3rd Time's a Charm: a family trip report...sorta

Who we are: Family of four with 13 (almost 14) year old boy/girl twins. This was our third week-long family vacation to Walt Disney World, with each one spaced four years apart. When we went on our first trip in Aug. 2015, my kids were five, my DW had never been to WDW, and I hadn’t been since I was a kid. The trip blew everyone’s minds. Thanks in no small part to the planning help I got from the Unofficial Guide and this forum. Our second trip was Aug. 2019 – kids were 9. Different, but equally amazing. And now, we’ve just returned from fabulous trip number three.

I am a LONG-time lurker and occasional poster here on the forums. Purchased my first UG and joined the forum in Jan. 2015. Usually my posting picks up as we near a trip. But I’m a regular lurker even in the off times. Indeed, these forums and the blog have been a favorite work distraction for me over these past eight plus years.

Trip planning: The challenge of this trip was to have just as spectacular a trip as our past two, but also to do things differently, so we weren’t just doing the same trip again. All while acknowledging that the kids are getting older.

I should note that this trip was the kids’ choice. Late last year, when we started talking about our summer vacation 2023, the kids were keenly aware that it had been four years and WDW was on the table. I sort of pushed them towards maybe a Southern California trip (we live in DC) with Disneyland worked in for a couple days to get our fix. But the kids were having none of it. WDW it is.

So how to shake it up? I planned more nights in the parks. Fewer rope-drop days, although we still did three. And we tried quite a few new restaurants. Also, we basically skipped most live action shows, with Fantasmic! being a big exception (see below).

Resorts: Split stay of Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first three nights and the Grand Floridian for the last four. We stayed at AKL 8 years ago. First time for GF. Loved them both. Got great, even perfect, rooms. (I confess I didn’t use TP room request this time.) We knew going in that the GF lobby and main building would be a disaster (thank you TP forum), so we were prepared for that and didn’t let it bother us.

The Week: I’m not going to go through the play by play of everyday of our trip, but here was the daily rundown:
Sat: Arrival day – AKL pool and dinner
Sun: DHS – rope drop through early evening
Mon: DAK – rope drop through late afternoon
Tues: sleep in - moving day and Typhoon Lagoon cabana day (my splurge)
Wed: MK – rope drop through after hours, with a short break back at GF late afternoon
Thurs: Epcot – sleep in, then noon through after hours party
Fri: MK and DHS – sleep in, then park hopping from MK to DHS through Fantasmic
Sat: Departure day – sleep in, and ended up being a bonus MK day (woo hoo!) because our flight was delayed (I knew there was a reason to keep those 6-day passes.)

Favorite attraction: We all agree that Guardians of the Galaxy was our favorite ride. We did it three times thanks to the Epcot After Hours Party. We loved Tron too. On this trip, the 13-year olds were most into the roller coaster thrill rides. Their next two favs were Rock and Roller Coaster (which they did 3 times) and EE (5 times!). Though it can’t be all roller coasters. Flight of Passage still wowed. Plus, my DW and I love Carousel of Progress and Tiki Room, and it has rubbed off on the kids.

Star Wars: We are big Star Wars fans (though not obsessives) and this was our first time in Batuu. We missed it by a week on our last trip (by design). DW and I enjoyed Rise of the Resistance more than the kids. Best storytelling ride ever, right? They preferred flying the Falcon. But we all enjoyed the whole experience, especially at night. (Though my DW and I liked the look of Toy Story Land at night even more. Shhhh.) And thanks to lowered expectations from this forum, we really enjoyed Oga’s, and got an ideal spot at the bar with a great bartender.

Favorite meal: Sanaa. This was our 2nd time at Sanaa, and we really loved it both times. Great atmosphere, delicious food, solid service. Even the spicy food didn’t dissuade the kids. Other favs included pizza at Via Napoli, surprisingly great food at Skippers Canteen, and of course all the Dole Whip we could eat. Our two signature dinners varied from quite good at Narcoossee’s to just ok at Jiko.

Fantasmic!: We had never done Fantasmic. I was blown away. I loved every minute of it. DW wanted more fireworks, but never you mind. It was so….well, fantastic! Kicking myself for not having done it before.

Genie+: We used Genie+ (our first time) on all of our park days. Well, except on our bonus last day in MK. I felt like each day I was able to utilize it to our advantage, and the glitching of MDE was at a minimum (Android user here). It really was like studying for a final exam, but thanks to all the tips and advice here on the forum, I passed the exam with flying colors.

A final word: My DW and I both realized early in the trip that this was probably going to be our last trip to WDW, at least for a long while. We all had a fabulous time. But there’s just that sense my wife and I each got that, well, it just didn’t feel the same. Not the World itself. But for us. The way our now older family responded and took it all in.

Touring Plans and this forum have had a profound effect on me. I’m a Liner for life. I find myself planning other trips using the principles I’ve learned here. We rope drop the Tower of London. We zig to the sulfur pots when others zag to Old Faithful. I even think through what time I’m going to the grocery store to best avoid the lines.

Additionally, as I noted earlier, this forum has been a favorite place for me to visit regularly. My favorite work distraction. I really can’t thank everyone here enough for all the helpful advice I’ve gotten over the years, as well as the warm community that I enjoy following. I know, in my usual post-trip fashion, I’ll probably respond to some topics for a few more weeks, as I continue to bask in my post-trip afterglow. But that will slowly give out. I’ll keep lurking here for a longer while still. However, as the months go by, I know those times won’t be quite so regular. And with no trip planned, even on the distant horizon, I realize that it’s quite possible that I may eventually just stop visiting entirely. It’s not unlike Wendy with Peter Pan. Watching them receding into the sky until they were as small as stars.

THANK YOU ALL! Keep wishing on those stars and keep the magic alive!


Oh, it also occurs to me that in all my years here I’ve never really posted any pics of my family. Well, no better time then the present, I guess.





Great pics!




I’m sorry, it’s just your destiny to return in 2027 for a family pic in front of Tower of Terror.


Your kiddos have good taste. These are our faves too (along with BTMRR).

You have a beautiful family.


Sounds like a pretty awesome trip!

FWIW: We were there last week, we tend to go every few years too.
But the last couple of trips were more resort hang out and food with a park day for a party etc.

This year was our first full multiple park days trip in several years.

Now that our kids are DD16 and DS20, they still love going (thank goodness) - but dining etc have taken up as much of the enjoyment as the rides. DS was talking about getting his friends to go down for Food and Wine - and us having a beer together next trip. So, I’d bet the idea of another WDW trip still has a good chance of popping up with the kids in the future. :slight_smile:


That IS what is missing.

Beautiful family, @DCJP !


So true! You gotta do it! For completeness sake!!


Amazing to see how much they grew between trips! 8 years flies by …


I may or may not have a pixie dust leak at reading this.

I second the motion! :raised_hand:t3:
All in favor?
Ok so I’m not the first to agree, so I think we have a bunch of yay’s. So let’s say the yay’s have it.
Meeting adjourned.

Lovely family & I’m so happy you brought us a recap of sounds like a pretty fantastic trip! Really and truly hope you do make it back with the kids as adults. Yes it may be the last time they see it as “kids” but I know I’m looking forward to all the adult trips with my kids. DS12 has already requested we plan Epcot for his 21st, which I’m excited to plan in due course.


I can relate to your situation. We have our 3rd week-long trip coming up soon with our 2 kids, but our family trips have been every 3 years.

Now, we started when our kids were older than yours. Knowing that the kids love thrill, we went from mostly WDW and are now doing mostly UOR.

My DS is a junior, so future family trips are uncertain. :pensive:

So I have to ask, have you considered a Universal focused trip? With Epic U opening in 2 years and your kids older and loving more thrill and ready for new things, it would be great to experience before they graduate high school.


Beautiful family! I relate so much to what you wrote in the OP. Even the favorite ride… GotG! For sure.


Thanks for sharing your journey at WDW through the years as your kids have grown! Pictures do say a thousand words in terms of physical growth of children! This trip, they were too tall to stand in front of you! :cry: :cry: I wouldn’t completely rule out a trip later on, perhaps during a different season.

Our first trip was during the heat and humidity of summer. Our next trip was many years later when the kids were a sophomore and senior in college. We went in December, at the end of their fall quarter. It was a week before regular school let out. While we did get on our share of rides (including RISE, which just opened the previous week!), the kids really enjoyed the dining! They had grown to become foodies! The kids also enjoyed the :christmas_tree: Christmas decorations and all the activities associated with the Holiday of the Festivals. And the weather is so much more pleasant in December than in August!

College is on the horizon for your kids! :wink:


Lovely trip report and glad it all went to plan!

I am you - started lurking on this forum pre-trip, and became more active as it approached and stuck around for a few weeks after then disappeared. Suddenly we had an adults only trip and I was back at it and have made it a point to stick around this time. No plans to return to the world immediately following either trip but who knows? We’ve added DLR to our calendar in the next few years :face_in_clouds:


Packages for Disneyland go on sale tomorrow, in case you want to get a jump on that planning :rofl:


Thanks everyone for your very nice thoughts and comments. And perspectives.

Re. Universal. We went when the kids were 7, and yes, a return trip there in the next few years is very much on the table. But that’s not really the same sort of week-long, planned to the max, WDW extravaganza, is it? :slightly_smiling_face:

Last night, my wife and I were joking that she and I should head to Disney World after we drop the kids off at college in 4 years. So :man_shrugging:




Yes, this. Adult-only/empty-nesting trips are amazing.


DH and I went sans kids in February. The kids were both actually done with college by then. But WDW sans kids was a very different type of trip. We had such a good time, we are planning 2 additional trips to WDW in 2024 sans kids!