Trip Report: 7/3 - 7/12


#1

Now that the withdrawal is really kicking in from our trip, I'm hoping that writing up our experience and sharing it with you guys can make the wait until our next trip a little easier! I hope you enjoy.

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We’re not your typical Disney family structure – which, for reasons mentioned later in our trip, made for some rather amusing moments – being 50 (Mum), 30 (myself – the only son), 15 (my little sister) and 7 (my youngest sister). The motivation for our trip was that my Mum and myself had discussed doing something big together during the year which she turned 50 and I turned 30 – big milestones! – and with the girls being (seemingly) perfect Disney age and my July birthday being a pretty nice sounding time to get out of the UK and over to sunny Florida, what better place to go than Disney World?! We last went for my 18th birthday and we’ve been desperate to go back ever since.

To say I enjoyed the planning stages of our holiday would be like saying the Flight of Passage queue times are ‘kind of long’. Google Sheets became my most frequented website. The Unofficial Guide was transformed into a rainbow of highlighters and Post-It notes. The ADRs were made minutes after the 180 day window began. FPs were secured with military precision. And then… silence. The last 45 days or so before our trip were an agonizing countdown for me whilst the rest of the family gradually became more excited and started asking “so how does the dining plan work exactly?” and “Harry Potter’s at Disney, right?”. I flew up from London to meet the family in Edinburgh on Friday June 30th. The kids finished school. We said goodbye to Granny and then – we were off.

Day 1 – July 3
We took the train (a tortuously bumpy near 4 hour ride across the Pennine hills) to Manchester Airport on July 2nd and stayed over for the night to catch our 10:30am flight with Virgin. I am a pretty rigid British Airways traveler but I think I’ll now be holidaying with Virgin. The flight was great with really attentive and friendly flight staff, surprisingly good food and range of snacks. Mum and I got a little bit merry whilst the girls watched Moana and so began our holiday-long love affair with “How Far I’ll Go” – our official holiday anthem.

Landing around 2:30pm at Orlando, we visited the Virgin desk to collect our $200 gift card (not for passing Go – it was included in our package), grabbed a caffeine fix and got on the Magical Express. Phoebe (7) really started to get excited here as the videos played on the bus showing off park highlights and when we drove past the “Welcome to Disney World” sign – there may have been a few tears of joy shed. I’ll blame it on the jetlag.

We were staying for 9 nights at Caribbean Beach Resort. We booked before the announcement of the renovation so were very happy to receive $675 on an additional card upon check in. Check was super smooth and after grabbing our refillable mugs we hopped on the resort transport to Trinidad South to our pirate room. We were a little nervous about this as we didn’t want a pirate room, as such, it’s just all that was available for our dates when we booked. We read reviews which filled us with dread but we are all agreed that we would happily stay in one of these rooms again… if we had to. The beds, although on the small side, we found to be very comfortable and the room totally worked for us. We’d have expected more if this was a Deluxe resort but for a Moderate – we seriously have 0 complaints. I’ll talk about the rest of the resort, the food etc. a little later in the report.

We were ready to head out from the room at around 6:30pm – 4 hours from landing, quite impressed with that. The tiredness was starting to set in (by now it was 11:30pm UK time and no-one slept on the flight) but we wanted to get to Disney Springs for a D-Luxe Burger and damned if we were changing my precious plans at this early stage.

We found the transport system from Trinidad South to be absolutely fine. Again, from reading some reviews of the resort and the multiple stops I had low expectations and was a little anxious about it being complicated but we had no problems. We were sometimes waiting around 20 minutes, mostly having just missed the bus we needed, but mostly the buses were quick to come, were never very full from our pick up and never stopped more than 3 stops (sometimes, when going to the Epcot side of the resort only stopping once) before leaving the resort and hitting the road.

Before talking about our first meal it’s worth mentioning we had the Disney Dining Plan included in our package also. Side note: we met a British family later on our trip who now live in New Jersey who told us that they still book their Disney holidays through UK travel agents as the packages on offer to us lucky Brits seem like a really good value deal indeed compared to what’s available domestically in the US.

D-Luxe Burger was so much better than even I was expecting it to be. For a quick service burger, I can’t recommend it enough. I went for the BBQ burger which was in all honesty one of the best I’ve had in my life (and there’s been a few) and we loved the fries and the adventurous dipping sauces (curried ketchup, buffalo blue cheese, chipotle mayo). We left very full and content to check out some of the shops before becoming quickly overwhelmed, on top of it now being about 1am on UK time, so we headed back to the room to get our heads down for our first ‘proper’ day at Animal Kingdom…


#2

I live 20 minutes from Manchester Airport :blush: Looking forward to reading more.


