Trip Report 9/12-9/20: Staying offsite for our first trip in 14 years

Hello all!

Because all you liners were such a great help in my planning, I wanted to share my very first trip report with you. I’m also hoping some of my experiences will help others in the their planning, especiallly anyone staying offsite. I know, I know, blasphemy! But we needed to save some money and it ended up saving us approximately $350 for the week, even including parking. I had originally posted this for my non-Disney fanatics on Facebook, so please excuse any obvious explanations - I had to assume they had no idea what I was talking about!

A quick summary:

  • I had a TP in place for every park day, which were obsessively checked over every day for weeks going up to our departure day. It was my first time making TPs and I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly, and I had needed to do some convincing with DBF for this trip so I wanted to have the shortest waits possible. However, these were quickly thrown out the window by day 1, and instead we just used the MDE app to check wait times before heading to a ride. This worked great for us, but others may enjoy following a plan.
  • We stayed off Disney property to help save some money. I had also planned on bringing snacks and sandwiches into the park each day for meals, but we didn’t follow that plan very well either.
  • It rained every day. I knew it rained in FL in September, but the days it rained it was steady and lasted most of the day. Our last day was beautiful sunshine. Otherwise, rain and clouds. But it sort of worked out in our favor.
  • This was rated the slowest week in Disney, but it was still pretty packed. Wait times were higher than expected for most rides.
  • We got on everything multiple times, which was much better than I thought we would do!
  • My original plan was: 9/12 no parks, maybe DTD; 9/13 DHS and MK; 9/14 Epcot; 9/15 half day MK; 9/16 half day Epcot; 9/17 no pakrs; 9/18 AK; 9/19 DHS, Epcot, and MK; 9/20 leave. This plan changed. A lot.

Neither of us had been to Disney in 14 years, so this was our first experience as adults, and our first Disney trip together. A lot has changed since we were there, so it’s almost like a first time trip for us, therefore please excuse any mistakes I make in locations or names of parks/rides. We decided in May to do this trip, but didn’t end up booking anything until the end of June. I studied hard for the next few months for the best parks to visit on each day, which rides were worth it, which restaurants we needed to stuff our faces at, and setting up our fastpasses (my first experience with their new fastpass+ system - more on that later). I also consulted the great Alex D. Gorgone (my cousin), who should definitley charge for his services because he helped shape our itinerary, and man was he spot on! Anyways, happy reading!

Saturday, Day 1 - Arrival

Our plane left MHT in NH at 5:45 am and landed at 8:55am, so we had the whole day to do whatever we wanted! We had no plans to go into the parks today, and instead decided to keep it low-key and relaxed. We got through baggage claim and the car rental counter quickly, and were on the way to the Sheraton Vistana Resort by about 9:30am. We decided to go right there and try to check in early, even though we knew our room wouldn’t be ready. But the woman at registration worked her magic and got us a room immediately! So we headed over to unpack the car and get settled.

We ended up on the 4th floor, which on a normal vacation would be fine, but we knew we’d be hurting after long days at the parks climbing those stairs. But our room was ready so no complaining! We were in a 1 bedroom villa, with a full kitchen, washer/dryer, living and dining area, and screened in deck. It was awesome. Now I know some of you are thinking - who in their right mind wants to do laundry on vacation? Well, me. We packed very light, 3-4 outfits each, so we wouldn’t have to lug large suitcases around. I ended up doing 3 loads of laundry and it was the best. Not only did we not run out of clothes, but we came home with suitcases packed with clean clothes so I didn’t have to do laundry when we got back. We didn’t use the kitchen much except for the fridge and freezer to keep fruit and stuff for sandwiches, and to keep bottles of water frozen to take into the parks with us. But it was nice knowing we had the option to cook dinner if we wanted to save some money. We planned on making breakfast every morning, but upon check in we were given the option to forgo daily housekeeping in exchange for a free breakfast buffet for each of us every morning. Score!

This resort had 7 pools, 3 restaurants and bars, a marketplace, and 3 gyms (that we didn’t use). All this for half of what we would have paid for at a moderate resort on disney property. I know, to many of you disney fans it’s blasphemy to even suggested staying outside the “Disney bubble”, but we were on a budget - and you know what? This ended up being way better for us than a Disney resort. The longest drive we had all week was getting to Animal Kingdom, and it was maybe 10 minutes, if I wanted to exagerate it. Probably more like 7 minutes. The other parks were 5 minutes, and DTD was literally 2 minutes. We could see the Epcot fireworks from the resort - I wouldn’t recommend it as a viewing area, but we could see them. There was a free shuttle available, but we chose not to use it due to inconvenient timing and having to schedule 12 hours in advance.

We spent some time exploring the resort and finding out where the pools were (2 were within walking distance, and we never did find the other 5). It’s a really nice resort and would definitely stay there again and recommend it. Just be prepared for their timeshare pitch when you check in and be ready with your “no” face and attitude - they barely take no for an answer and will do anything to get you to attend one of their seminars. Be strong! You don’t have time to sit through a 90 minute speil! Mickey is waiting!

