Friday, January 4, 2019

Disney Recap

Where to even begin with the Disney post? It was a delightful trip in many ways, there were definitely a few things we'd do different next time, and lots of highlights. We went to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Animal Kingdom. We visited Epcot, Universal Studios, and the Magic Kingdom twice. Here are my thoughts and reflections, in no particular order except what pops into my head as I'm writing this.

- Epcot was one of my favorite parks, and we only got to see it after dark (our first day) and in the rain. This was a bummer, as far as I'm concerned. Next time, I would skip going to a park the evening that we arrive. We were up at 6am to leave for the airport by 7, which is not ungodly early by any means, but a day of travel with two little ones is exhausting and stressful, even though we ended up gate checking our carry on suitcases so we only had backpacks to worry about. We were all just a little too tired to really enjoy our experience at Epcot, which was overwhelming and disorientating in the dark with all the crowds after a long day of travel.

- Six is a pretty perfect age for visiting Disney. Four is good, but doesn't quite have the stamina or height or six (and is still prone to the occasional meltdown). Zuzu was charming and delightful the entire trip, and Coco definitely had moments of expressing that she was tired and out of sorts. She still naps at school (and occasionally at home) and we were pushing through naptime everyday. She's not a kid who sleeps in the stroller (except one night on the way home). So maybe waiting another year would have been good for her, but I have no regrets about taking Zuzu at age 6 1/2. Also, we used our double stroller, which was definitely the right call (we have this one and have been very happy with it for the past four years).

Coco gives Dole Whip a thumbs up.

- Rain is the worst. There's just no way around it. It kept the crowds down for sure, but it made for a chilly day with soggy feet, which was pretty miserable. We kept our game faces on, but I do not like being wet and chilled. We tried to time our visit around showers, but there was rain on and off all day long, so we got to the park later than we would have and left earlier. We showered and ate at the hotel and then the rain had let up, so we went back to Epcot for the fireworks show and a couple of fast pass rides, which was nice.

- Fireworks with our kids is overrated. David wanted to push several park visits to 9:30 or 10:00pm when the fireworks shows starts. I know Disney fireworks are awesome. But Coco still doesn't like the noise (I spent the show covering her ears with my hands) and it's just not worth it for us. I'm glad we saw the fireworks at Epcot one night, but that is all we needed.

- The magic of princesses is real. The cute conversations that each one of the princesses had with our girls, their star-struck smiles and shyness, the big hugs they gave after having their photos taken--it was all so adorable.

- The Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique is a racket and is TOTALLY worth it if your kids are into that kind of thing. Coco in particular was so delighted with the long blond hair piece that she selected--that alone was worth the cost. We were running late for our appointment because we didn't realize the shuttle bus from our hotel didn't start running to Disney Springs until close to 9am and our appointment was for 9am, but they were totally sweet and accommodating (as I suppose you would expect from a fairy godmother). It was a real highlight of our trip.

- We stayed at the Dolphin hotel of the Swan and Dolphin hotel complex. This is apparently a Disney-owned resort, but is not considered to be "on property" as their other hotels are, although it is walking distance from Epcot (if you don't mind a bit of a walk) or you can take a quick boat taxi ride (for free) that drops you right at Epcot. They also have frequent bus shuttles to all the parks and to Disney Springs (though Disney Springs does not run as early as the parks do, as we learned). I have no complaints about our hotel--our room was spacious (two double beds) and very clean, the pool at the hotel was lovely, and there were several restaurants and a little cafe/grocery/candy store on property where we picked up cereal and yogurts for breakfast. I don't know anything about booking Disney trips, but David said the cost per night was considerably less an "on-property" hotels and we had zero complaints. They also provided complimentary heavy-duty umbrellas for guests on the rainy day we had, which was a real lifesaver.

- We had pizza delivered to our room one night, which was such a good choice. Our kids did pretty well in restaurants each evening, but a pizza picnic mid-week was exactly what we needed.

- We (and by "we" you all know I mean David) really tried to do a bit too much. We were there for six days and the plan was to go go go. I told David that I wished we had splurged for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party, but he wasn't willing to shell out the extra cash. I think it would be worth it in December, though, to experience the park with fewer people. My understanding is that the week between Christmas and New Years is the busiest of the year, but the week before Christmas was definitely hopping. So I would have chosen to do that, but David disagrees, so there you have it. (You all know I'm right.) We definitely played it right taking an afternoon midweek to leave the park early and let the girls swim at the hotel.

- We could have done some optional early hours apparently, but we didn't. Forcing yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn when you and your children are not naturally early risers just didn't feel worth it, although I suppose that's another (less expensive) way to be at at the park with fewer people.

- Fastpasses are great. We only went on a few rides without fast passes, and those waits got to be pretty brutal (mostly because we had to keep Coco somewhat entertained while she whined about how it was taking forEVER).

- The Haunted Mansion is scary and traumatizing if your kids are sensitive about that kind of stuff, so just skip it rather than wait in line and then feel terrible that your four-year-old is crying the whole time.

