Trip Report: Work and Pleasure Combined

Hi all

Putting together my trip report. Thank you SO MUCH to all of you for your advice, tips and tricks. Overall we had a wonderful trip to the world.

Some Background: My company announced about a year ago that our annual conference would be held at the Swan/Dolphin in July 2018. I was ecstatic, as my family had never been to WDW before. Our plan was for me to fly down and work on conference stuff and then DH, DS8 and DS6 would drive down a few days later and then after the conference was over we would hit the parks. DH and I had both (separately) been to WDW a couple of times but not since about 2004, so this was really our first trip here as a family.

So I flew down on July 12th. Landed at MCO about 1pm and took a lyft (about $30) to the Swan. I was delighted to find out that my company had upgraded me to a suite that had 3 balconies and 2 bathrooms!!

This was our view (Swan East 733/734) :

It was wonderful - you could see Illuminations AND HEA fireworks nightly. An interesting tidbit - one night I awoke about midnight and there were fireworks going off at Epcot. Maybe testing out the new show? I didn’t see any drones or anything but the fireworks were higher than illuminations and it looked like a pretty good show.

The first night I had dinner with a co-worker at Garden Grove. It was seafood buffet night and it was really good. Pluto and goofy came around to our table. HUGE TIP - you can use AAA at any of the non-signature restaurants at the swan/dolphin for 20% off. This even worked for the character meals at Garden Grove.

The next day was my birthday and I had the morning free. I wandered the grounds and in general relaxed. Another coworker and I had lunch at Beaches and Cream to celebrate. We did not get the kitchen sink, but lots of people did. The wait staff announced my birthday and gave me a signed copy of the menu, which was sweet.

My coke float:

That night and the next few days were spent doing work stuff. Finally on Tuesday my family arrived and we started their time in the world with dinner at Chef Mickey’s. We drove over to the contemporary and parked there for free, as we had an ADR.

Chef Mickey’s was fun - chaotic, loud, energetic. The food was nothing to write home about and it is expensive, but what you are paying for are the character interactions (the big 5!), which were priceless. My kids loved it. Also this meant I didn’t have to waste precious park time standing in line for these characters.

After Chef Mickey’s, we took a turn around the monorail just to give the kids that experience, as we wouldn’t be using it the rest of our trip.

Wednesday I still had work stuff to do during the day. DH, DS8 and DS6 explored the Swolphin and especially liked the pool area. It has a water slide, which they enjoyed, as well as this waterfall area.

Wed night was EPIC. As part of the work conference we were able to get into Epcot around 5pm for dinner/work party at the world showcase events pavilion. This was our first time stepping into the parks as a family. We were a little early so we toured around UK/Canada pavilions for a little bit. We had dinner with the conference attendees and then were allowed to go wander. This was a bit of a surprise to me because I didn’t think we’d be allowed to leave the larger group until later that night - so I didn’t have a touring plan and was winging it a bit. It was about 7pm by this point and luckily the crowds were really light. We rode Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends and saw Turtle talk with Crush - all with no lines. Crush talked to both of my kids and DH and I, which was a lot of fun.

After those were done we stopped into see Baymax and Joy/Sadness as the lines weren’t too bad for those.

At that time it was time to rejoin the larger group for Illuminations - our group had a reserved location at showcase plaza and we were basically on the rail. It was AMAZING.

After illuminations, Epcot itself closed but it remained open for three rides for our conference group. We road Soarin (LOVED IT - I am not particularly good with simulator rides but I really loved this one). We sat in the B1 section (thanks for that tip Liners!) and there was no distortion and it was crazy wonderful.

We then rode Test Track (loved it!) and DH, DS8 and DS6 rode Mission Space Green. We rode test track one last time before catching our shuttle back to the Swan. By this point it was around 11:20pm and was by far the latest my kids had ever stayed up. A perfect first park experience.

The next day was the last day of my conference so I was busy with work stuff for the first half of the day. DH, DS8 and DS6 recovered a bit around the hotel (and did some laundry for me over at the Dolphin, as I had been there a week at this point). When I was done I took the boys swimming so that I could experience the pool myself and it was really quite lovely. That night we had a final work dinner at the Atlantic Dance Hall and I was officially done with work for the week.

