Trip Report: Two Toddlers & Trip Tips

Hello all! I wanted to share some tips and reviews from our trip from the second week of December, since so many trip reports helped me get a better sense of reality for trip planning. It’s time to pay it forward!

Background: This was our second trip this year with our 2 y/o son, 3 y/o daughter, and my parents (who are in their 70s and very active) plus myself and my husband, mid-30s. My parents offered to take us on a big holiday trip back in the spring, and we quickly settled on returning to WDW for it’s toddler-friendliness and to see the holiday décor. I was the planner for the trip and had several months of planning to get ready, added to my knowledge from our trip back in February.

We chose Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge because we love the atmosphere there, we wanted to see the holiday decorations, and the convenience of the boat to MK was a great perk. Additionally, having one-bedroom was important to us, and they had the best value for the location. My parents stayed in a studio at Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort for the ability to walk to MK and take a boat directly to WL as needed.

While we previously used a rental car, for this trip we decided to rely on Disney transportation because we weren’t planning on leaving Disney property and didn’t want to haul two car seats through the airport again. We used the CARES harness system on the plane, which was very easy to bring and install, although the 2 y/o was mad as heck about it.

I was able to get all the dining reservations we wanted at 180 days, but then we changed our minds several times throughout the following months (fewer dinners since our kids tended to be crankier then and we didn’t want to waste money, decided to d o a princess meal, FOLK package opened, etc). With TP reservation finder, I was able to secure ALL of our desired changes by the time we left. I also used Mouse Dining, not for the alerts, but to see all available times for a certain day at once, which was handy.

You can see the (detailed) results of my FPP reservation day here: Update w/Results: FP Plan Feedback Request

Our basic plan was to schedule things in the morning as much as possible, break for a kids’ nap around 2ish, either with us or my parents taking them to our respective resorts, and then returning to a park if they/we were up for it, or do pool/resort things if not.

Tip: I HIGHLY recommend watching The Imagineering Story on Disney+ before your next trip to any Disney park. It will give you a greater appreciation for how the parks were built, the massive manpower behind them, and some neat things to look out for.

Okay, ready?

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Saturday, Dec 7

4,578 steps (based on my iPhone’s estimate, I always think this is fun when it’s included!)

Saturday was our travel day. My parents travelled separately and we didn’t see them until the next day, but they had an early flight and spent some time in Epcot, enjoying the food booths, then they ate at the California Grill lounge with no wait and said it was excellent.

MCO to WL via Magical Express:
We arrived a MCO at 5:12pm, were on a ME bus by 6:27pm, and pulling into WL at 7:23pm. I think we stopped at two resorts before WL, but it was a painfully long wait for the bus and to get to WL with two tired and hungry kids. We plied them with snacks and watched Baby Shark (on mute) repeatedly on the bus to get through. Our ME luggage that we gate-checked didn’t arrive until after 10pm, which is within the ‘”3 hours after arriving at hotel”, but felt like a much longer time since we had landed over 5 hours before.

Tip: Bring extra ME tags to the airport so that if you decide to check a bag at the gate, you don’t have to wait for it at baggage claim.

Tip: My parents had a free checked bag with their seats, but we didn’t have free checked bags on our flight. We gave them our checked bag with our ME tag on it to take on their flight, so we wouldn’t have to pay airline fees. Our bag was waiting for us in our room since they had arrived earlier than we did.

Supplies:
We ordered laundry supplies, a case of water, diapers, and a variety of snacks on Prime Now while we were waiting for the bus, which arrived around 8pm. I had filled my cart on the desktop version before we left because I thought it was easier to use than the iPhone app. Everything was ready to go in the cart, which was nice.

Tip: If you have kids in diapers, bring a diaper pail bag with you for the week. The thin trash bags in the hotel didn’t do much to mask the smell. Luckily, we had mousekeeping every day, but I would bring one next time

Dinner:
We grabbed dinner at Geyser Point, which I didn’t realize has a separate window you can order from (easy for to-go orders, although you’ll wait a bit) in addition to their sit-down bar service (with a different menu). With two tired kids, we got ours from the window to go and ate in the room.

Thoughts on BRV/WL:
We requested and got room 1504 via TP, which was great for having two strollers since it was on the first floor. The bus stop was a few seconds outside our room (but not close enough to hear), and the lobby was up a ramp. Geyser Point, Roaring Fork, and the boat dock were all a quick walk away.

The room was bigger than I was expecting with lots of nice storage and amenities. The only downsides were that the sofa mattress was REALLY squeaky, the electric water pageant was a bit loud for how late it runs, and the wireless was very spotty (which I found to be true throughout WDW property). Overall, we were pleased with our selection here and would stay at WL anytime. It’s so beautiful with great dining options and our kids loved the pin trading board in the lobby!

We unpacked a bit and got ready for bed and our PPO Crystal Palace breakfast in the morning.

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Following along! Bringing our 18m old and 6 yr old in early march and squeezing all the tot tips I can get out of these reports!

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Following! We leave in 20 days with 5yo and a 2yo.

