night owls can make rope drop: a guide to getting up early for Walt Disney World

I am not a morning person.

Lemme repreat that, I am not a morning person. By any stretch of the imagination.

Not even a little.

I don't usually wake up before ten or eleven, except Saturdays, when I wake up with my kid, remind him to get breakfast, and then go back to sleep on the couch until my husband wakes up. (It's his one morning to sleep in; he's the morning parent.) Then sometimes I go back to sleep again. For real.

(I usually fall asleep around one or two am, obviously. I'm a night owl.)

But here's the thing. Going to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, I knew I would have to get up early. Like, every day.

Ugh.

And I did manage to get up early enough that we made rope drop (or earlier) almost every day while we were on vacation earlier this month. And I was glad! Because it really did make a huge difference.

Here's how I managed:

* I stopped watching media before bed (with my husband). I cut myself off of the Internet at a ridiculously early hour.

* I forced myself to get ready for bed before ten.

* I took a zillion melatonin.

* Also some benadryl.

And then I made myself wake up early. For almost a week before we left. So that I could get used to it. I was grouchy and bleary eyed but I had a plan and I stuck to it.

It sucked. For reals, I do not like waking up early. But I did it because it really was the best plan.

And after coffee, I was fine.

There's far fewer people in the morning at the theme parks during the week. Except at rope drop itself. Then they magically disperse.

Far. Fewer. It's almost scary how right around noon there's this surge and suddenly you're swamped by people everywhere. It's like, wait. Where did everyone come from? So crazy. Weekends are different. There's still less people early on, but then you have to be better at guesstimating where the locals are, versus the tourists. Pay attention to the crowd calendars, they're your friends.

The middle of the day is hot and annoying. It's much nicer to spend those hours in a pool. Or in an air condItioned hotel room. Or napping, if you can nap. (I can't.)

So we did what all the guides and blogs suggest and went early to the parks, back to the hotel after lunch for a siesta/swim and then back to the park for the evening.

It was perfect.

(We left before the fireworks began. So we could be asleep by ten.)

This was a fantastic plan for us - despite my being a night owl - because the parks in the evening are great, but if you leave after the fireworks, it'd be super crowded again. Plus my kid doesn't like fireworks at all.

The one later evening I got (at Epcot, on our last day, when I got to wander around World Showcase by myself after dinner), I still left in the middle of the fireworks, so I could get ahead of all the guests going back to the hotels. I got all the benefits of the sunset and evening glow, and there were ten people on the bus instead of fifty.

If we hadn't been waking up even earlier the next day for our flight home, I would have stayed til after the crowds had left. But that was not to be. As it was, I was dangerously tired the day we flew home.

That's a whole 'nother story.

(I slept about a bazillion hours the next night. And went straight back to late nights/ sleeping in. I am not a morning person.)

The only day we didn't follow this plan was when we went to Universal Studios because we were staying at Disney and it didn't seem worth it to spend so much time and money going back and forth. So we arrived a little later and planned a longer day.

Consequently, we also pushed ourselves more than the other days. It was fine, but only worthwhile because of the magic that is The Wizarding World.

Plus we made the mistake of getting in a random log ride hour+ long line sometime around 3:30 pm. By the time we were done, we were done. But we still had to walk to the gates. My feet hurt. Standing in a line is so much more painful than walking. And my water bottle got dropped and broke into four pieces halfway thru the line from hell. I was irritable. We almost had some epic meltdowns. But then at the end, there was Margaritaville, with their nachos of awesome. And all the ice water I could drink.

Crisis averted.

And we all fell asleep extra early that night, too, thank goodness.

Next time, if there is a next time, I'd get a hotel at Universal for two nights and then arrive at Disney property. That was our original plan, but I decided against it after B realized she couldn't come with us. Universal was fun, but WDW was our main attraction. It still worked out, but I'd do it differently, next time.

Early arrival/ mid-day siesta/ pool is just too important, in terms of keeping your sanity, during a marathon of theme park days.

Even for night owls.

* Unless you can sleep in, do a late leisurely breakfast-lunch/ pool and then head to the parks at 4-5ish for an all nighter, with late extra magic hours. In a perfect world, that'd be my plan. Maybe when my kid is a teen. But probably not, because my husband is still a morning person.