FRIDAY MORNING - MAGIC KINGDOM DAY! (EMH 8am-9am)

I had ordered 3 day + waterpark convention tickets and linked them into MDE months before. Because our park days were so very late in our schedule I was able to get all of the FPP that I’d wanted. This was key as we only really had 1 day per park to play and needed to pack it all in.

So back to MK day - took the bus from the Swan early (about 6:30am) for 8am EMH MK opening. We were first in line. There was a lot of hurry up and wait - wait for security to open (about 7am), wait for tapstyles to open (about 7:10am), wait for main street to open (about 7:50am). Eventually we were on main street and saw our first sight of the castle:

Our plan had us start in tomorrowland - hit the speedway first (to get it out of the way - I did not want to wait in line with the exhaust fumes later in the day), the boys rode space mountain and then we did buzz lightyear.

We then trekked over to the other side of the park - we were a little early so had to wait for the official opening but then FINALLY the whole park was open at 9am. We rode Thunder Mountain and the plan was to ride splash mountain - my plan said the wait was supposed to be around 20 minutes at this point but the line looked AWFUL. I made the executive decision to come back to this one later in the day (this was a good call - keep reading).

We backtracked and hit HM then IASW and by this time our first FPP was open - Peter Pan. After PP the skies opened up and it started to rain. We were still way ahead of plan because of skipping splash so I was back to winging it a bit. We saw philharmagic which was a good time filler, although I had to take the glasses off as it messed with my head/eyes. Our next scheduled thing was lunch at BOG - we arrived about 20 minutes early but they let us in (this was great as it got us out of the rain). We ate in the west wing which was great - watched the rose petal fall and the picture change from the prince to the beast occasionally.

When we finished lunch it was time for 7DMT which had converted to an anytime FPP, however it looked like it was back up - we rode that (loved it) and then our 3rd FPP was for Enchanted tales with Belle. DS8 was the horse and DS6 was a spare plate. I wasn’t sure how they’d do with this (if it was too GIRLY for them) but they enjoyed it. We had watched a youtube video about the best animatronics at WDW and both luminere and madame wardrobe had been on the list - so it was fun for them to see those.

The kids rode dumbo (they loved the queuing area and didn’t want to leave) and I started on the fastpasspalooza of the afternoon. I got day of FPP back to back for the following - Under the Sea, Barnstormer, Winnie the Pooh by grabbing and then modifying to (basically) the current time. Every time we tapped in I would start hunting for the next FPP and would typically secure it by the time we were done in the FPP queue.

At this point we were hot and needed a break so I used mobile order to order dole whips (our first!). Mobile order was AWESOME and so easy. Highly recommend. We took our dole whips into the Tiki Room to sit and eat. I loved mine but DH and the boys were not fans - they didn’t like the pineapple flavor. I briefly considered divorcing my husband right there but pressed on.

Our next FPP was for jungle cruise so we got on that. We went under the waterfall and when we came out - it started raining (and I mean POURING). It was sort of a funny effect. We ponchoed up on the boat but basically got drenched as we were sitting in the section that wasn’t covered. After we got off the boat I snagged a FPP for POTC and we did that still in our ponchos.

After we finished that ride, the rain was clearing up a bit. I grabbed a FPP about 30 min later for the flying carpets (as they were down due to the rain), hoping that it would convert to an anytime FPP.

We then ducked into country bears (my husband’s favorite attraction in WDW - go figure)

When that was done, it was about 4:30 and we were getting hungry. We went to Columbia Harbor House and went upstairs to sit down - it was practically empty. We grabbed a large round table and did our mobile order from there, which was great because we were not standing and rushed. There is also a restroom upstairs which was convenient. We also took this opportunity to plug our phones into our charger - we’d gone with this one, which was GREAT: https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Charger-Anker-PowerCore-20100mAh/dp/B00X5RV14Y/ref=sr_1_3?s=wireless&ie=UTF8&qid=1532960986&sr=1-3&keywords=anker+20100

The mobile order was quick and the food was plentiful and tasty. When we were sitting there I got the notification that the magic carpets HAD INDEED turned into an anytime FPP, which was SWEET because then we knew we could use it on Splash Mountain. When we finished eating that is exactly where we went and had a blast on that one.