#3

Can't wait to hear more about your trip.


#4

Enjoying the report, looking forward to more...


#5

Sounds like your trip has started really well! Looking forward to reading the rest :grinning:


#6

Day 2 - July 4th at Animal Kingdom

I made the decision early on in our planning that we would spend July 4th (as non-Americans and the significance of the date washing over us somewhat) in what TouringPlans predicted to be the quietest park.

NOTE ON THE CROWD CALENDAR
Generally, we found the parks to be manageable and pretty much in-line with the expected crowds on the crowd calendar. I can't stress enough what a useful and incredibly well organised and researched this calendar is. If you're not using it to plan your vacation, you are making a huuuuuuuuuge time wasting mistake. Great job, TP!
END OF SUCKING UP

When arriving at Disney from the UK - jet lag is your friend. Embrace being dazed & confused on those first couple of days because the 5 or 6am wake up helps ensure you get to the parks nice and early. We arrived at Animal Kingdom (about a 20 minute trip from Trinidad South) around 8:15. The crowds heading to Pandora already were very noticeable and we walked through the gates smug in the knowledge that we were going to tackle the rest of the park first (a counter-Touring Plans suggested route for the day in order to ease ourselves into the Disney experience gently given we had a 7 year old first-timer with us) and our Flight of Passage FP+ was booked in.

RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS
I'm proud to say we managed to hit pretty much every ride at every park on our trip. That's a lot of reporting so instead I'm going to make a note of our hightlights and (rare) disappointments.
- Let's talk about Dinosaur for a minute. Holy crap - what a rough ride!! It scared the hell out of Phoebe (7) and I near enough crapped myself at one point (when the scary bugger of a dinosaur looks like it's running next to the car - woah). I don't think I enjoyed this but remember re-riding this several times on our previous trip. I know people love it but it really made my family anxious. We'll skip it next time.
- We did the safari early and this was a great decision. We went around 8:30, before breakfast, and it was a straight walk on. We saw so many animals with an incredible giraffe encounter (photo evidence to follow at a later date) that really woke us up and had us feeling the Disney magic early on.
- Expedition Everest: I could have stayed on this all day. Mum and Phoebe didn't ride but Elise (15) and myself were obsessed. The backwards helix is one of the most intense coaster moments I had on our trip - so good. We rode again at night and that was really special: awesome views.
- Finding Nemo trumps Lion King for me in terms of the show. I was agape for most of the show and thought it was such a clever piece of theatre. The puppetry is ridiculous and the performers were fantastic. The Lion King is absolutely fine and a lot of fun but I wouldn't go and see it again.
- It's Tough To Be a Bug feels pretty dated now and I found the 3D effects pretty tough on my eyes (I have imperfect eyesight - but not bad enough to wear glasses all the time - and just saw double throughout). The physical effects are still fun though.
- I got so soaked on Kali River Rapids that I nearly got trench foot - take flip flops and change out of them. Great fun ride though.
- The trails and animal exhibits are really great ways of chilling out through the day and taking a breather from the rides. We started the Wilderness Explorers book too but didn't quite have the attention span to stick with it. Will definitely put more effort into it on a return trip as it's such a brilliant idea and way of keeping the younger kids engaged through the day.
- We enjoyed Rivers of Light a lot but I'd say it's the weakest of the 4 evening shows. The water projections are super impressive and the arena is very pleasant but nothing's overly memorable. A nice way to enjoy a margarita before heading home.

Now... Pandora.
- This place is MENTAL. The imagineering and detail is just... I can't even. You really are transported to another world.
- Flight of Passage. I think you'll all have to talk to me face to face to get a proper impression of just how FREAKING GOOD this ride is. I can't quite get over it still. We had a FP+ for around 4pm which resulted in maybe a 25 minute wait (we also used child swap as Phoebe didn't want to ride - NOTE great benefit of this that I didn't realise is that 2 people can go back in FP+ line with the person using child swap so some lucky members of your party get some easy re-rides. DO THIS RIDE. Queue for however long it takes (we did it again another date - more on that later). It's unlike anything I've ever experienced and it makes me so excited for the next generation of Disney attractions. We're in for some life-altering experiences. This ride had my Mum in tears of amazement and all of us laughing uncontrollably in awe on both our rides. Unreal.
- We walked past River Journey when it displayed a wait of 40 minutes and the TP Lines app saying the wait should be around 30 minutes even though our TP didn't have us scheduled to ride it until later. Biggest (and only major) mistake of our trip! We ended up waiting close to 90 minutes for this as the queues escalated quickly. It's not a good queue: lacking any notable theming and 0 diversions. We contemplated quitting it a few times but stuck with it (Phoebe needed a toilet break halfway through - Mum took her out of the line and was let back in the FP+ queue to wait for us at the front. Very kind of that CM). This ride is good but not worth a wait of longer than 30-40 minutes, in my opinion.

