Trip Report with some tips and hidden gems

I wanted to share some things I learned on our recent trip because the forum here has been so helpful to me in preparing for it. I hope some of these tips help someone else! Sorry that I don’t know all the acronyms and whatnot.

HOTEL: We stayed at Buena Vista Suites and it was great. The room was newly renovated and really nice. Loved having a suite. We paid for the room with our Chase Sapphire card’s reward sign-up bonus - So 5 nights cost $75, along with a few minimal fees when we checked in. I would stay here again. (We also got our flights with Delta skymiles so that was free too.)

TRANSPORTATION: We took Uber/Lyft to and from the park each day. It always arrived within 4 minutes to the hotel or to the park. (More on that below.) We used the Bumble Bum inflatable booster for our daughter for every ride. Splurging on car services felt fine since our hotel and flights were essentially free.

STROLLER RENTAL: We rented a stroller from Orlando Stroller Rental. They dropped the City Mini off at our hotel. I brought a red bandana to tie around the stroller handle so we could easily identify it when we parked it at the park.

SCHEDULE: My family went hard. I didn’t know if we’d be able to with a four-year-old, but it turns out that’s how we do Disney! I had made a spreadsheet with all our Fast Passes and reservations, but I ended up not referring to it much and instead used the app. I also laminated maps of all the parks and didn’t pull those out once because it turns out my partner has a photographic memory of the Disney layout even though he didn’t do any of the planning for this trip. Who knew!

PHOTOS: We got the Memory Maker photo pass and loved it. I loved not having to take my phone out a gazillion times to take pictures. I loved the quality of the photos. Not all the photographers are equal, but it didn’t change my feelings about getting it. We did a ton of character greetings so it felt worth it. Ask for magic shots but know that not all photographers can do it and at least one was really cranky about it.

PIN TRADING: I scored a batch of 25 Disney pins on my neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook Group. It was super fun. My daughter was really level headed about it and didn’t go crazy. By day three she decided she liked all the pins she’d gotten and was done. We found almost all ours on cast members in gift shops.

Saturday, February 2nd Magic Kingdom

Our plane landed just before noon. We hadn’t checked our luggage. We picked up an Uber, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and took another car to MK (we were there by 2:30). Uber dropped us off at the Contemporary resort and we walked the 8 min walk to the park. This entrance is great because it has its own metal detector security check with no line. When your driver passes the front gate, take the immediate left into the parking lot and get dropped off on the path. We stayed in the park until about 7:30 doing character greetings and rides. Dumbo has an awesome play area inside while you wait. Uber picked us up in front of the Contemporary.

Sunday, February 3rd Magic Kingdom

Ubered/Lyfted to Contemporary again and walked over. We saw a gazillion people getting through the metal detectors in front of the park while our metal detector via the Contemporary had no line. We really mastered the Fast Pass system, using up our passes and booking more. I think when it was all said and done by the end of the day we’d done 18 attractions. We ate lunch at Liberty Tavern at 1:00. It was a chill spot to cool down and eat a non rushed lunch. We got out at 2:15, and I held a spot across the street from the restaurant to watch the parade while our daughter played at some secret “playground” nearby. Holding the spot for 45 minutes was totally worth it. This was an awesome spot at a bend to view the parade. The parade ended up being one of our favorite things.

My daughter’s favorite ride at the park was the magic carpet ride. We left the park around 7:30.

Monday, February 4th Epcot

We ubered to the Beach Club and got there at 9:00. You can be dropped off at the front door and walk directly through the lobby to the International Gateway path that goes to Epcot. It’s a very short walk (8 minutes). There was no line at the metal detectors here. We booked it to Soarin’ and waited for about 20 minutes. We had dinner reservations at Akershus for 5:10 so we walked counterclockwise in that direction, eating at Arts Festival booths and hanging out in the countries. We found Mary Poppins in England. My daughter did Pick-A-Pearl in Japan and it was SO FUN. She picked a pearl with two oysters so I got earrings made. They were ready in 20 minutes. I highly recommend this activity for a unique souvenir.

My daughter’s favorite attraction was Soarin’ (more than Frozen Ever After!). We left the park around 7:30 via the Beach Club.

