TLDR - second trip, CBR 3 night, 4 day 4 park plus After Hours MK, DAS no Genie+, about 55-60 attractions, 2 ADRS, 30,000k steps per day.
So, I said we would only do one Disney trip but not only did I discover that it is truly the happiest place on earth we also managed to score 3 free nights at Caribbean Beach resort due to a (now hilarious) series of unfortunate events during our last trip. We planned this in the last 2 months. A little about us – DH 44, Me 42, DD 14 now from a smallish car dependent urban area (as opposed to last time). We drove, we had a DAS, and we prefer thrill rides and staying mobile over waiting, sitting, and meeting characters. Because we were only staying 3 nights, we opted for After Hours at Magic Kingdom in addition to 4 regular park tickets. We are vegan with a dairy allergy so that dictated where we ate (options were available almost everywhere but we picked places based on not getting standard impossible burger every time!) We also had a PhotoPass. I had a hard time finding experiences with DAS and AH so I’m included some extra details about DAS in general.
First, notes about DAS: We tried twice to do the video chat after school and we were on hold until they closed without getting through. The day I got on at opening, we waited an hour and made it through. I also made 2 advanced reservations for each park day. You provide your top 3 rides for each park and preferred time of day and they do their best. I would say we used about half of our advanced reservations because timing was just awkward. Once in the park, you get one additional return time at a time. Most of the time, we were able to book the first return time about 5-10 min before official regular park open but the app did seem to “roll out” rides between a Early Hours start and 10 minutes post regular open time. Kind of annoying because I had to be on my phone while walking through first ride lines. Once you tap in for a DAS, you can make a new DAS. In terms of AH – you CAN use DAS, but lightening lanes shut down sometime around 11:30 once all the normal day ticket people were totally gone and standby times were negligible. There was not DAS for GoTG and had we not been boarding group 1, I don’t know how that would have gone for us. YMMV. I’ve indicated which rides were DAS in the plan – so realize that I booked it and then filled in the wait time with other activities. There is no DAS during early entry so choose your rope drop strategy wisely. J I thought we would do Genie+ but in the end decided against it and glad we did with the $29 per person per day cost this week.
Here we go!
We drive in a day earlier than planned -
10:11pm arrive to the WORLD – stay at Hilton Buena Vista Resort and used points– literally checked-in, slept, and left J I don’t tell DH and DD that clocks will spring forward and everyone reports feeling fine after about 5ish hours of sleep. PSA- I didn’t plan it this way as I also forgot about clock change so CHECK THIS before you plan out your days if you are going for spring or fall break J 10/10 do not recommend, lol.
Sunday 3/12 – Hollywood Studio day
5:45am wake up for 6am departure to Caribbean Beach Resort
Park car in first lot on the left and head over to Skyliner before it opens at 7am
3rd family on the Skyliner headed to HS – there is a coffee shop at the skyliner gate that also opens at the same time – wish it was about 10min prior. Skyliner hours all week looked to be an hour before earliest open time for each park.
We are about 3-4 families back at the tapstiles at 7:20 but most head over to SWRR
7:30 they open up the park
We head to Slinky Dog and it as GREAT ride to start our adventure with!
7:55 they get us on the ride for the first run – 5 min before official EE start.
8:30 DAS to SWRR and by 8:40 I cry at the sight of storm troopers (in this park on this day, CMs were letting us tap into DAS early but we did not have this same experience anywhere else.)
9:00 DAS advance rez SWMFSR
Ronto for a plant based breakfast snack – super yum
And wander around GE a little and ToyStory a little, pit stop for restroom in GE – nice and big and clean!
10:00 DAS Alien SS
10:20 DAS TSM
10:25 pics in Toy Story Land
11:00 Star Tours
11:25 on Hollywood BLVD for pics
12:00 DAS TT
Shopping, tried Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge but with 1.5 hour wait we Mobile ordered at Dock bay 7 and that turned out to be an excellent choice!
Stalked by storm troopers at 12:44
Wander GE, pics, quick outdoor show
DAS to SD failed – MMRR, SWRR, and TSSD all down. We got an any experience pass but all lines were ridiculous at this point because so many folks had the pass and were diverted from these big three.
Shop and fix DD Magic band – they had to replace it and Guest Experience was so helpful!
2:30 skyline back to hotel
Pool – the big pool needs more shade! Drinks were good but line was LONG!
