I had high hopes of doing a semi-live trip report, and summarizing every night, but I didn’t end up having any down time whatsoever to log in and write it, which turns out was the overarching theme of this entire trip: “Overestimating my/our capacity!”
Anyway, I jokingly named this trip in our TP’s “Fourth Time’s the Charm” because it was originally supposed to be a graduation trip for DNiece17 (now 18) high school graduation. Just my sister and I and our respective kids DN18 and DS13. So we finally made it after rescheduling from last June, to July, to January to now!
A little background. I became a Disney fan after our first family trip in 2016, and DH, DS and I returned in 2019. DSis hasn’t ever been, and neither has DN. They always talked about taking her, and just never got to it. DN’s father passed away very unexpectedly in January 2020, so this trip originally was planned as a way to fulfill that promise to her, give her something to look forward to, and take her mind off of the milestones of high school graduation, going to college, etc. that her father would miss. Initially, a Disney trip seemed like the ultimate escape from the harsh realities of life, then well - 2020, ya know - things changed and this took a back burner to all the other harsh realities of life. But by now, the tickets were nonrefundable, the airfare credit had a looming expiration date, and darn it, I still wanted to go to Disney!
And so, we went. Under very different circumstances than originally planned, and after planning the entire trip from scratch four times, I was kind of on autopilot by this version. We originally planned to stay at POFQ, then upgraded to AKL (nope and nope, for this trip), briefly booked at CBR, then snagged a discount that was (barely) affordable at YC.
We left the Thursday early a.m. before Memorial Day, which was a good day to travel. Flight was uneventful and arrival at DME was almost empty. We waited about 30 minutes for the bus to arrive, watched a bunch of other buses come and go but didn’t really mind, and they were very apologetic and said they were sending a regular coach to bring us to YC. No hassles at all arriving, and about a dozen other people were on the coach with us but we were the only ones to get off at YC.
Check-in was a little lengthy, because they were trying to find us a room that was ready even though we said we’d just drop our bags and come back later. They upgraded us from a standard view to a garden view room, which was very nice although the only view we had was of a tree. Better than a parking lot though, so off we went!
It was about noon at this point, and everybody was tired and cranky and needed food, so we walked to Epcot. I had grand plans of grazing the food booths, but plans derailed almost immediately when DN needed shade and DS needed a drink, so I parked everybody at a picnic table near the American pavilion and went off to buy pretzels and water. This turned out to be the full extent of lunch, for everybody. Also a theme of the trip - most of my food plans were an epic fail, because teenagers, it turns out, want instant gratification, and don’t want to wait in line. We had a lot of pretzels and water throughout the trip…
We walked around a bit, hit a few rides, although the only ones I can remember are Soarin’ and LWTL. Lines weren’t bad at all, and crowds were as expected. Masks were required indoors and in all lines, but not outside, which was very manageable and only slightly a hassle. My dinner plans again consisted of grazing the food booths, and again it was derailed when DSis and DN wanted to sit down at a TS restaurant. As you all know - but they did not - that’s easier said than done on the fly. Epcot itself was a no-go, but fortunately we were able to join the walk-up list at Ale & Compass in YC, and got a table after a short wait. Score, and bonus was that the meal was very good. Props to A&C, for sure. After dinner, DSis and DN wanted to go back to the room, but DS and I didn’t, so he and I went to walk around the Boardwalk and get some dessert.
There is not a whole lot to do or see on the Boardwalk, or at least there wasn’t at the time, so it wasn’t exactly “fun” but it was better than sitting in a hotel room playing on our phones. Some pain points there, and a difference of expectations on how we’d spend our down time on the trip. Another recurring theme: “Downgrade your expectations.”
Day 2 was Animal Kingdom, which is my favorite park. I had warned them, repeatedly, that if they wanted to ride FOP we would have to be on the first bus leaving the resort (we made the second bus, which turned out OK), and that when we arrived we would have to beeline directly to FOP and NOT STOP TO TAKE SELFIES! Sigh, 18 year old girls do little else besides take selfies, it would seem. So I turned into something of a drill sergeant, which was not appreciated by the troops, until we breezed through the FOP line and were in the preshow area in about 20 minutes. After the ride, which they both loved and said they wanted to ride again immediately, we exited to find the line now at 65 minutes. Clearly they didn’t want to wait that long, and we hustled over to NRJ before that line exploded as well. It was at about 25 minutes at that point, which they also grumbled about, because again I was rushing them past SO MANY GLORIOUS SELFIE SPOTS in order to stand in a line. (I am unrepentant.about my sense of urgency. Also, those selfie spots are just as glorious an hour from now. Those mountains aren’t going anywhere.)
Side note: I know this is heresy, but I don’t like FOP. Well, I like it, I just can’t handle it, motion-sickness wise. Neither can DS, so although we went through the line and the preshow with them (which was still enjoyable), we did not ride the banshees and waited on a very comfortable bench outside the chamber chatting with a delightful CM while they rode. That time would probably have been better spent riding NRJ, but this was early in the trip and I wasn’t in the mindframe of splitting up yet. Yet. That would come later.
