I know I have been M.I.A., but Disney planning for December is at it's most crucial stage...scheduling. This has been the hardest schedule I've ever had to work out (and I'm still not sure I'm there yet). Getting each day to fit has been a major pain (especially since Disney doesn't release the park schedule until just a couple of days before your 180 day mark for dining reservations). I had to make a hurried decision about the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and pick a day before I knew the park schedule simply because it's much cheaper to buy early on and the prices were rising daily. Unfortunately, the day I picked at random turned out to be the worst possible day! I've had to manipulate the schedule in all kinds of weird ways to get things to work.
Knowing the park hours determines which park is the best park for that day. Some parks don't vary in hours, Animal Kingdom especially, but there are Extra Magic Hours (EMH) to consider. For those that don't know, Extra Magic Hours is a perk for resort guests only where on certain days in certain parks, it either opens one hour earlier or stays open two hours later (it used to be three, and I miss that!). It basically means that when everyone else is supposed to leave the park, resort guests still get to stay and play (although not all rides stay open and some restaurants close). In the past few years, Disney has allowed the non-resort guests to stay, but they are only allowed in the shops and not on rides, and once they figure it out, quickly depart. On some EMH nights, they have two fireworks shows and you can skip the first one with the crowds in favor of the later, less crowded one (although, as of now, only one is listed). For EMH mornings, you can ride the most popular rides numerous times with little to no waiting.
Knowing the park hours also helps determine where you eat for that day. For example, you won't be eating in Magic Kingdom on a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party night unless you have tickets for that night (it's a private ticketed event), so you can't schedule a restaurant past 7 pm when the park officially closes to non-party guests (for which Disney goes overboard in making sure non-party guests leave on time-I've seen some pretty heavy arguments between guests and Cast Members). If it's an EMH night, then you can eat a bit later at that park or know not to book a restaurant there at all since crowds are typically higher on EMH days, depending on your preference.
What made my schedule so difficult?
1) I had to manipulate around the party night I picked.
2) Schedule enough morning Magic Kingdom time (since we never seem to get morning pix of MK) while still getting the Party night and a non-party night (since they show different fireworks and parades on those nights), while giving equal time to MK and Epcot (since they both take multiple days and I prefer MK and Am prefers Epcot).
3) Each park has to be scheduled for it's first visit no later than two days before departure (to allow time for your purchases to be shipped back to the resort-another resort perk-anything you buy on property can be shipped back to your resort gift shop and that way you don't have to carry them around with you-although you can have them shipped to the front of the park for pickup at the end of the day-this rarely works right because you can't use it for purchases after like 2 pm to give them time to get them to the front of the park and even then they don't always make it and, if you're leaving early than closing time, you also probably won't get them).
4) Because it's Christmas time, Hollywood Studios (which is normally a one day park) has to allow for a night where you can do both Fantasmic and the Osborne Lights since those are both night events which usually means the only night during our days that it has an EMH night. Epcot needs plenty of day time for the Holidays Around The World (each country in World Showcase has it's version of Santa come out and tell their story), while still scheduling night for both Candlelight Processional (which will require purchase of the Candlelight Processional dining package-another scheduling snafu since that schedule won't come out until the end of the month) and Illuminations. Plus, time has to be scheduled for visiting other deluxe resorts because they put on elaborate Christmas displays and are not to be missed.
5) On the Animal Kingdom day (another one day park), it closes at 5 pm, so you won't want to go to another park (because AK wears you out). It's usually a night for a dress-up meal (for us, either Artist Point or Raglan Road). You have time to go back to the resort to rest for a while and get all dolled up to go out (Raglan Road doesn't require dress-up, but Artist Point does-although some people don't really adhere to these rules and look like total bums).
6) I have to make sure that Raglan Road is not on a Friday or Saturday (since it tends to fill with locals on those days), while still managing a late enough time to not be too late to eat, but to see the Irish dancing and bands that start at 9:00 pm. Also, other than for Raglan Road night, I don't want to schedule any Downtown Disney time other than early in the day. The later the day goes, the more crowded it gets (and pretty much unmanageable and not just to my anti-social, Asperger's self...it's a madhouse!).
7) You want to schedule Garden View Tea between either a Magic Kingdom and/or Epcot day since it's at the Grand Floridian and easily gotten to by the monorail. That way, you're not taking a huge chuck out of your day for travel time to and fro as well as the time it takes to enjoy your tea.
8) I have to try to not get Le Cellier and Artist Point too close together. They are a bit similar (at least with what I order) and I want to make sure we have a different dining experience every night.
9) I need to schedule at least one final stop for Downtown on the last day for any last minute pick ups (and to get a couple of sandwiches from Earl of Sandwich to go...yes, even after travelling all day in a suitcase, they are still THAT good days after you get home).
10) Try to hit the important EMH nights while avoiding the EMH mornings (we will never get up and ready in time, no matter how good the intentions, so no need to be in a busy park day for no reason).
Need I go on? I'm sure I'm skipping about ten other reasons why this schedule has been a total pain! Disney will change the hours a million times between now and then anyway, so any schedule I come up with will probably have to be modified in the future. Once the ressies are made, Le Cellier and Garden View Tea won't change (since they are the hardest to get) unless the park schedule changes forces it. Those are the two places that have to have the ressies made absolutely first thing when the lines open up or I won't get in (with Le Cellier you can book online at 6 am, but the Tea has to be booked over the phone and you can't do that until 7 am). It's crazy stressful, even for the non-OCD'ers out there, but it's a necessary evil!
And for those out there who don't make reservations and then, once you're there, try to get into hardest-to-get-into restaurants whenever you decide you're hungry...we smile at you. When you try to bribe the host/hostess, we snicker at you, and when you out and out get rude and start yelling how you paid good money to be there and you want a table now, we out and out laugh at you as you're being told sorry, but there are plenty of counter service restaurants that can serve you! And if I see you eating at one of those counter service restaurants later, don't mind the flash as I take your picture for future laughing enjoyment (as well as all crazy dressers, nose pickers, and just general idiots-you've given us plenty of chuckle material for years!).
Not only have I been working on the schedule from Hades, but I've decided to re-edit all my Disney pics (over 12,000 in total). Editing software has gotten so much better throughout the years, and since I still have all my original non-edited pics, it just seems a shame not to fix them all (again)! Besides, nothing puts you in a Disney mood more than looking at pictures of Disney!!
So T-Boo, I will finish your cross-stitch, maybe! Just be a bit patient with me! The OCD is strong right now Obi-Wan...must follow where it leads or it might destroy me! (See, even this non-Star Wars fan is affected when Disney World has Star Wars Weekends!).