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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together – Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve Trip Report

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Walt Disney World had record crowds for the holidays this year, but on December 31st our party managed to hit over 30 attractions in the course of the day and only had one wait greater than 15 minutes. How did we do it? By arriving early, following the Adult One-Day Holiday Touring Plan, and using the Lines application whenever could. Intrigued? Read on….

Arrive early and have a backup plan for transportation.
The Magic Kingdom had morning Extra Magic Hours for resort guests which meant that the gates opened at 7AM. Being on the inside of the turnstiles when the gates open will give you huge jump on not only the people arriving after 7 but on those who still have to go through the turnstiles.
We knew that we didn’t want to waste time in the All-Star food court in the morning (which was to our surprise actually open at 6AM), so we picked up pastries and fruit the night before for breakfast.
The original plan was to take Disney transportation from All-Star Music at 6:15 AM to avoid having to go through the TTC, but in the bus queue at the resort we realized that Disney was not spending enough buses. So we had some luck and caught a cab that was parked by the resort lobby and headed to the Contemporary. We walked from the Contemporary and arrived at the Magic Kingdom entrance at 6:45.

Use a touring plan.
Even if you don’t normally use a touring plan, this is no time to wing it. It’s the difference between walking on a headliner attraction and having a 2 hour wait in the standby line. Our party had completed 14 attractions including every headliner before 10AM. By comparison, Disney claims that the average party experiences 10 attractions in an entire day at the park. The only real wait we experienced up until that point was a 15 minute wait for the Jungle Cruise. That same wait was up to 45 minutes when we exited the attraction. If you don’t want to experience a particular attraction on the plan just skip it and move to the next one, but if you want to experience any attraction without a painful wait – embrace the touring plan. You won’t regret it. Remember, no one ever said “I wish I’d spent more time in line.”

Be prepared to stay in the park.
Magic Kingdom hit capacity before noon on the 31st which we expected. This meant that if you left the park to eat or rest you would not be allowed back in.
Normally we try not to carry a bag to avoid the security bottleneck, but this was a special case. The good news is that there was no bottleneck at 6:45. We had originally planned to put the bag in a locker, but that would have slowed us down at park opening so we ended up carrying the bag all day.
Bag contents:

  • extra clothes for warmth (not used)
  • painkillers (used)
  • phone charger (used)
  • a few snacks leftover from breakfast

Things added to the bag during the day:

  • drinks
  • purchases
  • clothes as the day warmed up
  • wet clothes after one final ride on Splash Mountain around 10PM (number of times we rode Splash Mountain on one of the busiest days of the year: 3!)

Expect the unexpected.
Huge crowds mean that things you assume are going to work may not work as planned. Everyone in the party experienced significant problems using their cell phones for both data and voice during the day. If you plan to meet people have a back up plan in case you aren’t able to contact each other.
One thing you nearly never see at a Disney park is a line for the rest room even in the busiest times. The lines for the ladies rooms all over the park were out the doors. Around 11PM the line for the restroom by the Crystal Palace was 60 women deep and stretched into the seating area for Casey’s Corner.
That counter service restaurant you saw open at noon may not be open for dinner. We were happy to see locations like the Verandah and the Pirate and the Parrot open during the day and looked forward to getting to try some food we don’t normally get a chance to for dinner. However, when we walked back through Adventureland we found they were both closed and had dinner at Pecos Bill’s instead. The lines were short though, and we had no problem finding a table. We found an out of the way table between Pecos Bill’s and the entrance to Adventureland and were able to sit and rest for an hour in a fairly quiet area. That was well-needed after more than 12 hours in the park at that point.

Keep up your energy.
Needless to say you should not have a late night on the 30th if you plan to get up a 5AM on the 31st and stay up until 3AM on the 1st. Other things that helped us keep our energy and moods up during the day were frequent snack and drink breaks and knowing when to hit an attraction that was low-key and less crowded. We rode the Peoplemover twice in a row, saw Carousel of Progress twice, and hit the Hall of Presidents, Tiki Room, and Country Bears just when the crowds were starting to become unmanageable. However, not even a 5 minute standby time could convince us to ride Stitch’s Great Escape.

