Trip Report - 2 adults, 1 two year old, late arrival, no roller coasters


#1

I got a lot of help from this forum and the TP while planning my trip and had a very successful stay. We did pretty much all that we planned with minimum stress and arriving late at the parks. As promised, here is the trip report and some comments about the planning process and the TP optimizing software.

Who: We are two adults, 36 years old, and our daughter, who just turned 2 the day after we returned from our trip. It was our first time at Disney World. Our daughter was not very familiar with Disney movies and characters before the trip, and she had no interest in princesses or other characters. We decided to go on this trip to celebrate her 2 year birthday, we thought that she would notice that this was special, and enjoy some of it. We were right, she had a blast, and so did we! She even loved meeting characters. You should also know that we are roller coaster wimps. Both of us have pretty bad motion sickness, so our plans did not include any of the tough coasters. Right before the trip I found out I was pregnant (TTC for 8 months, so yay!) so we eliminated the easy coasters as well. It was painful to let go of my 7 Dwarves fastpass. So, no coasters in this report. On the bright side, we did all rides together, which was sweet and fun too.

When: 10/31/15 to 11/04/15 (three full days, one evening and one morning/afternoon).

What: We did all parks, though we explored MK and EP a lot more in depth. If I were to do this again I would have preferred to focus on HS instead of EP given the time constraint. People say that EP is not child friendly. I don't know about that, but HS did seem more fun for a very young child, and I did not think that EPs attractions for adults were so amazing either. See more details on the report about 11/02.

Hotel: We stayed at Art of Animation, mainly because we really wanted a one bedroom suite without going bankrupt. We picked a Lion King room because the Nemo rooms were not available.

If you want to know more details about our decision process and what we thought of the hotel, here it goes.

  1. Room choice. The first priority was to get a room close to transportation and as silent as possible, though we were willing to put up with some noise if not excessive. I saw many recommendations for building 6 over building 10, but now I think the reason is because people want a view of the lake. However, after looking at pictures of the lake, and having seen it in person, I didn't think that the view is so special. It will certainly be quieter than a view of the courtyard, but we did not think that the courtyard was noisy at all. Our room was on the third floor overlooking the courtyard, and was very silent. I think, now, that a room on the second floor would have been perfectly fine as well. The courtyard has the great advantage of providing a very unusual view, the kind of view one can only get at Disney. I think that the best view to be had from the Lion King buildings are the rooms on the second or third floor that overlook Simba's statue (6711, 6611, 6709 and 6609 in building 6, and equivalent in building 10). Our daughter was very interested in that statue, and learned right away how to say "lion" and ask to see the view as soon as she woke up every day. This side of the building is the closest to the transportation and main lobby, by the way. Rooms overlooking Pumba an Timon statues should fun as well, though likely more noisy because those are by the building entrance. Rooms on the highest floor (68XX) see the statues from above, which is not as nice. The highest floor has another disadvantage: it is one or two extra floors to go down the stairs. The days we had to rush out it was very convenient to exit the building using the side stairs, closest to the transportation. Each extra floor there is a bit more trouble (especially with a toddler who wanted to go down on her own, very slowly...) We sent the room request using the fax TP service offers. We hoped for room 6711 or close, and wrote in the comments that we really wanted to be away from the elevator, since elevator sounds are in my opinion the most annoying. They gave us room 6705, which was great and far enough from the elevator, though the view from 6707, 6709 and 6711 would have been more centered on Simba. If I had to do this again, I would have asked for an equivalent room on building 10. We would still be able to have a great view of the courtyard, and it would be significantly closer to transportation. Both buildings are pretty much the same distance from the pool, for those interested in that.

  2. Hotel transportation: Overall we were very happy with AoA. The main reason is because the buses rock! Every time we needed a bus, there was one just arriving at the stop. We never waited even a minute for a bus to HS, MK (twice) and EP. I had read complaints about the bus to AK though. The last day we were going to AK and we had our carry on luggage with us. We had no time to waste, and we saw nobody at the AK stop. We walked slowly to the cabs for 5 minutes while we checked to see if a bus to AK arrived. None did, so we got a cab and got to AK very fast indeed, maybe in 10 minutes. It cost us $15. Returning from parks was also very easy. We did not return from AK, but we did it from all the other parks, always around park closing time. We never waited more than 10 minutes to board, though most days we had to ride back standing up. By the way, people complain that AoA bus stops to return from the parks are the farthest possible, especially from MK. We were not bothered by that very much, but it is true.

  3. Hotel food: Landscape of Flavors was disappointing. The illumination makes it seem like a food court at a mall or worse, so it wasn't an exciting place to eat. I was excited about the options, but by the time we arrived at the hotel every day they had already closed all the interesting stations, like the Indian one. The pizzas, of course, remained open. I also "made my own salad," which felt satisfying after eating so much junk, but the options for the salad were so few that I just had them put nearly everything they offered, and it still tasted fairly standard. Originally I had planned to have breakfast at the restaurant, but we realized it was going to be a waste of time for a pretty standard fare we can get anywhere, probably tasting better too. So, we just grabbed things at night to eat at the room the next morning while we got ready, and indeed it saved us easily 30 minutes each morning, maybe more. They have a very tasty ham and cheese sandwich to go, yogurt, and some packaged fruit. Every night we got some of those, and we also brought Horizon boxed milk, chocolate powder and a few other things from home, so we were all set. My husband craved some cereal, but they only sell it at breakfast. So, if you plan to do something similar to us and want cereal, bring your own. We did not try the room pizza delivery. One thing: they sell a package with 20 small water bottles for $16. It is a good deal if you factor the convenience (and the price of water at the parks).

  4. Hotel amenities: Eh. The main pool is pretty, we did not bother going to see the other pools in the property. We had brought bathing suits, and I had set aside a morning for us to enjoy the hotel, but we ended up not doing this at all. The thing is, it is just a pool. It is cute and all, but we have access to some pretty awesome pools back home (well, not this time of the year). We don't have access to a place like MK though, and any time at the pool is time away from the parks, which did not seem like a good idea to us. I see that if we had spent two weeks at WDW, then maybe we would have enjoyed relaxing at the pool a bit too (though I don't find looking after a 2 year old at a pool relaxing at all). The main reception hall is very beautiful, the public restrooms by the entrance are very cute. The store is nice, well laid out, and with a great selection. Other than the specifically themed areas, the rest of the hotel seems pretty bare. I understand the annoyance of the people at the Mermaid rooms with the distance to transportation. It is far, but also the walk is boring.

Transportation from the airport: After researching a lot we decided not to get the Magical Express, or whatever it is called. Our flight arrived at 4 pm, and any wasted minute was precious. The fact that the express could take up to 90 minutes was unacceptable. Instead we hired a limo service (Happy Limo), which cost us around $80 plus tip. The driver waited for us at the luggage belt, we got our bags and within 10 minutes from leaving the airplane we were on our way. Disney texted us our room number, and we arrived straight to the room, left our bags there, changed to lighter clothes and left to HS. We got on the bus immediately, so in the end we were at HS not two hours after we got out of the plane. If we do this again, and we arrive earlier or have a more lenient schedule, I would try the Magic Express, especially now that I saw how efficient Disney is about everything. Happy Limo is all right, but they did make a mistake. On our way back they sent the driver to MK instead of AK. It turned out fine, but it was still a serious mistake. See details on the 11/04 report. Other than that they were good. I would recommend them with some reservation.

In the next post I will describe our experience at the parks with the TP. Let me know what you think and if you have any questions.


#2

Saturday 10/31/2015 - Hollywood Studios, predicted crowd 6 (which apparently turned out to be a crowd 8)

The plan was:

  1. Beauty and the Beast musical (5pm)
  2. Disney Jr (5:30, had a fastpass)
  3. Break
  4. Mermaid show (6:40, had a fasts, arrive by 6:35)
  5. Toy Story (fasts staring at 7)
  6. 50's Primetime reservation at 7:20 (I would have preferred at 7:30)
  7. Fantasmic!

Depending on what time we arrived, we would do whatever was on the list at that time. Considering that our flight touched down at 3:50, arriving at Beauty and the Beast was impossible, but I had a plan nonetheless. We arrived at the park a bit before 6 pm, so we missed Disney Jr too. We arrived at the "break" part of the plan, took some pictures using memory maker and went to Toluca Legs to get some turkey. Then, not 20 minutes after we arrived, we lost our daughter. Yep, this happened. We got distracted using the magic band for the first time to pay and we both looked away. It was so fast, I don't really know how it happened, but she disappeared. The thing is, it was so fast that none of us really believed at first that she had disappeared, we thought she was around, so we looked around fully expecting to find her. A minute passed, we separated a bit, and still no sign of her. It was desperation mode now, we quickly established that we were going each on their own, and we had our phones. I entered a store in front of Toluca and as dramatically as you can imagine I screamed: "I lost my baby!" The cast member was helping some people. Immediately she said: please excuse me to the people and left immediately with me. She was kind and efficient. Immediately she called the security while I looked for a picture of her and showed it to her. You can imagine my despair. It was not 5 minutes since she was lost though, and after maybe 2 minutes (which felt like 100) they told her that she was located. I was't calm yet, but this was much better than a bit before. I mentioned I am pregnant? Right now I am afraid for the baby, because I never experienced that level of stress ever. A security cast member came to pick me up and take me to the central. She told me several times that they had her, but the cast member did not know precisely where. Meanwhile I was trying to reach my husband to let him know what I knew, I imagined he could be as desperate as I was a few minutes before. When I finally got a hold of him, he told me he had her. He found her very close to where we were, surrounded by 5 cast members and very pleased with herself. She had wandered out (pretty quickly), and the security people surrounded her immediately upon seeing her. My husband happened to walk in the right direction and found them soon. He was trying to get me on the phone too, but was having the same trouble I was, because the call was not connecting. All in all the whole affair from losing her to reuniting with her took 20 minutes (and probably 3 days off my life span). When I met them she was eating the turkey leg we were supposed to pick up when she got lost.

Here are a few thoughts about this.

  1. First, I found out from the CMs that lost children are the most common thing happening at Disney Parks. The crowds are very large, and it is not always possible to keep the children locked in strollers. I was always relieved when I could walk my daughter around in the stroller, but sometimes she wanted to walk, and it's pretty hard to convince a toddler to do something they don't want to do without a big scandal. So, cast members have a very clear protocol. They surround the child immediately and keep her there. They scan the magic band to find out the parents' info. Now, here is what was weird. My phone was not linked to my account. I don't know why, because I put it there myself, but it just did not show up. So, if you want to have a situation like this solved faster, make sure that the phone is indeed linked. I found out the hard way. That said, by scanning her magic band they already knew our names, the hotel where we were staying and other info anyway.
  2. Second, I saw in many places the suggestion to take a picture of the child showing well the clothes she is wearing that day so we can show it around if she gets lost. This is good advice. It is the first thing the CMs ask to see, and thankfully I had done this.
  3. Third, it is best to write the phone in the child's arm. I had researched a bracelet or something before the trip, but did not find anything, or at least I don't recall why I did not do something about it. Writing in the arm is not great because it does come off, especially with the sweat in the heat, but it does work if you check it and redo it every once in a while. It has the advantage that anyone that finds the child, not only a CM, can take immediate action. Unfortunately I had not done this either. I made damn well sure to this all the other days though, the poor child looked ridiculous with the big numbers in her arm. She did not like it, and gave me a lot of trouble the first time I wanted to do this, but the following days she accepted it. I only had a red permanent marker. I suggest a black permanent marker with a thin tip, and hold the arm of the child for a bit so it does not smear off.
  4. Fourth, the CMs are really wonderful. Not only did they have the whole protocol down, they were very quick and serious about solving the issue. They were calm, but never condescending, never minimizing the seriousness of the situation, and never making me feel guilty about it (like I did not feel guilty enough). They had the priorities straight, the first CM I approached was very polite, but very fast in excusing herself from the clients she was attending to and walking with me to the phone.

