An Incredible Trip...Trip Report 4/26-5/2/21

With a growing vacation budget from lack of COVID travel, DW wondered in January if we could pull off the Disney adventure…in COVID…she’s the spontaneous one…I’m the slow decision…one. But when Disney offered their Spring 30% off sale, DW got to the point where she asked, “so should I book this or what?” “Woah, woah, woah!!! I haven’t done any research!” But, she got my wheels a turnin, and I got the 2020 Unofficial Guide to Disney World from our library. Oh my, I lapped every part of it up. The planning, the details, the strategy! I was in love. Bought my touring plan membership and consumed all the forum goodness.
What I realized in reading trip reports in 2021, I came to see there are sooo many ways to Disney (and Universal), so it really helped our family hone how we wanted to Disney. Also, the forums gave us sooo much great information and tips. If anything in here can help someone else as they get ready, it would be a gift to pay it forward.
DW and I each did Disney as teenagers in the 90’s with our respective families with sweet memories, and we wanted to do the “dream Disney trip” when our kids would be big enough to do everything, and hopefully have some memory from the trips. DW’s company has a work conference in Orlando every four years that I get to tag along on, and at each conference, we’ve spent half a day to a full day at a Disney park. In January 2020, we had a full day at HS, including barely making one of the last boarding groups on ROTR…That was the moment where I said, “okay, I REALLY want to experience THAT with my whole family.”
So, how did we want to Disney? We wanted to do as much as we could…and still love each other while doing it. We consider ourselves fairly high capacity people, and while we can definitely turn it down if we’re on the beach…if there are things to do…well, let’s go!!!
Priorities for us -
being on-site (we’ll pay the premium for the full experience and convenience)
not all sleeping in the same room (DW and I plus our three kiddos (DS14, DD13, DS8? Not all in the same room, please!)
eating simple breakfasts with our kitchenette so we could eat whatever snacks and lunch/dinner meals without worry of cost
do as much as we could each day we are at a park (rope drop to maximize the experience, and no time to park hop!)
not have to worry about a rental car
Parents do the planning…kids, ask questions as we prepare…but be willing to be surprised.
appreciating and noticing the aesthetics and storytelling in everything from flower gardens, to ride queues, Main Street facades, and Cast Member excellence
challenging the whole family to go for it on things they weren’t sure about
Getting the whole family prepared ahead of time (watching Avatar, Star Wars, Toy Story, reading Harry Potter)

So, on 2/20/21, we pulled the trigger and booked our trip from 4/26 thru 5/2/21 at Art of Animation with three days of Disney parks, and a two-park one-day at Universal.

That sets the stage pretty well for our trip. More to come!

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Looking forward to reading more about your trip!

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4/26/21 - Travel Day

When we booked our flights in February, the middle schoolers were in hybrid mode (two in-class days/week and three virtual days), so they were only set to miss 2 in-class days. While I loved the idea of less crowds in late April, I was hesitant to have them miss the school…but DW was wise to say, “heck, this whole school year’s been wild…what’s a few extra missed days.” Ultimately, the district switched back to every day in-person, so they would miss more school, but we were all fine with it.

The only direct SW flight from KC on Monday 4/26 was leaving at 4:30pm and arriving 8:00pm in Orlando. I love flying SW, and I love flying direct, so we booked it for the five of us. That also meant the kids got a full school day on Monday, and DW and I wrapped up some work things and got a mow in before we left. It felt silly packing 6 suitcases for 5 people (not including carry-ons), but one of those suitcases carried an assortment of snacks/food. By the end of the trip, we were glad to have the extra room for souvenirs and gifts. Thank you SW for free checked bags! I was also wondering if we’d regret arriving relatively late…not maximizing that travel day in Orlando (amazed reading about others hopping off the plane and going straight to parks!)…but it really worked out great. Smooth flight (we packed our own dinner to clear out the fridge and also knowing there would be plenty of eating out over the week), and we landed a few minutes early. Easy work collecting bags and then crisscrossing the airport back to DME…the DME letter clearly lays out where everything is (which we received about 10 days before our trip). It’s more work having to collect your own bags, but we preferred that for this trip knowing we’d be getting to our room after 9pm…best to have our stuff rather than wonder when it would get to the room.

