Its my first day back to work after my 2 week holiday out in Walt Disney World, so while I sit here on my lunch break, I thought it was a good idea to get down some notes about my recent trip to Walt Disney World with my lovely wife in October 2013. I’m going to do another “Vinylmation” report from my trip, but figured it would be nice to share my experience of my holiday.
We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter and it is a fabulous resort, the detail in the buildings and attention to detail is fantastic, but more importantly, the resort felt like an oasis in the madness as the resort always felt rather quiet, the way the buildings have been set up with big gardens between them along with a lovely river running along the side (which features a free boat down to Downtown Disney (perfect for Vinylmation hunting!).
This was the first time I had stayed at a Moderate resort (We stayed at the All Stars Music last year) and had the Quick Dining Plan included in the package for free! This was the first time we had been on a Dining Plan and I really felt this food package really made a huge difference to our pockets as getting breakfast and most of our meals included helped a lot. Especially since my wife generally just wanted toast for breakfast, so we had her meals for other days. With a few days away from Disney included in our holiday, meant that our Disney days, we could use the DDP for every meal. By the end of the 2 weeks, we only had 3 unused meal credits left.
We made the most of eating different things every time we ate, the idea that it is all burgers and sandwiches is a bit of a myth. It’s easy to get caught up into having burgers etc most of the time but I probably only had 4 burgers during my entire holiday and that was usually due to lack of options such as at the water parks or just because I actually fancied one. There is plenty of options on the Quick Dining Plan if you willing to look at the menus or the maps before hand. Epcot is probably the easiest place to get a good quality meal but we found even some of the snacks on the Food and Wine stands just as filling. Personal favorites included a Spicy Chicken Noodle in The Seasons in the Land and Sweet/Sour Chicken over at the Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom. We also had lunch in “Be Our Guest” in the Magic Kingdom on a Quick Dining Plan, there was a bit of a line but it was one of the things we wanted to do (we would have gone regardless of the DDP) and it was nice to be able to have a real knife and fork, I seriously got fed up of using plastic forks, knifes and throw away plates..urgh!
The snack credits came in pretty useful too, we usually ended up sharing our snack due to the size of the portions (I’m sure when American’s come to Britain they must think “where’s the other half?”). Personal favourite snacks included the Cinnamon buns at Gaston’s (though we discovered Cinnabons at Universal which were far superior in my view!), Dole Whip and probably the best place in the world, the Werther’s Original shop in Germany, Epcot…hmmmm..
So once again, this made a big difference to our pockets, though I did usually buy our drinks during the day since it didn’t take long to realise you could get a $5 snack and I didn’t want to waste them on a $2 bottle of water. I also used to grab water bottles for our breakfast meal/evening meals at the resort to use during the day.
It doesn’t sound much but spending a day at the park and only spending about $10 on drinks during the day certainly does feel good, compared to the days at Universal where we had to buy everything. But again because the QDDP was included in our package as a “free” promotion, it felt like I was getting something for free all the time, though I probably paid for it indirectly.
The magic bands really changed this trip for me, obviously you have to use them for getting into the hotel room and cashing in for food plus getting into the parks wasn’t as easy, it did feel much slower getting to the parks when it was busy as so many times people were messing about (three times they had to call someone over to reset my band!). But the magic band does have some advantages such as being a Photopass, I have never really bothered with having photos done before but we decided to give it ago. Taking a few photos when entering the park etc and we had a few printed out before we came home. Take a photo, they link it to your band and off you go, no faffing around. No commitment to buy anything!
Our resort only got transferred to the Magic Bands a couple of weeks before I left, so I was able to customise the colours (we didn’t bother buying any accessories as that just felt like a rip off!). But I did go through an pre-book Fast passes for all of our days, I mainly just picked the main things we wanted to do that I knew would be busy. Your Toy Story Mania’s, Soarin, Test Track, Under the Sea etc. My wife wasn’t convinced about this idea, she didn’t like the idea of pre-planning the whole trip in advance, but I am so glad we did as the parks got so busy that those fast passes really made a difference. With queue’s up to 95 minutes for some of those busy rides, I had picked well.
Though I did feel for anyone who did fast passes for attractions with no lines. But what I did like, was when we got to a ride that I had fast passes for that had small lines ie Malestrom and Spaceship Earth (you have to pick 3, so after Test Track/Soarin, I need a extra one), you could just jump into the normal queue and change your fast pass later. Effectively saving it for later. And when Kali River Rapids went down, our passes became “free” so we could use them on anything in the park. There was still a few issues of not being able to change a fast pass at one point so the member of staff changed it on their ipad and another time they couldn’t even do that and gave us a paper free reign pass.