After exploring, we were hungry, so what’s our first stop? Golden Corral of course! DBF Anthony’s favorite place of all time - me, meh. But he agreed to a Disney trip so we will do whatever he wants while we’re here! We ate too much food, and by that time I was itching for some Disney. We were’t doing any parks, but why not explore DTD? Anthony’s mind was blown by their parking garage set up - they have a digital screen at the entrance of each level showing how many open spaces there are, and another screen at the beginning of each row. Looking down the rows, you can see small black “bubbles” that look like mini security cameras above each space. If the space is occupied, the bubble is black. If it’s open, a green light comes on so you don’t have to drive in circles searching for a spot! Pretty cool! We also had no issues driving in and parking, I’m not sure what all the fuss was about with the construction. But then again, we’ve never done this as adults so maybe it’s bad compared to what it used to be. We walked around a bit, went into some of the stores, and I had a margarita while we listened to some live music before heading back to the resort. Easy first day, and we were going to be up early the next day for our first park experience as adults.


Sunday, Day 2 - Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom

I was up and ready to go this morning by 7 am. Anthony - not so much (who’s surprised?? :)). But we managed to get out the door and to breakfast by about 7:50 am. We left for DHS by 8:15, parked the car by 8:25, and were through the tapstiles and waiting in the rain on Hollywood Blvd by 8:40am for park opening.

I had my TP on my phone ready to go and had tried to fill Anthony in the best I could that morning about what to expect - he had left the planning up to me and is very much a Disney rookie. But we decided pretty quickly (in fact, while we were waiting for official opening) that we were just going to do whatever we felt like when we felt like it. We very well may not make it back to Disney for many many many more years, so why hold ourselves to a strict itinerary? I’m pretty sure I had a minor stroke when I agreed to that, but it turned out awesome.

We walked right on Tower of Terror and were sitting in the first elevator by 8:50. This was Anthony’s first time on this ride, and I was really excited to see how he would like it. And because of our hard work getting up early, he got to sit front and center, best seat on the ride! But wait - the ride was malfunctioning. As I sat there, watching the cast member quietly talk to what I assume was a manager on the other end about the ride not working, I started to feel dispair. All my hard work to get us to the park before rope drop was going to be for nothing, just like that. But then - Disney magic! The ride started working immediately! Hooray! Anthony loved the ride so much we ended up riding about 10 more times during the trip.

From there, we went across to Rockin’ Rollercoaster, which was another walk-on and another first for Anthony. Also another favorite!

We then quickly took a peek at the MDE app to check wait times (it was now about 9:20). I knew Toy Story Midway Mania was a huge hit and would be crowded, and since we chose not to rope drop that ride that we probably wouldn’t get on it. I was right. By 9:20 am, the wait was already 60 minutes. Ouch. Not waiting for that one! So we walked on Tower of Terror again, then went over to Star Tours. It was now about 10am, and we were pretty much done with the park (for what we were interested in doing, anyway). So for those of you who were wondering at the beginning of this segment why the heck we were getting up early on vacation, this is why. If you don’t get there early, you can expect to wait forever for all the rides. But if you get there before rope drop, you can pretty much walk on anything in the first hour or so, and knock out 4-5 rides before the crowds start pouring in. We laughed at all the schmucks showing up at 9 thinking that was when the park opened!

We decided to ride the Great Movie Ride, which I was never a big fan of, but wanted to give it another shot. Still kind of a blah ride for me, I would skip it next time. But if you’re into movies, I would recommend it at least once. Definitely a good ride to be able to get off your feet and enjoy the A/C for a bit at the very least.

I had originally planned to take a break after this park for a few hours so we could nap and/or swim, but Anthony wasn’t ready for a break yet. I had fastpasses booked for our afternoon park - Magic Kingdom - but they were kind of spaced apart due to availability, so I tried to rebook them for earlier or later but had no such luck. So we went to Magic Kingdom anyway, which ended up not being the best plan, but hey! We’re in Disney! Still the happiest place on earth, even with meltdowns!

We drove from Hollywood Studios to the TTC, hopped on the monorail, and were in the park by noon time. I was so happy to be there, I had a hard time holding the tears back when I saw the Mickey heads everywhere!

My fastpasses I had booked in advance were for space mountain, peter pan, and the 7 dwarfs mine train. I can’t remember which rides we rode when, but in addition to those we got on carousel of progress, splash mountain, thunder mountain, people mover, buzz lightyear, stitch’s great escape, and haunted mansion. We made sure to stop and make sad faces with the Pirates closed sign :frowning:

7 dwarfs did not live up to the hype in my opinion. I’m really glad I got lucky enough to get a fastpass for it, because I would have been super mad if we waited in line for it - the lines were consistently over an hour (even up to 2). I was under the impression it was a roller coaster, but it’s not really. It is for about 5 seconds, then it’s a slow ride. I had avoided watching youtube videos because I wanted to be surprised, but now I wish I had watched them so my expectations weren’t so high. Oh well. We ate dinner at Pinnochio’s Hause - flatbreads that were pretty yummy.

