It’s finally here, my guide to Disney World! Over the last thirty years, I have probably been to Disney six or seven times, but until this year I don’t remember all the extensive planning that goes into the trip. We left for our trip mid June and in mid December we were planning our dinning reservations and 60 days before we left we were planning what rides we wanted to go on. I have never done this much planning ahead of time, but you will learn why if you keep reading. By no means am I a Disney expert, but I wanted to share with you how our trip went, what we learned, loved and could have done without.
Last time we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge was when I was in high school, so about fifteen years ago! This is considered a deluxe villa resort. In the Villa we had two rooms. One king bed, two queens, a sleeper sofa in the living room and a full kitchen. We ate breakfast in our room some mornings. It was nice to have the kitchen so the kids (my niece and nephew) could have some breakfast. If you want you can get groceries delivered to your room, which is a nice option. We ordered some fruit, yogurt and snacks that the kids were used to eating at home, plus water bottles we had to stay hydrated! Before we arrived our fairytale concierge spoke with our hotel to make sure that we had a crib for my nephew Alex. My sister knew that he wouldn’t sleep well in a pack in play, so we were lucky to have a crib that we set up right in our room.
There are so many benefits to staying at a Disney hotel. Outside of the Magical experience and the staff here are some other benefits:
- Early Access to Fast Passes and Planning– If you stay at a Disney hotel you can book your fast passes up to 60 days in Advance. Our travel agent arranged all of this for us so we just told her the rides we wanted to go on at each park and she facilitated everything. If you don’t stay on Disney property you can’t book your fast passes until 30 days prior to your trip.
- Extra Magic Hours– There are certain days that each park is open either an hour later or open’s earlier. You can get this access if you stay
- Magic Bands– This was something that was totally new to us for this Disney trip! You get to choose from 7 different colors to customize your band, they even sell like character bands you can put over the complimentary band that Disney sends you. Thirty days before your trip, you receive your bands, which is such a fun way to start the countdown to your trip!
- Benefits of the Magic Band- Unlock your hotel room, Enter theme parks, charge food and merchandise, connect all your photopass images to your account and check in for fast passes!
- Complimentary transportation and parking-We didn’t rent a car, but when we arrived at the airport we took a bus to our hotel and pretty much a bus, boat or monorail around Disney the rest of the time we were there.
We touched down in Orlando around 10:30am. Disney will send you tags to put on your luggage so they pick up everything at the airport and you don’t have to worry about going to baggage claim, but my sister wanted to get our luggage just in case something happened and we didn’t have everything for the kids. After getting all of our luggage we headed for the magical express. This service is already included in your price of your stay with Disney, so you might as well use it if you aren’t renting a car. Plus its so nice to sit back and relax and have someone else do the driving and carrying of your luggage. At this point make sure you have you magic bands out and ready to use, they will scan your band to make sure you have a reservation and are signed up to use the magical express services! When we arrived at the hotel our room we checked in and our room was ready early. We were delayed a bit in arriving so we had to change our reservation for Whispering Canyon, but luckily with the handy dandy My Disney Experience app we were able to make the reservation an hour later.
Lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe at our Hotel:
This restaurant reminds me of like Ed Debevics, where the servers are really loud and obnoxious. They throw napkins and call you princess and cowgirl haha. I think after a long morning of traveling we all were a bit tired, that we wanted a more relaxed environment. With that being said, everyone was so nice and the southwestern salad I had was delicious. Great choice for dining if you are staying at the Wilderness Lodge!
Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at The Grand Floridian Resort
We Stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and there were a couple of options for transportation to the Grand Floridian. The best way to get there from our hotel was to take the boat to the Contemporary and hop on the monorail (my favorite). You can also also take the boat to the Magic Kingdom and take the monorail from there, it will just take a little longer. We were a little disappointed in this Character meal. We had a reservation at 5:45 and we weren’t seated until after 6:30. Everything was very unorganized and frustrating especially since we made that reservation six months in advance. The food was better than expected, but we only got to meet three of the four characters. At this meal you have the chance to meet Cinderella, Prince Charming and the stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella (who we didn’t meet). As far as the character meals we had this ranked the lowest for me, based solely on our experience.
Day 2 Magic Kingdom:
One of my favorite things about staying at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts is the access to take a boat from your hotel to the park. It was the easiest form of transportation for us and came much more frequently than the buses did, plus it was such a pretty view being out on the lake! The kids had no idea what to expect when arriving at the Magic Kingdom for the first time. I think they were both overwhelmed for most of the trip, but watching their faces when they walked into the park or hearing Alex say “wow!” was so cute!