Ok, so, as I said, as horrifying as this was, the whole thing took 20 minutes. We arrived during the planned break, so we were together and still with plenty of time to catch the next attraction on the list. We could have spent the break looking around instead of in utter despair, but in practical terms we were back on track. So we did from the plan:

  1. The Little Mermaid show, which my daughter absolutely loved. It was great, and put us in a great mood again.
  2. Then we went to Toy Story. We loved the theming, but my daughter did not like wearing the 3D glasses, so she did not enjoy it too much. We did though.
  3. From there we ran to 50's Prime time, which was hard to find. We did make it just a couple of minutes late. They made us wait a good 15 more. I was very disappointed with this place. I expected the food to be mediocre, and it really was. The gravy had an off metallic flavor. We looked forward to the waiters banter and treatment of patrons, but our waiter was perfectly delightful. Now, anywhere else we would have thought that the service was excellent, but we were there for the fun experience, and this was just very standard. I would have preferred to spend this time wandering the park instead.

On a side note, I will mention another instance of the wonderfulness of the CMs. When we arrived at our hotel room earlier the crib I had asked for was not there. So, while we waited for the reservation at the restaurant I tried to call the hotel to get this sorted. The call would not complete, so I went to the CM at the reception, told her the problem and asked if she could call them instead. She tried, but had trouble herself, so she spoke to other people and told me she would figure this out. I don't know what she did, but while we were dining she came herself and explained that she had talked to them, that the reason the crib was not in the room is that they were short on supply, but that if they could not get one that they would put a pack and play in our room, if I thought that was acceptable. I said I was fine with that. Indeed, when we arrived at the room later that night there was a pack and play there.

We got out of the restaurant at 8:30pm and the next item was Fantasmic at 9. However, we just did not feel like doing this. Instead we walked about a bit and saw Streets of America, but it was already dark and all places closed. We spent some time at the stores. I have this sensation that we should have spent longer at HS. I really liked what I saw, but did not have time to enjoy it well.

We managed to get to the bus line earlier than the crowd, but we had to wait a bit for it to leave. We got home, went to the restaurant to get a few supplies for breakfast the following day, showered and went to bed. By the way, for parents planning to use Disney cribs (or their pack and play, as in our case): they provide 2 bottom sheets, no other sheets. I wish I had taken a blanket from home, just because my daughter is used to having one at night. I just put the other bottom one on top of her and a clean towel over it (she does't know it's a towel) just to keep a semblance of the routine, and she was happy. We got her Mickey and Minnie stuffed animals on the first day, and she loved them immediately. They slept with her.


#3

Sunday 11/01/2015 - Magic Kingdom, predicted crowd 6 (which was confirmed a crowd 6 after the fact), we also stayed for MNSSHP

This was our first full day, and the busiest day in our plans. The plan was to arrive at 11 am, but thanks to daylight savings, which surprised us that morning, we were able to arrive at 10 am instead. It was a good thing, because it gave us time to solve a few issues we had with our phone charger, leave the bag with the MNSSHP costumes at the locker, and take several photos with the photopass people before we headed to Fantasyland for our first Fastpass (and first item on the list), Peter Pan Flight. The original plan was to arrive at that ride at 11:21 am, but we managed to be there at 11:00 am instead. From there we followed the plans very closely for a while. Here is what we did:

  • Peter Pan Flight (Fastpass starting at 10:35), arrived at 11:00am. We all absolutely loved this ride.
  • Mickey's Phillarmagic. It was all right, but gave the adults quite a bit of motion sickness at parts. My daughter did not want to wear the 3D glasses, and she did not seem to care too much for this ride. By the way, my husband, who is a Donald Duck fan, was a bit annoyed that this is called Mickey's Phillarmagic, since the whole show is about Donald.
  • It's a Small World. We had intended to go there after Peter Pan, but the posted waiting time was, I kid you not, 85 minutes. It scared me, because my plan predicted 7 minutes. After Mickey's Phillarmagic we went there again and the posted time was 20. We got in, and waited around 10-12 minutes at most. We all loved the ride once we understood what the point of it was. I still have the damn song in my head though.
  • Stop at Sleepy Hollow for some waffles. I really loved the fruit and Nutella waffle. The ham and cheese waffle is not bad. I did not care for the chicken one, but my husband liked it.
  • Haunted Mansion, Fastpass starting 12:35. We all enjoyed the ride. The adults appreciated the humor and the technology. The dancing holograms are awesome. My daughter is too young to be scared she doesn't really know that the ride is creepy.
  • Stop by Aloha Island refreshments for a Dole Whip. It was so hot that we decided to get a float. We liked it quite a bit.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean, Fastpass starting 1:45. I really liked this ride. It is so interesting for adults. The song is beautiful, the scenes are spectacular (and some are quite adult). There is a small fall in this ride which surprised us all. My daughter cried, but we consoled her quickly.
  • I had taken the Swiss Family Tree House from the plans, but my husband wanted to see it. We went around, it was empty. It was all right, not great.
  • We went to the FastPass kiosk to get a new Fastpass. We got it for Winnie the Pooh around 6 pm.
  • At 2:30pm we had a reservation for Cinderella's Royal Table. We arrived on time, took the photos with Cinderella and then waited for a while, at least 15 minutes. It was not too bad to be out of the heat though. Lunch there was a lot of fun, we thought it was a great experience. We were seated at the balcony overlooking the main floor. It is an excellent location, I found, as long as they sit you by the balcony, not by the wall. You have a view of the entire room and the light is beautiful. The food is not bad, the service is superb, and the princesses were wonderful. We saw Snow White, Ariel and Aurora. Here our daughter surprised us, because she talked to the princesses, hugged them, smiled and even blew a raspberry on the face of one of them. It was a riot (well, for us, not sure for the princess in question). The photos I took are priceless. She ended up getting 2 wands as gift, which are two pieces of trash. They brought her a cupcake with a candle, and we sang happy birthday to her.
  • Upon exiting I went to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I knew my daughter is too young, but I wanted to see if they would sprinkle some "magic dust" on her. The receptionist said, with a straight face, that she could, but at her age the dust is invisible. We said: ok! Well, she did a small ritual, which my daughter mostly ignored, but which we appreciated. It was cute.

At this point is where our day started to differ from the plans. It was around 4:00pm. The idea was that my daughter should take a nap now. We would spend some time at the stores where it is nice and cold, and later we would head to Tomorrowland. We tried for some time to make this happen, but she did not want to nap after all. She was clearly tired, but overly excited. So, we decided to go on a few rides on Tomorrowland which we had planned to start around 5pm anyway. We did:

  • People Mover. This ride is pretty boring. My daughter enjoyed it though.
  • Carousel of Progress. This ride starts so great. The first two parts are very nice. Then the last parts gets confusing. I think it is supposed to be in the 80s? I am not sure. The end was just weird. Why did they go forward so much? It seems like it needed other decades in between. My daughter just relaxed on my husband's lap and drank a bottle.

I completely spaced out about the Monsters Laughing Floor, which was in our plans. We moved to Pooh instead.

  • Pooh. This is a very cute ride, but parts of it are very rough. I felt a bit of motion sickness with all the shaking. It is appropriate for small children though, the shaking is side to side, safe, but not pleasant for me. It was great that my daughter recognized some of the characters there.
  • Lunching Pad. We wanted to get some hot dogs, but they stop serving hot dogs after 4 or 5pm. We got some pretzels (the cream cheese one is delicious) and some frozen sodas (blegh) instead.

If we weren't so tired from waking up so early from the excitement we may have gotten in the line to meet Pooh and the others afterwards. It wasn't too long, but we could not be bothered. The store by the Pooh ride is a waste of opportunity. The toys are not that great. I would have bought some Pooh characters, but they only had sets of two at a time that were stitched together. I wanted to buy a cute neutral outfit for the baby on my belly, but I could not find anything that I liked. Some things there were ridiculously overpriced.

After this we moved slowly to the park entrance to get our costumes for the Halloween Party. We were so hot, sweaty and tired though, that this was not a great moment. We planned costumes which were not too warm, but at that point the only thing that could relieve us would be a full shower and a nap for my daughter. Still, she would not nap. So, I changed in a bathroom with a lot of people that were doing exactly the same as us. I was Pocahontas, my husband was Mickey, and my daughter was Snow White. My poor daughter was so hot that when I took her clothes to change her, she just ran around the bathroom naked and so happy. Poor thing. We figured soon that a great solution to cool down was to just wet ourselves. My daughter did not like this very much, but it did refresh her once it was done. The objective was to take some photopass pictures, maybe a few of my own and then change my daughter into her backup set of regular clothes, which were clean and cool. We took the pictures and moved to Fantasyland. I wanted to take a few good pictures of us myself, and we found a good spot close to Dumbo, which had more lighting and a good background. There a nice CM offered to take our picture and even brought us free water. After we wet ourselves some more I thought that my daughter was finally going to sleep. She was visibly tired and a bit cranky now. However, instead she seemed to want to go on more rides. Really. So we went on

  • The circus store. Don't remember the name. We went there to get some candy, something sweet. Everything we got there was bad. The Mickey cake on a stick was inedible. The cookies were nondescript.

  • Gaston Tavern. We got the cinnamon roll, which is better than expected, and the Le Fou Brew, which is delicious in small dosages. It gets repugnant after drinking it for half a glass.

  • The Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride. It was great, my daughter absolutely loved it.
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle. The posted time was 20 minutes, because they wanted to fill the place before they could do a performance. I never prayed for more people to show up at an attraction. We waited for about 10 minutes at most though, and had an enjoyable show, met Belle in her party dress and took pictures. Pretty cool. Some effects in this attraction are amazing.

In the end those rides cooled us down well, so we decided to just keep wearing the costumes. The next thing we did was to head to Main Street to watch

  • Celebrate the Magic and the fireworks. We arrived 15 minutes before show time. We got a perfect spot right in the middle of the street between the castle and Casey's Corner. Don't know how to describe where, but it was just perfect. On top of it, by pure luck the CMs were keeping the crossing in front of us empty for people needing to pass. This meant that no crowd could build in front of us. My daughter was relaxing in the stroller and we did not even need to take her out of it for her to watch the fireworks. She could see it perfectly from where she was. She enjoyed it, and so did we.

After this, to our final peace of mind, my daughter went to sleep. She simply checked out. We decided to get out of Min Street and walk around to make sure that she would not wake up, but she did't anymore. We had been worrying that perhaps we should leave early so she could sleep, but since she finally had, we could do what we wished. Weather was cooling off a bit now, which improved our energy too. We walked around enjoying the emptier lands, and got a few photopass photos by ourselves, and even a few funny ones that the photographer suggested in which we appeared celebrating while our daughter slept in the stroller.

After that, I thought that the parade was at 11 pm, and so I made us go to Frontierland to get an uncrowded spot at 10:45. However, the parade was at 11:15, so we ended up waiting 30 minutes, which was the biggest wait for us all day. We did not mind too much, we got a great spot in front of the Bear Jamboree, the stroller occupied a nice comfy spot and we were first in the line of sight. The only bad thing is that this spot was not so well illuminated. I suggest checking if the street lighting is good enough before settling on a spot, especially if settling earlier.

