Our trip report - WDW and AoA August 2016

Hi all! In my 6 months of planning, I really enjoyed reading trip reports on the forum. I hope you enjoy reading about my family’s trip, which we returned from on Saturday night. We spent 6 nights at Art of Animation Nemo Suites and visited all 4 parks and Blizzard Beach. More on that in a second. :slight_smile: But first, a proof of concept before I jump in. Here is a pic of the kids back in reality (more specifically, in our back yard).

It was a great trip and it’s tough to be home:
It took me 24 hours to take off my Magic Band. Kids are still wearing theirs!
We baked chocolate chip cookies and rice krispie treats both yesterday because it was just too depressing not to get a baked good with every meal.
My Touring Plans dashboard looks horribly barren and blank. It’s like it does not even remember all the fun times we had together!

Happy planning and more from me soon!


It looks like the photo came through, so onward!

We flew JetBlue from DCA (Washington DC) direct to MCO (Orlando). We have done this on our one previous family trip to WDW and we are big fans - nice legroom, Direct TV at every seat, and good pricing. We, by the way, is me, DH, DD11, and DS8. Our only prior trip was a quick 3-day visit as part of another trip 3.5 years ago. Crowds, weather, and the kids ages then kept us from “doing it all,” so this trip was a chance to see more in a longer stay. Anyway. :slight_smile: We had rented a car so that that “all” could include water parks and DS without relying on buses. And we had rented a Nemo suite at AoA for more space (and a second bathroom) on this longer stay.

Art of Animation: The hotel was everything we had hoped for. I saw an excellent write up of the Nemo suites earlier today and I agree. For 4 people, it was absolutely luxurious. 2 bathrooms is great, and putting two kids in separate spaces for the night gave everyone some breathing room not usually associated with hotel stays. Plus, the image of DS (no longer a baby in any way except when sleeping) nestled into the table/murphy bed under a picture of sleeping Nemo is one I will take with me for a long time, sniff! Room had lots of thoughtful shelves and storage. We were on the pool side but the 4th floor (had requested lake view 4th floor via TP), but never heard any pool noise. Walk to the lobby, food court, buses was 2 min, tops (we had previously stayed at CBR and had a long walk, so this factored into picking Nemo). Walk to parking was a bit further. We swam in the Big Blue Pool and the Cozy Cone pool (small, but cute) and explored the whole resort on foot, as well as Pop Century via the bridge across the lake. Both resorts had good food courts, but I personally liked Pop’s a little better (might be the Tie Dyed Cheesecake talking, or the Weezer tunes blaring from the pool to the delight of my Gen X ears!). The kids loved the outdoor movies, yoga mats provided. I liked being near the laundry room, and urge everyone to check out the LaundryView website, which I learned about here, where you can see available machines in real time. So, a big rave for AoA. We had meals in several deluxe resorts over the week, and they looked amazing, but I think for our family, the extra space of a value suite at AoA was a better use of our dollars.

Having a Car After a week of driving everywhere but MK, I feel less relaxed than I did on the last trip where we bussed everywhere. The driving was fairly easy, thanks to the Waze app, good signage, and having 2 adults to sort things out, but the parking was a growing annoyance. Remembering not just the row but the relative position of the car (that isn’t my car, so I don’t recognize it right away), plus the additional walk or tram ride, to me is more hassle than the bus on park days. I also prefer DME for airport transport. But, I liked it for DS and water parks.

The Dining Plan We had the regular dining plan as part of a room, ticket, dining package. We ate a table service meal every day the last time we came, so it seemed to make sense. However, we booked a few extra things not covered by the DP (kids’ club, dessert party), and quickly it became a scheduling challenge to use up all those TS credits (and an eating challenge to use the CS credits and snacks!). I liked the convenience and the “not looking at prices,” but I am not sure we made the most of it.