The Magic Kingdom I think offers the most in terms of rides for kids of all ages. We tried to get fast passes at first for both the kids since they are three and almost two. Our first day we had Fast Passes in the morning for Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid, Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s flight.I loved the Little Mermaid ride, it was my first time on it since they opened it. I appreciated that they touched on all the big scenes of the movie. This ride is great for all ages and any height. Addy was scared of Peter Pan because it was really dark. This ride has one of the longest wait times and a great ride to get a fast pass for, but in all honesty there is nothing special about this ride. I would never wait in a 90 minute line for it, In my opinion I think they need to make some changes. But then again if you have never been to Disney and want to ride it, you should at least once.
We met Rapunzel and Princess Tiana, rode its a Small World, ate lots of pretzels, had lunch at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, Rode Buzz Lightyear, the Tea Cups and eventually made our way back to the hotel. Swimming and relaxing the rest of the afternoon was much needed, but Magic Kingdom had extra Magic Hours that night and the park was open till 1am! Steph, Eric and I (my sister and brother in law) headed back to the park and left the kids with my parents. We were only able to get on two rides: Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion. We went on Big Thunder Mountain while the Happily Ever After firework show was taking place and we only had to wait 25 minutes, this ride usually has a much higher wait time! Plus it was a really great view of the castle and fireworks while you were on the ride. We had a fast pass later in the week for Haunted Mansion, but quickly realized after being on the ride that my niece Addy (3 years old) would have been terrified, so we changed that fast pass!
Before we left we were all pretty hungry so we grabbed a quick service meal at Sleepy Hollow! We had chicken and waffle sandwich topped with cole slaw, it was delicious! After a long day of traveling around at 11:30pm I was ready to head home and go to bed because I knew the next morning was going to be an early day!
Day 3 Epcot:
Rise and Shine at 5:45am to make it to our breakfast at 8:25. You don’t realize sometimes how long it takes to get from your hotel to different parks. From our hotel it was about a 15-20 minute bus ride to Epcot, but that doesn’t include the wait time for buses. The buses are supposed to come every 20 minutes but I think we waited close to 40 minutes this morning for a bus. Plus once you get to Epcot you have to walk a lot to get to the world Showcase where our breakfast was. There’s security that you need to go through once you get to all the parks, which is nice but also just adds more time into your travel so you need to take this into account as well.
Princess Storybook Dining Breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall @ Epcot
After our first Character meal we were a little weary about going to another one, but we were so impressed with this breakfast! Immediately when you walked in Belle greeted you. The kids had time to visit with her, take some photos and then we were seated at our table. All of these meals are more buffet style. I don’t particularly like buffets, but if they are breakfast buffets I like them better. You had your choice of lots of fruit, meats, cheese, croissants and pastries. They brought eggs, bacon, sausage and a potato hash for the whole table to share. Shortly after we were seated they had a princess parade, where they invited all the kids to walk around the hall with the Princesses and they played music. It was such a cute way to get the kids involved and really brought a smile to your face! We met Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora and Snow White!
I think this was one of the hottest days we had at Disney, we found ourselves shortly after breakfast headed straight to the splash pad so the kids could cool off. I think this was one of their favorite parts of the trip!
After we cooled off for a while, we headed to the Nemo ride which in my opinion is just okay. Then onto spaceship earth where I think every single person in my family fell asleep or had very heavy eyes haha. Its a pretty long ride and dark so it was very easy to nod off. Plus Disney is exhausting, we had to catch some Z’s whenever and wherever we could! Then we had a Fastpass for the Frozen ride in Norway. If you can you must get a Fastpass for this otherwise you are guaranteed to wait at the very least 60 minutes. I thought the ride was so cute and the kids were smiling from ear to ear. Addy especially loved when the ride went fast and we went backwards!
After our ride we were all pretty hangry so we stopped in Mexico to get lunch. In my opinion out of all the parks Epcot has the best food. We ate at La Cantina de San Angel which is a quick service restaurant where we were able to use our Dining Plan. My mom and I shared the empanadas which were so yummy! The Nachos were also top notch!
Day 4 Hollywood Studios:
Hollywood Studios is going through so many changes right now, that you really don’t have to spend much time at this park. There are really only two big rides left that I cared to go on (Rock’n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror). I used to love the backlot tour and The Great Movie Ride but those have both closed. At the end of June Toy Story Land is opening and next year in 2019 Star Wars Land will open. By the time I go to Disney next I am sure this will be the hot park to go to! In addition to those new lands they are building a gondola that will go from Epcot to Hollywood Studios as well as a new hotel!
