Trip Report: September

Home. Sweet. Home. I was gone so long, I thought I’d never see my house or cats again! Kidding, but seriously - I was there for 7 nights, which I almost NEVER stay that long, and it started to feel a liiiittle too long for me. Disclaimer, though: I go very often and a 7 night, 8 day trip is a long time for someone who has done all the things numerous times. My personal sweet spot is 3 full days.

ANYWAY. On to the report! I’ll preface this by saying we did basically none of what I planned for.

Dates: September 7 - 14
Crowd Levels: they were pretty low. I would say the average wait time was 15 - 30 minutes for any given ride. Epcot was about as busy as I expected for a Monday night, and Hollywood Studios (and Galaxy’s Edge specifically) weren’t any busier than a normal day.
Weather: it was SUFFOCATINGLY hot. It only rained on us once, though, on Thursday during Halloween Horror Nights, otherwise, it was dry and hot like a desert.
New for this trip: Universal, Halloween Horror Nights & being chill & not doing anything, ha!

Saturday: our flight landed at MCO just after 5, we grabbed our bags, waited for Magical Express. By the time we finally got to our resort, it was 7:45 and we were tired & hungry. Usually, on a good day, Magical Express takes about 90 minutes from wheels down to resort, and on a really, really good day, about 60 minutes! 2 hours & 45 minutes though…. was really testing our patience. We dropped our stuff in our room & walked over to the main building of the resort to grab some dinner & drinks. I’ll have more notes on the resorts we stayed at a little later.

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Sunday: We were up bright and early and at Magic Kingdom around 8:15 am, barely making it to our 8:20 reservation for Be Our Guest. We had ordered our food in advance but still waited a solid 20 minutes for the food to arrive at our table (waiting was the name of the game this trip….). However, I still recommend ordering in advance because the line to order at the kiosks were INSANE. Always. Pre. Order.
After breakfast, we hit the follow attractions, all using FastPasses: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (9:20 am), Peter Pan’s Flight (9:35 am), Splash Mountain (10 am), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (10:25 am)…. YEP. We used FOUR FastPasses in just over an hour time span.
After we did those attractions, it was starting to get way hot, so we left and hit the pool. It was Sunday, which means Football Day, and was also the season opener for the Kansas City Chiefs, so we hit the pool bar at our resort for a few hours to watch the game. Not my normal Disney activity, but honestly, it was one of the best times we had all week!
Sunday night, we went over to Disney Springs and Casey had ramen at Morimoto Street Food (*not the restaurant, Morimoto Asia*) and he wants you to know it was mediocre.

Monday: We started our day in Animal Kingdom, where all we did was ride Flight of Passage. Yup. That’s it. We walked around the gift shop in Pandora, rode Flight of Passage, then had lunch at Satuli Canteen and went back to the resort for pool/naps.
That evening, we got our act together and went to Epcot, where we tried a couple of things from Food & Wine (I had charcuterie in a cone and warm Indian bread, Casey had a sushi roll and something else from India that I can’t remember). We also spent a good chunk of time in Rose & Crown people watching - namely a girl who was VERY interested in one of the British cast members working the bar. I hope she got his number. Walking around World Showcase, we happened to hit the tail end of Lauren Daigle’s set at Eat to the Beat. I think Casey really enjoyed this!

Tuesday: This was the day we hit Hollywood Studios & Galaxy’s Edge! We arrive around 7:30-ish, and immediately went straight for Smugglers Run & got in the Single Rider line. I’d *heard* from various outlets (cough, WDW Prep, cough), that when the posted waits are low for Smugglers Run, that the Single Rider line is basically walk on. Since Casey and I didn’t feel the overwhelming need to ride together, we hit this line….. and even though the posted wait was only 45 minutes, we still hit a 30-35 minute wait. It was…….the worst. I’m being dramatic, but really, I hated waiting that long for it in a line that is NOT supposed to take that long. It didn’t feel so much like it was because waits were longer than what they were, but because they weren’t actually utilizing the Single Rider line like they are supposed to. But whatever, I digress.
Tuesday night, we did another first for me, which was order in-room dining and had pizza delivered to our room! It was pricey, and not that great, but it was good for a night in.

