After a two non-(pre)-Covid reschedule & too many Covid reschedules to remember, my family is FINALLY coming back to WDW!! We are DL Magic Key holders & very familiar with all things DLR but have only been to WDW as a family once- Spring Break 2016 for 8 days. We loved it & had planned to make it to WDW every other year or so but life (& Covid) happened so here we are 6 years later and have never made it back.
So much has changed both at WDW and in our family & this trip is going to be a lot different in make-up that I feel like I need some help on what we can flexibly put where.
First up, the cast
My own little family grew 2 more kids since our last WDW trip AND this will be an extended family trip (one confirmed, one tentative). So the cast of characters is a little, ok a LOT bit bigger.
Family #1 (mine) is me DW (me), DH, DS11, DD9(will be 10 by trip), DS5, & DD2 (will be 3 by trip).
Family #2 (confirmed coming) is DSil, DBiL and their kids Dnephew 10 (will be 11 on trip) & DD7. They live 5 minutes from us so will have almost all of the same travel as us.
Family #3 (tentatively coming) is a cousin (not first, but one generation up is 1st cousins, whatever cousin that makes us) of DH & DSiL’s and his family of DW, DS10, & DD5 (will be 6 by trip). They live on the opposite side of the country as the rest of us & so will meet us in Florida for whatever they can make still TBD (but they do have the cruise part of the trip booked with us, for now).
Next, the dates & itinerary so far
Wed 3/22 - Families #1 & 2 fly to MCO on a PM flight (either the 5:40 flight that gets to MCO just before midnight eastern or the red eye- but we’re leaning heavily on not the redeye).
Thur 3/23 through Sun 3/26 - 4 days at WDW, probably just one park each day
Mon 3/27- Families #1 & 2 drive to Miami (family #3 is very unsure on if they will be doing the cruise & if they do, they don’t love the drive to Miami so they are leaning on a short flight).
Mon 3/27- Sat Apr 1 - 5 Night Western Caribbean Cruise on the Dream from Miami
Sat Apr 1-Mon 4/3 Families #2 (and if still there Family #3) will likely want to plan some beach stuff before they have to fly back (DSiL has to be back to her job Mon morning). Our family (#1) will not be planning to fly back until sometime Monday 4/3 so we will likely drive back up to Orlando & end the trip with Sat-Sun (and depending on what time we fly out Mon, maybe Mon) at UOR. But I would also consider letting the kids stay and do beach time with all the cousins, especially if Family #3 that we don’t get to see often is still on the trip & is doing the beach stuff too, but THEN Saturday night driving up to Orlando and doing UOR Sunday.
We do have a travel agent (related to the DW in Family #3), but we’ve only got as far as booking a cruise with her. Nothing else (no flights, or hotels or anything) has been seriously discussed (mostly bc I haven’t been able to get consensus from the other 2 families on big things like where to stay & what days). We just barely figured out what days DSiL could be gone to figure out how many park days we could do & now have the dates fully set.
Family #2 has told me to just plan whatever, they trust me that I know them well enough & they have never been so it’s overwhelming to think too much about (& presented with options, they are happy to give honest input). Family #3 are frequent WDW visitors with passes/keys and they tend to only plan if the people they go with plan. When we’ve traveled with them before, they participate in the things they want and hang back for the things they don’t (like getting up early for being at the park before 10-11am). Anything for all of us I plan to ask the travel agent book & I’m also not adverse to doing booking for my own family on anything that we depart from the group if that will make it easier for the travel agent.
So what do I need help with?..
1) First off, where to stay for the WDW part?
We stayed at All Star Movies and were happy as clams there in 2016 bc we were at the parks from 9am-10pm+ every single day. We came back only on our MK days for midday breaks bc their hours were a little later, but on our other par days, coming back didn’t seem to jive with a 9pm (or in the case of AK at the time 6pm close). With only one day for each park, we will definitely be maximizing park time so I’m looking for best value.
This time around, my family alone will need 2 rooms so is two value rooms onsite the most economical? Or are there suites/DVC room layouts that might be worth considering? OR should I be really considering off-site? The other two families have potentially discussed getting a large off-site rental house for all the families to share which might be really fun. But I also don’t know if I want to spend so much more time getting to & from parks with only 4 days so again leaning back to onsite & value. Family #2 & #3 do want us to try to keep our accommodations as close together as possible but other than expressing the fun an off-site rental would be, I don’t think they’ve ventured any opinions. Also, this was before we really had the dates nailed down & with them being so limited for the park time, I don’t know if that really makes sense anymore.
