By: Angela C. of Goldgell Getaways
The adventure outlined below is not for all audiences.
Ahhh… I see, so you’re intrigued?? I like your style
Enjoy the read. I’m not the most eloquent of writers but strive to be casual and relatable. My audience may be an array of people, so I’m keeping it as understandable as possible without too much Disney jargon. A bit about me: I’m a 42-year-old suburban working Mom. Household consists of my husband and 2 girls ages 6 & 8. I work full time and happen to be part of the Goldgell Getaways team that is concierge level crew of very talented people who bring a ton of personal and professional experiences to the mix.
Back to the topic…
Challenge: Preview Galaxy’s Edge and squeeze in a 4 park challenge. Perimeters of this endeavor: 3 weeks’ notice and you only have 2 nights to do it… on a budget, still very hot in Orlando, and… you’re not an Orlando local.
*Full disclosure- I had a buddy (Disney obsessed type, like me) to do this with.
Another Warning: I highly suggest to NOT do this if you are experiencing Disney World area the first time. I mean, you can…but that would make you officially nuttier than me… if you dare try- I’ll personally offer you my cell phone for emergency psychiatric purposes.
OK, now that we laid the foundation- Deep breath- you can do this… I mean, have the courage to even read about this adventure let alone do it ;)
Background into the “why”
Because my vacation plans stemming back to late last year involved a trip over Christmas holiday week and subsequent trips within a 12-month period, I ended up buying a Disney Platinum annual pass. It is a slight premium to avoid 2 blackout weeks at Disney. It just so happened to be that WDW (Walt Disney World) rolled out an announcement that Annual Pass holders of Platinum level or higher were going to be afforded a few days to preview Galaxy’s Edge on a reservation basis.
Just FYI: Anything that is “reservation” with exclusive events at WDW is typically a project in its own. You need to strategize a plan in how you will have the best chances of even securing such coveted spots. Just ask a Goldgell Getaways Travel Consultant that specializes in Disney- it’s true… we know all the tricks ;)
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is not JUST for Star Wars Fans!
I am not a full-on Star Wars fan… not gonna lie. Star Wars first rolled out during my early childhood years- so a ton of nostalgia that comes with the people in my life that loved Star Wars- I feel like it’s in my blood without really KNOWING Star Wars. But what I am is a full-on Disney fan and absolutely appreciate all things the Walt Disney Company does- they are market leaders in Customer Experience which happens to be what I specialize in within my career (day job if I dare say it.) If you appreciate being entertained with unique experiences- give this a try- even if Star Wars isn’t your “thing”. So much “Imagineering” went into this planet!
Okay, okay… onto the ”real real” topic:
So my buddy “Sue” happens to also have the treasured Platinum Annual Pass- it was the perfect storm.
Sue and I had a summer catch up phone call- to share stories about our recent summer Disney adventures. One thing led to another and within a few minutes we realized that we BOTH had platinum APs and decided- We were going to go to WDW in a few short weeks to preview Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and embark on the planet of Batuu!
Going on a 2 night trip just to see Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (SWGE) aka: “Star Wars land” aka: Planet of Batuu (I think I got all of the acronyms out of the way) was too simple of an idea for Sue… Sue suggested we infuse a “little” 4 park challenge into the mix. Hmm… I thought- a challenge? I mean, I’m only in sales and coach Field Hockey and LOVE to soak in all things Disney… I was officially “served” and challenge accepted.
I knew about the 4 park challenge at Walt Disney World- it was a “thing” but didn’t know if there were any rules about it, etc. You can tell that Sue was secretly obsessing about this bucket list item. I decided to give her full reign in command of this. It felt natural to me- I trusted that Sue HAD this. You see, I’m always the one planning and commanding w. trips- not in a control freak kind of way (my family and guests enjoy my itineraries)- but Sue was one of the few people I would pass the torch to for Disney planning- really, one of the very few people I can say I’d be “good” with in taking charge.
The 4 park challenge really doesn’t have any rules- just that you visit all 4 WDW parks in one day, but Sue preferred to infuse a “snack” to be had at each park along with 2 rides/attractions. The order of parks would be:
HS (Hollywood Studios- where SWGE is), EP (Epcot), MK (Magic Kingdom), AK (Animal Kingdom). If you haven’t noticed, I’m being mindful of using acronyms that are commonly used in the Disney Community. I think I’ve addressed all of the possible acronyms I’d dish out rest of this write-up (ahem, novel).
I challenge you to make up your very own 4 park challenge! So many ways to craft an agenda that’s about you! Either myself or Goldgell team of Disney specialists can help!
Getting to WDW from Philadelphia area:
You can score some great last-minute deals on many airlines throughout the US, especially along the east coast to Orlando. We did just that! $165 R/T! For short trips, many airlines allow you to bring a “personal item”- basically to fit under the seat in front of you and nowadays you can find many nifty little luggage inventions to fit the bill for quick getaways- perhaps another write up! Aside from cost, you just can’t avoid delays with weather. And so the “adventure” continues.