My original plan was to stay in this park until they kicked us out when they closed at 10, but with no break we were pretty worn out, so we decided after waiting for what felt like forever for splash mountain to try to beat the pre-fireworks crowd out of the park and head home. We took the boat across the lake and headed back to the resort to crash. We ate dinner at one of the bars at the resort and chatted with the bartender who ended up originally being from where we were from!

It rained most of the day today and was high 80’s. We walked approximately 13 miles today. Tomorrow, another early morning!

One note on today - I had been trying to use the Lines app for wait times, but they always seemed to be off. For example, it said Splash was listed at a 30 min wait that night, but was really a 12 min wait. We got in line, and ended up waiting an hour instead. This happened multiple times, so I gave up and used MDE instead, which was much more accurate.


Monday, Day 3 - Epcot

We once again were ready in time for rope drop at Epcot. At this park, they let you in around 8:45 and hold you with a rope line at the entrance to each future world area. I was able to get fastpasses ahead of time for Soarin’, spaceship earth, and mission:space, so we rope dropped Test Track. I knew the line for Test Track had some cool car stuff in it that would be more fun to look at, so I chose the Soarin’ pass instead. Good call on my part, because Anthony loved the car stuff. But because we rope dropped it, there was no line and therefore not enough time to look at the cars. #DisneyProblems. You can now build your own car (new since I’d last been there) and test it for efficiency, power, and other things during the ride. Matro built our car and we got 1st place in all categories. Our car was the only one competing, but still. 1st is 1st.

It was then time to use one of our fastpasses. To be honest I can’t remember which order I had them in, but I know we ended up not needing the ones I got for spaceship earth and mission:space. I knew we probably wouldn’t need the one for spaceship earth, but we had no other options really. So we rode that one twice. Then we rode mission:space I don’t even know how many times. I was told by many people during my study sessions before the trip that Anthony should skip that ride, since he’s prone to motion sickness. He wasn’t having that though (go big or go home!). Thank goodness he tried it, because it ended up being one of our favorite rides of the trip and there was never a line for it. I think people must have been scared away by the warnings or something. No line all day was great!

Soarin’ was a really fun ride, and we got B1 front row which was even better. It was cool smelling oranges as we glided over a California orange grove. We did the Nemo ride through the living seas pavilion, then checked out the seas after. Being about lunch time now, it was time for a break, so we headed back to the resort for a nap and swim.

After a recharge, we headed back to Epcot for the rest of the afternoon/evening and took our time wandering around the countries in world showcase. I don’t remember spending much time in this part of the park as a kid, probably because there really isn’t anything for kids to do. No rides and a lot of history stuff makes it slightly boring for a kid, but as an adult it was a whole different experience. We probably could have spent the entire week in world showcase and never gotten bored. So much delicious food and drink, and all the little shops in each country were so cool to look through.

Anthony had some wicked good nachos in Mexico, and we scored a table looking over the lake that would have been a pretty good spot to watch the Illuminations show. From what I had studied, that seating area is actually a pretty coveted spot for fireworks because it’s covered and you get to sit down. But I was a little worried about the roof getting in the way of our viewing, so I headed out to find a better spot while Anthony finished his nachos. As I walked the loop I quickly became discouraged I wouldn’t find anything - it was just after 8 and already people were all along the edge of the lake staking out perfect spots for a show that didn’t start until 9. But then, Disney magic! I found a little loop of path that no one had found yet! It was totally unobstructed, and not a soul was around. It was in the France pavilion, right across from one of the restaurants. I called Anthony to have him come meet me when he was done eating. Within about 5 minutes, the area around me was pretty packed with people, so I got there just in time. I had a good chat with an older woman from Georgia while waiting, who also hadn’t been in about 20 years so we had a good time comparing then and now, and what we missed or liked better. We had a perfect view of an awesome show, and since we were at the furthest point from the exit, the crowd leaving was super easy to navigate and walk with.

We were in our car by 10:00 and back in our room no later than 10:15. Definitely a much better day having a nap during the afternoon!

Today we walked about 16 miles, and it was rainy and high 80’s again. Tomorrow, super early day for breakfast!


Tuesday, Day 4 - Magic Kingdom and Epcot

My original plan for this day was to just do Magic Kingdom and have an early night. Today was the first day of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which started at 7. Since we didn’t have tickets for that event, we had to be out by 7. But once again, our plan changed.