We then walked back over to tomorrowland and saw the laugh floor, which my kids enjoyed. At this point, however, I noticed that I had a problem. My feet had gotten wet with all of the rain, splash, etc and I hadn’t really been paying attention to them. Well by this time they were SCREAMING. I sat down somewhere in tomorrowland and took off my shoes/socks and realized that I had some pretty bad blisters. BAD MOVE ON MY PART. I hobbled over to the first aid location near crystal palace, who gave me band-aids but didn’t even look at them. I got some cheap flip flops on main street which sort of helped for the time being.

By the way, DH was fine (he is a runner and his feet are basically leather). The boys had waterproof keen sandals that did beautifully.

We rode the peoplemover then sat down near tomorrowland terrace restaurant until it opened for the before HEA dessert party. Once that was opened we were seated at our table and enjoyed some desserts.

We moved to the garden area for fireworks about 8:15 (for 9:15 show) and we parked it along the back rail, near the left hand side. There was a MM photographer in the area as well:

The fireworks show was great but the speakers along the left side of the reserved area kept cutting in and out, which was rather annoying.

When that was done we (very slowly, due to my feet) walked back to the bus. If looking down main street away from the castle we stuck to the left side, as they’d opened the spillway behind the main street buildings to get us out quicker. It was still tons of people. Anyway, got on the bus to the Swan and crashed into bed.

SATURDAY MORNING - HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS! EMH 7am-8am

So I was really worried about my feet. I had moleskin and the extra bandages from first aid, so I patched them up as best as I could and switched into my good reef flip flops, which are super comfortable. I took 800mg of Ibuprofen and sucked it up. We left the hotel a little before 6am and walked to Hollywood Studios, arriving about 6:15am. Today was the opposite of yesterday - there was very little ‘hurry up and wait’ - when we got there, security was open and we breezed right in by 6:20am. Jedi sign ups were available so we signed up right away for the 9:40am show (our preferred) and then joined the rest of the crowd as they held us on the main street until 6:30am when they walked us to Toy Story Land.

We then walked right on slinky dog - LOVED IT and then walked on AS2 (it was cute but one and done for us) and TSM - loved it. The theming in the land is ON POINT.

We had ridden everything in TSL by about 7:20 so we walked over to RnR. This had been a big question for us, because the minimum height on RnR is 48 inches and DS6 was RIGHT at the line. He has been practicing standing up straight to meet the requirement for months (and we’ve been telling him this is why he needs to eat his veggies!). He was tall enough!!! My DH and boys rode it 3 times in a row! They then hit ToT. At that point we went back to TSL for our 8:30AM FPP for SDD. Unfortunately the photopass wasn’t working for SDD that morning so there is no photo proof that I rode it (twice!)

After that was done DH and the boys rode star tours and it was time to check in for Jedi Academy. The boys and DH REALLY loved it. It was SO CUTE. DSs were on the upper stage and fought Darth Vader. At the end they received pins and water.

Pin:

When that was done, we walked to the MuppetVision 3D and saw that (cute!) and then it was time for our 10:30am ADR at the Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre. This timing worked out great as we were pretty hungry due to our early morning start, and it was getting quite hot out. We had burgers and milk shakes and really enjoyed it.

After lunch we ducked in to meet Olaf (it smells like sunscreen in there - he does love summer!) and saw the Indiana Jones stunt show, which we all enjoyed. At that point I had a FPp for RnR again so the boys rode that (4th ride of the day already, for those counting).

It was then about 1pm and we were then scheduled for a much needed park break - but it started raining again. We were going to take the boat back to the swan but after waiting for what seemed like an eternity a boat finally came and said that they were down due to lightening in the area and that we could take a bus instead. We walked over to the bus area and waited another eternity - long enough for me to get annoyed and tweet to WDWToday about needing to send us a bus - which then eventually did come. We made it back to the Swan about 2:30 and rested.

We went back over to HS (via boat this time as I was TRYING to save steps on my poor feet) and went to 50’s prime time for dinner. We absolutely LOVED it. Our server was fantastic and we laughed the entire time.

I dragged DH and the boys to the Frozen show. (We were ALL happy to be in the ice cold room, sitting down and resting for 30 minutes). After that I had a 3rd FPP for ToT. DH and DS6 rode it but DS8 didn’t want to ride it again and hung out with me while we waited, which suited me just fine.

We killed time until the Star Wars Dessert party - there were lots of desserts and pleanty of savory type stuff as well - we weren’t really hungry at all but did enjoy no lines for meeting Kylo Ren, BB-8 and Chewbacca during this time. I snagged a FPP for RnR so I hung out at the party while DH and the boys rode it again (5th time of the day).