FOOD AND DRINK
Our meals were:
Breakfast @ Creature Comforts: Your standard Starbucks affair but we were sure to tackle 2 of the colossal cinnamon rolls between 4 of us which were deeeeelicious. Warm and the perfect balance of sugar and cinnamon.
Lunch @ Tusker House: This was an exceptional buffet spread with some really unique offerings on top of the great character experience. Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy all visited the tables - on rotation once per hour it seemed - and spent time with everyone. Some of the memorable food items were the BBQ salmon, jalapeno corn bread, chicken curry (more exciting than it sounds, really succelnt chicken in a really great coconut curry sauce) and some incredible king prawns. Very happy with this and will definitely visit again. We also booked this with the Rivers of Light package which saved us a FP+ and came in really handy.
Dinner @ Satu'li Canteen: This was a perfect day of eating. This is the best quick service restaurant we experienced at Disney. It felt - dare I say it - HEALTHY! The blueberry cheesecake mousse wouldn't have been out of place at a high-end restaurant in London and everything was really fresh and tasty.

Beers and margaritas took the place of any real snacking as we ate so much at our meals. Overall the quality of everything consumed at AK was way beyond our expectations and I really don't feel like we even scratched the surface. Tiffins is on the list for next time as well as a much deeper exploration of the available snack options at the park. We had a Night Blossom in Pandora - which was the sweetest drink of our trip, hands down - which tasted like liquified Nerds candies to me (if that means anything to anyone!?)

OVERALL THOUGHTS
- Animal Kingdom is my favourite park: hands down. The theming, the attention to detail, the attractions and shows, the food, the general 'vibe' of the place are all just so unique and gorgeous. We could have happily spent another day or two here and will make more time for it on our next trip. (We do go back for a late evening visit - more on that to come later in the report)
- In hindsight we would have taken our first day at Disney World a little easier. It became quite difficult towards the end of the day for Phoebe (7 year old) as it was a long day and a total sensory overload. I think Phoebe now knows what to expect in the future but if I were taking another young first-timer in the future I would really plan the first 2 days at least around them and getting them used to rides and queuing and figuring out their threshold.
- BEWARE THE BRAZILIAN TOUR GROUPS Holy moly there's a lot of them and they really make themselves known. Our main reason for really wanting to avoid July in the future is these massive tour groups. They didn't spoil anything as such but they take an already intense and loud place and really push it over the limit. We're a pretty fun and lively family and certainly aren't party poopers but we found the tour groups to be pretty intense right from our first day.
- Animal Kingdom is easily a full day park now, especially in July when the crowds are bigger. Take your time with this place and really savour it. There is SO much to see and do.

A pretty full-on first day overall that whetted our appetite for what was yet to come. We got out of the park pretty swiftly and back to our room before 11. Next up... Epcot!


#7

Sorry about Dinosaur! I agree - really scary for kids. We love the Nemo show, too. It's so captivating!


#8

Thank you for summarizing. I read it in my best British accent, which sucks but you all sound so amazing. That aside - your report was good. Thanks for making it informative and to the point.


#9

AK is our least favourite park but I always enjoy reading about it from the perspective of someone who really loves it, it persuades me to keep going. At the moment we go basically to do EE over and over and FotLK - the rest is incidental!


#10

Wow - Great report, looking forward to the next parts.

We are first timers flying with Virgin from Gatwick in October and will be staying in CBR. I will certainly look out for the dinosaur, though I probably will not warn our daughter who will be turning 12 during our visit. At 11 years old she seems to know everything already, why would I ruin that misconception for her :slight_smile:


#11

Loving your report! I'm reading it my terrible British accent as well :joy: and I'm enjoying every minute! Can't wait to see how the next day goes!