There was NO line at DME, which was so nice. Got there a few minutes before 7:35pm, walked to the front of the line, and was very impressed how they assigned us to a bus and specific seats on the bus…first taste of the week to come on how organized Disney would be to keep everyone socially distanced. Some folks were already on the bus in their assigned seats. We waited 5-10 minutes (at most), then rode on. Our bus was going to stop at AoA, Pop, Caribbean, and maybe Coronado. AoA was the first stop (lucky for us), and we hopped right off by 8:20pm or so. All this happened way quicker than I expected where I assumed we’d get to our room around 10pm. We didn’t get our room assignment until the highway exit right before AoA. We paid for a randomly picked suite (which can be Lion King, Nemo, or Cars). It was a bit cheaper per night to be randomly selected, and it added to the surprise factor. I requested a TP preferred Lion King room (my own nostalgia, I suppose?), did the TP fax at 30 days, and did nothing else. We were assigned a Cars room. Each kid hoped for a different area, but we watched multiple Cars movies before the trip and are glad we did to appreciate the theming.

Off the bus with our luggage, we walked through the lobby, and wow…it’s so impressively designed…felt like Vegas…but Disney! Walked straight to our rooms and unlocked using the Disney app…hardly any 5G reception in our Cars building but we got on wifi and got in. We didn’t have any Magic Bands and opted against it, so I walked to the lobby and waited a few minutes for room keys. They happily let me pick a different character card for each person…which the kids loved. We also had a furloughed cast member collect our Walmart grocery order and delivery it to AoA earlier on Monday. Worked so smoothly, and we were happy to support the CM for $25. AoA delivered it up to our room (when I called from our room)…said they’d charge $6 for that, but I never saw that on the bill. Worth having them deliver b/c it was quite a bit of stuff, and it’s a walk from the lobby to any room, really. After the travel, definitely worth the small tip to the delivery person!

We made it to our room to unpack by 8:35pm…and it felt like a great way to get ready for our first busy day on Tuesday. The theming of each area is just awesome. So much detail, such cool art/vehicles/etc. And the rooms carry that same feel. I can’t believe this is a value resort. Walking into the room, none of us realized the non-bedroom areas are fold-out beds. DS14 said, “uh, are we all sleeping in the same bed?” LOL. Nope! The kitchen table folding down into a bed is fun, and then the couch easily folds out too.

Of course, they wanted to try out the Cars pool, so we let them do that for a few minutes while DW and I got settled and ready for the morning.

Anticipation continues as we all knew it would be game on Tuesday morning at 6:59.59AM to try and get boarding for ROTR for our only day at HS! DW didn’t sleep great in sheer anticipation, and I woke up in the middle of the night to realize we had multiple extra old iphones for airplane movie watching that could be used to try and get boarding groups in the morning…turned out to be a good decision!

Overall, a great travel day and enough sleep to get ready for the adventure!

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Sounds like a great start! Can’t wait to read more!

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What a nice beginning! Looking forward to the rest of your Incredible Trip!

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You are a great storyteller! I can’t wait to keep following along!

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Tuesday 4/27

Woke the crew up at 6ish…5 central time (oi!) to eat Pop Tarts, yogurt, and spinach smashes…DW feelin the veggie love on the first morning! I really didn’t know how it would go waking everyone up so early for three consecutive mornings…morning one, success!

