Here is my trip report from our trip to Disney in the fall. Our group included DH, myself, DD3, DD1, plus my parents. I had been to Disney several times (last time was 2007 with no advance planning), but this was my first trip as the planner. My parents & husband had also been previously, but this was the first trip for our kids. Unfortunately my grandmother took a turn for the worse during our trip. This definitely colored our experience & is the delay in posting this trip report. We returned on Monday, December 4th. The next day my grandmother was placed in hospice care due to her metastatic breast cancer. She passed away on Monday, December 11th. As a result we never really got to celebrate or reminisce about the trip. I hope that writing this report can help bring back some of those memories that were buried in sadness immediately after returning.
For Christmas 2016 my parents surprised us with a trip to Disney World! We had a lot to work around to find a good time to go. My dad is a farmer, so we needed to work around the spring planting & fall harvest. With two young kids we wanted to avoid super hot weather if possible. After reading several blogs (before I found TP!) we settled on the week after Thanksgiving. A family friend suggested DVC rental, and we jumped on it once we saw what a great deal it was. Cost was the biggest factor, so we chose AKL- Kidani standard view studios since Boardwalk was totally booked. I had some hesitations about it after reading about bus issues & distance from the parks, but ultimately the lower cost won out. DVC Rental Store was excellent to work with. Our agent was Jenny Gray & she did a fabulous job. Our TP faxed room request was not honored even slightly, but we did end up with rooms near each other after some juggling (7709 & 7713).
We grabbed our tickets on sale through Undercover Tourist when they had Buy 4 days, get 3 free, before the 2017 price increase.
We flew Delta nonstop from Indianapolis to MCO. The flights were an amazing deal. All 6 of us for $700. We booked these in 3 transactions to get a better rate. This ended up biting us a bit on the trip home, which I’ll explain later. Also, our flight there left at 6:15am. We live 2 hours from the airport But we landed at 8:30am which gave us park time our first day. And, again, cheap flights!
Dining was interesting. It kind of exploded into a big thing once I did research. We started with only 1 character meal and……ended up with one every day ha! I cancelled & scheduled so many ADRs, including some during our actual trip. The TP reservation finder was huge in helping me get the ADRs I needed as we adjusted plans. We actually purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan for our room (So 3 meals per day x 3 people x 6 nights). My parents did not add a dining plan at all. Essentially this allowed us to divide those 3 meals per day between 5 people. We spent very little out of pocket on food as a result- just BOG, CRT (which was a mistake, I’ll explain later), Cosmic Ray’s, and AKL food court. We still had too many snacks left at the end, even with 6 people sharing!
Other things- We rented a City Mini GT double stroller from Kingdom Strollers which worked out great. We ordered groceries from Instacart which was meh. We ended up with several bad substitutions and we over ordered. Additionally my mom is way too picky which was a bit of an issue, especially early in the trip.
Also- I found TP/Lines in May 2017. It (and you all) were a huge resource in planning our trip! It also made me a bit crazy as well. I spent many late nights reading your posts & tweaking my TP & FPP. All that work paid off in the end though. So here is my thanks to everyone who helped me out!
I’m so sorry to hear about your grandma. I hope writing about your trip helps to remind you of the good memories made on your trip.
We were there at the same time so I look forward to hearing more and how your experience was at Christmas! It’s definitely my favorite time to be at Disney.
I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I look forward to reading the rest of your trip. Lol, isn’t making changes ( like changing ADRs) somewhat addicting? Thanks for the report on instacart. I am struggling with a decision if I will use garden grocer my next trip so this was helpful.
Speak for yourself. When I make a plan I stick with it. As well you know.
I am sorry about your loss. And yes, writing the trip report will be a nice way to reminisce about your wonderful fam trip. You’re encouraging me to do that next trip we take. It’s so fun to hear about others’ experiences at Disney.
So sorry for your loss. Look forward to your trip report. I’m going with 4 generations this Oct. so eagerly awaiting to see how it went.
Sorry to hear about your Grandmother, I think writing this report and remembering your memories will be very cathartic to you.
Great idea on the delux DP!
I, too am sorry about the loss of your grandmother. Have fun writing the report. Really excited to hear about it. I love Deluxe Dining. My hubby and I were there during the same time you were. We ate at mostly signature dining places. Also used it for ROL package Tiffins and the Candlelight Processional.
Truth! I have noticed how you stick with your plans!