During my studying time, I had heard mention of a new restaurant in Magic Kingdom that everyone raved about - Be Our Guest. You get to eat inside the beast’s castle! How cool! And it sounded like the food was pretty good too! I needed to eat there! But sadly, it is so popular that the advanced dining reservations everyone makes 180 days out are gone within seconds of that 180 day window. Sad face. But then, I read you can get a reservation for breakfast for before the park opens, meaning you get to experience main street with very few other people on it, and you’re in the park already when it opens! Surely no one would want to get up that early when on vacation, and I’ll be able to find a reservation! Nope, wrong. That’s the most popular reservation. But I checked back every day during my planning to see if anyone had canceled their reservation, and sure enough, I got one! Pre-rope drop ADR for BOG!! Yay!! So, much to Anthony’s disappointment, we were on the boat across bay lake heading to Magic Kingdom by 7:30am.

And breakfast was amazing. I went in with somewhat low expectations after reading many reviews about the breakfast. Some said it was too salty (since it’s made in large batches and most likely in advance, I’m not surprised), others said the quantities were tiny and certainly not worth the $19.99 per adult price tag. Some complained the dining area was too loud and the experience was ruined. But this meal exceeded my expectations and beyond. Yes, 20 bucks a person is steep for a breakfast that isn’t even all-you-can-eat, but you’re paying for the experience of eating in the beast’s ballroom! Totally aww-inspiring. You could also pre-order your breakfast, so it was ready the moment you sat down, but we chose not to do that. The portions were actually quite huge, and we couldn’t finish everything. It comes with a pastry platter that I’m told was delicious, but I was too full to eat anything. The waiters magically know which table you’re sitting at and bring the food right to you (it’s quick service technically, so you seat yourself cafeteria style). You can eat in the ballroom (like we did), the west wing (dark and kind of scary), or what I think was supposed to be the library (just kind of a run of the mill room with some books lining one wall). I didn’t think the food was overly salty either. Totally worth it.

After breakfast we decided to head to splash mountain for the first ride. I had fastpasses for all the mountains this day. We walked on that since we were already in the park when it opened (they did hold us for a minute at one spot but we were released before the crowd got to us), then used our first fastpass for thunder mountain. Our next fastpass was for space mountain, and I’m pretty sure we rode something before we used it but I can’t remember now. Then we had a fastpass for splash again. Once we used all 3, we were able to get more fastpasses throughout the day, one at a time. By scheduling the next available fastpass, we were able to get 7 that day, and could have gotten more if we stayed the whole time. But by the time 4pm rolled around, we were getting a little tired. Plus, the party crowd was being let in early and making wait times a little too long for us. So we peaced out.

But wait…

Anthony had a brilliant idea. Why not race over to Animal Kingdom to do the Kilimanjaro Safaris before that park closed? Generally this is a bad park to hop to because it closes so early, but all we wanted to do was the safari. But it was 4pm and that park closed at 5pm. Could we make it?

We did. And the line was only 15 minutes! Score! Hang on though…the line wasn’t moving once we got in it. We must have watched hundreds of fastpass people pass us by while we stood there, sad faces on. Then finally, after what felt like forever (but was really about 30 minutes). We were in line for the next truck. Ok, maybe the next one would stop. Well, maybe that one was malfunctioning and couldn’t stop. Ok, surely the 4th truck will stop. Seriously, is this a joke? I think 6 trucks passed us by completely empty before we were finally let on one. But totally worth the wait. Unfortunately I forgot my camera in the car, but it was probably better because I got to just sit back and enjoy the animals rather than worry about if I got the picture. We watched a rhino try to uproot a tree. We saw baby giraffes standing close enough to the truck we probably could have reached out and touched one. And a great view of the lions lounging on their cooled rocks. Once the safari was over, the park was closed and it was time for us to relax for the rest of the night.

My plan was supposed to end here for the day. But during dinner things changed a bit (for the good, don’t worry!). We ate off-property at Bahama Breeze (which was really delicious). Halfway through our coconut shrimp and cajun chicken dinners, Anthony had a brilliant idea. Why not head over to Epcot for dessert? We have the park hopper, why not use it? We got a nap in before dinner, we can do it! I was really surprised by this offer, because he’s usually the one who wants to take it slow and rest a lot, where I want to go go go until my feet literally fall off. I was so excited he was catching the bug! So off we went. We walked around world showcase again, and got ice creams in France (yummy). Then I found the most amazing spot to watch Illuminations. I had read about this spot, but assumed it would be taken very far in advance, or that we wouldn’t be allowed to stand there. But much to my surprise, the second level deck of the Japan pavilion was completely deserted about 30 minutes before Illuminations. So we positioned ourselves and waited. And within a few minutes, other people followed suit and it was soon crowded. More Disney magic! (It seems the theme of this trip was luck). Being on the second level, we were above the trees and crowds, and had an unobstructed view of the globe. I was a little worried at first that the Japanese structure (sorry, not sure what it’s called) on the edge of the water would block our view, but it didn’t at all. We walked by another night and this spot was crowded already an hour and 15 minutes before the show started!

So another successful day down! This was the day we walked the most, estimated about 18 miles (I estimate because I forgot to bring my phone into Animal Kingdom with us, so those steps weren’t tracked). It was a little nicer, only rained for about an hour in the afternoon and was 90. Tomorrow, we attempt the dreaded “walk with purpose” to Toy Story Midway Mania!


