Hello everyone, first I wanted to say thank you to everyone who answered questions of mine over the last few months as your help has been huge in the planning of our trip. We recently completed our second trip to Disney during April school vacation 4/17 – 4/23. Traveling was myself, my wife, my 8-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old daughter. It had been about 3 ½ years since we last went to Disney, so this really was like a “first” trip for our youngest. Twice our trip was moved from 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID environment so we were thrilled to finally go back.
We stayed at the Hyatt at the airport the first night (we’ll get to that shortly) followed by five nights at the Wilderness Lodge. I am going to start with some high-level observations and then do a day-by-day review, I found these types of writeups helpful as I was planning so hopefully it helpful for you all. I am a “planner” and the lead up to this trip was very stressful, worrying about dodging colds and COVID beforehand and then the JetBlue fiasco. I am sure that many of you have read about the issues with JetBlue cancellations lately, especially to/from Boston where I am located. Pre-pandemic I traveled frequently for work and have been a loyal JetBlue customer for many years, but recently they have had a large number of issues. We were initially on a nonstop, 7:30 AM flight on Monday morning from Boston to Orlando. The first sign of trouble came when they switched the plane from a larger Airbus 320 to a smaller Embraer 190, the result was my two children being left off the seat map because the rows they were in (E and F) were no longer there. I was able to get that taken care of but then the flight cancellations came, and I was concerned. The week before (4/10) I made the decision to book a refundable back-up flight with another airline on Monday afternoon in case we had an issue. But as I was about to do that JetBlue cancelled the 7:30 AM flight for Monday 4/11, at that point I made the decision that we would fly Delta down on Sunday and stay at the Hyatt for the night until we checked into our Disney hotel. It is a good thing we did because our flight on 4/18 ended up getting cancelled. I feel terrible for the people who were stuck, and I hope they were able to find other arrangements quickly. Our first park day was going to be Tuesday, if we didn’t get there by Monday it would have really messed things up, going forward our plan will always be back in a spare day between our travel day and our first park day. A lot of background there but let’s get started with the report!
Am I going to get crushed if I say that I didn’t hate the Genie+ system? I found it fairly easy to use and at the Magic Kingdom I think we did quite well utilizing it. I will say that when we went a few years ago we did more of a “minimize walking” type park plan but with Genie+ you really have to be ready to crisscross the park more.
That being said, we are typically an early riser type family so being up at the crack of dawn to make reservations isn’t really an issue for us. I get it that not everyone is like that and I can see how that would be a pain for people who want to sleep in.
I absolutely LOVED the online mobile order function. It made ordering food fast, easy, and very efficient.
I was nervous about the crowd levels considering it was April vacation, the projections for our park days were 5 for Hollywood Studios, 6 for Magic Kingdom Day 1, and 5 for Magic Kingdom Day 2. It ended up being 8 for HS, 8 for MK Day 1, and 6 for MK Day 2. We took advantage of early hours for hotel guests, were able to knock out a lot of rides in the morning and then utilize our Genie+ reservations for the afternoon. For anyone worried about a day that is looking to be very busy (like I was leading into this) I would say to remain calm, have a plan, and you will be perfectly fine.
Last time we went in September as none of our kids were in school, this time we had to do April break because my kids are in school, and my wife now works in the school system. While September was noticeably less crowded, it was crazy stupid hot and humid. The weather in April was amazing and I would honestly trade higher crowds that I can plan for rather than lower crowds but tough weather.
Leading up to this I feel like there was a lot of negativity around Disney parks, new fees, crowds, diminished features, but I have to be honest, I thought things were great. Parks were still clean; service was great everywhere we went.
My morning Genie+ reservations didn’t go exactly as planned, it did throw me for a loop at the time but looking back if you have a solid plan and be somewhat patient you will be fine.