  • Boo To You parade. Our spot turned out to be great in spite of the lighting. I don't know why, but all the characters acknowledged us. Sparrow was swearing love and signaling I should leave my husband, many characters came to give us a good scare, everyone we waved to waved back, it was so much fun! We had the best time during the parade, it was the highlight of the day for the adults on a pretty amazing day. We got to see the headless horseman clearly. The parade song is great. The whole thing was absolutely wonderful.

After the parade we were done. We did not feel like doing anything, we decided to just leave the park, but before that we got a couple of hot dogs at Casey's Corner, which were mediocre. We picked our things at the locker and headed home. My husband put our daughter in the carrier for the bus ride home (standing on the bus) and she continued to sleep. When we arrived she felt well enough to have a bath and ask me to read a few books before going to bed for good. It was no trouble though, 3 short books and she was ready.

Some thoughts on the day and planning:

  1. I made our TP starting with the optimized, and then moving things around so that we did not backtrack too much. The priority was to stay on one land at a time and enjoy it. I programmed plenty of breaks to give us cushion space. I always planned more time for meals and other food and drink stops than I thought we were going to take (and often ended up being just right because of lines or waiting to be seated). I had a few set things, such as a the fast passes and the very few ADRs, but for all the rest I had contingency ideas if we needed to shuffle things around. Overall we were never rushed, made our appointments without difficulty and stayed in a great mood all day. Our daughter surprised us by not wanting to nap properly, but this was less of a problem than I anticipated, as she was always happy in the rides and enjoyed things in spite of the tiredness.
  2. The TP were always predicting waiting times a bit shorter than they turned out to be. Not by much, 2 to 4 minutes mostly, but those add up. That said, thanks to the TP and careful planning we never stayed in any line more than 12, 13 minutes.
  3. The TP significantly underestimated the time it takes to move around the park. After this day I readjusted our plans with a "very slow" walking speed, and even that was not a good estimate. The thing is, with a baby we must negotiate the stroller through the crowds. We must also leave the stroller before getting on rides. We sometimes chose to stop to buy water, a popsicle, a soda. We stopped for pictures. All these things were very quick, but they add up. I suggest that parents and first timers use the "very slow" walking speed and add extra time to that, at least 5 minutes between all rides.
  4. All in all, I think that in average the TP predicted about one extra ride every 4 hours that we could not really fit. I mean, there was one ride every four hours in all plans all days that we had to skip due to lack of time or energy.
  5. Water at the parks is ridiculously expensive, but very necessary in such heat. Any place that is able will give you a glass with ice for free, and the ice tastes fine. You can let it melt, or you can use it for your warmed up water. You can even bring some water with you from the hotel. You can also ask for tap water for free, but it tastes awful.
  6. I had no ADRs before the last week before the trip, since I only started planning this trip 2 months in advance and all the best ADRs were already taken. I got the Cinderella Table reservation the week before the trip. I got a Be Our Guest reservation as well. To be precise, I got 11 Be our Guest Reservations and 4 Cinderella Table reservations for the two days we were going to visit MK, all on the last week. A couple of days before we left I made the final plans and picked the most convenient given the new plans with the updated waiting times. That must have been a happy moment for other people wanting reservations, because I just freed them all at once! For those interested in doing this, the best time to find reservations was usually between 11 am and noon. In the middle of the week before my trip I found out about the beta ADR warning system of this website. I used it. It did not catch all the ADRs I caught myself by just refreshing every once in a while when I was at the computer, but it did find the Cinderella ADR which I chose in the end.
  7. If I could choose I would not have planned such an intense first full day. Unfortunately this was the last day for MNSSHP, and after thinking a lot and consulting this forum it seemed like the best option. It was a crazy day, but we took so much advantage of it. We did everything on the plan except Tomorrowland Speedway and The Monsters Laughing Floor. We managed to do Enchanted Tales and The Swiss House, which I did not have on the plans. We were very happy. The only major bother was the heat and the discomfort of changing to the costumes without a nice shower. We got to know MK very well, so that our second day at MK was very relaxing.
  8. Plan to have as little as possible on the diaper bag. We are used to bringing all that we need in the diaper bag and just hanging it in the stroller, but we had to carry it a lot in the lines. After this day we eliminated everything that was not absolutely necessary and were much happier.
  9. After such a long day, I planned a very late start on the next day. Our plans had us arriving at Epcot at 2pm. We did manage to arrive there at noon though.

#4

Congratulations on your pregnancy! Aside from losing your daughter (as a parent I can completely understand your panic!) it sounds like you have had a wonderful trip! Thanks for sharing your trip report! We are planning on going to MNSSHP September 2016 for the first time, so it was really nice to hear about your experience.


#5

Love your trip report! So detailed. Thanks! So sorry you lost your DD - that must have been just horrible. One fear of mine since I'll be with all 3 of my kids alone in April. I'm hoping they'll stick to me like glue (they're slightly older so it should be ok). Can't wait to read the rest!


#6

Thanks!! Indeed, loosing my daughter was the worst! The harder thing is that it is not very easy to prevent, it could happen to anyone. One second distraction in that crowd and you could lose sight. After the fact we talked about how we could prevent this, but other than obsessing even further there isn't many practical things you can do with a 2 year old. I know I wished that it was acceptable to have them on a leash! @FKHamer, I really hope this doesn't happen to you! In any case, you should feel better to know that they are prepared to deal with this. It helps to have the phone number written somewhere. With older kids you can have a protocol, I think. I don't know what people do, but I imagine that having a meeting point, or a calling sound would be helpful. Also, if the kid approaches a CM they would know what to do, and if they know your phone things should get sorted out quickly. @Mom2Girls1980, I wish you the best trip! I loved MNSSHP, it was totally worth it. I urge you to choose costumes for very warm weather! The main areas are so crowded that it feels way hotter than the actual temperature. Even if you have to put coats on, it is better than feeling suffocated.


#7

Monday 11/02/2015 - Epcot, predicted crowd 8 (turned out to be a crowd of 5)

The adults went to bed around 2 am the night before, so I thought that we would only be able to get to the park later. I planned to arrive a bit before 2 pm. However, when we packed I already knew which outfits would be worn each day, and so getting ready went very quickly. We woke up at 10 am and got ready, then my daughter woke up, we got her ready and out the door, with time even to call the grandparents and chat on Face Time before leaving. We got on the bus right away and were entering Epcot a little after 12 pm.

Our plan was to do Spaceship Earth first, then go to the World showcase (thus avoiding the dinner crowds), and then returning and doing the rides in the evening. However, since we arrived so much earlier, it made no sense to wait in that area for the fastpass to Spaceship Earth to start. I could not get an earlier fastpass for Spaceship Earth, so I did the opposite, I switched it for a later fastpass starting at 5 pm. Other than this switch, we followed our plans very closely. Here is what we did:

  • Took lots of photos around the entrance
  • Went to Cool Ship to try sodas from around the world. This was all right, less fun than I thought it would be.

If I had more time, I would have fit a fastpass for TestTrack after this. My original plan had a fastpass for this right around this time (we could get one fastpass for TestTrack and one for Soarin and do both of them with child swap). However, when I found out I was pregnant I decided no longer to do Test Track, and my husband wasn't feeling strongly about doing it anyway, so we just took this out of the plans completely. So, we headed to the World Showcase. As I mentioned above, the plan was to do the world showcase first and the rides later to go against the crowd. We were going to lunch around the Food and Wine festival as we visited the pavilions. So, we did:

  • the Mexican Pavilion, which was pretty cool. We all enjoyed The Three Caballeros ride (no line at all).
  • Norway pavilion, which was ok. We went to Kingla Bakeri Og Kafe, which was a great disappointment. The school bread was very bad.
  • The China pavilion was ok.
  • The Germany pavilion was kind of nice. We went to Karamell-Kuche and got their popcorn. It was ok, not that great. I mean, cracker jacks at a baseball game taste just as good. We went to their stuffed animal store, and it was fun. What was best is that they carry Sigkids baby toys. We bought one of their toys in Italy the year before and it turned out to be one of my daughter's best toys, so well made! We were delighted to buy a new toy of this brand for the next baby. It wasn't overpriced, at least in comparison with what we paid in Italy.
  • The Italy pavilion was cute

As you can see I am not overly excited about the pavilions. The thing is, before internet these pavilions must have been the most amazing thing. To be able to see a version of the architecture of these places must have been great. However, I feel like I have seen all of this. In some cases, I actually have seen this. Canada, Germany, Italy, France, England, China, I visited all these places. The romanticized version depicted in Epcot is nowhere near as interesting as the real thing. In the past these stores must have provided a great opportunity to buy things one could not get here, but now? Now I can get most of the things sold in those pavilions on Amazon. I googled the toy brand I was raving about to make sure I had the spelling right, and what did I find? It is sold in the US! They have an online storefront in the US, fairly priced too. So, I could have bought the same toy from my home. My point is that the pavilions don't feel so wonderful anymore. They feel fake, overly commercial, sanitized version of the truth, and not all that interesting. It was a fun enough afternoon, but I regret not having spent it at Hollywood Studios instead.

This time around my daughter decided to keep her regular schedule. I think that she realized that this was the routine now, and so this day she simply laid down on the stroller and took a nice and long 90 minute nap starting around 2:30pm. Pretty great. She was rested and in a great mood all day long.

  • We went to the America pavilion. I had been looking forward to seeing the American Adventure, and in the afternoon heat the prospect of spending 30 minutes in a refrigerated room seemed divine. Unfortunately they did not let us enter with the stroller, and there is no way we were going to wake our daughter up. We decided not to come back either, as the nap could take a while. So, we could not do it.
  • The Japan pavilion was the one I enjoyed the most. This was partly because I have never been to Japan and want very much to go there, partly because it was very lively. The drummers were playing right in the front, the photopass photographers were around, the museum of "cute" was delightful and the department store they have has some actually hard to find things. I think that the selection of bento boxes to be had online in the US is very limited, so it was nice to see some options there. Still, it was not so amazing that I actually bought much (I got my daughter some child chopsticks). The selection of similar items on any one of the great North American chinatowns will definitely be better. There were some Bento accessories, but not an amazing selection. Lunch-a-porter in Montreal blows them out of the park, and they are online now too, I just saw. So yeah, even the very few things I was excited about seem to be readily available now.
  • The Morocco pavilion is very beautiful indeed. That is another place I want very much to visit, so it was nice to see it. The architecture is divine. Now, I am a fan of Paula Wolfert, so I cook quite a bit of Moroccan at home for fun. I was not impressed with Tangierine Cafe, but it's not too bad. The stores at this pavilion are very annoying. Besides a few actually Moroccan things, they were selling all kinds of mixed up things of generic African and, believe me, Indian origin. There was a lot of incense going on in those stores. It was still entertaining.
  • The French pavilion is very beautiful. The stores are very charming. I was not interested in buying perfume, but anyone wanting to do that would be well served there. L'Artisan de Glaces was a great disappointment. We had the lemon marshmallow ice cream and it tasted awful, very artificial. This ice cream place is impossibly charming, but they were not nice. They did not let us try any flavor, contrary to American tradition, and French too. Even at Le Bertillon in Paris, which is always so full and rushed, they let us try more than 5 flavors, and they were very nice too. Well, not at Epcot. So, we just picked the flavor that seemed most interesting from among their very limited, very unimaginative selection. It was, as I said, disgusting. The Boulangerie Patisserie is ok. We ended up not buying anything there. Now, it is always great to see a patisserie selling French pastries, but differently from the best French patisseries, the options there were enormous, everything seemed a bit grotesque. I don't know, had I been hungrier I may have still bought something, but I was more excited about it while planning than when I finally saw it. I did not plan to watch Impressions of France this time around anyway, and my daughter was still napping, so we moved on.
  • The United Kingdom pavilion is very cute. The stores sell a few interesting Beatles items, but other than that the selection is the usual things you can find at tourist traps anywhere in the UK, or around any American city with a large British population of any origin. Even where I live there are some Irish stores that sell similar things. Ok, maybe if we had started in that side of the lake I would have spent more time exploring this pavilion and enjoyed its stores more. I guess we were done with the World Showcase. By the way, we were too full to try the Yorkshire Fish place, but I would have wanted to go there.
  • We ignored the Canada pavilion. However, we went to the Refreshment Port for a cronut (or croissant doughnut as they call it. I think Dominic Ansel must have patented the name son now Disney can't use it). It was amazing, delicious, so great! I wish it had less cinnamon, but other than that, what a treat!