Since we’re heading to HS today, I prepped DW over the last few weeks on the ROTR boarding process…I’m in the tap/tap/tap gang, thanks to @bebe80 (which by the way…I couldn’t believe he wasn’t a paid staff person with all his posts & handy ROTR pdf’s…what a guy!). I’ve practiced probably 40 times with a 90% success rate so knew I’d probably get it but had DW ready (not super pumped and confident in me) with an extra few phones…so we had DD13 as the countdown-er from time.gov…and it hit me from someone else’s trip report to queue up another device with my log in for DS14 to try too…these youth and their technology. Sure enough, DW and I clicked too early, and DS14 snagged BG21. He was quite proud…I think there’s a chance I would’ve been able to get it with the back button…but glad we didn’t need to worry about it! As mentioned earlier, the cell signal was non-existent in our room and the wifi tested great…no issues.

We walked to the SkyLiner around 7:30 and it was a monster line wrapped back through part of Pop’s building…really tho, it moved quickly, and even with the build up at Caribbean, it got us to HS by 8ish. We lined up in a fairly big line on the right tent (definitely the shorter line), and they let us all through around 8:12am. We weren’t close to the front, but we weren’t stressed. Enjoyed the views of Hollywood Blvd, and went right to RNRC…it makes sense to me to do this first since it’s such a fast ride! We were on the first set of limos on the ride…been forcing the whole fam to listen to Aerosmith’s greatest hits for weeks…forgot the ride is over in like 90 seconds! Guess we didn’t need to get to the deep cuts about making love in elevators…sorry kids!

DS8 was a bit freaked by such a wild ride at the beginning and said he was done with coasters for Disney. Good start! But remember, part of how we Disney is being willing to try things. Next to TOT which I really wanted to do right away since the lines have been all sorts of long over the last few months if they only run one side. Simple wait, and we’d knocked both out before 9am…kids were now realizing the fun in store. Quick stop at Starbucks (Trolley Car) for coffee and the first snack. Carrot Cake Cookie! First, it shouldn’t be called a cookie (DW thinks it should be called a Carrot Cake Topper). Second, not easy to eat with hands only. Third, kids weren’t crazy about it, but DW and I both liked it! Mad props to the Liners who focused on snacks and food to give some great tips (and maps) for all the snacks!!! It came in handy all week.

Next up, Star Tours…wanted to sneak this in before the boarding group got called. I didn’t want them to experience Rise first and then go to an older Star Wars ride. Turns out though, we all LOVED Star Tours. I don’t remember it hardly at all from the 90’s, and we loved the updating of the new Trilogy. Exceeded expectations. DS14 naturally left his new Disney hat on the ride but didn’t realize it until we asked where his hat was right before we boarded ROTR.

No spoilers about ROTR, but I was so excited to do this with the kids. The ride blew my mind back in 2020. Today, when we walked out to the first Imperial reveal, everyone’s mouth’s dropped, and DD13 said, “wow, what a cool ride! now what?” She thought that was the end!!! Needless to say, we all loved it.

DS14 and I went back for the hat. CM’s are so great. Helped get it back, and we caught up with the crew as they took in Galaxy’s Edge. We had done our Docking Bay lunch order on the skyliner over…really wouldn’t have ended up at Docking Bay without all the Liner encouragement, and it was great. Five of us shared the ribs, pot roast, and chicken tip yip…mind you, we brought a lot of snacks and already had carrot cake and a Mickey pretzel. The Docking Bay theming is awesome, our first mobile order experience (fine to say prepare my food if you’re a minute or two away), and well spaced in the restaurant. Finishing lunch at 11:45am and having a 1:40 Savi’s reservation had the TP a bit puzzled. It didn’t give us a ride in between, so we dinked in Galaxy’s Edge, saw Chewy and Kylo, and tried blue milk (so good!).

Then, we wanted to shop in the Galaxy Edge market…and let me say, the only stupid COVID line at Disney was right here…why on Earth will they allow an infinite number of people shop in any end of ride shop (like Star Tours) but only let one family at a time into each open aired shop in Galaxy’s Edge? We waited over 30 minutes to get into the shopping area and gave up…not worth it, so dumb. (rant over). We didn’t follow the touring plan b/c we wanted to sneak in a ride before Savi’s so did Slinky Dog…TP time underestimated here, but it was okay. With all the adventure we’ve done, SDD doesn’t quite thrill the teens…but Toy Story Land is so cute and well designed.

