be aware of moving forward.

  • 180 Days in Advance – Dining reservations open 180 days prior to a certain date, and since the Dining plan came about many years ago it is important to make most of these reservations as many of them fill up and the times you want may not be available if you wait until later. Now, for the big perk of already having a reservation. You should have your reservation linked on your Disney account and when your 180 day mark comes about you should be able to book dining reservations not just for the first day of your trip, but for the next 10 days, so really you can book up to 190 days, which gives you a jump on when off-site guests can book. This can be a huge advantage, especially for those hard to get reservations like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or many of the character meals. Now, if you are staying off-site you will have to book your reservations for each day, 180 days in advance. So it does involve getting up early to get online or on the phone to make those reservations. This is a great reason to use a travel agent, because most Disney travel agents should help make dining reservations for you, at no cost, and you can keep sleeping. Of course our sponsor, Big Dreams Travel, is one of those agencies. Online dining reservations change to the next day at 6 AM EST, every morning, while the phone lines open at 7 AM EST (407-WDW-DINE). It is also important to note that many other things, such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and other services like that open at 180 days as well. You can also make recreation reservations 180 days in advance for things such as watercraft, evening fireworks cruises, fishing trips, or other things. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for recreation reservations.
  • 60 Days in Advance – If you are staying on-site the 60 day mark is important for two reasons. First, you need to be prepared by this day to make your FP+ reservations. Online FP+ reservations open at midnight EST 60 days in advance of your trip. Again, most Disney travel agents will help you make these plans and reservations. You should also have a rough set of touring plans ready to go for each day and have ideal FP+ times ready to book. Keep in mind you must have park tickets and a valid resort reservation linked to your Disney account to make these reservations at the 60 day mark. The second thing you can do on this day if you are a resort guest is check in online for your resort. You can view our post on 5 Things to Know About Checking In and Out to get more information on this process.
  • 30 Days in Advance – There are two important things happening at this stage of trip planning. First, if you are staying on side and have a vacation package reservation (hotel and park tickets) your final payment will be due at this time. So make sure you get this paid or have made arrangements with your travel agent. The other main thing to do on this date is if you are staying off-site this is your FP+ reservation date. Remember, you must have park tickets linked to your Disney account. Online FP+ reservations open at midnight EST 30 days in advance of your trip.
  • 90 Days in Advance – Disney golf courses open their reservations for tee times 90 days in advance. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for reservations. You can also visit the website at www.golfwdw.com.
  • 365 Days in Advance – We did want to mention one thing that opens to book one year in advance and that is golf cart rentals if you are staying at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Call the bike barn at 407-824-2742 for reservations.

Let us know if you have any question in the comments section below.

Animal Kingdom Families with Children Morning Plan Review

AnimalKingdomEntranceFor this weekends edition of the trip review article I’m going to go through a morning visit we had on our last trip to Animal Kingdom. This is not going to be a step by step touring plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect and one specific way to tour this park with the use of Fastpass+. For clarification we are a family of two adults and one child who is too young to ride Expedition Everest and this trip took place in June, so summer crowds were in effect. (Picture to the Left Credited To: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia)

We arrived at the park via our resort bus at 8:25 AM before a 9:00 AM opening.

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The park opened at 8:47 AM, but keep in mind Disney had been changing things up with Animal Kingdom’s opening procedures, so it may very well be slightly different from this. After walking to the back of the park we ended up arriving at Kilimanjaro Safari just before 9:00 AM and had to wait a couple of minutes for the ride to open. They opened right at 9:00 AM and we were soon boarding a safari vehicle. Here are a few pictures of our safari, which was good as it usually is in the morning.

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We were off the ride just before 9:30 and were well ahead of schedule. We had actually planned on visiting the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and we would have had about 25 minutes to do so, but we decided we would rather spend the time grabbing some breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery. Our plan was to attend the 10:00 AM Festival of the Lion King Show as we knew it would be not very crowded and we could show up very close to showtime. We arrived at 9:55 AM and walked right into about a half full theatre and enjoyed a great show!