#12

Loving your report. AK is pretty much st the top of my list - and I haven't even seen Pandora yet...


#13

Great report...
Have to agree with you on Dinosaur!! Thought I was going to get tossed out of the car...
And you are so right about taking your time and savoring the experience...unlike the other parks, AK deserves to be enjoyed at a slower pace...


#14

Glad you guys are enjoying and getting to practice you accents! Hah!


#15

Great report! I loved AK too and Pandora hadn't even opened. I can't wait to go back and experience it!


#16

Terribly sorry to keep you all hanging on tenterhooks. I bet you've all been pulling your hair out in anticipation of the next part! Ha. I was away over the weekend and am away next week- be warned. I'll try to get through as much of this as possible before then, though.

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Day 3 - Epcot

The day started with our 3rd early rise in a row which - for reasons I'll mention shortly - was a bit of an error in hindsight. Yes - we had another very productive day (riding a lot of rides and having a great time) but sleep and rest is important and you shouldn't let the Disney adrenaline make you forget this.

Epcot is very close, geographically, to Caribbean Beach but because of the way the roads are laid out and where the entrance is, it still takes around 15-20 minutes to get there. Now - onto our day. Crowd calendar predicted a 5/10 but it felt more like a 6-7.

RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS
- We hit Test Track first thing, before breakfast. I took us on an accidentally very scenic route to get there so arrived a little later than planned and were met with a good 25-30 minute wait. Our TP didn't suggest a FP+ for this but in hindsight, this would have been good. It was a hot day. We were tired. Phoebe started to crack early...

THOUGHTS ON THE DISNEY EXPERIENCE FOR SMALL CHILDREN: For small kids, especially those going to Disney for the 1st time, it is a very stressful experience to go on rides of the Disney scale for the first time. Sure some kids will be born adrenaline junkies and naturally adventurous but I think for most, queueing for something where they have no idea what is going to happen to them, how long it's going to take, if they're going to have to do anything interactive etc. is reeeeealy scary. I'm wondering if we could have prepared differently but we did show Phoebe a lot of YouTube videos of rides but there's really no comparison to being at the park and in a queue in. It's something that we didn't anticipate really having to deal with and it did create a lot of additional stress and tension in our party BUT now at least I think, and certainly by the end of the trip, she really understands what the vibe is and she'll be more acclimatised next time. But my advice if you find yourself in a situation with a anxious young one is have patience, try to calm them down and reassure them but also don't let them give up on the ride even if it involves a teary breakdown. They will grow in confidence the more they ride and benefit from it in the long term.

(Test Track continued)...She ended up loving the ride - we all did. It's awesome. It's a simple concept done very very well and the fast acceleration around the track at the end is a really satisfying payoff.
- Spaceship Earth: classic. Phoebe LOVED this (so much that we went back another day to re-ride - more on that later). I think it would be great to see this updated with better technology but you can't really go wrong here.
- Living With The Land we all loved. You can't do it justice to someone who hasn't been on it before by explaining what it is - you just have to go on and I guarantee you'll be happy.
- Soarin' - Fantastic ride. The unique ride mechanic makes this a particularly great experience. I think it'd be even better if they took influence from Star Tours and made the video footage different on each ride to increase the re-ride potential.
- The Sea with Nemo & Friends - Another fantastic attraction: one of my favourite film-based dark rides. The queue is great. The graphics through the ride are really unique, especially in the tank at the end. Brilliant.
- Journey into the Imagination - You need to experience Figment at Epcot. You're effectively going back in time on this ride and the nostalgia factor makes it even better in my opinion. It needs freshening up but again - classic!
- Gran Fiesta Tour: What a hidden gem! If you're going to make time for anything in World Showcase, make time for this - even over Frozen.

Illuminations needs an update. It's a great fireworks show - which is what puts it above Rivers of Light in the rankings for me - but not overwhelming. The fact it takes place in the middle of the lagoon is nice and the use of the world showcase buildings is a nice touch but... a bit flat.

Mission:Space was closed during our trip which was definitely missed as I think we all felt like we could have done with one more thrill ride there. We also missed Frozen (we came back and experienced it another day), Pixar Short Film Festival, the character experiences (really wanted to meet Joy and Sadness! Next time!) and most of the films/other experiences around World Showcase. There really is a deceptively massive amount to do at Epcot.

