Hello! This is my first topic posted on the Forum, but I'm fairly (sporadically) active on the Lines app under the name @Hamily. Our family consists of me (22yo) my mom and dad (50+) and my sister (19). Typically I'm the one to plan our Disney vacations, because it stresses everyone out, but I really enjoy it.
We've visited WDW a few times before: Jan 2002, Oct 2009, Oct 2010 (just me and Mom, with friends), Mar 2012 (just Sis, with cousins), Jun 2012, Thanksgiving 2014, and Mar 2015 (just Sis, with school). We chose this time of year because it was our last chance for a family Disney trip before I graduate college, but I don't think we'll ever be back when it's so crowded! We definitely had to manage our expectations differently than usual.
Thursday, December 29
Our travel day--we drove down and stopped at a Sleep Inn in Wildwood for the night, right where I-75 meets the Florida Turnpike. It was a great choice, and we'll likely stay there again in the future. They had a free continental breakfast, the workers were very nice, and the hotel was clean and safe. Bonus: even though you exit 75 and get on the Turnpike, the Wildwood exit is before the toll is collected.
Friday, December 30
We always plan our first day as a non-park day, just in case we can't make it all the way to Orlando in one day. Usually we just do Downtown Disney, but I'd heard about the Disney Outlets (and mentioned it to Sister, who was VERY EXCITED) so that was to be our first stop. We got to the interstate exit for the Premium Outlets and the line of cars to get there was soooooo loooong that we started realizing just HOW MANY PEOPLE were going to be in the parks during this time. We couldn't park in the deck because our van was too tall, but managed to find a surface spot without too much hassle. (Sidenote: those parking spots are TINY TINY TINY.) By now it was about 10:20, and the Outlet had been open since 10am. People were EVERYWHERE, and the Character Warehouse itself was PACKED.
Sister (a Pin Trader) was thrilled to find cheaper pins she didn't mind trading, and we all really enjoyed looking through all of the Star Wars gear available. I bought a couple of Indiana Jones vinylmation, planning on trading those later in the day at Disney Springs. By the time we left the outlet at about 11:30, there were cars roaming the parking lot trying in vain to find a space. We had two people hover as we got to the van, only to be forced to move on by the line behind them as we took "too long" to get in the car and leave. After a snack to last everyone through the Walmart run to our big meal at Disney Springs, we eventually ceded the spot to a family in a minivan, who were super grateful for the spot.
The road from the stoplight to the parking lot was chock full of cars, to the point that no one could make a left turn from the main road and get into the line. The Walmart run went smoothly, we picked up necessary snacks, Lunchables, and sandwich fixings for the week, and then we got a bit lost, ending up on Irlo Bronson Hwy and making our way into the World. The traffic directors were out in force, and we were directed to the very back of the Strawberry lot, behind Cirque du Soleil, due to our inability to park in the deck.
Disney Springs has changed a lot since we were there last, but we liked the changes! We had lunch at Bongo's Cuban Cafe Express, and NONE OF US could eat more than half of our food. It was so good, and I definitely recommend it! We were the only people in line not speaking Spanish, so that indicated to us that it was good food.
Dad took the leftover food back to the car, with the secondary purpose of retrieving my new Vinylmation figurines... only for him to get back and discover that Vinylmation trading has been discontinued Resort-wide. : ( Sister Pin-Traded for the first time with a non-CM and said it was the most stressful situation she'd been in in a long time. The boy had a whole binder of pins, with a catch-all of loose ones too, and Sister just has her lanyard. I don't think either of them were wholly satisfied with the trade, but Sister was glad for the experience.
Next we went over to All-Star Music, where we would be staying later in the week. The night of the 30 and 31st we'd be at Shades of Green, but I'd accidentally bought a room+tickets package from Disney and we needed our tickets to start a day earlier. On the car ride over, I'd tried to call and sort it out on the phone, but the lady clearly had no idea what I was talking about. The very helpful concierge at ASMu helped us in less than 5 minutes, which was a relief!
We drove up to Shades of Green next and checked in. If you can stay there, I highly recommend it! Our room was fairly quiet, a good size, and I'm sure the view was great, but we were never there in the daylight. The one downside was that the sink and the toilet were in the same room, so you could only really have one person in the bathroom at a time. However, if the bathroom door was left open, it mostly blocked the toilet from the sink/shower area. It wasn't ideal, but the bathroom was large, so we made it work. Another thing to note (that we totally did not consider, since we don't typically stay at hotels like this) was that in order to use the luggage cart, the bellhop needed to come with us. Also, the main parking for SoG is, again, a parking deck, which none of us had known before we checked in. The check-in attendant was a little thrown when we said we needed surface parking, but we were able to park in the golf course lot down the hill without too much hassle.
Despite the fact that it was 41*F, we all REALLY wanted to go swimming, so we went to (I think it's called) the Evergreen pool, where there was a massive slide. Super fun, but too cold to get out of the warm (heated) water and slide down again! Me, Sister, and Dad all went down it, and Mom said we all shrieked at the same spot.
We could hear the fireworks at MK, but couldn't see them from our room. Maybe you can from certain rooms, but I don't know.
Our original plan for Saturday morning (when AK was having EMH starting at 7am) was to take the "Shady Shuttle" golf cart to the edge of SoG, walk to the Polynesian, and take their bus to AK. However, the SoG park bus would be leaving at 6:30, and we all agreed that it was probably not necessary to leave any earlier than that. (Had that EMH been at 8, or if it were a regular 9am opening, we definitely would have gone over and used the Polynesian transportation, because SoG buses only start 30 minutes before opening.)