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After the show our plan was to use our first Fastpass+ of the day. Now, for our family we have a hard time deciding what to use our third Fastpass+ on. We usually use one on Everest and Dinosaur, but our son is not quite into Kali River Rapids yet and my wife and I don’t care to ride it without him like we do Expedition Everest. The attraction we settled on to use our Fastpass+ for is the Mickey and Minnie Meet at Adventurers Outpost.

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We have done this meet before and it is a really unique meet and greet as you actually get both characters at the same time, which is not the case at most meets. We arrived at 10:40 and were meeting Mickey and Minnie by 10:45 which bypassed about a 20 minutes standby line. Not a huge jump, but Character meet and greet lines are notoriously boring and some of the least fun ones to wait in. After a great meet it was about 10:55 and our next plan was to head for some lunch. We enjoy having lunch at Restaurantosaurus or Flame Tree BBQ in this park. Flame Tree certainly has better food, but it was very hot and we decided on Restaurantosaurus as the seating area is air conditioned. I’m not going to do a full dining review here, but I will include a picture of my entree, the Mac ‘n Cheese Dog. We enjoy the food here, although it is nothing special, but the air conditioned seating area is a big positive.

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The next step on our agenda was that we stopped at about 11:30 for a ride on Triceratop Spin and had to wait about 10 minutes. Next we were heading to the 12:00 PM performance of Finding Nemo: The Musical. We arrived about 11:50 and got a seat on the first row of the top section and it was perfect.

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The show was over by 12:40 and we headed at this point to use our next Fastpass+ at Expedition Everest. Of course one of us has to stay with our son so it took us about 25 minutes to both get our ride in. After riding Everest we headed back to Dinoland to use our final Fastpass+ at Dinosaur.

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We arrived at 1:20 and I was able to ride walk right into the pre-show. While one of us rides the other likes to take our son and ride Triceratop Spin as the line is usually about the perfect length to take up the time the other person is at Dinosaur. When I got off at about 1:40 my wife had decided she didn’t want to ride so we were ready to head out of the park. Here is what we accomplished in about 4 and a half hours at Animal Kingdom in the summer.

  • Kilimanjaro Safari (Standby)
  • Breakfast at Kusafiri Bakery (Would have had time for Pangani Trail)
  • Festival of the Lion King Show (Standby)
  • Meet Disney Pals Mickey & Minnie at Adventurers Outpost (Fastpass+)
  • Lunch at Restaurantosaurus
  • Triceratop Spin (Standby)
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical (Standby)
  • Expedition Everest (Fastpass+, 2 Times due to Young Child)
  • Dinosaur (Fastpass+, Other adult and young child did Triceratop Spin)

We were very pleased with our day, especially considering we were able to see both Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo, which is kind of a difficult task in just a half day of touring. We hope this plan helps you in planning your morning at Animal Kingdom. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

A Magic Kingdom Morning Toddler Touring Plan with Columbia Harbour House

For today’s Trip Review Saturday article I wanted to talk a little about a Magic Kingdom morning plan we used on our last trip. This is a great plan to use if you have young children traveling with you, but keep in mind we only have a little boy in our party, no girls, so something like Anna & Elsa is not on our radar, and honestly, I can’t say that disappoints me! Our strategy was to get several things in Fantasyland done before the park got super crowded on a crazy summer day. We were waiting for the park to open by 8:15 AM and here was our view…one of my favorite views anytime, anywhere!

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Now, to give you a little more perspective here is that shot zoomed out a little so you can see some of the crowd at 8:15 in the morning.

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Yikes! I was a little shocked. Being 45 minutes early, even last summer would have gotten us pretty close to the rope, now we were 20-25 people back. Oh well, most of these people were headed to one of two attractions anyway, Anna & Elsa or Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and we are certainly not heading to either of those. After watching the awesome welcome show we were let into the park at exactly 8:46 AM.

So, like I said while almost everyone else was heading to Anna & Elsa or Seven Dwarves Mine Train, we took the opportunity to get a jump start on everything else in Fantasyland. If you can get FP+s for those two popular attractions this is a great touring order for a family with young children to follow. As you will see we are going to get a lot of things done by lunch time and get out of this park at a reasonable time so that we can all get rested up for the evening.

