Posts Tagged ‘epcot’

My Week(346) in iPhone Photos

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

This was Disney Week, which is incredibly depressing now. I mean, don’t get me wrong, looking at the pictures of our awesome time is awesome. But right now life is so so so so so soooooo not as fun and carefree and awesome as Disney World. Disney World had delicious food and working bathrooms. My house has Pop Tarts and construction.

Sunday:

Linc likes everything about Disney World

Including the hats

I liked my giant plate of seafood

Monday:

Stitch can’t swim

Mickey cupcakes

Princess dinners

Tuesday:

Happy place

SO HAPPY

Can we go back now?

Wednesday:

Excellent lunch, would recommend

WELCOME TO THE DARK SIDE

Finn meets a wookie

Thursday:

Test Track car A+ design skills

They loved meeting ALL the characters

Joy and Sadness

Friday:

Considering we were there during a “busy” time, seating was never a problem

Elephants

I made this the wallpaper on my phone

Saturday:

Back to the real world where everything isn’t shaped like Mickey

Big Kid

Looooooong driving day. Florida is very far away.

Ok, I made it. I think the next week is going to be a short post because I was so busy not doing ANYTHING that I barely took pictures. It was great.

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Our First Disney Trip: What I Learned That Can Help You Plan

Friday, July 7th, 2017

 

I am not, nor will I ever claim to be, a Disney World expert. But considering our trip was the first time I had been in 15 years and the first visit with kids, our week was remarkably smooth and fun. So here is a summary (ha! as if I am capable of writing a summary instead of a novel) of the best advice I have for Fastpasses, dining, and more.

FASTPASS+

Most of the popular rides at Disney World have two lines: standby, which is the regular line, and Fastpass, which is for people who made a reservation for a window of time where they can come back and ride with minimal wait. They’ve updated everything about Fastpasses in the decade since I was that there – no more paper tickets! You want Fastpasses. Because we stayed at an official Disney resort, we got Magic Bands, which are digital wristbands that hold all our stuff electronically, including our Fastpasses. It also meant we could make our Fastpass reservations online 60 days before our actual trip – if you stay off-property your reservations can be made 30 days in advance. Here is the TouringPlans page with all the technical details of how to make FP reservations. Read it and be prepared to book as soon as your window opens. Once you know how to book FPs, here is what I would recommend:

  1. Book your first Fastpass for 30 minutes after the park opens. If you are like my family and want to spend as much time in the parks as possible, you can get there before they open and be one of the first people in (it’s called “rope dropping”) to get to one popular ride first thing with almost no wait. But after that, you’ll be in the park with all the other people who came early, so ride times immediately go up.
  2. Book all your Fastpasses before noon (if you can). Once you use up your 3 FPs for the day, you can get one more. Once you use that one, you can get another, and so on. But you HAVE to have used up your first three to book a fourth. If you have one at 9 am, one at 10 am and one at 5 pm, you’ll be standing in regular lines for that whole middle part of the day. Plus as the day goes on they run out of Fastpasses for popular rides, so after about 2 or 3 pm your choices for FP are limited. We had no problem getting a 4 pm Pirates of the Caribbean FP around noon in the park the day of our visit, but Space Mountain wasn’t available anymore.
  3. Understand the tier system. All the parks other than the Magic Kingdom now have tiers for their FPs, so you can only hold one top tier FP at a time. Decide which tier 1 ride is the most important to you and then plan to rope drop the park for a second tier 1 ride and hopefully book your 4th FP for a third. Another method would be to plan to do more than one day at each park, because you can have 3 Fastpasses each day of your visit. We will do more than 1 day per park if (when) we go again, so I’m looking forward to that plan.
  4. Get a Fastpass for Flights of Passage in Pandora. Don’t bother with one for the other Pandora ride. The line for FoP was never less than 120 minutes while we were there, so we were super glad to have the FP. They’re currently full 30 days out, so be sure to do that one FIRST as soon as your window opens.
  5. Rider swap + Fastpass = BEST. Rider swap is for families with kids who are too short or too scared for some rides. There are a lot of rides with no height restriction at all, but when babies or toddlers can’t ride they will give you a ticket so the other grown up can wait with them and then use the Fastpass line (even if you didn’t originally have a Fastpass). But when you combine them, both parents get to ride and the kids get to ride twice all in usually under 30 minutes. Also good to note is the rider swap paper pass is good for a long time – several days or more – so if something comes up and you don’t have time a chance to ride right away you can come back and do it later.
  6. If you’re doing rider swap on a ride you have a Fastpass for, make sure both grown ups swipe their Magic Bands to “clear” their FP. While the kids and I were on Big Thunder Mountain, E waited with the babies. Because that was our last Fastpass, E booked us our fourth FP from his phone for Pirates later. But since he hadn’t scanned in his band when we checked in for rider swap, he couldn’t book his own fourth FP because it still had one for Big Thunder Mountain. He didn’t NEED the FP for Big Thunder Mountain because a rider swap pass IS a Fastpass. This is also how in theory both grown ups could have ridden Big Thunder Mountain (or other rides) twice each using the Fastpass line. It works like this: I check in for rider swap with my FP and the kids, scan my band, and get the rider swap ticket. When I get off the ride with the kids, E takes the rider swap pass and rides again with the kids. Then when he gets off, HE swipes his FP, gets another rider swap pass, rides with the kids. Then he gives me the rider swap, I take the kids and we ride again. Then both grown ups have ridden twice and the kids ride four times. I have seen various opinions of this on the internet, both for and against. The consensus seems to be that cast members don’t mind as long as you’re not rude about it. But I wouldn’t try it on something super popular, like the Pandora rides, and I wasn’t comfortable “cheating” the FP system even if Disney allows it so it’s not actually cheating.
  7. Be on time. If you are significantly early or late you might get turned away. We were less than 60 seconds late for a show FP and it was fine. We were 20 minutes early for another FP and they flagged us (the band scanner flashed instead of glowing green). The cast member waved us through with a reminder to check our window, which was kind of him, but I saw other people turned away because they were more than an hour outside their window. But also remember your FP window is a WINDOW. If you have a FP for Peter Pan’s Flight at 10:30 and it’s only 10:15, look around and see what the wait time for Small World or the carousel is. You can be on and off those in less than half an hour and still be right in the middle of your Fastpass window.
  8. Fastpasses for Character Meets are a toss up. They’re good because character lines can be REALLY long and they’re usually also really boring. But those wait times tend to vary, so you might be better off using FPs for rides and keeping an eye on your wait time app (see below) for a shorter line. If (when) we go again, the only character meet I will get a Fastpass for is the Mickey Mouse in Magic Kingdom who talks. Even the “40 minute wait” for Elena wasn’t that bad.

 

DINING PLAN

There is a lot of discussion about whether or not the dining plans are a good deal. I do not know. I am very detail-oriented about a lot of things…but not when it comes to money (I’m a terrible adult). I did not make spreadsheets to figure out if we could save money on food if we paid cash instead of adding the dining plan to our room. And I am fine with that choice. I LOVED the dining plan. We used almost all of it correctly and only had to use up a few extra snacks on road trip food on our way out. Here are the things I loved about it and the suggestions I have:

  1. You need to plan dining ahead if you want to eat at sit-down restaurants. There were so many people who walked up to the podiums and said “Hi, how long is the wait?” and the hostess was like “…for dinner…today?” Figure out where you want to eat ahead of time so you can make reservations ASAP.
  2. Book character meals. Most of our sit-down meals (called Table Service) were character dining: Princesses at 1900 Park Fare, Disney Jr characters at Hollywood & Vine, more princesses at Akershus, and Mickey and friends at Tusker House. They were ALL great. They were also all buffets, so it felt like a good value. Babies who are too young for the dining plan (under 3 years old) can eat whatever they want at buffets.
  3. Use your snack credits. We were really busy the first day and only used 3 of the 8 snack credits we were given. They carry over, so we used them eventually, but it we should have used them more regularly to grab stuff anytime we wanted it. Especially on drinks. Just get a bottle of soda if you’re thirsty (or a Starbucks, those count as snacks). Don’t agonise over it.
  4. We did not eat any of the food I brought from home in the parks. We did eat granola bars and pop tarts in our room for breakfast a couple times, but I WAY overestimated how much food I needed to bring on my own. I won’t waste space or money on those snacks again.
  5. Our dining plan came with refillable mugs. They’re ONLY refillable with soda at resorts, not in the parks. We brought them to the parks to use for water and then never actually used them. Don’t bother dragging them around all the time – if you really need a water bottle to refill, just bring one you like from home. (The line for Na’vi River Journey has this new drinking fountain/bottle filler station in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they started replacing drinking fountains with those, since every time I saw a drinking fountain someone was using it to fill up mugs/bottles.)
  6. There are a lot of lists called “best foods to try at Disney!”. I thought everything was the best. You’re at Disney, even plain old ice cream sandwiches taste better when they’re shaped like Mickey Mouse.

TECHNOLOGY

Disney World is firmly caught up to the times and having a good smart phone, portable battery and a charger will make your day a lot easier.

  1. The official My Disney Experience app. Use this to make and manage your Fastpasses, find bathrooms, check wait times, look at maps, and more. You can even see your PhotoPass pictures almost immediately. It’s a good app.
  2. A free app called “Wait Times for Disney World”. It loads faster and is quicker to check than the official app and we found it to be very accurate. It has all 4 parks.
  3. Character Locator. I just pinned the homepage for the site to my screen like an app. I also paid the $7 for full access. It was a great way to find roaming characters and has important info like “do they sign autographs?” and “do they talk?” It even has suggestions for how to have fun interactions. It has a lot more than just characters (park hours, height requirements, menus) so it was great to browse while waiting in lines or during meals so I could plan what was next.
  4. Make a schedule of the park hours, your Fastpass times, dining reservations, any shows or parades you want to watch, then take a screenshot and make it your lock screen. You need to communicate times and locations to the people you are with constantly. This is a very fast way to check your schedule.
  5. We bought the Memory Maker photo package so we got all the pictures taken by the PhotoPass photographers and it was absolutely worth the money for us. We got all the “important” photos done with the official park photogs and I was free to take pictures of the kids when I had time. The only photos they don’t cover is character meals. Plus they do hilarious, awesome magic photos like this one:

OTHER STUFF

Here are a few things we learned on this trip:

  1. Staying in a nicer resort is more money because it’s worth more money. The pools have water slides and the transportation to the parks is better. Even if you’re just taking buses, the pick-up spots are closer to the park exit, they aren’t as crowded, and there are more of them. We saw 3 Wilderness Lodge buses for every Art of Animation bus that stopped. Even if it means we have to split our trip between two hotels – a nice one for the first park days and a value resort for other days – we’ll stay somewhere with boat, monorail or even walking park access next time.
  2. Don’t be mad when you can’t do everything. We never even did the spinning teacups. Or Enchanted Tales with Belle, or the baby rollercoaster for Linc or anything in the dinosaur section, or most of Tomorrowland. And we missed two fireworks shows AND the parade. It’s fine. No one but the grown ups even realised we miss stuff and we can do it next time.
  3. Starbucks is a snack credit. We only did it once but I would have been a MUCH happier mama in the mornings if I had a huge coffee for breakfast every day.
  4. Try not to carry around more stuff that you have to. And revisit what “have to” means each day. I should not have brought two cameras. We didn’t need to do pin trading EVERY day. We also didn’t need to bring our mouse ears to every park because no one wore them after the first day. All those things add up and the fewer things you have to carry and/or push in a stroller the better.
  5. If at all possible, schedule a vacation after your Disney trip. Because Disney is a trip, not a vacation, and you will need a vacation. We went to visit my parents for the week after Disney World and it was a great plan. We didn’t have to walk anywhere, we didn’t have a schedule, we didn’t have to set any alarms. I also got to do all our laundry, so we came home with mostly clean clothes. Or if you can’t do a whole extra vacation, plan a day in the middle to relax and a day at the end to relax.

