I don’t say a lot on the forum or in chats, but I have learned a lot from all of you. As a way of saying thanks, and because I have enjoyed reading your trip reports, and because I can’t stop dreaming about Disney, I am now submitting my trip report.
A little background…I have been to WDW 5 times - once as a teenager (to MK for one day), once pre-kids (split day at MK/AK while in Orlando for a conference) and three “real” trips that I actually planned with my family. I definitely did the research in 2010 and 2012, but this was my first trip as a Liner, and was by far my most well planned trip. I traveled with my DH, DMIL, DS10 and DS6. So here we go…
Saturday Oct 18: We left cold and rainy Wisconsin for Orlando. Our flight landed and we practically walked off the plane and onto the Magical Express. Seriously, no waiting! Magic bands on wrists, we arrived at Art of Animation and as we crossed the threshold into the beautiful lobby, a CM approached us and said “Welcome, Mitchell Family!” Yep. Those magic bands are truly magic. I don’t care if Disney knows where I am every second of the day. I love the magic bands. iPad in hand, our delightful CM notified us that our room was ready and we were on our way. (A few words about AoA. We stayed here in 2012, and I know it doesn’t get a lot of love from Liners because the rooms are expensive for a value resort, but we love it, and I would definitely continue to stay here while my kids are young. We stayed in a Nemo suite both times, which is perfect for our traveling party of five. DMIL is happy to sleep on the pullout couch, so DH and I have the separate bedroom with our own bathroom, which is super awesome. The kids’ jaws drop when we walk through the lobby and past the Big Blue Pool. They love the feeling that they become part of the Finding Nemo movie experience, they love the larger than life Crush that welcomes us into our building, they love the table that turns into their bed. Kitchenette that Mousekeeping stocks daily for us allows us to eat breakfasts in room at our little table for 4. Perfect for us in every way. I will say that the pillows seem small and carpeting in the common areas is already showing wear, but those things do not affect our affinity for this place.) After a short rest, we are off to MK for the evening. FPP for 7DMT, ETWB, and late MSEP. Touring plan worked well, and we tried some attractions we never had done before… Jungle Cruise (2 thumbs up from our gang) and Enchanted Tiki Room (won’t need to go back there again!) And thank you Liners, for recommending Dole Whips…this was our first sampling of that pineapple heaven, and we loved it!! MK was crowded that night, so finding a place for the first MSEP wasn’t happening, and I knew at that point that if we were going to make RD the next day, we wouldn’t make the second parade. Oh well. So we moved through the crowds into Tomorrowland, did BLSS, and worked our way back toward the hub for Celebrate the Magic and Wishes. Nope. Bridge closed. Perhaps this is a Fast Pass viewing area? Or crowding problems? They routed us through Tomorrowland toward Main Street, and we got stuck in gridlock crowds, so CMs started working people out of the park through a special exit between Main Street and Tomorrowland. We held our place right in front of the Plaza restaurant, which would have been a fine viewing location if not for the 8 foot construction wall blocking our view of the lower half of the castle. So we got to see part of Celebrate the Magic and most of Wishes, and I was a little sad about that, but happy to see at least part of it. And the silver lining was that we took that special exit directly after Wishes and avoided all of the regular exit crowds.
Sunday Oct 19: RD at MK and the Welcome Show!! We actually made it with time to spare, which is a major accomplishment for my family. Another thanks is in order to Liners and the See Ya Real Soon blog for this. I never knew there was a Welcome Show, and I previously thought that being there when the park opened was considered RD. Uh-uh. Being there well before the park opens is the real key! We all adored the Welcome Show, and even with our slow moving crew, we practically walked right on to 7DMT! We had a great touring plan for the day, which we followed pretty well and got to do all of our favorite rides with minimal waits. We even had extra time, so I let DS6 decide what to do for a while in FL/Storybook Circus and he loved having the chance to take the lead. Crowds were much better this day due to it being a MNNSHP night, and Sundays are generally lower crowds at MK anyway. We had a FP for BOG lunch. Even with the FP, we waited 20-30 minutes to get in, but that was OK because we took the time to take in the details of Beast’s castle. Lunch food was ho-hum. I had the vegetable quiche which was bland. After our day of touring MK, we headed over to the Poly for dinner at ‘OHana. We love the food there, but with construction going on, the atmosphere was less than magical. On top of that, we did not get seating in the main dining area, so we missed out on the entertainment. Lesson learned: ask for a table where you want it! But the delicious food and Lapu Lapus made up for any disappointment we had.