2) Which park do we do which day? One park per day or consider hopping?
For a number of reasons (mostly that DSiL is a teacher & only has 4 personal days all year long and needs to pull a lot of favors to even use those days just before or after a long break like she will need to for this trip), the WDW dates are NOT flexible. So we have Thur, Fri, Sat & Sun. I am figuring one park each day. But what’s the best order to go in? Should we consider hopping? While we definitely want one day in MK, we all know that we probably want to get as much AK, EP & the unique to WDW parts of DHS. So wondering if there’s any benefit to hopping to accomplish that? But sticking to one day per park also seems nice & neat & easy & not going to wear everyone horribly ragged for part 2.
**3) Is absolutely batshit crazy to drive back up to Orlando after the cruise for Universal?
We in Family #1 are all (well maybe except for DD2 who isn’t old enough to know if she is a fan) huge Harry Potter fans. And me, DH & the 2 older kids love coasters. DH & I have been to WWoHP when it was only the Hogsmeade side and we absolutely want to take the kids to experience WWoHP in Orlando & see Diagon Alley finally, plus do some of our favorite coasters there & share them with our coaster-loving older kids.
Family #2 would consider going back up, maybe, but knowing their personalities, I am thinking they would rather have a beach day than try to drive back 3 hrs for a theme park, but some of them are decent Harry Potter fans too. And Family #3 has no interest in “that other park” in Orlando, so even if they go on the cruise, we would part ways if we head to UOR.
Because our family is staying just a tad longer in Florida than Family #2 I do think that we will end up doing Universal time, even if it’s just Sunday 4/2 & whatever time we have on Monday (if any) before our flight home. DH is already sold on driving back up to Orlando once we part ways with familes #2/3 (and is pushing for maximum time in Universal), so I’m asking about the level of crazy that this is more to manage expectations for Family #2 if they will join us. DSiL isn’t opposed to some craziness & is the biggest Harry Potter fan but she’s also not a huge fan of driving distances bc of motion sickness & Universal in general might be hard for her bc of that as well.
4)How to narrow down all the food?
When we last went, I really struggled with narrowing down our ADR choices to what we ended up with on 8 days. I have no earthly idea how to do it for 4. So major help needed here.
Last time we did & LOVED and so are on our family’s want list:
- Ohana dinner (timed to see fireworks near the end of dinner)
- Chef Mickey’s brunch
- 1900 Park Fare breakfast
Ones we did last time but but want a “re-dos” bc DH came down with a bug that robbed his appetite:
- Tusker House - is the menu still really diverse & good for both adventurous & safe eaters? DH was excited to try some of the adventurous stuff but due to the bug he had was not at all in an eating mood even though this was our main breakfast.
- Be Our Guest- Dinner with the beast. I know it’s moved to Pre-fix but this was one DH was pretty adamant we try again and DSiL is a huge BatB fan (like me) so it would be a hit with us. But how hard is it to get these days, especially with a large group?
These were cut from the list last time & are ones I’m still super interested in doing one day, so are still on the long list here:
- Prime Time
- Crystal Palace
- 1900 PF Happily Ever After Dinner (did that ever come back, btw??)
- Teppan Edo
And just for reference, we also tried last time we went (& liked but weren’t wowed & amazed to rush right back for):
- Whispering Canyon Cafe
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Garden Grill
Realistically, I should probably cut out any resort dining with the short length of stay but I might try to make Chef Mickey’s work bc riding the monorail to CR & then doing brunch with Mickey was just the perfect & most magical first visit experience for my older 2 kids & it’s hard not to want to replicate that for the younger too. Cinderella’s Royal Table was also a good “first visit” experience, but we also felt we wasted the morning there and we felt that it was Princess Speed Meeting & not in a best way (we got the pre-RD early reservation but we don’t have the speed to eat & dash before RD and we learned through this experience that we like our face character meals to be times when we can be leisurely, so if we did it again, would go for a time when we weren’t feeling pressure to get up & be done).
But anywho, what’s your advice for how you plan dining on such a short stay? And would you even do one TS/day? Or just pick one or two that we really want and do QS the rest of the time??
Anywho, any & all help is welcomed, so thank you for reading thus far.