Throughout our visit to the World showcase we tried several of the Food and Wine stands. I will just leave here a quick list of what we ate in case you are interested. Overall our impression was that it was not very worthwhile. Most things we ate were nice, but very few were outstanding, or interesting as tourism. If this festival happened in my hometown I would be raving about it, it would be lovely to visit it often, but as a tourist I did not think it added much to my experience of WDW. Again, I wish I had spent this time doing something else. By the way, the portions are indeed very small. We appreciated the opportunity to try many different things, but the food was quite expensive, and so it added up very fast. We were not drinking alcohol. My husband is not a great fan of drinking when it is too hot and sunny, as it gives him headaches. I would have gotten a cocktail or two, but given the pregnancy I wasn't drinking either. So, this kept the cost a bit contained, but we still spent a bit over $100 there.

Food and Wine things we tried:

  • Patagonia: empanada. Pretty decent.
  • China: Mango Jasmine Tea with Bubbles. Not good at all. The bubbles broke down and got stuck on the straw, it was not good at all.
  • Germany: Bratwurst on a pretzel roll. The bread was tasty, the sausage was mediocre. It was ok, but we wouldn't order it again.
  • Hops and Barley: New England lobster roll. This was surprisingly good. It had a nice chunk of lobster, tasted fresh, and was not so heavy on the mayo.
  • Morocco: Baklava. It was fine, tasted very buttery. Not the best, but not too bad. I would not have gotten it again.
  • Belgium: potato and leek waffle with beef braised beef. Absolutely outstanding. We also ate the chocolate waffle, which was not great. I thought that chocolate waffle at Sleepy Hollow at MK was way better.
  • France: croissant aux escargots. It was all right, not exceptional. We also got the apple juice and vodka ice pop. I had a taste and liked it, but the ice had solidified into shards, not the best consistency.
  • Dominican Republic: shuffle de yuca, pretty tasty, but not a soufflé at all, more like a dense puree. We also ate the Pescado con coco, which was delicious!

After the World showcase the plan was to do rides starting with Living with the Land. However, it was around 5:30, and our Fastpass for Spaceship Earth ended at 6pm. Both rides are very long, and so we had to choose, so we headed to Spaceship Earth.

  • Spaceship Earth. Man this is a dated ride. It was not so great. I loved the beginning with the history scenes. Unfortunately there were some technical issues with the sound, and we could not hear Judy Dench's beautiful voice well many times. We could also hear the sound in the other cars. So, some of the scenes left us confused. Parts of this ride are very cool. However, the customization of the future is really silly. It must have been wonderful when it first came out, how nice to have one's picture added to a small film that we customized. But with modern technology this customization level is so basic that it felt a little stupid. What a waste of time. I really wonder if we would have enjoyed Living with the Land better.
  • After this we had a fastpass for The Seas with Nemo at 6:20. We went there and enjoyed the ride. However, although this was the best ride we did at Epcot, it is still inferior to the Little Mermaid ride at MK. So, meh.
  • We waited about 7 minutes until the next Turtle Talk with Crush show. This was very nice, mainly because I thought the show was completely computerized. Later I discovered that there is an actor controlling the speech and other things, so ex post I am not as excited. The children were very cute, and Crush is fun. He had a few truly great jokes. Here it was a bit hard with a toddler. She is too young to participate. We sat in the floor so she could see, but she wanted to walk around. Of course we could not allow that, so it was not easy. For a while she played at throwing herself at us, which was painful. So, it was not a relaxing experience, but still fun.
  • The Tanks are very cool. My daughter loved seeing so many large fish. I think that I would normally enjoy spending a while watching these tanks, but that day I just felt bored. After maybe 5 to 10 minutes I was the one asking to leave. Maybe I was just tired, I am pregnant after all.
  • From there we went to the Land pavilion to have dinner at Sunshine Seasons. This was a pleasant surprise. Here is what is cool: pretty much any option there can be ordered in child size. The child meal comes with an option of one or two sides and a drink. We got 3 child meals, and it felt good to eat food that was a bit healthier. Now, it was not delicious, but it was satisfying. We got a quinoa salad, chicken with beans and rice (the chicken was kind of bad, tasted boiled), and some sechuan beef. As I said, all very mediocre, but healthy enough. We got fruit sides, more water, it was a nice break.
  • We had fastpasses for Soarin' starting at 7:25. I was not too excited to go. I was afraid it would give me motion sickness. There is another reason too. The scenes are over California, and we have actually done the real thing. We have a friend who needed extra piloting hours, and he took us over the Golden Gate bridge and the Red Woods on a small airplane, just the three of us. So, I was sure this would pale in comparison to actually flying over California. My husband wanted to go though, and since my daughter could not go on that ride because of the height requirement, I stayed with her while he went. He was away maybe for 20, 25 minutes and when he returned he said that he had no motion sickness at all, so that was not an issue, but the ride was not all that exciting. Again, maybe it is just us, because of our past experiences, but though he enjoyed it, he was not amazed. It was around 8:20 pm, so I decided not to go myself, it was best to head back to the World Showcase for Illuminations.
  • When we reached the lake the area was very crowded. It was already 8:40 so we did not have much time. We decided to go around the lake trying to find a good spot. I had marked all the best spots on a map, but they were all taken. We managed to get a decent spot at the bridge, but not at a prime location. We were behind some people, but one of them was on a wheelchair, and so at least we could see the lake without difficulty. I dearly regret not having gotten fastpasses for Illuminations. I actually tried to get them some days before, but they were gone for a while. Here is the thing: watching Illuminations around the lagoon is fine, maybe for those who have already seen it. However, as a first timer, the show would have been a lot more exciting if watched from a proper position. The show is interesting, we saw the ball and all, but I bet it would be wonderful watched from the "front of the house." Everywhere I read it said that a fastpass for Illuminations was not recommended because there are so many great spots to watch it around the lagoon. Well, now I disagree. I think that the show is very inferior from all those places in comparison to the front. Considering how uninspired we were by Soarin' I regret it even further. Sure, I could maybe have held a prime spot for a while, but this is far from my idea of fun. By the way, the wind was blowing towards Italy and we were in France, so it was going to our right side. There was a lot of smoke going on that direction, and although we could still see the ball clearly, the smoke covered part of the fireworks. What I mean is that the best experience may also require that one choose a spot at the exact opposite position from where the wind is blowing. The wind was blowing to the side of where we were, still pretty far, but it was enough to dampen the experience a bit.

After Illuminations we left with the crowd, took a few pictures and found a bus to AoA right away. We arrived at the hotel around 10pm.

Notes on planning:

  1. The options at Food and Wine festival are so many and so varied that it is good to know which items you want to try beforehand. Otherwise you will probably fill up on the first stands and not make it to the ones you may have liked best. Even with a very selective plan, in the end we were too full and did not try a few things we would have liked to try. I used the Easy WDW "Epcot 2015 Food and Wine Festival Reviews" pdf to plan.
  2. My general impression of Epcot is that it is a dated park. All its purpose seems to be lost. The World showcase can offer very little with all the information, pictures and buying opportunities available online. I think that people who have traveled extensively will find the World Showcase particularly unexciting. The rest of the park is dedicated to technology and ecology, but it seems so passé. The cars, the images in the rides, the messages it all rings old. It is in fact almost quaint. Some things that were originally very modern, look so dated now that they are actually cute. In fact, give it a further decade and Epcot will be cool again because it will seem historical rather than dated. So, my message here is that Epcot can be very disappointing. I was more excited about it than all the other parks, but it ended up being my least favorite. If I would do it again, I would not have gone there at all, or maybe we should have gone there on our first day, but instead of visiting the World Showcase, which would be a frat party on a Saturday night, we could have gotten a few well chosen FastPasses for a few rides, enjoyed Illuminations and called it a day. That should have been perfect.
  3. If you are excited to see Illuminations, especially if it is your first time, I highly recommend getting a FastPass. Unless you are really looking forward to TestTrack or Soarin', this will be a good FastPass. It does stop you from getting further fastpasses throughout the day, but this should only be an issue if you must do all the thrill rides at Epcot. The reason I am suggesting this so adamantly is that not getting this fastpass could mean either holding a place for a looong time, or seeing Illuminations from a place with much worse visibility, either because there are people in front of you or because part of the show is hidden behind trees or islands. If Illuminations is important to you, a Fastpass may be the difference between having the full experience or having a mediocre experience. I think that next time I will get the FastPass myself.
  4. TP predicted times were more or less right, but as I said in my previous post, it is important to plan a lot of cushion time between the rides.

#8

Tuesday 11/03/2015 - Magic Kingdom, predicted crowd 4 (turned out to be a crowd 7)

As I mentioned above the original plan was to spend the morning enjoying the hotel. I had us arriving at MK at 2:30pm. However, once we saw the hotel we realized that "enjoying the hotel" just meant going to the pool and visiting the courtyards to take pictures with the statues of the different movies. That would be nice, but we thought that going to MK would be much better. So, the night before, I changed our fast passes for earlier in the day. Originally I had a FastPass for 7DMT at 3:40pm, but because of the pregnancy I let go of that one too. My husband decided to not go himself. That said, I regret it a bit. In the end my husband seemed to want to give it a try, and he could have gone. He could also evaluate how appropriate it would have been for me to go there, having experienced it first. I wish I had just kept it. Oh, well, it is a reason to go back!

So, we arrived without difficulty around 11:30 or so. To our surprise, the Christmas decorations were up! How did they do it so fast? Not everything was there already, for example the Christmas tree at the entrance square was not there yet, but there was so much! This was a great surprise. I did not think we would be able to see both decorations on our trip, but we did.