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Wednesday: This was our big resort day. We moved over to the Polynesian, got checked into Club Level, and lounged at the pool until our room was ready. The main pool was so fun, and very kid friendly. I also * love * zero entry pools, so it was a winner for me. After we got the text that our room was ready, we went and got settled in, I took a ton of photos of the room, then we went to the other Poly pool, which is the “quiet” pool - which I found to get crowded (and loud) super fast. BUT we made friends with the couple next to us, so that made it pretty fun.
After lounging in the sun for a while, we went back to our room, got ready and took the monorail over to Magic Kingdom for a short bit. Casey finally ate a Casey’s Corner hot dog, rode Haunted Mansion and did the last little bit of souvenir shopping.

After getting back to the Poly, we got drinks at Trader Sams, then settled into our room for fireworks from our room because we had a CASTLE VIEW ROOM. Omg, it was amazing, I swear, life doesn’t get any better than watching Happily Ever After while sitting on your hotel bed! We opened up our balcony door so we could hear the music they pipe in for those watching from the beach. It was magic. (Though, I did experience my first full on panic sesh of this trip and I cried through the majority of the fireworks, and not because I was happy. ugh.)

Thursday: We slept in a little, took our time getting ready and then headed out for Universal! I will write a blog on Universal itself later this week because it 100% deserves its own blog, but I’ll touch on it here. We didn’t do a whole lot in Universal Studios this day, just because I was still feeling a little anxious and getting acclimated to a brand new park - this was my very first time to Universal, so I had that “uh, what am I doing, where do I go, I’m going to get lost” feeling. Full disclosure: we walked RIGHT past Diagon Alley the first time when looking for it - they do an amazing job of making it so discreet and out of the way! Walking in the first time was utter magic!

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Thursday evening, we headed back over to Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights. Without a doubt, this was the BEST part of our trip. I’ll touch on this more in the Universal specific blog later, but we purchased the event ticket + Express Pass and it was probably the best $350 I could’ve ever spent on this trip. SO worth it. If you are at all a fan of Halloween, horror & other such things - this is the event for you! We did 3 or 4 houses with my pal Casey (who makes really amazing buttons for Disney/Universal trips), and though she highly recommended the Stranger Things house, we ended up skipping it. But we did the other two she recommended - Jordan Peele’s Us & Ghostbusters! All in all, really good night!

Friday: This was our last day, and we spent it at Islands of Adventure. We did a lot more here & covered more ground. I was telling my boss today that I think islands of Adventure is BY FAR the superior Universal park, but, I found Diagon Alley (in Unviersal) to be better and more immersive than Hogsmeade (in Islands of Adventure). One thing I will note, by the time we’d done King Kong, Spider Man & Forbidden Journey….. I was DONE with the screen/virtual rides. It was starting to give me a headache in a major way. However, the rides are honestly really great & perfect for older kids/teens/adults. Overall, i find Universal to be VERY teenager (and especially teen boy) friendly. This is the PERFECT destination for families with teens.
Friday night, we went back over to City Walk (this is Universal’s shopping/entertainment/dining district), and had dinner and drinks with my friends Ali & Amy. I absolutely LOVE hanging with pals when I’m on trips like this. Anyway - had dinner at CowFish, which is a crazy sushi/burger fusion joint and I would 1000% go back. Though, next time I go, my sights are set on the Chocolate Emporium (!!!).

Saturday: We left *super* early (6:30 am!) for our 9 am flight. We were picked up by Southern Elegance Limousine (thank you, Kelly!), and it was the perfect way to end our big vacation. Jackie, our driver, was so kind and showed up early (!! I love punctuality, ha). Highly, highly recommend Miguel & Jackie at Southern Elegance!

Okay - moving on!

