We recently went down to Disney World. This was the second time for our family. It was a great time. We actually spent a few days in Florida at the beach, so it was like two trips in one! It was a fantastic trip, for the most part. Disney World can definitely be the most magical place on Earth, though magic means that you're tired, that's for sure.
Here are ten things I loved and two I didn't.
Things We Loved About Disney World
We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter hotel. This was our first time staying at a moderate. We loved it. Compared to just about every other resort, it's very small. The rooms aren't decorated with Disney themed decor, but more New Orleans decor. At first my 6-year old daughter was not impressed. However, by the end of the trip, we were all in love. It was a very peaceful and relaxing place to stay. We took a stroll along the riverside, which was practically right outside our door.
We even got to save money here. They offered us $10 in gift card credits if we would decline housekeeping. We were glad to do this, and got a $40 gift card as a result. Bonus!
Our Meal Plan
When we booked the trip, we were just going to pay as you go. But, a few weeks ago we booked the meal plan. This gives each person the following per day:
- One table service meal
- One quick service meal
- Two snack credits
My wife did a lot of research and we definitely got good value for our plan. She booked us at some places that would have cost quite a bit out of pocket. Plus, we got to try some amazing side dishes and deserts that would have cost quite a bit. But, in the end, we had no regrets at all about this cost.
There are bloggers and vloggers that make a living dispensing Disney related advice. I'm not lying. And it's good advice! My wife spent the weeks leading up to the trip watching videos while on the treadmill each morning. We learned a lot of fantastic things as result. From places to eat (and to avoid) to travel tips, we learned a lot from different videos. And best of all, it's all free!
On both of our trips, we used a travel agent, but this was a much better experience. Our last agent really didn't seem all that helpful. She worked with us but never really seemed to got to know us. The whole ‘blah' experience was exemplified when she never followed up during the trip or afterward to see how things went.
For this trip, we found someone different, and she was, in a word, incredible! Her name was Kelly from Simply Enchanted Travel. (I get nothing back from referrals). She was in constant touch with us before, during, and even after the trip. She sent us this goodie bag before the trip, complete with a customized, bound itinerary handbook. Booking through a travel agent doesn't cost you any more than if you book things yourself. So the cost savings is good to begin with, but it's especially awesome when you find a great agent!
Great Wait Staff
One of the knocks on Disney World is that their dining experiences are often iffy. Wait staff can be a big knock here. But, for several of our ‘signature' meals in the places we were looking forward to the most, the staff was awesome. This turned several really good sit-down meals into absolutely awesome meals.
The dining plan has recently been modified so that table service and quick service meals include an adult beverage. After a long day at the park, this definitely was a nice little touch. On our last trip, we often purchased a drink anyway, so this worked out very nicelly.
Our kids are of the age (8 and 6) where meeting characters was still a big draw. There were a few really fun characters that they'll remember for a long time. Olaf (from Frozen) acted scared of my son's Darth Vader shirt. Sadness (from Inside Out) was just perfect, making you want to do nothing more than give her hug after hug. It's really cool to see the characters that we all know ‘come to life'.
The Nighttime Castle Show
I can't remember what's it's called, but they do a show at the Cinderella castle that's amazing. I grumbled at having to stake out our spot over an hour in advance, but it's awesome. The castle is transformed over and over again to capture moments from many Disney and Pixar movies. There's fireworks and music and it's truly amazing.
The Love For Mickey & Minnie
On our last day, each kid got a stuffed character toy. My son got Mickey Mouse and my daughter got Minnie. After they got them, there were so many cast members (Disney workers) that would acknowledge them, waving or saying hello to Mickey and Minnie. It always brought a smile to the kids faces. It's great to see the special love for the characters that got the whole thing started.
Flight of Passage
The hot ride across all four parks right now is Pandora: Flight of Passage. It just opened last year and the wait times are always high, and the longest of any ride. We got a Fast Pass for it so we got right on. Both my wife and I agreed that we didn't want to know anything about it. As such, we avoided reading about it or having others tell us anything about it.
With that in mind, I won't spoil any details, either, but I will say this: It. Was. Awesome. I've been on a lot of different rides at different parks and this was definitely like no other. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Things We Didn't Love
There were a few things we could have lived without. None of this took away from our overall experience, as we realize no trip is ever perfect. Still, maybe this will help others in future planning.
I've been on this ride before. It's where you get buckled into a simulated space ship and go for a training mission around Earth. It's a pretty cool ride and was shaping up to be this time as well, when it abruptly stopped. Something malfunctioned and we stopped moving. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal but you're in a very, very enclosed space. Like, you sit down, the shoulder harness comes down, and then the pod closes right on top of that. Once we stopped, you quickly realize how you are trapped.
Luckily, we were only trapped for about ten minutes, but both my son and wife started getting upset, and we were extremely glad to get out. Disney did give us an extra fast pass to use for the trouble. Still, all four of us agreed that we'll definitely skip this one in the future.
Busy Season Is All The Time
Many people try to plan trips around how busy it gets. A piece of advice: Don't bother. It's busy all the time. Disney is spending a lot of money on park upgrades and really focusing on revenue growth in this area. They just opened Pandora last year. Toy Story land will open this year. Star Wars land will open next year. These are all projects where they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars apiece.
With that in mind, they are working hard and succeeding at keeping the parks full. Simply put, there is no time where things aren't busy. You will have to wait in line. You're going to be among crowds of people most of the time. It's unavoidable. But, if you go in knowing what to expect, you'll be fine.
That, and a great travel agent helps!
Have you been to a Disney park lately? Any plans? Let me know in the comments below.