- Honestly, Coco got to where she didn't want to go on any ride that got dark (which is a LOT of them) and anytime we were in a tunnel (scary or not) she would say loudly, "When do we get out of here? When is this over?". She loved the princesses and Mickey and Minnie and the kiddie roller coasters, but honestly, she probably would have been a lot more fun a year or two from now--in part because she would be tall enough for some of the rides that she couldn't do this year (and in part because of her more cautious personality). It's hard being 38 inches tall at Disney!

- Next time I would do a grocery delivery or bring more snacks with me. You can bring food into the parks and Coco is such a grazer. She wants small snacks frequently through the day and she is crabby AF when she is hungry (I wonder where she gets that...???). We bought a refillable popcorn bucket for $10 the first day and refilled it at least once every day for $2. It was definitely a good investment for our popcorn-loving family.

- David's mom gifted us with a photo package so anytime we saw a Disney photographer at the park, we could have them scan our card and take a family photo. This was fun, even though I did not feel cute at all the entire time we were there, and we have over 300 photos to sort through and download. I wasn't sure we wanted to shell out for the photo package, but it's the best way to get all four of us in the photo, and it was a perfect Christmas gift.

- Similarly, we got Disney cash cards from my aunt and from some of David's coworkers, which was so thoughtful and appreciated. We put those toward food at the parks and a souvenir Christmas ornament.

- I bought Minnie ears on clearance from months before our trip, which was great because the girls were excited about them, but when the novelty wore off, I wasn't mad that I'd spent $8 instead of $30 on the ones at the park.

- We spent two days at Universal Studios which was one day too many for our family. I know some kids are totally into Dr. Seuss and Marvel superheroes, but we were really just there for Harry Potter. We started our days in those areas and then ventured out to the rest of the park when the crowds became impossible. We should have done a one-day ticket for both parks and would do that next time. The coolest rides are too scary or intense for our kids, and Zuzu wasn't interested in trying Spiderman, even though David tried to convince her. They had a lot of fun on the playground areas where they could climb and slide, but next time we'd spend less time there just because of our kids' particular quirks.

I'm sure there's more, but honestly we had the best time. Don't believe Coco's face in the photo above! I hope that the girls will remember the trip being magical and exciting. Their joy made the trip joyful for us, and that was the real magic.

It was a lovely way to wrap up 2018, and such a perfect trip for this moment in our lives. David gets huge credit for doing all the planning and the coordinating. I seriously had no idea what was going on until he told me, and I'm kind of proud of myself for being chill enough to just go with it! (I did have to talk him in to taking a half day one day at Universal so we could go back to the hotel and let the girls swim--he's a go-getter, that one!). Just looking back at these pictures and the expressions on the girls' faces when talking to the princesses or going on the rides (or getting the same pink pygmy puff as Ginny Weasley) makes me so happy.

Other fun things... I went back and forth about this, but finally ordered matching family shirts (I got them from a seller through I also got the girls everyday dress up dresses--they are dresses that mimic the Disney princesses, but are made of soft, knit material so are more comfortable for wearing than the sometimes stiff and kind of itchy, shiny dress up dresses (which my kids also have and love). I bought their Ariel and Jasmine costumes from the Disney Store online before the trip, rather than buying them at the Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique, which was definitely a cost saver.

I found a great falafel and hummus place between Africa and Asia in the Animal Kingdom, which we had for lunch one day, and we also loved our pasta meal at the Lady & the Tramp restaurant (names are escaping me) on Main Street at Disney World.

Oh--and I ignored David and wore my winter coat most days with no regrets. 60 degrees is not cold, but mornings don't start out that warm, and when it got dark, I was glad I had it. It was nice to be able to stuff it under the bottom of the stroller when I didn't need it.

One other thing I'll add--and really, the only piece of advice I have--is that David paid for some kind of app that helps you set up an itinerary and tells you how many people are at the park and how long lines are for specific rides. It was definitely worth it--he consulted it a lot and since we weren't familiar with any of the parks, it made planning much easier. If I'd been in charge, we would have just had someone else plan the trip for us (haha but seriously), but if you want to micromanage the details, find an app that helps you!

Whew. As much fun as the trip was, it was also an exhausting vacation as everyone says. I definitely wouldn't make it an annual vacation, but I'm also not entirely opposed to revisiting someday...


  1. It looks like y'all had a blast! Makes me want to go back to Disney. We've never been to Universal (yet) but my big kids are into Harry Potter and I'd love to take them when my younger two are a little older. The rain sucks for sure, but it makes for a great memory.

  2. Were you & Mel at Disney at the same time? (Looking again, I see she was there at Christmastime, while you were there just before. Oh well!) I am jealous; I have never been. I know lots of adults go to Disney without kids, but dh went in his 20s with his buddies (before I met him), & has no great desire to return. Spoilsport. :p

  3. You are TOTALLY right-- spring for any ticketed event you can at Disney b/c crowds are the worst. That party was super fun, as was the Frozen singalong/dessert nonsense at Hollywood Studios.