 

 

 

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Our First Disney Trip: Epcot

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Previously: Non-park days, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios

Our Thursday at Disney World was supposed to be all Epcot: a calmer day to walk around the World Showcase, ride a couple exciting and a lot of less-exciting rides, eat things, drink things, and meet a bunch of princesses. But because our Jedi Training on Wednesday was cancelled, we had Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning before we even started Epcot. Because Epcot didn’t open until 9 and our check-in for training was 9:40, we actually had a “relaxing” morning. We got to the park right after they opened and E and Caroline got to ride Tower of Terror with only a couple minute wait. Evan did not want to do it again, so he and the babies and I found a coffee stand near the exit and ate donuts the size of our heads while we waited.

Then we headed across the park for Jedi Training, past the lake with the dinosaur. The kids were obsessed with this dinosaur.

Here’s my short review of Jedi Training: I loved it. The kids also thought it was “cool”, but I am not sure it was the super duper awesome amazing unbelievable thing I thought it would be for them.  To sign up, you have to rope drop the park, run to the sign-up area, stand in line and then hope your spot doesn’t get rained out later. It gets rained out a lot, especially in the summer thunderstorm months. I don’t know if we will bother to make that effort if (when) we go back, unless the kids specifically ask for it. Or if Linc wants to do it (he was too young this year).

It was worth it at least once for the photos though.

The PhotoPass photographers took a LOT of pictures of the show too.

That’s the Seventh Sister, she’s a Jedi hunter trained by Darth Vader. *takes off dork glasses*

On the way out, the kids talked us into buying lightsabers. I wasn’t THAT hard to convince. Mostly so the Photopass person could take this pictures.

The park looks really crowded in those photos, which is weird because I don’t remember it being crowded.

Even though we had planned just one day in each park, we had purchased park hopper passes (thanks military discount!) so it wasn’t a problem to get into Hollywood Studios and then hop over to Epcot. We choose to take the 30-minute boat ride instead of the 10-minute bus ride, because I hate the buses. On the boat, we got a nice view of several resorts and we didn’t have to fold up the stroller. I recommend the boat.

Our original plan was to get to Epcot super early – they opened at 8 am for Extra Magic Hours – to rope drop Soarin’, since we used our Tier 1 Fastpass for the Frozen ride. But because Freddie The Best Castmember Ever had booked us those spots in the morning Jedi Training, he also turned our two morning Fastpasses (which were for a character meet and the Nemo ride) into magical, open-ended Fastpasses, good for anything in Epcot. That allowed us to start our day in Epcot with our princess lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at noon, then use our original Fastpass for Frozen and the two special ones for Test Track and Soarin’.

Our princess lunch was SUPER. I had heard mixed things about the restaurant because it’s located in the Norway pavilion and serves actual Norwegian food. Not everyone is a fan of pickled fish, but the way the menu was set up meant there was PLENTY of choices. You order drinks and a main course and then can eat from the “appetiser” buffet as much as you want. But we could have made entire meals of the buffet – meats and cheeses and salads and fruit and rolls. The non-meal-plan babies ate a TON of food. I had a delicious seafood casserole, E had meatballs, and the kids had pizza and mac & cheese, so don’t be afraid of Akershus.

Also, it was a really pretty building with good light, so my photos of the kids with the princesses look great.

This Ariel was amazing. She spent so much time with Caroline, admiring all the sea animals on her dress and whispering things together.

I mean, look at that. That’s Caroline’s best life.

We were all STUFFED by the end of the meal but dessert is included so they brought us two of these trays. The apple cake in the middle was definitely the winner. It was SO good.

We also met Belle at that lunch! I let the PhotoPass photographer take that one because the alcove was sort of small.

Lunch was right across the pavilion from both the Frozen ride and the Anna and Elsa meeting spot. The ride was really fun and I was super glad we had the Fastpass, because the wait time was around 45 minutes. But for some reason the wait time to meet Anna and Elsa was…nothing, basically. It was amazing. I’m almost sad we just walked through the whole line, because we missed getting to look at all the fun details Disney puts in the buildings so you forget you’re waiting in line. But not THAT sad. When Frozen first came out, the wait times for Anna and Elsa were FIVE HOURS OR MORE. 5 minutes was way better.

