We’re back from Orlando and still smiling from the sunny weather, family fun, and new adventures. There’s a TON to tell – but let me start with some Walt Disney World logistics.
Photo by Brian Kendig at en.wikipedia
1) Walt Disney World is huge; enormous; monstrous; acres of magical sprawl. Twice the size of Manhattan, it really is its own kingdom. We stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and loved the convenience of being so close to the Disney Ticket and Transportation Center and the Magical Kingdom. The free monorail actually went right through the middle of the hotel. Also at this hotel – a white sand beach, a great pool with water slide, and views of the nightly fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant. On-site family games and activities are held almost every afternoon and evening. Our experience was excellent. We highly recommend the Contemporary but encourage you to look for a deal - a good deal. The full rate prices are staggering.
2) Disney wants your trip to be hassle free and service begins as soon as you arrive at the Orlando airport. Families staying at any of the resorts can sign-up for the Disney Magical Express which picks you up at the airport AND retrieves your luggage from baggage claim and delivers it to your hotel room for no extra charge.
3) Walt Disney World has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 2 sports parks, 5 golf courses, 1 shopping & entertainment district and 24 hotels. Also available is boat rental, bike rental, parasailing and fishing excursions. WARNING: The entire place is designed so that you’ll never want to leave. Before you go, be sure to log on to the Walt Disney World website and order your free park maps. My sons and I previewed the attractions of the Magic Kingdom and identified our can’t-miss list. Just two weeks later we received (via snail mail) a personalized map that highlighted our top picks. This was great at the park as just a quick glance at our map and we could see the rides that fit our ages and interests.
4) Guide books had warned me that lines for WDW rides can be incredibly lengthy. One book said to plan for at least an hour for the big attractions. Ek!! However - lucky us - we found the week before Thanksgiving to perfect WDW timing. Throughout the day, our average wait in line was five minutes. If lines were longer, we used the Fast Pass system. The Fast Pass system is FREE. Just insert your original ticket card at the nearest kiosk. You’ll receive a ticket for later entry that lets you jump to the very front of the line.
5) Now as the Momma and primary photographer in this family, I can tell you we rarely capture a nice family photo while on vacation. Instead, we record bazillion pics of my husband with the kids or the occasional family photo snapped by a kind stranger that sadly wandered too near us. Disney has solved this problem with their park Photo Pass. Just smile for one of the many professional photographers in the park and then let them scan your free Photo Pass. All pics are deposited in an online account that you access later. The price for ordering photos is not cheap, but between an online-coupon and our first-ever-family-vacation-photo-that-did-not-make-me-groan I’m not complaining.
6) When you visit the Magic Kingdom, I highly recommend that you plan to attend all the shows and parades on the schedule. This is Disney Entertainment – they do the theatrical/musical production well. It’s their thing. Choosing a mid-day parade seat in the shade – worth the effort! Hearing Minnie serenade Mickey – fun! Watching Tinker Bell fly over us in the night sky – awesome!
7) Lastly – it wouldn’t be a trip to Disney World without a personal handshake from Mickey Mouse. Be sure to wander back to Toontown and find the red and white tent behind Mickey’s house. You’ll enter the tent to find a lovely, dark, air-conditioned waiting area that shows classic Mickey cartoons. Once at the front of the line, you’ll be ushered into a side room where you’ll have a private meeting with the Big Cheese and his girlfriend too. Mickey gave my oldest son his autograph and my youngest son a huge hug. Minnie planted a big kiss on my husband’s blushing cheek. I captured some magical, memorable moments on film.
On the Go