5:00 Sebastians – so yum
Skyliner by 6:30 back to HS
7:00 Slinky again with our any ride pass from before
8:04 DAS advance rez TT
SWRR DAS – ride goes down and is down for the rest of the night
Wander GE at night
8:40 We couldn’t fit this in but a kind CM let us peek into Oga’s Cantina
Photos at 8:50 with lightsabers!
Animation with beer and popcorn and out by 9:30
Animal Kingdom day with MKAH (Rain most of the day in AK)
On first bus at 6:30 – handful of families back from tapstiles
7:30 walking back
Pandora by 8
This is the place where I remind you to remind your teen to go to the bathroom before leaving the hotel because here we had to potty break during early entry! J
We go to Kali but its not open till 9
8:30 DAS Dinosaur
Coffee stop and pics near Pandora
9:00 DAS Navi
Search for Water – bottle fillers were easy to find at HS but the only one at AK is in the Pandora line which we breezed right past. Found a QS and got ice water
10:30 – DAS Everest
10:45 DAS Kali – now I’m really wet
Early lunch at Harambe – not planned and probably our worst meal
Dole whip from Tam Tam
2:00 Safari DAS advance rez
Waitlist for Nomad – timing gets a little fuzzy here. We were quoted 75 min at 2:45pm. We were seated by 3:30 and while we waited for a text we…
3? It’s a bugs life
Nomad lounge – we considered going back to hotel and decided to hang in this LOVELY space. Cushions, drinks, small plates, A/C, well spaced out. It was perfection and service was the best we got the whole trip! We got the delicious special beer and end up getting it again at Jungle Canteen on MK day.
6ish? One more DAS Everest
6:30 leave AK by bus
7:00 arrive MK – earliest entry for AH and you will intermingle with regular ticket holders at a very busy time. I checked all wait times and everything was pretty unreasonable for our crew. You can’t make a DAS return time until you are in the park so I make it for SDMT and figure out other things to do until then.
Shopping on Main Street – its CROWDED and getting cold. We get sweatshirts.
I also get a small reusable bag to carry water in…see later AH notes
Fireworks at 8:30 from Swiss Family Treehouse :)This was a great idea!
9:00 – Aladdin’s Magic Carpets
9:20 – carousel
9:35 – it’s a small world
10:00 DAS Mine Train – at this point all reg tix can be in line to finish up which means we can’t get right back on because standby was still 1.5 hours
10:15 Haunted Mansion
10:20 pictures outside HM and at this point we look for the “free snacks” and have a hard time…there aren’t any near HM or in fantasyland and we learn we learn we have to go all the way to Tomorrowland so we head over there next.
11:00 DAS SDMT
Snacks – water, soda, mickey ice cream, strawberry popsicle, popcorn – they had a HARD time keeping up stock at this location.
11:15 last DAS we use tonight-space mountain
11:20 people mover
Big thunder x 2 in a row – at this time of night all reg tix folks are all gone and we can get on several times in a row
Last snack cart – there are frequent snack carts open in frontier land and adventure land with no lines! We stock up on “free” bottles of water that ends up getting us water for morning coffee & oatmeal, and starting bottle fills through the rest of the trip.
Although we were out at the bus stop for CBR about 15 minutes 1, we wait at least 20 min
Bus home and in bed by 2am.
7am – DH grabs Boarding group 1 for GOTG – woohoo!
Skyliner at 7:40 – we were running late by my standards!
Walked back to Remy at 8:07 at we are not near the front of the pack, but not in a terrible spot either
8:25 Remy right before official early entry start
Went to Frozen and got a text for GoTG saying we needed to be there by 9:40. With the 40 min posted wait time for Frozen I was nervous so we get out of line. Still don’t know if this was the right choice.
10:09 DAS Test track
10:40 DAS advance rez Mission Space orange – only DD does this because it makes both DH and I sick
11:00 DAS Spaceship Earth
11:30 DAS Soarin
12:00 Living Land
Butterflies at 12:30 and Journey (our next DAS) shuts down
Now on to Around the World! We try not to worry about timing so times are sporadic and approximate here. We wander through all countries – notes are food related mostly.