 

And then I made Caroline pose for a few photos.

Don’t you love her very authentic crocs with socks look?

After we were done in Norway, it started to look like it might rain and we wanted to make sure we did Test Track before they closed it due to weather. So we headed in that direction with a quick stop in Mexico to ride the dark boat ride there. We managed to knock out Test Track with the FP and rider swap, then Soarin’ with the FP and rider swap, and then Spaceship Earth before it started to POUR. We were prepared with ponchos (although we forgot the stupid rain cover again!), so we dashed across the park to the character spots to wait for Mickey and friends and then Joy, Sadness and Baymax.

I was not expecting Epcot to be the park where we met the most characters, but I think it wins!

The wait for Joy and Sadness was the worst wait anywhere that week – the line moved soooooo sloooooow and it was just a back-and-forth line in a big empty space. We were really tired, and damp, and it was boring, and we didn’t have the stroller so we had to wear Finnegan. I made the kids pose for photos to keep us all amused.

It was only sort of pouring when we left the characters, so we hiked over to the Land and Sea section and finally rode the Nemo ride. It was adorable and there was NO wait. There’s a real aquarium at the end so it looks like Dory and Nemo and Marlin and Crush are swimming with the real fish. There was a ton of stuff in that area that we skipped, so Epcot is top of my list for parks to go back to if (when) we visit again.

We decided it was too wet to try to do anything else right away, so we caught a bus back to the hotel to change clothes, pick up the stroller rain cover, and unload the lightsabers. The middle-of-the-day buses are less terrible than end-of-the-night buses, so it was an easy trip. Right after we got back to the hotel, it completely stopped raining and the sun broke through the clouds. We decided it was a good time to go back to Magic Kingdom to try to ride Splash Mountain (which we had missed the first day because it was broken). We checked the app and there were still Fastpasses available for around 8 pm, so we snapped them up and headed back.

On the bus to the park, we noticed a rainbow. When we got into the park. you could still see the rainbow. And then as we headed towards Frontierland, I realized if I could stand in the right place, we could see the DOUBLE rainbow leading right into the castle. I took probably 300 rainbow photos (as did every other person at the park).

 

Between the sun coming out and the rainbow and the general feeling of magic in the park, we all forgot we were tired. We used our Fastpasses to rider swap Splash Mountain. By the time I got on it was sunset, which was super fun. Then we tried to grab dinner but it was 9 pm and the quick service places were closed. So we decided to go try and see Tomorrowland, since we had missed most of it on our Magic Kingdom day. We also wanted to let Caroline ride Space Mountain, since I had previously told her she was too short but I was wrong. The fireworks were going on as we crossed the park, so we cut through Fantasyland behind the castle. When we got to the other side, we realized almost everyone in the park was still watching the show, so the wait for Space Mountain was almost nothing. E and the kids hopped on. About 5 minutes later, the fireworks ended and at least a hundred people RAN towards Space Mountain. The wait time went from 10 minutes to 45 minutes almost instantly.

Once I met up with the coaster riders, we decided to do the Toy Story ride before we left, just because Linc loves Buzz Lightyear so much and had been such a champ with not riding Splash Mountain or Space Mountain.

Then the park was closed, so we (and eeeeeeeeverybody else) left. The bus was stupid again. It was 11 pm before we got back to the hotel. And no one had eaten dinner. The kids were too tired to care and E chose sleep over food, so I went down to the hotel food court on my own and got a huge plate of pasta and some cupcakes. Finn nursed SO MUCH on this trip, both for comfort and to stay hydrated in the heat, so I was constantly starving. No skipping meals for me.

Because we had such a late night, we adjusted our plan for Friday just a little bit. Although we did still rope drop Animal Kingdom. There were no days off during this vacation.

Next: our LAST DAY in Disney at the Animal Kingdom and the new Pandora world!

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