Tickets Similarly, we booked 5 day park hoppers with Waterpark Fun and More because we planned to do these things, we planned to park hop, and it made cost sense to bundle them in. But when push came to shove, 5 park days in a 6 night stay, plus 6 TS meals, made it hard to fit in all that water parking and mini golfing. We did make it to BB for an hour on the last day, but on our other rest day, we found ourselves wanting to make a quick return to MK instead. Like the car and the DP, it was nice having WFAM, but I am not sure we needed them!

Next up, our days in the world!


Arrival Night - Disney Springs We spent our first evening eating dinner at Rainforest Café at Disney Springs. Kids liked the food and the ambience of this place. We then explored the huge Disney store and kids got BB-8 and C3-PO ears that were with us the rest of the trip. We swam and watched Finding Nemo by the pool after we got back from dinner. DS was hot and crowded but parking was not too difficult for our 5:30 ADR.

Day 1 - Animal Kingdom, Fantasmic! We spent our abbreviated AK day getting used to the heat and humidity. This was a planned short day (8 AM EMH to 3 PM) and sort of a training ground for our RD-to-Wishes plan for MK the next day. We made sure our cool towel, sunscreen, and hydration practices were shipshape for the next day. Plus, we really like parts of AK, including FoTLK, P Whirl, and EE, and it was our first time on Safari and Kali. We stayed cool, grabbed lunch at Restaurantosaurus (OK, not a favorite, but air conditioned!), and enjoyed a restful afternoon.

Sidenote 1 - Tweens and Stamina I wanted to see Fantasmic!, but didn’t have a spot for it in the plan. Finally just asked the kids if, instead of rest night at the hotel, they wanted to go see it at 8:30. We all ended up going. Compared to our trip when they were 4 and 7, being able to attend an evening event at all, let alone spontaneously, felt downright magical! The whole trip, the kids slept roughly 10 to 7 every night, which gave us flexibility on both ends of the day. PS - I liked the show!

Sidenote 2 - Tweens and Scary Rides Our kids had never been on Disney thrill rides before, and although they claimed they wanted to, fear loomed large over their days in the parks. Sometimes a tantrum that seemed to be about something else was really about dread of a feared FPP ride later in the day. It took us a few days to calibrate for that. Older kids are better at covering their fears, but they might still be in there. I designed the TP to work up to bigger rides (rather than RDing EE, we hit it at 2 after confidence building on P Whirl), but fear was still a factor (see photo evidence, front two rows). They were proud when they rode new rides, but did not seem to thoroughly enjoy them until later in the week!


I’m enjoying this so far, looking forward to reading more!

I am really enjoying your trip report so far. Thanks for sharing! We are taking our 6 year old and 13 year old daughters in a few weeks, so I am loving your insight from your trip.

Thanks, @Mom2Girls1980 and @missoverexcited!

Day 2 - Our Day of Days: Magic Kingdom To be honest, planning our MK day was my favorite part of using the Personalized Touring Plans. This park has so many great attractions, and it seemed like my kids wanted to try all of them. I felt like I could use the shared knowledge of the wonderful TP community to benefit us here the most. Thanks, all! :slight_smile:

Our plan started with the Welcome Show, something I never would have know about if not for you all. Not only was this a heartwarming start to the day, but it positioned us to enter at 8:40, a huge advantage versus those who entered at 9. The touring plans account for pre-RD starts and shorter waits if you put the Welcome Show in your attractions, but the effect was even greater than predicted. It was glorious to walk into things with no waits for a full 2 hours, always a bit ahead of the pack. We started with PP, Pooh (mostly because my kids speak enough “Liner” that they think it’s fun to say PP and Pooh!), Barnstormer, Dumbo (not in the plan but we were doing so great on time!), before heading to the Little Mermaid and Belle’s town in New Fantasyland. We were geeked out for these two areas in particular. I always have, always will, tear up when I hear the LM soundtrack, and my kids just finished a summer camp play of B&B. We rode LM, and headed to Gaston’s Tavern to look for the “tall, dark, stong and handsome brute” himself! Gaston’s line was closing for a break but we watched a few interactions and he was hilarious! Highly recommend lining up for this if you think he’s funny.