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Sunday, Dec 8
16,045 steps
High Temp: 81 Low: 59. A beautiful, sunny day.

A few tips before I get started:
Things I recommend taking to the parks for toddlers:
-2 bags – one with diaper stuff (a diaper clutch if you have one) and one with essentials. The bag of essentials or just a wallet can go with you on rides and leave the rest in the stroller.

-Pack snacks (goldfish, apple sauce pouches, cookie bags), wallet, stickers, hand wipes, sunscreen, cheap poncho to throw over stroller if it rains (got a pack of them on Amazon). Group items inside bags in a clear Ziplocs to go through security faster. The bag of essentials or just a wallet can go with you on rides and leave the rest in the stroller.

-Bring bandaids and Neosporin. Needed them for scraped knees on both trips. Can get them at a first aid stand too, but easier to have on hand.

-A GOOD stroller. Easy to fold and un-fold, good size basket, drink holders, hardy enough for rough ground. Put a big ribbon or colorful sign on it so you can find it easily in stroller parking area.

-Water bottle with a flip lid so that when it inevitably gets thrown on the floor, the straw part is covered. A bottle strap that fits the bottle well and connects to the stroller is also nice (same with pacifier straps if baby is using one).

MAGIC KINGDOM
CL: 3

We took the WL bus to MK and were inside by 7:51am for a PPO reservation at Crystal Palace at 8:35am. We took a few memory maker shots in front of the entrance tree and the castle as we walked, then waited outside for my parents to arrive. CP would not activate our reservation until the whole party was there. Once they activated it, we waited outside on the porch until we got the text that our table was ready (just a few minutes later), then had to wait outside the door (a few more minutes) until our name was called.

Crystal Palace
We have eaten at CP before, for dinner, but this was our first time for breakfast. The buffet was very nice – a wide variety of options and we all had at least one thing that we thought was really good.

The characters are what make CP so special, though. I think they have some of the most huggable and charming cast, plus really great interactions with each table. Our kids LOVE Pooh and all his friends, so this is a place I would return to every trip, until they grow out of Pooh (sob!).

We unfortunately were seated JUST as Pooh passed our table (around 8:20ish – we were early) and had to wait until 9:45 until he came back. We had long since finished eating (definitely don’t need an hour and a half for a breakfast buffet!), so we were just sitting around drinking coffee for awhile. Our waiter was great and kept giving us updates without us asking, and apologized for the long wait. We were a little bored but meeting the characters was so charming that I wasn’t too bothered. We were out in the park by 9:50.

We had a FPP for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at 9:25, but the ride went down and they automatically converted to anytime passes. Instead, we rode Under the Sea and Dumbo with minimal waits, bought some water, and got to our Meet Ariel at Her Grotto FPP about 4 minutes early, so we headed in.

Tip: Don’t do this. If you have an “anytime” FPP and you go to a scheduled FPP a few minutes early, it will take the “anytime” FP instead, even if it’s in the normal grace period. I’m not sure if that includes going after the scheduled FPP’s end time (during the 15 minute grace period), but I wouldn’t want to be the test subject!

Ariel was very sweet and chatted with the kids, but was wearing some weird seaweed top instead of her purple shells (maybe her holiday gear?), so just an FYI if you were expecting her classic mermaid look!

We then headed back to Pooh, where our anytime FPP no longer worked. The cast member kindly let us through still, just with a heads up of why it was no longer available. The kids played in the little “Mr Sanders” tree house outside afterwards, which they LOVE.

Tip: Leave time for things that aren’t rides that your kids might find along the way! The little Pooh house outside the ride is a great example of this. Yes, going on rides feels like we’re doing ‘more’, but if they are enjoying themselves with something simple, the plan can go down the drain (sorry, that’s probably blasphemy here!). It’s kind of like when you buy an expensive toy but they just want to play with the box. C’est la vie!

We started to head somewhere (maybe Adventureland?) but got stopped by the Mousekedance It! Street Party. This is so fun and I love having characters dancing in the street! The stilt walkers are particularly impressive, especially with how hot it was. We enjoyed watching some toddler dance, then headed back towards the castle for…

Cinderella’s Royal Table
Our reservation was at 11:50am, and we were done by 1:30pm. We had eaten breakfast here before, but not lunch. We all thought the meal was pretty great, namely the entrees. I had the charcuterie, which I probably wouldn’t get again because it was a bit small and not enough crackers to spread things on, but the pork chop was really great and the ‘Clock Strikes Twelve’ chocolate mousse was delicious.

The character interaction is also great. Each princess took time to get down on our kids’ level and chat with them. Cinderella sat on the floor and let them sit with her. It’s just so nice to get to eat and enjoy the beautiful surroundings while you’re waiting, too. It saved us a ton of time in the parks of waiting in line. We all got swords or wands again, so we now have a surplus of them in our house.

!

We headed right over for our last FPP, Jingle Cruise, which was fun, albeit filled with corny jokes. At some point, I realized two of our “anytime” FPP were still on our account (they must not have scanned at Ariel), so my parents rode Pirates of the Caribbean with the FP while we split some Dole Whips with the kids, who then promptly passed out.