Hoard those Fastpasses.
One of the strategies that worked well for us was to grab Fastpasses for attractions during the day and hold onto them for use later. We did use them after the Fastpass window had closed and were not stopped by any Cast Members. Instead of being random with our Fastpass accrual, we used Lines to see reported return times to strategize the best order in which to get our Fastpasses. Remember that attractions will stop issuing Fastpasses much earlier in the day than you would normally see. Luckily, Lines users get to see not just user reported times for that day but our predictions for when the attractions will stop issuing them. This worked so well that we didn’t even end up using every Fastpass we were holding. This is a good time to pay it forward and give your passes to someone in the standby line for future good karma.

Sometimes a plan can work too well.
Be prepared to kill time in the early evening until you stake out a place to watch the fireworks. Even with your Fastpasses and knowledge of which attractions have low waits, you’re still going to have to fill a good 5 hours in the evening and there’s only so many times you’re going to want to ride the Peoplemover or watch the Country Bears. Perhaps this is a good time to put your feet up and watch the people in the 2 hour standby line for Space Mountain – just try not to look too smug. Or maybe your could try out your high school latin with a simultaneous translation of the script to the Carousel of Progress from the theatre. Do it out loud, we promise no one in the audience will mind.

Have an exit strategy.
Those crowds that are jamming the parks are going to head en masse to the park exit around 12:15 as soon as the fireworks are over. This time was a weak spot in our day. We knew that didn’t want to leave at 12:15, but were on Main Street for the fireworks. This meant that everyone was headed to the exit as we were headed to Adventureland. When we left the Magic Kingdom at 1AM we saw that the bus queue for the All-Stars was still about 15 buses deep and chose to keep on walking to the Contemporary for another cab. It took over an hour and a half to get a cab from the Contemporary but we were able to wait in the warm and comfortable lobby as opposed to standing shoulder to shoulder with the teaming masses in the bus line. Well, 3 of us were warm and comfortable. One of us stayed outside to watch for our ride. So no time was saved, but the experience was far more pleasant. We noticed as we drove out (we took the lesser used road that goes past Fort Wilderness) that traffic was bumper to bumper exiting the Magic Kingdom parking lot and were glad we weren’t sitting in it. Still, it was 3:30AM when we got back to All-Star Music.

All in all, it was a fabulous 22 hour day for us and we’re already looking forward to doing it again next year. Probably from the Contemporary.

Were you also in the Disney Parks for New Year’s Eve? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Laurel Stewart

Laurel is a former software engineer and current student. She likes pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and Big Thunder Mountain.

10 thoughts on “I Love It When A Plan Comes Together – Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve Trip Report

  • I was also at the MK on NYE we got there around 6:30 AM using Disney bus from Pop. Had a short wait for the bus and then we were off. The early morning cold had us skip Splash in the AM but by the time our Castle Breakfast reservations came up at 9:15 we had hit every other headliner.

    I posted my updates in the Line Chat room since all my liner buddies are there (I rarely tweet these days because of the Chat room on Lines, it rocks! Hi Scar!). At one point I had two FP for Splash and Space and one for buzz, jungle, BTMR, and Pan for my entire party of seven. My secret. I discovered that in order to keep lines for FP short the CMs were just handing them out at the machines. No need to put in your park passes!

    We even lined up for some character greets. Mary Poppins, Pinnochio, fairy God Mother, Alice. Watched the Dapper Dans and some of the stage shows.

    Longest line I waited on all day was 20 minutes at HM. We ate dinner at CHH around 4:15 making use of the discount coupons. We took another break around 7:00 in Frontier Land. We watched Holiday Wishes from TL and rang in the New Year on Main Street just past the Ice Cream Parlor in a spot we secured around 11:25.