  • Our first fastpass was for Buzz Lightyear starting at 11:30. We all loved this ride. That said, the weapon is just a laser which you point at things. Different from Toy Story at HS, you don't "feel" the shots, you don't really know very well if you hit something or not. I thought that the scenes themselves were more fun than TSMM, and the ability to control the car was very cool. We even gave the control to our 2 year old daughter at times, which made for very random turns. So, if I did this again I would not bother shooting anything, but I would enjoy turning the car around and seeing the many scenes.
  • After this we went to The Lunching Pad to get the hotdogs. I had read that they served "gourmet" hot dos. Actually, they only had two kinds, a chili one and a standard just with the bun. Well, it was as mediocre as you can possibly imagine. The buns were dry, the hot dog sausages were supermarket standard.
  • Next we had a fastpass for Tomorrowland Speedway. I should mention that my husband really wanted to do this. Since I was the one who researched the trip, my impression was that this ride is not so great, so I had this ride as something we should do only if time permitted and lines were short. But, he really liked the look of it, and so I got the Fastpass and made sure we would get to go there. Now, even with the fastpass we waited about 5 minutes to board. 5 minutes under the scorching sun, it was unpleasant. The CMs there were not nice, one of the very few instances in our entire trip. We were treated like cattle. Then we got into the car and went at a ridiculously slow speed. There really isn't anything to do, you just go forward and turn the car a bit. We tried to make it a bit more fun by goading some people we were passing, but that was it. What a silly ride. On top of it you have to wait to get out of the car, again under the scorching sun with the added heat of the car motors.
  • The next item on the agenda was The Monsters Laughing floor, but I forgot about it again! I have no idea why I kept forgetting this show. Both times we were supposed to do it, I just forgot to look at the plans and completely forgot about this show. I really don't understand this.
  • We walked through Fantasyland and stopped at the Prince Charming Carousel. Each time we went by this my daughter pointed at it and made it very clear she wanted to go. This carousel is cute, but it still just a carousel. There is a working, perfectly well maintained 1905 Dentzel Carousel in my city, now that is a thing to behold! We finally decided to go there anyway. Rather, given my extreme tendency to motion sickness, I was going to stay out while my husband, who is also prone to motion sickness, went on the ride. He has it better than me though, there is no way I could stand a carousel ride. By the way, my daughter has motion sickness too, she always throws up in the car if the ride is full of curves, but children will put up with motion sickness for the thrill of a ride they like. Even I did, as a child, even though I ended throwing up pretty much any time we went to amusement parks. Anyway, when they got in line the carousel had already ended the previous run. They still took a long time to board the people in the line. Finally they did, very slowly. I watched as the carousel got full. Then I waited, and waited, and waited, definitely more than 5 minutes, just staring at the full carousel that was not moving. I decided to go search to see where they were seated, and I discovered that they hadn't even gotten in! They were among the first for the next ride, but they weren't in this one. Meanwhile the carousel did not move. It was definitely 10 minutes by now. We figured, if this is how long it takes between rides then if we wait for this run, and the waiting time afterward, we will waste 20 minutes more just to ride this thing, maybe more since the carousel still hadn't moved. So, if we had stayed, riding the carousel would have taken more than 30 minutes plus the ride time, the longest we waited for anything any time in all our visit. For a carousel? Hell no! We cut our losses and they got out of the line. By the way, just out of curiosity, we went inside Pinocchio's Village Hous to see how it was. Meh. Although it has a nice German style with some pretty paintings, it feels like a cafeteria and serves cafeteria kind of food.
  • Instead of the carousel we got in line for It's a Small World. This was a cute ride with a song that does get a big annoying after a while. But it has a low waiting time (we did not wait 10 minutes) with a line that moves fast, and my daughter loved it. So, we were happy to go again. You know, when I was there I wondered how we had time to do all this, but I still did not realize that we had inadvertently skipped the Monsters Laughing Floor! I only noticed it later.
  • From there we went to Sleepy Hollow to get a chocolate waffle for dessert. I mentioned I loved this! It was as delicious as the first time. My husband got a chicken one. I guess he was still hungry after the ridiculous hot dogs. We even had time to go by Aloha Island for a Pineapple float before heading to the
  • Jungle Cruise for our next fastpass, which started at 1:50. Jungle cruise was fun enough, not too great. The skipper makes lots of jokes as he goes, but the one we got was not very talented. He just spoke very fast and with no emotions, so it was similar to listening to a funny show on TV without actually looking at the TV, a running commentary which sometimes was indeed very funny, but which you can pretty much ignore. The experience would have been better if the day was cooler. I don't know how is this ride at night, but if they keep the scenes well illuminated I would recommend taking it any time the temperature is lower. Some scenes are truly great though.
  • After this we went to the FastPass kiosk to get more FastPasses. I got one for Pirates of the Caribbean at 5 pm.

I should mention that a day 4 crowd in Magic Kingdom doesn't feel all that different from the 6 crowd of the previous Sunday in terms of the amount of people around. It was still very crowded anyway. However, I did notice that the waiting times were all lower, and at 2 pm there were plenty of options for fastpasses. In fact, there were still fastpasses available much later. LATER EDIT: I just saw that the crowd ended up being a 7, so no wonder I saw no difference. Waiting times seemed lower though. Maybe my impression comes from the fact that we started touring in the afternoon. Sunday it was a MNSSHP, and though mornings are slower, it fills up significantly starting at 4 pm. So, overall waiting times on Sunday may have been smaller, but waiting times in the afternoon were definitely higher.

  • After getting the Fastpass, our next item was an appointment for my daughter's first haircut at Harmony Barbershop at 3pm. You have no idea how excited I was. She really needed a haircut, and I would have taken her somewhere at least a month earlier if we did not have such a special first haircut planned. We checked in at 2:45 and they took as in right away. They sat her at a stool set over the chair, and gave her a Minnie toy whose skirt turns when you press a button. She did not get how to do this until later, but it did distract her for a few short minutes at the chair. Right after she wanted out of the chair. The stylist let me hold her while she cut her hair. By then my daughter figured out the button trick, sort of, and she was very distracted. So, there was no crying and the whole experience was very peaceful. My husband took lots of pictures and filmed some of it. In the end they gave us child sized Mickey Ears written "My First Haircut" and she put a lock of her hair on a little bag with some shiny sprinkles. They are supposed to give us a certificate of the first haircut, but they were out, so they got our address so they could mail it. We still haven't received it, but I will wait another week before I call to inquire. By the way, the cost of the haircut is $20, it is totally worth it!

The plan after the haircut was that my daughter would nap. We entered the stores in the hopes that the air conditioner would make her more comfortable for a nap, but she was just very curious about things we passed around the store. We decided to exit the store and walk on the street, but just as we did this, we saw a crowd gathered to watch the afternoon parade. I had not planned to see it, as I had no will to stand on a crowd under the sun, but we were so, so lucky! We stepped out just as they started to allow people to stand on a little part of the sidewalk where the wheelchairs and strollers can go down. They had kept it open for a while so people could cross the main street, but right at that moment they allowed people to stand there. We stepped in and got a spot in the front, perfect line of sight, and in the shadow! What luck!

  • Afternoon Parade. This was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. Most of the princesses and princes were on this parade, and since it was daytime we could see them clearly. The parade was really very cute and I was glad we saw it. I don't know if it is worth the effort if one has to wait on a crowd under the sun though. Considering that we waited for it maybe 2 minutes in the shadow with a perfect position, it was just wonderful.

After the parade we tried again to have our daughter nap. She relaxed in the stroller, but she was not napping. We walked out of main street and onto the left side of the castle, and it seemed like she would nap, but she opened her eyes right then. How frustrating! Normally I would not be so concerned, because our plans were flexible enough that we could accommodate a nap later if she wished. The issue was that at 5:45 we had a Be our Guest reservation, and we hoped she would be rested for it. Alas, it was not to happen. We walked and walked, and finally my husband suggested that we might as well give up and let things happen as they would. So, we headed to Adventureland, checked a few stores there, which were not all that great, and got on Pirates at 5.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean. As I mentioned before, this ride is one of our favorites. As last time, we sat in the front, but I don't know why, this time around when the fall came, we got completely soaked! The other time we got sprinkled, not a big deal. This time around my skirt got very wet. My butt looked like I had peed myself! And in spite of us knowing what would happen and holding my daughter before the fall, she still got scared and cried. I mean, she cried maybe 4 seconds, so no big deal at all.

  • After Pirates we had time to go by the FastPass kiosk to get a new one. I got a FastPass for Buzz starting at 7 pm.

  • From there we headed to Be Our Guest for our 5:45pm reservation. My skirt was soaked, and though that was a bit refreshing in that heat, I looked ridiculous. Thankfully my eggplant colored dress was rather discrete, and after drying out a bit you could not see the stain. I did feel wet though. So, we got there and let them know we had a reservation. I asked to dine at the ballroom or the painting room. They told us that for the painting it was a 30 minute wait, for the ballroom about 15 minutes. We said the ballroom then, especially because they required us to wait at the bridge, you could not go and do something else. We got into the bridge to wait, my daughter relaxing in the stroller (not having taken a nap yet), took some pictures, and were called probably in less than 10 minutes. The woman that came to pick us up was delightful. She sat us at a great location, close to the windows, but not at the windows. I thought that was ideal. We got the full experience of seeing the windows clearly and feeling like we were at a ballroom, not at a corner.

We really enjoyed our experience, it was great! The food is actually decent. I won't rave like it is anything exceptional, but it is tasty. The bread is warm and fresh, the leek soup, although quite salty, is tasty indeed. Against the internet my husband wanted the onion soup. The cheese was tasty and plentiful, but just as the reviews warned, the broth was rather bland. We also got the appetizer salad, which was all right. The lemonade with the berry foam was interesting enough, definitely not too sweet or sour. We got the lamb and the pork as main dishes, and they were both tasty. I liked the pork better. My daughter had not napped, so she wasn't her best self, but she was still fine, and enjoyed the experience. She received a lot of attention. Later they brought her a plate with "the grey stuff" and some Mickey sprinkles, and a birthday card signed by Belle and the Beast, how nice! She loved the sprinkles. The grey stuff indeed tastes like cookies and cream, it is delicious. When I mentioned to the waiter that my daughter had loved the sprinkles, she brought us a new plate with more of the grey stuff and more sprinkles! She picked the sprinkles off one by one, and we ate a bit more of the grey stuff, but could not finish all. We still wanted to have dessert though, since the dessert cart looked so appetizing. We got a chocolate orange eclair and a lemon meringue cupcake. Both were not too amazing though.

After dinner we went to see the other rooms. When I made the reservation I researched the rooms trying to pick the one where we should request to sit. The recommendation everywhere seemed to be for the painting room. I had a feeling that we would like the ballroom. Well, having seen them, I prefer the ballroom, and so does my husband. Maybe after having eaten there other times, or if I had 10 year old boys, then the painting room would be better. However, as moody as the painting room is, the ballroom makes you feel as if you are dining at Belle's castle, it is just a bigger deal. Especially if it is the first time, or the only time. We did spend time at the painting room to see the change, and it was cool, we saw the rose too, very nice.

While we dined the Beast crossed the room 2 times. He doesn't stop, but we could see him clearly. After visiting the rooms we went to see the line to take pictures with the Beast. The line seemed longish. We asked, and the CMs said 20 to 30 minutes. However, right at this point the Beast stepped out for a break. We did not think it was worth the wait, especially with a tired child, borderline cranky. So, we decided to skip this and go see the music box room. It is a nice room, but I don't think it gives the full experience as the other two rooms though. However, as luck would have it, right there the Beast appeared right by us. I snapped a great quick photo. He waved at us, stopped for a second looking at our daughter, and left. So, in a way, we had a cool experience with the Beast. Before leaving the castle I asked if we could see the suits of armor room. We spent a few minutes there by ourselves, they are very cute, making sounds like they smell the food, speaking with French accents, it is very cool. From there we could sneak a peak at what was happening at the Beast study while he was taking pictures with other guests.

From the restaurant we went to

  • The Voyage of The Little Mermaid. This was one of the top rides for us the previous day, and it was great the second time around too. The songs are awesome, the scenes pretty, Ursula is scary and her song is great. It is a great ride and had no line at all. So, both times we rode this we walked right in. My daughter loves this ride particularly, since she is very interested in fish, which she pronounces in a hilarious way. I will do anything to hear her say "feeaash," so that was an extra bonus.

