A Once-in-a-Childhood Trip Report

For my first (ever!) post, I would just like to introduce myself and give you some background about our trip. I have been a member of Touring Plans for around 6 months but have only lurked in the forums and on the Lines app. My family went on our first Disney World trip in August. I learned so much from reading through other members’ posts and trip reports. While I am not normally active online, I am posting a trip report as way to contribute to a community that has been so helpful to me. While I have not been a visible part of the Liner community, I am so grateful for the time that Liners invest, the community that has been built, and the knowledge that is shared so freely and kindly. Many thanks to all who take the time to ask and respond to questions, to share their Disney wisdom. I did notice that many trip reports are from guests staying onsite, so I am hoping that my trip report will provide a few nuggets of help, especially to those who choose to stay offsite.

I plan to post in installments, the next of which will be an overview of our trip, with the itinerary and logistics of our trip. This will probably be the longest post with lots of the nitty-gritty (so I won’t be offended if you skip or just skim through! But I often found these little details from others to be the best help so, when in doubt, I will include this nuts-and-bolts info). I will then make separate posts for each of our park days. I jotted down as much as I could throughout our vacation in hopes that it may be helpful to others as they plan. Full disclosure – I am a much more run of the mill Disney guest than the average Liner. While my husband and I have happy memories of visiting Disney World as children, we are not a “Disney every year” family. We decided before having children that we would take them to Disney World twice, once as small children so they can enjoy the magic and again as teenagers to experience the thrill rides and all the late-night fun. This trip is the first of these two trips. Our sons are 8 and 5, and the majority of our trip was as a family of four (though we did have extended family join us for a few days).

Because we don’t plan to return for another 5+ years, I went through considerable lengths to make the most of it. We also needed to keep our trip within budget and stayed offsite. My husband and I had been to Disney a few times, both together before having children and separately, staying on and off property. It had been 9 years since our last trip, so it felt like we were planning as first timers. While we had a general idea of what to expect, we definitely didn’t have a sense of the logistics or the nuts and bolts of going with children. I spent the better part of a year researching – watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, reading The Unofficial Guide , looking at wait time and crowd level data through ThrillData and TouringPlans, and eventually making my way to the Liner community. In the end, my favorite sources of information came from Liners on both the forums and app, Becky from TouringPlans, and Molly from AllEars. We had an awesome trip because of all of this incredible information, and I look forward to sharing it with the community! More to come soon!

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Wow! What a way to break into the forum for the first time! Can’t wait to follow along.

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Awesome! Can’t wait!

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Looking forward to reading! I am helping my friend plan an offsite trip so I’m trying to get as many tips as possible to navigate rope drop.

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Welcome!

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Wow! I am looking forward to hearing all about your trip! Thank you for sharing!

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Can’t wait to read your report! I’m glad you decided to post.

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Thanks so much for the kind welcome! As I mentioned in my first post, this post will be full of logistics and is quite long. Then – it’s on to the fun stuff!

Travelers: Our family of four – me, my husband, and our two sons – ages 5 and 8. We had some local family and adventurous grandparents join us for a long weekend at the end of the trip. The local family ended up coming just for resort days. The grandparents spent two park days with us.

Accommodations: 3-bedroom condo at Windsor Hills
Notes: The Windsor Hills community was 10-15 minutes from all Disney parks and had a great pool area. Walmart was practically across the street, and we loved the ease and savings of ordering groceries online and picking up. While we had the cost of the rental car, we felt that the less expensive price per night, the ability to eat most meals in the unit, and being able to spread out made it worth being outside “the bubble”. Because our flight home was late at night and we were traveling two small children, we did pay for an extra night in case our flight got canceled so that we could at least have a place to sleep without a scramble – luckily, we didn’t need it! As a point of reference regarding savings, in August 2021, we asked a Disney travel agent to quote us accommodations with a separate sleeping space on property – the most budget-friendly option at the time was a suite at Art of Animation; 11 nights in our 3-bedroom condo was equivalent to 4 nights in a suite at AoA. With kids who still nap and are not night owls, the decision to stay off-site became instantly clear. We were pleasantly surprised by how close Windsor Hills was to the parks and how easy it was to get in and out for a midday break. We left the park almost every day to have lunch and take a nap, which was four hours away, and never felt much inconvenience. My husband is recovering an injury that impacts his mobility and, in the middle of the trip, we opted to pay for preferred parking on days when we’d be leaving the park so that we were guaranteed a spot up close when we came back from our breaks to minimize the walking he’d have to do after a busy park day. This ended up being three days in total and was worth the money for us. Funny how spending an extra $20 can make you feel like a VIP! We were a bit envious of the easy accessibility for people staying at monorail resorts and, at a point we had considered renting DVC points, but it just didn’t make sense for us this trip – maybe when we come back when the boys are older!