Day #1 (11/28/17) Arrival Day, Magic Kingdom
We left our house at 3:00am to go to the airport. I was up until midnight making shirts for my girls & frantically packing. My grand plan was that we would transfer the girls (DD3, DD1) to their car seats, and they could sleep on the way to the airport. Unfortunately neither of them liked that plan. They both stayed awake the entire trip to the airport! Everything at the airport went smoothly. DD1 fell asleep during takeoff & woke up on descent at MCO. DD3 stayed awake the entire flight! Our flight landed on time & we made our way down to MDE. We walked right on to an almost full bus & left within 15 minutes. We stopped at 2 other hotels before ours.
We stopped briefly in the lobby at AKL Kidani to sort out park bags (yay for young kids & diapers), then dropped the rest of our items at Bell Services. Our stroller was already there. We grabbed an autograph book at the store because I forgot ours. We headed right back outside to grab a bus to MK. One arrived very quickly & we were on our way!
Our first stop was the Contemporary for lunch at Chef Mickey’s. Because of the construction, the meal was being held in the conference center. We arrived about 20 minutes before our reservation. The bummer was that we waited over an hour past our reservation time to even be seated. I was really frustrated because what is the point of a reservation if you can’t seat people remotely close to on time? I’ve never been to Chef Mickey’s before, but I wasn’t super impressed with the conference center. The food was decent, but they kept running out of things & taking awhile to replenish them. DD3 loved the dessert bar & lit up meeting all of the characters! These were two common themes through the whole trip, haha. Overall, Chef Mickey’s is not a repeat for us. There were other character meals we much preferred!
After finishing up lunch, we headed to the Magic Kingdom. My kids both still needed naps, so this was the only day we had planned to be at MK for the Festival of Fantasy Parade (2pm at the time). But, remember those kids who woke up at 3am & refused to sleep? Within 5 minutes in the stroller they both had passed out. DD3 fell asleep with her legs sticking up in the air inside the stroller sunshade! As we rushed into the park, they had already started blocking off areas for the parade. It was really difficult to get around, but eventually we found a spot to sit in front of the Hall of Presidents. The parade was wonderful! I am so disappointed that the girls slept through it. It’s definitely on our must-do list for our next trip!
After the parade, we headed to Jingle Cruise to use a fastpass. It was fun, but DD3 didn’t really get it. The SB line was 45 minutes, so I was super thankful to have a fastpass! After that we headed to see Cinderella/Elena and Tiana/Rapunzel, both with fast passes. I originally did not want to skip around the park like this, but FPP availability was pretty limited for this day when I made our plans. We saw Cinderella/Elena, then I was able to modify Tiana/Rapunzel to earlier so we saw them back to back. DD3 was shy at first but absolutely loved meeting the princesses!
This pretty much exhausted my plans for the day. I didn’t expect my kids to last long, but since they napped during the parade they were doing fine. Fantasyland was pretty empty, so we wandered around & did whatever looked fun & had short lines. We rode Little Mermaid, the Teacups several times, then grabbed a fastpass for Tomorrowland Speedway. My parents kept DD1 while we rode. A kid in front of us was not able to reach the pedals well, so we kept randomly getting stopped on the track, which meant we got bumped a LOT. DD3 was not a fan, and it was clear at that point that we were ready to be done for the day. We hopped on the train & took it to the front of the park.
It was a MCMCP night, so the park was starting to get crowded again. We lucked into an AKL bus showing up after just a few minutes. I had not made dinner plans because I was unsure how long the kids would last. In many resorts, this would not be much of an issue, but at Kidani there is no QS location. We ended up getting our luggage up to the room & begging for a table at Sanaa. We waited about 30 minutes but ended up being seated. Our waiter was awesome, but my kids were SO SO done. We got our dessert to go & headed up to the room (it was almost 9pm). Our Instacart order had been delivered during dinner, so we picked that up as well. The kids & my husband passed out almost immediately.
I was not able to sleep in the chaos of half unpacked bags, so I dragged our stuff into the bathroom & unpacked in peace. I got our stuff ready for the next day & semi-organized our room.
Next up- Animal Kingdom!
Thanks to all for your condolences. She was a really special lady, but I am glad she isn’t suffering any more. Cancer is a jerk. I am glad that she got to spend some of her last days hearing about our trip though!
