How did the rollercoaster end? An unlikely report from an unlikely trip on dec 19-22

So some of you may have followed along the rollercoaster (or trainwreck) that was my trip planning back in december. You can read all about it here: This is very embarrasing... no park reservations... -> we are going, I think!

To sum it up, last fall our whole trip to the US (due to travel restrictions from Europe, among other things) seemed so unlikely that I was fully expecting to cancel the WDW trip along with everything else. As the restrictions eased up, it became a bit more likely that we would travel, but we were still very uncertain about WDW. Ultimately, we chose to go as the covid situation in Florida hadn’t blown up (this time around) yet and we were healthy, vaccinated and willing to take the calculated risk of getting sick (we were spending the following 2+ weeks in FL pretty much on our own any way). Would I make a different choice now? Maybe, because even though we avoided covid, it did bring a lot of stress which I will talk more about later.

So these unusually late decisions, along with being stressed out of my mind at work and various other things, meant that 3 weeks before the trip, I realized we had no park reservations. Almost all parks were fully booked, but as you can read in the other thread, eventually availability started showing up and I managed to secure park reservations to everywhere else but HS, where we would hop to. At this point I was in a complete haze having gone back and forth between travelling and not travelling several times. So we are going now?! We squeezed a day at UOR into one empty day too - my family has never been there and I haven’t been in 20 years, so this was exciting.

Our whole idea was that this time, with no more FP and it being a busy time, we will take it easy and try to fit in our favorite rides and leave plenty out. Well that sort of worked out and sort of didn’t…

This was the plan:
Dec 18th: arrival
19th: MK and park hop to HS
20th: Universal
21st: Epcot with option to hop to HS
22nd: AK

Oh and travelling? Me, my wife, daughter (10) and son (7)

Arrival at Polynesian

We arrived late on dec 18th and checked into the Polynesian. It was our first time here, I’ve been wanting to go since I was a kid and now, after the refurbishment, seemed like a perfect time. We instantly fell in love with it, largely influenced by our room: we had a 1br suite in the Tonga building which meant a very close proximity to the Ceremonial House and an amazing view of the marina, lagoon and MK. For various reasons (including my daughter’s neurodevelopmental quirks and my insomnia) we have concluded that we need at least a seperated bedroom in our room to avoid losing our minds. In WDW terms this means either a suite or two rooms, which limits availability and usually means $$$$. This suite ended up being the best option for us, I was surprisingly able to book it quite late. It was awesome as was Poly altogether.

Would you look at it? Just look at it!

So our first day just included checking in and everyone else was asleep by 8PM. As usual, I went to tour the hotel as is my habit at night, and I ended up watching the fireworks from the beach. This was my first time seeing Enchantment, I avoided looking at any videos of it and I think it was worth it!

First park day:

We were jetlagged and up before 5am. The plan was to be at MK at rope drop - it was a 7am opening. Naturally, both of the kids had their individual meltdowns (wrong backpack, I can’t wear these shorts, my shoes are uncomfortable, I don’t want to eat this, I’m not going anywhere if I can’t bring this or that…) By the time we got out we were of course runnig late. We hopped on the monorail, making it to the gate at around 7:05. I believe people were already in queues at this point, I was trying to hustle with Genie to book ILL’s for HS and get some G+ selections for MK - this was impossible and ridicilous to do while simultaneously trying to make a 7am opening, but I managed to get them.

We headed straight to 7DMT, which was posting I think a 60-70 minute wait but actual wait was less than 30 minutes.

Two years ago my son was afraid of roller coasters and now he loves them!

We rode Speedway, Dumbo, Barnstormer, Peoplemover and Buzz. Crowds had been pretty low until 10am and we had gotten plenty done.

We headed to lunch as soon as Cosmic Ray’s opened - it’s become a tradition for us because it’s one of the first places to serve lunch at 10:30 - due to the 5hr time difference we are usually starving by then. First meal at a park usually means going a bit overboard:

After lunch, we rode Buzz again (everyone’s favorite), went by some shops (my daughter’s priority). The plan was to go to Haunted Mansion but my son decided he doesn’t want to go and daughter felt indifferent, so we skipped, instead heading to BTMRR.

We strolled around the castle with no rush. My son wanted to find every penny press in the park. Something fun I had never paid attention to / noticed before was this window display, I think it was at Sir Mickey’s:

Upon heading out, we saw a cavalcade and spent plenty of time at the Emporium. As we had already gotten our top priorities done, we headed back to Poly for a short pause. A rather eventful day and it was only 1PM!

We ate a very early “dinner” at Poly and grabbed an Uber to HS around 3pm. We had spent quite a bit of time in HS and particularly SWGE two years ago (building light sabers, droids, riding the Falcon etc) but one thing I missed out on back then was RotR as it broke down just before my boarding group, on our last day. This time we would go on day 1 and I had secured ILL’s for all of us.