At this point, it was time for a break, so my parents took the kids back to BLT (walked there) and also offered to watch them through dinner. They ate at the Contempo Café (after naps), played on the beach, and then rode the monorail for entertainment. Apparently the monorail kept breaking down in their loop, so it took awhile for them to make it back.

Meanwhile, my husband and I took the boat back from MK, freshened up at WL, then a bus headed to Hollywood Studios to get a lay of the land. We hadn’t visited on our last trip, but Toy Story has become a huge family favorite, so it was a must-do on this trip and I wanted to get a feel for how long it would take us to get around.

We walked through GE and TSL and enjoyed the theming and amazing attention to detail, then hiked back for the classic Muppets 4D. Grabbed a Mickey pretzel outside of the Incredibles meet and greet (and laughed at the little Jack Jack outlines all down the street), then decided to go to CR for dinner and to pick up the kids.

Bad choice. We waited 30-40 minutes (!) for the bus to pick us up from HS, which then made a stop at WL before going to CR. Since my parents said the lounge was so good and they got in with no wait, we headed up the elevator to check it out. Except, when you hit “15” in their elevators, nothing happens. We were on with another couple, and we all got off a 14 to see how close we could get. Another couple was there, trying to figure out the same thing. We went back down and some got off on a middle floor, and we ran into yet another group who couldn’t figure out why the next elevator didn’t even have a button for “15”. It was frustrating, but at least we weren’t alone in our confusion. Some of those people might still be there. We eventually found out you have to check in at the CG podium in the lobby level to get access to the 15th floor, which we waited in line to do… only to find out that both CG and the lounge were totally booked. Our only option was to keep randomly checking back, which we didn’t want to gamble on.

So, we just did Contempo Café for dinner, too. It was fine. I think I had a flatbread/pizza, but had to brainstorm with my husband to remember that we even ate there!

Tip: Mobile Order is amazing, saves so much time, and makes you feel bad for all the people in line who don’t know why you just sail past them.

We picked up the kids when they got off their stop-and-go monorail ride and took the resort boat back to WL. Even though it had been a warm day, the air was a bit chilly. We enjoyed the WL lobby for a bit, then headed to bed for tomorrow’s adventures at Animal Kingdom.

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Loving your report! Our next trip will be with 4 and 1 year old boys and at least 1 grandparent in tow (possibly all 4) so it’s so helpful to read about your trip and get an idea of how ours will be!

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Keep em coming! Taking a 2 & 4 year old boys in mid-Feb.

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We are going the first week in March with our (will be) 17 month old and 4 year old who will be turning 5 during our trip!

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Monday, Dec 9
9,805 steps
Hi: 81 Lo: 57

ANIMAL KINGDOM
CL:4


This was one of the best days of our trip, and really increased my appreciation of AK. On our last trip in February, I had trouble getting a lay of the land and we visited without grandparents, so we were regulated to little kid attractions and busy with keeping them happy. Plus, that was the last day of our trip and I think we were a bit vacationed-out by then.

BUT, on this trip, we were on a bus by 8:10am and at the AK parking lot by 8:30. Around 8:40 we were at the turnstiles, then went the wrong way for Early Morning Magic.

Tip: if you are there as a resort guest for EMM, go left to get into the park. We went right and were met with a huge crowd of non-eligible EMM people and had to ask a cast member how to get in. For how many signs they have up telling guests that ROTR boarding groups are filled for the day, you think they could throw a few signs over to AK to direct EMM traffic!

My husband and I were headed to the Animation Experience, but had to wait for the Wildlife Express Train to start running before we could go. We dropped the kids off with grandparents, who took them to a FP for Navi River Journey and then to the Dinosaur area for Triceratops Spin while we did AE.

We had fed our kids but not ourselves (#parenting), so we stopped at Starbucks while we waited for the train to start running and got two sandwiches. I normally love their breakfast sandwiches, but these ones were ice cold, like their toaster was broken. I ended up throwing mine out and decided it wasn’t worth it to go back and wait in the line for another. A small line had formed at the train, so we waited there until it opened.

Tip: The train trip is short but you see some fun things on the way, like where the animals stay behind the scenes of the safari. I would take my kids on it just to ride because they like trains. The hike back to AE is a little long, and we noticed WDW strollers lined up when we got off (and we were some of the first off the train), so I assume that if you leave your stroller outside of the train pickup, those WDW strollers can be used in the Rafiki area.

AE was right up our alley and we really enjoyed drawing Scar. The instructor moves fast, but they tell you to just sketch and not worry about erasing, the way an animator would do (the clean-up artist gets paid less, so you don’t want to demote yourself!). I would do this every time we came back to AK if it was more accessible, but it was a big chunk of the day to wait for the train twice, plus a 30 minute class. For anyone wondering if little kids would like it, I noticed they had two little tables set up at the back of the room with drawing supplies for kids (I assume to just distract them, not to draw the animation), but I wouldn’t bring my kids to this until they were older. It would be hard to keep an eye on them AND keep up with the animator’s pace.

