Into the Unknown - Large Family Trip Report, Now with Wrap-up Thoughts!

Your girls look adorable in their dresses!

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Thursday afternoon: naps and relaxation and more princess meet-and-greet games with the big girls. Timestamp on this photo says we arrived back at BLT at 1415:


When you fall asleep mid-chip, and it falls out of your mouth.

It was a dreary, drizzly afternoon that I enjoyed watching from our windows. I don’t think the rain every got much heavier than that, but it stayed steady. I had originally thought this afternoon could be a chance to go back to Epcot for things we missed on Monday, but no one really felt up to that or that we really needed it. Once again, I was watching Genie+, and Splash Mountain was running all afternoon. We grabbed a LL for, I think it was a 1700-1800 return window. My parents were fine with staying in for the evening and volunteered to keep the little ones, so we told the big girls to get their swimsuits, tossed them in the double stroller, and headed to MK. We caught a Rainy Day Cavalcade at 1720, which was a first for me to actually see.



Finally, FINALLY, we got to ride Splash Mountain! I had been really anxious, too, as it’s one of my top 5 all-time rides. In 2019, it was down the whole day we had FPP for it, then when we tried to ride, my DH and I got evacuate off right before heading into the darkness. I was going to be pretty sad if I didn’t get one last ride in before the retheme. DD5 had watched ride-throughs on YouTube and was really excited for it. Happy to report that she loved it! We were front row of the log, and DH and I took the brunt of the splash directly in the face. I had changed into my quick-dry pants, but sadly, they were not! Oh well, the girls loved it.

We took a Frontierland bathroom break and debated whether to try to find food in the park or go rescue the grandparents. We called to check in and were reassured that they were having a blast and were already feeding the kids dinner in the room. They encouraged us to go enjoy ourselves, so decision made: we rode the monorail to the Polynesian and put our names on the 'Ohana waitlist! I got the confirmation text at 1836, then we got our table ready text at 1902. I changed Evie into dry, warmer clothes in the bathroom, then we wandered Moana Mercantile, where DH tried to convince her she needed a shoulder Porg. I wish I had a photo of her intensely skeptical look at that. We went out side to check out the pool, and I nearly got myself a spiked Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai, but I knew how good dinner would be. We got seated and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I could eat just the dumplings and noodles and be happy. Poor DD5 was exhausted, though. She ate a few bites of things, declared she didn’t like any of it (including the fries and chicken nuggets the waiter brought her), and asked if she could go to sleep.

She slept the whole ride back, and kept sleeping after I deposited her in the bed. So much Disney! (And we brought my parents back a to go container of most of a skillet of steak and shrimp.)

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We’re almost to the end! Friday was our last full park day, at Animal Kingdom. The night before, I made the call to not even try to make it for Early Entry, but to just try to get out of the room 0730-0745, which had been a doable target for us all week. So, no dragging everyone out super early for a last rope drop.

At 0700, I booked FoP ILL for 1210-1310 and then grabbed a Safari LL for 0900-1000. We headed out, with DH, I, and DD1 taking our car, as we were down to about 22% battery, and the ChargePoint app was reporting the stations at AK were working. DD5 asked to ride the bus with the rest of the family, so we took our strollers so that they didn’t have to deal with them. Luckily, the chargers were indeed working, so we got preferred parking! We liked the setup at AK better than HS - the chargers were just far enough away to discourage dishonest use of them, as opposed to how they’re one of the best spots in the lot at HS. We just barely beat them all through security. Minor disaster there, as DD5 had been twirling her hair on the bus and gave herself a hair tourniquet, but I guess was too embarrassed to ask for help until she saw me and ran up sobbing. I ripped it right off, and luckily her finger then pinked up right away, but it scared me! We had a few minutes of holding each other there on the sidewalk before we all moved on to tap in.



Spotted Divine as soon as we got in. DD5 had a lot of questions.