Before Lunch we stopped at the Voyage of the Little Mermaid- it’s always a cute show, but I don’t think much has changed over the years I think it would be nice for an update! Hollywood Studios was set up in a really great way to meet lots of Characters, they were all kind of lined up. Addy and Alex were able to meet Pluto, Princess Sophia and Doc McStuffins! Aren’t her Frozen ears the cutest with that little veil?
50’s Prime Time Cafe @ Hollywood Studios
We always like to eat at 50’s Prime Time cafe when we visit Hollywood Studios. My favorite thing about this park is the old Hollywood feel and that’s what I love about this restaurant. Here you will dine on classic American comfort food and the whole theme of the restaurant you feel transforms you back into a different era, plus my dad loves all the shows that are on the tv’s haha. We were able to use our dining plan at this location and use one of our Table Service meals.
After Lunch we headed back to our hotel, around nap time for the kids was a good time to head back so they could relax, take a nap or go to the pool. It seemed like everyday we got back to our hotel we would head down to the pool and the lifeguards would come out and telling us that the pool was closing because lightening was near. It was always such a bummer because we were all ready to cool off and the kids were so excited, but better safe that sorry!
After the rain we went to the Magic Kingdom at night. This was the first night we were able to see the new fireworks show at the Castle. I always remembered the Magic of the park going dark, the castle being lit up by the fireworks and Tinker Bell soaring over the park. The Happily Ever After show lasts 18 minutes and is full of lasers, lights, projections and fireworks plus music set to every movie that is projected on the Castle. I have never seen the park look so Magical! I saw people finding spots at 7pm for the 9:15 show, for us we knew we could see the show well from most parts of the park so around nine we just stopped in Tomorrowland to watch. We didn’t want to waste any of our time just holding down a seat for the show!
Day 5 Magic Kingdom and Epcot:
Rhys arrived late Friday night and since this was his first time EVER at Disney I wanted to get up bright and early and get to the park when it opened. We met everyone else around 10am for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fast pass we had. When we arrived at the park there was an opening ceremony called “Let the magic Begin” where Mickey and Friends welcome you to the Magic Kingdom! It was so cute to see and only five minutes! We headed straight to It’s a Small World, Dumbo and then met for our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train fast pass. This was the first time we used the rider swap, it was kind of confusing. My niece Addy came on the ride with us (her first roller coaster) but Alex (2 years old) was too small. Rhys, Eric, my dad and Addy went first and they gave us the rider swap and when my dad got to the front they handed him a rider swap ticket. We rode and then gave the ticket to my mom and sister so they could go on. With the rider swap they were able to go in the fast pass line even after our time was up and three people were able to go so Rhys rode again!
After Seven Dwarfs we split up again. My sister and Brother in Law took the kids to go meet Princess Elena of Avalor and Cinderella again. Alex LOVED them and they snapped the cutest pictures of him hugging and kissing the Princesses! While Alex was flirting my mom, dad, Rhys and I went to our Big Thunder Mountain Fast Pass and then waited in line for Splash Mountain. It was incredibly hot at this point, I couldn’t wait to cool off! We luckily only had to wait 45 minutes for that ride. After that we met where the kids were eating lunch at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. I only had a couple bites of the food but everything I had was delicious. I think this is one of the better quick service restaurants at Magic Kingdom which is located in Frontierland, you can also use your dining plan here.
Next up to knock another “mountain” ride off Rhys list we headed for Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. I forgot how much fun this ride is and how long the wait can be! Again another key ride to get a fastpass for. When we got in line for our fast pass the Standby line was about 90 minutes. This was Rhys favorite roller coaster at Disney World! He wasn’t expecting it to be dark the whole time and its also a pretty long ride with lots of twists and turns and ups and downs!
Dinner Via Napoli @ Epcot
Holy cow was it hot out this night. To get to Italy at the World Showcase you have to walk from the front of the park all the way to the very back. It was easily 100 degrees out and all I could think the whole time I was walking to Italy was that I was going to pass out and my right arm was going to be way more tan than my left because thats the side the sun was directly hitting. Thank god we had a reservation in a large air conditioned sit down restaurant. My parents, Rhys and I only had snacks all day so we were hungry and ready to eat! A couple of us ordered Pizza (its been said that this it the best Pizza at Disney), my dad and Rhys had Chicken Parmesan which was huge and my mom and I had Gnocchi which just melted in your mouth. My stomach just growled as I wrote this haha. Along with our delicious main course we all had Gelato after, the servings were HUGE. With the dining plan we all got a desert but If I wasn’t on the dining plan I definitely would have just shared Gelato with someone, the portions were just too big.