AK day was a mixed bag. We enjoyed a lot of it, but there are some things we still didn’t get to do. Nobody but me wanted to do the bird show, so we skipped it. Our timing was off for Lion King show, so we didn’t even try. I wanted to do the wildlife express train, but it didn’t start until later, and by then we were elsewhere in the park. The line for the raft ride was long all day so we didn’t wait. The otters weren’t out, which DS had been talking about all morning. We stood in line for Dinosaur for almost a half hour before it broke down and we dumped out of the line after watching Phylicia Rashad’s video for the third time. DN didn’t do well with the heat and all the walking, so there were a lot of breaks sitting on random benches, and AK is a very spread out, walking-heavy park. I joined the wait list for Nomad Lounge, which I was so excited about, but when they called our table nobody wanted to go back there, so I had to cancel it. The safari was a must-do, so we did it, but the line was incredibly long and snaked through the backstage area, which was weird and fairly off-putting to be walking past the dumpsters behind the fence. There were a lot of compromises to the plan, and I realized that the TP’s were going to go out the window completely. We had an ADR at Sanaa for an early dinner, which was a good opportunity to go somewhere quiet and sit down, and everybody liked their meal.
A very angry bird at Sanaa
After dinner we hopped over to HS and got to ride Smugglers Run with only about a 20 minute wait. This turned out to be a good idea, because we wouldn’t get a chance to do it again. We walked around Galaxy’s Edge a little, and did a few rides and stopped in a few shops. This was a low-key evening and it wasn’t very crowded. Afterward we went back to YC and finally got to swim in that glorious pool. Everybody was tired and more than a little cranky, but swimming was a good way to end the day.
Day 3 was HS day. I was tremendously relieved to get a BG at 7:00 drop, because i had prepped everyone on how to do it but DS was sleeping, DSis decided to take a shower, and DN hesitated at the join screen so my finely tuned plans didn’t turn out so great. But BG70, which I was very happy about. I had made a breakfast ADR at Cape May but the plan was for DS and I to go right to HS to rope drop the Star Wars stuff and the girls to do breakfast, but since we’d done some of it the night before we all went to breakfast. We took the boat from YC which was very nice. We didn’t get there in time for rope drop, so again the TP went out the window. All day I kept looking at the MMRR times, and all day they topped 45 minutes (except when the ride went down, which lasted quite a while). This day we did end up splitting up a little, the girls rode Star Tours while DS and I built his lightsaber. We had plans to do lunch at Docking Bay 7, which was insanely crowded so by then we just wanted to move on. We ended up having a funnel cake and root beer float for lunch and sitting outside Indiana Jones (which I so wish was open!). Wandered around TSL, sat in the tunnel outside GE for a while (because hot teenager = no walking), were given a Mickey ice cream bar by a very nice and patient dad whose youngster refused to eat it, and enjoyed the Muppets 3D show (corny but cute) before our BG was called. ROTR is amazing, and just as good as everyone says. I was worried about the drop - there’s a drop! I don’t do drops! - but if I could handle it, literally anyone can handle it. Trust me. Again, we did a lot, but there’s a lot we didn’t get to. The only thing I really regret is not making time for MMRR. That entire line snakes back and forth out in the sun so it was a very unattractive prospect to stand out there that long, but I still wanted to ride it. But we got a BG, so the day was a success!
We pooped out shortly after our BG and went back to the hotel, swam a bit, then had an ADR at Trattoria al Forno, which was convenient but very, very disappointing. DN liked her vegan bolognese but everyone else’s meal was moderately bland to downright inedible. I wouldn’t go there again. While we were eating there was a rainstorm, but it was over by the time we finished so we walked over to Epcot to jump in line for FEA before closing. There was much grumbling by my companions, because everybody’s feet hurt and nobody wanted to stand in line, but by then we were almost at the front of the line so we powered through the pain. I love that ride, as simple as it is, and the walk out of WS after the entire park has shut down is both beautiful and eerie.
Day 4 was MK, and this was a doozy. Everybody was so tired by now, and despite my best efforts to prep them, DSis and DN had wildly underestimated the size, scale, and sheer amount of walking necessary at WDW. Everybody complained a lot this day, and many fights were had between the teens. We did make it in time for rope drop, but I dialed down the drill sergeant intensity and we did multiple photos in front of the castle, which worked out great because everybody else was running to a ride, so we had the whole front of the castle basically to ourselves. Our first ride was Jungle Cruise, because nobody had a strong preference otherwise and I don’t do roller coasters, so I got to pick. The CM mocked our entire boat for rope dropping JC, because there are so many other options that are arguably better, but I have no regrets! We then walked on to Pirates, then wandered through Adventureland to Frontierland. DN did the coaster over there, then we went to Sleepy Hollow for waffles, which were yummy. Wandered around looking for a short line, which got increasingly difficult, and managed to do IASM and Pooh before hightailing it out of Fantasyland for Tomorrowland, which was a lot more pleasant. Did PeopleMover and Buzz, which I love, and the gas-guzzler cars, which I don’t but DS does. A little shopping, and then took the boat to the Poly for our lunch ADR at Kona Cafe. Lunch was very good, and it was a much-needed break, but after lunch DSis and DN wanted to go back to the hotel so we split up again.