Resorts
We stayed at Saratoga Springs, Club Level at Polynesian Village & Cabana Bay Beach. Loved all three. Here’s pro’s and con’s for all —
Saratoga Springs: Pro’s - on the scale of deluxe resorts, its on the less expensive end, so you get a nicer stay for a decent value. It’s also located literally right next to Disney Springs and even has its own boat AND walkway to Disney Springs. Though, we were extra and took the $20 Minnie Van for the 5 minute ride…. #blameitontheanxiety. Con’s - it’s a HUGE resort, so there’s a handful of internal bus stops, meaning, you might have a bus stop next to your building, but depending on where it is on the route, it might take 10-15 minutes to get OUT of the resort and on your way to the parks, making a quick & simple commute, a 30 minute commute - that was frustrating. The rooms are, while nice, getting a little outdated and showing their age. This wasn’t a total negative, and it was still clean & comfortable, just a little old feeling! But, so it goes with DVC resorts, these are usually bottom of the list on getting remodels & updates.

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Polynesian Village, specifically Club Level: we were gifted a one night stay in a club level, theme park view (!!) room at Polynesian Village by my boss, and friend, Kelly at Travel with the Magic. This experience was nothing short of amazing. I would say Club Level is a great amenity if a) you are planning on spend a good chunk of your time at the resort and b) if you are NOT on the dining plan, since the lounge is fully equipped with food of some sort throughout the day. This resort is also on the monorail, so it’s just a short ride away from Magic Kingdom, making it INCREDIBLY convenient for those with little ones who will spend the bulk of their time at Magic Kingdom. Cons… none really, other than the pool seemed to get crowded rather quickly.

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Cabana Bay Beach: this is considered more on the “value” level at Universal, though it feels more on par with Disney’s moderate resorts. The theming was so retro cute - I was SUPER into it. One thing I loved especially was that all of the rooms open into a hallway, and not outdoors, unlike the Disney moderates/values, which are more motel-style and open into outdoor/open air corridors. Being in a building like this (which after a certain time of evening, required the room key card to open gates/doors), felt WAY more secure. I also loved how the Universal area is so compact, that the bus ride from the hotel to the parks was literally 5 minutes, give or take. Cons - the only one I can think of is that they placed us in one of the two towers of the hotel, which is just about as far away from the lobby as you can get. However, I still loved the room, hotel and everything about it. Just the walk was a little daunting at some points. ;)

Dining
We didn’t do a bunch of dining, aside from Be Our Guest, Trader Sams and CowFish. Other than that, we decided to wing it with snacks/quick service. I really enjoyed the quick service options at Universal, both in the hotel & at the parks!

And that just about covers it all! Our plans basically changed completely, we didn’t use hardly any of the Fastpasses we originally had scheduled, and we spent a grand total of about 10 hours, give or take, in the Disney parks out of the 4 days we were there. That’s the least amount of time I’ve *ever* spent in the parks on a trip, but man…. looking back, it was so necessary and so appreciated. I really needed the downtime, the space to relax and just kind of…chill, for once.

Next on the agenda….telling you everything about being a first timer at Universal Studios! (Because I’ve already got plans to go back next year….twice!)

See you real soon!

*pre* trip report!

I’m doing something fun that I’ve never done before and I’m going to walk you through my vacation plans before I travel and then compare how it actually went when I get back from that trip!

For the pre Trip Report, I will follow my same formula that I use for my regular reports to break down what I plan to do… here we go!

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Vacation Dates: September 7 - 14. We are doing Disney World from the 7th-12th, and then Universal from the 12th - 14th!
Crowd Levels: They are predicted to be low-mid level crowds. With going 10 days after Galaxy’s Edge opening, as well as Food & Wine at Epcot… I feel like they’ll lean more on the heavier side, but I’m hoping for the best!
Weather: It’s gonna be hotter than hell’s gates, my friends. And it’s gonna rain. #hurricaneseason
New for this trip: UNIVERSAL! Neither of us have been to Universal AT ALL! We are also staying at 3 totally new to us hotels over the trip, as well as Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, and 2 restaurants that I’ve never eaten at before!

