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.
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!