DS8 and I went to Savi’s while the other three went back to the Star Wars shopping market (guess how that went?). Let’s say I’m glad I was at Savi’s…heard it was good (and it better be for $240 or whatever after taxes!) and oh man, it delivers. These are the cast members I love the most. Actors and actresses at heart who really care about how they deliver the message. DS8 loved it, and I was nearly in tears. The lightsaber is basically as tall as him, but he was a proud kid the rest of the day.

Waited too long to make the 2:30 Frozen show (whoops!), so did TS Mania…then came back for Elsa and company. Felt hard to time when to get in line for a show…touring plan didn’t seem to account for that. On that show, I think you should buffer at least 20 minutes. The pre-show for Frozen seemed like the only one that should be about 10 minutes longer…it played like 8 times in 30 minutes. But the real show is great, and the ending brings me to tears (is this just exhaustion or what?).

We walk through the pre-show of Walt Disney Presents since DW and I watched the Imagineers (so good!) and then did spinning Aliens (not me…I like my churros and frozen lemonade inside me) before heading to our 5:10 SciFi reservation…I was pumped for this since we didn’t get the ADR until the Friday before our trip. Mousedining came thru multiple times in the last 8 days before our trip. SciFi, so random! We try to be a no tech at meals family, so why not just all sit facing a B&W screen watching random old timey clips? DW and I enjoyed our private-ish dinner while we all scarfed great burgers/fried pickles/salad. All five got entrees here, and we needed it. Really enjoyed it!

Then did MMRR…that is such a great ride. The technology is so cool, and it’s so Disney. We loved it. Getting off that at 6:30pm, we had a 7:10 Oga’s reservation (thanks TP Res. Finder and people who suggested finding times late when the park hours were being adjusted!!!) with the park closing at 8pm…and we hadn’t ridden MFSR! The touring plan thought we’d be able to squeeze them both in but the lines were longer than expected…but wouldn’t Han try too? TP said we could likely be done with MFSR by 7:16 but it was more like 7:35. Honestly, I think the best part of the ride is seeing the Falcon out front and walking through the inside of the Falcon. Everyone in our party didn’t even really understand the ride…all preferred Star Tours.

So our Oga’s reservation had been cancelled.:disappointed: But we want up there, and they said they could take us if we were okay standing. Yes, please! It was a win. DD13 loved it (how do I parent her not to love bars quite yet?), and the tab was about the same price as dinner…geesh! Good thing we’re not worried about food and drink costs on this trip (keep saying it, self).

So fun to exit as the park winds down…it wasn’t dark but dusk, so DS8 couldn’t wait to bust out the lightsaber around the park…even survived a drop!

The SkyLiner line was super long…we wondered if we should’ve taken a bus instead (answer is probably yes), but it moves pretty quick, and we were on a Disney high. A great first full day.

DS8 lobbied hard for night swimming but we used the force to convince him otherwise…we’d be getting up early to rope drop Universal for a two-park day…good idea? Stay tuned!

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Wednesday 4/28 - Universal Double Park!

The TP Universal Liners app chat had some great tips for people staying at Disney to take advantage at Universal. Woke up early with few complaints and had reserved a Lyft XL (with 5 of us) ahead of time (Sunday night…they allow you to reserve a week ahead). I was worried we won’t get one with the rideshare shortages I’ve heard about. But no issues. Lyft picked us up around 7am and took us to the Hard Rock Hotel since we were going to Universal Studios Florida. Fun to walk through the hotel, down to the lowest level, get some coffee and donuts, and then take a beautiful short 5 minute walk thru gardens and a great path right over to USF.

