Monday, February 2, 2015

WDW44 Recap

by Meghann on February 2, 2015

We did it! 1 day, 4 parks, and 44 rides – done!

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It wasn’t pretty. We made some critical errors that definitely cost us time later in the day. In fact, we SPRINTED to the final ride and were literally the last two in line. We also had to do a bait and switch with one of the 44 rides, but I’ll get to that later.

All-in-all it was an incredible adventure that I would highly recommend to my fellow Disney enthusiasts. A huge love of Disney and great knowledge of all four parks is a huge requirement. This is not a challenge for the faint of heart.

Steph and I began prepping for the WDW44 challenge months in advance. As soon as we committed to it, we booked a hotel room on Disney property so we could take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. This would give us an additional 3 hours to our day. We also pre-booked fast passes to Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, and Mission Space. I studied Parkeology’s tried-and-true formula and created a timeline of what rides we needed to hit, when we needed to hit them, and a guesstimate of how long everything would take. It was a very rough timeline, but at least it gave us a list of all the rides. I kept the spreadsheet open in Google Drive on my phone, and we crossed each ride off as soon as we rode them.

We picked a great weekend to attempt the challenge. The forecasted high was 69, with nothing but clear skies and sunshine to look forward to. Not too hot, not too cold. It was the perfect day for a light jacket in the morning, tank top in the afternoon, and the light jacket at night. We opted not to carry bags so we could save time by avoiding the bag check lines. All we really needed were our MagicBands, phones, and back-up chargers. We also chose to avoid using resort transportation and instead drove our car from park to park. Again, this strategy saved us so much time and we were able to store stuff in the car during the day.

I drove to Walt Disney World after I left work on Saturday and met Stephanie at Big River in the Boardwalk for dinner. We both crushed huge burgers and traded our favorite Disney stories. Though Stephanie and I have been online buddies for a couple of years, this was the first time we’d spent anytime together one-on-one. Just as running a marathon together is a huge bonding experience, so is attempting the WDW44 challenge.

Back at the hotel, we crashed hard – we had a big day ahead of us and needed all the sleep we could get. At 6:30am, we were up and ready to go!

Our first stop – breakfast. We grabbed coffee, Mickey waffles, and an omelet from the hotel’s quick service restaurant. Unfortunately food was our biggest downfall for the day. My omelet ended up being pretty inedible thanks to being made up of 85% cheese. Blah. If I had known how important that meal was, I would have forced myself to eating every last bite, instead of tossing more than half of it.

We were at the car around 7:30 and walking up to Hollywood Studios around 7:40. The crowds were already starting to settle in. Looking back we wish we would have arrived a little sooner. It’s crazy what a difference being the first person in line versus being the 15th person in line can make.

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Ready or not, here we go!

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At 8:00am on the dot the turnstiles opened and they began letting everyone in. Stephanie and I strategically picked a line made up of mostly adults and zero strollers. I love kids, but the finger print reader is not their friend.

As soon as we were both through, Stephanie and I took off for our first sprint of the day. We hauled ass to Toy Story, and we weren’t the only ones! We were racing folks to Toy Story! And the stand by line still read 20 minutes when we walked in.

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Luckily the 20 minute warning was just for show. We managed to walk right on and found ourselves sitting down less than 5 minutes after entering the park.

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Ride #1 – check!

In the 4 or 5 minutes it took us to ride Toy Story, the stand-by queue time rose from the initial “20” to 95! This was a big win for us!

We did a quick speed walk past the Sorcerer Hat’s carcass…

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And walked right on to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (#2)

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Then Tower of Terror (#3).

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With the big 3 of Hollywood Studios done, we headed out of the park just before 9. Since one of the rides we needed at Magic Kingdom stopped running at 10:15, we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there. We’d be back for the remaining two rides of Hollywood Studios later in the day.

Stephanie had a GPS app running all day so we could track our mileage. We were at 2.8 miles leaving Hollywood Studios.

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We began to get a little antsy when the line to Magic Kingdom’s parking lot backed-up, but it ended up working in our favor when we scored a spot close to the Ticket & Transportation center. The wait for the Monorail also wasn’t terrible and we only lost a few minutes from the car to the main entrance.

We bypassed the bag lines and headed to the far left turnstiles, which tend to have less crowds since they’re out of the way.

Neither Stephanie nor I had ever ridden the Main Street Vehicles required for the challenge. Stephanie knew there was a sign that instructed guests to “wait here” to ride the fire engine so we headed to the sign for clues on what to do next. We grabbed a cast member nearby and he told us he wasn’t sure when the fire engine would be out, but we could ride the Main Street Trolley as soon as they were finished with their show. Sweet! (The rules do not designate a particular Main Street Vehicle, therefore both the Trolley or the Fire Engine would qualify.)

There was a souvenir cart nearby so we thought it would be fun to purchase Minnie ears to commemorate the occasion with. Because why not?

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A couple of musical numbers later, we were boarding the Trolley and on out way to Cinderella’s Castle. (#4)

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We jumped off the Trolley and headed to Liberty Square, where the Liberty Belle was just pulling into port (#5).

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This was another first for me. I’d seen the riverboat before, but I had no idea you could ride it for a not-so-quick 20 minute loop around Tom Sawyer Island.

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While we were on the boat we were able to confirm a rumor we’d heard the day before. Turns out Splash Mountain was open from refurbishment a couple of days early. Could it be? Could we turn WDW44 into WDW45? We’d have to try and see!

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The raft to Tom Sawyer Island (#6) was next (another WDW first for me).

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It was a quick roundtrip for us.

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We checked Thunder Mountain’s queue, but the 30 min wait was too much for us. Instead we took advantage of the 5 minute wait for Splash Mountain (#7). I had to silently thank the early morning chill for keeping the majority of guests at bay.

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After Splash Mountain we hopped on the railroad (#8) and took it to Storybook Circus.

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We were hoping to get a couple of more rides in, but the crowds were starting to settle in and the wait times were all slowly climbing. Everything had 20+ minutes, which was too much for us. Instead of wasting more time, we booked it back to the car (leaving the park around 11:20) and made our way to our next park of the day: Epcot.

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Epcot was our planned mid-day park, therefore it’s the park we opted to utilize our FastPasses with (the current FastPass+ system only allows you to reserve three FastPasses in one park per day, after that you can reserve additional FastPasses at kiosks at each park). Since our first FastPass wasn’t good until noon, we decided to see how Test Track (#9) look.

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The stand-by said 55, but single rider was good at 15 minutes – sold!

Unfortunately the “15 minutes” posted was another lie. The planned 15 minute wait ended up being closer to 30. At least we lucked out by still being able to ride in the same car.

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By then our first FastPass was ready to go. We made a quick stop at a pretzel cart and claimed the cart’s LAST pretzel and two bottle of waters to go.

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We snuck the pretzel onto Spaceship Earth (#10) and split it while planning our futures of leisure.

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Next, Living with the Land (#11)

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And our second FastPass for Soarin’ (#12).

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Even with a FastPass, we were prepared to wait. Soarin’ is notorious for big crowds and long waits. However, we lucked out when that big line moved quickly. We were seated and soaring over California about 5 minutes after entering the line.

We caught a break with the next three, which are basically the trio of rides everyone forgets still exist at Epcot (thank goodness we had our list to remind us!). Nemo & Friends (#13), Journey into the Imagination (#14), and Gran Fiesta (#15) were all walk ons.

Steph and I inhaled a donut on our way to Mexico. Little did we know this would be our last source of food for the next 8 hours.

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We had FastPasses to Mission Space for 3:00pm, but at 2:15pm the ride was a walk-on. Score!

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You’re crazy if you thought we were doing the intense version!

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We walked out of Mission Space knowing we still had one ride left before we could officially cross Epcot off our list. Unfortunately it’s also the ride we were dreading all day – Ellen’s Universe of Energy. Gulp. We headed to the entrance and were warned it would be a 10 minute wait until the next 45 minute ride would start.

We sat on one of the benches and did some quick math. If this ride starts at 3 and it takes 45 minutes, we should be done at 3:45, at our car by 4:00ish and (worst case scenario) be at Animal Kingdom by 4:30?! Wildlife Express closes at 4:50 and the Safari’s last truck would leave at 5:15. Could we pull it off?! For the first time all day, our nerves and anxiety were on high alert.

If you haven’t been on Ellen’s Universe of Energy in a while (or never been on it) – don’t do it! The ride is dated and terrible. Once we made it to the actual ride part, I took advantage of the long rows and dark setting and took a quick, 37 minute cat nap.

We hit a break when the heavily warned 45 minute ride time was just a tad exaggerated. We bolted for the exit as soon as the doors opened at 3:35 and ran to our car. We could officially cross our first park off of our list. Epcot – check!

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We hightailed it to Animal Kingdom and walked into the gates a little before 4:00 – back on track! We headed straight to Africa and hopped right on the Wildlife Express for our round trip ride.

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Kilimanjaro Safari (#19) was right next door to Wildlife Express and we made it to queue with plenty of time to spare before the last Safari tour. With a 30 minute wait, Safari won for the longest posted wait time of the day.

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The actual Safari ride was less than spectacular. By this time of day most of the animals had return to their cages. We also had the world’s most annoying driver who had a habit of adding a really high pitched “eeee” to the end of every sentence. I was thankful when the ride was over, I’m not sure I could have taken his commentary much longer.

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With less than two hours until the park closed (and four more rides to hit) we bolted to Expedition Everest, which was advertising a 25 minute wait. We entered the queue and immediately hit a stand still. I know 25 minutes isn’t a long wait on most days, but at that moment it felt like an eternity. After about 30 seconds of waiting I suggested we head to Dinosaur Land and knock out the three rides over there. According to my app, they were all virtual walk ons at this point. Our hope was the wait for Everest would continue to go down.

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We took off for Dinosaur (#20) and walked on.

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Then another walk-on at Primeval Whirl (which might as well change its name to Primeval Hurl – hate that ride). (#21)

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And finished the Dino Land trio with Spinning Triceratops (#22).

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Stephanie referred to the ride as Dumbo Dinosaur. I think that’s accurate.

We headed back to Everest (#23), which was not boosting a 15 minutes wait. The queue moved quickly this time and we were on the ride in 10.

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Another park to cross off our list. We said a quick farewell to Animal \Kingdom and ran to our car in the parking lot.

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We lucked out with another close parking spot in Hollywood Studios and made a bee line to Star Tours. At this point Steph and I were both feeling drained. We hadn’t even had time to stop at a water fountain since Epcot earlier in the day. I think not carrying snacks was the biggest mistake of our day. Our next goal was to finish Hollywood Studios. Once we had those rides crossed off our list, we’d feel like a little better taking a breather and getting something to eat.

Star Tours (#24) had a 20 minute wait posted, but we made it to take off in less than 10.

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We made a quick bathroom stop, then attempted to buy some hot dogs from the quick service restaurant next door. Just our luck – they were in the process of closing and weren’t taking any orders. Dratz.

We ran to Great Movie Ride, passing a dance/cheer competition happening at Indiana Jones. Cheerleaders. Everywhere.

It’s been years since I’ve been on Great Movie Ride (#25). The ride scared the crap out of me as a kid, but it was a good spot for a quick nap on Saturday. I think the key to #WDW44 is learning to nap on the long rides.

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Bam! Another park bites the dust! We had 6 hours to go and all we had left was Magic Kingdom. We totally got this.

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Getting a little cocky with how much time we left, Stephanie and I made plans for coffee and food at Magic Kingdom. She would stop at Starbucks for coffee and I would head to Casey’s for hot dogs. Of course we failed to know just how terrible the parade and fireworks crowds would be. Main Street was mobbed with people.

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I lost Steph in the crowd and went straight to Casey’s. Despite the huge crowds outside, there wasn’t much inside. I was able to order right away and got our food pretty quickly. Steph wasn’t as lucky. The line in Starbucks was ridiculous and she was going to be there a while.

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I found a counter ledge and inhaled my hot dog and fries. It was amazing and exactly what I needed to keep going. I grabbed Steph’s food and found her in Main Street where we traded food and coffee.

We headed to Tomorrowland with a goal of nabbing a FastPass at a kiosk. Looking back, we wasted entirely too much time at the FastPass kiosk. Between waiting for one to open up and debating our options, it was a huge time suck with little success (our FP to Barnstormer ended up being a FP bust). If we did it again, we would skip the FastPass kiosk all together.

By the time we headed to our first in Magic Kingdom it was 9:00pm and we’d officially wasted a full hour between food, coffee, and that darn FastPass kiosk!

We tried Peoplemover first, but it was closed due to the fireworks so we turned around and walked on to Carousel of Progress (#26).

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Peoplemover had reopened by the time Carousel of Provgress had let out. (#27)

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We ditched Tomorrowland after Peoplemover and headed to Adventureland, in hopes of finding shorter lines.

Flying Carpets (#28) was practically a walk-on.

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Jungle Cruise said 20 minutes – too long.

Pirates was 30 minutes – too long.

Haunted Mansion was 30 minutes – too long.

We landed at It’s a Small World (#29) and settled on the posted 15 minute wait.

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From there we were able to pick off the next group of rides pretty quickly.

Prince Charming’s Carousel (#30)

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Little Mermaid (#31)

Dumbo (#32)

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And Barnstormer (#33) <- which ended up being a walk on. I told you that stop at the FastPass kiosk was pointless.

Bing, Bang. Boom. Four rides in 30 minutes.

Mad Tea Party (#34) was another walk-on.

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No spinning!

We sprinted to Winnie the Pooh after tea cups, but the wait still said 20 minutes – too long. We cross crossed back to Speedway (#35) and waited less than 10.

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Less than 10 rides and a little more than 2 hours to go!

We got in line for Astro Orbitor (#36) and patiently waited for our ride up. I’ve only ridden Astro Orbitor once, at Grad Nite back in high school. I always forget it’s even a ride.

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Clearly it’s not a ride built for adults. Steph and I were nice and snug in out little rocket ship. We almost died in hysterics as we watched the kids in front of us effortlessly move their ship up and down, as our’s struggled to go up.

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Buzz Lightyear (#37) was next. Instead of playing the game, both of us spent the ride on our phones, checking wait time and nailing our final plan.

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At this point the park was closing to regular guests and the crowds had all but evaporated. This was our chance to take advantage of all the short waits for all of the rides we’d missed earlier.

We headed back to Adventureland for a second loop.  Jungle Cruise first was first up, but we were immediately thrown off by how quiet the area was. What was going on? We found a cast member who informed us Jungle Cruise was not open for Extra Magic Hours. WHAT?! WE MISSED IT?! It was 12:03 at this point – we literally missed the ride by 3 minutes. NOOOOO

Both Steph and I were not expecting this. We were shocked and pissed. What could we do? We had to go on. We couldn’t change it now, we weren’t going to hit every open ride in the park. However, we did have Splash Mountain, which became our buffer. We may not have every open ride, but we were going to hit 44.

Still trying to process what just happened, we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean (#38) for a short 5 minute wait.

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Then Thunder Mountain (#39), which  had gone from a 150 minute wait midday to 10 minutes at 12:20.

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At this point we had 5 rides left and felt we were golden. Surely Haunted Mansion would be a walk-on at this point. WRONG.

We knew the posted 10 minutes wait for Haunted Mansion (#40) was wrong as soon as entered the queue and saw it would take us the long way. We weren’t moving. The minutes continued to tick by and Steph and I began to sweat. Why was this line so long? Why weren’t we moving?

We inched our way forward and began to doubt ourselves with every step. tick tock, tick tock.

When we finally made it to the room, we looked for the red light to indicate the hidden door and waited patiently for the show to end so we could enter. As soon as the door opened we bolted for the ride and were the first ones on.

We exited Haunted Mansion a little after 1:00am and began to feel the time crunch. Peter Pan was next (#41) and thankfully moved quickly.

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Winnie the Pooh (#42) was a quick walk on. All we had left was Space Mountain and Seven Dwarfs. We sprinted to Space Mountain and were asked to walk for the first time all day. Seriously? We’ve been running all day and this is the time you choose to tell us we need to walk?!

We made it. Space Mountain (#43) was a walk-on! We boarded the ride a little after 1:30am and gave ourselves a big high five. We had plenty of time to make Seven Dwarfs. Heck, we could even ride it twice. Ha!

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We sped through the first turn and started the slow ascent up the track.

And then we stopped.

The track next to us kept running. One ship. Two ships. Three ships. Why wasn’t our track moving?

We were thanked for our patience and told to sit still, the ride would start again momentarily. What patience? We need to go! Tick tock, tick tock!

I knew we were in trouble when the lights came on. Seconds began to feel like hours. They cut the power to our track, which could only mean one thing – evacuation.

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We got an official ruling via Twitter that since we were strapped in and had technically moved on the ride, it counted. I was okay with that, now I just needed off.

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Two cast members arrived to evacuate us. This was my first ride evacuation, so in any other circumstances I would have thought the experience was pretty cool. Instead I found myself nervously tapping the ride, waiting for my turn to go.

We were told they were going to let us out one at a time. The little kids in front of us went first, taking their time as they gingerly held onto the cast members for assistance. When it was my time, I practically bolted from my seat, landing a little wobbly on the sharp incline of the stairs next to the track.

Steph asked if there was anyway we could go ahead and leave the group. Nope, there was another vehicle below us that needed to be evacuated. Dang it.

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Thankfully the whole process we pretty quick. We walked along the tracks and exited where we had originally got on the ride. We were taken to an exit door and handed FastPasses to make up for the inconvenience.

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Steph and I grabbed out passes and sprinted. We had one minute to make it to Seven Dwarfs and we weren’t going down with a fight. I took off ahead of Steph and ran faster than I have in my life to make the queue.

I arrived just as the cast member was closing the rope for the queue. Out of breath I told him “My friend… and I… are… doing…a… challenge…” He didn’t even blink at us. Instead he pulled back the rope and let us through. Holy crap! We made it! We were literally the last two in line for the ride! Victory was ours!!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – #44

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WDW44 was complete. Do we look happy, or what?!

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We walked down Main Street on cloud nine, in complete awe of our accomplishment. Yes, we made some mistakes. Yes, we were a little cocky at times. BUT we’re proud of what we did.

4 parks. 1 day. 44 rides. Done!

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p.s. Steph does NOT recommend attempting the challenge in flip flops. Running and flip flops do not mix.

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At the end of the day we had walked/ ran over 18 miles! Despite being in decent shape and a regular runner, my legs are still hurting after this. Ouch.

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So would we attempt it again? I’m not sure. It’s a huge feat that requires a lot of planning and prep, but I do think the majority of our errors are fixable (bring snacks, skip FastPass Kiosk, ride Jungle Cruise before EMH kick in) which could make for a smoother day in the future.

Disney World is constantly changing, so who knows what the challenge will look like in a year or two. It’s just going to keep getting bigger and better.

Thank you Parkeology for creating the challenge and cheering us on. Thank you Stephanie for agreeing to take on the crazy challenge with me and being just as much of a Disney nerd as I am. And thank you to everyone who followed our little adventure on Twitter and Instagram. It was one hell of a day!

What do you think? Are you ready to take on the challenge?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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