We were back in the main park by 11ish for our FP to Meet Minnie and Mickey at Adventurer’s Outpost. I think we still waited about 15-20 minutes to meet them, but the interaction and costuming were great. They were very sweet. Kevin (the bird from UP) walked by right before we went in, scaring our 2y/o half to death when she nipped at him, but I have to say that I love when characters roam around on the street!

FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING DINING PACKAGE
Tip: If you are on the fence about booking this package, just do it. It is so worth it.

Tiffins
We headed to Tiffins for our 11:45am reservation with the FOLK package (Tier 1), and got in a bit early. I believe we were done a little before 2pm, so plan for a 2 hour dining experience.

The food at Tiffins is really excellent. There wasn’t one misstep and everything was presented beautifully. Our waitress was great and helped entertain our kids; it was so nice to have an amazing meal and still feel welcomed with little ones. The package includes one alcoholic beverage, a welcome glass of champagne, an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I had the appetizer duo, surf and turf, and dessert trio, so I got to try a lot of things and maximized the package value. The cutest dessert has to be the Lion King one though:

I would return to Tiffins anytime. Can’t give it high enough praise!

Our package then had a 3pm FOLK showing. I wish I had scheduled more time in between for naps, but it was hard when booking because you can’t see the show times until after you have selected the dining time. The show time was assigned, you couldn’t select it, and if you went back and selected a different dining time or even the same time, it would change. I think I eventually had to call in to reserve the package because it kept disappearing and reappearing. Anyway, after all that, it worked out fine because our 2 y/o fell asleep at the end of the meal and we walked over and hung out outside of the FOLK entrance until show time while he napped.

We were given lanyards at Tiffins as our package passes, so the cast members at the exit saw us and let us know what time they could let us in (I want to say it was 15 minutes before showtime). Since we were the first package group there, they asked what section we wanted to be seated in. The package’s reserved benches are at the front of the sections, and we all fit across one row. We chose lion and they walked us right in.

The Festival of the Lion King show was really fun. I had watched a video on YouTube of it before, so I prepared our kids that it wasn’t a LK retelling, but LK songs with acrobats/dancers and I think that helped manage expectations. Our 3 y/o was picked to be the example of a lion roar, and she did such a good job! We were so proud because she can be pretty shy, but she gave a great little roar.

Before the show started, a cast member came over to tell us to sit tight and they would be back as soon as the show ended to take us to the included Kilimanjaro Safari ride, which she did promptly. We had time to get our strollers and use the bathroom on our way, plus get an intro and some behind-the-scenes facts from our tour guide. We went to a special ride entrance and had a vehicle for ourselves and one other family who had done the package.

The safari was a hit, as always! We saw a ton of giraffes and the crocodiles were very active. The tour guide gave us a lot of information not normally included, like pointing out certain animals and telling us their personality, or where gates and animal control systems were hidden. It felt like a special tour, and we appreciated how much value the whole FOLK package delivered.

Our group split up afterwards, with my parents headed to DS and Wine Bar George, where they had a great meal, plus a visit to the new Enchanted Rose Lounge at GF. We stopped to see the Merry Menagerie (cute!), a bus back to WL to change, then the WL boat to MK.

MAGIC KINGDOM
CL 7

We grabbed a quick bite at Casey’s Corner (December’s Fried Pickle Hot Dog is SO GOOD in the worst way!), thanks to mobile order. We were going to try to do a ride or two before our next reservation, but decided to go early once we saw the crowds already at the…

Plaza Garden Fireworks Dessert Party
Our reservation for the dessert party said 7:30pm, but when we walked by Tomorrowland Terrace around 7:15, we could already see a ton of people up there and in line for desserts. We decided to skip the rides and head up.

I’m really thankful for other commenters here, because my expectations had been a little bit too high for the reality, and recent trip reports prepared me better for how everything worked out.

At 7:15, the lines for both dessert stations were already along the whole length of the buffet station. They moved along just fine, but it was more crowded both inside and in the plaza than I thought it would be. The desserts were good (my favorite was the pink cake) but not exceptional. When I went up a second time, the pink cakes and a few other items were gone on both sides, but when we walked out, I saw them there again.

The setting was loud and very “cafeteria”. There were only 3 bathroom stalls in the ladies room, which was not conducive to everyone leaving around the same time. It also probably didn’t help that we had an exceptional time at Tiffins for lunch, honestly!

The fireworks were at 9pm, but so many people were already headed out to the garden around 8pm that we left to get a spot. So, we ended up waiting an hour in the garden, even with the party package, and I really wish I had thought to bring something for the kids to do in that time. Based on reviews from here, we grabbed a spot leaning on the fence in the back, which gave us a nice break from standing the whole time. It got crowded around us as the showtime got closer, but nowhere near the crowds outside.


The above photo was taken at 8:20, so you can see how filled in the garden was 40 minutes until show time. All the empty grass and back standing area was taken about 20 minutes before showtime. As it started, everyone sitting then stood up, so you will have to hold kids up to see the show.

