Better Late Than Never Trip Report

We took our big family trip in December 2018 and I am just now getting around to doing a trip report. This trip had lots of firsts, even for a veteran Disney enthusiast (me). This is going to be long with lots of pictures, hopefully, people will enjoy!

The players:
Me, DH, DS, DDiL, DGS (18 months), DD, DSiL, DGD (8 years old)

The background:
I am the planner for all things Disney. I have been to WDW more times than I can count and grew up going to the parks every year since I was 4 years old. DH (he is actually my fiance but sticking with DH for trip report purposes) went to WDW for the first time in 2016 as we took our first trip there together. We have gone back annually since then. He isn’t a huge Disney fan but he is a huge Star Wars fan so it works.

As for the others in our travel party, none of them have ever been to WDW. The deal was that we would pay for their park tickets and hotel room but they had to pay for their flights and food.

DH has two adult children who are both married and have kids of their own. Since DH and I didn’t meet until 6 years ago, I don’t know his children well (they both live in different states, relatively far away). It is also important to note that I do not have kids. So, even though I have been to Disney so many times, it has never been with kids and my patience level with kids is minimal, to put it mildly. DH has two grandchildren, one who was 18 month at the time of the trip and the other was 8. His daughter is not exactly a disciplinarian with her daughter so DH was warning me that this could go very badly with lots of meltdowns (not sure if he was referring to the kids or to me :thinking:). On top of that, DD and DSiL are getting a divorce but both coming on the trip. What have I gotten myself into?

During the planning process (this trip was in the works for almost a year), it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to tell me the things they wanted to do. Despite me asking a ton of questions, sending them spreadsheets listing every ride in each park along with links to ride videos….I just got a lot of nothing. Add to that the complications of the family dynamics and I was frustrated going into this trip and not really knowing what to expect. DH also suffers from severe depression and anxiety and was undergoing intensive outpatient therapy throughout November, we weren’t even sure if we could go on this trip.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t all that excited about going to Disney. I was worried. I knew this was going to be a very different kind of trip but, I was worried about being able to adapt to a slower pace. Would this trip ruin my love of Disney? Would it end up being a horrible experience with arguing adults, cranky and demanding kids and DH’s mental health further deteriorating? Read on to see (spoiler alert - it was an amazing trip!)

The Dates:
DH and I arrived a day early, Dec 5th and stayed through Dec 12th (DH flew home late Dec 11th).

Everyone else arrived on Dec. 6th and stayed through Dec. 12th.

The Hotels:
DH & I spent the first night at the Poly, Club level with a Castle view. We wanted to treat ourselves before the craziness began!

We were all at POP Century (3 rooms) the remainder of the time.

Let’s jump right into Day 1!

Day 1

We arrived at MCO bright and early at 7:50 am (flight left at 5:30 am). We took DME to the Poly and while our room wasn’t ready (we didn’t expect it to be, that early) we were able to grab breakfast at the club level so that was a nice way to start the day. I hadn’t stayed at the Poly since I was 4 years old, and I certainly don’t remember much from that stay!

The weather was pretty cool on our first day, it only got up into the 50s and it was windy. Coming from the midwest, it was still warm for us but chillier than I was hoping for.

The views of the castle from the club level lounge made me smile!

Club Level Lounge

We had a lunch reservation at Sanaa (first time eating here!) so we took a Minnie Van (first time using) and checked out the Christmas decorations at Animal Kingdom Lodge, grabbed some desserts from the Mara and checked out the savannah (not a lot of action, unfortunately). We then took the shuttle over to Kidani to check-in for lunch.

We got a seat right at the glass and much to our delight, there were quite a few animals roaming about. We ordered the bread service and it did not disappoint. I ate so much of that, I could barely eat my meal (I ordered the appetizer of the Shrimp Tinashe) but the food was delicious. DH is a VERY picky eater but he was able to find something he liked (he got the braised beef).