It was already 0846 then, so we started slowly walking to Africa, stopping to look at ducks and enjoy some views. As we walked, I was watching Genie+ and noted that KS only had a 10min posted wait, while the Na’vi River wait was climbing, so when we got near the entrance, I made an executive decision and cancelled our LL and put us in the standby queue. While we walked through, I booked Na’vi LL for 1125-1225. My memory’s already fuzzy on that, but I’m pretty sure return times were already up to that, and I didn’t have to do much refreshing or waiting. It was totally the right call because we didn’t stop walking until we hit the LL merge point, so it literally would not have saved us any time in line at all. We figured that way, we’d still be able to get a later LL if we decided to repeat the safari (we did not, but it was nice to know we could).

We had an awesome guide; he won me over right away with “Those are some ducks. I don’t know anything about ducks.” He did an excellent job and really seemed to care about getting us good views and helping us spot animals. We got to see the juvenile giraffe, juvenile zebra, and Crash!




The lions kept their backs to us, but did get to see them, just not their faces.

The kids were super excited to see gorillas, so we retrieved our strollers and headed down Gorilla Falls trail. They all loved it, and we got a great view of the baby gorilla crawling around its mama, though I didn’t take any pics. The big girls also got their Wilderness Explorer books and started their badges.

Everyone was getting hangry at the end of the trail, so we went to Tamu Tamu about 1040 or so, got sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits and cinnamon rolls for all. I also got a Tiger Tail and enjoyed it. I do regret not ever making it back for some spiked Dole Whip. Next time!

I was pretty proud of myself for getting our Pandora LLs relatively close together; if Genie+ is still the same system on our next trip, I will definitely be modifying some of my strategies to account for travel around the parks! We made it to Pandora and enjoyed taking photos.


Na’vi River was posted a 70min wait when we got in the LL. It was down all day on our AK day last visit, so this was everyone’s first time. It’s beautiful, but we all agreed we’d never wait more than 15min max for it. :woman_shrugging:

We had some time to kill before our FoP LL window opened, and DD5 had been asking about getting a Mickey bar, so we parked the family in the shade, and she and I and my brother trekked across the bridge to buy Cokes, Mickey bars and Olaf bars at the cart in front of Tiffins.



That brought us up to time for that 1210 window, so we walked over and got rider swap for me and my brother. The others got in line, and after a stop for some WE badges, he and I took the kids over to Dinoland and ran into The Boneyard. The weather was really nice that day, very cloudy in the morning, very comfortable in the shade with a nice breeze, but you got hot fast chasing kids through that playground. Especially since my kids vetoed the excavation pit and just wanted to do slides.

Eventually, the others found us, we swapped places, and my brother and I did FoP together. Was glad we did RS, as I glanced at my watch and we tapped in at exactly 1310, the end of our original window. I timed our LL wait; it ended up being right at 15min before we walked in the room with the bikes. I had forgotten how many different preshow elements they threw in. I had done it last trip, but this was his first time; he was very impressed. It’s an amazing ride for sure, but I think I still like Soarin’ better overall. Maybe because I’ve still never seen Avatar.

The others took the kids on Triceratops Spin while they waited for us, and we met them with the strollers coming off, and we all mobile ordered from Flame Tree. It was already 1400 or so by then. We found a quiet, cool pavilion to sit in and let the kids run a little wild after they ate. Food was good, but I honestly just wanted hydration. I managed a few fries and a few bites of DH’s chicken.

Oh, while they were in The Boneyard, DH had booked us all LL for Dinosaur, but then it went down while they were on Triceratops, so it converted to an anytime LL (not redeemable for Na’vi River, interestingly). Since it was still down, we booked another just in case, and it converted whenever it opened. I don’t remember the times exactly now. Personally, I am 36 years old, and I have made the personal decision that I do not have to go on that ride anymore if I don’t want to. And I didn’t want to. It terrifies me on some deep level I can’t explain. I love thrill rides, but that fucking ride makes me cower and hide. I’m done with it. So, I was perfectly happy finding other things to do. DH described some of the options to the kids, and they decided they’d like to do It’s Tough to be a Bug later.

