I’ve posted about our upcoming land & sea & land some more adventure in the DCL section, but wanted to get threads going for the theme parks parts going too as they’ll be a big part of this.
Readers of the DCL thread will know there’s a whole group going, 14 of us total with 3 different families from 2 different states on opposite ends of the country. Family 1 (mine with DH & 4 kids) are DLR regulars who live within a 10 hr drive of the west coast Orange County with a Disney park. Family 2 (DSIL & DBIL & 2 kids) live the same distance from DLR & do love it, and have gone as a family twice, but DSIL has started going on more frequent trips about every year so either solo or on 1:1 with one kid. Family 3 (my DH’s & DSIL’s 2nd cousin along with his DW & their 2 kids) are WDW regulars who live within a 10 hr drive of the east coast Orange County with a Disney park.
Some of us have done WDW together (fam 1 & 3 in April 2016), most of us also did DLR together (fam 1, 3 & half of fam 2 in Feb 2017). The last time we saw everyone together was in 2019 when I was pregnant with now DD3 (in our home county in a mountain west state, with zero Disney parks). The kids are all excited to get together, the Disney parks & ship will all be bonuses to cousin time.
All families will be on the cruise. Fam 1 & 2 will do WDW before. Fam 3 is trying to make part of WDW work but it’s still very TBD. Only fam 1 (mine) is doing UOR after cruise.
The overall trip plan:
- Arrival Day (Wednesday). Leave home after a half day of work for adults & normal school day for kids, flying out at 6pm. Arrive late (after midnight) to Orlando, rent a car & drive to WDW on-site hotel.
- WDW (Thursday-Sunday) 4 days, 1 park per day, one day for each park. Starting at DHS, followed by EP, MK & ending with AK.
- Transfer to cruise (Monday-Saturday). Checkout of WDW hotel, early AM drive to Miami, embark on 5 night cruise, being shuffled off like hobos Saturday morning.
- Post-cruise (Saturday-Monday). Spend one last half-3/4 day all together as one big group in/near Miami before we all disperse. (Fam 2 has to fly home that day, TBD what fam 3 does). We, fam 1, will return to Orlando for a couple of days at UOR. Depending on how the drive back/how late it is for the drive up to Orlando, maybe some Disney Springs (or Citywalk because our OUR hotel is closer to that).
- Departure Day (Tuesday). Flight home isn’t until 6pm so options on the table are morning swim at hotel pool before checkout, lunch at City Walk or Disney Springs and/or outlet shopping. It is also an on-going discussion on if we just get 3 day tickets to UOR and do a half day of UOR instead of shop/swim. (We really are park-time-till-we-drop kinda people so we love this idea).
Who’s First time is it?
Everyone in fam 2 plus the younger kids of fam 1(my DS5 & DD3). DS11 & DD10 have limited memories of their trip in 2016 at those similar ages, so it might have a bit of first time feel for them.
If fam 3 is able to join, it will be far from their first time. There is a potential scheme for them to drive down for Days 1 & 2 (then jet back home on a jet for the obligations keeping them from coming Day 3 & jet back early Day 4 to then still drive down to Miami- their original plan- for the cruise).
I was sure we would book All Star Movies like we did for our first trip in 2016. It works well for us (refer above to park-time-till-drop descriptor), especially with WDW’s shorter hours than we are accustomed to at DLR. The room is really, truly for sleeping & showering. All Star Movies is great with the advantage of Disney character theming! Also, the budget is happier in the value resort range.
Upon consulting with DSIL, we landed on Art of Animation. Our prime reasons were we fell in love with the space & immersive room theming. There was the tradeoff of it being the tippity top of the budget, but we were getting really excited to enjoy this resort with the kids while they would all still appreciate sleeping in that level of theming. However, because of last minute adjustment needed for the budgets we’ve really, really landed on POP.
For DH & I, it’s not a huge savings switching from AoA suite to 2 rooms at POP but for DSIL it’s enough savings to very nearly cover the cost of their park tickets so it was a economic no-brainer when she & DBIL got news about a financial obligation that will be coming up a lot sooner than they had originally expected. Also, POP had been my first choice when we originally went in 2016 but didn’t have rooms available at the discounted rate we were looking to book so we pivoted to All Stars.
We’ll still have Skyliner access at POP (which was another pro I realized & fell in love with after we initially booked AoA). We’ll be just across the bridge from too, so if we really want to walk around & enjoy some its theming, it’s not terribly far. DH & the kids & I all agree that being closer to the cousins is more important than any one theme or room. However, if fam 3 is able to swing any park days, they will be off-site. They are late risers & our trips with them usually include them joining after 10am-ish.