After that, we took the bus to Disney Springs to do The Void. We had done this when we were there in October. DH is a huge Star Wars fan and wanted to do it again so we did! We also took in the Christmas Tree Trail (first time seeing this!). I loved seeing all of the themed trees. I used to run a Dalmatian Rescue so the 101 Dalmatians Tree and the Haunted Mansion trees were my favorites.

We got our room ready text so we headed back to the Poly to relax before we headed out to the Magic Kingdom.

We were in Room 3502 in the Hawaii building which is the exact room I requested! I’m not going to lie, I loved the view from the room. I was underwhelmed by the room itself but the view was great and the toiletries were pretty awesome too. I may have gotten up in the middle of the night just to check on the castle :wink:

Next, we caught the monorail to head to the Magic Kingdom (my favorite and always our first-day park). By this time, we had been up since 3:00 am and we were getting tired but got our second wind once we walked into MK. It was going to be chilly for fireworks (down into the low 40s) so we layered up and were thankful we packed some gloves. We had a few stops to make for the Fairy Godmailer but took some time to take in the festive atmosphere on Main Street.

Since we were going to have two more days at MK, we mainly came tonight for the HEA Dessert Party but we did ride POC and Peoplemover. We caught the castle lighting which was so beautiful. I have never been to WDW during Christmas and those icicle lights just took my breath away.

We booked the Garden View, “after” dessert party so we checked in at Tomorrowland Terrace, got our wristbands and headed over to the garden area. We headed for the back along the fence. It got downright cold just sitting still waiting for the fireworks to begin. It was fairly crowded but we had decent views - I am vertically challenged so I usually always have someone who stands and blocks my view but we had enough room that I could move around a little to get pretty good views.

As always, loved the fireworks and seeing Tinkerbell fly (I bet that was a cold flight tonight!). This is actually the first time we have seen HEA. The last two times we have gone to Disney and MK, we have done MNSSHP and only seen the Hallowishes fireworks. See, this is a trip of lots of firsts! This was also our first time doing the dessert party and I don’ think I could watch HEA from here on out without booking the dessert party. I am not a fan of crowds so this was perfect. If we could have afforded to do this later in our trip once everyone else joined us we would but for a party of 8, it was just not possible. What they don’t know won’t hurt them!

After the fireworks, we headed back to Tomorrowland Terrace to enjoy the desserts. This is the first time I had the ooey gooey toffee cake (yum) and the cheeseburger spring rolls (these had both been on my food list for a while). I absolutely LOVED the Smores station. The area was not crowded and we didn’t have to wait in line for the desserts at all.

We caught Once Upon a Time as we were leaving the dessert party and decided to call it a night so we headed back to the Poly. The rest of the troops would be arriving tomorrow so we had a full morning planned to resort hop to see the Christmas decorations before they arrived, then we would check-in at POP Century. Our peaceful couple time was almost over but it was a perfect day.

Stay tuned for Day 2!


Thanks for sharing! I love reading trip reports!

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That is one great first day!!! I don’t know that I could have gone from a deluxe resort to a value. We did the opposite at Christmas: Pop two nights and then AKL for 5 nights.


Can’t wait to hear more! Trip reports are my favorite!

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It really wasn’t too bad. We hardly spend any time in the room so we didn’t really get a chance to enjoy the benefits of a deluxe resort. In the end, we are content with the values. If we spent more time in the room or had a resort day, I could understand the appeal of a deluxe.


Day 2
We slept in (kind of) and grabbed some breakfast in the club level lounge and called bell services to transfer our luggage to POP Century. It only took them about 10 min to get to our room and get everything tagged so we headed out to walk over to the Grand Floridian to see the Christmas tree and gingerbread house. It was a chilly but sunny day and nice to walk around and take in the sights.

The tree was so gorgeous and the gingerbread house was fabulous. The atmosphere of the lobby was just what we needed to get our day started. Next up was our morning in Epcot so we took the monorail. I just love going through the park on the monorail before exiting.