After dinner in Italy the kids, my sister and Eric headed back to the hotel so they could swim and relax. My mom Rhys and I continued to explore all the other countries in the World Showcase. As a child Epcot was my least favorite park but as I have gotten older I think its become my favorite. I love to travel and there are obviously so many places I want to go, but my favorite thing about traveling is immersing yourself into someone elses culture and I really feel like you get a little piece of that throughout the showcase. Whether its food, architecture, drinks or music you get a little taste of what its like. While my mom and I shopped my dad and Rhys complained that they were waiting for us, but my mom and I were having fun. I was teaching my mom all about instagram and got her to do her first boomerang! haha Rhys was happy when he was able to stop and get a nice $15 Guinness.
After stopping in each country and 19,000 steps later we were all ready to leave the park, but on the way out I looked at Soarin’ and the wait was only 30 minutes. So we made our way over to that ride and once we stopped walking you could immediately see how tired we were! All of the parks have a firework show every night but Epcot has a show called Illuminations Reflections of Earth. We really wanted to stay but our dogs were barking!
Day 6 Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios:
Another park another scorching hot day in Lake Buena Vita, Florida. We missed our first fast pass because my sister moves like a snail in the morning (sorry Steph haha) but once we headed to the park we went Straight the Kilimanjaro Safari. Fun Fact: Did you know back in the day that Stacy used to drive for this ride? That’s right when she worked for the Disney College program! I don’t know how she did it, I could never drive one of those vehicles haha. I think the kids enjoyed seeing all the different animals because they love going to the Zoo! After that fast pass, Rhys, Steph, Eric and I headed to ride Expedition Everest. I HATED it. My sister also did not like it, I was so dizzy and felt sick to my stomach. One time on that ride for me was enough, but people love it! I don’t remember hating it the last time I went on it, maybe its my old age haha.
We didn’t see a lot of shows this time but one of our favorite shows to see is the Festival of The Lion King. I have to say this is a must see at Animal Kingdom, the production is so well done and you feel like you are at a Broadway Show.
I don’t know if Animal Kingdom was just more crowded this day or if there walk ways are smaller, but this parked just seemed like there was way more people than anywhere else we went. Rhys and I separated from the group and headed to the Pandora – World of Avatar. I was in awe the whole time and could not stop telling Rhys how amazing I thought it was. Pictures don’t do it justice. Hats off to the people who created it they literally thought of every detail. Stacy told me at night its even better, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to go back at night. There are two rides in Pandora – World of Avatar: Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. We went on the Na’vi River Journey and aside from the amazing Animatronics I thought the ride was kind of boring. We didn’t make it to the Flight of Passage because the waits were like over two hours and all the fast passes were sold out even way in advance, so I guess next time Ill have to try that ride!
After we used our last fast pass Rhys and I were talking about all the big rides and he went on all of them except Rock’n Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. He managed to go to all four parks in two days and ride all the cool rides! That night my parents watched the kids and Steph, Eric, Rhys and I headed to Hollywood Studios. Again with the bus transportation it took so long to get there because the bus was late and we made a stop at the Contemporary hotel that we weren’t aware of. We got to the park at 8pm and the park closed at 9:30. Rhys and I had a fast pass for 8:15 but I couldn’t get two more for my sister and Eric. So we told them that we had a party of four, but could only get two fast passes and they let us all go! After we rode one time, Rhys and I went to Tower of Terror. I could have done without going on that ride again because free falling is not my favorite thing, but he had never been and wanted to try! While we went on it my sister and Eric rode Rock’n Roller Coaster again. By the time 9:30 hit Eric and Rhys had gone on Rock’n Roller Coaster five or six times. After the third time my sister and I had enough even though its our favorite ride, but we had already gone on it twice another day haha.
I think they got lucky because again the park doesn’t have much else there and the big firework show Fantasmic people were headed to or already at! As we were leaving the park we were watching the other fireworks show they have Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. My sister and I ditched Eric and Rhys at this point because they had to go on the roller coaster one more time! When we got back to the hotel we ended up going to Geyser Point at our hotel to have some drinks and apps. It was the perfect way to end Rhys last night there overlooking the lake.
Day 7 Pool and Magic Kingdom:
Our last full day we didn’t set an alarm but we had our human alarm Alex to wake us up! We went down to the pool for a couple hours before we headed to Magic Kingdom for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We met Mickey, Tinkerbell and Minnie Mouse and both the kids loved all of them. I didn’t see Addy smile as much in pictures as she did in these and Alex got a smooch from Tinker bell!
