We’re home from our first Disney vacation and WOW! What a trip it was! If you didn’t see the two reveal videos on my Facebook, you must go watch! Zoey had no idea the magnitude of Disney World… she just did not understand, which was really cute. Unfortunately part 1 of the videos is sideways and wonky, but you can still see and hear our conversation with her as we were driving up to the first park.
Here are a few notes about our trip:
Arrival & The Weekend
Our vacation was from Saturday, October 10 to Saturday, October 17 and we visited the parks Monday-Friday. We left our house at 5:30 AM on Saturday and drove all the way to the Summer Bay Resort in one day (with stops, of course). Thanks to Atlanta traffic and road construction, it ended up taking 14 hours to get down there from where I live just north of Nashville. We expected it to take 12.
Sunday we relaxed and recovered from the long drive on Saturday. We slept in, went swimming, did some grocery shopping, and it was wonderful. I am so glad that we planned it this way and didn’t just jump to the parks. I could understand if we had flown down… but after a 14-hour drive, we needed a day to rest before going to Disney parks. Also on this day, I had the best fish and chips I had EVER had, hands down. So delicious!
Monday we went to Hollywood Studios. I hear and read a lot of mixed reviews on Hollywood Studios, but I really enjoyed it and would definitely love to spend more time there. Our highlight of this day was the Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Zoey was just tall enough to ride it (48″ limit and she is 49″ tall) and she did it TWICE. I don’t know many five-year-olds who would even survive one trip on that ride, much less twice. I was thrilled to get to ride it with her a second time in the evening when the line was shorter. We also went to Beauty and the Beast LIVE and The Frozen Singalong – both were fantastic. The new Toy Story ride was a ton of fun as well, and we had a FastPass for it so we didn’t wait but 15 minutes instead of 110. 🙂 Zoey enjoyed Star Tours so much that we rode it twice. Apparently there are 50 different experiences for that ride, so it wasn’t the same the second time around!
FastPasses: Toy Story Midway Mania, Frozen Singalong, Star Tours
Tuesday we went to Epcot. I really wish we could have spent two full days at Epcot because there is just so much to see! We ended up hunting for characters to meet and riding rides more than anything since we were there for Zoey, not us, so we didn’t fully immerse in the cultures of each country, but we did spend some extra time in China and Japan because we have a special place in our hearts for Asian culture. Zoey loved the Reflections of China, and I could see her enjoying all of the culture visits a bit more when she’s a little bit older. The highlight of this day was the Princess Breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Zoey got to dress as a princess, dine with them, and do a couple of “princess parades” around the hall. Afterward, we changed her clothes and went on a character meet hunt! Our favorite ride was Soarin’.
Of all the fireworks, Epcot’s Illuminations show was my favorite. Hollywood Studios has some cool technology with video projection on the water, but Zoey was so terrified the whole time, I didn’t enjoy it as much because she didn’t. Epcot’s show, however, was fantastic.
FastPasses: Soarin’, Mission Space, Spaceship Earth
Wednesday we went to Magic Kingdom and it was extremely crowded. Someone told me Wednesdays were usually the slowest days and all I could think was “wow… they lied.” HA! I think the reason it was so insane was because it was the one night of the week where there wasn’t Mickey’s Halloween Party, so you get to stay from 8 AM to Midnight instead of having to leave by 7 PM if you don’t have party passes. So because of that, everyone and their momma and grandmomma was there, and rides that shouldn’t have long lines had them (60 minutes for It’s A Small World – are you kidding me?! For the record, we did not ride it). Zoey wanted to meet Anna and Elsa on this day, but after waiting over an hour for Rapunzel, we let her make the decision on whether she wanted to wait until Thursday to try to meet them, and instead ride more rides, or stand in line to meet them… she decided she wanted to ride rides instead, so off we went, hoping this wouldn’t backfire on us!
The highlight of this day was Space Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (we ran straight to it when the park opened which means a 30-minute wait for this brand new ride that normally has a 70-minute wait). Zoey absolutely LOVED Space Mountain! It was her favorite ride, hands down. Enchanted Tales with Belle was wonderful, too – Zoey was chosen to play the part of Chip! The electric parade was just as I remembered it when I was Zoey’s age, so that was really special for me.
FastPasses: Peter Pan’s Flight, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Haunted Mansion
Mickey’s “Not-So-Scary Halloween Party”
Thursday we went to Magic Kingdom again at 4 PM for Mickey’s “Not-So-Scary Halloween Party”. During the day, we slept in, sat around and did nothing (literally), then dressed up for the party. I even got to soak in the Jacuzzi tub with Zoey for a really long time and just relax my feet. The party started at 7 PM but we were able to get in at 4 PM with our passes, which gave us time to go ride rides that we missed on Wednesday, and even meet Anna and Elsa with a much shorter line! Whew – I am so glad we fit that in… Oh, and we walked right on Space Mountain again – literally no wait. This was my favorite day of the whole trip!