We had a FP+ for Test Track. This was another first! Every time we have tried to ride this in the past, it was down. We also generally go for short trips - 2 or 3 days so this was one of our longest trips to WDW. One advantage I am finding for a long trip is the ability to do a lot of the rides we have missed in the past. We both enjoyed Test Track but agreed that our favorite Tier 1 is still Soarin.
Next, we walked around WS with the intention of taking in some of the Festival of the Holidays booths and storytellers but we had a lunch reservation at Teppan Edo and had to walk fairly quickly to make the reservation.

The meal was good, we rarely do table service and I was reminded of why - you spend sooo much time at meals this way. We would rather grab a quick service meal and keep going but for today, it was nice to relax a little.

Next, we walked over to Yacht Club and Beach Club to see their Christmas decorations and the carousel.

We got our room ready text for POP Century and we got room 3401, this was somewhat close to what I requested - the same building and floor but the room was facing the pool instead of the lake. As we were looking at our last set of Christmas decorations, we got a text from DS that they had landed and were on DME heading to POP. So we ordered a lyft and went to POP Century. We stopped by the front desk to ‘opt out’ of Mousekeeping and were told we would be sent an email with a link for the gift card. We could either link it to an existing WDW gift card account or just show the bar code in the email to use it. Side note: by the next day, I still hadn’t gotten an email and neither had DSiL but a quick stop at the front desk and they sent it again and we got it instantly.

We went to the room and our bags were already there so no issues with a split stay and getting luggage delivered. View from our room:

I really love the refurbished rooms here. This was our first time staying at POP so I have nothing to compare it to but having one of the beds as a murphy bed was perfect for the two of us and gave us more space. We both decided we would happily stay at POP again.

The first of the kids arrived so we met them in the food court so they could grab some food. They had flown in from New Mexico and had been up early. DGS (18 months) did great on his first plane ride and was hungry!

I know the food courts at the value resorts get a bad rap but honestly, for our group of picky, non-adventurous eaters (very few foodies in this group!) it was fine. I liked their wide variety and everyone was always able to find something they liked. I thought their pot roast and mashed potatoes were really good and their wood-fired pizzas were great as well.

The rest of our group wasn’t arriving until later that evening and we had to go buy our memory maker (DS is military so we could use his discount and didn’t have to purchase in advance). So, while DGS and DDiL stayed at the hotel, me, DH and DS headed to Disney Springs. DS is also a huge Star Wars fan so he and DH did the Void (DS loved it!) and I walked around Disney Springs and enjoyed the Christmas Tree Trail at night. It was so nice and not crowded at all. They even had “snow”. Very festive atmosphere. The two toy soldiers on stilts were so fun to watch.

As we were getting ready to leave Disney Springs, we got a text from DD that they had landed and were on their way to POP so we headed back.

As part of this trip, I put together gift bags for each family that included things like glow in the dark toys for the kids, first visit buttons, matching family t-shirts for two of our park days, things for their park bag and other goodies. I also made up a brochure for each park day that had a list of our fast passes, ADRs, park hours, the time to be at the bus in the morning, a map from our touring plan and the order we would attempt to do rides. Unfortunately, I failed to take a picture of the bags but here is the poem I wrote for each of them and a picture of the brochures. Yes, I am a planner and always kept thinking this was overkill but, I did it as much for me as I did for them!

We turned in somewhat early after catching up with everyone because tomorrow was our first park day and we were doing Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom. Would everyone be up in time? Would everyone remember to wear their matching shirts? Can we make it through our first day without any meltdowns? Stay tuned to find out


Thanks! It was fun putting it together and reliving it!

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Can’t wait to hear more

Love all of the little things you did for your family!! And everything looks so festive!! Visiting at Christmastime is on my bucket list!

I love your note about sending a spreadsheet with links because it’s totally what I would do(though have not had a Disney trip in a long time!
I’ve actually found that overwhelms people so now I give them a few choices. If someone comes up with something else they want, I will add it in.

Day 3 First Park day with the family - MK for EMH and staying for MVMCP

Much to my pleasant surprise, everyone was at the bus promptly at 7 wearing our matching shirts!! We arrived at MK around 7:30 (park opening was 9 but EMH at 8). I wasn’t sure if DGD was excited for Disney or if she was getting to the age where she wouldn’t be into all of the characters and princesses. I was tickled when I saw her wearing her tiara, it was cute and she was excited. It was another chilly morning but prospects of warmer temps as the day went on.

We made it through security with the stroller and trying to keep everyone together. Made it through the tapstyles and started making our way through the tunnel. DGD was glued to me and I am not sure who was more excited! That first glimpse of the castle and her utter delight brought a tear to my eye. I don’t have kids but it was pretty awesome to see her excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

We fast walked (OK, DGD and I tried to fast walk but the rest of the crew was walking very leisurely. This would be a common theme throughout the trip) down main street and we all stopped to get our family photo in front of the castle.

Thank goodness it was early and not too crowded because I did not want to be THAT family who does a zillion different photo configurations but we were. We did shots of all of us, shots of each family, shots of DH with his kids, shots of DH with his grandkids…luckily it was all pretty quick and no one behind us so we could enjoy and get the photos we wanted.

First up in our TP was 7DMT. By this time it was around 8:10 and as we were casually strolling towards fantasyland, I was checking my watch and watching determined people heading for the same place we were. But, I had promised DH I would try to slow down, relax and enjoy things and just roll with it. Boy was that hard. On the way to 7DMT, we passed the teacups and DGD just HAD to go on them. Because I didn’t want to bring down the hammer this early in the trip, I explained that it might mean we wait longer for 7DMT and she said that was fine (at this point, she would have said fine to anything, she just wanted to ride the tea cups!). There was no wait so she and DSiL rode the teacups. We continued on to 7DMT, we had fast passes for it later in the day but there was only about a 20 min wait so we got in line. DS and DGS opted out and he didn’t want to do rider swap so they walked around Fantasyland while we rode. DGD loved this ride. She loved the queue with the jewels and the spinning barrels. She got really nervous as we were loading but she giggled with delight during the whole ride. By now, it was 8:45 and we headed to WtP. We did the stand-by line and the honey wall was a hit with the kids (young and old alike!). DGS was just mesmerized by everything! He had the widest eyes and was just taking it all in.

Next he headed for our BOG reservation. Another first, I have never eaten here yet and was super excited. This was the one reservation I had trouble getting for a party this large. We had three of us at 9:25 and 4 of us at 10:05. We got there early, around 9:15 and when we checked in we had no trouble getting our whole party together and were able to go in immediately so we placed our order and found a table. We didn’t do the dining plan (I knew it was an expense OOP option) and I have to say that for the amount we paid for the food, I was really disappointed. The atmosphere was great and we walked around each room but the food was not great. This was definitely a once and done (for breakfast, at least).

After breakfast, we headed to Dumbo for DGS. I hadn’t ridden this in I don’t know how many years but one of my fondest memories as a child was riding this ride. So, it was pretty cool to have the whole family spread out riding it. DGD decided she wanted to ride Barnstormer so DH, DS, DDiL, DGS and I headed to meet Daisy and Minnie. We had no idea how DGS would do with characters. He was not too sure when he met Daisy. Once his mom picked him up, he was a little better but not too into it. He didn’t cry or anything but definitely had a look of concern on his face.

While he was with Daisy, he saw Minnie and was very interested in her. When we got to Minnie, he actually gave her a high five and a coy smile, it was pretty cute.

After we joined up with the others, there was a lot of just standing around trying to decide what to do next. Ugh, this drives me nuts. This is why we have a touring plan! By now, we were pretty off track from our plan but still had gotten a fair amount done. We had a FP+ for ETWB but DGD said she didn’t want to go on it. She spotted Princess Fairytale Hall and asked what it was so DGD, me, DD, and DSiL headed there for the Princess Tiana and Rapunzel meet and greet. I honestly don’t know what the others did, probably just stood around ha ha.