IOA had EE (which we couldn’t access), so we wanted to rope drop USF opening at 9am…turns out we were plenty early sitting 2nd in line at the gates by 7:35 or so. Welcome guy/hype man came on the speaker from the balcony at 8:20 or so just to chat everything Universal. He spent about 90% of that time talking about Mardi Gras (which became our family running joke of the day…are you enjoying Mardi Gras or what?)…gates opened at 8:45am.

Our RD strategy changed since we were so close to the front. DD13 knew she probably wanted an interactive wand, but we knew Ollivanders wasn’t easy to pull off right now…but being sooo close to the front, we went for it. We didn’t speed walk to it though, because we wanted the Diagon Alley reveal to be more natural (since DW and I were blown away by it a few years ago). The kids (big HP readers) totally understood the Knockturn Alley as it happened but had “woahs!!!” as they entered DA…I let them soak it in while hustling to the Ollivanders line. 3rd group in line, went right in…waited 10 or so minutes in the lobby with a great host. He got a sense our DD “hoped” to get pick, and wouldn’t ya know that’s who got picked by the wandkeeper.:wink: Not sure how they communicated that, really. The wand picked her, and his characteristics for her really were spot on. She asked if we gave them info ahead of time…LOL!

From there, we did Gringotts’s and didn’t use our express pass since it was only 9:20. Worth it to see everything. Then, back into the main park to do Mummy (a near-favorite for all), Rip Ride Rocket (DS8 really didn’t want to but we basically made him. I picked out secret songs for everyone…but that process isn’t super easy. 3 people got their song. 2 didn’t…sadly DS8 may have had more fun if the Immigrant Song was rocking in his ears…alas), then Minions (cute)…we wanted to hit the Bourne show and didn’t want to miss one cutting it too close, but that theatre is huge…can cut it closer to show time at that ride (not Frozen Sing-a-long)…wish we could’ve snuck in Jimmy Fallon. Bourne is awesome. Very underrated. Then did Transformers and Men in Black. DD13 sat on MiB and instantly said, “woah, look at how old all this looks!” Nearly every ride at USF is new, so that stands out…DD…get ready for MK tomorrow ;).

Locker fiasco after MiB with wrong lockers opening. Employee did her due diligence to make sure I wasn’t stealing stuff, but it was a pain. If you’re taking lots of snacks (like us), not sure how you can avoid the lockers, but I wish you could on the non-metal detector rides. Lockers are dumb. Also, lost DW while going to the bathroom and having her phone in the locked locker. Only lost person of the trip was an adult, so we’ll call it a win!

Caught Kreacher in the window at 12 Grimwauld Place (since lost DW saw it a few times looking for us!) and hopped on the HE to IOA. The express pass moved so quickly before getting to the train area, the kids and I totally missed the cart viewing of people walking “thru” platform 9 3/4…dang it! I think the ride across on the HE is just so fun. Haven’t yet been able to make it the other way…some day.

We were starved once we got to IOA. Placed Three Broomsticks order while walking off the train. That actually worked out great b/c when we got there around 2:30, a worker said, “if you eat outside in the covered area, I can take you there now…yes please!” Such a great lunch of turkey leg/ribs/shepard’s pie/fish n chips/frozen & regular butterbeer. Recharged! Also, saw the Velocicoaster rides from there (not open to us yet).

Hagrid’s was stand-by line all day. Looks sooo long but moves fast…was 45-ish minutes total. While watching the ride in line (which felt strange to me since so many rides can’t be seen), I thought, “how can this be the best ride in Orlando?” As usual, don’t listen to me. It’s amazing, and even as a ROTR truther, Hagrid’s goes to the top. Just pure adventure and thrill. Even DS8 came around and was like “that is the BEST!” Then did Forbidden Journey. With IOA closing at 7, we wanted to still hit a lot and used our EP on FJ (not the original plan), but we felt like we got to see so much of the castle even with the EP and got to ride it as a walk-on. Great ride!

