Jul 11, 2012
Hey there! Last week we were in Florida, which was absolutely glorious! We split our time between Disney and seeing some stuff down around the Gulf of Mexico. Rather than try to stuff the whole trip into one post, I’ll do a few to give you a summary of how we enjoyed our trip!
First things first: Disney World.
I’ve been to Disney a bunch of times in my life, having lived within driving distance to Orlando much of my life. As we were there, Peter and I calculated that I’d been to 4 Disney theme parks 9 times in the last 12 years. That’s a lot. I don’t know whether to be proud or embarssed?!
In any case, Disney holds a special spot in both of our hearts for numerous reasons. Firstly, as I mentioned, I went there a bunch with my family growing up. Plus, it was the first family vacation that Peter joined us on, and it was where we went on our honeymoon (also on a cruise). And so as we were looking to our 6th anniversary, and thinking about how we wanted to fit everything in this summer, we knew that Disney needed to be a part of it, even if it was just for a brief time! So this time around we only had 2 days, and we crammed in 3 parks. Yup, we’re pros!
I’ll explain some of what we did, and then give you a bunch of useful links to help you plan your own Disney vacay!
I won’t profess to know everything about every theme park, but Peter and I do generally know what’s where without the maps, so it makes it easy for us to zip in and out! Plus, we don’t have kids, which again would take more time. While we were in the Magic Kingdom we utilized the FastPass system so that we could ride certain rides knowing all the while that we could just zip through the line-up at another more popular ride. Luckily for us, despite it being listed as the busiest week of the year, when we were there on Sunday, July 1st it only got busy around 1:00 p.m. Before that we literally walked directly onto popular rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean” without any line-up whatsoever.
We used the typical “fast food” restaurants to grab our food, and we grabbed a couple of things to share (sadly I can’t remember the name of the place!). One of those items was a taco salad which meant I could load it up with all kinds of healthy goodness which made it fairly healthy and hearty. Sharing is a good way to go because you can save money and try bits of everything. Not just that, but some meals don’t come with any veggies at all (unless you count a slice of tomato and a piece of lettuce as enough…), so if you get a side salad and whatnot you can make sure you get more of a well-rounded meal. Granted though, I realize you’re in a theme park, and on vacation, so it’s not like you need to be perfect!
We used a park-hopper pass to allow us to jump from the Magic Kingdom over to Hollywood Studios sometime in the late afternoon so we could see all of the fun shows there and catch a few different rides. Disney makes it really easy to go between the parks with the hopper passes as well as their awesome transportation system. They have boats, buses, and a monorail system.
One thing to do when you’re in Hollywood Studios is to confirm the show times. Because it’s based on tons of movies and theatrical productions, some things only happen once or twice a day, so you don’t want to miss those! Check out the times on the map at the beginning and plan accordingly. Don’t miss out on “Indiana Jones”…it’s always a treat!
We ate at a quick place again called “Backlot Express” where I had a grilled veggie sandwich which was completely filling. In fact, it’s so large I’d strongly suggest sharing it unless you have a hearty appetite! You can get a small side of fries or salad to go with it you think you’ll need more. It’s delicious!
For day 2 we headed to Animal Kingdom which is one of Peter’s favourite parks! It’s a nice mix of “zoo” and theme park. You can see all kinds of awesome animals but in a really amazing setting. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find certain areas of zoos boring because it’s just a cage and not much else. But Disney sets it up like it’s really the habitat of the animals, so you can see what it’s like to travel through Africa on a safari while enjoying seeing a variety of exotic animals.
When eating in Animal Kingdom there are the regular variety of sit-down and fast-food restaurants. It has much less air-conditioned options than the other parks, as far as we could tell. We ate some fast-food at Yak and Yeti Counter Service. We ordered a meal each, but it was really large portions. If it weren’t that we were so hungry, we probably could’ve just shared. We got one Beef Lo Mein and one Honey Chicken. Both were delicious!
- Get yourself a Fast Pass to some of the more popular rides so you’re not waiting in 90-minute lines in sweltering heat!
- The mornings seem to be the least busy because people tend to come in around the lunch hour and stay around until late in the day to see the night shows. If you have the opportunity, head in when the parks open.
- Park Hopper Passes are useful because, as I mentioned, they allow you to see more than one park in one day. If you’re staying for a little or a long time, these are great for making the most of your trip. They cost a bit extra, but we’ve found them useful time and time again. If you get to the park and you find that you wish you had a Park Hopper, no problem! Just head to an information booth or near the front gate and you can upgrade your ticket right there.
- Plan ahead a bit if you’ve never been to Disney and think about what rides, shows, etc. you want to see in each park. If you’re traveling with a large group you might find that it’s easier to divide and meet up at pre-assigned locations. Thinking about that ahead of time (even just the night before!) can help alleviate some stress.
- Drink lots of water if there’s extreme heat. There are a ton of water fountains, and you can purchase water from the food carts, so if you don’t want to bring in your own, there’s still options.
- Try to gauge which direction the flow of traffic is going, and go the opposite way. You’ll be able to go on more rides and only hit some congestion in the middle.
- If you’re not staying on Disney property in one of their hotels, make sure that you choose a hotel that’s really close by that has shuttle service. If their shuttle service to and from Disney has good times it can save you money on parking and make your trip a little smoother. If the times don’t line up with when you want to leave (i.e. the shuttle comes at 9 p.m. and an evening fireworks show starts at 9 p.m.), then either rent a car to drive yourself around or pay the money to take a taxi back to your hotel.
- Also on that note, if you do choose to stay in a Disney hotel they will pick you up directly at the Orlando airport and shuttle you to your hotel. It’s super easy and really convenient.
- That being said, if you don’t stay at a Disney hotel make sure you know how far your hotel is from the Orlando airport and whether they can shuttle you to and from. Ours did not shuttle us, but they told us approximately how much a taxi would cost. So we were prepared to pay the (expensive!) price.
- Carry your hotel information with you!! You never know when you’ll get turned around and need proper directions. Knowing the name won’t help as much as knowing the address.
- Use small zip-loc baggies to keep your important documents and items (like cameras). You’ll likely hit up a water ride at least once (or twice in our case!) and your stuff will get soaked. Keeping them in zip-locs means that they’ll be dry even if you aren’t.
- If you’re staying in a Disney hotel and you purchase some souvenirs in any of their gift shops in any of the parks, they will send the items directly back to your hotel without you having to carry them around all day! But what if you don’t stay in their hotels? No worries – you can store the items at one of the front desks in the parks for free and just pick it up when you’re done. You can get the specifics of where it’s located in each park from the gift shop employees.
- Do something to protect your skin – a hat, more clothing, sunscreen…whatever you choose, do something, or else your skin will likely be angry with you!
Helpful Disney Links:
- Largest Unofficial Guide to Disney World
- Best Times to Visit Disney World
- Tips for Going to Disney with a Baby