DISNEY!! I’d go back tomorrow if James would let me! Although my feet may protest some as well!!
I’ve heard people say they’re only a morning person at Disney and it’s TRUE. There’s no resting on this vacation!! I joked it’s too expensive to sleep at Disney lol! And there’s so much to do and see!
But as much as I love it, I feel like Disney has made things overly complicated to truly get a full experience. There are apps and mobile ordering and Genie and Genie+ and Lighting Lanes and Memory Makers and it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. I got to be the keeper of the itinerary and app all week and with great power comes great responsibility! I think the key really is to just take little bites and try not to plan out too far into the day if you can. (At least that’s what worked for us.) We had an overall goal to shoot for but were able to fill in the blanks throughout the day little by little. Everyone asked me 5,000 times what’s next and where we’re going and what’s the plan and only once did I have to break out my preschool teacher tricks! “We’re going to go the Laugh Floor then Paxton and Michael are going to ride Mine Train. Touch your nose if you heard me say we’re going to the Laugh Floor.” If you can manage expectations and go little by little, I think you’ll be just fine!
We delegated food procurement to James and my mom mostly (since they sat out of a lot of the rides) and we probably should have used the mobile ordering more but live and learn. I would recommend eating at off peak times when possible. We shared snacks and quick service meals during the day and for lunch then tried to have a bigger meal for dinner and that worked out pretty well. I feel like this blog post needs its own food breakdown lol!! We didn’t do any table service meals. With a party of eight, it’s tough to get reservations. We only wanted one at the Sci-Fi Drive In and it was booked immediately. I’m sure there are all sorts of tips and tricks but none that worked out for us this time.
We did have Genie+ but I am not at all the person to ask about how to use it. A member of our party was eligible for a DAS pass which worked out for most everything we wanted to do. (If you think you may qualify, by all means check out the Disney site for that and they can answer ALL the questions. We did the video call ahead of time to set it up and, while we did have to wait for SIX hours, I think it was worth it in the time saved at the park and being able to make two advanced reservations. And every cast member was super helpful in answering all of our questions before we arrived and once in the park too.) Because of the size of our group, two people had to sit out if we used the DAS pass but 9/10 times it wasn’t a problem. If there was something everyone wanted to ride, we were able to do those things when the waits were shorter and I used the Genie+ for a couple of rides at Magic Kingdom. It can get very overwhelming trying to schedule and keep everything straight so I felt comfortable by that time in our trip trying to manage an additional aspect of planning. But there are some super great and helpful blogs and youtube videos that give you all the tips and trick and planning strategies for getting the most out of Genie+ and Lighting Lane reservations.
Let’s jump right in!
I wish I’d taken more pictures of our resort because it was so beautiful, especially at night! But we were in such a rush to get checked in and over to Epcot that we didn’t slow down much.
The lobby and the rooms were decorated so nicely. We stopped at a little cafe for a snack when we arrived while we were getting checked in. Out on the boardwalk area were the cutest little stands and places to eat. Again, I wish we’d had more time to explore all of this! James went down for breakfast at one of the little bakeries on the boardwalk every morning and that was super yummy.
The boardwalk behind the resort goes down to the back entrance of Epcot in one direction and Hollywood Studios in the other direction. There’s also a water taxi too but we walked to both parks. When we came back from Epcot our first night, we got rained on (the only rain we had except for the last evening at Disney Springs!) and we were dead tired after Hollywood Studios so we didn’t get to look around much. But the pool looked amazing and they had a movie night one evening on the lawn.
The bed wasn’t the most comfortable but not bad. Our biggest issue was finding our way back inside the building every night! We were on the garden level but somehow we ended up taking two elevators to get there every night. There was only one night I almost cried at the thought of going up and down an unnecessary set of stairs! Again, if we’d had more time to get our bearings, I would have loved to explore this resort more!
Epcot!!! We love Epcot and it always seems like the best park to start off each trip. It’s slower paced, spread out, lots of yummy food, and just enough rides to keep everyone having fun. We also went during the flower festival and these exhibits were AMAZING. So many neat topiaries throughout the park and the flowers were just breathtaking.
We came in through the entrance at the World Showcase and made our way towards the front of the park and the big golf ball, as the boys call it. We stopped to see Mary Poppins in England and Pooh catching butterflies outside of Figment. When we went, you still couldn’t do up close character greets which was a bit of a bummer. But it was still fun to see a couple of our favorites!
Figment was our first ride and always a classic favorite. I remember going on it when I came with my parents and my brother’s awesome figment hat, complete with wings! We love the entire Nemo area! If you don’t do anything else in Epcot, you’ve got to go to Turtle Talk with Crush. We’re biased, yes, but it’s the best. Crush interacts and talks with the kids in the audience and it was so funny. Cam’s face was the best through the whole thing! We got James on Soarin’ and he said it was one of his favorite parts of the whole trip. I love that each new location has its own smell! (I may have ordered a candle with the Tahiti smell so I’ll let you know how that goes!)