Wednesday, Day 5 - Hollywood Studios and Epcot

This morning was just a regular rope-drop morning, no fancy breakfasts to get up early for. We were in the park standing in a large mass of people waiting for rope drop by about 8:35. Our plan that morning had been to get to Toy Story as fast as we could, because I had not been able to get a fastpass for it during my planning phase. When I saw how many people were in front of us, I prepared myself (and Anthony) that we would be waiting in line for 30 minutes. We decided it would be worth it because the great Alex D. Gorgone said so. He once again was not wrong. The cast members welcomed us, then started their walking barrier towards PixarLand where Toy Story resides. Much mayhem ensued with that large of a crowd being held back. I was worried we would get separated, since we were off to the right side of the street and people were cutting through to get to other areas of the park. But then, Disney magic! We saw a walkway to our right that looped back around to meet the pathway we were currently walking on, and where the mob was headed. We walked as fast as our legs could take us down that path and met back up with the mob IN THE FRONT OF THE GROUP! We actually beat them to the spot, but were held by other cast members until they caught up. We passed at least a hundred people thanks to that shortcut! And we were in the first group of 10 or so to get on the ride. So what would have been a 20-30 minute wait, turned into no wait at all! And the ride was wonderful. It’s set up like a midway at a carnival, where you play ring toss and throw darts. But you’re competing with the person in the car with you. And I ended up winning. Yup, best ride ever.

After all that excitement, it was time to use some fastpasses. I had Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and another for Star Tours that I knew we wouldn’t use but it made me pick three, so I got that one. We rode tower and rockin’ multiple times, then headed over to watch Indiana Jones. I know I’ve seen this when I was little, but I didn’t remember any of it so it was like a new show for me. It was pretty cool, lots of action and fight scenes. We heard someone behind us talking about how they’re getting rid of it to make room for star wars land, and I hope that’s not true.

Once Indiana Jones was over, it was about noon time and starting to get hot, so we left to jump in the pool and take a nap. Then it was time for Epcot for the afternoon, and we had reservations for dinner at Garden Grill. All Anthony cared about doing was eating at this restaurant because it’s where he remembered eating as a kid. I was all for it, as the restaurant got good reviews and it was a character meal, so we’d be able to meet Mickey, Chip and Dale, and Pluto without waiting in the ridiculous lines with cranky kids in the park. We rode a couple rides before dinner and did some shopping while the rain poured down, then bumped our reservation up by a half hour because we were starving. Dinner was good - but I probably wouldn’t do it again. Because it was a character meal, it was $45 per adult, all-you-can-eat. It’s family style, so they bring platters of food to your table and you pick from that. It’s all sustainably resourced food, and some of it (like the veggies in the salad) are grown right at Epcot, which was pretty cool! The characters looped around twice each while we ate, and we got pictures with each of them. The restaurant rotates while you eat so you get to see different scenery, but it wasn’t anything super exciting to look at. I was under the impression the scenes were amazing, but it was mostly just fake leaves and scenes from the Living with the Land ride. It would be a neat experience with kids because the characters spent a good amount of time at each table.

We rode Test Track again after dinner with a fastpass, then headed out during the fireworks to beat the crowd. Walked about 16 miles again, and was cloudy and 90. Another great day on the books!

Thursday, Day 6 - Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot

This day was originally supposed to be a relaxing, non-park, lay by the pool all day, day. But we had an extra day on our ticket, and believe it or not it was Anthony’s idea to use that day. I certainly wasn’t going to complain! So we decided to hit up Animal Kingdom for just the morning, see some of the animals before it got too hot. Now, you’ll notice I did today and the previous day a little backwards when it comes to fastpasses. The usual recommendation is to get fastpasses for the parks you’ll be in in the afternoon if you’re hopping. This is because for the morning park, you should be able to get there early enough to not really need any fastpasses, therefore leaving you with 3 open options for scheduling fastpasses in the second park. Generally, if you were to wait to get fastpasses until you were in that second park, most of them would be gone and you would only be able to get one at a time. Today and the previous day, however, I had fastpasses for the morning park. In each case, it was because either I didn’t think we’d be at the second park early enough to ride anything before dinner, or the second park was a surprise last minute decision. Today’s was a last minute decision.

We rope-dropped the safari and walked right on. This time around we got to see the baby white rhino up close, so cute! We then used our fastpass for Everest, and rode it multiple times in a row with no wait. It was pouring rain all morning and we had forgotten our ponchos, so we took refuge inside the dinosaur ride and rode that. Then I had a fastpass for the safari, but the fastpass line was halfway through that section of the park and by my estimation would have been almost an hour wait, so we skipped it. I also had a fastpass for Kali River Rapids, but we were getting poured on and I was getting cranky from being soaked already, so we left and decided to check out the Disney store at the nearby outlet mall. Very underwhelming. I had read a blog about it and was expecting a huge warehouse-type store with tons of Disney stuff for cheap. Not the case. Oh well! We went back to the room for a nap and to change out of wet rain clothes.