We started with MMRR which was our other ILL for the day. My son had watched videos of it and was particularly excited for it. It was a fun ride, visually beautiful, but like in many rides, had a bit too much of everything crammed into a couple of minutes. I would’ve preferred it to be a bit less hectic.

I couldn’t help but wonder how much they thought about instagram and youtube when they designed this ride - it’s extremely photogenic.

We did Star Tours for the first time with the kids, they liked it! HS was quite busy so we didn’t feel like queueing much - we spent quite a bit of time wandering around Batuu, doing some shopping and looking at all sorts of things and details we hadn’t noticed before. The theming continues to impress me.

By our ILL time for RotR at 6pm, the kids were so tired they were close to giving in. We made it onto the ride and it was everything we had hoped for! Impressive, immersive, visually and technically stunning and at times thrilling. I didn’t tell anyone there was a drop at the end and that was absolutely the best part!

After this, it was a bus ride back to Poly. This was the first time I felt really uncomfortable about crowds - the bus was packed and people didn’t wear their masks properly. There were two kids coughing a lot on. I was tired and getting a bit claustrophobic :confounded:

We made it back and I was surprised my kids were still awake at 9pm. They have never cared much for fireworks or night time shows. we’ve actually only watched HEA once in the park with them as they’ve been mostly in bed by 9. It doesn’t help my daughter is sensitive to loud noises. But this time, they were not only up but glued to the window (and at times on the balcony) for the entire show and it was as magical as it ever gets :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Day 2 - Universal

In the morning we decided that, even though we have just one day at UOR, we will not rush there because yesterday the kids had been up for 19 hours and on the move for most of the day. We shall again prioritize and paid an arm and a leg for Express passes. I’m once again justifying this by having cancelled an entire 3 week trip to the US in 2020, but my god UOR was expensive during peak season.

We got to the park around 10am. It was only our second day and unfortunately I was having issues with some nerve pain in my leg. I had forgotten how much walking there is at UOR just to get to the parks, let alone tour two of them. Somehow, by taking it very slow, I made it there, but I wasn’t sure if I was making it back, it was that bad and I had taken every painkiller I had and stretching at every point I could.

We made our way around the east side of Studios. It was evident that UOR was way, way more packed on this day than what MK had been the day before, and unfortunately it also seemed like all the people avoiding WDW mask mandates were here. Zero preventive measures anywhere and about half of people unmasked inside. Didn’t feel great. But we were there so we’d push on. I think it’s quite telling that I have 3 photos on my phone from that day and about 50 from the day before simply because it was that stressful.

We rode Minion Mayhem, ET and Simpsons. We were hungry and so were 10 thousand other people apparently, because every restaurant had a line stretching out the door. Donuts from Lard Lad? Maybe our only choice unless we want to wait an hour. I went to buy some water from Duff Brewery as there was no line and what do you know, they have corn dogs!!! So corn dogs it was. Of course, I sat in bird poop.

Our top pick for the day was riding one of the big rides in Wizarding World - it didn’t even exist the last time I was at UOR. If it wasn’t clear earlier, it was clear now that the park was PACKED. Diagon Alley was filled wall to wall, it was uncomfortable and sadly we couldn’t really take any of it in and enjoy the area. We decided to ride Escape from Gringots and this ended up being the most uncomfortable experience in terms of covid/crowds on this trip. Everything starting from the ridicilously crammed and compulsory lockers was incredibly crowded, much more so than anything at WDW. The queue was tightly packed and even the Express pass lane felt like it took forever. I think we queued for about 50 minutes but it felt like half a day in the tight corridors.

We finally made it onto the ride and it was pretty impressive, I have to say. The queue was impressive too but I couldn’t really focus on it. Gringots was more thrilling than RotR but obviously it relies more on screens. I really liked the combination of a roller coaster and simulator-style ride, but I often find 3D rides problematic and that was the case here too. A very cool experience after what was the worst queue experience.

After the ride, we wanted to get out of Diagon Alley asap. I’m really bummed we didn’t get to enjoy it and I’m curious whether it’s often like this? Compared to for example Batuu, it felt incredibly claustrophobic.

We headed to Hogwarts Express to get to IoA. Another rather long queue despite EP. The building/station, the train and all the theming and details were cool, the experience itself maybe a bit lackluster. Of course, they crammed other (unmasked…) people with us into the cabin.