We headed down main street, not having to hurry since no-one else was headed where we were, and went towards our traditional starting point, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. We were on the ride by 8:55 AM and off and heading for something else before the actual park opening time. We then hit up one of our son’s favorite attractions, the Barnstormer. We even got to do it twice as there was no one else in line yet! After flying with the Great Goofini on his coaster we headed over to take a spin on Dumbo. Guess what time it was when we finished…if you guessed 9:15, you are correct. We had already done four rides and the park has only been officially open for 15 minutes.

Let me give another great tip for this area of the park if you have a stroller, but your kids can walk some for short distances. We parked our stroller at Dumbo before we rode Barnstormer and we did not pick for over 45 minutes. There are some great things close to that location and it is very nice to not have to load up in the stroller after every attraction. After Dumbo our plan had been to head in to see Goofy and Donald at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, but we were moving so quickly Pete’s wasn’t open yet. It opens at 9:45 AM most mornings if the park opens at 9:00, although I would check the times guide. I believe it opens at park opening some select days. We left the stroller by Dumbo and jumped ahead to our next ride, Under the Sea. It was about 9:20 by this point and there was no line here at all and we were done by 9:30. We still had 15 minutes to waste before Pete’s opened and our son begged and begged to do Barnstormer again, so why not, there were no lines in this part of the park yet. So after our third ride on Barnstormer we headed to get in line for Pete’s as it was about five minutes from opening.

They opened promptly at 9:45 and a nice tip is if you are first in line the characters will open the doors and meet you and then take the kids hands and walk them through the line to their meet and greet area. We weren’t at the front, but it made the day of a little girl and I love seeing that Disney magic. After a great meet with Goofy and Donald we stopped for a quick chocolate croissant and some water in Gaston’s Tavern before heading all the way across the park to Frontierland. We had done a lot of attractions already as well as a meet and greet and it was just 10:00. We arrived at Big Thunder Mountain, the next thing on our list, and the wait time was listed as 10 minutes, but right as we got to the entrance a cast member was shutting it down because the ride was broken. So, I cannot give an accurate wait time for 10:00 AM on a summer day, but the posted one had been 10 minutes before they closed. With a Splash Mountain FP opening at 10:40 we had some time to kill so we headed into the air conditioning at Country Bear Jamboree. “There…was…blood on the saddle!” After the world famous performance we headed over so my wife could use a Splash Mountain FP. It was close to 11:00 as we had done some walking around in Adventureland as well before the show. Our son was not ready for Splash just yet so we got a child swap and he and I headed over to get set for lunch at Columbia Harbour House.

I ordered lunch while my wife rode Splash Mountain and the time worked out about perfectly as she walked up to our table about the exact time that we sat down with our food. We found a perfect seat at an upstairs window that looked down into the park and I would recommend anyone having a meal here to always go sit upstairs if it is open. We were early enough to beat most of the lunch rush, so it wasn’t too crowded, but even when it is the upstairs is usually still very peaceful. The food during our meal was good as always. My wife and son both got kids meals and I ended up going with the fish and chips as I usually do.

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The fish is always very good, in my opinion, for a quick service restaurant and everything else we had was great as well. Our son loved the mac ‘n cheese here and my wife loved the kids meal she got which had the perfect amount for her of one piece of fish and a few chicken nuggets. The entire experience at Columbia Harbour House is always great as it is a nice peaceful spot to stop and each lunch. My tip to anyone needing lunch in this part of the park is to definitely stop here and find one of those tables upstairs by a window. It is a great break from the craziness of the theme park and the food is good as well.

After lunch it was 11:45 and we had done a lot already that morning and were ready for a break so we just decided to head back for a nap and some swimming. There was a show going on while we walked out so of course we had to stop and watch for a few minutes.

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It was all in all a great morning at the Magic Kingdom. We visited around 10 attractions in just about two hours and finished our morning off with a visit to Columbia Harbour House, our favorite lunch spot in this park. Thanks for reading and happy trip planning!

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