In the meantime, we enjoyed a stroll to Asia. The Expedition Everest wait was fluctuating between 20-30min, so we figured we’d give it a try. My niece wanted to do it, and, surprisingly, made the cut! This did result in tears from DD5, as niece is actually 7 months younger than her. We got RS, and my mom and I took all the kids in for the 1515 KiteTails… which was cancelled for high winds. Boo. I had actually really wanted to see that. So we found some shade and played on some rocks. They were gone maybe 20min total for the ride, so definitely no regrets on skipping paying for that ILL. My mom and I did RS (which was actually on my dad’s band, and he had to give it to her, because no matter how many times I explained, no one else in the party seemed to grasp how RS works. At least they did what I told them). DD5 burst into tears when I left, so I knew our time left in the park was limited. I love Everest, though, did they move Disco Yeti closer? I felt like he was brushing my head!

DH and kids met me in the gift shop, where the CMs had cheered DD5 up with some buttons and stickers. DD1 found a Dug hat, put it on, and exclaimed “Mine!”, so DH promptly bought it.

We got some more badges…


… and used one of our anytime LLs on It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Totally unneeded, but what else were we going to do by then? It was already 1620; DD1 fell asleep in my arms as I entered the queue. She actually slept through the show, with my hands over her ears the whole time. She jumped a couple of times, but didn’t wake up! We got her back in the stroller and headed out, seeing some menagerie puppets on the way, but the kids weren’t interested at all. DD5 rode the bus back with the others, we deposited DD1 in the now 99% charged car, and once again, meet the other group exactly at the entrance to the BLT elevator.

My family was now done for the night; we did laundry, ate dinner in the room, the kids ran around and had a blast. DH and my dad walked over the Contempo Cafe and picked up the 50th German chocolate cupcake, a monorail cupcake, a peanut butter banana pie, and the above pictured Hefeweizen. My brother had originally only bought 6 day tickets for his family, with plans for them to leave Saturday morning and make the drive in one day. They decided that night to add on another day and go with us to MK in the morning, but luckily, I thought to check park reservations before they paid - sure enough, there were no park reservations available anywhere for 11/20. So, instead, they put their kids in their PJs, loaded them up, and walked over to MK to watch the full Enchantment in the park, since we had seen it from behind the castle on Wednesday. Their kids loved the fireworks, so this was a great end for them. They got Plaza sundaes and had a truly magical time together.

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I am just a year or two beyond 36 ( :rofl:) and I feel exactly the same way! I will ride with people who want to ride, but I pretty much have my eyes closed the entire time.

Love how DD1 is getting all the things just by being super cute! You and @Jeff_AZ have it so tough. I don’t know how you could possibly say no to your littlest girls! I hope for your sake they grow out of that soon or you’re in deep trouble!

I have very much been enjoying your trip report!

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I’m going to power through the rest! Saturday morning, we had Chef Mickey’s reservations at 0835, so we slept as late as the kids let us, then got ready while simultaneously packing more, and walked over for breakfast. I’m pretty sure I came here once as a little kid, but never since. We were in the very back room with the kitchen doors, and I didn’t find it as obnoxiously loud as I had been warned it might be. Perhaps the noise level is a bit better with the social distancing and lack of buffet? We all thoroughly enjoyed the food. After our last trip, we all agreed that family style is the way to go for our family; it’s just less stressful. I’ll be very curious to see if CM’s goes back to buffet anytime soon.

I was sitting next to the girls, so didn’t have a great camera angle for characters; DH got better shots. I’ll probably add some posts later with just all the better photos he got.





My DMIL made the girls’ dresses; she’s an amazing seamstress.

We headed back and somehow managed to finish packing everything back up and get it all into the cars. We got out of the room about 1105 and said goodbye to my brother’s family.

Now, my plan had been for us to go back to MK for a couple of rides (kids’ choice) and shopping we had missed out on. However, it was drizzling and cold all morning, and the rest of the group didn’t want to go. DD5, however, really wanted to do Under the Sea again. So, she and I poncho’d up, held hands, and took off on our mission together. I grabbed us an 1140 LL return time. We had a blast together, and the rain swiftly turned to a fine mist, then nothing.