Now, given that I don’ have kids and really don’t like the face characters, I have never done a face character meet and greet. I was blown away by Tiana - she was fabulous! She hugged DGD and acted like they had been friends forever. They were chatting about their tiara’s, Tiana wanted to touch DGD’s tiara and DGD wanted to touch Tiana’s tiara, then they posed for pictures. This is quintessential Disney - DGD doesn’t get a lot of attention at home given her parents situation (going through a divorce) and she just loved being the center of attention with the princesses, she was beaming! I had lots of pixie dust in my eyes during this one.

By now, it was around 10:45. Even though we didn’t stick to our touring plan, we had gotten a lot done (more than I thought we would). We had a FP+ for PPF so we headed that way and saw there was only a short wait for IASM so of course we had to do that one! Once again, DGS was just fascinated by all of the lights and music and everything in the ride.

Next was our PPF FP+. This is one of my favorites and DGD sat with DH and I - she loved it and I got to point out all of the details to her. So far, this was shaping up as a great first day.

By now, it was close to noon and we were going to do our mid-day break. I have NEVER done a mid-day break before so this was tough for me. I am not good with just sitting around, I feel like it is wasting time. But, with this group I knew I had to adjust. Plus, we (6 of the 8) had MVMCP later that night. So, DS, DDiL and DGS headed back to the hotel. The rest of us took the monorail over to the Poly. This started as DGD wanting to ride the monorail around the whole resort loop. But, on the way to the GF stop, she decided she didn’t want to do that anymore and wanted to go back to the hotel. I tried to convince her to get off at GF to see the Christmas decorations but she wasn’t interested. So with the promise of a Dole Whip and a Minnie Van ride back to the hotel (I have no problem with bribery), we got off at the Poly, went to the Pineapple Lanai and got some Dole Whips (I added rum to mine, DGD was non-stop chatter and I needed a little boost ha ha). The Dole Whips were a hit, everyone loved them so they were officially indoctrinated to the classic Disney snack.

I really think I get more excited about the Minnie Vans than anyone else in our party but I just love them.

Back at the hotel, DGD wanted to go to the pool. I needed a break so I told her that her mom could take her and I would come down later. We grabbed lunch and DH actually did go back to the room to rest. One thing his depression has really impacted is his energy level. So, it was good we had this break. I headed down to the Hippy Dippy pool to find DD texting on her phone while DGD was alone in the pool. I felt bad for her so I went over and sat at the edge of the pool while she played.

It had gotten pretty hot out so the pool was crowded but not too bad. Our room was closer to the bowling pin pool but that was more of a quiet pool and DGD wanted to play in the big pool. She practiced swimming laps and showing me what she could do. She also practiced diving underwater and did a somersault underwater, she was very proud of herself.

We still had a FP+ for 7DMT and DGD absolutely wanted to ride it again. DH, me, DGD, DS, DDiL, and DGS all had tickets to MVMCP so we headed out to go back to MK around 3:30. Once we got there, DGD and I were walking fast to head to 7DMT but everyone else was way back at security. No one else wanted to ride again so DGD and I booked it back to Fantasyland with the promise to catch up with everyone after. As we were heading back to 7DMT, we saw a cast member doing the water art. I had read about these but never seen one so we stopped briefly to watch as Minnie Mouse started to take shape.

We rode 7DMT and she was excited that we had a FP and didn’t have to wait in line.

After 7DMT, we headed over to Frontierland because I saw on the lines app that Splash Mountain had a low wait and DGD said she wanted to do it. She always talks big but as we get closer to boarding the ride she gets all scared. But, once the ride starts, she is fine. I stopped so she could see the drop and she said she still wanted to ride as long as I would hold on to her. Now, I am not a huge fan of this ride and the drop but I sucked it up and pretended like it was no big deal for her sake.

I love the ride photo of this ride - I look like I am riding by myself because she ducked down so low when we went down the drop. I got soaked which she loved and as soon as we got off the ride, she said she wanted to ride it again!

