We recently got back home after our Spring Break Disney/Universal Studios trip. Instead of doing a day-by-day trip report, I thought I’d just make some random notes about things that stood out, particularly those that I had questions about prior to the trip or that I’ve seen other people asking about on the forum. Obviously, these are just my experiences and YMMV. First, I went to Orlando the week of March 9 – 16, 2019, with my family – DH, DS10 and DS13. We stayed 5 nights at Pop Century (one of which we actually slept at the Royal Pacific in order to visit Universal and get those free Express Passes, which we loved BTW) and 2 at the Wilderness Lodge.
Spring Break- So, when I originally planned the trip during my kids’ Spring Break I thought, “Wow, I’m really being smart, doing this over Spring Break instead of waiting for summer when it will be so crowded!” After my non-refundable airline tickets were booked and I started really looking into Disney in March, I quickly learned that the week we chose to go would be one of the busiest of the year. But, as others have said, if you have a good plan the crowds will not affect you that much. I would have to agree. Although each park we visited was quite busy, I believe they were less crowded than expected, only the Harry Potter areas in Universal/Islands of Adventure were CROWDED. And they were, I mean like, “shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers, look down and you cannot see ground, anxiety-producing” crowded. Otherwise, the weather was absolutely beautiful – upper 70’s to mid 80’s, never rained, etc.
Prime Now- I know there were questions about whether Prime Now would deliver alcohol and leave it with the front desk. I can say that I ordered a box of wine with my other snacks and they would not leave it. While we were at Hollywood Studios After Hours I received an e-mail that they could not deliver the alcohol, which kept them from delivering any of my order. So, no wine for me. Good news – they sell alcohol at the main gift shop at Pop. The markup is not as bad as you would think and less than the % markup on sodas - $4+ for 20 oz. sodas!
Busses – For the most part we used the Disney bus system. We Ubered to Universal and back. We found using them in the mornings to be very efficient. We had several early morning ADRs and an Early Morning Magic and by being at the bus stop by 7:00 or so, found ourselves with plenty of time for all of them. If we had a complaint, it would be using them in the evenings after you’ve been at the park and now have to walk to the farthest busses (Pop). We shut Animal Kingdom down and when we arrived at the bus stop found at least 3 busses full of people waiting for a bus. I had read that you could ride Art of Animation busses and walk across the bridge to Pop but totally forgot about it until I saw a family leaving the Pop line and doing just that. DH was skeptical, but by this time he really shouldn’t have been because he was starting to see that me doing my homework before the trip was paying off. It was a longer walk, but a shorter wait, which to me was worth it. They are doing construction for the gondola system and I thought the bridge was blocked off, but it wasn’t and the walk took us directly to our building (60s). We also left Magic Kingdom after HEA and I expected chaos at the bus stop, but they had a guy there directing the crowd to keep everything organized and the wait was short.
Uber- As I said, we Ubered a handful of times and found the experience to be painless. Probably the longest wait we had for one to show up was like 6 minutes. We live in a rural area and don’t regularly Uber, so we downloaded the app to both our phones and got $5 off each ride by using the promo codes on the Uber site.
Hollywood Studios After Hours – We went to HS AH the day we flew in. I thought this would be a great way to get the most out of a few hours. We really enjoyed the experience. Crowds were low, lines were short and they were generous with the ice cream and sodas. In case anyone was wondering, the souvenir kiosks were open, at least in Toy Story Land. We also attended the Star Wars Dessert Party that night. My kids are big fans and they had a great time. We checked in pretty early and had our Star Wars shirts and ears on and were picked to be Family of the Day. It was neat – they gave us a certificate and took our picture. When the party was over and they led the group to the reserved section for the Galactic Spectacular, they had my boys hold light sabers up and walk with the two Stormtroopers to lead the group. It was a really good start to our trip! If you are going to the dessert party, I would recommend going full-on Star Wars if you are interested in being picked.
PPO ADRs – As I mentioned, I had several ADRs in the mornings. Specifically, in addition to the EMM at Magic Kingdom, we had breakfast at Tusker House, Garden Grill and CRT. We enjoyed the breakfast at each and took advantage of getting some rides in before 9:00. At TH, we went directly to the safari and were the first in line and then headed to EE. At GG, we went directly to Soarin’ and were the first in line, did Living with the Land and Figment with no waits. At GG, our waiter told us they allow GG patrons on Soarin’ starting at 8:45 a.m. At CRT, we left with enough time to walk on SDMT, followed by BTMR and Splash. We did have to miss Jasmine, but my boys were only tolerating the princesses anyway. We really ate at CRT to see the inside of the castle and not have to rope drop with the masses – as you can probably tell by my Harry Potter experience, I’m not a fan of huge crowds.
Birthday boy – My older son turned 13 on the trip. We picked up a Birthday pin at the WTP store and he wore it all week. He got countless “Happy birthday” wishes from cast members and other guests. I believe that every table service restaurant we went to gave him a small cupcake or mousse, most with a candle they lit for him. Some of them also sang Happy Birthday to him. Also, TH and GG gave him a signed birthday card from the characters at that location and CRT gave him a placemat-like card signed by the princesses. It would not stay rolled up in the backpack which was now unable to be zipped due to the 3 swords and 1 wand we also received at CRT, so we gifted it to a little girl in the SDMT line.
Mickey balloon- Speaking of giving things away, I had already decided that if my boys asked for a Mickey balloon, I would get one and then when we left we’d gift it to someone else. So, we did. On the way out of the Wilderness Lodge, we offered it a guy and his 2 sons and they loved it. We had purchased it ($13 – cash only) 5 days before and it still looked great. I did tell the guy I had heard they would re-inflate it if needed.