Day 0 – We had a fairly seamless travel day. Rather than a direct flight on Monday 4/18 on JetBlue we were now taking a Delta flight on 4/17 that connected through Detroit. A benefit of Delta over JetBlue at Logan Airport in Boston is the curbside luggage drop off. I dropped my wife and kids off at the luggage check in and left to go to park the car. The airport check-in was pretty crowded but since the bag were already checked in and we both have TSA precheck we cruised to our gate. We got to Orlando airport around 3, between the expense and lack of availability we could not check into our Disney hotel until the next day, so we had reserved a room at the Hyatt in the airport. This was a great move; the hotel was clean and convenient and was great for what we needed.
Day 1- Now on to the original official start of vacation! Our rental car pick-up wouldn’t be ready until 10:30, so we hit the food court for breakfast, poked around some of the stores in the airport before heading to the rental car. We also needed to pick up a stroller rental, we used Orlando Stroller Rental, they are located in terminal B near all of the rental cars. We used them for our last trip and pick/drop off went great, the stroller was clean and worked well for us the whole trip. We debated whether or not we needed a double one for the 8-year-old, but we are glad we got that, I think it helped her save up some energy for long park days.
For our rental car we used Alamo and we used the pre-check-in/skip the counter feature and this worked great. We went right to the parking garage and grabbed our car. We had reserved a “full size” car, and there were plenty available but there was also a mini-van parked in our available section, we asked, and they let us take it. This worked out great because with all of our bags and the double stroller the car would have been a tight squeeze for that first ride. We hopped in the car, and we are off to Wilderness Lodge. When we came the last time in 2018 the kids were out cold asleep during the car ride because we had flown in that day, this time they were awake and it was exciting to drive them through the “Welcome to Disneyworld” sign, this got them really fired up. At about 11:00 AM during the drive we got the “Your Room is Ready” text which worked out great. We got to the Wilderness Lodge and went right to our room. We had used the Touring Plans room request to request a room and it worked out really well. We had asked for a room around 5021 and ended up in 5031. It was a courtyard/pool view room. We spent the first day going to the pool, we had take out from Geyser Point and got the kids down early to rest for our first park day.
Day 2 – Hollywood Studios
In our previous trip with the kids, or our previous trips as children ourselves, my wife and I had never been to Hollywood Studios, so this was going to be all new for us. We got up early and decided to drive ourselves to the park. We got to the parking plaza at about 6:45 and paid for the preferred parking. We were in line at the gate entrance before 7:00 AM and felt well positioned to take advantage of lighter early morning crowds. This is when we hit our first snag. For weeks at home, I had been practicing using the Genie+ app, and for weeks if I got in right at 7:00 AM I was able to get a Slinky Dog Dash reservation early in the morning. The original plan was to get a morning SDD, rope drop Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and then hit Toy Story Land. But not this time. At 7:00 AM I tried to go in and the app froze up and I get the “reload” message. Of course. I kept trying to get through and couldn’t. But fortunately, I had a back-up plan. By the time I got through the only SDD reservation was for early evening and I wasn’t completely confident the kids would make it in the park that long. So instead, I grabbed an 11:30 AM reservation to Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway and we were going to rope drop SDD.
The gates opened and we were off! I think the good thing for our back-up plan is that the popularity of Star Wars world means that not everyone heads to one ride like SDD. We made our way back to Toy Story Land and by the time we were in line for SDD we were backed up to about where Toy Story Mania was. My wife was nervous but after reading this board many times I knew that the reason for the line length was that the ride queue hadn’t filled in yet and that we were actually in pretty good shape. At 7:30 AM the queue opened, and we were moving. The ride for us was basically a walk-on. Very minimal wait once we started moving. The 8-year-old LOVED SDD, for the 5-year-old it was a little much and she didn’t love it. We got off of SDD and saw there was no line at Alien Swirling Saucers, so we headed over to that. Both kids loved this ride, especially the 5-year-old. After that we saw there was minimal wait at Toy Story Mania, so we did that, and everyone loved that ride as well. At this point it was about 8:15 AM and we had already done all of Toy Story Land. We stopped at Woody’s lunchbox for a snack and coffee then had the photographer take a Memory Maker picture of us at the Toy Story Land entrance. With the Toy Story Land rides complete and already having a reservation for Mickey and Minnie I felt like we were in pretty good shape. We then decided to walk through the Star Wars section of the park. We are not big Star Wards people which made our itinerary easier to build, if you are a big Star Wars fan, I could see how you would have some difficult decisions here about what to do first.