We also talked Eri and Cam into riding Test Track even though they were very nervous. But they both loved it and wanted to ride again! Unfortunately it kept showing up as “temporarily closed” throughout the day so we only got one ride. My mom, who doesn’t ride much, wanted to ride Frozen but I think she regretted it! We didn’t know there was a little drop… backwards… and then another forwards but I thought it was fun!
We took a break to cool off in the Pixar Shorts show and I had written it off as nothing more than a place to sit for a few minutes out of the heat. They showed three Pixar shorts and I knew it was a risky proposition but I thought we’d escape with no tears. I. WAS. WRONG. The last one got me! A dog AND a baby!? I was done for. And just as I wiped my tears quickly as the lights came up, Erika Lynne loudly exclaims “ARE YOU CRYING!?” only to turn to James on the other side and say “ARE YOU CRYING TOO!?!” Of course Granddaddy cried and we were all a mess. Except Erika Lynne apparently! Still worth it though!
Our final ride of the night was Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and it was SO FUN. Eri gets terrible motion sickness so we weren’t sure how many rides she’d be able to do (even with Dramamine on board) but thankfully she was able to ride everything she wanted and was so happy she didn’t miss out on this! It’s a trackless ride with 3D effects and impossible to do justice with a quick explanation. It was so fun and I HIGHLY recommend! The whole area outside of the ride too is magical at night! The fountain and the music were just awesome!
We had lunch when we got off Soarin’ in whatever that big food area is in that building. Honestly I have no idea what it was called. It smelled amazing, they had a wide variety of food, and someone else was on food procurement! It was super yummy. We ended up doing dinner at the big American place in the back of the World Showcase because it was getting ready to storm and we’d hoped to be able to see the fireworks from back there. Unfortunately, the rain was to heavy and the storm too strong so we ate inside before making our way back to the hotel. Thankfully that was the only rain we saw at the parks!
Hollywood Studios! Otherwise known as Star Wars and a bunch of other stuff!
Like everyone else, we made a beeline for Galaxy’s Edge and it did not disappoint. You are completely immersed in all things Star Wars and the detail is incredible. It does get very hot and crowded during the day but there are some little areas in the shade tucked away here and there. But you MUST go back at night. It was a completely different experience and almost no one there when we walked through in the last hour before the park closed. (Check out the day/night picture of the market below! The kids were in the day picture and it was NO ONE there at night.)
All of the Star Wars rides were incredible. Rise of the Resistance was just amazing. It’s a ride, yes, but so much more before you even get to the “ride” part! We rode Smuggler’s Run (twice!) and my dad is still a little salty we didn’t let him ride. It was SUPER jerky though and a hurting back on vacation isn’t good for anyone but next time I don’t think he’ll take no for an answer! The first time, James and Mike were our pilots, Cam and Pax were the gunners, and Eri and I were the engineers. The second ride, Eri and James flew us, Mike and Pax were the gunners, and Cam and I were the engineers. Don’t miss it for sure!
We had a little snack in (I think) the Docking Bay right outside of the Millenium Falcon and it was meh. James just picked something for us to share and I guess it’s not what I would have picked so maybe that was the problem. We had basically veggies and hummus and some weird cake thing that I couldn’t eat. When you go for veggies over cake at Disney, you know it’s not great. There were a TON of really interesting foods and drinks and I do feel like we missed out on that. It’s tough to coordinate so many people with the crowds and the lines and the heat and do the rides.
There are also some fun photo pass stops here as well. The kids got their picture with the Millennium Falcon up on one of the higher landings and there’s even a neat wide view video they do there too. On the app, there are filters you can use in different parts of the park so we added Baby Yoda in to a few photos also on my phone.
Even without Star Wars, there’s SO MUCH to do and see at Hollywood Studios. We snagged a spot on Mickey’s Runaway Railroad and it’s so creative and fun! It’s another trackless ride like Remi and Rise of the Resistance and honestly it’s such amazing new technology. We had to hit the Indiana Jones Stunt show (get there early because it will fill up!) and Eri made us sprint to the last Frozen Sing Along of the day but oh was it worth it! It was pretty funny but my favorite part was Eri singing every Frozen song at the top of her lungs! She was singing so loud that a little boy in front of us turned around to watch! It really is a fun show and even the boys didn’t mind. (Maybe James a little but he’d never admit he liked it!)
Toy Story was an experience all itself! We, of course had to ride Toy Story Mania (a favorite the kids talked about from our last trip) and Mike and Pax rode Slinky Dog Dash. I do wish I’d gone too but there were no other takers and I didn’t want to ride alone. We had dinner at Andy’s Lunch box and it was good! It was getting dark when we left there and it’s super neat at night also. Giant Christmas lights strung across the walkways and all of the toy details really make you feel like you’re in a big toy box!