    We left with the crowds due to a sick child (my 12 YO DD started feeling ill just before midnight) and were back in our room at Pop a little past 1. They were bringing in the buses two at a time with only minimal waits between each one. All in all a great day and further proof if you have a plan you can accomplish a lot even on the busiest day of the year!

    Happy New Year everybody!

  • I am in awe of your stamina! 🙂

  • We were in Hollywood studios for New Years eve. We did not get there until evening. I noticed it was easy to get dining there.
    It was very hard getting out this year. Planning to stay at Boardwalk or Bay Lake next year.

  • It was awesome to watch your Tweeting on NYE. It is a true testimony of the accuracy AND value in the Touring Plans. Awesome job, and great story!

  • We had network issues with our cell phones and weren’t able to Tweet out as often as we wanted to. I’d love to see the NYE fireworks at Epcot sometime. The Magic Kingdom ones were incredible.

    Great call on staying at BCV – how far ahead did you need to book that?

    • I booked in March 2010 for a cash ressie. I didn’t have available points to use for this trip and owning at SSR it would have been unlikely I would have been able to get a points ressie at 7 months for that weekend. All-in-all, it was not cheap but it’s a great location and really made it enjoyable to be able to dart into and out of the crowds!

  • Watched your twitter updates as the day progressed. I was very impressed with your success. We (2 adults/2 kids) were at Epcot but in eat, drink and be merry mode rather than commando-type activities. Our Beach Club villa was a great, close-in retreat that we used several times during the day, another big plus! Probably the most amazing thing I saw was the 260 minute wait time posted for Soarin’ at around 2pm. Still amazed at that! Also, later on, the ladies line for the bathroom at American Adventure stretched from the rear of the building to the World Showcase thoroughfare. It had to be over an hour wait for those poor ladies! After seeing that we retreated finally to the Boardwalk area for the festivities there and finally the late Illuminations fireworks viewable from our villa balcony complete with audio thanks to the wind direction! This was our second straight NYE at Epcot and didn’t notice the crowds being worse. They were maxed out both years, but this year the lines for drinks were definitely longer. Last year, I could get a dring without waiting more than a few minutes. This time as the night progressed they became too long to even try. Might give the MK a try next year. We’ll see!

  • I read your blog post with a big smile on my face. Why? Because my family’s experience was very similar to yours during our 4 days at the WDW theme parks. We hit the parks before 7 every day, followed the Touring Plans and the longest we waited in line for anything was food and the restrooms. I think we had a 15 minute wait for Peter Pan on our second day at MK. Other than that, literally 10 minutes or less. Each day, we hit at least 15-18 attractions–not counting a couple of repeats.

    We did not stay on property (have a timeshare not far from the resort). On the days we weren’t at the park, we toured resorts and Downtown Disney (which was also packed!)

    I have to say the combination of early arrival, Touring Plans, Lines and FP made our vacation manageable, even on Dec. 31 at EPCOT, which was INSANE!! Our early arrival scored us a ride on Soarin’ thanks to CMs who opened it up to the small group of us there by 7 a.m. It was the first time we’ve ever been on it–and we’re glad we went because by 9:30 AM, the wait was closing in on 200 minutes! Amazing ride, but not waiting that long for anything!

    Then, a glitch in FP at Test Track (our family’s favorite attraction)led us to scoring (ahem) a bunch of FPs to hold on to for later in the day thanks to some generous CMs. So, we were able to take our kids a number of times even with the wait close to 3 hours. Plus, this left our FPs open for other attractions.

    It was an exhausting day and trip, but without a plan, I would have gone insane and never would have come home with such wonderful memories! We’d never done WDW during the holidays–not sure I would do it again, but at least I know it is possible to go and have it be worthwhile. Thanks TP and Lines and to the WDW resort overall for such a great experience!

    • That’s awesome! It sounds like you guys had a great time. Total score on the Test Track FPs too. We had something like that happen at Tower of Terror last time we were down in Disneyland too.

  • In November, a cast member at one of the WDW attractions stated clearly that the Fastpass start time is the only part they care about. They will always accept your Fastpass as long as it’s after the start time, even if it’s much later.


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