I was keeping an eye on wait times for Tower of Terror, my 8-year-old said she wanted to do it so I was looking to see if we could get an opening. At this point it was posted as an already long wait, so we made our way around the park doing things that had minimal wait. First it was Muppetvision 3d, which the kids loved. At this point it was about 10:30, so I grabbed a Genie+ for Meeting Olaf, I know not a huge priority, but the line was building and my youngest really wanted to do it. So we did that and then did the Mickey and Minnie Animated Short. We then met Olaf and it was time for our Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway reservation. This was a great ride and the kids loved it! At this point I felt like Genie+ availability was starting to thin out somewhat. Tower of Terror only had reservations for very late in the day, so I grabbed an afternoon pass to do Alien Swirling Saucers again.
We ate lunch at Backlot Express and then did the Frozen sing-along. At this point my oldest really wanted to do Tower of Terror. It was a posted 120-minute wait, I told her I would do the wait with her if she really wanted, and she said yes. So, we all headed to that end of the park, and we began the long wait for the ride. It worked out well enough because my wife took the 5-year-old to Beauty and the Beast Live on stage, and then to meet Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, and Fancy Nancy. The 8-year-old and I waited for what turned out to be just about 2 hours and got on the ride. As I mentioned, I had never been to Hollywood Studios before, so I have never done this ride before. Me and the 8-year-old are both “ride” people so we were excited, and I will say that it was a little more intense than what I was expecting. I enjoyed it; I am not sure if the 8-year-old would have done it again that day, but I think she would in the future.
By this point it was around 3:00 PM or so and we really had knocked out a lot of the items we wanted to. We used our last Genie+ for Alien Swirling Saucers and made our way back to the car.
All in all it was a great first day, we did every ride we wanted to, and except for Tower of Terror did it with a completely manageable wait time. Got back to the hotel, hit the pool but the kids were tired, and we have our first Magic Kingdom Day next, so we got them to bed early.
Day 3 – Magic Kingdom
Another day to rise and shine early. Staying at the Wilderness Lodge was really convenient for MK travel. We decided on taking the bus this day, I wasn’t sure what time the first bus would be, so we got down to the bus stop a little bit before 7:00 AM. As I mentioned earlier, I had been practicing with the Genie+ app for quite a while, and I never had any issue getting a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train reservation. Well, for the second day in a row my plans didn’t go great initially. I got right into the app for an 7DMTreservation, I had my wife using her app for a Space Mountain reservation. She got right through and picked up a late morning reservation for us. But I could not get through for 7DMT. I finally did, but as I went to purchase it asked me to log back in again, and by the time I did our reservation was gone and none were left. My original plan was to rope drop the Buzz Lightyear ride then make our way up through Tomorrowland. But now we were going to try, and rope drop 7DMT. Persistence paid off here though. As did knowing that new times becomes available after 7:00 AM after reading this site. I kept at it, and we were able to get a mid-afternoon 7DMT reservation.
First bus at Wilderness Lodge came at 7:25. We were at the park and through security by about 7:45. A fairly healthy sized crowd was already there and a little before 8:00 AM they started letting people through the front gates. We went straight over to Tomorrowland to wait for Buzz Lightyear. We were pretty close to the front, but the crowd really built behind us, you could also see a very large crowd at the other entrance heading to SDD. I will say that when rope drop hit people moved quickly and some were a little pushy. We did Buzz Light Year as a walk on and then made our way through that side of the park. We did the Tommorrowland Speedway, Mad Hatter’s Teacups and then my 8-year-old and I did Barnstormer twice while my wife took our youngest to go meet Chip and Dale. We then finished off this area with Dumbo.