Magic Bands have lots of advantages, but they have a few disadvantages and my biggest issues was that I don’t think Disney has enough terminals in their parks, Magic Kingdom wasn’t too bad but the other parks it was like hide and seek trying to find a terminal. Either to change a choice or just to remember what times I had booked. I don’t want to spend my entire holiday on my smartphone, heck it would stay in the safe for the whole day. Its all very fine Disney pushing the idea of using your smartphone (which if you asked a question, that was the general response “Use a smartphone!”). Since Disney introduced Free Wifi into the parks, now people are just standing in lines, glued to their screens, its so annoying. Especially while I was watching the Wishes fireworks show and two kids sat next to me have their face glued to the phone while the show goes on. I know if I was their parents, I’d have grabbed the phone from them and thrown the damn thing into the lake while shouting “I’ve spent thousands of pounds going to see the theme parks!”. But maybe I’m just getting old!
Heading to Florida for two weeks meant we had plenty of time to enjoy the parks, we spent a day at Hollywood Studios and another at Animal Kingdom. Having spent a day at each park last year meant we didn’t see the need to do everything in those parks but managed to pretty much do everything within those two trips. We spent 2 days in the Magic Kingdom including watching Wishes, on a side note, why haven’t they combined the light show on the castle with the fireworks? I assume is what they did with Dreams in Disneyland Paris (which wasn’t running while I was there last year).
Within 2 days at Magic Kingdom we managed to do all the new Fantasyland attractions plus lots of old school things like Country Bears, Carrousel of Progress and Tiki Room (which I don’t think I had ever done before). We spent a whole day at Epcot plus a evening for the fireworks show, which again, gave us time to enjoy the parks (including 3 goes on Test Track!). Again the new Fast pass+ system meant we could get on Soarin/Test Track easily.
I felt that all of the Disney parks felt so much more busier than the same time last year but at least the weather was much better, last year we had a week of rain while this year it only rained once.
For the first time ever, we headed to the water parks, we spent about 6 hours at Typhoon Lagoon and about 4 at Blizzard Beach (we had a busy day with some Christmas shopping at Downtown Disney plus an evening at Epcot for illuminations). I absolutely loved going to the water parks and had a blast there and for anyone like myself who has to wear glasses, pick up a pair of prescription goggles to enjoy the park. Highlights include Crush ‘n’ Gusher and Summit Plummit but honestly I think I enjoyed doing almost every slide. The tidal pool at Typhoon Lagoon is great fun too though that wave is a bit big for kids though I was slightly disappointment by the Shark pool which was very restrictive a I’m a qualified Scuba Diver, so the idea of swimming in a straight line without using your legs and not being allowed to dive under felt like they just sucked all the fun out of it.
Downtown Disney was somewhere we went regularly since we had the free boat down from our hotel and its a lovely place to go away from the parks. But I have to recommend heading over to the Broadwalk, we had a lovely evening over there just chilling.
While we spent a lot of time within Disney, we wanted to get away from Disney during the trip and we certainly got away from Disney, we racked up nearly 900 miles in our rental car as we took a drive down to Daytona Beach and we headed over to Clearwater twice for some time at the beach (plus an amazing boat trip on the Sea Screamer where we had a Dolphin jumping behind the boat). Clearwater is an amazing area and has a lovely beach, just sitting there and relaxing in the sun was a great break from parks and I’d recommend everyone head down to the Gulf Coast. It was one of our highlights of the entire trip.
Another highlight was when we took a drive out to Boggy Creek and went out on a air boat, it was fantastic, gliding across the water and doing plenty of animal spotting including Bald Eagles, Cranes and a few small Alligators. If you have never done an air boat ride, put it on your must do list.
Celebration is another hidden gem within Orlando, we headed over to there on the way back from Daytona and I have to say its a lovely little town to do a bit of shopping and relaxing. We just sat on some rocking chairs under a umbrella watching the alligators on the lake for hours. Another highlight of our trip, a amazing place.
Last year we spent a day at NASA and another day at SeaWorld which we didn’t do this trip however we headed over Universal for a day at both parks. Again these were really enjoyable as my wife had never been to a Universal park and I hadn’t been since 2000 (though I did go to the LA one in 2005) so almost all of the original Universal park was new with the amazing Transformers ride (the best ride of the trip in my view), the Minions, Simpsons and obviously Harry Potter. We had a great couple of days at Universal though I have to admit, Citywalk isn’t a touch on Downtown Disney, if you don’t want to eat there isn’t much to do there (though there was a cool little shop with loads of funky Vinyls in).
Overall, we had an amazing holiday over in Florida and we had a blast. We mixed up the Disney with non-Disney stuff which was fantastic for us, we tried to relax more by trying to take our time, as 1 week last year was just insane. So we really took our time to enjoy it and to take those moments to stop, 2 weeks in Orlando is a marathon and taking rest days or just parts of a day to slow things down really made a difference.