Mon Oct. 20: HS. Very crowded. When I made ADRs 6 months prior, crowd calendar listed this day at a 3. Later it bumped to 5, and 4 weeks prior to our trip it escalated to a 7. I opted to depend on our TP and go with the flow. But this day was still the most frustrating. We got there before park opening by about 15 minutes. Not early enough. Boys wanted to do JTA, so we headed there first, but the crowds were crazy. Got there at about 9:15, and waited in a 90 minute queue. UGH. Me to the boys: Are you really really sure you need to do JTA again (did it in 2012 and they loved it)?? Boys: Yep, for sure. Finally got to the front of the line. The only available show is last one, which is during one of our FP windows but we might be able to squeak by. Signed up for it. As we are walking out, DS6 says he doesn’t want to do JTA anymore but DS10 does, so all is not lost…yet. On to our first FPPs at RnRC (DS10 and I) and TSMM (the rest of our gang)…by the skin of our teeth!! It was DS10 and my first time on RnRC and we totally rocked it! Another thanks to Liners and Se Ya Real Soon …the hidden gem that is Animation Academy. Wow - that was cool! We got to draw Olaf, and I had one of those paper towel tubes to put our drawings in! We had FPP for the Frozen SingAlong. Second row seating and it was amazing! Even DS10 who is not much of a Frozen fan was laughing and singing along. Our early dinner at Mama Melrose’s for the Fantasmic dinner package was a total disappointment. We’ve done this before and loved not having to wait in the monumental line for Fantasmic, even though the food is only mediocre in my opinion. But boy, was it not worth it this time! We arrived at 3:30 pm for our 3:40 reservation. We waited until 4:10 to be seated, and did not have our check until 5:30 pm. I’m not sure what the problem was, as there were several empty tables surrounding us. Except the table with the screaming baby right next to us, that was filled the entire time we were there. I was able to move our next FPP window, but even with the move, I nearly had to run to make it to the ToT. By the time we got there, it became clear that there was no way we were going to get through the ride and make it to our JTA show in time. DS10 decided that he would rather ride ToT since he never had before, and we missed JTA. So the 90 minute wait during prime riding time was a total bust. I felt bad that we took spots from other kids who wanted to do it, but hopefully two of the eager kiddos on the waiting list got their chance. Fantasmic was awesome, as always, and at least we got great seats with the dinner package. All in all, we had a fun day, but I feel like we wasted 2 1/2 hours of it, which made us miss out on some of the things we wanted to do. But the boys got to build their double light sabers (DH included), so they were super happy.
Tue Oct. 21: Rest day and Downtown Disney. We learned last trip that a day of rest is required for our family. Lots of time at the Big Blue Pool, including games by the pool until dinner time. The kids consider this as fun as a park day, and we get to put our feet up for a while and drink in some Florida sun and those to-die-for pina coladas with raspberry puree swirls. (Oh my, I want one of those right now. And the Florida sun would also be nice.) We headed to Downtown Disney in the late afternoon for some shopping. Even the stores are magical if you remember to look around, and especially up! We got lots of fun pictures of the kids and all things Disney. Based on advice from you awesome Liners, we had dinner ressies at Raglan Road. Delicious food and the music was great. DS10 did the dance lesson. The only disappointment was that we were seated in a side room, so we couldn’t see any of the stuff happening in the main dining room. The host assured us that we would see the entertainment because they would come into our room, which they did…briefly. I would have much preferred being in the main room, and will definitely request that next time. DMIL took the kids back to the resort while DH and I toured the Boardwalk resort, which was neat to see.
Wed Oct. 22: AK, a perfect day. This park has been my nemesis in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I love it (I am a veterinarian, after all, so animals are really my thing), but it’s so huge and I’ve never been able to tour it efficiently in the past. Two things that made all the difference: 1) A super efficient touring plan and 2)FPP reservations which took away the need to run all over the park for paper tickets. We started out with pre-RD breakfast at Tusker House (our third time doing this, and we love it…food is delicious, adore the characters, and AK pre-crowds is beautiful.) Then we did EVERYTHING. Well, with the exception of Maharaja Jungle Trek and Pangani Forest Expedition which we have done before and therefore traded out for time at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Our plan was so efficient that, much to the delight of DS6, we even had extra time to do TS and PW which weren’t on the plan. And we had a Mickey bar break! After our perfect day, we headed to Sanaa for dinner. Finally learned my lesson…when I checked in, I asked if we could pretty please have a table with a window view so we could watch the animals while we ate. And yes, they were able to accommodate. Our first time dining here, and the family was absolutely wowed. Watching giraffes eat while we enjoyed our beyond excellent food (including the scrumptious bread service that DS10 still raves about, thank-you Liners!!) was a truly magical end to our otherwise perfect day. And what a beautiful resort Animal Kingdom Lodge is! That place is definitely on a future must-do list.