What was supposed to be a 11:30PM arrival ended up being at the door on Disney property at 4AM- Eeeek! We have to “rope drop” this day to start it off efficiently. Don’t fret… 1 hour of sleep and adrenaline (with a little Joffrey’s coffee- YUM) – we’ve got this!
We secured a WDW Value resort for for 2 nights. I value all categories of WDW resorts: Value, Moderate & Deluxe. It’s what you want in your vacation and what is of value to you. In this situation- I’d challenge anyone who has stayed on property to tell me they’ve used their room less than we had for 2 nights… oh, yes- including sleeping. Let me think about this… ok, that was easy: Sue and I spent a total of 8 hours in our room for our 2 night stay and that included sleeping… yes- sleeping. You see how this “adventure” is going so far? We chose to stay at All Star Movies, preferred location room. This value resort was recently through a room renovation and consisted of 2 separate and very comfortable queen beds. One was a Queen bed on its own- other was a full-sized queen mattress (not sleeper sofa type) that folded up as a convertible murphy bed/table situation. It was like a cool little tiny home for us. Staying “on property” means at an official WDW resort that comes with complimentary transportation to/from airport on the DME bus (Disney Magical Express)- darn! More acronyms! You can certainly grab ride share service or a transportation shuttle to get to the park resorts, but depending on type of vehicle and time of day- this is an add’l cost of $50-$100 each way if you are not taking Disney’s complimentary transportation. In summary, our room was perfect- “preferred” location was nice and close to main lobby and buses, the room was clean, renovated, and quite comfortable for a value resort- I’d do it again at All Star Movies! The All Star resorts do attract large groups during major sporting competitions- just fair warning- but perhaps that doesn’t matter to you if it’s just a place to sleep and get ready.
The planet of Batuu:
Wow… wow, wow, wow. While our encounter was likely of modest crowds due to limited reservation access for select preview days, it was quite spacious at first impression. Aside from what I was seeing, it was a place where I felt even the most anxious of people who despise crowds would do ok at!
My first glimpses were accompanied by sounds- more like white noise but sounds that definitely made you feel like you were somewhere different. Disney NAILED this one with atmosphere. Even if you had no intentions on riding the currently open ride: Millennium Falcon- Smuggler’s Run- you could totally just chill here! Disney even thought of heat control with swanky industrial esque fans that totally blended in.
The cast members (Disney employees) played a part that entailed totally being immersed in the land- they lived on the planet of Batuu- spoke Star Wars language like “Bright Suns” – aka “Good Morning” and knew of no other happenings on other “planets”- try asking them about their favorite items at Epcot Food and Wine festival! I highly recommend engaging with any cast member on Batuu. You’d also see “Chewy” floating around casually. I didn’t get a chance to interact with Chewy but did witness him hanging out with guests on his planet.
We checked out Oga’s Cantina. Holy cool! I did see children allowed in there- it’s a festive place- there are some great cast led chants and songs they sing. *Note- it can get a little loud if your little one can get over stimulated easily. The array of non-alcoholic drinks and alcoholic drinks are quite creative, but prepared- on the expensive side. I’d say the experience is worth it though! Atmosphere was the coolest of any lounge/bar I’ve seen and quite fun. It can get a little tight, but I think that it will simmer down over time.
We did not try any food at Batuu- we were there so early and the breakfast items looked more like pieces of art vs. a filling meal but plan to try some more lunch/dinner worthy items next time!
Smuggler’s Run- I hate to give too much away but will say that you are assigned a role and you work as a team to “fly” the Millenium Falcon. This is a unique experience with unique outcomes- just have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously- I did hear stories from guests that accompanied our flight suggesting that people would get angry at pilots if they crashed, etc. Lighten up people!
Rest of the quest-
After travel via Uber, Ferry, Monorail & Bus….We managed to squeeze in all four parks within normal operating hours but we did double down on one extra twist that we felt was one of the highlights of our trip:
Disney after dark at Animal Kingdom. This is what Disney calls a “hard ticket” event in which you must pay separate admission for (typically right around $100) for 3-4 extra hours after official park closure.
Would I do Disney after Dark again- ABSOLUTELY. It wasn’t “dead” but for mid-August which is still in full swing with summer travelers before school, all the open attractions… including Flight of Passage (Yes- you heard it) were a walk on! Not every single attraction was open- but the headliners such as: Nav’i River Journey, Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest (one of my fav’s- a must do at night!), Dinosaur, Triceratops Spin, etc where open in addition to an exclusive showing of Rivers of Light. The updated Rivers of Light show “We are one” is just mesmerizing and great for all audiences. This event also included free non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks like popcorn and ice cream J
All in all- we got back to All Star Movies by 1am and up by 5:30 to catch our Magical Express bus back in time for a 9:30 am flight back to Philadelphia. From the time we left our homes and got back- we experienced this “Interplanetary” expedition in 43 hours and really had a fantastic adventure!
A Disney World fanatic can handle this- but not for everyone. Goes to show that no two Disney adventures are the same. Since Disney “found me” in 2015 with about 14 trips under my belt in 4 years, I have yet to experience what Sue and I took on… it was a blast! I’m happy to help anyone from resort only stays to the most extreme Disney agendas
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