Plan for Park Days
Day 1 DHS
Hours: 8:30am-9:30pm (Early Entry: 8am)
Our Projected Park Hours: 9:30am-9:30pm
Optional: Stay for 10pm Fantasmic!
With the late flight the night before I didn’t want to count on using early entry or even RD. Any time we possibly get in before the ~9:30 target will be a win! We’ll take the Skyliner to & from the parks this day. Genie+ a definite purchase for this day (I’ll be up with BG1 handy at 7am trying to contain my excitement and not drag everyone out the door for our first park morning once I get our first LL booked).
Highlights/priorities for the day:
- Toy Story Land: SDD, AS2, Woody’s lunchbox pop tarts & if we can snag a Woody’s BBQ ADR we would love to try it (I didn’t realize it was going to be open on our trip so I didn’t even have it on my radar until recently). Our younger kids are huge Toy Story kids so it will be a dream come true for them to see all of this.
- Galaxy’s Edge: DBIL is a Star Wars fan & it will be his first time in a Disney park since it opened so we’ll get to see his face as he views the MF for the first time in person. We also have Oga’s all together (a first for me, DH & kids since we’ve not found a good reason to visit the West coast location). Fam 2 will most likely be sure to do both Rise and MF. My kids all agree they want to focus more on rides below than either GE ride so there might be some splitting up briefly as we tackle shows/meets they may not be as interested in while they ride GE stuff. I do want to fit in Docking Bay 7 for lunch or dinner as we’ve never tried it in DLR & are excited to try some of the better offerings in WDW.
- All the things in DHS that we don’t have/used to have in DLR: especially Tower of Terror but also MV3D, Frozen Sing-a-long, Chewy Meet, BB-8 Meet & Lightning McQueen Racing Academy (DS11 & I are a huge Cars franchise fans so it’s not just a filler for us). We are slightly sad that RnR is down for refurb while we are there. DS11 was too short last time & was very excited to try it. But it will have to be something we come back for another time.
- Unique to DHS from DLR but lower priority than above: Meet Mickey & Minnie on the red carpet, Indy stunt show, Beauty & the Beast stage show, Olaf Meet. This is also about where we’d prioritize Rise, MF and MMRR, but they’ll really only fit if the plan goes perfectly without a hitch (or ahead) so they’ll be the first things we cut from the plan since we can see them in DLR.
- We won’t prioritize Star Tours or Disney Jr. but if we run out of things to do (ha!) we wouldn’t not do them. TSMM we might might a little more effort for but only for the unique queue. If we’re not successful at getting Woody’s BBQ (which we probably won’t be), then we’ll get Backlot Express for the other meal out of lunch/dinner that wasn’t at Docking Bay 7.
- If we make it to park close (hopefully) and have the stamina for it, 10pm F! If we need a less intense/shorter night show experience, we’ll do the projection show before heading out. My DS11 has his heart set on F! tho, so unless he’s totally crashed out, one of us adults will stay back with him (& whoever else has the stamina) while any who’s crying uncle can optionally watch the projection show before riding the Skyliner back to POP.
Day 2 EP
On-site Early Entry: 8:30am
Our Proj Park Hours: 8:30am-9pm
Plan is to be up & at 'em for 8:30am EE. I think we will drive the rental car over instead of relying on the Skyliner for early entry (unless that’s a horrible plan, please tell me if it is). We have so much we want to accomplish here & not nearly enough hours in a day & want time to smell all the Flower & Garden proverbial & actual roses, so we will definitely buy G+ again.
Highlights/Priorities for the day:
- Headliner rides that are all new since our April 2016 trip: Cosmic Rewind, Remy’s & FEA.
- Rides we absolutely loved that we’ve missed while not being able to enter Epcot in way too many years: Test Track, Spaceship Earth (the smell of Rome burning!), Living with the Land, Mission Space (DS11 again has his heart set on this one since when we went in 2016 he was still 2 inches short & DH & I rider switched it), & Seas w/ Nemo (we technically have this ride at DLR but DH & I haven’t ever loved the experience of descending the narrow stairs down into the sub & the cramming in with bunches of people, the clamshell in Epcot is far more enjoyable & as such we’ve promised DS5 we will do it) & Gran Fiesta Tour.
- Wander & roam & soak in the ambiance including KidCot Epcot stations, Flower & Garden topiaries, the butterfly walkthrough thing (I could’ve stayed there for hours last trip), whatever the new Club Cool is called to give Beverly to all the first-timers, Ducktales Disney Play game in World Showcase, getting a pearl in Japan (DSIL has requested this for her DD7 & it will be fun for the girls to do together) & snacking around the World/F&G booths.
