For Christmas this year, my family decided to forgo presents under the tree and instead take a trip to one of our favorite vacation spots.
Some of y'all may wonder why two twenty year-olds would want to go to Disney World with their parents for vacation. Most people consider Disney to be for children. But, that's so not the case! My family is all about having something to do when we're on a trip. Relaxation isn't really in our vocabulary. So growing up, we went to Disney quite a bit. Disney offers something for anyone and everyone, at all ages! Trust me when I say, it doesn't matter what age you are. You'll be able to find something you'll enjoy!
I'm breaking my recaps down by days and in two parts. There's just too much to share in one post! I'll go ahead and apologize for the lengthy posts, but I promise they're worth the read! For those of you planning to visit Disney in the near future, I've added some tips throughout the posts. They'll be italicized in red!
Tuesday, December 22nd
Last Tuesday I flew down to Orlando and met my family at our home-away-from-home for the week. We've stayed at several of the resorts, but Port Orleans has always been our favorite. There's actually two Port Orleans resorts on the same property. One is called French Quarter, and has a more Mardi Gras themed decor. The other is called Riverside, and where we stayed this trip. Riverside has a more antebellum, Southern theme. Think white columns, lots of foliage and wood accents. It felt like we were on a Southern plantation!
We decided to spend our first day at Epcot.
Unless you're going to eat or drink your way around the world, you can do Epcot in about half a day. There are a few rides at this park, but most of the entertainment comes from walking around the various countries that are featured throughout the park. My favorite was walking through Germany. My mother's side of the family is German, so I felt right at home with my giant Mickey shaped pretzel and German beer!
For those of you getting ready to visit Disney, or planning to go in the near future, my one tip is to make reservations at a restaurant before your trip. The same goes for any of the parks! Most places throughout the Disney theme parks only take reservations, no walk-ups. Thankfully my mom made reservations at Nine Dragons in China at Epcot. Honestly, don't waste your money at this place. The food was extremely expensive and no better than your average Chinese delivery at home. The service was very slow… took almost three hours for four of us to eat. Our favorite place to eat is the hibachi restaurant in Japan. They cook right in front of you, and definitely better quality food!
Every holiday season, choirs from all across the country join the Disney Symphony, and a celebrity, to sing Christmas carols and tell the story of Jesus' birth. It was absolutely incredible. If you're ever going to be at Disney during the holidays, I highly recommend doing this!! **PRO Tip: If you get a reservation at one of the Epcot restaurants, free Fast Pass tickets come with your meal. This particular show fills up fast, so most people waiting in stand by have to stand at the back of the amphitheater or may have to purchase a ticket for $20.**
We finished the evening by riding a few more rides and then headed back to the hotel. It was a long day and I had been up since 4:00 a.m. for my flight! So sleep was definitely in order.
Wednesday, December 23rd
The next day we chose to head to Magic Kingdom! **PRO Tip: If you're going to be in Disney during the holidays, avoid Magic Kingdom on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. These are the most crowded days of the year for this park!
I would allow a full day for Magic Kingdom. Between waiting in line for the rides, waiting to get your picture with the characters, to attending all the shows, parades and firework presentation later in the night, you'll need an entire day to do it all.
We found that most of the characters are at Magic Kingdom, and spread throughout the park. We got lucky and saw Snow White right when we walked in.
Most of the character lines took about 30-40 minutes to get through. Mickey took about an hour. But you can't go to Disney and not get your picture made with Mickey!
If you're going to visit Disney during the holidays, you must bring your patience and plan ahead. The crowds are the largest this time of year. Like I said before, my family has been to Disney many times. We've never seen it this crowded. Most of the day was spent fighting the mob of people and waiting in lines. As beautiful as Disney is during the holidays, I'd avoid this time of year if you have small children.
The only thing that helps cut down on your wait time is Fast Pass. Disney has updated their entire system and you now receive a Magic Band to wear while you're on Disney property. It looks similar to a fit-bit, but doesn't track your steps. Instead, your credit card is linked to it and so are your fast passes. That way you can literally tap your band at checkout to pay for food and souvenirs, and tap your band to enter the fast pass lines.
Fast pass is a designated window of time that you can sign up for particular rides and shows. Fast pass allows you to skip the wait lines and head straight to the ride. So for one ride that may have a 120 minute wait for stand by guests, the fast pass cuts your wait down to about 15-20 minutes (if that). It really is a great system, and you're allowed to schedule three at a time per day! **PRO Tip: don't waste your fast passes on shows. Use them for rides. Most shows offer plenty of seat space for stand by! Also, once you use all three fast passes in the day, you can head to a kiosk and add another fast pass to your band. This is when I'd recommend using a fast pass for late night shows.
We rode quite a few rides on Wednesday, including my favorite, Space Mountain. We met a few more characters, ate dinner, and then stayed late for the light parade and fireworks show. This visit was even more exciting because Cinderella's Castle was decorated in thousands of lights that changed colors throughout the night. **PRO Tip: Try to find a spot along main street that offers a view of the castle and a view of the street for the light parade. The fireworks, castle holiday show and parade are back-to-back, so you can literally stay in the same place the entire time!
Magic Kingdom is the most popular park of all four, so make sure you come with extra patience and time. Especially during the holidays!
Tomorrow I'll be recapping Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and my final day at Disney! I'll be sharing photos from the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios theme parks as well. Stop back by the blog in the morning!!