Saturday: We are flying out of Kansas City, and don’t arrive until close to 5 pm, so we don’t have much of anything planned for this day, aside from grabbing dinner at Disney Springs and maybe doing the new NBA Experience. We will be checking into Saratoga Springs for the first 4 nights of our stay. We are toying with the idea of buying into DVC sometime in the near future (I think Casey has come to understand that he has MANY more Disney vacations in his future….), and Saratoga Springs or Animal Kingdom Lodge will likely be one of the resorts we will be considering… so it’s a test run by staying there! We are most excited about being walking distance to Disney Springs!

Sunday: We are hitting the ground running, with breakfast at Be Our Guest at 8 am! We plan to spend the majority of the day at Magic Kingdom, since it’s a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party day, and crowds tend to be super light on party days! We have FastPasses stacked from 9:30 - 11:30 am for Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We don’t have a huge agenda for what we do this day, mainly because we did it all on our last visit when we went to After Hours. After we are done at Magic Kingdom, we are going to head back to our resort, clean up a bit for dinner, and head over to Disney Springs for our reservation at Morimoto Asia. This was Casey’s #1 request for this trip, we are both very excited to eat here!

Monday: Zero plans, nada, nothing at all. Well, until our dinner reservation at Akershus in Epcot. Casey had requested we do one character meal, so of course, I booked the princess meal, ha! I’m not sure what we are going to do, but since we have a park hopper plus ticket (which allows water park entries), I’m thiiiiiinking…? we might go to Typhoon Lagoon for a few hours, if we feel like it. I don’t know if Casey will be huge on visiting a water park, but I’ve only ever been to Blizzard Beach and it was like 6 years ago, so it’s high time I do a water park again.

Tuesday: Animal Kingdom day! We have FastPasses stacked from 9:45 - 11:45 for Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Flight of Passage. SO excited, because I’ve never been on Kali River Rapids and Casey’s never been on Flight of Passage! We don’t have any set plans for the evening - kind of keeping it open and basing it on wait times around the other parks, and potentially going back to Epcot for some Food & Wine sampling!

Wednesday: The exciting part — we are checking out of Saratoga Springs and into the POLYNESIAN! We are so blessed to have been gifted this for this trip and we plan to make the most of it! We are booked for a Club Level room with a Magic Kingdom view - so obviously, we have zero plans for that evening except to hang around the resort and watch fireworks from our balcony! However… before all that, we plan to be at Hollywood Studios at 6 am for Extra Extra Magic Hours. We hope to do as much as we can in Hollywood Studios, including use our FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash and eat an early lunch at Sci-Fi, but as soon as we have hit everything we want to do, we are OUT of there so we can go enjoy our stay at the Polynesian! I’m thinking, pool time in the afternoon, Trader Sam’s in the evening… it’s going to be an amazing day!

Thursday: We’ll be checking out of The Polynesian and heading over to Universal to stay 2 nights there! Since we are doing just 2 quick nights, and planning to be in the parks a ton, we decided to save money and stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Hotel. I’m excited because it’s got a great view of Volcano Bay! This day, we plan to just head over to the parks whenever we feel like it, take it slow and stay for Halloween Horror Nights. It’s going to be a late night, so we aren’t too stressed about getting there early in the day.

Friday: This is our day we will do the parks a little harder and try to accomplish more! We mainly just want to see and do allllll the Harry Potter! The parks close a little early (because of Halloween Horror Nights), but we aren’t planning to do HHN a second night, so I’m thinking we might do dinner at CowFish? I’ve heard great things about it, so we’ll see! I kinda just want to keep the whole Universal portion of the trip as relaxed and go with the flow as we can.

Saturday: We’ll leave bright and early for a 9 am flight!

I think I’ll be sad when leaving this time, because I know we’ll never have a trip like this again - a) I never stay for a full week and b) Casey doesn’t usually join on my trips. I am hoping to savor every single second of this trip! It’s definitely going to be a special one!