The highlight was eating at Be Our Guest – it had the BEST food we had experienced all week. It was absolutely amazing and completely worth it. The second highlight was definitely meeting Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. You can only meet them at this event, and after we had been told it would be a 2-hour wait, we met them within 30 minutes. In addition, Zoey got to walk in to meet Ariel in her Grotto (again, NO WAIT), and we then took her Trick or Treating. And let me just say, Disney does NOT skimp on the candy. Not only is it the good candy, they give it by the handfuls… not just one or two pieces. HAND. FULLS. We only did half the trick or treating and still came home with more candy than we need! I think we picked a good night to attend the party because it wasn’t very busy at all. Although compared to Wednesday, anything would have been better…
FastPasses: N/A on Halloween Party nights
Friday we went to Animal Kingdom, and I am glad that we saved it for the last day when we were the most exhausted, because it wasn’t my favorite, to be honest. Not for the price. They are working on it though, and a lot of construction was going on, but it was so crowded and I kept thinking, “for what? Why are so many people here at this glorified zoo?” I could not justify visiting that park again for several years until they are done with their additions. Many people spend half a day here and then Park Hop to somewhere else. We spent 1/2 of a day and just left Disney all together, and went out to eat off site. I will say, the highlight of this day was Festival of the Lion King – it was AMAZING! Zoey got chosen twice to play parts – once in the beginning (she got to do the first lion’s roar), and again at the end for the parade around the room.
Our favorite ride was definitely Expedition Everest. The rollercoaster goes backwards for part of the ride, and of course, Zoey loved it. We did the safari as well, and it was cool. The Dino Land was kind of lame, but the DINOSAUR ride was a lot of fun! I am glad we experienced Animal Kingdom, but we’ll definitely skip it next go around unless a lot has changed between now and then.
FastPasses: Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Festival of the Lion King
Saturday, we drove home, and it didn’t take as long as it did heading down. We had such an amazing vacation and we’re already talking about returning in two years during the same time of year, but planning it out a bit differently:
- In terms of hotel: we’ll stay on site next time. We loved the resort we stayed at and we can’t beat the price we paid for the size condo we were in, but I want to be able to hop on the monorail or a shuttle in the morning and just go, and not have to head to a car and drive. Plus, we hope to have a one-year-old by then, so lots of babywearing and easy access to a bed will be required.
- In terms of food: we saved a lot of money by eating a hot breakfast in our condo every day, and packing lunch 3 of the 5 park days. We had beef summer sausage, cheese, rice crackers, frozen grapes and tortilla pinwheels on those days, and they were perfect lunches for those hot days… they were refreshing, light, cheap, and so easy to feed all 6 of us who went. I would love to do that again, to be honest. We also packed a lot of our own snacks – KIND bars, fruit leathers, and applesauce pouches. We had a budget for ice cream every day, so we still enjoyed our daily frozen treats!
- In terms of the parks: I think next time we will do 1.5 days at Hollywood Studios, 2 days at Epcot, 1.5 days at Magic Kingdom (same as this time), and skip Animal Kingdom. But of course, that could change between now and starting to plan the next trip! Maybe we’ll fit in half a day. We will definitely stick to our Monday-Friday park days and skip the weekends, especially if we drive down. I’m kind of hoping we can fly next time though… but it will cost $1,000 or more for all 3 of us, so we’ll see. It might be easier to fly than drive that far with a baby in tow (although we did 13 hours to Kansas when Zoey was 6 months old)… here’s hoping we have a baby to plan around, anyway!
I’m not going to write posts with tips and tricks that we learned over the week, because there are plenty of other blogs out there who have already done all the work for you and they have done a fantastic job. However, I will share the 10 resources I frequently used to plan the trip and to prepare my brain for what was to come so you can check them out:
- Disney World’s Official Site
- Undercover Tourist (buy your park tickets here and sign up for their emails – they are the reason we even got reservations for Be Our Guest. They sent out an alert as soon as reservations opened for the night of the Halloween Party and I jumped on it immediately.)
- Disney Fanatic (sign up for their emails)
- WDW Prep School (sign up for their emails)
- Touring Plans
- Mouse Savers
- A Little WDW Magic
- Disney Food Blog
- Disney Dining
- Disney Tourist Blog
So that’s it! We finally did it! We took our miracle baby girl to Disney World for the first time in her life, and we look forward to many more Disney adventures in our future. I am so glad we waited until she was 5.5 years old to go, because she was the perfect age. She handled the lines really well, behaved really well, and she will actually remember her first visit.
Now to sleep…