FOOD AND DRINK
This was a great day of eating and drinking!
Breakfast @ The Garden Grill: This is a family style table service all you can eat experience in a revolving restaurant that spins you through scenes from Living With The Land - it's about as unique a dining experience as you can get at DIsney. The food was SO good - you get your classic Disney breakfast spread delivered to your table alongside some unique options like the Cinnamon bun, the potato barrels and the chocolate-hazelnut sauce for your Mickey waffles (or for your bacon... trust me). The bacon was perfect (we ordered more, and more waffles - of course) and everything food-wise was fantastic. It's also character dining with Mickey, Chip, Dale and Pluto so it ticks so many boxes I think it's a real must-do. The service was a little slow but I think it's a fairly small kitchen. So have patience, but don't miss it.
Dinner @ Chefs De France: We skipped lunch because we ate breakfast at 9:45 and dinner was at 6:50pm so we had some snacks during the day. We really enjoyed our meal at CDF. The service was exceptional. We all speak some French so enjoyed speaking with our fantastic waitress in French for the majority of the meal which really added to the experience. I think if this restaurant was in France, the locals would consider it pretty average... But for being in a theme park in the middle of Florida, it's great. The Alsace flatbread with salmon made for a great starter and the beef tenderloin was really well cooked and enjoyable. The portions were really good sizes, the wine was lovely and the atmosphere felt really authentic and a lot of fun. We would go to Monsieur Paul on our next trip for a more refined experience but I would have no qualms about going back here.

Other drinks and snacks we had through the day:
- We visited The Land Cart a couple of times as it's where we experienced our favourite beer from the trip for the first time - the Sea Dog Sunfish. Holy hell - that is a REFRESHING beer. Light and fruity but still a beer. Loved it. We also had a Mickey pretzel with the plastic cheese which also became a family favourite.
- Two words that I never thought would go so well together... Avocado Margarita. Get one of these. Please. Unreal.
- I was REALLY underwhelmed by the unique popcorn flavours the popcorn cart I had read so much about. I didn't like any of them as much as I thought I would. Womp womp.
- The kids enjoyed a Japanese shaved ice (this is the best shaved ice we had all trip - very fine and really melts in your mouth more than others) whilst the grown ups sampled a frozen beer which is very unique. Effectively a regular draft beer (Kirin) with what is effectively a beer foam sorbet on top. Really interesting. Really refreshing. But not one if you're not into more hoppy tasting beers: it tastes like a brewery smells.
- I wanted to mention how nice I thought the Epcot Starbucks (Fountain View) is: it was my favourite on property Starbucks we visited.
- Club Cool also deserves a special mention. This is a really fun diversion and way to take a quick break. I'm going to put it out there... I LOVE the Beverly. It's Chinotto - an Italian soft drink made from a specific type of bitter Italian orange and I have it a lot in the UK (you can buy something that tastes really similar to the Beverly in most local shops here, ha!). I love how divisive it is.

GENERAL THOUGHTS
There's no doubt that Epcot is screaming out for its forthcoming updates - which look absolutely amazing - and when we were there, Mission:Space not being there did mean the whole day was very tame - but that isn't a bad thing, I think we needed it.

We all loved the park and could have spent another full day there with ease. The shopping is fantastic with Mouse Gear being particularly great for your Disney needs. The World Showcase is just ridiculous in terms of how much there is to do there. If we were an adults only party, we would have done a day just focussed there sampling food and drinks from the pavilions but - especially when it's hot - it's hard to keep the kids attention if you want to take things slow.

Elise (15) said this was her favourite park at Disney which I was surprised by but equally I remember it being mine when we went when I was a teenager. It's undeniably cool and I am sure the imagineers are going to do a great job of making it even cooler in the years to come. Sure, some of the rides feel dated - but they're all great. If you haven't been, go with a really open mind and be prepared for a totally different experience to any other of the parks.


#17

I love Beverly and had no idea you could get anything similar here!

Thanks for the review of Garden Grill, I think we might try it next time - DS loves eating breakfast in a restaurant, though he's not interested in characters (I love them though!).


#18

https://www.sanpellegrinofruitbeverages.com/intl/en/chinotto-221 - delicious!

Garden Grill breakfast is probably the best eggs/bacon/waffles style breakfast IN any of the parks.


#19

I've never seen that but I'll be on the lookout from now on!


#20

Superb report. Very entertaining and some spot on comments. Wish I had your patience and memory to write things up as well as this.

I agree with everything you say about FOP

Sets a new standard for everyone to follow.