Car Rental: Budget using Undercover Tourist discount
Notes: While we experienced significant savings by booking through Undercover Tourist and the car itself was perfect for our needs, the pickup counter at the airport was undoubtedly the worst part of our trip. We came in at night with two tired kids to face a long line that took over 90 minutes to get through. We were also “lucky” to have prepaid through Undercover Tourist – they ran out of cars for many of the families in front of us who had not prepaid! While we saved considerable money, it was hard to keep that perspective when standing in a line of 30+ people late at night and looking at the empty Hertz counter next door…

Stroller Rental: Orlando Stroller Rentals
Notes: This rental was one of the best logistical parts of our trip. The stroller was delivered right outside of our condo door, communication was great, and stroller was in perfect condition. They even accommodated us when we asked to keep the stroller for a little longer at the last minute. With older children, we felt a double stroller would be too cumbersome and slow us down. We reserved a single BOB Revolution (the same stroller we have at home), knowing that the kids could take turns if tired, that it would fit in the trunk of our rental car, and that we knew the features well. It worked out perfectly!

Travel Dates: August 6-16
Notes: In our early planning stages, we went back and forth about a shorter trip during the school year or a longer (hotter) summer trip. We have some local family and knew that we would likely get together at some point during this trip. Our jobs and the kids’ school calendar prevent us from traveling at any other time than the major school break times, so we picked heat over crowds. We settled on going as late into August as we possibly could while giving us a week to get back into our routines before school started. We intentionally booked for the week when local Florida kids were going back to school. It looks like crowd levels dipped a bit compared to July but definitely not as low as late August / early September. While it was hot, we were prepared and had no problem managing it. Because we knew we would have family joining us at some point, it made sense to tack a few extra days on. This would allow us to get five full park days doing things at our own pace and two “bonus” days with the extended family without the pressure of balancing different priorities, schedules, or interests (also, when we invited the grandparents to join us for park days, we did so with the caveat that park days would be on our schedule and they were great about that). The trip was a great length for our family. We could move at a leisurely pace, take breaks in the heat of the day, and enjoy both the parks and the pool area at Windsor Hills. It also allowed us to have almost a week together as a family of four before having family join us for a few days – a great balance.

Tickets: 7 one-day park tickets booked through AAA
Notes: I researched many ticket purchasing options, and AAA ended up offering the best price. We originally bought 6-day tickets but realized we could add a 7th day for a total of $80 more. It was easy to add through the MDE app before our trip, and the price difference didn’t change even though we had bought discounted tickets through AAA. Spending a little more for an extra day was worth it to us so that we could have a more relaxed pace and feel like we could come and go as we wanted. We opted to save some money by skipping Park Hoppers, which we didn’t miss at all. We did end up buying Genie+ for the four days we spent at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios (more on that in other posts!), but we did not buy any ILL. I spent a lot of time planning and analyzing to maximize Genie+. In the end, I am not sure that I needed to do all of that. It was helpful to look at Becky’s videos and blog posts on TP about when attractions sell out to help me prioritize. Once there, I realized that just having a good itinerary and then keeping an eye on return times that matched that itinerary worked best. I ended up using a combination of book-and-use and stacking depending on the park and our plans for the day.

