When you live as far from the parks as I do (I know Boston isn’t THAT far, but it’s far enough), you’ll take your Disney fix however you can get it — even if that means you only get a fast weekend turnaround trip to the parks. When vacation days are limited at work and schedules are hectic, sometimes a quick trip is the only option in the cards, but of course, you still want to make the most of your trip. We all know that you can’t properly do Disney in two-and-a-half days, but I do my best to try.
There are certain factors of this trip that are out of my control and it’s important that I understand and accept this before the trip starts, or I might end up with some avoidable stress. For example, flight time. I live in Boston, so my flight takes a few hours and there’s no way to will the plane to go faster. Also, there might be delays — they suck, but they happen. Try to be as prepared as possible, but understand that if they happen, something’s going to have to give. Recognize that any number of things in your perfectly planned weekend can go wrong and be ready to roll with the punches. It’ll help keep things moving forward and full of magic.
When you’re facing limited Disney time, you want to arrive early and leave late. Understand that this means you’re going
to be sacrificing sleep. A “powerhouse” weekend Disney trip isn’t about relaxing. It’s going to be rapid-fire fun with minimal sleep (but extra coffee — yay!). I definitely don’t think this is the right approach for every Disney trip, but if you’ve got time limitations, sometimes sleep is sacrificed.
I take the earliest direct flight I can find (connections open the door for delays that I simply cannot afford on a weekend trip), usually leaving between 6 and 7 in the morning, either out of Boston or Providence on Friday morning (I have yet to try a 2-day trip, so these plans are based on a 3-day weekend adventure). If available, don’t be afraid to check out nearby airports that may not be your go-to. For these flights, I go for the window seat even though I prefer aisle because window seats give me the best shot at catching some Zs (sleep as much as you can on the plane).
When it’s time to come home (the WORST), I usually book the last direct flight home, keeping in mind the airlines’ reputations for delays/cancellations, knowing that I have to be at work Monday morning (more sleep deprivation here). Taking the last flight is still a risk before a work day, so I make sure to bring whatever I may need to work remotely Monday morning and am mindful to keep my team at work updated if I’m going to be stuck in Orlando (thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet, even though I did face a 5 and a half hour delay a few weeks ago — knock on wood!).
For powerhouse Disney weekends, I make my park schedule entirely dependent on scheduled Extra Magic Hours. I want as many minutes in the park as possible, so I’ll go wherever I can to start the earliest and to stay the latest. Once I slot parks based on EMH, I fit other must-do parks in the other slots (I’ve got 6-ish slots for AM and PM of each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, though on Sunday it’s really AM and AM/Early PM). I also try to avoid doing more than two parks a day (travel time is lost time). While it hurts my soul to leave anything out, sometimes I cut a park from these weekends, only hitting 3. Sacrifices must be made!!
Next, I make my “must-do,” “would like to do,” and “only if there’s time” lists for each park — and I’m very selective about what makes the cut for “must-do.” You have to remember you won’t be able to do it all and that’s ok. Next, I do my best to logically plan FastPasses, maybe saving them for my afternoon park if I can knock out some long wait time rides at rope drop or during EMH in the morning.
That reminds me — on powerhouse weekends, we go rope drop to park close (including EMH), every opportunity available. That means Saturday can be a LONG day after little sleep, especially if Friday had evening EMH. Mentally prepare yourself because it’s totally worth it.
Lastly, remember to bring everything with you that you need for the day because trips back to the hotel will eat away at your precious time!
I love me a sit-down dinner. For longer Disney trips, Ben and I like to have a sit-down Dinner every night (except for
departure day — again, the WORST). We also love treating ourselves to signature dining when we can. We care so much about these dinners that we have snack cut-off times whenever we have a reservation to make sure we don’t ruin our appetites for dinner.
Powerhouse weekends are not the time for long dinners. I must sound repetitive by now, but the time is too precious. When I’m blasting through a short trip when I might not step in a park until 11 on a Friday and have to leave by 2 on Sunday, I don’t have time to do multiple sit-down dinners. If scheduling works out, maybe we’ll do one, but it’ll be sure to be a quicker dinner rather than the leisurely experience we prefer at a place like California Grill.
On powerhouse weekends, grab-and-go food is your friend, even though it’s rarely a healthy option. Since you’re power walking everywhere, I feel like calories don’t matter! (This is absolutely not true, but oh well! Do NOT take dietary advice from me when it comes to Disney. Disney calories don’t count.) That said, if it does look like we need a break, we double-dip and also grab a salad or something healthier that might need a seat for safe consumption (and to avoid wearing your meal).
You really do need to mentally prepare yourself for an intense Disney weekend. You feet will hurt and you will be tired, but I promise you will be so, so happy. If any of this seems too intimidating to figure out, or if you’d just like some help, remember Magical Vacation Planner is here to help you plan a vacation of any duration, long or short. You can reach out to CJ at firstname.lastname@example.org and have him set up your perfect trip!
I want to give a special thanks to @DougDoesDisney, @mickeys_photographer, @thezipadeedoocrew, and @apopkapete for the use of their photography in this post!