We grabbed a treat that had been on my must-try list: The Snow White cone at Storybook Treats:

We both loved it; perfect lemon flavor, very refreshing, not overly sweet. She and I love lemon and lime Outshine popsicles at home, so I knew we’d love this one.

We took photos in front of Beast’s castle and the Tangled toilets:


Then, we went into Memento Mori, which I was dying to check out, but sadly did not find anything that called to me, other than the HM wallpaper blanket, but I did not $60 love it. We hit the Liberty Square popcorn cart (though we had forgotten our buckets, of course!), saw a holiday cheerleader parade?, and then our last stop was in the Christmas Shoppe for a gift for my mom. I really was hoping for a just a nice ornament with 2021 on it, but there were none that appealed. Instead, we found her a nice Lady and the Tramp pin with them in front of the Christmas tree. She loved it.

DD5 did great with all the walking with me, and it was some good alone time we had needed. I’m sure those are going to be very special memories for me for a long time to come.

Oh, and don’t go thinking DD1 was deprived! They rode the monorail over to the Poly and hit up Pineapple Lanai!



We met them back at Contemporary, we all scarfed down some kids’ pizza flatbreads from Contempo, and then it was time to say goodbye and start that long drive home. We made it to a bit south of Atlanta Saturday evening, then arrived back home about 1500 Central time on Sunday.

Overall, an incredible trip. I feel like we did so much, even though I know we left so much out! But it also does feel like we conquered WDW! I guess that’s the sign of a good trip. And, hey, DH didn’t swear off ever going back, and, in fact, he has now multiple times brought up maybe coming back in October with his best friend’s family who is planning a fall break trip. We’ll see!

Tomorrow, I’ll work on some wrap-up posts to give my thoughts about our room, our touring strategies, Genie+, all the things!

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Those faces at Chef Mickey’s! What a great trip! Your brother should listen to you next time about how many days to purchase on his tickets! LOL

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It’s definitely not easy saying no… as long as they’re being sweet about it! We’ll see, with this new “mine!” phase… :joy:

Thanks for following along! It’s fun to share with people who enjoy hearing details. Otherwise, I know I’ll be boring my coworkers to death!

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There were so many. Thank you for sharing. Great report!

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Such cute photos!

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Those dresses are gorgeous! DD’s cheeky little face with the dole whip!!

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Thank you, I enjoyed all the details!! And the pics of the littles (as a mom of teens). Glad y’all had fun and got your Splash on.

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Love the dresses!!

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Ok, trying to get back to this before I start forgetting all the details. I worked Thanksgiving, so I was on Wed-Sun, but luckily we had a pretty low census and some great residents who made sure us NPs made it out on time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Bay Lake Tower - Theme Park View Grand Villa

Well, the room, of course, was wonderful. We had hoped that my other brother and his wife would make it for the trip as well, but timing just didn’t work out for them, but if they had, we would have been the full 12 occupancy. That was a big factor in us deciding to do it this way, rather than different rooms for the families; DH and I just arranged the whole thing and put everyone’s names on the DVC reservation, so that way, even if they had decided at the last minute, the only barrier would have been park reservations. We tried to make it as low-stress as possible for the rest of the family. It worked out great, though, with all the kids, so that we could have the bedrooms to put the nappers in, while the non-nappers had a central space to play, and adults could hang out after kids went to bed.

I’m also going to have a hard time staying at Disney without a full kitchen in the future. We brought groceries and had a full fridge and pantry. Plenty of snacks for the parks, and the kids ate fruit, cereal, and cinnamon toast for breakfast every morning. We kept sandwich supplies, so we always knew there was an option other than Disney dining if we didn’t feel up to it. My mom made two casseroles and brought them frozen. We baked them on Monday night and then kept them in the fridge, so everyone could just reheat a portion throughout the week for a quick meal. Was a great option for feeding the kids.

I used to make jokes about my MIL always doing laundry on vacation, but now that’s me! I used to so dread that first day back home with a mountain of laundry after vacation. Now, with our DVC stays (or Vrbo stays at the beach), we always do laundry before we repack. It feels so much better to open a suitcase full of clean clothes and just put them away!