Day Be our Guest dinner at Magic Kingdom
What a pretty place! Another place we made a reservation for six months in advance that took us 30 minutes after our scheduled time to be seated. The kids were screaming and crying, the adults were snapping at each other, it was 100 degrees out and it was the last full day of our trip. It’s safe to say not only were we all extremely exhausted, hungry and over heated but I think we were ready to just relax. The main dining area is where we were lucky enough to be seated at this beautiful round table, with multiple chandeliers throughout the whole dining room. Some may think that Belle would be a special guest here, but it’s only the Beast. There are so many places to meet Belle, so that’s why i think they keep it to only him. After you are finished clearing your plate you can meet the Master aka The Beast. Addy was too scared, so Alex went with my sister and Eric. If you go here get the French Onion Soup, even though it was 100 out I think 90% of our table got the soup. It was delicious!
- Travel Agent/ Fairytale Concierge– Thank god, for Alice our Travel Agent. There is so much that went into planning this trip and she was so helpful with the 100’s of questions we had and my mother indecisiveness about doing the Disney Dining. We gave her the list of fast passes we wanted and which days we wanted to go to each park. This helped us save so much time and stress, plus it didn’t cost us anything extra!
- My Disney Experience App – Download it. Everything you do will be available through this app. Also buy an external charge or charging case, because you will be on this app all the time it will drain your battery. No one wants to have their phone die in the middle of Disney! Free Wifi is available at every Disney hotel and park.
- You can check out my packing guide for Disney here!
- Disney Dining Plan: We had two snacks, one quick service and one table service per day. Water, Pop and Coffee were considered snacks. Quick Service is where you walk up order your food and find a table or walk around with your food. Table Service is when you actually sit down for a meal. For me personally it was too much food. What the Dining plan was good for was those Character Meals, my god those are expensive! If we didn’t have the dining plan those meals would have cost anywhere from $250-$350. Tip is never included in the Dining Plan so you pay for that separate. If you have a party of six or more they already include the tip. We made our Dining reservations 6 months in Advance! Make as many as you want, you can cancel up to 24 hours before the reservation. We made multiple for certain restaurants and then cancelled some once we started planning and it didn’t fit with our plan. For example, we made three for Be Our Guest on three different days and then once we aligned our days of parks, we cancelled some of those reservations. Aside from the reservations we made, we also ate at quick service restaurants which I will break down as well.
- Stay on Property: If you can afford it, I think it makes life much easier! You have easier access via Boat, Monorail or bus to the parks. Our hotel had a movie set up every night outside for kids and at 7pm you could roast marshmallows. You can take advantage of extra magic hours and get your fast passes 60 days in advance rather than 30!
- Pool Time: Find time for it, Disney is exhausting. Whether you spend a whole day at the pool, go for a couple hours in the morning or go in the afternoon to break up your day it will feel so refreshing. Especially if you are going in the months when its so hot out!
- Stroller Rental: My sister rented a Keenz stroller its a Wagon from a company called Orlando for Families. It had a cooler attached where we stored our waters and cooling towels, cup holders, a cover for the kids so they weren’t stuck in the sun, and a rain cover when the daily rain in Orlando hit. She rented it for $100 for 8 days and I believe it retails for $400. I couldn’t count on both hands how many people stopped them and asked them where they got it, how many adults said they wish they had something like that when they had kids or how many people said “Why didn’t I invent that!” You can rent for an extra $8 fans that attached to the wagon that just needed to be recharged every night. It easily folded in half and was great because at least once a day one of the kids fell asleep in it and there was enough room for them to take a comfortable nap.
- Cooling Towels: They were a great way for us to cool off while at the park and great so the kids didn’t over heat.
- Electric Water Pagent: If you are staying at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness Campground or Contemporary. You can catch this show nightly on Bay Lake. Just look for times that it comes by your hotel.
- Disney Photopass Photographers: Use them to your advantage they are set up in lots of places at the park. They will even take pictures with your phone or camera if you ask nicely!
- Memory Maker: for $169 we were able to download every single photo the photopass photographers took for us. You have 30 days after your trip ends to download all the pictures!
- Ponchos: Purchase before your trip! More often than not you are going to get rain at least once during your trip!
Hope you enjoyed my Travel Guide to Disney World! I can’t wait to go back one day when I have kids and when my niece and nephew are older! Have a magical day!