Miscellaneous:

  • Packing: I was worried about the heat and read a lot about what people packed for summer at Disney. We ended up packing two big water bottles every day in a small cooler bag that we tucked under the stroller. We also took wet cooling towels, which we kept in the cooler bag. I bought a neck fan and misting stroller fan on Amazon and two cheap fans on strings at the dollar store. I am not sure that the fans actually helped, but the kids liked them (if I were to do this trip over again, I’d save money and skip the Amazon fans and just go with dollar store fans). I also bought liquid IV, but we didn’t use it at all. Water bottles and midday breaks in AC were enough.
  • Food: We planned to eat one meal at the parks every day, a mix of Quick Service and Table Service. We ate all breakfasts and almost all lunches back at the condo. We also planned to pack our own snacks. Aside from a Mickey pretzel in Hollywood Studios and some candy in the Germany pavilion at Epcot, we stuck to this plan (even better than I expected!). This decision about dining was equal parts budget and keeping kids happy on our trip. Our boys were glad to have a cold applesauce pouch and some Cheez-Its as an in-park snack and didn’t know what they were missing. We kept breakfast and lunch foods similar to what they eat at home, and the dinners out felt novel and fun.
  • COVID Safety: We have been very cautious during COVID, and this part of our trip was making me the most nervous. In the weeks leading up to our trip, it seemed there were a lot of people posting on the forums returning home from great trips but also with COVID. I didn’t want anyone to get sick, and I also didn’t want to miss any part of our 10-day vacation. We masked up in tight indoor places and on all transportation. We also tried to do indoor dining in my more open spaces when possible – I made backup plans in case I got nervous about being too close to others unmasked indoors but, in the end, didn’t change any dining plans due to COVID worries. The kids wore masks on lanyards and we bought trip insurance the week before we left. In the end, we made it through the whole trip feeling great and returned home COVID-free!
  • Memory Maker: We “splurged” on MemoryMaker and felt it was absolutely worth it. I was on the fence about because I wasn’t sure my family would willingly stop to take pictures. My husband insisted that – this being our only trip while our children were small – it was worth the cost to have good family pictures. While we didn’t seek out every photographer, we got plenty of great shots and it was awesome to have us all in pictures. The length of our trip probably made it even more worth the money. We had some trouble finding a few ride photos, but these were easily found at counters in parks. Here’s what I learned - some of our photos weren’t missing, they were just scanned with my husband’s card and there was a setting in the app that needs to be adjusted to something like “see all photos” not just your own. Check this first. If you still can’t see them, make a list of the missing photos with a note about the date and time of when you were on the ride. The photo people can find pictures from any park on any day and pull them up for you to look through, so you can find all the missing photos at once at the end of your trip. This seemed much faster than calling customer service to find them (which I tried to do midtrip and would have been a 45-minute wait) or stopping every day that a photo was missed.
  • MagicBands: I was least confident about this going into the trip as an infrequent visitor and offsite guest. I didn’t want to pay $80+ for four MagicBands knowing that we would only use it for this trip but wasn’t sure how Genie+ and PhotoPass would work smoothly without them. On our first day, which was not a park day, we took the monorail over to Magic Kingdom to pick up physical cards and it went smoothly after that! No need for a MagicBand! We could use the cards to tap into rides for Genie+ and just tapped our cards to link ride photos or photos with PhotoPass photographers.

Itinerary:

Sat, Aug 6: late night flight into Orlando, pick up rental car, get settled at Windsor Hills

Sun, Aug 7: pool day, dinner at Chef Mickey’s

Mon, Aug 8: Animal Kingdom (dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue)

Tues, Aug 9: Magic Kingdom (dinner at Columbia Harbour House)

Wed, Aug 10: pool day, dinner at Medieval Times

Thurs, Aug 11: Hollywood Studios (dinner at Sci-Fi Dine-In)

Friday, Aug 12: Magic Kingdom (lunch at Skipper’s Canteen)

Sat, Aug 13: Jedi Training with Justin Aldridge, pool day

Sun, Aug 14: pool morning, Hollywood Studios (dinner at Docking Bay 7)

Mon, Aug 15: Epcot (dinner at Biergarten)

