As I hung up the phone I was instantly reminded of the Oliver Hardy line, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” My great friend JL Knopp had just agreed to tackle the Ultimate Magic Kingdom Touring Plan with me. We had already arranged a day to hang out in the parks together, but at the same time we had been discussing doing something new. As I mentioned in my last article, “Preparing For An Ultimate Touring Plan”, I’d always wanted to do an Ultimate Touring Plan. Suffice it to say, I was excited.
Anticipating the day, I immediately dove into planning, but I had a lot of questions. So I started asking them to our resident Ultimate Touring Plan expert David Davies. He immediately directed me to study up on the rules. And he had some initial suggestions I incorporated into my notes right away: grab a FASTPASS for the new Town Square Theater meet & greet immediately, and do not arrive late to the Fairytale Garden. I would later learn how very important that second suggestion was.
I covered a number of things about planning for an Ultimate Touring Plan last week, and much of that came out of my own planning and discussions with Dave and JL before our Tour. The day we had picked out was April 9, 2011 which was to me a perfect day for it. Both the Crowd Calendar and the weather were looking to be on our side, and Magic Kingdom would be opened 16 hours (8am to 12am) that day. I also checked both wait times and and showtimes.
Much of this research was incorporated into the notes I brought with me into the park that day. Looking back, the planning phase of this was a lot of fun for me. As much of my free time is spent at Walt Disney World already, planning isn’t something I need to do as much anymore because the parks have become more about being there for me. I’m either already attending a planned set of events such as “Reunion”, or I’m doing ad-hoc planning using Lines. This greatly fed my dormant commando touring side.
After a rough week at work, Saturday came – I was psyched and ready. My wife, Cheryl, was away at a Hadassah conference, and knowing that I’d be gone for more than 16 hours that day, I’d chosen to board Jasper for the weekend. This way I wouldn’t have to monitor him throughout the day. I had packed my knapsack the night before so all I needed to do was head out the door and over to JL’s house and carpool over to the Magic Kingdom.
We parked in Minnie, roughly the 10th car there, and walked to the Transportation and Ticket Center. The sun was first rising, it was a little chilly and we were still waking up. We rode the Monorail over, and arrived at the main gate to Magic Kingdom at about 7:30am. After settling on a place to wait for the Magic Kingdom Welcome, I grabbed a times guide and a map. This, or at least a photograph of a times guide, is a must when doing an Ultimate Touring Plan. That photo will need to be part of the pictures that you turn in to get credit in the Hall of Fame.
The Welcome started. It was the first time I’d seen it with the new “Talking Mickey” – I still find it a little disconcerting to watch, but eventually I’m sure my brain will get over the “Uncanny Valley” aspect of it. Otherwise the show hadn’t changed since the last time I saw it. Once it was over we headed to the right archway, and as soon as the rope dropped we were moving.
The first stop was Dumbo, but on the way, as suggested, we grabbed FASTPASSes for Town Square Theater to see the Princesses. It’s important to note that according to the UMK Touring Plan as presented you’re supposed to get this FASTPASS later on. However the entire plan is a series of suggestions. If you limit yourself to just the one FASTPASS suggested you’re going to limit your chances of success. And, as you’ll learn later on, you need to be prepared to adapt – judicious use of the FASTPASS system will help with that.
By 8:10am, even though it listed a 15 minute wait time, we were off Dumbo. And by the time it was 8:45am we had managed to breeze through Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, and the Astro Orbiter. Even though Astro Orbiter is pretty much the same ride as Dumbo, I enjoy it more because the view up there is always spectacular – it’s just got one of the worst queue designs in all of Walt Disney World, so I don’t get up there as much as I’d like to. If you’re afraid of heights, or don’t like being tilted as the ride vehicles are skewed a bit, you probably never go up there at all.
Had it been any other day where I was at the park that early, I probably would have considered knocking off the rest of Fantasyland as there was almost no one else present back there. Snow White was a deviation from the UMK Touring Plan, but it was literally a walk on and it made complete sense to do at that time for 4 minutes of our time. To me this is a testament to both the power and flexibility of Touring Plans. And, much like the Force, if you give yourself over to them they will guide your destiny and help you complete your goal. Okay, maybe not the destiny part.
Probably my first mistake of the day, was that after getting off Astro Orbiter we should have gotten a FASTPASS for Space Mountain. When all was said and done it wasn’t critical though. We ended up having more FASTPASSes then we needed – and even one we couldn’t use. Getting off of Snow White we were handed FASTPASSes for PhilharMagic by a castmember. The rules for Ultimate Touring Plans specifically state that a FASTPASS “must be obtained by you, using your ticket, on the day that you complete the tour”. Since they were handed to us, we could not use them.
Next, we rode the yellowish Main Street Vehicle from the Hub down to City Hall. It was just us, and it was a lot of fun. Getting off we managed to convince a family to hop in and ride to the Castle once we knew they were just headed to Fantasyland. Walking back we had an excellent encounter with Mayor Weaver. We even got to even check out his 20 year Disney service ring. It was a very memorable moment. We then headed up and through Cinderella Castle, stopping for a UMK required picture in front of one of the mosaic murals.
From there we headed to the Fairytale Garden to see Rapunzel and Flynn. This one attraction pretty much defined the rest of the day for us. You have to realize this attraction is a meet and greet with no fixed schedule. It’s a core attraction for completing the UMK tours, so you can’t miss it. However, due to it’s length (about 30-60 minutes) and that it has a daily capacity of about 400 to 500 guests, you need to arrive as early as possible to guarantee you’ll get in. It fills up fast, so you shouldn’t pass it up just because the line is long or you will miss out and fail.
Your total time investment in the the Fairytale Garden is likely to be on the order of 1 to 2 hours. Looking back, I can only say to plan for it. I had never done this attraction before, and didn’t realize what a time sink it would be – I figured half as much time. Not that we hated the meet and greet, we actually had a fun time with it – despite that for some reason they pipe in a hamburger smell. Up until we arrived at the attraction we felt pretty good about our time, but 1 hour and 39 minutes later, we both knew our success was in jeopardy.
How did we fare? You’ll just have to wait until next week to find out. Same TouringPlans.com time, same TouringPlans.com channel.
See other posts in this series: