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Pre-Trip Prayers for Pixie Dust - NYE at WDW with a Toddler Pre-Trip Report

Hey there, hi there, ho there! My name is Jessica – mom, tax attorney, PTA member and, admittedly and unabashedly, a huge Disney nerd. Not just Disney World, but all things Disney – we watch the movies and the shows and read the blogs…it’s all consuming. My friends always try to stump me with a random Disney question, or surprise me with some “new info” about the parks. It’s cute, but come on guys…

We are about a month and half out from our next trip to our happy place and I AM SO EXCITED! I’ve done a few pre-trip reports before but it’s been a while so first, some background:
My husband, A, has been indoctrinated into this lifestyle by me and is also a huge fan. I took him on his first trip 6 years ago and we’ve never looked back. He’s also a much bigger Star Wars fanatic than me so we have complimenting knowledge sets that help us have the best time together, in life generally but in particular, at Disney World. Now we have a 2 ½ year old daughter, M, who was born in to the cult. Literally every single time she sees the castle at the beginning of a Disney movie, she screams “ITS DISNEYWORLD – WERE GOING THAT AWAY – I SO EXCITED”. It’s extremely cute, if not a bit rote at this point.
We have been to Disney at least once a year every year since 2014. Our daughter has now been twice in her short life – once at 4.5 months and again just after her 1st birthday. Both of M’s previous trips have included grandparents for added fun and baby watching. And both times have been AMAZING – magical memories abound. We are now prepping for our biggest adventure yet – Disney World over New Year’s Eve with just us and the kiddo. Due to my husband’s work schedule (he’s a teacher) our travel windows are limited to the busiest time of year. And with M’s 3-year-old birthday rapidly approaching, we knew we needed one more trip before we have to start paying adult price for our decidedly not adult child. I go back and forth between excitement for the magic and bewilderment at our obvious mental defect for thinking we can pull this off. But we have a plan…

Roll with it. That’s the plan*. If she wants to play at the pool and skip the Peter Pan fast pass? Sure! If she wants to wait in line 3 hours to ride Frozen for the third time? Why not?! Mickey pretzels for every meal? Of course, kid! We fully expect that we will only be able to ride the attractions we made Fast Passes for and maybe nothing else. That’s ok – we will be back and WDW isn’t going anywhere. This trip is all about our little girl feeling the love and having the freedom to call the shots for once in her life. (HAHAHA just kidding she runs the show all the time, who are we kidding?)

*Ok I will back up here and say, I have a bit more of a plan than just to “roll with it”. I have made dining reservations and fast passes that I fully intend to use. I know which parks I will be at on which day. I have three spreadsheets with packing lists/timelines/general notes. I did all my normal obsessive planning. I did all of this because I enjoy it. I like pre-playing the vacation in my head and on my screen because it builds the excitement for me. But unlike other trips where I would be a stickler for abiding by the schedule, this time I am looking at it more as a guide. And while I don’t want to miss dining ressies because of the cancellation fee, but even that is ok by me if it really means making this trip work for our little girl. So, if you are still interested at this point, feel free to take a gander at the itinerary as it stands now and let me know if you think I’m blowing it!


Original Poster
Saturday Dec 28th –
This is the day we leave our home in the Ohio Valley region to start the drive to Disney World with a super chatty toddler in the back. We plan to leave mid-morning, stop to watch a VERY IMPORTATNT basketball game (says my hubs), and then pit stop for the night in Valdosta, GA. We typically stop on the way down in Macon, GA, which leaves about 5 hours of driving on Disney day. But this time we want an even earlier jump so we are pushing to get to Valdosta. This will cut the Sunday morning drive time to a very manageable 3 hour stretch.

Sunday Dec 29th –
Today is check in day! We originally were going to check in on the 30th but decided we needed an extra day to hang. So we will drop our car at Port Orleans – French Quarter (our first time staying here) around 11 and hop on the boat to Disney Springs. Or maybe we will take the gondola somewhere. Or we’ll catch a bus to a park and then resort hop to see the Christmas decorations before they come down. We aren’t super sure yet, but we know it is a no park day and we are pumped! We love the Winter/Summerland mini-golf so that might be an option as well. Whatever we decide to do, we will nap in the room in early afternoon and then have dinner scheduled at 6:15 at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin. We have not tried this yet and the whole fam is really looking forward to it! I happen to work for a certain company that specializes in fried chicken so I’m kind of a snob about it 😉. Can’t wait to see how this compares!

Monday Dec 30th –
Let the games begin! Today begins our park days and we are starting it off with a bang at the Magic Kingdom! We are also switching hotels for the remainder of the trip and moving to a little mermaid room at Art of Animation. We’ve never stayed here before either and my daughter is OBSESSED with the little mermaid. In the morning we are just going to drive over to AOA, drop our car, and hop on a bus to the park.
We have pre-park opening breakfast reservations at Crystal Palace. I haven’t eaten at CP in decades but we were thrilled to score these early morning reservations so that we can try to get some cute pictures without 500,000 of our closest friends crowding in. Also, my hair has about a 30% shot of looking cute past 9AM so this is really a win. From there we have the following Fast passes:
9:35 – Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
11:00 – Haunted Mansion
12:45 – Peter Pan
Post fast passes we will probably take an afternoon nap break. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that our room is ready and we don’t have to nap in the car or on a pool side chair, but if we do we do! We’ll use the afternoon to get settled in a bit and then we are hoping to make it to Epcot for the last day of the Holiday Festival. In anticipation of the crushing crowds, we are going to play this afternoon/evening by ear and see where it takes us.
Tuesday Dec 31st –
New Year’s Eve! As a fun side note, we have spent the last 2 NYE’s watching the MK fireworks on the Disney Parks livestream with our daughter. My mom tells me we were at MK for NYE when I was 2 (which I of course don’t remember but will pretend like I do till I die), so I am extra excited to be there in person this year for all the magic!
We originally had breakfast reservations on this day at Cinderella’s Royal Table. I couldn’t believe it when I got the booking but we have since cancelled these. First, my husband told me I needed to pick one breakfast and I opted for pre-opening at Crystal Palace because the time is better. But also, we decided that the joy our daughter will get from this experience will be exponentially more when she is a little older. We don’t want her first time at CRT to be a half memory with no BBB. So I took a swig of bourbon and cancelled and shed a small tear for my loss. 😉
**This is probably a good time to point out that yes, we know she wont actually remember any of this. People tell us all the time we are crazy for taking our kid to WDW at such a young age. “She won’t remember…it’s such a hassle…it’s too expensive!” My response is always “She won’t remember the beach either!” We also took her to Iceland just after her second birthday and got similar scoffs and head scratches. Do people think we should just skip traveling until kids are old enough to remember the trip? No of course not! Also, teenagers (in my experience) are a hassle. And as expensive as Disney is now, it gets MORE expensive as she gets older. So those arguments all fall on deaf ears for me. We go to Disney because we love it, not just because we think she will love it. We travel because it is good for us, not just because it is good for her to experience things outside her comfort zone from an early age. Ok, rant over.**
So we are skipping breakfast in the park on NYE but we still have a special treat planned. Hoping for a later start and later night, we made our Fast passes in the afternoon in MK on this day. We’ve got:
2:00 – Buzz Lightyear
3:05 – Winnie the Pooh
4:15 – Pirates of the Caribbean
This timing is great because it leads directly into our big special treat…MK Dessert Party for the NYE Fireworks at 6:30! We have garden plaza viewing and a 5:30 reservation time. We’ve done dessert party once before and loved how it relieved the stress of finding a great spot to watch the fireworks. And we love the garden plaza viewing because it is such a great direct sight line. The party is expensive but since our kiddo is under 3, its pretty much like getting 1 person in free so it made the cost more palatable. Post fireworks we aren’t sure what we will do. I think MK will be much to crowded to maneuver with our stroller. My husband really wants to try to bounce to Epcot to see that fireworks display as well but it will be very dependent on how our munchkin is holding up. We may just head back to the room and watch Disney+ on our Roku!

Wednesday Jan 1st –
We are sleeping in today! Maybe we will have a late night on NYE. Maybe we will have a bottle of champagne. Maybe we won’t? Who knows. But I’m not setting us up for failure by making 8 AM reservations to do anything. We do have at least 1 new to the family experience we are really looking forward to. We will start our day at Epcot with the following Fast passes:
9:50 – Frozen Ever After (my toddler’s fave, clearly)
10:55 – Living with the Land (my hubby’s fave, LOL)
12:30 – The Seas with Nemo & Friends
In the middle of all that, we have lunch reservations at 11:30 at Garden Grill. This is my husband’s first time in the revolving restaurant and my daughter’s as well. I haven’t been since I was a child. We always see it on our LWTL trips and talk about trying it, so now is the chance. We planned this because we both love The Land AND because we will get to meet the mouse himself! We’ve never done a character meal with M before but have done plenty of character spot meet and greets. Hopefully she enjoys the suited characters as much as she has in the past. We may be setting ourselves up for a meltdown so keep your fingers crossed for us!
After Nemo, we will probably take our afternoon break for nap. Post nap we will see which park looks lightest on crowds and head that way. If it’s warm enough we may start our new year off with a dip in the pool!

Thursday Jan 2nd –
January 2nd? Might as well be May the 4th because today the force will be with us. It’s Hollywood Studios day! When I logged on to make Fast passes for this day, I could have gotten Slinky Dog and I didn’t. It was a super hard choice but ultimately, we agreed that we didn’t want to waste time apart doing rider swap for things we will come back to ride again or that we have already done. That meant no mountains, no Flight of Passage, and sadly no Slinky Dog. Our last trip ended the day before Toy Story Land opened so we haven’t seen it yet. But we will be back, and family comes first, so I made the decision that we would go for TSMM as our tier 1 option. This is how the day shakes out:
9:10 – Toy Story Midway Mania (we will probably try to rope drop Alien Swirling Saucers, which really needs a better acronym)
11:00 – Frozen Singalong
12:10 – Voyage of the Little Mermaid
We currently have lunch reservations at 50’s Prime Time Café booked at 11. This is my favorite restaurants on property for purely nostalgic reasons and my hubby has never been. We still aren’t sure how this will play out. Will we skip the Frozen sing along for lunch? Will we skip lunch, go to Frozen and then skip VOTLM? No clue but it’s sure to be fun. And really it’s all leading up to my husband’s life long dream…STAR WARS LAND. I got super lucky and snagged 6:45 reservations at Oga’s Cantina. We’ll get a drink, take in the details of the land, and get a little sad about not riding Millennium Falcon or Rise of the Resistance. It will be great. We wont be bummed. Sure.
Friday Jan 3rd –
Sad face because today is the last day of parks for this family. I’m certain we will be totally exhausted at this point and ready to go home mid-day. But it’s Animal Kingdom day and that is my second favorite park! Our original plans included a closing dinner at Ohana, our favorite restaurant since my hubby and I started coming to WDW together 6 years ago. But after seeing the recent price increase, we cancelled. While this may have been the only time this meal would make sense (with M eating off our plates, the cost gets more realistic per person), we just couldn’t justify it. I would eat WAY more than I was hungry for just to feel like I was getting my money’s worth and then regret it the whole car ride home the next day. Plus we always tend to linger in the parks longer on our last day, grasping for the last few moments of magic before the real world kicks in again.
So we will head to AK in the morning for a day of fun and boozy Dole Whip. This is all we’ve got on the schedule:
9:30 – Na’vi River Journey
10:55 – Kilimanjaro Safari
12:30 – Festival of the Lion King
We typically get lunch from Yak & Yeti counter service and almost always enjoy adult beverages as we cruise this beautiful park. Post-nap may take us back to AK or DHS, but if I’m being honest I know we will end up at MK to say bye-bye to the castle one last time. Then we will pour ourselves into a bed with Flounder on it and snuggle our princess while the magic settles. (Or we will sob in the bathroom from exhaustion and the toll of multiple toddler meltdowns…who knows!)

Saturday Jan 4th –
Mickey waffles at Landscape of Flavors and hit the road. Why waste words on the sad stuff, am I right?


Well-Known Member
We are also switching hotels for the remainder of the trip and moving to a little mermaid room at Art of Animation. We’ve never stayed here before either and my daughter is OBSESSED with the little mermaid.
Come to think of it.... I'll be at WDW on 12/30-1/1 and staying at AOA! Except I'll be at Disney Springs on 12/30 and MK/EPCOT/(possibly) AK/MK (two/three parks in one day)!


Well-Known Member
So smart to do the dessert party on NYE! We did it last year for the early fireworks and it was amazing! So nice to stretch out on the hub grass while the rest of MK was so crowded.

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