Tues, Aug 16: Epcot, late night flight home

Notes: My husband and I went through various iterations of the itinerary before settling on this one. We wanted to keep the kids as rested as possible by balancing early mornings with late nights, building in rest days after every third day etc. We also took into account the general advice about avoiding Magic Kingdom on Mondays, Epcot on weekends during Food and Wine, etc. We also knew visiting grandparents wanted to go to Hollywood Studios. This itinerary worked out great for our family. Once we told our kids about going to Disney World – about two weeks before – we started watching attraction guide videos for each park on YouTube. This was great for our five-year-old, who is typically scared of rides but became willing to attempt them once we watched videos (last summer, he got scared of a carousel but at Disney World rode Kali River Rapids, Splash Mountain, Mine Train, Barnstormer, Soarin’, Star Tours, etc.). Watching ride videos also gave my kids a sense of the attractions in each park and helped me prioritize rides to make daily touring plans. In the two weeks leading up to our trip, I took final one (over the top) step to lay out daily touring plans – especially for AK and Epcot, where we weren’t buying Genie+. I looked up the weekly wait time data for every major attraction on ThrillData and put them into a spreadsheet by hour. I then highlighted the lowest wait times to make sure that our touring plan maximized the lowest wait times of the day. Here’s a screenshot of my Animal Kingdom spreadsheet with the range of wait times and outliers in parentheses:

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Honestly, Becky from Touring Plans has great blog posts about this very thing and she does it for a living so this step was not necessary. I just wanted to see the most recent data to get the best sense of what waits might be like for our trip. (And truthfully, with the anticipation about the trip and my worry over COVID and logistics, in the words of Olaf, “We’re calling this 'controlling what you can when things feel out of control’.”) I also created itineraries by focusing on sections of the park. I knew my husband’s injury would become aggravated if we pushed it too hard. My kids don’t have great stamina for walking so building touring plans based on zones of the park helped prevent crisscrossing and further fatigue. The number of park days allowed us to do this pretty easily. We did a lot of walking, and my husband had more trouble as the trip wore on, but breaks and rest days really helped a lot (along with the mindset that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and we were going to stay positive and do what we could to make it the best possible trip for our family).

Next post – arrival! Woohoo!

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Day 1 - Resort Day and Chef Mickey’s

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This photo matches how we felt after our night of travel – bleary-eyed but excited! It was almost midnight, but we were at Disney World! Our kids had never stayed up so late, but they were wide awake with excitement as we drove through these magical gates.

Building a rest day after our late flight and car rental debacle was a great choice. We could start at a leisurely pace, pick up groceries, and give the kids plenty of time to enjoy the pool. We also had a dinner reservation at Chef Mickey’s. This was great because we experienced the excitement of seeing all the characters and being at Disney World but none of the pressure, heat, or exhaustion of a park day.

Chef Mickey’s was a really fun dinner! We didn’t tell the boys where we were heading, and they could barely contain their excitement when they spotted Goofy from across the lobby of the Contemporary. Our table was in the back, which seemed like a great spot. The food was fine – something for everyone and lots of it! It was great to have the kids’ food brought out first, and they boys loved that they could get more of their favorite foods. Servers were kind and friendly and chatted a ton with the kids. Note – bring your autograph book! I didn’t even think of this and our boys were a bit disappointed as they watched characters sign for other kids. The disappointment wore off quickly when they got to hug and meet Mickey and all of his pals!

After Chef Mickey’s, we rode the monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center to pick up our physical cards – we thought this would save us some time and hassle the next morning as we entered our first park. Even the monorail itself was a great adventure! We learned that the park cards have to be picked up at guest services outside of the taps at Magic Kingdom, not the TTC. This turned out to be a serendipitous mistake because we got to have a fun on the monorail AND it enabled us to take the ferry to Magic Kingdom. The ferry was empty because it was late in the day. I think I read somewhere that this was how Walt Disney intended guests to enter Magic Kingdom, and certainly did seem that way. It was so exciting for the kids to spot the castle in the distance, getting closer and closer, and get a “sneak peek” at some of the fun that lay ahead! We had made it!

We also were able to take our first PhotoPass picture without even entering the park – right in front of the train station! It was in this moment that we realized that MemoryMaker was definitely worth it. Theh cast member was kind, and we could see right away that the shots were awesome! We had planned to go back to the Contemporary to watch fireworks but we made the parental decision to call it an early night. We wanted the kids to be well-rested for an early morning at Animal Kingdom and their first Disney park!

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I really like how you did your wait time spreadsheet. It’s helpful to know when the best time of day for each ride is and what wait times are typical.

Thanks! It took a little time, but it helped me see everything all in one place.