We had a few minutes before our BOG lunch, so kids did the Carrousel, got “Pixie dusted” (glitter wand - free of charge!) at Castle Couture, and tried to pull the sword out of the stone. Then, we lined up at Beast’s castle. We had a long wait and were surprised not to love the food that much (except the cupcakes!), but the theming here was amazing. After lunch, we tried Enchanted Tales with Belle for the first time. It, too, had a long wait (apparently, people had finally caught up with us!), but ended up being one of our favorite things on the trip! Everyone but me got selected to play a part in this extremely cute play/photo op. DS as the Beast got lots of attention, and DH and DD had fun, too!

Our FPP for 7DMT and Splash were well timed for the heavier afternoon crowds. We also did a long standby for HM and visited Tom Sawyer’s Island during the parade (we could see a little but appreciated not having to stand still to watch). Our Frontierland and Adventureland late afternoon was a little freeform. We had planned to stay at the park till Wishes, but we needed to see if we could really make it another 7 hours. The heat and crowds were pretty bad by then, and our next FPP wasn’t until 5. Dole While at Aloha Isle and a visit to the Enchanted Tiki room recharged us. We played a round of A Pirate’s Adventure (DH’s request, and a hit) and took a leisurely train ride to our FPP for Space Mountain. The kids were intimidated but determined to ride, and they took it in stride.

Riding Space kicked off another of my favorite parts of the day, making additional FPP on my phone! We picked up, and rode immediately, Buzz Lightyear and then Tomorrowland Speedway. Availability was great and it took two seconds. Use it in MK if nowhere else! So many rides, so little waiting. Dinner at Pinocchio Village Haus was fine, and then we checked out Astro Orbiter in the dark (fun!) before heading back to Frontier/Adventure for a ride on the JC and the parade! MSEP was fun and easy to see from near Pecos Bill with a wall to lean on, We are just personal space people, and couldn’t stand still on MS for that long. Following that trend, we headed to Gaston’s Tavern bridge to check out Wishes. Plenty of standing/moving room and huge cinnamon buns/LaFou’s Brew frozen apple juice. Kids were tired (we were all tired!) by then, but we picked up one last FPP for the Barnstormer and took a leisurely walk back to the bus behind the mass exodus of people right after Wishes.

I am amazed at all we saw and did, almost 30 attractions and no waits over 30 min. I bet both of those numbers would have been worse by a lot if I didn’t have a TP subscription! I count our MK day as not just my favorite day of the the trip, but one of my favorites ever. :slight_smile:

Thanks for reading - more to come!


Wow what a day! I agree, it’s so easy to keep getting more FP in MK.

Really enjoying your report! Thanks so much.
Love that DS got to be Beast. How fun!!

Great report…
Thanks for sharing…there should be an all-day medal awarded to brave souls like you…:grinning:
Loved the photos

Thank you for posting, it’s a great report! Sounds like you had chance to do everything you wanted on you MK day. I will definitely be trying for extra fastpasses via the app next time.

Thanks for reading so far and for all the supportive comments!

Day 3 - Rest Day for the Weary We did not plan a park as a family for our third day - “only” mini-golf, a waterpark, a TS breakfast, and an evening with kids at the kids’ club and adults at DHS and a TS dinner.

Sidenote 3 - Less is More Yeah, we didn’t do all of that stuff. :slight_smile: Technically, we could have, if I had run our rest day like a touring plan-ned park day. But after a fun but weary late breakfast at Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge, my family was letting me know loud and clear what they actually needed on this non-park day. We ended up with some combination of naptime, exploring the resort, and an extra few hours at MK by bus, which actually did feel relaxing. Kids picked a few Tomorrowland attractions we hadn’t gotten to, and I picked a quick lunch at Casey’s Corner, which was my favorite QS of the trip! Also, while taking our fifth ride on the Barnstormer, we saw film crews from the show “black-ish” in the area! This jibed with reports of Laurence Fishburne on MS the night before (and with something later in our trip!). Anyway, extra time in MK felt like a gift, in a way that a good rest day should.