Tuesday, February 5th Animal Kingdom

It’s true! You can get same day fast passes for FOP at 11:01. I picked up a 12:30 one for my partner and I did Na’vi River with my daughter. We loved the Lion King show (I cried) and It’s Tough to Be a Bug. Satu’li Canteen was good.

We took the free shuttle bus to Disney Springs at 4:00. We had some happy hour drinks before eating at the Edison with 5:45 dinner reservations. Disney Springs has a photo pass office next to the Ghirardelli store where you can use your Memory Maker pass to get really cool photos made with all kinds of backdrops! There was no line and the photographer took tons of photos with different backdrops like Elena’s castle (my daughter had on an Elena shirt), balloons and fireworks. It’s a real hidden gem! The Lego store was also awesome.

Our only negative experience relying on Uber/Lyft was at Disney Springs. The pick-up location is REALLY far to walk to and we were all very exhausted when we left around 8:30 pm. I have a bad back so this was unpleasant.

Wednesday, February 6th Epcot/Hollywood Studios

We decided to go back to Epcot again today because we loved it. My daughter wanted to do Soarin’ again so we got to the park via Beach club at 8:52. My daughter and I ended up at Soarin’ with a 10-minute wait and my partner went to Test Track and walked right in. We walked to Mexico afterwards because we didn’t get to visit on Monday. The store in Mexico has a kind of secret ride in the back, Gran Fiesta Tour, that is SO FUN. It’s a little like a smaller scale Small World. We loved it.

We took the ferry to Hollywood Studios from Beach Club.

Okay, HS is hot. There’s not much shade. We went to the Frozen show (loved it) and then sort of sat around in the shade as much as possible. Went to Toy Story Land for Toy Story Mania (loved it). We did the Beauty and the Beast show at 4:30 (I thought it was eh, but it was my daughter’s favorite show ha). Dinner at Sci Fi restaurant (awesome). We went back to Toy Story Land after dinner to wait in line for Slinky Dog because I could never get FP for it (I tried all the supposed same day drop times and never saw any) and it would be my daughter’s first roller coaster. We waited for an hour (the only time we waited that long for anything). She hated it. We went on the alien spinner thing next door to SDD and she loved it. It was one of her top 5 favorite rides from the whole trip. We were at the park until almost 9 pm! We took the ferry back to the Beach Club and got a car from there.

Thursday, February 7th Magic Kingdom

There were a few rides we didn’t get to do at MK yet. We rope dropped Peter Pan and got in line with a 10-minute wait. When we got off the ride it was already a 55-minute wait. We did as many rides as we could. My daughter wanted to meet Rapunzel and Tiana again (she wore her Tiana dress the first time and wanted to wear her Rapunzel dress the second time) so we did that too. She rode Dumbo again. She also played in the tiny playground outside Winnie the Pooh for a long time and didn’t want to leave!

There was a photographer outside Space Mountain that did a Magic Shot with Baymax!

Why doesn’t anyone talk about the joy that is the People Mover? We went on it because it was just a 5-minute wait and I thought my daughter could eat a snack while riding. It ended up being so awesome. It goes right through Space Mountain. :slight_smile:

We left the park at 12:30 from the Contemporary, picked up our luggage at Buena Vista Suites and made it to the airport for our 3:30 flight with time to spare to eat some lunch. High-five!

Thanks, everyone!


Excellent. Thank you for sharing.

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Sounds like you had a good time, thanks for sharing.

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Sounds like an awesome trip! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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Sounds like an excellent trip, thanks for sharing

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I forgot to include two more trip “hacks”:

  1. Our hotel included breakfast starting at 6:30 so every morning when I got up I went down and made a huge plate of the hot stuff and got my daughter donuts and took it up to the room so we could eat while getting ready.

  2. The first night we were there we ordered a bottle of wine (Coppola Cab) and six pack of beer (not sure what it was since the wine was for me) with the Drizzly app. It arrived within an hour.


It is all in the priorities!:slight_smile:

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Fabulous write up, thank you. We’ve got Memory Maker passes but this is the first time I’ve heard of ‘magic shots’. What exactly are they?

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Magic Shots are where they bedazzle the shot with something. There was an especially great shot someone got where it looks like Tinkerbell just landed in my daughters hand! And we got another one outside Haunted Mansion with a ghost in it. Sometimes they just do it without you asking.

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I had no idea this existed. One of my daughter’s is obsessed with Elena so we will have to try this out next time. Thanks for sharing your trip report!