When we got to IoA, it was pouring. I really wanted to ride Hagrid’s, but it was going to be a long queue and rain, so it wasn’t going to happen. The whole day at Universal had felt hectic and uncomfortable due to the crowd, so we decided on two rides (other than Hagrid…) that we really wanted to do. They were Spider Man (picked by my son) and Hulk (picked by my daughter) - both classics so I was happy with that. Surprisingly, I was able to still walk ok at this point, but it wasn’t enjoyable by any means. We quickly went by some shops, both kids had meltdowns because they had already spent their money and they were tired. It was still raining, everyone was fed up (at least we had rain jackets), we hadn’t had dinner and were starving. if we could make it to the car in one piece it’d be a success.

I’m not gonna lie, it was a pretty dreadful day - super crowded, tons of unmasked people, hard to get food, every store crowded… And the cold, wind and rain to top it all off. We absolutely should’ve done a no-park day, but I pushed it with trying to accomplish a bit too much in 4 days. And that’s not all folks - we had to stop by a pharmacy on the drive back and managed to pick some Walgreen’s that had a horribly long queue, which is the last thing we needed along with the kids fighting in the car.

But even after all of this, eventually, Disney saved the day. Eating dinner in the room and later watching Enchantment from the balcony made it feel like everything was ok again.



Have stolen the MMRR photos and will be passing them off as my own.


appreciate the heads up!


Sounds like your suite at the Poly has saved your trip!
We have really enjoyed our UOR time in the past, but haven’t been back since Covid and likely would not have felt comfortable there in December either.
When we went, we stayed at Hardrock Hotel so our express passes were included (great savings for family of 5) and we got a deal on top of that. So we found it quite affordable. We did not go during a busy time of year, but even with that we tried to avoid afternoons in the parks. We rope dropped in the morning, left and took breaks in the afternoon, and then went back for the evenings. We only ate snacks in the parks and had our meals in one of the many restaurants at CityWalk or our Hotel.
It may be worth it to give it a go again someday. Hopefully without leg pain or Covid to deal with! I’m so glad you had that beautiful view at the end of the day!


I absolutely love the Poly and your report is proof it’s the best! That view from the balcony… :heart_eyes:


Absolutely! Our disaster day was a sum of covid fears, extra high crowds, perhaps somewhat poor planning and bad weather among others. That said, Disney had similar crowds on later days and I felt much more comfortable there. Maybe it was how the parks handle crowds, maybe WDW drew more guests that simply were more cautious. Either way it was just a whole different vibe.

Hopefully next time pandemics are out of the equation and we can find a less busy time to go and spend more time there.

Tomorrow I’ll carry on with out Epcot and AK days and overall thoughts


It’s great to know how it all ended up!

I’ve been to UOR and WDW on the same trip a few times during the pandemic. Definitely a big difference in the general vibe and the dynamics of the crowd. I enjoy UOR but much prefer Disney.

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Love getting to read all this. A good reminder for me that all trips come with trade-offs. Going at a crazy busy time? Gonna mean less rides and more crowds. All about expectations. Seems like y’all did great in that respect.


Your trip report and fireworks pictures are giving me major FOMO. Now I’m starting to regret not booking theme park view.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your report.


Amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing!


Day 3 - Epcot

Today we woke up to rain - lots of it. The scene was quite serene, even though not exactly inviting in terms of going out.

This was our Epcot day, but attempting to continue with our theme of taking it relatively easy, we decided to head out a bit later. I spent the morning driving to change our rental and getting some groceries.

We didn’t head to Epcot until 1pm when the rain had ended. I tried getting ILL for TheRat in the morning but failed - I don’t remember exactly what happened. Got G+ for Soarin which is our favorite Epcot ride and first priority. First things first, mickey bars and sandwiches in front of Nemo. We had some time before our slot so we went to the aquarium. funny thing - I didn’t know it existed before 2018.

From there, we headed to WS. Another busy day so we didn’t bother with many stand by queues. I did want to ride Test Track but no Genie, no ride. Our favorite place in WS is Mexico and my son is a huge fan of the boat ride. Rode it twice this time.

Good to see the animatronics back - the cardboard cutouts were rather miserable.

We rode Frozen and then toured WS for a bit. We stared at the Stargate and space tacos and my wife didn’t believe me when I told her they are permanent structures. I still can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea :confounded:

It was about to rain again, so we rushed to Japan and Mitsukoshi and spent a solid 45 minutes browsing there.

By the time we got out, the rain was gone again so we grabbed food from Katsura grill and ate outside. I don’t think I’ve ever acually been here, it was a nice and calm place away from a now very crowded WS. The food was pretty basic but good, I liked the outside seating area.

We did miss a couple of rides I wanted to do - particularly Remy and TT, but I was glad we actually managed to achieve our goal and pull of a really laid back day for once. My leg was getting tired - the nerve issues cause me to walk unevenly which in turn makes my foot cramp up. So after dinner, we decided to call it a day. For once we were back at Poly without being totally exhausted, so we actually got to explore it a bit. I had originally planned to go back to Epcot myself to see Harmonious, but unfortunately it wasn’t going to happen with my leg. So it was another night of Enchantment, this time sitting on the bed :dizzy:


I still can’t get over that view ! :star_struck:


Me neither :heart_eyes:

I missed both Enchantment and Harmonious up close because my plan of going baclk at night failed, so I was beyond grateful for being able see this every night.


