We are going to Walt Disney World in Orlando in February 2022. I thought I better start sharing my experiences helping to plan this trip.
In the year 2000, Sue and I took the grandkids – Shelby and Ryan – to Walt Disney World. Yes, there was a spreadsheet involved, but all in all it was a simpler time. Sue acted mostly as sherpa holding on to our stuff and collecting Fast Passes because “Pirates of the Caribbean” was as wild a ride as she could stomach.
Fast forward to 2022. Sue is 75 and I am 65. We are tagging along on granddaughter Shelby’s trip later this month to Orlando with two great-grandkids. At first, I bought the most recent Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as I had in 2000. Especially with daily changes at the parks due to COVID, the book quickly became a 20th-century anachronism, although it makes a great paperweight.
When you book a trip through Disney, you can immediately access your reservation on the My Disney Experience Mobile App. So, based on serious exploration of the app, the 30-plus YouTube videos I have already watched, and the endless blog posts I have perused, I can offer some early tips. Because I am a technically savvy old person in partial lockdown with two blizzards to sock us in even more, there’s been time. A lot of it.
You cannot just saunter into a park with no plan. You will have a horrible experience. Wait times for rides will be 75-120 minutes. Restaurants will have no available tables. You will walk 10-12 miles a day if you don’t plan your movements around a park (you will still walk 6-7 miles a day). So listen up. And start looking at maps.
- Get familiar with the My Disney Mobile Experience App. It will be your link to your hotel, your daily planning, your ride selections, your meal reservations and mobile food ordering, payment – everything. We have had our hotel and daily park reservations on there for months. The corollary to using the app is: Buy a portable charger. I got the Anker Wireless 533 Power Bank. You don’t want to run out of phone juice in the middle of a mobile lunch order.
- Watch YouTube videos. My Disney playlist is below, although I add to it every day. If you are unsure whether you or the kids can handle a ride, you can find a point-of-view video that experiences the entire ride. I have watched a lot of food videos; the food choices are overwhelming, and there are some iconic Disney treats (like Dole Whip and Bao Bun Cheeseburger Pods) that you must try. My favorite vlogger is Disney Food Blog. I also like Disney Parks Addict.
- Do not try to do Disney on the cheap. Easy for me to say, but I will use Sue as an example. She is the thoughtfully frugal and cautious one about spending, and she has finally given up gasping at prices when it comes to this trip. It may be one of the last Big Trips we take, so wheeeeeeeeeeeee! We haven’t been on a big trip or a plane since April 2019. We have five front-row seats for the new Cirque du Soleil show, Drawn to Life. We are having lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table; it’s a very tough reservation to get. I have never spent almost $400 on lunch before. We are only doing one of those. Which brings me to food in general . . .
- Don’t freak out that you can’t get any table service reservations. Or maybe you haven’t even tried yet? (Slacker.) Sixty days out, the earliest possible time to make reservations, almost everything was unavailable for late February. We were lucky to snag Rainforest Cafe and Cinderella’s Royal Table. But there are so many great counter service places that serve much more than pizza and hot dogs, and you can order ahead and pay with your Disney app. Just watch some of the YouTube food videos.
- Get the Genie Plus feature. Genie Plus recently replaced the old FastPass system with the “Lightning Lane” concept. FastPass was free; Genie Plus is $15 a day per person, so this is a corollary to “Don’t Do Disney on the Cheap.” The older I get, the more ridiculous it seems to wait in line an hour for a 2-minute ride. Genie Plus is one of the features that has added serious complications to a Disney trip, so I won’t go into detail about it. This morning, I looked at the “Tip Board” on the mobile app at 7 a.m., the earliest you can start using the Genie Plus feature to reserve a Lightning Lane. Until we leave, I will be watching the ebb and flow for each park every day to figure out which rides and shows will require use of Genie Plus (which you can only use once every two hours), and which ones we can just stand in line for like regular folks.
We haven’t even left home yet. My point is, Disney World may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but it has also become The Complicated-est Place on Earth between changing COVID protocols, Rider Switch rules, closed attractions, Genie Plus, different park hours, the mobile app, and the sheer size and sprawl of it all. Do your homework.