The view, of course, was awesome. We actually ended up in the theme park view villa that is FARTHEST from MK (room 8430). However, it was the closest room to the south elevator, so that was nice. I tried a room request to be closer, but there’s only, what 6 to choose from? I figured it would pretty much just be luck.


And now I’m realizing I never took an early morning picture! That’s a shame, because it was amazing. I’ll have to raid my DH’s phone and see if he did.

I know a lot of people hate the (lack of) theming at BLT, but it honestly doesn’t bother us. The rooms are comfortable. I think one thing that appeals to us is the extra bathroom you get in BLT compared to the same room type in other resorts. During those afternoon naps, it was really nice to have a bathroom you could get to without going in a bedroom.

And those fireworks? Yes they were awesome. However, odd quirk of the grand villa layout: the first floor balconies are not directly off the living room. So, we turned on the soundtrack on the TV in there, but you couldn’t hear it all out on the balcony! And because of the angle, you had to kind of crane out to the side to actually see the whole of the fireworks. So, while cool, theme park view =/= guaranteed primo view of fireworks. To be honest, we actually wanted lake view, but they were already booked up when we put in our request. :woman_shrugging:

Word to the wise traveling during holiday parties: those gorgeous VMAH fireworks? At 2315? Yeah, they woke most of us up every time. Sounded like cannons going off right outside the windows. Thankfully, only woke the baby up once, and the big kids claimed not to remember being woken up, but us adults sure did. So, just something to keep in mind if you’ll be traveling that time of year and know that you’ll be in bed by then. I’m sure it’s not as bad on lower floors; not sure how much of a difference lake view would make.

Of course, the biggest pro to us of BLT is that ability to just run into MK if we want to, as we did a few evenings and that last morning. That was really wonderful and magical with kids who are that perfect age for MK. I definitely see us staying here again in the future. However, I could also see us doing a split stay with a Crescent Lake resort, to get that walk-in perk over there, too. And it’s looking like if that October trip does happen, we might go Poly studio! The only other on-property resort I’ve ever stayed was POFQ (which we also loved!), so I’m eager to try more resorts, too!

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I have a three night trip planned in a two bedroom at GCV in February with my niece and her family. She plans to bring her Instant Pot and some frozen dinners! 12 minutes from freezer to table. I think she’s worried her picky eaters will not eat well in the parks. I’m happy to hear this is not over the top planning but just smart planning! LOL

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Oh, that’s what I forgot! My parents brought their air fryer! :joy: We had chicken nuggets every other night, though I think the adults snacked on them more than the kids ate them.

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OMG the sweetness!!! :heart_eyes:

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I have! And @Dreamer and @JustKeepSmiling

Oh wait. This is a trip report. Sorry!

Back to the show!

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Here’s my biggest random endorsement of the trip: Loungefly Passport Crossbody bag

https://www.hottopic.com/accessories/bags/crossbody-bags/?prefn1=brand&prefv1=Loungefly

Perfectly-sized little bag that I threw in as an afterthought (mine was a Haunted Mansion one they had few months back), and then I wore it literally all day, every day in the parks, barely even being aware it was there. But it was perfectly sized to carry my wallet, my phone if needed, lip balm, bottle of hand sanitizer, a pack of sanitizing wipes, my “lipstick” phone charger, and, most crucially extra masks for both adults and kids. At least 2-3 times a day we’d be entering a queue and someone in the party would realize they’d left their mask in the strollers (despite all the lanyards I brought and offered everyone :woman_facepalming:). And this little bag came to the rescue. It was just the most perfect little pouch for what I needed to keep at hand at all times.

And they’re cute and only $15! I already bought the Alice in Wonderland teacups one since we came home! My DH brought it in from the mailbox tonight and asked me how I managed to get a package from 1998. :joy:

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I have two of these! A Coco and a Winnie the Pooh. If only I could stuff a water bottle in there it would be perfect!

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OMG! They have a Merida one! I guess I have to get it. Merida’s hair is my hair’s spirit animal so I have a soft spot for her. :joy:

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