Then we decided to hit up the parks again. Because of the steady rain all day, the My Disney Experience app was showing low wait times pretty much everywhere, so we decided to run over to hollywood studios to ride tower and rockin’ with very little wait on both. We tried for Toy Story again, but that still had an hour wait, so no way Jose. Then once again, we decided to hit Epcot for dinner/dessert/snacks around the world. Such yummy food everywhere you go, how could we not! But I also wanted to check out the Boardwalk resort. And just my luck, there is actually a path you can walk that not only connects Hollywood Studios and Epcot, but passes right through the boardwalk resort! So off we went on tired feet. We hit the boardwalk and decided to catch one of the boats the rest of the way to Epcot. We entered through the international gateway right into world showcase, which is a pretty cool entrance. We somewhat pathetically had a couple drinks around the world (but not very many), and some more delicious snacks and desserts. Then we headed back out the international gateway, across the boardwalk (which was really cool at night) and back to the Hollywood Studios parking lot, which was deserted since the park closed at 7pm that night.

The blisters started on this day. But Disney blisters are better than any other blisters! Off to Animal Kingdom tomorrow for a full day!


Friday, Day 7 - Animal Kingdom

Other than breakfast at Be Our Guest, this is the day I was most excited for. Not only were we spending the whole day at Animal Kingdom, but we were eating dinner at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Yay!

We rope dropped the safari again, saw some cool animals, then did our fastpass for Everest, but not before riding it twice first! I think we ended up riding it 4 times in a row actually. Awesome rollercoaster, definitely do it if you’re going there. Then we used our safari fastpass for the final time through the safari. Then we rode Kali River Rapids. We did standby first because there was no line, then used our fastpass. We go soaked. I mean, our clothes were wet for the rest of the day in the Florida heat soaked. We might as well have jumped in the water with all our clothes on. But they provide lockers for free (for the first 2 hours), so all our valuables were safe and dry. We explored the many walking trails of Animal Kingdom, saw a tiger up close, and watched a couple of baby gorillas play and wrestle - adorable overload. We ate at the Yak and Yeti quick service restaurant. I got honey chicken, which was really good but resembled the frozen bags of chinese food you can get in the grocery store, so I wasn’t blown away. But the jalepeno cheddar pretzels were a different story. Holy cow were they good. Anthony ended up getting a few during the trip. I also got a pineapple whip with coconut rum - delicious. It’s pineapple soft-serve with rum poured over it. We took some pictures with the tree, watched it’s Tough to be a Bug, then went over to the Festival of the Lion King. Not gonna lie, I teared up a little at the end of this one. It was so cool. The only thing better than this was the Broadway version of the Lion King we saw a couple years ago in Boston. Tons of dancing and singing, lots of colors, some acrobatics, and of course Simba and the gang.

Contrary to popular belief, this park is NOTAZOO! Yes, it has enclosures with animals available for viewing, but it’s so much more than that. Definitely worth at least a full day, if not more. There are so many shows to see and rides to ride, we ended up missing a couple things that I would like to see next time around. There was a Nemo musical and Flights of Wonder bird show that are on our list for our next visit. There are always cast members or keepers around the animal areas to educate and answer questions, and often they have a small animal with them to tell you about. There’s also a behind-the-scenes look at their veterinary hospital, with a petting zoo area. So many things to do and see, don’t just assume it’s a zoo. The theming alone for each area is worth a stroll through this park!

By the time we got out of Lion King it was almost 5 and the park was closing down. My clothes were still wet from the rapids ride, so we decided to go freshen up and jump in the pool before our dinner reservation. We ate at Boma - Flavors of Africa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge that night. That resort is amazing. We didn’t get to look around as much as I wanted to, but even just the main building was so cool. I felt like I was in a lodge in the middle of Africa. But it was nothing compared to the food. This was a buffet, so we arrived with empty stomachs. Anthony tried literally everything available, but I missed out on a couple things because I just could not fit another bite into my mouth. Thinking about how good that food was, I’m totally speechless. I wish we could have eaten there every night. I also had a really good glass of white wine, and a glowing rum drink that was yummy.

We browsed the resort gift shop after, and I resisted the urge to buy every single thing in there, then we headed back to the resort for the night. Tomorrow would be our last full day at Disney :(.

Saturday, Day 8 - Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot again, and Magic Kingdom (phew)

Today was the day. The last day. We must make as much of every minute as we possibly can! My original plan for this day was Epcot in the morning just for living with the land (it was the only day of our trip it was open and Anthony insisted) and Sum of all Thrills, then take a good long break to sit by the pool and hit Magic Kingdom that night until it closed at 11. But, as the rest of the week went, this plan also changed. While at Epcot waiting for rope drop, we started discussing how fun it would be to do 4 parks in one day. Well, I was thinking how crazy, Anthony was thinking how fun. So, we decided to live it up and try for all 4 in one day. Could we do it? Obviously.