Thurs Oct. 23: MNSSHP, another perfect day. Rested and enjoyed the pool for the first half of the day, then dressed up in our family pirate costumes and was at MK by 3:50 pm. They were letting people in already, so we got our wristbands and popped in to see Tinkerbell (who shocked the boys by warding them off with her giant purple pencil and demanding to know who their captain was!) We had FPP at 7DMT (again…we could not get enough of that ride!!) and BLSS (DH’s fave). 7DMT was closed at the time, so we were told we could come back any time later to FP it. So we spent some time playing the SOTMK game before our 4:50 BOG ADR. Another nod to the liners here. DH and I were both online and madly refreshing browsers the second our ADR window opened in April and were dismayed that we still could not get a BOG dinner res for this night, 5 days into our window. But you wonderful liners assured me…have faith, keep trying. And so I did. Multiple times. Every. Single. Day. From April until September when one magical morning, I got it, and it was exactly the time and date I wanted!! It’s possible that people in the next county heard my squeal of delight when a time actually popped up. After our lackluster lunch food, I was not nearly as excited to go there as I was when I scored the ADR, but after all that work, I was determined to love it. And I did! We requested a table in the West Wing, which we got. The atmosphere was amazing, the ratatouille was delicious, and the desserts were sinfully good. And getting to meet Beast…so cool! After dinner the mine train was back up and running, so we used that FP, then went to Buzz Lightyear FP. Technical difficulties there now…20 minute wait. But the super nice CM apologized and handed us a VIP pass good for FP entrance to any one ride the rest of the night, which meant another magical ride on 7DMT, this time in the dark, which was another level of amazing! We met Magic Mickey, and he was dressed in his Halloween costume and we talked to us…that was surreal. We spent the rest of the evening doing the party stuff…trick or treating, Villains show, Hallowishes (which, much to my delight was preceded by Celebrate the Magic, and this time, we scored a perfect front of the castle view!!), dance party (we danced with Cruella), and Boo To You parade. It was so much fun seeing all the people in their costumes, too! We ended the night on Splash Mountain (one of my favorite rides, but not so awesome if you get wet when it’s 59 degrees…next time I will wear poncho!!) and the Carousel. The one thing I wish we would have done was to meet Jack & Sally. We saw them dancing with each other and waved goodbye to them as we were leaving the park. It looked like that would have been a fun meet & greet.
Fri Oct 24 - EPCOT. I’m not sure why this is my least favorite park…maybe because I’ve always scheduled it for our last day and I’m a little sad, or maybe because it doesn’t seem like my kids are as interested in the attractions there? I would probably feel differently if I could participate in F&W or go drinking around the world sans kiddos. Anyway, we had a good time on Soarin’, TT, MS, SE, Figment, and Nemo. The kids did some of the activities in the Innoventions buildings, and DS10 loved the Sum of All Thrills (thanks again, Liners, I never knew about that before.) We had dinner at Akershus, which was insanely expensive but really good food, and the boys even enjoyed meeting all of the princesses. After dinner, we concentrated on finding a primo spot for Illuminations viewing, but were booted out of our first choice due to a private event, so ended up in Japan which turned out to be a nice spot where we even managed to score a bench! While we were waiting for the show, we kept ourselves occupied with hot cocoas, coffees, and a Jalepeno cheese pretzel (delicious, as reported here by Liners) while I video interviewed the boys about the highlights of our trip. Illuminations was a beautiful end to the night.
Sat Oct 25- The Tragical Express. You all know how that goes, no one wants to remember that part! But at least when we arrived home it was in the 70 degrees, which is surprisingly warm for late October in Wisconsin. (But we are paying for that now!)
A few other notes I wanted to add (because you want to read more, right?) And more praise to Liners:
Thanks for the Memory Maker sharing information. My friend who was taking a trip to WDW the following week shared the cost of the package with us, and we got a lot of amazing pictures with this. The magic shots are some of our favorites, and I would highly recommend this to anyone!!
Thanks for the shoe advice. My Skecher GoWalks and Keens were very kind to my feet. And DS6 loved his Keens, too!
Thanks for pointing me to the Dining Plan Calculator. We actually saved a bunch of money by going OOP, and I would have likely done DDP without this handy tool. And also it introduced me to the See Ya Real Soon video blog which I enjoyed watching and learning from while spending hours sewing our pirate costumes for MNNSHP.
I also want to say that my DS10 wears leg braces and uses crutches, so we decided to bring his wheelchair this time so he could enjoy the parks without tiring out so easily. I was worried about how hard this would be. Boy was I wrong! Disney is SO accommodating to wheelchair users!! And if anyone here has questions for me about this, please let me know…I’m happy to share.
I’m also happy to share our dining experiences as a vegetarian family if anyone has questions about that.
And finally, one more big thanks to all you liners who have shared so much info and enthusiasm about WDW here and in chat. It’s been fun riding along with all of you, and I’m sure I’ll be checking in periodically to see what you’re all up to until I resume full lurking mode for my next trip, hopefully in 2016!