Day #2- Animal Kingdom & HEA Dessert Party
After a somewhat crazy evening, my parents were laughing at my plan to arrive very early for AK EMH the next morning……but the kids were up at 5:30am! We were ready to hit the bus stop at 6:30am for 8:00 EMH but unfortunately my parents were not. This was a struggle the first few days, as they just couldn’t seem to get themselves out the door at our agreed upon time. I finally threatened to leave them one day. After Day 3 I think they finally realized if we didn’t leave early that our time would be very limited due to the kids being totally wiped out by 1pm.
Needless to say tension was running high as we arrived at Animal Kingdom just before 8am. There was a mass of people headed into the park. My original plan was to try to rope drop FOP because I had not been able to get fast passes for it until our departure day. I had been reading on Lines about SDFP drops, so I planned our Na’vi River FP for the afternoon. I wanted to be able to modify it at 11:07 to FOP. Since the FOP line was already massive, we decided to hit Na’vi first and walked right on to it. We enjoyed it (obviously not the same as FOP, but a pretty boat ride). We decided to head back toward Safari where we had a 9am FPP. My mom apparently did not like the breakfast items she ordered from Instacart, so we wasted half of EMH at Starbucks (eyeroll). We walked right on to KS. Our driver was so-so, but the giraffes were right next to the vehicle path! They were so close! DD3 & DD1 were both totally enthralled. We really enjoyed riding! Side note- the last time I rode this was when it still had the poacher storyline, so I kept wondering when that would appear. I like it better without!
After safari we picked up our stroller & wandered through Gorilla falls for a bit. We picked up a Wilderness Explorers book, but DD3 really wasn’t interested. Maybe next time. We exited out to Harambe area to a shocking number of people. We headed over to see the 10:00 FotLK. In retrospect we probably should have used a FPP for this because we barely got a seat. We all loved the show! DD1 was dancing and clapping on my lap the entire time. DD3 was totally enthralled. After the show, it was time for our Tusker House reservation. It was so packed. I stood in line for 10 minutes just to check in. We ended up waiting 40 minutes past our reservation time to be seated. Thankfully I had set an alarm reminder for FOP drops. While we waited for our table buzzer to go off, I hopped on MDE & was able to grab FOP for all of us! I think this was one of the moments where my parents & husband finally realized exactly how much planning I had put into the trip. We headed inside to Tusker House to eat. I had been worried that we would miss the breakfast foods, but we ended up getting to enjoy both breakfast & lunch despite being seated at 11:20. The food was delicious & the characters were wonderful! Daisy gave DD3 a kiss, Mickey rubbed noses with her, and Donald held her hand.
After lunch, the plan was to use our FPP at Everest but we missed them due to being seated late. I really wanted to do the 12:30 Flights of Wonder show, so we skipped Everest. FoW was so good! Both girls were so excited to see the birds. At the end when the birds fly out over the audience, one of the swooped right over our heads. DD1 threw her hands up in the air & squealed with delight.
After FoW we headed back to Pandora to use our FOP fastpasses! DD, DH, and I went & my mom kept the girls so we got a RS for it. Then I kept the girls while the other 3 rode right after. FOP was really awesome! My only complaints- glasses were too big & were hazy looking. Hopefully they figure that out! Otherwise it was a really great experience!
By this point it was hot & crowded. We were still tired from the day before, so we headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner & the HEA dessert party. We made it back in good time & all crashed.
I had booked a 5:00 reservation at The Wave for dinner. We were at the bus stop at 4:05, but no MK bus came for so long. I was also simultaneously requesting a Minnie Van, but never got a hit despite refreshing repeatedly. Finally at 4:45 I called Guest Services & asked them to cancel the reservation. A bus finally showed up at 4:55. We decided to just grab something quick at MK to eat. We just barely made it into the hub before Elsa lit the castle. This was only 1 of 2 nights MK was open due to MVMCP during our trip, so I was really glad we were able to see it (DD3 is crazy about Frozen). We headed over to Cosmic Ray’s and took advantage of mobile ordering since the line was very long. After that we rode Buzz Lightyear with a SDFP I picked up on our way to MK. Then we headed to the dessert party. I had read about the dessert party on the Forum & booked it as a special treat. Now, our reservation said to arrive at 7:45. Let me tell you that at 7:20 the place was already packed. Clearly people had been there since before 7:00. We really enjoyed our desserts. We changed the girls into their pajamas because we knew they would be asleep by the time we got back that night. We headed over to the Hub with our guide through an absolute insane mass of people. It was shoulder-to-shoulder……so glad for our reserved seating! We found a spot on the “grass” in front of a planter with a clear view of the castle. Overall it was a really wonderful experience, but some very rude woman stepped right in front of us as the show started & held her phone up to record the whole thing. She is very lucky my husband is non-confrontational, because I was ready to rip her a new one. Who steps right in front of a 3 year old and blocks their view? DD1 passed out in the stroller right as the show started, but DD3 stayed up to watch the whole thing. It was so worth it to see her amazement! We did not stick around to see Once Upon a Time afterward because we wanted to get the girls to bed. We headed down the back “shortcut” to the main gate & got on a bus within 15 minutes. Made it back to the hotel & crashed.