After the 2 rides at Epcot, we looked like crazy people leaving at 9:20 am. The day just started! Where are those people going! Don’t they know there’s a ton to do here? Yes, but we were done. For now. We raced over to Animal Kingdom to ride everest just one more time, then to go see the vet hospital because we had missed it the day before. They weren’t doing any procedures (sad face), but it was still cool to see the space. By this time it was face-melting hot (this is why the rain and clouds were actually a blessing in disguise) so we headed back to the resort for some pool time and a nap. We were able to take a 3 1/2 hour break. And then, by another stroke of luck and Disney magic (and what would prove later to maybe be a mistake), I was able to get a fastpass for Toy Story. The fastpass that no one can get. I got it. So, over to Hollywood Studios we went! I also had one for Tower, so we rode that first, then went to Toy Story. I had foolishly told Anthony where all the high score targets were after the last ride - in my defense, I never thought we’d get on it again! But, with new wisdom in hand, he beat me this time around. Oh well. We were done with Hollywood Studios by 4:30, and we wanted to take just one more lap around world showcase, so for the second time that day we pulled into the Epcot parking lot. We ate some more treats, then Anthony rode mission:space one last time (I skipped it, the treats weren’t going to stay put if I went on that ride again). I watched the nighttime water show while he rode, then we were off to Magic Kingdom to cap off our trip. During my research, I knew today was going to be the busiest of days at the parks. The Food and Wine Festival was starting the next day at Epcot for the next couple of weeks, so many people were arriving this weekend to take part in that. But so far, the parks didn’t seem too much more crowded than what we had previously experienced. Magic Kingdom was a different story. Man was that place mobbed. We arrived at the worst time possible, right during the electrical parade. We couldn’t get down main street to splash mountain like we had planned until the crowd started moving. Once it did, it was too late to get in line if we wanted to watch Wishes, which I had been waiting all week to see. I gave up hope seeing it from the front of the castle, knowing the crowds and standing around would push Anthony over the edge, so I settled for viewing them behind the castle. I picked out what I thought would be a good spot, but ended up being blocked by some trees. We were still able to see the fireworks, but it was very underwhelming from this view. Not to mention the cockroaches that were crawling all over the place that were freaking me out.

Here’s where the toy story fastpass backfired - I had originally had one for each mountain at Magic Kingdom to end our trip. But since we’d been able to get so many extras late in the day, I thought for sure we could get at least something. Nope. Not a one. They were gone. Tonight was an Extra Magic Hours night at Magic Kingdom, meaning Disney resort guests got to stay in the park until 1am, while the rest of us commoners were kicked out at 11pm. But not to worry, the splash mountain line decreased dramatically after the fireworks, so we got on with a 15 minute wait. Got a great view of the park from the top of the hill, plunged into the briar patch, then decided to high-tail it out of there before the second electrical parade started and we got stuck in a crowd again. But we clearly weren’t the only ones with that thought. Yikes, those transporation lines were long. We immediately decided don’t bother with the monorail, as that’s probably the first way people try to leave. That line was ginormous. We moved on to the boat. Nope. We would have had to wait for 3 boats before we would have gotten on, and that takes way too long. So, last chance for leaving, we were stuck with waiting for the bus. During my research, I had heard horror stories of people waiting and waiting and waiting for buses to take them back to their Disney resort. I knew they were scheduled to come every 20 minutes, but sometimes that timing was slightly off and you could wait forever instead. So I was a little panicked choosing the bus. But not to worry! Busses for the TTC were coming in a constant stream, and the line never stopped moving. We didn’t get on until maybe the 8th or 9th bus, but the wait was no more than 10 minutes (although at that point it felt much longer).

Exhausted, hot, and sticky, we limped back to our room. But we had done it. 4 parks in one day. And one of them twice. Because Anthony has been watching Friday Night Lights lately, we came up with a new motto: 4 parks. One day. Can’t lose.

If you don’t get it, look it up.

Sunday, Day 9 - Departure Day :frowning:

I wanted to cry. Please don’t make me leave! This was the BEST TRIP EVERRRR!!! But they were kicking us out, housekeeping eager to clean up the tornado we left behind after a week with no one to clean up after us. They even knocked on the door 20 minutes before check out time. Go away! We still have 20 minutes to drag our feet before leaving! After checkout, we went to Golden Corral one last time for breakfast. Anthony loves it. I ate too much and immediately felt sick. And then we had to drive to the airport.

We dropped off the car, checked our bags, and were through security in under an hour. Much quicker than I had thought, so we still had an hour and a half before boarding. So we used that time to look through our pictures and delete the many terrible selfies we attempted (we’re newbies, give us a break!). Then, the plane showed up and we had to leave. Until next time!

Thanks for reading! Now some thoughts for next time:

  • As cool as the Disney resorts look, I would definitely stay off site again. I think the only time I would consider staying on site is if I had kids and wanted to keep them immersed in all things Disney. I really liked the Vistana, and having laundry, and having multiple awesome pools. And getting away from most of the kids.