Around 1pm: Fish sliders, iced coffee, corn
Mexico – margarita
2:20 Norway – school bread and almond Kringla Yum
Germany – tiny beers and potato pancakes
3:30 – DAS Frozen
German beer and pretzel
Orange blossom beer from America
France ice cream and hang in a beautifully quiet shady spot right by Remy entrance
Morocco again for pics at 5:30
UK 6:11 - pics
Canada maple popcorn and fin du monde
Right next door I find apricot beer and I’m in love
DAS for Journey
Monorail to Poly
Dole whip and a quick walk by the beach.
Back on monorail and in Epcot right at 9
Walk/Dance around to the Skyliner during show (also, why oh why do all the stands close so early)
Bed at 10:15
Up at 6:45 to pack
Drive to MK and park at Transportation Center – standard is free for resort guests and you only pay the difference for preferred so we pay the $20 and are super glad later.
In park before official RD for early entry. BUT security and tapstiles already open by the time we get there and signage/CM direction was non-existent so we waste about 5 min figuring out where we can enter once up Main Street – hang to the right if you get in this situation. We get in Peter Pan line right at 8:30 (early open time) and it’s already posted a 50 min wait.
DD decides to ditch us and go to Astro Orbiter and is done and back with us at 9:25 and just in time to get in our car at PP
9:40 DAS advanced Pirates
10am – Cinderella castle pic
10:10 DAS SDMT
10:20 pic in fantasy land
Try Under the Sea with 20 min wait in app but 50 min when we get there at 10:25 so we get a mickey pretzel instead
10:37 Take train from fantasy land to Frontierland
11:10 DAS Jungle cruise
11:40 line for coffee and see marching band – this is Westward Ho and likely the longest wait besides Test Track we have the whole trip
Try Ariel again an its down as we get in line
Keep trying to DAS Ariel and app malfunctions but we get help from Guest Experience and we ride it pretty much right away.
2:35 Tom Sawyer Island
3:00 Watch parade
3:20 Jungle Canteen Had a ADR but wait 30 min anyway
5:30 DAS advance rez Big thunder
6:18 DAS Seven dwarfs
Walk through Cinderella castle
6:30 Monster’s Laugh Room
Carousel of Progress
Pics at 7:44
Shop for a bag
8:15 DAS Meet Mickey (at this time of night there really wasn’t a need to DAS this)
8:45 in the car and our feet are glad we didn’t have to walk one more step.
This trip made possible by each of us carrying a small bag (me a fanny pack, DH a sling backpack, DD a purse) of snacks, instant coffee, sunscreen, moleskin, battery chargers (MDE app sucks 50% of battery while in park so your phone will not last as long as you are accustomed to), refillable water bottle, ponchos, water filter straws. All in all we did about 55-60 attractions depending on how you count which is probably a few more than same amount of days last trip. The cut to early morning hour and late nights for all resort guests really hurt us that way and made this number of attractions in 4 days only possible with the AH for our crew. We struggled through AHMK so I don’t know that I would do that again though we did get some “have tos” out of the way. With a more chipper crew and fresh feet we probably could have done AH more efficiently. We did not need to “train” for Disney walking last time because we were car-less and walked as primary transport to/from work/school and all else, but we absolutely should have worked up walking time prior to this trip now that we live in a car dependent area and walk more for exercise/leisure.
We stayed in Barbados at CBR and I highly recommend this area for proximity to Skyliner, lobby, dining, and big pool. We also purchased Disney gift cards from BJs with a credit card that gave us extra points AND using a Rakuten deal with 8% cash back. While our CM was not able to let us prepay with them, our CC on file did not get charged at all until checkout so we were able to pay our last night. We were told they only charge once you get up to $1500 so keep that in mind if you are wanting to pay off balances with GC instead of CC on file.
Things we noticed compared to our last visit in 2018. There are more plant based options (YAY!) which makes it easier for our dairy allergy. There were less staff overall, particularly in what I would describe as non-mission critical areas. So waits at snack carts, GE umbrellas, etc. much longer. Fewer security and tapstiles lines open despite being some of the most crowded days. BUT we only ran into one disgruntled CM and despite less staff we never felt rushed anywhere so that was all good.
I think age 14 for our kid was a great time to go – old enough to get into planning and not want to meet every character but still (barely?) young enough to do some of the more silly things and still want to be out with us She remembered quite a bit from the last trip at age 9 and was able to pick and choose priorities based on her memory which was nice.
BIG shout out to everyone for all the trip reports I scoured and all that I learned to make these trips magical and successful! Thank you!!
Sorry this was so long!