Side note - my boys were in storm trooper shirts, which the storm troopers commented on every time we saw them - their allegiance is appreciated. It was funny.

About 9:30pm the storm troopers marched us to the special viewing area. As we left they gave us our souveniers -

We were able to sit and watch two shows - about 9:40 there was one that celebrated the movies that I enjoyed a lot, and at 10pm the Star wars show came on - it was great, especially for Star Wars fans.

We then got a boat back to the Swan and fell asleep within about 2 seconds.

SUNDAY - HOTEL SWITCH DAY/Typhoon LAGOON/HOOP DE DOO

Our time at the Swan had come to an end. I’d reserved 2 night at the ASMo, which worked out well because it was a lot cheaper than staying at the swan (once the company stopped paying for my room) and they’d sent us magic bands, which we used all week. That morning we packed up all of our stuff and loaded it into the car. We had breakfast over at the McDonalds near the All Star hotels and while we were there (just before 10am) I got a weird text saying that I needed to stop by the front desk of the All Stars when we arrived. I called and asked if that meant our room was ready? They said yes but they needed to do something with our magic bands, hence the odd text.

Side note - this was HUGE LUCK as I wasn’t expecting to have a room ready until later in the afternoon. Surprised and Delighted.

Got the MB stuff sorted and got to our room - I’d done a room request through TP and it was very close to my request - Building 9 (toy story) 3rd floor, near “Andy’s Room”. Both buildings 9 and 10 have been renovated - I didn’t take any pics but they are apparently exactly like the reno’ed pop rooms. It had a murphy bed, lots of plugs, shampoo/soap in dispensers. I am not convinced the beds were queens though - the one at the Swan had been a queen and this one seemed smaller.

We then went to typhoon lagoon - I’d pre-arranged renting an umbrella and chairs at hideaway glen, knowing that we would not be RDing TL that day with the moving hotels and all. It was nice to have a shady spot we didn’t fight for. The cabanas looked REALLY nice but they are also $$$.

I also used this to secure our valuables (phones/Disney Gift Card etc) - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B017RQUIC4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

We didn’t do much at TL - just the lazy river and the wave pool. My feet were really hurting with the concrete floors. We got ice cream and stayed until about 2pm and then went back to the hotel to rest a bit.

That night we went to the Hoop De Doo Revue - it was great!! We had tickets for the 6:15pm show. We left ASMo about 4:30pm and drove over there. The kids fell asleep in the car - we got to Ft Wilderness about 5pm and let them sleep until about 5:30. We caught the internal shuttle to Pioneer Hall (took about 15 minutes) and then checked in for the show. We were in the 2nd row and it was fantastic - loved the food and interaction. They asked DS8 to come up on stage but he refused. Still, a good time was had by all. I especially enjoyed the sangria!



MONDAY - ANIMAL KINGDOM! (EMH 8-9am)

Monday was our last full day at WDW. We drove over to AK about 7am and were the first at the tapstyles again. They let us through a little after 7 and then held us at the bridge to Pandora. They started walked us back to Pandora about 7:30am. We walked right onto FoP. It was great but I don’t do fantastic with simulators - I had a little bit of a headache when done but was glad I’d done it! The ride itself is really a marvel. When we finished the ride the line was already up to 120 minutes or so. RD is KEY.

We walked onto Navi River and then went over to KS. We saw lots of animals, even that early in the morning.

I had made some last minute changes to the AK day the night before, based on how we were feeling (exhausted) and because I knew my feet could not handle lots of walking around the ginormous park. I grabbed at 9:35am ADR for Tusker House, which worked out really great. We were running early after KS, but they took us right back anyway and we absolutely loved it. The food was GREAT (our first mickey waffles!) and the character interactions were spot on.

After breakfast we scooted over to the Lion King show, which we all enjoyed very much. It was then time for the FPP for Expedition Everest. DH and the boys absolutely LOVED this coaster. When that was done, DS8 and I hung out while DH and DS6 went back to ride FoP again, this time with a FPp. I was not interested in walking back over to that side of the park and DS8 opted to wait with me as well as he didn’t care for FoP as much either.

The day was actually really pleasant - not as hot as other days, so we parked it near EE and enjoyed talking with family back home and telling them about our adventures.