Hagrid’s had a 30 minute wait listed in TP, so we couldn’t pass it up and rode it again. The best! DS8 and DW rode Hippogriff while the rest of us shopped at Honey Dukes and got a churro (and another Butterbeer). Followed that up with Kong, Spiderman, Hulk for DW/DS14/DD13 and Pteradon for DS8 and me. Wow, what a day! The Touring Plan set us up great and the app was great all day.

Walked over to CityWalk and did easy dinner upstairs between Burger King and Panda Express. Kids wanted a win, and that was probably the cheapest meal of the trip! Easy Lyft back to AoA and even with the huge day, the kids wanted to swim for a bit while DW and I laughed to tears about our separate locker nightmare stories we didn’t get to talk about during the day. Let’s sleep before the third big day in a row!

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Thursday 4/29 - Magic Kingdom

DD12 turns to DD13 on this day! With a few balloons and a Mickey happy birthday sign, we celebrate her birthday by waking her up at 6am!!! The busses from AoA to the parks arrive around 6:40am each morning but people get in line before that. We got to the line by 6:37 or so and were wrapped thru the bus line and could tell it would be close if we make the first bus. Sure enough, we got the last seats (they don’t jam pack the busses) and timed it just right to be one of the first busses at MK. We were right at the front of taps at 7:20am. So fun to walk Main Street and see the castle in the early morning light. Birthday girl and mom took a few pictures in front of the castle while the boys got over to 7DMT. Line formed quick and all waited until they started the ride by 7:35ish. Quick walk-on followed by Peter Pan, It’s a Small World and Pooh. The adventurous kids had raised eyebrows at this point since those rides aren’t the most “exciting.” Lots of coaching from DW and me to try and help notice things to appreciate. The Touring Plan app changed recommendations after nearly every ride…didn’t always follow it exactly since it was all over the place. We skipped the Little Mermaid ride and did Haunted Mansion followed by birthday snacks at Sleepy Hollow…mobile order is so great. Nutella waffles and funnel cakes for everyone!

Then, TP sent us to Pirates…did a little souvenir shopping, and had time for one more ride before mobile order at Pecos Bill’s. Did Jungle Cruise (hilarious tour guide made the ride) and really enjoyed a lunch of nachos, tacos, corn dog nuggets (why not) and pulled pork. Kept missing the Calcavades as we rode over to Tom Sawyer Island…we all really liked it with our explorer styles…leaving the Island, remember there are two ports…the first port was super busy and we walked right on to the other boat…saved probably 10 minutes.

It was hot and busy by then, but we wanted to power through since we had a 7pm Homecomin reservation…Did Big Thunder…such a short line (basically a walk-on) and a great ride. Then, got stuck in our only really long line of the day at Splash…hot and in the afternoon so no surprise, but a ride breakdown added 10-15 minutes (60ish total). Then, time to get some Dole Whip from Aloha Aisle & Sunshine…delish! Topped it off by doing Big Thunder again and then finishing at Space Mountain.

Birthday girl wanted a backpack so shopped on Main Street. As we waited, finally a calcavade came by. I alerted the shoppers, so it was the end of a great day to have DD13 have Gaston tell her “Your birthday?! Sure bet you’re glad to get to see me!” and Moana say, “Thirteen!? About to leave the island!!!” Super cute and fun.

Hung out back at the resort for a bit then off to Disney Springs. Homecomin was just terrific. All loved it with the best seat in the place near the back with huge windows. Disney Springs was pretty busy on a Thursday night so we decided to shop then to not come back on our rest day.

Overall, we were all glad to hit it so hard Tuesday thru Thursday, but all agreed it was time to sleep in!

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DD13 at the castle and Homecomin

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Friday 4/30 - Rest Day w an adventure

Everyone appreciated the chance to sleep in. Lazy morning in the room until we hung out at the big blue pool from 10-12:45. It’s such a great pool. We were really glad to have our own snacks. The bar at the pool seems to take forever for food or drinks. Definitely would be faster to mobile order to Landscape of Flavors. The active kids also appreciated having a few pool toys like dive sticks and pool balls. Lifeguards were cool with all of it.

