Just a warning that this one may get a little long. In typing it up in Word, it was 18 pages! Also, I'm posting the entire thing in one thread in different posts in quick succession. I get frustrated by others when they post one day and you get invested in reading it and then it's another week before they post another. So here is day one:
This trip was from August 20 through the 25th. The participants were myself and DS9. DW and DS4 did not go on this trip. DW was not fond of the heat at this time of the year and isn’t a huge Disney fan. The trip was intended to be just me and my son for a good trip before school starts. We didn’t take DS4 since he is too small to ride a lot of the bigger rides.
We made our reservations in May to stay at All Star Sports. This was our first stay at a Value resort. We stayed at the Polynesian in 2012 and then in 2015 and 2016 we stayed at Wyndham Bonnet Creek using either free or steeply discounted points from a co-worker who literally has millions of points each year. I had originally booked Beach Club through MVT, but in order to stay in good graces at home, switched to Sports to save money since this was going to be a park heavy trip and we really only needed a bed at night.
We live in NC, so we planned to drive to keep costs down. I love to drive, so the 8+ hour drive was no big deal. I’ve done 21 hour drives straight from NC to parts of TX, so this was a piece of cake.
Our last two trips have been the first full week after Labor Day in September. The weather is maybe a tad cooler, but the lines are way shorter that week. For this trip, I decided I would be a good parent and not pull my son out of school to go to Disney. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake, but more on that later.
When making the reservations, the incremental cost difference from a 4-day ticket to a 5-day ticket was negligible, so we decided to do one park upon arrival on Sunday. I left it up to my son as to what time we would leave, and he said, “how about 4 am.”
The car was packed and ready to go the night before. I woke up around 3:10 and he was up when I got out of the shower and we were actually in the car at 3:30 am. About 25 minutes down the road, we had our only real epic fail of the trip. My son asked me where his shoes were! He thought I packed them the night before and I thought he would put them on before we got in the car. I wasn’t about to turn around, as we had flip flops and an old pair of “backup” shoes in case of trouble.
When we made our first pit stop, I looked up the outlets in Orlando and found a Nike outlet at one of the two outlet malls along I-4. Due to the early nature of our departure, the ones along the way in SC, GA and FL wouldn’t be open as we passed. We made it to the outlets in 8 hours with 1 gas stop and two rest area stops. We hit the outlets at 11:30 and made it to Sports by 12:15 or so. Probably could have done door to door in 8:15, which would have tied my record.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 20
We arrived at the hotel and went to check-in. We had done the automated room fax request and requested the Home Run Hotel. Upon check-in, they said our room in the tennis building wasn’t ready, but they had one in the Home Run Hotel, which was great since that was what we wanted anyway. We went to our room and unpacked and our stuff. We headed to the food court to get some lunch. By this time, it was probably about 1:30 or so. We hopped on a bus to AK where we had FPPs for Kilimanjaro (5:15), Everest (6:15) and Flight of Passage (8:10).
Despite having a FPP for FOP, we wanted to ride it multiple times. I told my son that this would be the only day that I would ask him to wait in any really long lines. With the standby time at 100-110 as we approached, we hopped in line. The queue was nice, but any queue for nearly 2 hours gets monotonous. The posted wait time was dead-on. Without ruining it for anyone, we loved it! I would call it Soarin’ on crack. If Universal had this technology, I could see them doing a Harry Potter broom ride to make Forbidden Journey look tame.
After FOP, we saw that Na’vi River Journey was about 60 minutes. Again, I promised my son that this would be the only day I would ask him to wait in anything really long (longer than 30-45). This queue is rather boring and, although mainly shaded, is barely in any air conditioned spaces. The standby time was again pretty accurate and we hopped in our boat and were off.
My son hated this one. Now, I think some of that had to do with the length of the wait relative to the quality of the ride. Personally, I wouldn’t wait more than 15-20 minutes for this ride, and I figure that once Pandora calms down, that is what this ride will end up being. But with the long waits for FOP, people probably figure that this wait seems short.
After NRJ, my son wanted to get some sort of frozen drink. I figured since I essentially made him wait in lines for 3 hours, that was a fair trade. We went to Zuri’s Treats and found him a strawberry frozen drink. We sat down in Harambe and I got a free cup of water from a nearby QS location. We chilled for a minute as we waited for our Kilimanjaro FPP window to open up.
One note about the water: Disney has some of the worst tasting tap water on the planet. I actually wonder if they do that on purpose to force you to buy more Dasani. We tried the cups of water, water fountains, water in the room, etc. They all taste pretty bad!
Next, we headed to Kilimanjaro. Initially, my son had said he didn’t care to do it after doing it the last two trips, but I figured we would do it on one of our two AK days. It was a solid ride, but after riding it once or twice, I’ve never seen anything super amazing. The ankole cattle were blocking the road pretty well, but otherwise it was a pretty uneventful trip.
Next we headed over to Everest. Our FPP window hadn’t opened, but the wait was only posted as 25 minutes, so we rode once via standby. But the time we were off, our window opened and we hit it again. When we were done, we still had over 90 minutes until our final FPP for FOP, so we rode Everest a third time. By this time, my head was bothering me just a bit, which usually never happens on coasters. I told my son I was done for now with Everest, and we were both hungry.
We started a trek to find some food, which he wanted a hamburger. We headed back towards Harambe and found a cast member who suggested Restaurantosaurus. We made our way to Dinoland and ate there. My son had the kid’s burger and I got a salad. It had started to sprinkle when we were on Everest and some folks started to leave. It never did more than mist or sprinkle, and it was actually quite refreshing.
After eating, we went to the play area, but most of it was closed because the slides were too slippery from the rain. By this time, it was about 7:45, so we headed back towards Pandora. We tapped into FOP about 5 minutes early and rolled through the FPP line. The second time was still amazing. This, to me, is a ride that can be done over and over again. I noticed something new on each ride. The water, the scents, the views in the distances. Awesome!
One note is that people were definitely correct about the glasses. My son had to ride with one hand holding his glasses at all times. I wonder if they are looking into a way to try to correct this one problem and provide some better fitting glasses. Later in our trip, I had a pair that wouldn’t stay on and I had to ride one-handed.
After our second FOP ride, my son wanted to ride Everest in the dark. By this time, Rivers of Light was nearly starting and the rain was still spitting a little, so the lines for Everest were nil. We rode it another three times in a row before I had to throw in the towel. By this point, it was a little after 9 pm and we decided to head out.
We headed towards the exit and got to the bus line about 9:15. We had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a bus, but were able to get on the first one that came. Man, they can sure fit a lot of people on those things!
We headed back to the hotel, showered and watched a little TV to wind down before lights out around 10:30 or so.