Sidenote 4 Park Hopper Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry As I said, DH and I did plan to visit a park that night. We had FPP for Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster, rides we definitely wanted to try but that the kids were not sure about. We made 4 FPP for each, even though the kids were not with us, and were able to use their bands even though they were not in the park. If we didn’t have PH tickets, our spontaneous afternoon in MK would have canceled these plans. I liked being able to decide on the fly. Of course, while maxing out our PH, we were ignoring the Waterpark Fun and More side of our tickets, so maybe the lesson is that you don’t need both unless your trip is almost double your number of park days.

We dropped the kids at the Beach Club’s Sandcastle Club and made the quick trip to DHS for our thrill ride FPPs. Both were fun, and it was great doing twice via the FPP line. Then, we had dinner back at the BC/Yacht Club complex at Captain’s Grille (another “less is more,” we dropped our original ADR from signature Yachtman’s back to CG when we realized a two hour dinner and riding roller coasters in our dress clothes might be a “more” we didn’t need). Dinner was good, and when the kids declined to be picked up when we tried to get them at 9, we killed another hour at Crew’s Cup. :slight_smile: Kids, 8 and 11, said the kids’ club was their favorite part of the day. The staff was great and I highly recommend.

It was off to bed for an early morning of Jedi Training sign-ups!


Day 4 - Hollywood Studios: Star Wars from (Twin) Sunrise to (Twin) Sunset As many have noted, DHS can be hard to plan if you have aspiring Jedis in your midst. Our kids are pretty into Star Wars, and after seeing Jedi Training on YouTube, they both wanted a chance to fight Darth Vader. This can involve long lines, some possibility of disappointment, or a combination of early rising and careful planning. We picked the last option. We arrived at 7:45 for a 9:00 park open. Eyes were sleepy but we had pastries and Star Wars hairstyles in full effect:

First at the tapstiles, the kids and I quickly made it to the front of the sign-up line and within 5 minutes, we had them signed up for the first show of the day. Yay! I took a long rest on a bench in the shade to bask in this triumph. We met DH for a ride on Star Tours. With 20 minutes to go before their Jedi report time, we chanced another ST ride. Big mistake!

Sidenote 5 - Don’t Push It! I started to see a pattern - trying to be “fun Mom” instead of “uber planning mom,” I kept saying yes to things we didn’t really have time for. Then, I’d rush the kids to the next planned thing with a chip on my shoulder. All the good we did waiting around at the tapstiles was out the window if we were late to our JTA show. It is part of my job as parent/trip planner/whatever to say no when there is no time for something. I did manage to check them in, and they even got to fight Vader (“Psst, kids, go stand in those two spots, NO NOT THOSE TWO SPOTS!”), but it was all way more stressful than I would have liked. We could have ridden ST later (and, in fact, did),

It was darn cool watching them fight Darth Vader, though, and the Photopass photos are awesome If you have kids this age (4-12?) and don’t mind getting out of bed early (or waiting a while at the sign up later in the morning), it is really fun and well done.

After the show, we rode ST again, then built custom lightsabers in a long line that had sprung up out of nowhere since our earlier trips through the gift shop. Realizing we had missed our Frozen Sing Along FPP, we bolted to the standby entrance and just made it. Cute! Lunch ADR at 50s Prime Time followed. We liked the kitsch and the food - we LOVED the milkshakes and desserts! FPP for TSMM (I love but I stink!), standby for Muppets, FPP for Tower of Terror for two brave souls (my DH and DD saw her bag hover in the air in front of them!). We headed out for an afternoon break before the Star Wars dessert party. We also hoped to ride RnR before the party, but then something funky happened with Fast Pass. . .