Day #3- EPCOT
We were at the bus stop at 7am the next morning to make 8am EMH at EPCOT- again a bit of a frustrating start. We ended up quite a ways back at security & so were not at the front for RD. But we did at least make it into the park before opening! We headed to Soarin’ to get a RS. Mom & Dad rode, and we planned to go do a character meet while we waited. Except those don’t open until 9am, along with pretty much everything on that side of the park. We thought okay, we’ll just do LwtL while we wait, but it was having difficulties & not operating. My mom once again had not liked her room breakfast, so we got her a breakfast sandwich & waited for them to get off. They took the girls & ate their breakfast while we rode Soarin’. We got B1 when I asked (best seat in the house!). I did enjoy it, but I prefer the old version of Soarin’. Unfortunately our seats would not unlock when the ride was over. We ended up spending about 30 extra minutes on the ride while they figured out how to let us off. I was able to text my parents to go ahead & do LwtL while they waited for us. For us, the lesson learned was that EPCOT EMH really aren’t worth it with young kids. Next time we’ll go on a 9am open & get a PPO reservation at Garden Grill or Akershus.
We were behind schedule (again!), so we skipped our FPP to meet Mickey. We headed to do The Seas which both girls loved. DD3 really enjoyed the seeing the different animals in the tanks at the end as well. We just barely made it into Turtle Talk in time, but I’m so glad we did! We all really enjoyed it.
Then it was time to head to Akershus for our 10:45 reservation. Once again we waited at least 30 minutes to be seated. DD3 was stone faced for meeting Belle, but ended up loving all the other princesses! Our food was delicious & overall it was a great experience that we will likely repeat.
After lunch we headed to meet Anna & Elsa. It was quite hot by this point & the wait was 30 minutes. DD3 was getting grumpy, but I’m so glad we pushed through. This is by far the BEST character interaction we had the entire trip. The girls were dressed up like Anna & Elsa which really was the cherry on top. They both spent so much time with the girls & got them to open up. These photos alone made Memory Maker worth it!
After this we headed back to our resort to rest again. We really did not have much time, but it was SO HOT & CROWDED. It was a very quick turnaround before we were back for our 4:30 Via Napoli reservation. This was the only time I was able to snag (super weird), but it was the one restaurant my mom insisted we go to.
Getting to VN was difficult again. My grand plan was to Minnie Van to Boardwalk/Beach Club & walk to VN through the IG to save time/walking. Unfortunately, despite trying to get a Minnie Van for over an hour, one never responded (sense a theme here?). We grabbed a bus to EPCOT and literally speed walked through the whole park to get to Italy, BUT we made it!
The food was fabulous, although the restaurant was very loud & crowded. They were very accommodating to let us bring our stroller inside since DD1 was totally passed out asleep. After dinner, the plan was to wander & enjoy desserts from the Holiday Kitchens, but it was SO packed. We ended up just getting a kakigori to share in Japan, then also grabbed dessert at the American Holiday Kitchen.
Now our Akershus reservation that day was a CP package because I did not want to wait in line forever to get a seat. We got our CP tickets that morning with zero instructions. When we arrived to CP 30 minutes before the show, the CM stated that everyone had already been seated & just find somewhere. So basically we wasted 5 meal credits for nothing- which Disney did nothing to correct. I was just really annoyed that they sell a dining package with no instructions & then don’t provide any sort of real benefit for the price. But anyway…
CP was beautiful. I enjoyed it as much as you can with a wriggling DD1 & DD3 who really should probably already be in bed. In hindsight, we should have skipped it or come another night without kids because it really was quite long. I would love to go again sometime when I can focus a bit more.
After the show was over we headed back to the hotel because the next day was 7am EMH at MK!