Day 4 - AK and departure

Can’t believe it was already our final day! We have always preferred shorter trips, partly to keep costs lower, but also to save time for other stuff as we are in the US just a few weeks per year. But I’m more and more convinced that the trips would be improved with an extra day (pool, DS, relaxing…) in between.

So it was our checkout day along with AK. I was on Genie at 7am so we could get an ILL for FOP. priority number 1. I wanted to get G+ for EE and/or Kilimanjaro, but Genie was being particularly weird on this day. Both rides showed up as unavailable and then when they were available, the times would fluctuate wildly going from 8-9am to noon and back. As we were heading in a bit later, I wanted slots for later in the afternoon. I eventually got Navi’i and Kilimanjaro but missed out on EE.

We ate breakfast in the room, packed our bags and headed out around 11am, driving to AK.

Our ride times weren’t until later so we started with lunch at Restaurantosaurus. AK was very busy and there was a massive queue/mob outside the restaurant, mobile orders seemed to be taking quite long and there was no outside seating unfortunately. We eventually got a table inside and after my kids had touched everything, washed their hands 3 times and put their food on the table I was ready for some covid anxiety to hit in. Oh well, we had been in the deep end already…

My son’s favorite thing in AK is the Dino playground so we spent almost an hour there. I used the time to stretch out my legs as much as possible. We only lost him 3 times :sweat_smile:

We started strolling towards Pandora heading to Navi’i and then FOP which only my daughter and I had ridden before. LL moved relatively quickly here.

FOP was an improved experience compared to my last time. Back then I was on the very last seat and I think I had something wrong with the 3d glasses. Well, this time I had a mask fogging up the glasses, but it was still better in the middle seat. I have to say that I like much more now, but I could do without the 3d effects on this ride. My kids were suddenly Avatar fans when we got to the store (they haven’t even seen the movies).

After FOP, we walked towards Africa on the long boardwalk. We saw a drumming band on a boat, unfortunately no characters. Ice creams and a freezing budweiser for me on the way :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

We got on KS. Just before entering the cars, we were put on row 2 with 3 unmasked adults in front of us and an unmasked family behind us with a kid that was coughing non stop. Like really coughing all over the place. Cue covid anxiety! We decided to step back and go wait behind the people in row 1.

It was around 4pm so it wasn’t the best time to catch the animals roaming around, but we did have some fun encounters when some large animal blocked the road and we ended up spending a good 5 minutes hanging out with the giraffes.

After KS we went around the Gorilla Trails which we’ve never done before. We actually got to see plenty of them, including what I think was a dad gorilla carrying around a baby which was adorable. We were wondering if these are any of the same gorillas we’ve seen on Magic of Animal Kingdom? That was a fun episode, my kids always want to see the birthday “cake” part where the mom steals a bunch of the food and the younger ones play with the towels.

There was a bunch we would’ve wanted to do including Rafiki and the Jungle trek, but it was getting late and we had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us, so we had to start heading out, stopping by Island Mercantile on the way out. This has become kind of a regular thing for us with AK, the few times we’ve been it’s often been half a day and we end up missing a lot. Maybe next time we’ll have a full day and get to experience the park more in depth.

We headed out and started our drive down south to see some family. My plan had been to drive at least part of the way before dusk, but after fogetting to eat dinner and realizing we left our booster seat in our other rental which I had to swap a day earlier, we found ourselves at a local Target until it was dark. Classic bumps in the road - eventually we were on our way and by 8pm, both kids were sleeping in the car.

I’ll wrap up with some of my favorite views:

Thank you for reading and I hope you get something out of this :dizzy:

I might add some afterthoughts sooner or later


Your pictures are stunning! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I can relate to touring with leg/nerve pain. We toured USF and IOA a few years back and I experienced this condition. (For what it’s worth, spinal surgery resolved that pain.) Glad you were able to make the best of your time at WDW and hope you feel better soon!


:laughing: Yes, that place is huge!


Your pictures are amazing!


thanks! They are from my Pixel 5 which I’m really happy with. I spent 15 years carrying a bag of camera equipment with me everywhere, but I’m glad noawadays you can achieve decent photos with phones (and I’ve gotten really lazy with actual photography)


That, and the kid has zero sensibility about wandering off :joy:

Now we make him carry a phone in a waistbag just so we can locate and call him if he disappears. He also has a wristband with our phone numbers.


Sounds like you need an Apple Tracker for him!

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