  • It rained WAY more than I anticipated. The ponchos helped some, but not enough. And one day we forgot them and got drenched. I need to remember for next time that we will get soaked. Also, the parks didn’t seem to empty out during the rain like I had been assured they would.

  • I know Disney is the most crowdest place on earth, but it was way more mobbed than I thought it would be. Looking at crowd calendars, it was expected to be the absolute slowest week of the year. If that held true and it was in fact the slowest week, I never ever ever ever want to see it during a busy time. Gone are the days where you can walk on a ride in the middle of the day (unless that ride is Spaceship Earth). Most of the headliner rides had 30+minute waits by 9:30am.

  • I have no idea how people do Disney with kids. It must just be about seeing them happy and excited to be in Disney. Because they’re constantly throwing temper tantrums or having meltdowns, or are too small to ride anything good, or too scared, or their bladder is too full and you have to get out of a line you just waited forever in so they can pee. Ugh. Sounds like no fun to me. I’m sure I’ll change my mind when my prince or princess sees Mickey for the first time, but for now, it was totally awesome going as an adult with no kids.

  • Believe it or not, going with absolutely no plan other than some fastpasses was really fun and enjoyable. We could just check the app for whatever had a low wait time, and go. We criss-crossed the park a lot doing that, but it was worth it to wait no more than 15 minutes for anything.

  • I really don’t like the new fastpass system. I don’t think it’s as fair of a system as the old system, where you got a paper ticket outside the ride you wanted a fastpass for, and it was first come first served. However, if you do it correctly, you could still get many many fastpasses with the new system. We could have gotten close to 10 easily if we planned it right.

  • Although it rained every day and was cloudy, that actually worked in our favor. It never got super hot (it was warm but we weren’t dying) until the very last day, and we didn’t get sunburned. I think I came back whiter than I arrived, but I didn’t get a sunburn. Win.

  • Animal Kingdom is NOTAZOO.

  • We really liked Epcot, much more than I thought either of us would. Next time we should expect to spend most of our time there. Believe it or not, I think Magic Kingdom was my least favorite park this time around. It was way more crowded, and since everything has changed since my last visit I had a really hard time navigating the park. There semmed like there were a lot of dead-ends we kept getting stuck in, where we would have to backtrack and come in from a different angle. Maybe I just didn’t realize there were other ways of getting around, but it was confusing.

  • Favorite rides that we rode multiple times:
    Space mountain
    Splash mountain
    Expedition Everest
    Kilimanjaro Safari
    Mission:Space orange team
    Tower of Terror
    Rockin’ Rollercoaster
    Toy Story Midway Mania

  • We averaged about 17 miles per day. We criss crossed the park a lot more than most people probably do and walked across the parking lots when most people take the tram. But even still, we would have easily walked more than 10 miles each day. My shoes held up fine, but Anthony started getting blisters towards the end. I think if he had a second pair with him so he could rotate them, he would have done better.

And now, some random pictures:


Love it! Thanks for sharing!

That was a great report. I love your pictures. Sounds like you had much fun!

I love trip reports! Thank you. Good to know about the off site resort too.

Awesome report! Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

Thanks for reading! It was the best week of my life and we can’t stop talking about it still haha! You guys were all so helpful during the planning phase, I don’t know what I would have done without all the Liner wisdom!


Great trip report! Thanks for sharing! Maybe when our kids are grown we will have a chance to go to Disney as an adult couple. It sounds like a lot of fun!

Great trip report. I loved reading it. I also do not do plans. I have a game plan in my head for rope drop, and the fast passes of course, but then I hop around doing whatever I want and what does not have a huge line.

Thank you for sharing!

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Great report, thanks for sharing! It sounds like you had a blast.

My family also loves AK and I’m totally with you on “NOTAZOO”! I could never understand the opinion of “we skip that park because we have a zoo at home” and “it’s really only a half day park”. We can easily spend an entire day there enjoying the animals, rides, shows, and countless beautiful details!

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Great trip report! I would love to do an adult only trip, one day… Thanks for sharing!

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Great trip report! My favorite - AK is NOTAZOO. :smile:

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We’ve gone a few times without our children, but they didn’t know! They thought it was a fun trip FOR THEM to see their grandparents. :slight_smile: I can promise that, while different, it’s just as fun with kids. Your report was awesome. Thanks for the great details!

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Oh, I forgot to ask a question! Is your curved trail to get in from of TSMM crowds going down the path to HBD? Just past Trolley Car Cafe?

Awesome report. We don’t have kids and were there just after you. Second time as a couple without nieces and nephews. We have enjoyed going solo and will be doing it again. Just not sure when.

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It is! I hadn’t been to that park in 15 years and we usually just went for ToT and RnRC so I already was unfamiliar with that area of the park - so it may be common knowledge about that path but I was super excited when Anthony pointed it out. So definitely stay to the right when the crowd starts moving!

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