Based on all this, I probably wouldn’t book the party again. If you really love desserts and don’t have very young kids to keep entertained, you would likely be more satisfied. Despite that, I’m still happy that we booked it, because, with all the MVMCP evenings this week, it was our only chance to see HEA, which I love. It was a highlight from our last trip and it was important for me to see it this time without battling the huge crowds outside the plaza garden.

TL,DR; Glad we did it, but more crowded and more waiting outside than I would’ve liked for the price.

Happily Ever After never fails to make me smile (and maybe shed a tear, shh), and the kids both knocked out as soon as we started heading for the exit when it was over. They slept through getting on the boat for WL (luckily it was a bigger boat that could accommodate rolling on strollers – this wasn’t always the case, and I’m not sure there is a rhyme or reason to which size shows up) and we got to listen to the skipper tell the front of the boat fun bits of trivia, like pointing out ‘Shipwreck Island’, which you pass on the way to WL. It was named because when Walt Disney was scouting the land, the little boat he was on got stuck there and he was stranded for a few hours on the island. We love fun tidbits like that.

We made it back, kids still asleep, got ready for bed and our breakfast reservation at Trattoria al Forno in the morning.

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Oops, took a two month break! But, I am determined to finish what I started, mostly so I can vent about our MVMCP experience :joy:. Details may dwindle from here on out, but luckily I wrote out an outline for each day when I was fresh, so I’ll do my best.

Tuesday, Dec 10
23,599 steps
Hi: 84 Lo: 63

We started the day with breakfast plans at Trattoria al Forno and planned to take a Minnie Van for the easiest way to get to Boardwalk with two car seats.

Tip: leave plenty of time to order your Minnie Van, especially if you are traveling around 30 minutes before park opening. There were plenty of MV available around 8 but availability was suddenly zero at 8:25ish. We ordered at 8:30, left around 8:50 and made it just in time.

Tip: If traveling with kids in car seats/strollers, also leave time for the MV driver to install the seats! They do not come pre-installed. Additionally, they say the MV will seat 6, but that is NOT the case with strollers. Our MV in this case was a small SUV with a very small trunk, so the back two seats had to be folded down to fit them and I barely had room to squeeze into the remaining 3rd seat.

Trattoria al Forno was so charming! The character interactions were great and the setting has a more grown-up feel. The food was the star, though. The pastries were delicious and I got a sausage fennel and polenta dish that was a creative and different breakfast dish. I’d love to be able to get the food without having to pay character dining prices!

We walked over to Epcot afterwards and really enjoyed the whole Boardwalk area vibe. We are planning a trip again for next year, and will most likely stay at Yacht and Beach based on the vacation feel and great proximity to both Epcot and HS. Entering through the international gateway was so much less crazy, too!

EPCOT

CL: 4

Our first order of the day was to Meet Ralph and Vanellope at the Imagination Pavilion. They were on break when we entered the line, but it was fun to get to see them come out of the ‘internet’ port. Note that Ralph can’t sign autograph books (can’t unclench those fists!).

We then had a (totally unnecessary) FP for Living with the Land, which is one of my favorite things to do with kids at WDW. On our last trip, our then-2 y/o loved “the garden ride”, and she was excited to go again on this trip. They love to point out the veggies and little surprise decorations, as well as the fish tanks. I personally find it a really nice, relaxing break.

Our Spaceship Earth FP was up next, and this one we actually did need. The line was pretty long in the mid-morning, but I saw it go down throughout the day. We hadn’t been on it before, but wanted to check it out before the refurbishment. Without any nostalgia associated with it, I can say it was a fun ride but I’m really excited to see the update! Also, I had no idea that it takes your picture and all I can say is – yikes!

We then started towards WS, but changed plans to let my daughter play with the Imagination Pavilion shooting water fountains. This is another great example of something I didn’t plan for, and no one asked for, but it quickly became apparent that it was something my parents and kids both had fond memories of and needed a few minutes to visit.

The rest of the afternoon plan was fairly open-ended. We went to the UK to Meet Alice. She was very sweet and spent a lot of time talking to each family.

Tip: characters who meet on the street in MK and EPCOT don’t have a ton of time, so you need to be in line pretty early or else you will be turned away from the line by a cast member. If a character is important to your visit, find out the time they meet and get there several minutes before they come out.

Next up, we picked a pearl in Japan (in the shop to the right of the pavilion). We get my daughter a pearl for each birthday and Christmas, with the thought that someday she can turn them all into a necklace, so this will be a part of that legacy! It was a really fun experience. You buy a ticket at the pearl counter, and when they call your name, you pick the oyster you want from the tank. They then do a little ceremony, teach you how to count in Japanese, and bang a drum before opening the oyster to show you your pearl. You can then get it set or just carry it out in a little baggie. It was $18 and our daughter got a 7mm pearl that she is so proud of!

For lunch, we visited some of the Holiday Booths for a light meal since we ate a big breakfast and all had big dinner plans. The tostada in Mexico and the sushi tree in Japan were particular favorites. We also had a fun stop at the train set in Germany. At the end of our tour, we had FPs for Frozen Ever After, which the 3 y/o both loves (Frozen!) and hates (the backwards “drop” is too scary).

We took the bus back to WL for a nap and some pooltime. My parents then came for a visit to WL and to babysit the kids while my husband and I went back to Epcot. At some point in the day, I snagged a day-of reservation for them at Storybook Dining at Artist Point at 4:30pm (weird time but worked great following a light lunch). We had eaten there before, but my parents said that this visit the food and character interaction was better than they remembered. They boxed up all the desserts for us to eat later because they were too full to have them.

Meanwhile, my husband and I headed to date night at EPCOT. We took a regular Lyft to the Boardwalk area so that we wouldn’t have to walk as much to WS. This was the day with my highest step count - Epcot is a killer, especially with all the construction!

Tip: I alternated Birkenstock Gizeh sandals and AllbIrds sneakers for most of the trip. Bring MULTIPLE pairs of good, broken-in shoes. I also sprayed my heels and toes with Pre-Heels spray before putting on shoes. While my feet were tired, I didn’t get any blisters or serious foot pain this trip.

Tip: There was a photo pass photographer in the WL lobby that evening who took a really cute picture of us in front of the tree! I’m not sure what times they do this, but it was a great photo op to walk into with no line.

Our dining reservation was at 6, but I bumped it up to 5 when we decided we were already pretty hungry. We then headed to the front of Japan for our dinner at…

Takumi-Tei. The service and atmosphere were really lovely and every aspect was well thought out. Everyone on staff was so polite, friendly, and treated us like valued guests. We decided to splurge on the tasting menu to get a good variety and every course was SO good and looked beautiful.

Our favorites were the sushi sampler and the bone marrow short rib (something I wouldn’t have ordered without the tasting menu!). The only ‘meh’ part was the dessert of water cake – it was too weird of a texture and bland for me, but I was still glad that I got to try it since it sounded interesting. Even though we went in thinking of it as a one-time splurge meal, I’d absolutely return and order off the regular menu. In fact, we loved it so much, my parents went the next night and did just that!


Following our amazing meal, we snagged FastPasses for Soarin’ (always a favorite! It makes me smile so much) and walked around a bit. The Morocco pavilion had a particularly interesting exhibit about desert racing, and we enjoyed checking out the pavilions without strollers! It was getting fairly crowded, so we grabbed one more tostada from the Mexico holiday cart and took the bus back to Wilderness Lodge to get ready for the next day at Hollywood Studios.

Feedback Request: How do you plan for visiting the World Showcase? On this trip, I left a few hours unscheduled, but I think that hindered us because we needed a ‘place to be’ in order to keep things moving and not stand around going ‘Well, what do YOU want to do next?’ There are things like KidCot and the Christmas Tree Hunt I tried to do, but (as you’ll see) our plans got ruined by weather, so I’m trying to figure out the best way to make a TP for next time!

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Interested to see the responses on this because in 3 trips I still don’t feel like we’ve really had a “successful” world showcase experience. I’ve tried planning it down to the minute and conversely just setting aside blocks of time to wander and neither feel like they have really worked for us.

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For me, I like to plan to start WS for lunch and have plans for late evening (whether an ADR or FP). I usually start in Canada and make my way around the loop. I personally have always gone for a drink/snack at each stop which keeps you moving around as well as time to enjoy the pavilion while you finish your snack or drink. I like to throw the performances as the various pavilions on my TP so I can keep an eye on them and check when I’m in a pavilion if one is starting soon. Then I can speed up or slow down at an individual country, but I do aim for a particular Voices of Liberty show to pace my way around the world. I personally always LOVE World Showcase time, but don’t think its really easy to estimate time spent in each pavilion for a TP. I usually just give myself a big block of time to get from one end to the other.

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Your pictures tell a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

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We had a wonderful time by blocking out four hours for World Showcase - it was just right for Kidcot / scavenger hunt, shopping, and snacks. We went from 3:30-7:30, had some pastries at Les Halles in France, had drinks in Germany, then had a 8PM dinner reservation at la Hacienda de San Angel. We didn’t watch any movies or see the Animation Experience, but we did stop for a while at the ‘Broadway at Epcot’ concert during Festival of the Arts. The only ride we did was GFT in Mexico, as we had done FE:A (with snacks at Kringla) during the morning. We couldn’t have done it in a much shorter time, and if we wanted to see all the movies I would add another 2-3 hours.

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This is an amazing trip report - great tips and love the pics! Thanks for sharing.

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Loved your report and your tips are so helpful! Last time I flew to Orlando on Delta they gate-checked my carry on bag, but it was waiting for me as soon as I got off the plane (not at baggage claim). But your experience for gate-checking seems different if you were able to have MDE transfer it. What airline? Did they tell you it would go to baggage claim when they gate-checked it?

Also, where did you get those adorable minnie ears for your daughter? So cute!

We used Delta too, and I have experienced different “gate checking” processes with them. In this case, before the plane was boarding, we went up to the gate desk and asked to check our bags, and confirmed that they would NOT be waiting at the gate for us. We already had ME tags on the bags, so they would be collected at MCO, and then the gate agent put the white sticker Delta tags on them and gave us the little corresponding sticker to track them.

I think (based on other trips I’ve taken), if you wait to decide to stow it below the plane until you are boarding, they will give you a color paper tag that you loop onto your luggage, and that means it WILL be waiting outside the gate.

Or, I could be totally wrong about that :slight_smile: but, either way, we did it with the desk agent beforehand so that we could verbally confirm that the luggage was going to baggage claim.

As for the ears, they are the Purple Potion ones from Disney! I bought them on ShopDisney when they were 20% off before our trip :+1:t2:

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We didn’t really plan. I knew certain places good for kids - train in Germany, maze garden in U.K. etc but my kids really enjoyed the shops and exhibits. We spent a leisurely 4 hours in the WS.

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Wednesday, Dec 11
18,029 steps
Hi: 79 Lo: 64

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
CL: 1

Our morning transportation was a little rough since we waited for a bus, but by 8:15am, there were still no buses for HS showing on the WL arrival board. Since they usually are displayed on the board with a 10-20 minute wait, I was getting nervous. We had a reservation at Oga’s, so we decided not to risk it and ended up taking another Minnie Van. The kids were definitely getting spoiled and kept asking to ride in “our Minnie car” after that!

We arrived with enough time for Celebrity Spotlight to meet Olaf. For a CL 1 day, we experienced some longer lines, so I’m not sure if we are just unlucky or if my idea of a CL 1 is wrong! We got in line around 8:50 and met Olaf at 9:11, to give you an idea. We met my parents while waiting in line. It was a great meet and greet and our kids absolutely lit up when they saw Olaf! He did a little dance with them and took lots of cute photos.

Next up was our reservation to Oga’s Cantina which I had the hardest time finding. For some reason, I was reading the map wrong, but looking at the app right now, it’s really obvious where it is (to the right of the MF area – just look for the long line). I think part of the problem for me was that the land is much bigger than it looks on the map and so much of it looks similar to my eye, making it hard to focus on where the door was. We got behind dozens of people already in line, and a cast member with an iPad (data port?) came up and took our info, then a minute or two later, they called our name and we were led past the line and into the bar. Not sure why we got to skip the big line, but I wasn’t complaining!

The atmosphere of Oga’s is just amazing. They truly captured how it would feel to walk into a noisy bar in the SW universe and I would love to go back – but without two toddlers in tow. We were very lucky to get a table so the kids could sit, but we were seated with an unfriendly couple who seemed annoyed with the whole experience (they seemed annoyed before we even sat down, so I’m not sure if they were just generally grumpy or mad about sharing a table). Another set of girlfriends were chatting at our table, but we didn’t interact much with them, either. We got a Blue Bantha for the kids to split (pretty sweet for my taste) and I got the Black Spire Brew which was also pretty sweet (and not enough coffee-ness for my morning!). Our 2 yo started getting antsy and with the other people at the table I felt bad, so I left early with him and mobile ordered coffee from Woody’s Lunchbox.

Tip: Mobile order. Mobile order. Mobile order.

In the future, I’d go back to Oga’s with just my husband since seating wouldn’t be a problem for us, and so we could try different drinks and be able to savor it. Going with toddlers was just really not conducive to fully enjoying the experience.

We got in line to Meet Buzz Lightyear and again waited about 20+ minutes lined up against the walkway at the entrance to TSL. At this point, it was pretty hot and humid, so it wasn’t an enjoyable wait. The army men walked by once, which was cute to see. I really wish there was a better place to meet the TS characters because our kids would have loved to meet Woody, Jessie, and Bo, too, but the lines were too long and too hot for us to commit to them. Again, is this normal for a CL 1 day??

Toy Story Mania made up for the mildly disappointing start to our day. We had FP, so waiting was minimal, and we really enjoyed it! I’m glad the blasters on it are easier to use than Buzz Lightyear so that the kids could play along (and so that my hand wasn’t in pain at the end!).

We then meandered our way to Hollywood & Vine for Minnie’s Holiday Dine. I think we were pretty early, but they let us in with no problem. I read so many negative reviews for H&V that I was prepared for bad food but good characters, however, I was really delighted with our actual experience! The food was good (along the lines of a nice wedding buffet, nothing fancy, but truly nothing terrible and lots of options) and the characters were wonderful. The costuming was so cute and they each took a good amount of time with us for hugs, photos, and autographs. We didn’t feel rushed and the service was great. Even one of us spilling a whole cup of coke at the start of the meal didn’t ruin it. J

I think at this point, it was starting to rain, but we had some more time to kill before our next FastPass (HS is so hard to plan with FP!), so we kind of wandered a bit before deciding to meet Chewbacca.

Tip: buy some cheap ponchos from Amazon before the trip and ALWAYS keep them in the bottom of the stroller. Use them if you forgot your jacket, but more importantly, use them as a stroller cover if the sky looks gray before you get on a ride/eat a meal. A soaking wet stroller seat takes forever to dry out!

Meeting Chewbacca wasn’t something in my plans, but I figured it would be cool for the adults to see a character who looks exactly like a movie we grew up with, even though my kids aren’t familiar with Star Wars (yet). Despite not knowing who they were meeting, Chewbacca was a HUGE hit. Our 2 yo kept calling him “Chewy-Buckeye” (yes, we are from Ohio) and they have brought up Chewbacca frequently ever since the trip, possibly more than any other character! It was so fun as an adult to turn an corner and suddenly see Chewbacca in front of us. A really great meet and greet that I’m so glad we didn’t miss! The wait area was cool, too, kind of a mini-SW museum (and INDOORS!).

The Frozen Sing-a-long was our next Fast Pass, but by this point, the 2 yo had passed out and slept through the entire show. I have to say… not a bad choice on his part. The narrator characters had some funny lines, but I didn’t realize that the majority of the show was just clips from Frozen. I had hoped we would see more of Anna and Elsa (in character, not clips), but they are only on stage for a small portion of the show. For the holiday version, Olaf coming out and the snow/song at the end were great, though. This is probably not a show I would return to again though – too much time for what amounted to a rewatch of Frozen.

Admittedly, it didn’t help that this was my view:

It was on-and-off drizzling, so we decided to make our way out of the park, but not before picking up a Forky stuffed animal (got our TS fix!). We split up from my parents, who went to Wine Bar George for dinner (they said it was wonderful) while we freshened up in our room and then took the WL boat to…

MAGIC KINGDOM
CL: 6

Brace yourselves… we had no plans. But, we still had fun! It was spitting rain and getting pretty chilly with wind, but not enough to make it miserable (spoiler: that is FORESHADOWING for the next two days).

We grabbed food at Pecos Bills mostly because I know the kids will usually eat tacos. It was probably the worst meal we had of the week, 100% because of lack of planning. I did not know there was a toppings bar, so I had a plate of nachos that was just chips and meat. We ate outside (covered) because it was crowded inside, but the lowering temperatures and uncomfortable seats made it hard to enjoy the food. And again, I couldn’t believe when I read later that there was a toppings bar that would have made the plate of meat and chips I had WAY better!!

After that, we spent some time in search of a specific soft plush Sleeping Beauty doll. They had them for almost all the other princesses, but no shop had them for Sleeping Beauty. Finally, a CM checked the system for me and said they were totally out all over the parks with no idea when they would get more in. Since our son had gotten Forky earlier, we really wanted to get our daughter something, too, so we settled on Rapunzel.

Tip: check out Shop Disney if you don’t mind waiting for an item. I found the Sleeping Beauty doll for 20% off there, and it arrived at our house a few days after our trip!

We also stopped by the silhouette booth outside of Liberty Square and got what may be my favorite souvenir. The artist there worked so amazingly fast but somehow managed to capture perfect silhouettes of both kids with just his eye and a pair of scissors. I also really love the oval frames you can purchase with them.

We then wandered over to Tomorrowland for our first time on the Peoplemover (now it’s a “must” for every trip), Tomorrowland Speedway (didn’t know there was a height restriction on this but our 2 yo juuuust cleared it and he LOVED it), and the Mad Hatter Tea Cups (the kids laughed and laughed). We had so much fun in this area!

I got FP for Buzz Lightyear, but needed to kill about an hour beforehand, so we went in search of the Tangled lanterns Memory Maker shot. It’s outside of the Tangled bathroom area and it. is. popular. The line went down the hill towards the river, but we figured it was about 20-ish minutes and I really wanted to do it. My husband left to get some snacks for the kids while we waited… and waited. It ended up probably being around a 40 minute wait, way longer than I EVER want to wait for anything, but It was one of those scenarios where you can’t walk away because you’ve already invested too much time. The line didn’t LOOK long, but whew! The shots were cute but probably not worth the wait, although I’m not admitting that anytime soon.

Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin was fun, but, like I said, I wish they would make the shooters easier to use. Our kids kept asking to go back on it, even though they weren’t really able to play – they just loved seeing Emperor Zurg! Maybe we need to try to make a Villains night someday?

Tip: Take a photo of your preview shot at the end of the ride if you want to get it. We have ridden Buzz 3-4 times and never had the photos show up properly in our Memory Maker (it’s usually someone else’s photo, if anything at all, even with scanning our magic bands). If you take a picture, you can email the MM team with the photo number and they will add it to your account quickly.

By this point, we were at the kids’ bedtime, so we caught the boat back to WL in perfect timing to see the fireworks from the water. It was pretty, peaceful, and not crowded! The kids fell asleep in their strollers, so we made a stop at Geyser Point for drinks while they were passed out. The electric water pageant went by while we were there, and they were so zonked, they didn’t wake up once! It was a really nice ending to the day.

The next day, we were headed back to MK and major disappointment at the MVMCP (dun dun dunnnn…).

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i’m very much enjoying reading along. We’re headed there with our 2 yo in May- 1st time with kids. So, everything is super helpful!

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