Day #2, Monday, August 8: Animal Kingdom

Touring Plan (crowd level: 6, approx. 7 miles of walking)

8:00-10:30

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris (posted: 20 mins, actual: 15 mins)
  • Everest (posted: 5 mins, walk on, rider swap)
  • Kali River Rapids (posted/actual 10 min wait)
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek

10:30-11:00: Feathered Friends in Flight (arrived 10:28)

  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails

12:00-12:30: Festival of the Lion King (arrived 11:50)

12:30-4:00: Break

4:30-5:00: Finding Nemo (arrived at 4:25)

5:00-6:00: Dinoland USA

  • Triceratops Spin (posted/actual:5 min wait)
  • Dinosaur (posted/actual: 20 mins)
  • The Boneyard

6:00-6:45: dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue

6:45-8:00:

  • It’s Tough to be a Bug (posted/actual: 5 min)
  • Na’vi River Journey (posted: 30, actual: 20 min)

Animal Kingdom was the park the kids were most excited about. We had originally planned two days but decided on just one so that we could have a second day at Hollywood Studios. This turned out to be a good decision. Even with a break in the middle of the day, we saw and did everything we wanted to. Without early entry, it worked really well to start at the safari, do Asia in the morning, and then head back to Africa and finish with Festival of the Lion King in the air conditioning as the crowds increased and we started to fatigue.

We did Everest with our oldest using rider swap (although even that may not have been necessary because it was a walk-on). In the meantime, our youngest caught a bit of Kite Tails and a flotilla. Kali River Rapids was a must-do for both kids, and it was definitely hot enough for it! We also enjoyed having a snack in a quiet, shaded area down by the river. We enjoyed that shade so much that we lost track of time and got to Feathered Friends in Flight just as it was starting. There was plenty of seating in the upper sections, which was fine for us. We also cut it pretty close for the Festival of the Lion King, but we made it in! Even a month later, the kids still talk about this show!

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When we returned from our break, we headed straight for the Finding Nemo show. Again, we got there at the last minute and there were plenty of seats. While we weren’t in the front section, we could see just fine and really enjoyed the show. I thought the puppetry and costumes were Broadway quality - this was a favorite of mine!

We all rode Triceratops Spin and then split up in Dinoland USA because our oldest wanted to ride Dinosaur (he loves dinosaurs and watched a full ride video on YouTube but covered his ears and kept his head down the whole ride). I stayed with the youngest and took a few more rides on Triceratops Spin and then headed to the Boneyard. Honestly, it was still pretty hot even later in the day, but the little guy had fun climbing and sliding.

Because the kids love dinosaurs so much, we had planned to eat at Restaurantasaurus (seemed like a relatively cheap way to get a meal with some Disney theming), but we were surprised to discover that they closed at 6:00 on the day we were there. The cast members told us that the two quick service locations still open were Flame Tree and Satuli Canteen, so we pivoted to Flame Tree. There was a glitch with mobile ordering, so we lost a bit of time at Flame Tree. However, the food my husband and I ate was quite good – perhaps some of the best of the trip.

Our youngest wanted nothing more than to see “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” so we headed there next. My husband and I had seen it before and thought he might get too scared, but he made it all the way through and thought it was fun! (And still talks about getting sprayed by the stinkbug!) We decided to save Pandora for the end of the night and – with about 45 minutes until park close – had to decide whether to head for Na’vi River Journey or Flight of Passage. We picked Na’vi because it was a ride everyone would enjoy. The line moved more quickly at Na’vi than we expected and we were off the ride at 7:50. We could have scooted over to Flight of Passage and saw lots of people running in that direction. However, we decided to stop at a PhotoPass photographer to get our picture in Pandora. The cast member was very friendly and encouraged us to head over to FoP. However, with an early start at Magic Kingdom the next day and knowing our children’s need for a good night’s sleep (and not knowing if it would scare our five-year-old), we decided to call it a night and end on a high note. No regrets – something to look forward to next time!

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Reading your description of your final hour in AK, every cell in my body was screaming DO FLIGHT OF PASSAGE!!! But you’re wiser than I am. Good call!

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Which is smart. Because it’s the best park

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Sounds like you planned the perfect day!

@ParkRanger Haha - thanks - we felt the same way at the time! Even with 2 minutes to park close as we were walking out, I kept asking my husband, “Are you sure???” It’s hard to be a responsible parent sometimes…but I think it was the right decision.