Once again, we were able to knock out quite a bit early in the morning. We then went over to Little Mermaid, as we were getting on the clock hit 11:00 AM so I booked a lightning lane for Haunted Mansion that afternoon. When time came for Space Mountain it was actually down so that turned into an any time pass for just Space Mountain. We started to just meander around, we did the carousel twice and then my wife and 5-year-old went to wait in line to meet Tiana and Rapunzel. I randomly went to check my phone and noticed that Space Mountain was back up, so my 8-year-old and I shot over there to do that. We both loved it! I hadn’t done that ride in over 20 years. We then all went in line to wait to meet Belle over at the place where they used to do the Storytime show. After that it was onto 7DMT. After my 5-year old’s experience on SDD I wasn’t sure how this would go but she LOVED it! My thought is that you never feel that out in space on 7DMT because of all the rock formations and what not like you do on SDD.
At this point the kids were starting to get a little restless and luckily it was time for the parade to start so we hung out there to relax and catch our breath. During the time that we had a lightning lane reservation for Haunted Mansion the ride was actually down, so this converted into an anytime lightning lane for a number of rides. By the time we were ready to use it HM was back online, but we made a change and decided to use it for Splash Mountain. The thought was that it would be easier to get a lightning lane for HM on our second MK day than it would be for Splash Mountain. We got in line for Splash Mountain and as we made our way through our 5-year-old had second thoughts. They let us do the rider swap so first my wife took my 8-year-old and then I did. As we were getting off the ride, I went to the picture wall and swiped my MagicBand to assign my picture, but I didn’t get there in time. We didn’t really waste much time after the ride, so I was surprised it went so quick. Just as a footnote, I called Disney after our trip, and they easily were able to find it and add it to our Memory Maker. I did take a picture of our picture with my phone and being able to email that to them helped.
At this point the kids were pretty spent between a full day at MK and the previous day at Hollywood Studios. We had a couple of pizzas at Pinocchio Village Haus and called it a day, taking the ferry boat back to Wilderness Lodge.
Day 4 – Planned Day Off
Today was a day for relaxing, after two park days in a row we spend the day at the Wilderness Lodge pool. Around 2:00 PM we trekked over to Disney Springs. We didn’t do a lot of planned dining, but we did have a 3:30 reservation for T. Rex. We got to Disney Springs, and I am not sure what I was expecting but it was really busy, far more than I thought it would be. We went to the Disney store so the kids could spend some of the souvenir money their grandparents had given them and then we went to late lunch/early bird special dinner. The food at T. Rex was fine, pretty much what I am sure everyone would it expect it to be, but the kids loved the theming. We walked around Disney Springs, got some ice cream and called a night.
Day 5 – Magic Kingdom Day Two
This was our final park day and our second day at MK. Knowing the first bus would be around 7:25 we did the 7:00 AM app dash in our hotel room. I got through easier this time for another 7DMT reservation, it did move the time on us, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, during the purchasing process. We bought it anyways. If I was more patient about 10 minutes later, I saw earlier times available on 7DMT, but the kids loved it so much the first time we just wanted to get it again. My wife used her phone to get us a lightning lane for Big Thunder Mountain in the morning.
We got to the bus stop and boarded the bus again at 7:25. Not sure if it was a function of it being a slightly lighter crowd day but we were right near the front of the entrance gates waiting for when it opened. The plan today is to rope drop Peter Pan, so we went over towards the entrance with all the people looking to do 7DMT. As soon as rope dropped, we went right to Peter Pan, for those that are doing this with a stroller your best bet is to drop the stroller at the parking place in front of the carousel. Peter Pan was a walk on for us and the kids loved it. After we got off the 5-year-old wanted to do It’s a Small World and the 8-year-old wanted to do Barnstormer. I took the 8-year-old to Barnstormer and my wife and other daughter did It’s a Small World. We actually had enough time to do Barnstormer three times, my daughter loves it.
After we met back up with my wife and other daughter, she wanted to wait in line to meet Cinderella. At this point it was just about 9:00 AM so my 8-year-old and I went over to Haunted Mansion while they waited for Cinderella. There was minimal wait for us, probably 5-10 minutes. By the time we were done my wife and 5-year-old were in line for HM, so we went on again. This time though after we were done the line was noticeably longer. Now it was time for our Big Thunder Mountain lightning lane. We decided to give it a shot with the 5-year-old because she did seem to like 7DMT so much, but this was pushing it a little and she didn’t like it. The 8-year-old did though.
