I just returned last night from my first Walt Disney World trip! It was a whirlwind vacation, that’s for sure. I was visiting during a writer’s conference with Traveling Mom. I was able to invite three guests and brought along my mom, brother and three-year old son (my husband and older kids all were in school). My family and I padded the visit with extra days on the front and back end of the retreat. I would have rather stretched the trip out twice as long so as to have had time to relax and truly be in the moment. 4 days just wasn’t enough, but it was amazing all the same!
These are the 11 things that were most wonderful, magical (and patience-testing) on my first Walt Disney World trip-
1. The Walt Disney World resorts are beautiful. From the brilliant green lawns, to the thick tree lined roads everything is well-maintained. Just as we’ve become accustomed to the cleanliness of the Disneyland resort, so is WDW. I never saw errant trash or anything out of place. There is a resort employee or cast member there whenever you need one.
2. Magic Bands…wow! I don’t know if anything like this could happen at Disneyland (since so many of the Guests there are annual passholders or day trippers) but Magic Bands really are amazing. This little rubber bracelet holds all the information for your trip including your room key, credit card, park tickets and FastPass+ reservations. When we dined at Be Our Guest Restaurant, we’d already placed our order online several days earlier so we seated ourselves in the dining area when we arrived. Within a few minutes our food was magically delivered to our table (aka: GPS signals found where we were seated).
3. And with technology, sometimes you hit a snag. Once we arrived at the Coronado Springs Resort (our hotel for the first three days) the check-in process was slowed by the fact that we’d not received Magic Bands in the mail. Tickets, credit cards and room were assigned to the bands but it was a laborious process that took over 45 minutes.
4. Huge resorts = Lots of walking. I’m used to Disneyland, where Disney California Adventure Park is literally feet away. And Downtown Disney and the Resort hotels are all reasonably close. At Walt Disney World, everything is so BIG and spread out so it definitely takes some getting used to. Fortunately there is a wonderful shuttle transport system that is free to resort guests so getting around to the parks and back to our hotel was never a problem.
5. We were at Walt Disney World and running on adrenaline so it was easy to brush off the fact that some things just weren’t going smoothly. It wasn’t Disney’s fault, we’ll blame this one on the airline. By the time we arrived at the hotel, ate dinner and got into our room, it had been over 3 1/2 hours since we’d gotten off the plane. Yet our luggage was not in the room (we’d been told it would take about 2 hours). I called to the bell desk but was told that unfortunately our luggage was not in Resort possession yet.
It was late and we were exhausted. We fell asleep in our clothes, without pajamas, toothbrushes or hairbrushes. I wasn’t until the next day that we found out our checked bags had not made the plane transfer in Dallas. It would be a full 24 hours until we had the bags in our possession again. I received a call in the afternoon from bell services letting me know when my bags had been found, which I truly appreciated.
6. Definitely pack your good attitude and patience in your carry on bag! I’d brought a change of clothes for both me and my little one on the plane but my mom & brother had only checked their bags and had nothing with them. But Disney couldn’t wait and we just did what we had to do. We finger combed our hair and hopped on the transport bus to the Magic Kingdom!
7. It’s similar. It’s familiar. But it’s definitely not the same. I’m referring to the Magic Kingdom, which I’d heard is just the “same as Disneyland”. It’s not. Yes, some rides have the same name (like Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean) but they are not identical. And we loved visiting old classics like Country Bear Jamboree and the Carousel of Progress that closed at Disneyland years ago. Cinderella Castle is enormous. And we enjoyed the song and dance number that opens the Park and wish they did that at rope drop for Disneyland!
8. Epcot is as beautiful as the pictures. This was such an amazing park, with added beauty from the incredible topiaries and gardens spread around for the Flower & Garden Festival. I really liked the sharp contrasts of Future World and the World Showcase, made harmonious by the lovely flowers. We sampled at the outdoor kitchens and ended the night with a viewing of Illuminations. There was a lightning storm that entertained us through the dark clouds before the show began.
9. I was brave. I rode roller coasters that I might have normally balked at (Expedition: Everest!) I tattled on my brother at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe and told our waitress that my brother didn’t finish his vegetables! I broke out of my comfort zone and chatted with the Traveling Moms during the conference despite that I’m usually reserved around new people. It was a chance for new opportunities.
10. We kept ourselves open to surprise throughout the trip. My three-year old was delighted by the speed of Test Track but refused to ride on Peter Pan’s Flight and burst into tears! Our room for the final night of our stay was at the Port Orleans: Riverside. What a lovely surprise to see our room theme in an intricate princess design that included a special light-up feature in the headboard!
11. The final surprise came when we were preparing to leave for the airport and we were refused passage on the Magical Express bus. Imagine my facial expression when I found out that we were supposed to have received paperwork on our door informing us about the time for our bus transfer to the airport…we didn’t and I was unaware of how the process worked. I thought you just showed up and they took you to the airport, I didn’t realize it required a reservation! Unfortunately we were too late to ride the Magical Express bus back to the airport and had to spring for a taxi. And now we know! It was a lesson learned and I should have done more research on the topic instead of assuming how the process worked.
Despite the challenges, we had an amazing trip. Traveling with a three-year had it’s own set of rules but we just went with the flow and didn’t over think things too much. Next time we’ll stay longer to allow for more relaxation and poolside lounging!
Portions of this trip were compensated. All thoughts and opinions are my own.