@OBNurseNH My kids probably could have gone back to AK every day - just for the animals alone. On our last trip, my husband and I said we’d love to stay at AKL. I honestly could do a trip of just AK and Epcot!

@Cgerres Thanks - it did work out pretty well!

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We just did a split stay at AKL and BC. It was the perfect combination. We loved having the savanna just outside our room. And staying at BC we walked into Epcot almost every night to eat in World Showcase.

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Alright, so my tech skills are subpar and I am learning how to reply on forums… this is my first foray into any sort of discussion boards so please forgive all my deleted posts! I’m still working it all out… anyway… onto Magic Kingdom!

Day #3, Tuesday, August 9: Magic Kingdom

Genie+ Booking Summary (booked using BG1)

  • 7:00: Jungle Cruise (return window: 9:00-10:00)
  • Made an error trying to book a return time for Pirates (which was down most of the day), didn’t realize I hadn’t actually booked until…10:40: Haunted Mansion (return window: 11:40-12:40)
  • All return times were too early given our midday break until…1:10: Peter Pan’s Flight (return window: 4:40-5:40)
  • 3:10: Princess Fairy Tale Hall: Meet Cinderella and Elena (return window: 6:10-7:10)
  • 5:10: Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (return window of 6:40-7:40)
  • 7:15: began booking immediate return times for It’s a Small World, Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Barnstormer

Touring Plan (crowd level: 7, approx. 7.5 miles of walking)

9:00-11:00:

  • Let the Magic Begin show from near Adventureland bridge
  • Splash Mountain (standby, posted wait: 15 mins, actual wait: walk on)
  • Jungle Cruise (G+ return window of 9:00-10:00 booked at 7:00, 9:45 tap in)
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin (standby, posted / actual wait: 20 mins)
  • Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Aladdin character visit (10 min wait)

11:00-12:30: Frontierland / Liberty Square

  • Snack break (10 mins)
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Big Thunder Mountain (rider swap, 11:40 return time)
  • 12:00 Festival of Fantasy parade from river side of parade route across from Country Bears Jamboree
  • Haunted Mansion (G+ booked at 11:00, return time: 11:40-12:40)

12:30-5:30: Break

5:30-9:00: Fantasyland

  • Peter Pan’s Flight (G+ booked at 1:10, return window: 4:40-5:40)
  • Dinner at Columbia Harbour House
  • Princess Fairytale Hall with Cinderella and Elena (G+ booked at 3:10, return window: 6:10-7:10)
  • Royal Carousel (posted / actual wait: 15 mins)
  • It’s a Small World (G+ 7:15 immediate return time and tap in)
  • The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (G+ booked at 5:10, return window: 6:40-7:40)
  • Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid (G+ at 7:50, immediate return time and tap in)
  • Dumbo (G+ at 8:20, immediate return time and tap in)
  • The Barnstormer (G+ at 8:30, immediate return time and tap in)
  • Casey Jones Splash n Soak Station (empty!)
  • Watched fireworks from seating area at Gaston’s Tavern (empty!)

I felt somewhat frustrated at the start of the day due to the crowds and the learning curve of using Genie+. Our evening more than made up for it, and we realized that we truly did as much as we possibly could. Our day had gone so smoothly at Animal Kingdom, and we just hadn’t yet acclimated ourselves to the heat and the crowds. The plan was to stick to Adventureland and Frontierland in the morning and then hit Fantasyland in the evening after our break. We’d focus on whatever remained in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland on our second day at MK.

To start the day, I was feeling quite proud of myself for having used BG1 to book our first Genie+ reservation for Jungle Cruise and getting a 9:00-10:00am window (many thanks to @joelbruick – this was amazing! And it definitely felt like some kind of “cheating” to have the countdown clock at the top). We took the ferry over and watched Let the Magic Begin, which was a fun start. Staying offsite, I decided we’d rope-drop Splash Mountain and then use Genie+ for the other big rides. It wasn’t open when we got there, but, once it did, we were through standby quickly and had knocked out a big “must do”! I had planned to hit Pirates of the Caribbean after, but it was down.