Magic Kingdom is my FAVORITE of all the parks! We spent two days here and I’m not sad about it! There’s always so much to do and see here and I loved that we didn’t have to rush here at all. We hit all of the highlights – It’s A Small World, Peter Pan, Space Mountain, Dumbo, parades, fireworks, Dole Whips, Mickey Bars, Tiki Room, and even those weird Country Bears! We always head straight to the castle then right through to Fantasyland when we get there. Everyone has a MK park opening strategy and this works for us! (If you’re a Rope-Dropper, you’re a better mom than I am! I can’t!)
It’s a Small World. Love it or hate it, you have to admit it’s a classic and it’s always our first stop. I’m a fan, honestly. At this point I think it’s more nostalgia than anything. On our very first trip when Eri was turning five, she called it The World is Getting Smaller and ever since it’s a family favorite. On our last trip, Pax even lost his tooth on the ride! Magic bands are a must on this because as you leave, your name will pop up on the screen. So neat!!
We finally got to see Mickey! The kids joked that I could finally change the screensaver on my phone since I still have our Mickey picture from when Cam was two. Literally the day we flew home was the day you could hug Mickey again so we got distanced, cell phone photos with Mickey. Whomp whomp. I’m not mad about it. I’m super happy for everyone who gets to hug Mickey and NOT AT ALL mad about not getting my Mickey picture…. okay I was a little grumpy lol!! But it’s fine! It’s Mickey! And that just means we need to go back, right!?
As many times as we’ve been, we’d never done the Tiki Room or the Country Bear Jamboree and, if I’m being totally honest, we weren’t missing much. The best part of the Country Bears was the older lady in front of us having the absolute time of her life followed only by the not so older lady behind us that sang every word to every song. We’d also never had a Dole Whip (I KNOW!) and all decided that we could eat one or two of those every day. YUM.
Eri put together a Rapunzel outfit for our first day so we of course had to swing by the Tangled restrooms over on the backside of Fantasyland for a quick photoshoot! She even went to see Rapunzel and got a selfie while we rode Space Mountain. You can see her tower peeking over the trees back there and Maximus’s footprints all along the walkways.
We also had to find just the right spot to recreate a photo from our honeymoon!! We celebrated 17 years on the Saturday we were down there which was so special! Shout out to the photo pass photographer who helped us find the right angle for our photo!
Tomorrowland is always a fun place for us! Cam got to drive me around the Tomorrowland Speedway (I had to operate the pedal lol!) and after he kept bumping us into the guide rail repeatedly, he told me not to worry because he’d been driving since five minutes ago. We rode Space Mountain and he decided that was not for him. I’ve always loved it but this time I’m with Cam! I’m too old for these lol!! The People Mover was a great way to relax and take it all the sights so we made sure to put that on our list both days. The boys and I rode the Astro Orbiter, which I’d never been on either! So fun! We also got Mickey Bars there for a snack and had lunch at Cosmic Ray’s.
We were all able to ride Pirates the our second day there thanks to Genie+. Seriously it’s a whole strategy to picking rides and getting reservations and with the DAS pass and everything else, we just didn’t get a ton of use out of it. I do wish I’d used it more for other parks but really we did get to ride quite a few things all together with some careful timing. With the park so busy, it’s definitely something to utilize to avoid the super long lines.
We were able to catch a couple of the parades too but since the kids are a little older, we don’t really camp out for a prime spot like we did when they were little. My advice would be to get a spot near the end of the parade (we caught the end on Main Street right before we went in to see Mickey) or a spot where you plan to stay for a little bit because the mass of people who move out after the parade passes is crazytown.
Speaking of crazytown… we (obviously) had to catch the fireworks our first night and, while it was worth every second, HOLY SEA OF HUMANS, BATMAN. Naively, we thought 30 minutes before we should “make our way over” towards the castle. We came off the bridge between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and I’ve never seen so many people in all my life. They have walkways taped off where folks are shuttled through and as we passed by the area right at the base of the castle, there was a little spot just big enough for our group to scoot in. We stopped there since we didn’t know if we’d be able to find a better spot for all of us and it was very close but so perfect! Wishes was the show we saw on our last trip and that gave me all the feels but Disney Enchantment is something to see! The projections and the music and the fireworks are just incredible. There are truly no words to describe it!
There are a thousand other moments I want to remember and so much more we did on this trip that I didn’t even cover. Everyone always asks me is Disney worth it? Is it worth the money? Is it worth the hassle? Is it worth the stress? Is it worth the crowds and the heat and the planning? And I always say a thousand times YES. While there’s no magic like your kid’s first trip to Disney, I don’t think you every outgrow Disney. You just find new things to love about it! Eri singing Frozen as loud as she could in a room full of excited six year olds is locked in forever as a favorite memory. Cam still asking to get his picture with Pooh and ride the Pooh ride melts my momma heart. Seeing the awe on Paxton’s face in Galaxy’s Edge is something I’ll always treasure. When you go to Disney as a mom, you look less and less at what’s around you and more at those little faces you brought with you. And even when those little faces aren’t so little anymore, it’s so easy to catch a glimpse back in time if you look closely under the light of fireworks or as you fly over Neverland with Peter Pan. That’s really the magic of Disney. You really never do have to grow up.