Since we changed the plan to avoid Disney Springs on Friday, we cancelled a dinner reservation at Disney Springs (House of Blues) earlier in the week but instead found an ADR (via Mousedining) to Sanaa at 2:45pm…so we had big snacks at the pool, changed and took the bus over to AK…then took the other bus to Kidani. We’ve never been over there…wow. It’s amazing. I get it now. The Sanaa meal was an absolute highlight for everyone. Bread service, yummy Indian food, and a cheeseburger for DS8 combined with the ridiculousness of eating next to zebras/ostrich/giraffes/oxen…so glad we did this on our off day. I’d feel pressure getting in and out of there if we were trying to get a lot in at AK since it really is out of the way.

Only whoops of the day was taking a bus straight from Kidani to Epcot just to see Spaceship Earth and take the skyliner back to AoA…did I mention we didn’t have park hopping passes and forgot the other entrance is where the skyliner is? Whoops! So we went back to the busses to get back to AoA. No biggie.

Lazy rest of the day at AoA. We planned to order a pizza from Flipper Pizzeria based on Liner recommendations but the line kept coming up busy. Instead just did the pizza night deal from AoA for the kids while DW and I ate Homecomin and Sanaa leftovers. DS8, DD13 and DW also ended up cuddled in a bed watching the Disney classic cartoons channel. Giggles and rest. A fine combination!

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Saturday, 5/1 - Animal Kingdom

Off bright and early on the first bus from AoA to Animal Kingdom. Similar timing as the other days…best to be there by 6:30am to make the first bus. Through taps by 7:15…people REALLY hustle to Pandora…but it’s just so well done…the whole area, any wait in line there is fine just looking at all the theming. The wait for FOP was short (10 minutes) but as we went up the stairs to our “room,” the cast member said to our group of 10 that the room wasn’t ready…we all went back down the stairs…and he said, “no, sorry, it’s good, come back.” Our family went back up and had the section to ourselves. Kind of a weird back and forth but the ride was amazing. So glad we watched Avatar with the crew a month or so before coming. Makes it that much more fun.

Navi was a walk-on…again, beautiful, and the Navi character at the end is just unbelievable. Walked on to the next show of It’s tough to be a bug…split in our group which was better between Bug and Philharmagic…I’m partial to Bug. Then, to Dinosaur…not a long wait…we enjoyed the exhibits before as much as anything.

Everett was next. DS8 (who had not been big on a lot of the coasters) wasn’t enthused. Everyone else loved it so DS14/DD13/DW did it again while DS8 and I sat in the rest area, had a snack, and watched a water calcavade. Those water parades were the best for us to catch a lot of them compared to the other parks…saw 4-5 at AK, barely 1 at the other parks.

Then did the Up Bird Show…wow, it’s so great. Let’s take care of the Earth, people!!! Then picked up Wilderness Explorer packets…it’s such a great program. Maybe my kids are too big but they didn’t really get into it. Listened well and asked questions at the first few stations but then were happy to just start skipping them. Off to Kali River Rapids…again, such a short wait (like 5 minutes) and the right amount of wet for our group.

Back to Flame Tree for mobile order lunch. KC folks know bbq, and this was just fine! Ribs/pork&macncheese/pulled pork sandwich/smoked chicken salad/onion rings. Yum! Best to walk all the way down to the water…great view, multiple calcavades, and a great way to recharge from a busy morning.

Afternoon of Maharajah, Discovery Island Trails, and Gorilla Falls Trails was a bit heavy on trails…but still, great animals and views of that sweet sweet tree! So glad we squeezed in the chance to take the train, do the Animation Experience (prior group did Bruce from Nemo…our group did the caterpillar from A Bug’s Life). How many different pictures do they rotate through? It felt very Disney and everyone was doing their best. Train back and a pretty short wait for KS…even in the heat of the day, the animals were great. Only missed lions/hyenas. DD apparently is obsessed with gators…so that made her day.