Shirts and ears – I’m a crafter. So, I talked my family into wearing matching Disney (or Universal) shirts and hats (with ears for Disney, without for Universal) that I made. We got so many compliments from cast members and other guests. We certainly were not the only family there in matching shirts, but I think it really made it more special. Plus, I had them all organized in daily rolls so it was super easy to get the day’s clothes out and I always knew what color shirt everyone had on when I was looking for them in a crowd.
Mobile order – LOVE mobile order. The food lines were long. Some of them very, very long. I used mobile order several times and it worked out great. Only glitch was when I was attempting to order the Pineapple upside down cake with Dole Whip from Aloha Isle, it would not let me. It showed it, but I couldn’t get it to put it in my order. So, I figured that was my hint I didn’t really need it and I just got the Dole Whip cup. I really did not want to stand in that line.
Disney Magical Express – We used it both ways. Don’t really have much to say about it. The lines leaving the airport weren’t too bad. Maybe only had a dozen people in front of us going to Pop, so we easily made the first bus.
Touring Plans – I learned so much from this blog and forum. The day we went to Magic Kingdom and had CRT, followed by SDMT, BTMR and Splash, we hit BTMR at about the same time the rope drop people did. The line was long, out onto the bridge long, because people were queuing as they were walking up to it. My boys were complaining I was going to make them stand there an hour and trying to get me to go to Splash Mountain because they were sending empty flumes. I told them I knew what I was doing, that the line would move quickly now that they were opening it and if we went to Splash Mountain first, the BTMT line would be longer later, plus Splash wouldn’t get busy for a while since people don’t want to get wet on chillier early mornings. Being them, they weren’t easily convinced, but the lady in front of us turned around and told them they should listen to me, that I was right and they don’t even know how much time and effort I had put into planning this trip. Ha! It was funny, we chit chatted as we walked on to BTMR……I didn’t really use the Touring plan while in the parks (mostly because I had them all memorized already), but I did use the Lines app and would tell DH, “The posted wait is 45 minutes, but Lines says it will only be like 22 minutes.” I found it to be pretty spot-on or at least made me have a (possibly false) sense of hope, ha!
Pop Century – We liked it. With the bed down it was cramped. But, we didn’t spend a ton of time in the room anyway. Like I mentioned, the busses leaving Pop were plentiful, walking to the bus stop leaving the parks was a hike. We also enjoyed the Hippie Dippie pool. We were in the 60s building in a room farthest away from lobby, cafeteria, gift shop, etc., so that was also a hike, but it was pretty quiet.
Wilderness Lodge – What a beautiful resort. We loved it. We had dinner with Snow White at Artist Point, spent some time at the pool, watched the geyser and DS10 and I did their Hidden Mickey scavenger hunt. They gave him a certificate and a signed photo of Mickey and Minnie for completing it. I definitely would not want to leave there to go to Pop, so suggestions of having the nicer resort at the end of the stay were on the nose.
Cancellations – Don’t give up if you don’t get your ADRs, we canceled a California Grill reservation I was so excited to get six months ago, when I decided we’d be better served to spend the night resting before our EMM. We were also able to get a reservation for the Pirate’s League at the last minute. On our first MK day, my son decided he wanted to get made over as a pirate after POTC. I told him we would see if there were any openings on our next visit, 2 days later. Of course they were booked, but the cast member I spoke to told me that they have until 11:00 pm the night before to cancel, but that most people do by 9:00 pm, so try back then. Sure enough when I called about 10:00 the night before, there were two openings. BTW- if you have a pirate lover (or mermaid), this place was great. My son chose the Black Eye Jack look and the makeup CM kept telling him if the captain asked who gave him that black eye, tell him “Paul (another CM) did it.” Sure enough, when he was done, Captain Jack Sparrow came in and asked who’d beat him up, he said “Paul did it” and they ended with Paul having to walk the plank. The guy who played Jack was amazing and the whole thing was just a great experience.
Pandora at night – One thing I was really looking forward to was seeing Pandora at night. When I made our plans, I started us at TH at 8:00 and had our last FPP at 12:00 for FOP. Then we could go swim or hang out and come back in the evening, especially if I was able to get a same day FPP for FOP (see next). Not only were we able to see Pandora in all its splendor, but we rode EE 5 times in a row. The posted wait was 25 minutes, but after our first wait (10 minutes or so), each subsequent ride was a walk-on. Lots of people were at ROL but hardly anybody wanted to wrangle a yeti in the dark. My kids thought that was amazing. They decided AK had the fewest rides, but the best ones – EE and FOP.
Same day FPP drops – Pandora – 1:01 drop, nothing; 3:01 drop, nothing; 5:01 drop – FOP at 7:00 pm!! My family cheers! Also, I was able to score TT during the Epcot drop at 1:30 while we were in line for Test Track (almost immediately after we used our last FPP).
Modify, modify, modify – Obnurse had a great post about modifying FPP. I have to tell you this worked like a charm. While standing in the FPP line, I would snag a FPP for the ride we wanted even if it was much later than we wanted and I would modify it earlier and earlier. I was able to do this for bigger attractions like POC, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise, not just the smaller ones like Dumbo, etc. Most times by the time we got on the ride, we had a FPP for within a few minutes from that. Once we had to wait an hour for HM, so we went to the Hall of Presidents to kill some time and get off our feet.
Epcot – Epcot was kind of a bust for my kids. DS13 wanted to see Japan, so he and I stuck around after Future World FPPs to visit there, but DS10 was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel. It was our last day, we were pretty worn out and since EE my kids had become roller coaster junkies and any park without them “sucked”. I would probably put it earlier in the trip in the future.
Last notes – I have really enjoyed learning from all of you and hope somebody can glean some info from my ramblings. I don’t know when we’ll go back to Disney, but I don’t think it will be as long as my DH thinks……