- If there’s time (ha! the plan I have been throwing together already says we won’t have time for it all so these will probably be the first to get the axe) we’ll also try to tackle the movies in China & France & also ride Imagination with Figment.
- Pretty much the only things I feel like we won’t prioritize are Soarin’ & Turtle Talk with Crush, but again, if we’re not up to anything else, we wouldn’t not do them. They are always fun in DLR & DSIL mentioned the other day their family (fam 2) has never done Turtle Talk with Crush so it might be really fun for her to see that. But also, it might blow their minds even more when we do Animator’s Palette on the ship. I’m of two minds on this.
- For the end of the day we have a dinner res for Akershus princess dining that DSIL & her DD7 will be doing with our entire family (our boys still all love meeting princesses as much as the girls in the family do). DBIL & his DS11 (who has different interests than princess meets & character meets in general) will do father/son time (most likely back at the hotel taking the Skyliner back, but they could surprise me & stay hanging in Epcot). We’ll enjoy Harmonious after dinner & slow walk our way out the front of Epcot enjoying every last second until the first of either my family drags me out or security sweeps me out.
Day 3 MK
On-site Early Entry: 8:30am
Our Proj. Park Hours: 12pm-11pm
As this park has the most overlap with DLR and after two full days we’ll need it, this day will be a sleep-in day. We do have 10:45am brunch at Chef Mickey’s that will be the only thing we have to get up for. DH & I are certain fam 1 will do it. Fam 2 (DSIL & DBIL) are debating how much character dining they really want to do. Their DD7 will love all the character dining. Their DS11 not so much, but maybe could do 1 for the sake of doing 1 with the whole family. For those going to brunch, we’ll drive, park in MK & catch the monorail to CR for the full effect of riding the monorail through the hotel & into brunch. This will be a very similar re-enactment to the monorail ride into CR for CM we did with our older kids on their first trip & executing it was every bit as magical/inspiring as I’d hoped when I planned it so I can’t imagine not doing it for the younger 2 on their 1st trip. I’m hoping the magic of that whole experience still exists.
Highlights/Priorities for the park time:
- 7DMT (likely with an ILL) & soft-opening for Tron watch. We are so bummed that we are missing it by less than 10 days. Oh well, another something to come back for next time.
- Our favorite unique things to WDW: ETWB, Carousel of Progress, Peoplemover, Magic Carpets of Aladdin & the railroad (not unique, but it was down for refurb in April 2016 so we’ve never done it to compare).
- Any/everything else is gravy. I personally will be hoping that the gravy includes Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise & Pirates. The older kids are sure to want Big Thunder, maybe Space. The younger ones Dumbo, Buzz, Tomorrowland Speedway, Winnie the Pooh, Little Mermaid & Teacups. And all my kids love small world, Peter Pan and the carousel. DH (and the kids too) love Philharmgic too but surprisingly we don’t do it nearly as much as we’d like in DLR. If we had 2 days, we’d make sure to get to all of this, but as so many things have counterparts in DLR we’ll just be happy with what we get to in 1 (truncated with a late start) day. What we decide we really want to accomplish on this day will determine if we get G+ or not. It would certainly allow us to plow through the majority of that list, but there are a few things (Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan) that their queues are actually very unique to WDW so my kids would love to see those and really most everything is available to us frequently in DLR so it feels silly to pay to see it in WDW. Again, I’m of 2 minds on it.
- For dinner we have Be our Guest booked. DSIL & I are both big Beauty & the Beast fans & I think she will love it. My boys are all excited to do this too. It is a pricy one though so it may be one that fam 2 don’t do to cut down on costs (DH has offered to cover one character meal for all of them but we’re not sure which one they’ve settling on yet).
- We’ll most likely see Enchantment, but probably with a spot that only requires minimal time commitment. The park is open until 11pm & with the late start we’ll hopefully be able to make it until the kiss goodnight (is that a thing anymore??). But we also have one last full day left where we want to start as early as we can so we’ll play it by ear.
Day 4 AK
On-site Early Entry: 7:30am
Our Proj. Park Hours: 7:30am-8pm
With the late night before it will be tough, but this another park that we struggled to fit all we wanted to do into 2 days last time so one day feels so so so so short. But fam 1 is going to strive for making it to early entry, fam 2 may decide to sleep in & join later. I haven’t yet run through a touring plan for this day so I’m not yet sure if we want G+ with our priorities, but if we didn’t get it in MK, for sure we’d get it here. We will most definitely drive to AK using the rental car.