DS and I went back to MK and we enjoyed the rest of our afternoon then headed back to Epcot. We must have had dinner somewhere in here, but it’s a big blur because all I can remember is DS complaining about his sore feet and the two of us sitting outside the (not open yet) Ratatouille ride eating a too-sweet cookie and having one of those pink frozen cocktails from France. Maybe i had a cookie for dinner? It’s entirely possible. That’s a lovely peaceful spot to sit right now, but will be something of a congested canyon once the ride is open. I so wished it was open though!
Day 5 we had to check out of the hotel but first had a nice breakfast at Ale & Compass, and one final swim. I really enjoyed both our meals at A&C, and would recommend it. We had a park res for Epcot, so we did Soarin’ again, walked through a couple of the countries (we watched the Canada movie, but the Canada pavilion itself was closed - much like Canada is, actually - which was terribly disappointing), and then had to head over to HS for an ADR at Oga’s. I realize this was risky to make an ADR for a park we didn’t have a reservation for, but this was the only time I could get Oga’s and constant refreshing and MouseDining and the res finder weren’t successful in getting another one, so this was now or never. We totally enjoyed our Oga’s res, mostly because they gave us a booth! To sit down! And it’s pretty cool in there. We got drinks and the chip things, but we wished we’d gotten the meat plate too, because it actually looked pretty good. But it was a nice 1/2 hour, and we stayed basically as long as they’d let us.
Everyone except me wanted to do Star Tours (because the line for the Falcon was way too long, unfortunately), so I took one for the team and we all did it. I hate Star Tours. Like, cold-sweats-I-shall-barf-on-your-shoes hate. And OMG that ride is unbearably long! But I did it, and then we hustled out of there.
We took the Skyliner back to YC, which is a lovely ride but not exactly the speediest way to get there and was a miscalculation. We got there about 5 minutes before our DME was scheduled to leave, which was cutting it wayyyy too close for comfort but we did make it without delaying anyone, so it turned out OK.
I had entered a dummy flight into DME that was leaving that night, even though we weren’t actually leaving until the following morning. I waffled on this, but the flight was at 7:10 so I didn’t want to pay Disney hotel prices to stay half the night and get picked up by DME at 4 in the morning. So I made a reservation at the Hyatt at MCO, which was actually really nice and a great option for a late arrival/early departure. MCO was a madhouse at 6 a.m. and lines to check luggage at Southwest were very long, TSA lines were about 25 minutes, and we had enough time to get to our gate but no food places in the terminal were open until 7, after our plane had already boarded, so we couldn’t get anything to eat, which was again not according to plan. But we got on our plane and got home just fine, so even though it was a bit of a scramble, and we were all getting on each other’s nerves, we ended peacefully enough.
Things I learned:
- Sometimes I need to chill. This is a tough one. I am a planner by nature (and profession) so I find it very difficult to just go with the flow. But not everybody wants a plan, nor do they want to follow MY plan, so I need to take my foot off the gas pedal sometimes.
- DS and I are excellent travel partners. DS and DN are terrible travel partners. Pick your travel partners wisely! (ETA: by this I mean that DS and DN get along like oil and water nowadays, so they really can’t travel together until the hormones settle a bit. Not that DN or DSis are bad travel partners on their own. The kids are just difficult together.)
- Epcot is a hot mess right now. Walls everywhere, and with all the touch-screen stuff closed, a lot of things are sad and disappointing. The Seas was surprisingly subdued and kinda boring without any of the interactive elements, and the area after Mission Space looks like an abandoned car dealership. I really hope those elements come back soon, because they add so much to the experience.
- Despite the ridiculously high price tag, I only want to stay in the Epcot-area resorts from now on. I love AKL, deeply, but nothing beats being able to stroll over to Epcot for an hour at the end of the evening for a frozen cocktail and a walk through WS.
- Next time we go, I’m dragging DH with me and we will eat and drink ALL THE THINGS! I erred on the side of caution and only made one TS res per day, but that resulted in haphazard mealtimes and limited food items. We skipped a lot of actual meals in favor of a pretzel or a frozen lemonade, because it was quicker or easier, but I missed out on a bunch of stuff I really wanted to try. And I was often hungry.
- Four days is not a long enough trip. We didn’t even do half of what I planned to do, and we were constantly moving. My sister had originally asked me if we really needed a full day at each park, and didn’t believe me when I told her one day isn’t nearly enough. Ultimately, the fast pace wasn’t ideal for any of us, but the alternative was to skip an entire park, which was a nonstarter.
- The MCO Hyatt is worth every penny for a one-night stay, and a nice hotel to boot. With an outdoor rooftop pool, which surprised me!
I want to go again, but not until everything is open, and definitely not with anyone outside my immediate family (or who isn’t as wedded to the idea of “doing all the things” as I am). Until next time, cheers!