We are hoping to Lyft to the Contemporary on an EMM day at MK. Did you have any trouble getting through security at the parking lot at the Contemporary?


Love your trip report. My wife and I go and we don’t have an children but God willing we will. Love seeing how children see things.

We love the People Mover. It is one our must do’s each visit. It’s fun to ride it at different times of the day and to people watch. The night time, it truly looks amazing.


We never had any trouble. The person at the gate would ask if we were checking in and we just said we were getting dropped off. They’d ask for the drivers ID but barely looked at it. And the drivers we had knew the drill as well.

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I’m just now catching up with some posts and read some of the concerns over crowd levels this week. Not sure if I should post there or here so I’ll comment here.

We definitely had moments where we said, “Wow if this is supposed to be a 3, 4 or 5, what in the world is a 10 supposed to look like?!?” So it makes me feel a little better to know it was actually busier than predicted.

Does it change how I feel about our trip? Nope.

The best method is to modify passes for earlier, use them up and then grab stuff and modify it. Another method is to start out early and rope drop busy rides first. It really works. And you don’t have to get to the park an hour early. The earliest we got to a park was 10 minutes. Staying late also works. We rode that alien thing at Toy Story Land with no wait but we were second to last group to get on. It also helps to just know where you are going. It’s also good to just keep expectations low. We never tried for certain rides like 7 dwarves and thunder mountain and the day we chose Peter Pan over Thunder Mountain, TM ended up being shut down anyway! The fact is, you will get to do stuff! Don’t worry about it and you’ll be fine. Also just sit in the shade and eat an ice cream bar if it feels too crowded. Also, get out of the park before the evening shows.

My daughter managed lines like a champ. We never entertained her. One day she and two other girls sat on the floor and looked at a book together while they waited to see Merida for half an hour. I would have waited just for the wait in that case.


Wonderful trip report. You completely abandoned Disney transportation from the beginning. What made you do that? I’m genuinely curious because I’m pondering the same thing, and there are 5 of us which makes Lyft more economical than if there are only 3. I’ve waited for busses plenty and don’t really wish to do it again fi I can help it.

As for the People Mover, I sing its praises often :grinning: Thanks for the great report.

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I’m in the February liners Facebook group and several pictures have been posted this month of the lines waiting for the busses to leave the resort in the morning. :astonished: We stayed off site and we loved having a car and being in control of our own transportation. One less line to wait in.
And even when we arrived 10 minutes before opening, we were still close enough to walk without taking the parking lot tram. In some cases it wasn’t even running yet.


When we booked the hotel I saw that it had a shuttle bus to the parks and we thought we’d do that. But then I heard it can take an hour to 90 minutes to wait for the shuttle, get to the transportation center and then take the monorail. That might not be the case but we decided not to chance it. We don’t own cars and are used to public transportation so I didn’t feel like I was missing out by not doing the monorail (my partner wanted to do it but he got over it). I can see value in using the Disney transportation but if you’re pushed for time or have a short visit, Uber or Lyft are great services. There are plenty of minivans that can accommodate large groups. I think we paid about $10 a ride ($25 or $30 to the airport).


My partner took care of ordering the cars and said that except for the first airport ride, which was Uber, he used Lyft. He got 10 percent off all the rides. To Epcot (via BC) was the cheapest and to AK was the most expensive but there was actually a snafu with that ride where our driver started to take us to the wrong park and didn’t speak English and our Spanish isn’t great. I was annoyed at first because we were trying to get to KS but I forgot all about it when I got the FOP at 11:01 :slight_smile:


Hah, that reminds me of when we were changing hotels in Rome, my Italian was just good enough to figure out (before we got in the car) that the driver thought we were going to the airport, even though I had booked the car with specific written instructions & paid the fare online weeks earlier.

How did he get the Lyft discount?


Right. I’m just not keen on waiting around, for pretty much anything. I think it’s because, as @Magicbound also mentioned, that patience is somewhat correlated with how often one gets to come to the parks and how long the trip is. We’re not there long and only go every few years, I don’t want my precious park time to be spent waiting for busses. I’m also resigned to the fact that there are going to be some days when I have to rent a scooter, I don’t like the park ones because they are huge and slow, but there’s no way I’ll use a bus to bring an off-site rented one to the park.