After re-grouping I picked up a Meet Mickey in Town Square lightning lane for the 5-year-old and my wife and a Splash Mountain lightning lane for my 8-year-old and me. We then made our way through Adventureland.
At this point most of the rides were pretty crowded, my thought was I could get a Pirates or Carpets of Aladdin lightning lane later, so we didn’t actually do any rides at this point except for Swiss Family Tree House. After that we made our way to Main Street. My wife and 5-year-old went to meet Mickey and my 8-year-old and I poked around in some of the stores on Main Street. After that we had a decision to make. At this point it was about 11:00 AM, our 7DMT reservation was for 2. We also knew we had dessert party reservations for the fireworks at 7:30 PM. Going into the vacation my thought was that we would go back to the hotel mid-day to take it easy. But as the day progressed the kids were in good shape, and they don’t really nap anyways. We would have ended up going back and to the pool and they probably would have gotten more tired that way. So, we made the decision to turn this into a marathon day at the park and let the chips fall where they may. We ate lunch at Casey’s corner and just as we were finishing the parade came through, so we waited and watched.
Based on the time that had passed I was now able to get us a lightning lane for Pirates of the Caribbean. We trekked back over to Frontierland and did Tom Sawyer’s Island. After that we circled back to Adventureland and waited in line for Aladdin’s Carpet Ride. This was a longer wait for us, about 25 minutes. We then followed that up with our lightning lane for Pirates. This was another classic ride that the kids loved. After this we had to hoof it over to 7DMT for our lightning lane there. Another hit, both kids loved it again.
We got some ice cream afterwards as we re-grouped a bit. It was then time for my oldest and I to do Splash Mountain. My wife took my 5-year-old over to Monsters Inc Laugh Pad while my daughter and I did Splash Mountain. After swiping in for Splash Mountain I was able to get my wife and daughter a close to immediate lightning lane for Buzz Lightyear. We all met up at Cosmic Rays for an early dinner after. At this point we honestly had done about everything we wanted to so we wanted to just see what rides we could do with Genie+ without waiting a ton. We did Tomorrowland Speedway and Mad Hatters Teacups. The kids were starting to get a little worn out, so we went up over to the circus area by Dumbo to sit down and relax a bit. There was no one over there so if you are looking for a quiet spot to regroup this was a great spot.
I grabbed one last lightning lane for the Little Mermaid. We walked over to the carousel and did that once more, then Little Mermaid, and then we were off to the dessert party! We had the pre-party with Plaza Garden seating afterwards. The desserts were good and compared to last time we went it was nice having a selection of beer and wine. At about 8:15 we made our way over to the garden viewing area. It is great to have this feature and it looed very crowded around us for people who did not have this feature. It did feel more crowded in the garden though than the last time we did it. It is hard to compare though as when we went before it was in September which is a slower time in general. The fireworks show was great, I still might rank Happily Ever After over it, but we still loved it! Afterwards it was back to the hotel. Exiting the park wasn’t terrible because they opened up those cast member only doors to get people out the using the backside of Main St. We took the bus back to Wilderness Lodge and it was almost empty.
Day 6 – Goodbye to Disneyworld
We woke up on the last day of our trip and everyone was sad to have to leave. But we had one last surprise for the kids before we left, breakfast at Chef Mickey’s before our flight home. We checked out and made our way over to the Contemporary. As you all are aware it currently is served family style and not the buffet it was historically. The food was good, and the kids had a great time meeting the characters.
All in all, it was a great trip, we had a blast and I owe so much of it to everyone here who posts questions, comments, and answers. It is helpful to be able to read real life experiences that people have had. We always thought we would be a “once every few years” type of family but seeing how seeing how different our 8-year-old approached Disney this time than 3 years ago makes us think we should go back sooner rather than later because who knows how much longer they will want to do this.