Eventually DH and DS6 joined up with us again. We had a few minutes before our next FPP so we walked over to Discovery Island to look at the tree of life and saw It’s tough to be a Bug. We enjoyed it, but I could see people who do not like bugs not liking it one bit!

Once that was over, we got in the FPP line for Kali. DH put our backpack into the free lockers nearby and we had our ponchos, as we did NOT want to get wet by this point. The FPp line for Kali was really long - we probably waited 20 minutes. This was the one ride that we’d been on that scanned FP at both the front of the line and just before getting on the ride. Eventually we did get through the line and enjoyed the ride (and DS6 STILL ended up getting wet, even with a poncho on).

It was now past 1:30pm and pretty hot so we grabbed Mickey Bars and walked over to the Nemo show. We finished up the bars quickly and then made it for the 2pm show. We all LOVED this one - so colorful and really well done. When we got out of the show we realized we had completely missed a thunderstorm by being in the show - SCORE.

At this point we were ready to go - we went back to the hotel (via McDonald’s for an early dinner) and packed up our stuff for the following day. We took a brief dip in the pool at ASMo, which is lovely:

And got some pictures of Andy’s room:

The next morning, DH couldn’t really sleep so we got up and hit the road by about 3:45am. I slept pretty much the entire way home (Tennessee) and for the next two days. Oh and when we checked out they had NOT charged us parking. I’d booked the ASMo rooms through undercover tourist about a week after the parking thing had gone into effect so was fully expecting to pay parking but…I’ll take it.

One note - DH had stopped on the way in at the FL welcome center and bought the SunPass transponder for about $20 and pre-loaded it with some toll money. This was a timesaver when hitting the toll roads and will be good for future trips down to FL.

We had a WONDERFUL first time in the world. There are definitely things I would have done differently (looking at you feet) but I felt that overall it was a brilliant holiday. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all of your advice, hints, tips and tricks - I felt super prepared in the world and we got to see and do SO MUCH MORE than if I had not joined here.

PS. This was my souvenir:

We finished putting it together and it’s missing 2 pieces! AAAGH! Will contact Disney to see if there’s any way to get just those pieces.

UPDATE!! I contacted Disney Merchandise (# was at the top of my receipt) and they are sending me a new replacement puzzle!!! WOOHOO!!!

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Awesome report! Really enjoyed reading it and can’t wait to get there myself! Thanks for sharing!

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We bought a VERY similar puzzle a few years ago. What bothered me was not that we had any missing pieces (we didn’t) but that in a few cases, we had DUPLICATE pieces. This means that we ended up with the pieces to someone else’s puzzle in our box! That’s what looks like happened here…your missing piece is probably an EXTRA piece in someone else’s puzzle. :frowning:

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What an awesome trip!! Sorry to hear about your feet!

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Wow–sounds like a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

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Great report :+1:t2:

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Great report! You did very well. Had to laugh about divorcing your DH because of Dole Whip - had the same experience with my DH last trip

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What a great trip report!

If I were teaching a class on how to do WDW right, I’d use your report as my example. You not only had a good plan, you rolled with the changes perfectly. :slight_smile:

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Great report! You packed so much in!

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Excellent!

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sounds like a great trip!

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GREAT Report! It sounds like you all had the best time!!!

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Love it! Thanks for the report and all the amazing pictures.

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and who “fashioned” your DS’s hat at Hoop Dee Doo? - love it. Reminds me of when we were at HDDR when my youngest was about 7 (many years ago) . He was freezing and the CM brought him a table cloth to wear as a jacket

Our server (total ham, similar to our 50’s primetime server) made it and stuck it on DS8’s head :slight_smile:

:heart_eyes:

Thank you so much for this - I was really trying hard to balance my need to pre-plan everything with DH’s free spirited attitude + rolling with it when things came up. Originally we were going to do RoL on our AK day (along with Dinosaur, which my kids really wanted to do but I couldn’t make work without a long wait). We put those on the list for next time :smile:

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Wonderful report! I love your ability to adapt in more way than one. And most importantly, sounds like everybody had a great time. Wonderful first full-family trip, maybe more to come???

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Loving the report and awesome photos…Great travel style.

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Your trip report is awesome and a total joy to read. You fitted such a lot in and adjusted and adapted, I hope that our trip next week is as cool as yours!

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