We headed to Jungle Cruise to redeem our Lightning Lane and, after tapping, I thought I had booked a Pirates Genie+ but somehow missed the screen to confirm our time. Pirates stayed down the whole morning and this would have probably turned into an anytime Lightning Lane. I didn’t realize my mistake until we had come off Jungle Cruise and were waiting in line for Magic Carpets of Aladdin, which was the one ride my youngest was most looking forward to (he was all about that spitting camel!). After a bit of indecisiveness, I decided to book Haunted Mansion with a return window that would make it the last ride before our break.

We rode Magic Carpets and then cooled down in the Enchanted Tiki Room. I had never done Tiki Room before, but this turned out to be my favorite thing in all of Magic Kingdom (and my youngest loved it too! My husband and oldest son were just happy to have some air conditioning!) In theory, I could have probably made a Genie+ reservation after riding Jungle Cruise to avoid the 20-minute wait for Magic Carpets, but we didn’t really need an anytime Lightning Lane for the evening so it all worked out anyway.

After Tiki Room and Aladdin, we planned to do Rider Swap for Big Thunder. We checked in at Rider Swap, then I got in line with my oldest while my husband took the youngest to Country Bear Jamboree. After about two minutes of waiting in the heat, my oldest decided he didn’t want to wait, so we went to Country Bear Jamboree too. After the show, we realized that it we were within the time frame for the Big Thunder rider swap return, so my husband took my oldest to ride (we discovered this sort of loop hole; we didn’t do this again because it didn’t feel fair but was a happy accident).

In the meantime, I gave my youngest a snack in the shade down by the river – this was a great little path and seemed quite underutilized! We were also well positioned for the Festival of Fantasy parade. Being on the river side allowed us to use the path once the parade went by to get to Haunted Mansion easily, and my husband and oldest could also get to us from Big Thunder without having to cross the parade route.

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We got a great spot and, even in the heat of the noontime sun, enjoyed seeing all the characters go by. (Before the trip, my kids didn’t seem to be all that into characters, but they ended up getting really excited once we were actually at Disney). We used Genie+ to do the Haunted Mansion, opting to skip the stretching room so that my youngest would be willing to ride – this was a great Liner tip! He never would have gotten on that ride if he had to go the stretching room. We headed to the monorail just as a thunderstorm was rolling in, and we made it back to the car without a drop of rain!

Post 5a

During our break, I had to wait times to advance before I could book Peter Pan’s Flight. Once we were back in MK, we headed straight there. I had never done PPF ride before – it was cute but so quick that I can’t imagine it’s worth the long standby waits! We had dinner at Columbia Harbour House and had plenty of space upstairs, another great Liner suggestion. We then began a seemingly unending series of booking and using Genie+ return times. This allowed us to walk onto pretty much every ride in Fantasyland (except for Mine Train, which we were saving for rope drop on our second Magic Kingdom day).

As we headed to Little Mermaid, we stopped in the restrooms by Gaston’s Tavern and realized it had a great view of the castle. We decided it would be our viewing spot for fireworks – and what a spot it turned out to be! We had the back of Fantasyland pretty much to ourselves before fireworks. We rode Dumbo under a nearly full moon. The kids ran through an empty Splash n Soak station and hopped on the Barnstormer (we used the Lightning Lane but didn’t need to). The kids literally skipped through the empty back path shouting “This is the best place in the world!” Then, 2 minutes before fireworks, we pulled up stools from a closed Gaston’s to watch the fireworks. There were only two other small groups back there. We were sandwiched between fireworks from the castle and those being shot off behind the park. The kids thought this was the greatest fireworks show they’d ever seen. Feeling like we had our own private Disney fireworks show was one of the most magical parts of our vacation!

Post 5c

We headed out of the park and got some unbelievable photos of the castle illuminated from the back side with absolutely no crowds. Then, we joined the masses for the trek home. We probably should have done a ride or seen Mickey’s Philharmagic, but we were solely focused on getting our tired kids back to the car. We had read a great tip to use the resort monorail instead of the Express monorail, and the line was definitely shorter. It was still quite a wait, but we were riding high from a perfect night at Magic Kingdom!

Post 5d

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How fun! That sounds like my dream trip!

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The Tiki Room is one of my all time favorite experiences! I remember it as a child and it never disappoints. DL or WDW it is a must do!! I’m so happy it was your favorite. Also, I’m making note of where you watched fireworks. That sounds perfect for DH and I. We aren’t really interested in the projections or music or the throngs of people. Thanks for sharing!

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