By this point, we’d done it all and were waiting for our Yak & Yeti 7pm ADR. So why not do Flight of Passage one more time and Everest a few more times! Even DS8 got in on the action for Everest #3 and #4. Turns out he loves it now! Also squeezed in snacks of DoleWhip and brownie ice cream sundaes (that sundae wasn’t on my radar at all, and it was great!) as well as a shared Night Blossom. We loved it…definitely sweet but tart with those passion fruit boba balls. Yak & Yeti was a fine final meal. Glad we got the ADR and switched to this from Sanaa (see the rest day experience for Sanaa…which is definitely the better meal…but we didn’t want to have to travel to Kidani at the end of our AK day). Park closed at 8pm, and we hoped to sneak out in time to walk thru Pandora at dusk…but too late. They force everyone’s path after 8pm to the exit…just means we need to come back when there are later hours!

Of course the kids wanted to swim on the last night…squeezing as much as we could.

Wrap up post coming next. So grateful for TP and all the help from this community…makes all the difference!

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Oh, and the title of this report was bc of our only coordinated shirt wearing for the week in front of that amazing tree. Really couldn’t get enough of looking from all the angles.
All the coordinated outfits makes me so happy thru all the parks. Way to go people!

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That is so cool! Love it when that kind of magic happens.

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Sounds like you all had a great trip!

Really enjoyed your trip report! Where at AK did you get this brownie ice cream sundae?

Same question here! I’m thinking Tamu Tamu?

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Correction Tamu Tamu! Good detective work! DS14 isn’t in to fruity dessert so that brownie worked out great. Brownie with two small chocolate chip cookies for Mickey’s ears with fudge and caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The only dole whip there was pineapple (which suits me just fine) but the sundae was also great!

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Sunday 5/2 - Travel Day

Turns out they aren’t kidding when they say show up 10-15 minutes before your scheduled Disney Magical Express departure time…everyone knows they give more cushion than needed (3 hours) and then say be there 10-15 minutes early…we weren’t “trying” to get there right at departure time, but sure enough, we show up at the front departure area, and the bus was pulling out…whoops! Departure supposed to be at 10:25 and it left at 10:25. We calmly walked over there, and the Mead Transportation person said, “here for the 10:55?” “Well, here for the 10:25.” She didn’t really give us grief but simply said, “we’ll try to get you on this one.” As more and more people showed up for their 10:55 bus departure, we started to wonder…what if we can’t get on this one?" Clearly enough time to Lyft if needed but not really wanting to spend an extra $60 plus on the XL when we have transportation right here! We made the bus with easily 2 hours cushion at the airport…sat outside and ate the rest of our leftover pizza while watching a giant stretch limo (with red carpet and a serious disco set up) get ready for an arrival…pretty entertaining, really. How much would something like that cost? $500?

Anyway, smooth travels the rest of the way home.

Things we’ll do different the next time:

  • Possibly split stay between Universal hotel and Disney

  • Park hop since we’ve experienced most of the parks the initial time?

  • Definitely hit up Epcot

  • Maybe try a water park

  • Be more strategic with ADR’s at 60 days…thought we would only want QS restaurants but at list one sit down a day seems right for us

  • Try a different Disney hotel that can do the suite

  • Longer stay!

  • More evening activities (fireworks? Pandora at night)

Things the same:

  • Rope dropping! So much can get done in those first 2-3 hours

  • Pool day with one small activity was great for us

  • Use an optimized Touring Plan (duh)

  • One Disney hotel…I don’t like moving a lot…someone would really have to sell me on the split stay

Can’t wait to get back! Thanks everyone for the help along the way!

  • All day at the parks worked really well for us…could see afternoon breaks if we’re closer to the resort tho.

  • Budgeting the vacation ahead of time to not sweat on spending while we’re there

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