Instead we met up with the others near the Splash Mountain exit where DGS was playing in the play area. We let the kids burn off some steam and then walked back over to Fantasyland , walked around the back side of the castle taking pictures. We got to the front of the castle just in time to see the early Frozen Holiday castle lighting. DGD and DDiL were in awe - they loved it!

Every time I go to WDW, I always want to buy the Mickey Balloons. But, we only go for a few days and we fly so I’ve never bought one. Well, now was my chance! What better way to identify our stroller than with a few balloons. So, we stood in line and bought 2 balloons, again, I think I was happier about this than the kids were!

We all had light up necklaces and by now it was dark so it was time to light them up! They also served the purpose of entertaining DGS as he was in his stroller. We walked over to Tomorrowland and rode the Peoplemover, this is another one of my favorites and there was no wait so it was nice to ride and see all of the Christmas lights.

After the Peoplemover, we headed back towards the Hub to get a seat for the parade. Got a great Castle Picture with all of us then DH and DS went to Casey’s (love mobile order!!) and managed to find us again in the crowd. We all had dinner. Personally, I love Casey’s and their corn dog nuggets. DGD declared the mac and cheese was the best she had ever had! (no foodies in this group but that is OK).

They were doing pictures in front of the castle as we waited for the parade so we got a good one of DDiL and DGS.

DGD announced that she was not interested in watching the parade. She was bored waiting for the parade to start and said she was just going to sit down and play a game during it. But….once the parade started, she was enthralled! She was waving at all of the characters (she’s wearing the pink coat in the following pic) and enjoyed it immensely. DGS was also captivated by all of the characters and lights. He was dancing and moving to the music. This is pure Disney - the sheer joy that they experienced was magical for me. The parade was great. Probably a once and done for me but very glad we saw it. I love the toy soldiers and the reindeer!

We let the crowd thin out after the parade and decided to walk around and move locations for the fireworks. By now, we still hadn’t gotten any of the hot chocolate or cookies so we were on a mission. I had read that Pinocchios Village Haus was a cookie station that offered all of the cookie varieties so we went against the grain and headed that way. We scored! They were giving us more cookies than we could hold (which DGD loved) and we got some hot chocolate since it was starting to get pretty chilly out.

We did a quick castle picture with all of our light up necklaces (and one of the balloons we bought!) and then found a spot for the fireworks. We were fading, it had been a long day with so much packed in.

I love this picture and it will always remind me of how wonderful our first park day was. No tantrums, no melt downs and aside from some minor personality issues, it was a great day!

The fireworks were great, DGD was oo-ing and ah-ing during the whole thing. Poor DGS didn’t make it, just as the fireworks started, he passed out and slept through the whole thing.

DGD had been so good all day - no complaining and no playing on her phone so I told her I would get her a Marie pin. So instead of walking down main street after the fireworks, we went through the shops and bought some pins. We met up with the others at the exit and headed to the bus to POP Century. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long, they were running the accordion buses. We had just missed one but another was right behind it. We arrived back at the hotel around midnight but tomorrow is our late day so we could sleep in and recover. First Park Day is in the books, would the magic continue? Hollywood Studios is up next.


Loving your report!! Great pics (especially the splash one, so many different reactions lol), such a beautiful family. I feel all warm and fuzzy reading about you and DGD, sounds like you made things extra special for her :blush:

Yes, I think this group was totally overwhelmed. Luckily, I think it all worked out but as a Type A Planner, it was agonizing lol

Thank you, it really was such a great trip. To see things through her eyes and have someone who shared in my excitement of Disney was pretty special!

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This was the first time I had visited during the holidays and it really was awesome to see all of the decorations and festivities

Thanks for reading and following along!

So far I can see the workings of a Grandma and Granddaughter Disney weekend in the future. :wink:


It’s funny you say - I have a super short trip booked for August, just a weekend because I got a good deal on Wilderness lodge. I was thinking that might make a nice trip to take her for the weekend :grin:


Love it! I have no grands yet…but this will be me if and when I do. Great report!

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I love the pamphlet idea! I may have to use this for our upcoming trip!

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