When we exited the ride my daughter decided that this was it, she was finally going to sleep. From here on she did not wake up anymore until we left the park. Instead of rides we decided that it would be fun to go check out the stores together, which we hadn't had time to do properly before. This meant that we did not show up for our Buzz Lightyear fastpass after all. The stores are refrigerated too, so that was an added bonus for our daughter as she was sleeping in the stroller. People were starting to crowd around the main street for the castle show and the fireworks, but after seeing MNSSHP show and fireworks, we did not need to see them again. The stores were empty for a while. We had a great time at an art store in Main street which has beautiful paintings and little sculptures of Disney characters. We also enjoyed the main store, checking out whatever we wanted without almost anyone around. Every once in a while I went outside and peaked. For example, when Elsa sings "Let it Go" I went and listened to it, then went back inside. However, the minute after the end of the fireworks the store was mobbed. It was so crowded it was unbearable! We finished our purchases, which I think were just some pajama shorts for my husband, and decided to call it a day.

However, as we were leaving, they started cordoning the street for the electric parade. I looked at the watch and it was 10 minutes away. We were at the entrance square, the crowd was small, and we quickly decided to wait, got a great spot in the front of the line of sight and waited.

  • The Electric Parade is very outdated. I had read this, and after seeing it I completely agree. The song is ridiculous. The cars are nice to look at, especially as it begins. However, it is hard to see the characters under the lights. After two cars or so it becomes very boring. There is a dragon, which I imagine is the Sleeping Beauty one, which is cool. Other than that, towards the middle of it I was bored and wished we could just get away. My husband was enjoying it a little more though, so maybe I was influenced by the bad reviews. We did stay till the end and left with the crowd.
  • Then, magically right as we were exiting the park and walking to the bus stop, the Water Parade was passing! I had wanted to see it, but could not fit it into the plans, maybe because it is hard to know when it will be at a certain spot. Well, it passed us right then and we got to see the whole thing! Now, that is another outdated thing. It is charming enough but the US flags at the end, so many of them! (by the way what is up with that US car at the end of the Electric Parade! It is impressive, but a bit "in your face" for a park which is visited by so many foreigners. A bit much. So were all the flags on the water parade, kind of unnecessary. Around 4th of July, by all means, but this time of year it felt a little aggressive. In any case, that is not the reason I call the Water Parade outdated. The parade is outdated because in the end it is just a screen with a bunch of lights. With today's technology they could do so much better! Again, if this was on my hometown I would have been delighted, and considered a thing to show out of town guests, but after the castle show and the fireworks, this just doesn't cut it.

We got on the bus, and for the first time I managed to come back sitting down. My poor husband had to stand up though. We arrived at the hotel, went to the store and bought a few things there, picked up the stuff we had bought other days and had sent to the hotel using the resort delivery service (how awesome is this service? Love it!), ate a salad at the restaurant and went to our room.

Here is what we did on our last night. We were too tired to organize our luggage. Instead my husband brought everything to our bedroom, except for the clothes my daughter was to wear the next day, her toiletries and the kitchen stuff. We went to sleep as soon as we could, and the next day when we awoke, rested, we put everything away. It was very quick, though this was not "organized" luggage by any means, we just stuck stuff on the bags. I had brought one bag nearly empty, and it came in handy because we did not worry about the size of the things we bought and still had plenty of space.

Notes on planning

  1. Though I had a plan for this day, since it was our second MK day I left it very free so we could repeat a few favorite rides and do whatever we missed the first day. Other than the haircut appointment and the BOG reservation, we had no actual obligations set in advance (well I had the 7DMT fastpass, but let it go. Oh, the pain...) Thankfully since it was supposed to be a low crowd day (for MK standards, of course) I did not need to plan so much. The night before I set a few FastPasses and made a rough plan, but we still changed plenty of things on the fly now that we knew the park well.
  2. CMs are very keen on satisfying the guests wishes. On every single ride that had cars with several rows, I discreetly told the CM that we wished to sit in the front because I had motion sickness. I don't even know if my motion sickness would have been affected or not if we had sat behind other people, because not once did we sit anywhere but at the front of all rides we did all days. Pretty awesome. Sometimes we had to wait for the next boat or car, but this was always a wait of one minute at worst.

#9

Wednesday 11/04/2015 - Animal Kingdom, predicted crowd 2 (confirmed crowd 2 after the fact)

Man, I write a lot! I hope someone stuck with me through so many details. In fact, I think I will just print out this report and save it when I do the trip photo album. I tried to put down everything I remembered that could help with planning. I know I had many questions, this was not an easy trip to plan! I found that having a 2 year old made our circumstances quite different from the majority of the travelers. At 2 children cannot do several rides, and we need to factor their sleep schedule and napping carefully. Moreover, my daughter does not like to wake up at the crack of dawn, and so most plans included touring from noon under intense heat. If anyone is on a similar situation, I hope I was of some help.

So, this was our last day. We woke up and finished packing, which went fairly fast. We were going to take our carry on luggage with us, so it was important to minimize what we took, but also have everything that we could need until we reached home, which would be around 10 pm. Here is what I did. Before leaving home I had prepared a packing cube with changes of clothes for cold weather for the flight back for all of us. I was so thankful I had done this, because on the mess of packing on that last day I did not have to make any decisions. I just loaded that cube to our carry on backpack, put a couple of bottles of milk, just in case, and then filled the rest of the bag with the inevitable things: computers, iPads, any jewelry I had brought for myself, and our coats. I have another bag which folds into a very small tote. I loaded it with the travel pillows and a few magazines to read during the flight, and the child airplane restraint. We packed her diaper bag the same way we had for all the other park days, and we were on our way. So, if you want to know, we had one large backpack, one diaper bag (which is also a backpack), and one very light bag with pillows, just to keep things together. Plus the stroller. Since our daughter was born we don't travel with carry on suitcases when we are with her, because we need our hands free. The backpacks can always be carried on our back (though usually they hang from the stroller or sit on top of it), so we are always free to pick up whatever is needed: our daughter, the stroller itself, food, drinks, etc.

Around 10 am we were leaving the room and heading to the main lobby to use the airline check-in service to leave our bags. We were flying with Southwest, and I will make a few comments about it in the end. One thing that is important to know (I had this question myself) is whether it is possible to use the check-in resort while using Southwest (since people are either automatically checked in with Early Bird, or want to check in themselves as soon as the 24 hour window opens). Well, it is perfectly possible. You just do your check in yourself, and then come by the check in station at the resort, give them your ID and they find your flight and tag your bags. No problem at all. By the way, it was not so easy to find the check in place at AoA. Even now I am not sure I know where it is exactly (I am the worst at directions). I think that if one looks at the main building from the pool it is at the extreme left side, or maybe turning the corner.

After leaving the bags we returned to our room, picked all the carry on stuff and left for the buses. This was the only time we did not find a bus to the park immediately. The line was empty, which made me fear even further that a bus had just come by. So, we walked around a bit, and slowly marched towards the end of the bus lines looking to see if any AK bus was coming. We say an Epcot, an MK and a Disney Springs bus, no AK bus. This must have been maybe 5 minutes. We had no time to waste on our last day. Besides, I was not too keen on holding our stuff on a bus either, so we just headed for the cabs. There the cabs wanted us to board the first cab, who pretended he had been called to avoid us (I think he only wanted rides far away). This is actually against the rules and he could get suspended for the day. Cab drivers have to take any ride, that is Mears policy. We were annoyed, and asked who had a carseat. That same guy was so relieved and happy when he said that he did not have a carseat. Now, we were too, because we did not feel like riding with him either. A guy with a very large van stepped in and said he could take us, and that it cost the same as a regular cab. Awesome. We installed the carseat, put our daughter on it, got in with all our stuff and had a very comfortable ride. In less than 10 minutes we were there. I think that the ride cost $12, which with tip should run anyone around $15. Now, given the carseat episode my husband decided to reward this guy and gave him $20.

We arrived at the park and found the lockers. We got 2 large lockers, which I think run around $12 each (you pay more, but when you return the keys you get $5 back). We had to open the large backpack to take things off so the shape would fit, but we managed to leave everything without difficulty and keep only the same gear we had the other days with us. It was around 11:30, and we were ready to enjoy the park. We took several pictures with PhotoPass. This day managed to be even hotter than the previous ones, or maybe it is just the way AK is. The main tree is really impressive. Next time we go to WDW I will enjoy exploring it. Here is what we did:

  • Our first ride was Kilimanjaro Safaris, for which I had a Fastpass starting at 11:30. I knew that the animals would not be so active in the heat, but we didn't have a choice anyway. Now, we ourselves were not so comfortable in the heat, so this was nowhere near as great as I anticipated. The biggest problem is that we see most animals from far away. Now, about one hour from where I live there is a park which offers a great Safari experience, and you can even feed the animals (they give you the food, of course). They don't have the big cats or the elephants, but they have pretty much all the others, or maybe more, and they come very close to you. Just as at AK, they keep the land looking like the African savannah quite successfully. So, in comparison, this was fine, but not as special as I anticipated. It was fun to see the lions. The male one was so regal, all nicely positioned. We saw only one elephant, from far, I think it was a cub. The driver was a girl, who has a spiel about how we were together for two weeks on this expedition. Same as with Jungle cruise, she had a few great jokes. She was more endearing than that guy, for sure, but she wasn't great. I think that some drivers could make this experience magical, if they are good enough actors. Oh well, I would do it again, but I would not be too sad if I didn't.
  • From there we headed to The Festival of The Lion King, stopping for a dole whip at Tamu Tamu refreshments right before. Our Fastpass was from 12:30 to 12:50. We got in and waited a bit. When entering the theater there are 4 sets of seats. It was not clear what we should do, but all our group was being herded to this one set of seats which are opposite the entrance. They seemed to not want us at the others. I wonder what would happen if we wanted to sit at any of the others. Well, we sat where they wanted us, at the 3rd row, which allowed decent visibility, but it could be better. The show is exceptional. It is majestic, the movie songs are great, which helps the performance even further. Well, each set of seats belongs to an animal. We were the elephant section, and the guy who seemed to be the main actor was the one commanding our section. If one is to choose, I think our section is best. You get a great view of Simba's animatronic and of the elephant himself, and that actor is pretty cool. The Simba animatronic is so sweet. As he listens to the songs, he sways, and his tail moves, it is so pretty! As I said, the show is amazing, very worthwhile, the best thing we did at AK. However, controlling a toddler there was not too easy. She could not see so well sitting down, since it was the third row. The rows are elevated, but she is still too short. She did not want to stay in our laps either. So, she moved around being a bit of a nuisance. It was not so bad, but then she stepped up on the stool and lunged herself at the people in front! Now I laugh at it, but then I was surprised and mortified. We apologized. She jumped on the guy, who jumped himself, but did not say anything to us before or after we apologized profusely. The woman sitting with him turned around, I think she was mad, but when she saw that it was a very young toddler she warmed up and was nice. I was thankful, because this was a tense moment. I don't know how to request a front row seat at this attraction. It does not seem to be possible other than making sure to wait right at the front of the pack and running like mad. It is worthwhile though, for anyone with a 2 year old. I think they enjoy the show better from there, and so will you, since they will bother everyone less.
  • From there we went to the Pagani Forest. Now, the other day I discovered the bottleneck effect that supposedly happens there after the lion king show. I am glad I did not find out about it before, because I would have changed our plans. Instead we went straight to Pagani, and I saw no bottleneck at all. Now, it was a crowd 2 day, but that is still pretty crowded. The show was certainly full to capacity. Still, Pagani trail was almost empty. When we arrived the gorillas were on a special training, so we saw them very little. However, we got to see a hippopotamus swim in the water, and we could see him under water. This alone was worth the whole AK day, what a sight! Other than the Gorillas and the Hippopotamus the Pagani trail is not super exciting. If we had a whole day to do AK calmly I would enjoy this trail very much, because I like watching animals, I like zoos in general. However, given our time constraint only those two big ticket animals were worth the stop.
  • We decided to eat at FlameTree Barbecue. It was a toss between this and Yak and Yeti's quick service. We chose based on location. This place had the slowest line of any place anywhere ever. There must have been 4 families in front of me, if that, but they took at least 20 minutes to even ask what I wanted. That is not 20 minutes to serve, it is to ask! I try to keep my cool on trips and expect setbacks, absurdities and unexpected time drains, but this was weird, especially considering that in the 4 previous days nothing comparable had happened. 20 minutes doesn't seem like much, but hungry and with just 4 small parties in front, it seems like an eternity. To make matters more irritating, the family right in front of me asks for the allergy menu. They start to examine it. I would expect an efficient CM to ring the next customer while they make their decisions. No. The CM just waited and waited, looking very pleased I might add, until all the three people in that family had decided what to eat. I tell you, when she asked "what would you like to drink?" and the father turned around and asked, "and for drink?" to the rest of them, I was ready to lunge at him. They picked the menu again! It just got to me. They were on vacation, nothing was going to rush them. Nothing at all. If it was just them, but it took a while to even get to them, so this was adding salt to the wound. Ok, I'll stop being so dramatic, it's not a big deal, but it kind of was in comparison to all the experiences we had with Disney service in this trip. Anyway, I got the food fairly fast. The ribs were a bit dry, but they were tasty, I would eat them again. The pulled pork sandwich was bad, extremely dry and fairly tasteless. The corn bread was ok. The baked beans were very nice. We got onion rings, which were oily, but tasty nonetheless. I got a tangerine orange lemonade, which is pretty much just an orange colored lemonade, but it was good. The seating area is nice, though the barbecue sauce container was empty and things were dirty around the station. This is really not a big deal, but I was surprised that AK had mistakes like this. I never saw anything comparable in any of the other parks, especially at MK.
  • The next item had been to go to Maharaja Trek and then to Nemo, but there wasn't enough time. Again, I don't know what is up with TP times, I don't know where the time goes, but even with hardly any wait, and seeing Pagani in pretty much 10 minutes with no line, there still wasn't enough time for everything else on the list. Maybe exiting the shows is slower than TP predicts, maybe we take longer buying water, taking photos, etc. I don't know. The times between attractions just don't seem realistic. Again, I highly recommend that parents and first timers add at least 5 minutes between all attractions. Anyway, we decided to skip Maharaja Trek. Now, I am not sure it was a great decision. We skipped this to go to Nemo instead, and I don't know which would have been more pleasant all in all.
  • So, from the restaurant we went to Finding Nemo. We had a FastPass due to arrive between 2:30 to 2:50. I have a complaint here. Well, I am puzzled. I thought that the point of show Fastpasses, besides being guaranteed a spot in the next show, was that if we arrived before 2:50 for example, they would let us in front of the standby line. This is what happened at every other show for which we had FastPasses in all parks, including the Lion King show. So, if one wants a great spot, all I had to do was to arrive within the FastPass time frame. Wasn't that the point of the FastPass, not to have to wait? Well, when we arrived there around 2:40 everyone had been let in already. The theatre was pretty full, all the spots on the lower parts, closer to the stage were taken! We were lucky that as we were looking for a spot, the people sitting at the first row in front of the aisle in the middle of the theatre were sitting very loosely, leaving a lot of space between each of the parties. We asked if they were waiting for someone, they weren't and very nicely opened space for us. So, we crossed the big crowds blocking the sides of this row (which is the likely reason why nobody had taken those spots) and sat comfortably. Our view turned out to be great, and in many parts the characters run through that aisle, so we had a first row view for this. Moreover, since there was just the aisle in front os us, we were not afraid that our daughter would bother anybody. She actually decided to lay on my husband with a bottle and relax for the show much as she relaxes when I read her books before bed. The show is a bit long though. I think it was over 30 minutes, maybe 33? This is why i am not sure it was the best decision to go there instead of Maharaja Trek. We could have done that trek and also walked around, maybe we could have done the trek and It's Tough to Be a Bug. Was this show worth those? The show is a quick version of Finding Nemo, and we had watched it not too long ago, so we were kind of bored because we knew what would happen. Maybe if you don't see the movie for a while it would be awesome. That movie is so great, that a reenactment of it if you don't recall everything must be a lot of fun. Anyway, this show is a big deal, and if there is no time constraint, I highly recommend it. Small children may find it too long, and it is hard to leave in the middle though, so be warned.

When we left the show it was around 3:40. Our limo service was supposed to pick us up at 4:15, so we did not think it was wise to do any other ride. Maybe there would be time for more, but our experience told us that rides always end up taking longer than predicted, even if the wait time is low. Getting in and out, leaving the stroller, getting the stroller, too risky. We decided to walk back pleasantly through Dino land, picked our things up at the lockers, organized our lot and left. It was 4pm. I decided to call our driver to let him know that we were ready in case he was too, so we could be on our way. He told me that he was already at the park, and asked us to go to the cab line on the left. Now, I did not know then, but he was waiting for us at MK, not AK! The bizarre coincidence is that precisely to the left of AK's exit there is indeed a line of cabs. We walked to the end of it, but did not see his car parked close by. I called him, and we talked, we walked up and down, and my husband suddenly told me: ask him if he is at AK. That's when I found out he was not! It was now 4:15. Man, I was pissed. The driver tried to fault me a bit, because he sent a text the day before saying that he would be at MK at such and such time. He was right, he did, but I did not see the MK buried in that message with other information. Then again, I was enjoying myself on vacation. I checked the limo service request documents and I had asked to be picked up at AK. It is not my job to make sure they send their driver to the right spot. I don't think I have to be so attentive to make sure they do things right while I am on vacation. I am willing to check and recheck documents before leaving, and I did. I consider this their mistake. Screw it if he sent a text or not. In any case, we were nice. Actually, we considered not taking the car anyway, and just getting a regular cab, but when my husband asked the first car if he had a carseat, the driver responded: where are you going? Annoyed my husband said "we were going to the airport, but never mind." The cab driver immediately yelled as my husband left: I have a car seat! But my husband was rightly annoyed at the behavior of cab drivers and just signaled me to tell the limo guy to just come pick us up as fast as possible. The limo arrived in 10, maybe 12 minutes, so it was not to bad.

We left AK around 4:30, and arrived at the airport around 5. We had to go to Southwest check in to get my daughter's boarding pass (since she was still a lap child. Her birthday was the next day). In spite of doing all that and going through security (horribly mean security, by the way, what assholes! Not all of them, but a few ruin it for the bunch) we were at our gate over 1:30 hour before the plane would leave. Now, we should be happy, but with a toddler, we don't want to wait too long at the gate either. So, we just kept going up and down the gates while my daughter played at lunging herself in the disgusting floor (I washed her hands twice, and she lunged herself again right after, poor me!) She was tired but did not want to nap, and each minute waiting at an airport is a bit of a torture. So, I don't know if I would be brave enough to do this, but ideally we should have left around 4:45 from the park. We could have done one, even two rides in that time.

Anyway, we boarded the plane, which left on time at 7:05pm. Here is a small side about lap toddlers in Southwest. Both ways we got a seat for her. The flight back was half full, but the flight in had been packed. I think there was only one empty seat, and that empty seat was ours! Here is the thing, it is not hard to do with a nearly 2 year old. All you have to do is to sit at the window and aisle and put the child in the middle. Nobody wants to even bother inquiring if that seat is really taken. With a toddler you are officially the least desirable flight companion imaginable. Nobody even wants to spend the time asking if that seat is actually free. So, in the previous flight, which was full, it got to a point that we were giving up and were going to take her out of the middle and sit her in the lap. Right then the flight attendant came and asked if she was a lap or a seat child. We said she was a lap child. However, even then, whoever needed a seat found one, and it was not ours. This is why I say, no matter what, with a toddler everyone will take anything rather than sit with you. By the way, they are right. It is very hard to control a toddler. I cannot imagine what it must be like to keep a toddler quiet on the lap during flight so it doesn't bother a stranger packed like sardine at your side. I think it must be impossible, and she would end up bothering the person anyway. Unless the person is very much into children, in which case they may be entertained. My daughter is a sucker for strangers and behaves much better with them, like many other toddlers. So, both ways we had each our own seat, which was very nice. I should add that she still did not nap.

We arrived home close to 10 as predicted. When we got home, I planned to give her a bath and put her to bed. However, when she saw her crib she started crying and pointing. She just wanted in. As sweaty as she had been, with the change of clothes I had brought for the plane, I put her in her crib. She immediately slept and did not wake up until he next day at her normal hour. The next two days she slept significantly more than usual, but other than that was very cheerful. She learned so many new words in the trip!

Final words about planning and the whole experience:

  1. When planning AK I considered doing Kali River Rapids (just the adults, with child swap), but decided to drop it. Then later when I discovered that I was pregnant I would have dropped this ride anyway. However, I gave it up because people get wet, and I anticipated that this would be a bother. Since it was our last day and we were going straight to the airport, it would probably be, but if you are just staying around, I think that getting wet will be a plus. I recommend planning this ride around noon or 2 pm. You will then be wet and perfectly happy about it.
  2. If you are flying Southwest from Orlando, seriously consider getting the EarlyBird check in as soon as purchasing the tickets. It is fundamental for families to board as soon as possible. Most of the people boarding first will sit at the aisles. If you are a couple, you can easily find places together at a window and middle. However, families of three or more will have a very hard time indeed. Southwest lets families board after the As, which should be enough, but the problem is that from Orlando there can be many families. To be fair, both of our flights turned out to not have that many children. Still, I would do it again. I would feel insecure getting just any boarding number, what if they cancelled family boarding because there are too many families? It has happened. In this case I would want to have a decent number but, to get that, one must go through the computer check in craze 24 hours before. This is possible on the way in, but how to do this while at the parks?
  3. Everyone knows this, but it bears repeating: bring the most comfortable shoes you can. After traveling a lot, I also discovered that I need to bring different pairs and use a different one every day. Even comfortable shoes can hurt me after many hours, and two days in a row can be a killer. Simply changing shoes the next day prevents wounds from forming, since each shoe touches different spots.
  4. I wear mostly skirts, even while traveling. However, I had brought a pair of shorts for one of the outfits. This was the day I was the most comfortable. I think that shorts at the parks, especially shorts with roomy pockets, are so convenient. The next day my husband was wearing cargo shorts (normally he was wearing just plain shorts) and he commented that it was so convenient to leave his phone, plans, etc there when needed. He commented independently, I had not mentioned my situation to him the day before. So, I think it is a thing. I always try to be presentable anywhere we go for tourism. I find that we are better treated everywhere, but WDW really isn't like that. People are dressed in the most outrageous ways everywhere, even at the best restaurants, so next time I will try to get a few pairs of shorts and just wear this all days.
  5. Since we were going a few days and had a set plan, it was easy to know which outfits were needed, and thus plan all of them in advance. This was great. I did not take unnecessary outfits (except for my daughter, since it is always important to bring extra clothes in case an "accident" happens, though nothing did), and we always got ready quickly. Another advantage is to plan outfits for the family which are harmonious for the photos. Now, I know this is borderline crazy. My husband made fun of me, but obliged me. You know what? I am so glad I did that! Our photos look so nice. I did not have everyone dressed in the same color, just harmonizing colors and styles. For example, one of the days I had a coral dress, my husband an aqua shirt, and our daughter a light blue and coral dress. In the pictures nobody would ever tell that there is coordination, but our outfits together harmonize beautifully, pops of color, all referenced in my daughter's dress. Silly, but if you have a minute, or a penchant for overplanning like myself (and if not, how come you are reading this report this far?) it will be worthwhile, I promise. It did not require much. My husband picked his outfits and a few extra first, and then I picked mine and my daughters and paired so as to achieve this.
  6. We got the Memory Maker photos thingie. I don't know how it's called. The one you can take as many pictures as you want and then you get the files. I thought it was very worthwhile in case you are wondering. There are photopasss photographers everywhere, and if there is any line it moves very quickly. The only issue is that if you only do this then in the end you are left with tons of pictures in front of very few postcard places. If you care about the pictures, which you probably do if you paid for Memory Maker, then you should take some more at different, less obvious locations. I don't enjoy taking pictures, though I end up being the one taking most of them. However, I always enjoy having them later, and regret the ones I did not take. In this trip I was very happy of the fact that I was in most of the pictures too, and that we did not have to waste nearly as much time trying to get nice pictures, but I wish I had taken even more pictures myself.
  7. Disney rents strollers, and they are everywhere. There is even a double model. However, I see this option as better for parents with older children who don't use strollers anymore. These families are often caught by the exhaustion and decide to rent the stroller. For those who depend on strollers for napping and carrying their things, I highly recommend bringing your own, a good and light one. We have an Uppababy G-Luxe that we take in all our trips. I cannot say enough good things about it. The amount of abuse it takes, the weight it carries, all and it is still in perfect condition. It reclines nearly flat for naps, it has a large sun canopy, it has some (not great) space under the seat. That said, you don't want to stuff much under there anyway, because the point of an umbrella stroller is to fold it easily and carry it whenever needed, and things on the basket will impede you from folding it. The stroller has great suspension and we walked the cobble streets of Rome without any difficulty at all, it pushed well and lightly always. If it ever breaks I'll just buy another, because this thing has paid for itself. In fact, I will probably be buying the double model that just came out this year when I have the next child.
  8. I estimate the cost of this trip around $4,500. Counting the flights, suite at AoA, MNSSHP, the limo service, memory maker, food and purchases, we spent between $4,400 and $4,600. The beauty of paying everything with Magic Band is that in the end you have a perfect idea of what all the "incidentals" actually cost. It is an expensive trip, especially because our tickets were around $500 total, which is cheap. We have spent $5,000 for a 7 days trip to the Caribbean, and not roughing it one bit there. So, what I am saying is that the opportunity cost of a trip to WDW is high. Yes, there are ways to do it cheaper, but then again, you could do trips to other places cheaper as well. We had been to Universal before she was born, we are Harry Potter fans, we had to see it! It was significantly cheaper. We wanted to do this to celebrate my daughter's birthday, something she would notice. We had never been to WDW, so it was very worthwhile, quite an experience. However, we will not be one of those families that go every year. I think it is realistic to say that we will return in 3 or 4 years, unless the grandparents or someone wants to do a reunion there before this.
  9. Overall, Disney's famed attention to detail is true. We were impressed with the training of the CMs, and became quite interested in the company itself. What an achievement of management are these parks! Everything starts on schedule, there is not a single thing chipped, no mistakes, no burned lights. It is impressive, it is amazing really. To control such enormous crowds so that entries and exits are never dangerous nor take too long, to serve everyone so that the rides continue to function, the restaurants are never short on food, the princesses clothes are always clean and pressed, the princesses themselves are never sweaty (within reason), how is that even possible? Everyone seems to know what they are supposed to do in every situation that presents itself. Even if going through the phone menus is annoying, the phone service is also outstanding. I am dumbfounded that I never heard about it from any of my friends who had been there. So many of them have gone there, why aren't they in awe of this? Do they take all of this for granted? Have they been to other places, seen other things, to see how impressive this is? I think that beyond the rides and other services, one should notice that about WDW. In many ways this was more entertaining to observe than many things that were actually supposed to entertain.

I hope you have enjoyed this. It was certainly long. I hope it was useful. Again, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.


#10

What a great report. And I don't even have a kid! I got a lot out of it and like your style. Thanks!


#11

Thanks, happy it was useful!


#12

From your entire post I would guess your probably not going to be returning? Sounds like you had several issues at each and every park and the food was just not that good at any place you visited.

At least you gave it a good shot and luckily your daughter was found quickly. Congrats on your new bundle of joy soon too


#13

@jbhodj: Not at all, we loved our trip! As I said in the end of the report, we will be coming back probably in 3 or 4 years pretty likely.

We did not have "several issues." The only "issue" we had was to lose our daughter for a horrifying 7 minutes, and I had nothing but wonderful things to say about the staff on the occasion. In fact, the CMs surrounded her so fast and close to where we were that this was probably the reason we did not see her. Since we had just arrived at our first park, we did not know what the security CMs even looked like. My husband, who happened to walk on the right direction, found her immediately, only I did not know that. In total, I was desperate for 7 minutes, he must have been desperate for 3 or 4. Once we were all reunited, we calmed down a few minutes and then went on enjoying our trip right on schedule. Those were probably the worst 7 minutes of my life in intensity, but one must put things in the right perspective: it lasted very little and had no bad consequences. We were not going to be sweating it the rest of the day, let alone the rest of the vacation, and indeed we didn't.

With respect to the food, it is true that I did not think that anything was amazing. But then, I did not have any expectation that it would be. In fact, I would say that food options at WDW surprised me positively. I thought that the variety was good, and often the taste was good, or at least decent, and a few items were awesome. This is more than I expected. More than that, we thought that the prices we paid at Cinderella's Royal Table and Be Our Guest were fair. I read many people complaining about the prices at those places, but several times I have dined at restaurants with comparable food quality that charged us the same or even more, and did not hold a candle to the experience, ambiance and service of CRT and BOG. Look, you have to discount my opinion of the food. We are what you would call "foodies," an obnoxious class of people that consider food their art. We are very severe judges, because we have pretty much tried everything. At this point, we are really very hard to please, and we know it, so we don't hold it against a place (unless the place is known for the food). No, I don't think that Disney food is world level, it just isn't. It does not mean I did not enjoy the destination because of it. Of course we did not go to Disney for the food! We weren't suffering either, we are happy with only decent/tasty enough food, especially if there is variety and not everything is fast food style, as I said, there were even a few things we thought were great. You know, some foodie destinations we visited, in some cases many times, such as NYC, Paris, San Francisco, St. Martin, Montreal and Rome, also turned out to be just a string of passable decent food experiences (and way more expensive than food at WDW). The difference is that in those cities one always finds a few food items or restaurants in every trip that are so glorious that you remember them forever, they make the whole trip worthwhile even if there was no sightseeing at all, let alone with all the things to see and do in those cities. But hey, these actually ARE world level foodie destinations, so I would consider "a few" glorious experiences to be a bit of a let down (though it depends on how amazing the "glorious" experiences are, sometimes they do make up for the rest. Rome is certainly like that.) Since I've gone all the way to snob territory, let me mention that Shanghai and New Orleans are the exact opposite: a string of glorious experiences with only very few just passable ones. Some destinations which more or less balance the expectation of the food quality with the ratio of amazing to decent food experiences: Lombardy, London, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Toronto and Bavaria.

The other things you may have identified as "issues" may be just small complaints or opinions, and a few complications in our plans due to the fact that we had a 2 year old with us who not always agreed with the plan. I expected such things to happen, these things always do. The more we travel the more we realize how truly inevitable the setbacks are, so I always make flexible plans so that we can adapt and move on. We were not actually unhappy even for a minute, except for when we lost our daughter, and perhaps around 6:30pm on Sunday, when we were a bit too hot and had to change to the MNSSHP costumes without a shower. That said, we did not stay in a bad mood even then, we plowed on with good will, and about one hour later we were comfortable again and even managed to stick to the original plan.

I wrote an honest and extremely detailed account of everything we did. Not every ride is spectacular, not everything is as great as advertised, not all goes exactly as planned and I would have changed a few things if I could (like going to HS on Monday instead of EP). So what? We thought that there were plenty of great rides, the decor was beautiful, the service outstanding. By the way, the same way there are always setbacks, there are always also instances of great luck. How about when we got a prime location to watch the afternoon parade at MK without waiting one minute for it? Or when our location for the fireworks at MNSSHP turned out to be a spot where a crowd could not form in front of us? Or when our badly illuminated location for the Boo To You parade turned out to be a magnet for characters? Or the fact that except for AK we never had to wait for the bus, ever? Or that the Beast gave us a special moment even though we did not stay in the line to see him? Or the fact that my 2 year old daughter, who had never watched a princess movie before, loved the princesses and put on a show for the pictures with them? These were some of the unexpected wonderful things that happened to us. They count too, and they balance the setbacks. We were very happy, and we fully intend to go back. However, there is a lot to see in the world, and for this price there is plenty of excellent competition. This is why we will not be coming back every year, since we would like to visit other places as well.


#14

Oh, and about the pregnancy, thanks!!! Today I spent the whole day nauseous. It sucks! I had not been nauseous with my daughter. I am very thankful that I was feeling great while we were on the trip. I could not imagine doing everything we did if I was feeling like today!


#15

With the heat and having a 2 year old and being pregnant and your first day ultimate parents nightmare you had your hands full and to start off with that I can only imagine.

I really enjoyed reading your entire thread and sorry if I came across wrong. Just seemed to me that you had setbacks and expectations that were not met and believe me I know how that can affect a trip.

Thanks for the report it was helpful indeed


#16

No problem at all! I was also happy to clarify, I did not want my opinion to come across wrong either.

To be fair, setbacks and expectations not met are par for the course when traveling. On the other hand there are also positive surprises and things that exceed the expectations, and those compensate for the bad things. For example, even though I had read about the CMs competence and willingness to help, as well as Disney general attention to detail, the reality far exceeded my expectations. I put a high weight on this, because being well treated improves the moods of everybody around. In fact, I can't recall a single instance of an obnoxious guest, even at the busiest parades or shows, even at the hottest hours. Everybody was nice and accommodating. Hey, even the food exceeded my expectations (but those were pretty low). The heat was only a problem at that time on Sunday. Sure, it would have been nice to be less hot some other times, but it's not a big deal and thankfully I was feeling no pregnancy symptoms at all yet.


#17

Thanks for posting such a detailed report - we are taking my DD who will be a week from 2 years old on our trip along with our almost 5 year old DS. The details on walking speed and what rides your DD could handle were much appreciated.

I have a follow-up question on the diaper bag - did you take in line because you needed it or because you didn't want to leave it hanging on the stroller? I had planned to have changes of clothes and stuff that we would just leave with the stroller when parking it just wondered if I should be concerned about doing that.


#18

Hi, glad it was helpful! We took the diaper bag in line because we did not want to leave it hanging on the stroller. The strollers stay unattended. It would be easy for anyone to steal the diaper bag, or to steal from the diaper bag. I saw a few diaper bags left on the strollers but the immense majority of people did take it to the ride. I had also read about people who had things stollen from a diaper bag, and so we did not want to risk it. If you want to leave a change of clothes, something small, there may be a kind of small bag with a lock that you can lock to the stroller. I would feel fine leaving one of those. I don't think there is any real thief there that would be able to get into one of these bags, but a regular diaper bag is really too easy an opportunity. Our solution was to pack it light, but we still took it with us always.


#19

Thanks! Good to know - at local parks I always just trust that people aren't going to take my stuff - but I was a little more worried about it at Disney. Appreciate the response!


#20

At the begining of our week I didn't leave anything in the stroller, by the end I was leaving coats, blankets etc.