Sidenote 6 - Something Funky Happens with FPP Sooo, we rode our Tier 1 (TSMM). Two of us used one of our Tier 2s on ToT, and we all missed our other Tier 2. All Tier 2s time had expired. Although I had read that you could pick up another Tier 1 (in our case, we wanted RnR) once your original 3 were used or expired, that was not the case. The app said "You cannot experience another of these [Tier 1] attractions until you have used your original 3 FPP. Same if I canceled the Frozen FPP. It seems you have to actually use them. It stunk, especially because we did go to the very Frozen show we had FPP for, just didn’t think to tap the pass. I found out from Chat that night that I could have changed the unused FPP to something else, used that, and been able to book another Tier 1. But break was calling and we decided to try our chances with standby for RnR when we returned that evening.

We had a nice rest at the pool and dressed for our Star Wars evening, the dessert party at the Launch Bay. First, both kids mustered the requisite courage to ride Rock and Roller Coaster. And they LOVED it! Of course, we celebrated with another ride on ST, and of course, that made us late for yet another thing!

The Star Wars Fireworks Dessert Party seemed cool, but being 15 minutes late made it feel like it was over before it started. The Launch Bay is huge! Lots to explore here under normal circumstances, and 2 separate lines to meet characters. Add in food and drink and roaming Jawas and Storm Troopers (swoon!), and it is way too much to do in the 30 min we had left. In hindsight, being early for this would have made much more sense than being late for it. :wink: We enjoyed it, got some pics, and grabbed some extra desserts for the fireworks.

The show was amazing. DD, a real SW nut, said it made her cry. We were in a great viewing location, and dessert party kids ten and under had a roped off (supervised) area of their own for the fireworks. Still, it was hard to justify the cost of the party, esp for DD, who, at 11 years and 1 month, had to pay full price for an open bar event, and could not sit in the kids viewing location. I suppose on a Disney scale, it was probably worth it, especially since being late was on us! And our “free” Chewbacca beer steins will live on in our basement!

We were tired from the day and kind of fried from all the hurrying around to things. DHS took a lot out of us!


I spotted VT merchandise in your photo! Hello from another Hokie, class of 1996. Love your trip report!

@Wahoohokie, I have noticed your handle before (and your tagline!). I married into a big time VT family, and DH is c/o 1995. I went to W&M. Glad you liked the report - go Hokies!

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Really enjoying your report and will remember the tip about being early for dessert party as we are planning to go in November. Hoping they will be having it then!

I grew up in Yorktown so spent a lot of time around Williamsburg. Small world!

We had a weird thing with FP too - not related to tiers but to riding the same ride again.

We were at MK with 3 FP - Splash, Space, 7DMT. We rode the first 2 but 7DMT went down before our time and we were given an any time FP, which we went ahead and used during the original window on 7DMT. But the system wouldn’t allow us to book again on Splash until we’d used a 3rd FP that wasn’t an any time one. We booked the next thing available and let it expire but by then all the FP for Splash had gone. We had left for a break or I would have just tapped at the start of the window and not ridden.

There are definitely some glitches!!

@Wahoohokie, definitely a small world! @missoverexcited, I hadn’t ridden Splash before this trip but I can definitely see wanting to FPP it twice - it was great!

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I love that your kids didn’t want to leave the Sandcastle Club! We are trying it next year and I suspect my oldest will tell us the same thing.

@tjkjbarton, they definitely did not want to leave! When they saw us open the door around 9, they yelled “Come back at 11!” We compromised with 10:00, and I think they only agreed because their new leaders, the kids club cast members, chimed in in that you do, in fact, have to get up early to sign up for Jedi training. Our influence was naught! I was surprised, because while they go to stuff like that fairly willingly, they are usually very cynical about it. Now DD says our next trip has to be before she turns 13 so they can go to the kids club every night!

Gonna try to finish this trip report today! Thanks for reading!