“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no ace, dreams are forever.”
This Spring Break, we went to Disney World.
We thought our girls were prime at ages 4 and 7, and they lobbed back, embracing the experience. Even Veronica (who’s so over Frozen/who dressed for Halloween as a vampire) asked to dress in a Belle costume complete with glitter, a bump-it, and a tiara.
There were highs – lots of highs. And there were lows. But overall, it was magical.
I’d like to share my top ten Disney World take-aways.
1. Download the My Disney Experience App. It’s free, and the app was critical for exploring the parks. You can get wait times for attractions, fireworks, and parades. You can hunt down characters, make dining reservations, track your reservations and activities, and tweak your fast passes on the fly.
2. Plan out your Fast Passes. Use your app. You don’t want to wait in line at the park to get fast passes. It looked miserable!
I was worried because we were not staying on property, and thus didn’t have the advantage of lining up our fast passes 60 days in advance.
I pictured us in the queues:
But the day before our trip, I checked on My Disney Experience app and low and behold, the fast passes were available. You get three fast passes a day and they are money. We waited 10 minutes for Splash Mountain instead of 90 minutes in the stand-by lane.
Fast passes are a one-off experience. By that I mean, you can use them once during your allotted hour. I assumed you could endlessly use your fast pass within your hour, so S and I passed through a second time at Peter Pan’s Flight, not knowing. She was saying again, again. It was pouring rain, and I was following her lead. We avoided the 70-minute and were let on. I thought, this is incredible! Wishful thinking … We got busted trying to go twice on the Barnstormer roller coaster.
3. Stay On or Stay Off – It Depends. The first time we went to Disney World, V was 20 months old. We stayed on property at the Grand Floridian with our extended family. We were there two days – in and out – so we wanted to maximize our time with no commute.
This time, we opted to stay off property using points from my parents’ time share (thanks mom and dad!). We had a full week to spend and bought a six-day pass to the parks. A car was necessary, thus invoking a $17 daily fee for parking and a 30-minute commute for my husband. No afternoon jaunts to the pools, but we had a spacious condo and the price was much lower.
My thought – weigh out your options each time. Check your pocketbook and your wants/priorities, and go from there. But whatever you do, insert downtime – read: Hotel days! This time it meant a late start. We slept in at our condo (the weather wasn’t pool worthy), and rallied to the parks late morning for the rest of the day.
4. Sign up for Disney characters meals. The reservation window opens six months prior to departure, and if you want to snag a table at Cinderella’s Royal Table, get when the getting’s good. I actually reserved dinner with Cinderella before I bought plane tickets or booked a hotel.
The character meals are AMAZING! Your kiddos get front-row viewing of their favorites. We did Cinderella’s Royal Table and Mickey’s BBQ. Only glitch at Cinderella’s castle … the Magic Kingdom is dry. So if you want an adult bevy, you’re out of luck. I’m just saying …
At Mickey’s BBQ, we got to meet the original characters. S’s favorite show is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so this was a score.
At the Castle, we saw Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.
5. Purchase a Signature Book. I love the one with the photo inserts. The girls got them from their cousins for their birthday. Unfortunately, the first day, it poured rain and we left the books in the stroller. Fail. This meant books ruined and a $35 purchase for new ones. It’s a worthwhile souvenir, so learn from me: Take your books with you on the rides or cover them in plastic. You never know when the sky might open for a quick Florida rain.
6. Hollywood Studios is My Husband’s Favorite. The fast-car chases, Indiana Jones explosions, and the simulated Star Wars ride are entertaining. The Tower of Terror is a blast, but I must say, I blocked V’s eyes at the start. I didn’t want her to have endless nightmares (like me!), and wanted her to be able to stay in a hotel again.
The image when they open the elevator to the hotel floor is quite frightening. V liked the ride … better than Space Mountain where she cried. Poor buddy. I didn’t realize you sat single file, so I couldn’t hold her hand. She said she did the five finger prayer the entire time. I also prayed – that my head wasn’t chopped off à la ’80’s lore – and ducked low most of the ride.
We enjoyed Mama Melrose’s at Hollywood. It’s quality Italian food, and it guarantees you a fast-pass spot for the Illuminations show at 8 p.m. This show is well worth it! Similar to the character meals, sign up in advance.
Phineas and Ferb are right outside of the restaurant:
7. Epcot is My Favorite. We created our own cars, launched into space, lunched on falafel. And we went to Paris! I quite enjoy the world showcase as you feel like you’re meandering through each country. Plus, it’s an easy wait to meet the princesses in their home countries.
Belle roaming the countryside in her daily frock:
Veronica confessing to Mulan that she cut her own hair when she was 3 to be like the Chinese warrior:
Despite Stella’s love for all things Frozen, we didn’t wait to see Elsa and Anna. I overheard several times that the wait time was four-plus hours in Norway.
We took a sneak peak instead …
8. Bring a Stroller. My daughters are 4 and 7, so I wouldn’t necessarily think we’d need a stroller. But we were thankful we brought ours. If you ever want to hustle or bi-pass the crowds, the stroller is your ticket. We had a single stroller, but loaded the girls in together making it a doubler. Plus, it’s an amazing pack mule. The stroller is the perfect spot to throw your shit – we stored our waters, Bunny Grahams, ponchos (you need these!), back-up clothes, the overpriced Disney water fan, sunscreens, and hats.
The parks allow you to bring in beverages and food, so why not? The stroller will help you to save your money so you can purchase the Mickey ice creams, crazy-expensive balloons, and Epcot beers (an Oktoberfest tastes different in Germany, right?).
9. Roll with it. The best parts of our trip were the unexpected experiences we happened upon. We stepped out of a late lunch at Liberty Tavern (they have a fantastic veggie/quinoa burger!) to a packed street, people awaiting the Festival of Fantasy Parade. We unknowningly had a first-class viewing of all the princesses, one float at a time.
The pure joy on my daughters’ faces as the princesses paraded by was tear jerking. Merida (from Brave) made eye-contact with V, then pointed at her hair and at V’s remarking on the red color. V was floored at the noticing. Her mouth dropped and she actually said, wow. How cool is that!
You just never know what you’ll see:
10. Recruit an another adult to join your party. It’s ideal to keep the adult-to-child-ratio adult heavy. I lured my mother-in-law into coming with us, keeping us at 3:2. This was so helpful!
What’s your favorite Disney experience? What would you do differently next time you did Disney?
Ciao for now.