Highlights/Priorities for the park time:
- Pandora: This will be all new to us & in preparation for the land/rides we watched Avatar as a family this last weekend. I loved Avatar when it came out in theaters and it had been years since I’d watched. It was perfect time to watch as it heightened my excitement to see Pandora & gave the kids the background to appreciate it (they liked it too, but immediately asked “Is this like a live action Pocahontas story in space?” Why yes my kids, yes it is).
- Expedition Everest, Safari and It’s Tough to be a Bug. DS11 is most excited for EE of all the rides in all the parks as this was another one he wasn’t tall enough for in 2016 & he knows it’s one of my faves. DS5 & DD3 watched a bit of the AK series on D+ recently that covered the safari & were stoked when I explained we’ll do that, so it’s one we’ll be sure not to miss. DD10 is most excited for Tough to be a Bug as she loved it in DLR & is insanely excited that she can still enjoy it inside the most beautiful of beautiful trees.
- The AK shows & trails. DS11 is a huge Lion King fan (and DD3 is turning out to to love it as well calls it “Hakuna Matata” as that’s her favorite song) so it’s a must-do. We all generally enjoy Finding Nemo AND love musicals so that will be a must-do as well. If we can fit in Feathered Friends, then we will based on the rave reviews I’ve seen of it here. We also want time to wander trails to see hippos, gorillas, tigers etc. In 2016 the kids dressed up as Wilderness Explorers and between the 2 days we did EVERY SINGLE badge (including forfeiting 2 of our 3 of our FPP’s on the 2nd day in favor of completing the badges beore 6pm park close). We don’t endeavor to even think about completing all, but we will still sign up & do a few as time allows.
- Wildlife Train & Conservation Station. We love train rides so if time allows between shows & before it closes, we’ll be sure to do this one and also I cannot wait to see the petting zoo. DLR used to have one in the Big Thunder Ranch that was sacrificed to build SW:GE and while GE is most definitely an improvement in many ways, I miss the quiet corner & interacting with the goats. So I’ll be super stoked if we get to see goats in WDW. We did make it back here in 2016 and it was especially wonderful because DLR’s goats had just been re-homed 3 months earlier.
- Lowest priority is all of Dino-land but I know all the kids would find it enjoyable, so we’ll hope it can be worked in. We will skip KRR unless we really feel the need to cool down (and even then DS5 will most certainly want to skip it as river raft rides are definitely above his thrill level).
- For meals we have breakfast at Tusker House towards the end of breakfast and will do Satu’li for dinner. If we need a snack in between, we’ll maybe share some things at Flame Tree or wherever’s convenient to where we are when we need the snack. For entertainment we will definitely be staying to see the Tree of Life Awakening and end our night wandering out slowly from our last park.
- When AK was going to close at 7pm (before updated hours) and when our hotel was AoA in a Finding Nemo room the plan was to eat at Satu’li as the last thing in AK & then do night swimming in the Big Blue Pool while I used our requested room conveniently close to both pool & laundry to get a little laundry done so we could use the same park clothes for non-pool time on the cruise ship. Now that we’re at POP with an 8pm park closing time, we may reserve all swimming for the ship & beaches, but I will still need to do a tad bit of laundry so we have enough bottoms/shorts for the cruise, but maybe let the kids get some sleep before our early morning wake-up to drive to Miami.
Our plan is to be pulling out of POP’s parking lot by 6-6:30. We’ll likely get coffee/bfast from the McD’s & be on our way. If we leave as planned & our drive doesn’t run into delays, we should arrive by 11ish to the port. I expect that we’ll be running behind that plan by at least 30m-1hr because 6:30 is early for us. By design we are aiming that early so we are actually leaving by 7-7:30 where’s there’s still room for wiggling. In that case arrival should be 12ish which should fit our port arrival time of 12:30 quite nicely. Worst case scenario we are leaving POP at 8ish & it’s a 6-7 hr drive where we show up at 2-3ish, still in time, if a little stressed, for all aboard at 3:45pm. And maybe a little hangry bc we’ll only have had car snacks & will likely need to wait to eat after the Muster drill on the ship. But I’m at least somewhat confident that with the older kids & DH’s help in wrangling/packing everything that we’ll be fully able to avoid worst case.
Anywho, I’ll be trying to finalize shopping for all the things we’ll need & then get a head-start on packing so that I can then dedicate more time to finalize TP’s for EP, MK & AK (and then hopefully report back here on any planning updates).