OKAY! THAT’S ALL! It’s a packed full week but it’s going to be amazing! I can’t wait to update you all on how things actually went! Should be interesting because when you make plans….you almost never actually keep them, ha!

Until next time!

Haley

May Trip Report

I feel like I just went to Disneyland…. and now here I am writing about my WDW Trip Report. And like I say every time, I have so many things I want to go a bit more in depth about, and I promise, promise, promise I’m doing that IN THE NEXT WEEK. PROMISE.

Vacation Dates: April 30 - May 2, 2019
Crowd Levels: I can’t give an accurate idea on this because I only did one real park day… but it was busy, but not awful.
Weather: Hot! So hot! And humid! And also, lots of rain.
Parks Visited: Hollywood Studios & Magic Kingdom
New for this trip: I used resort pools for the first time ever! Also, did a split stay, which means I stayed at more than one Disney resort during my trip.

Tuesday: I arrived at MCO around 11 am and between grabbing my bag & waiting on Magical Express/commute time, I got to All Star Movies around 1 pm-ish. I immediately checked in, took my bags to my room, changed into a swimsuit and got lunch in the food court before hitting the pool. This was something I have never done before & I only ended up staying for a little over an hour because I got bored. I didn’t prepare well enough, by leaving my phone in my room to charge & by not bringing a book to read. After getting back to my room, I took some time to get ready for my dinner plans and then headed out to the Poly for dinner with a friend!
Dinner! Oh man. So, I met with my friend Laurie for dinner at Kona are at the Polynesian Village Resort and it was so fun! We both ordered the same sushi roll and the same drink (yall, the drink was in an actual pineapple. The whole pineapple). After dinner, we went downstairs to Trader Sams, where it was NOT BUSY AT ALL. I’ve never not waited an hour for Trader Sams, so this was actually amazing to just walk in and have our pick of seating. After dinner, she drove me back to All Star Movies and I hit the hay.

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Wednesday: The most exciting day of my life. Bright and early, I packed up my stuff, put on my swimsuit/coverup again and requested a Minnie Van through the Lyft app to take me over to my next hotel, which was… The Grand Floridian. I wanted to cry the entire ride over because I was so excited, thank goodness for the sweet cast member who talked to me the whole time (except for when he said “welcome home” when we pulled up….I cried.). I checked in around 10 am, so my room was definitely not ready yet, so I dropped off my luggage (and had them deliver it when my room was ready later, around 2 pm). I grabbed a late breakfast at the resort’s “food court” before hitting the pool. I stayed so much longer at this pool than I did at All Star Movies on Tuesday! All of the pools at the Grand are incredible - quiet, zero entry & VERY kid friendly, fun theming. They have Cast Members that walk around and take orders for you, for both drinks and food. It was just amazing. I recommend everyone a) stay at the Grand Floridian once in your life and b) build in resort pool time during longer trips, because it was SUCH a relaxing day!

After some pool time, Laurie came by to look around, take some photos and eat lunch. We shared a flatbread pizza - SO good. I’m still thinking about the last piece that we threw away and I wish I could eat it right now. After she left, I stopped by the Basin bath store and bought a bath bomb to use in the tub in my room, so I could rest and relax a little more before heading to my dinner meeting!

Now - the dinner meeting. This was part of the Discover the Magic Tour that Disney invited travel agents to - it was so fun and so informative. I walked away with so much information and new ways to market my business. More on that soon!

AFTER the dinner meeting, I went straight to Hollywood Studios for the 30th anniversary After Hours party! This was the same as the last After Hours event I went to in January, just at Hollywood Studios. I did everything I wanted to do in less than 2 hours - that’s how incredible this event is. I watched the new Wonderful World of Animation projection show, rode Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Slinky Dog Dash (twice!), Toy Story Mania, as well as met Chewbacca, Jawas, and Fancy Nancy, as well as stopped by for a soda and popcorn (which are free during the event!) to enjoy while taking a break. The events official hours were 9:30 pm - 12:30 am, but I left around 11:15 pm because at that point, I’d done everything I wanted to do and felt okay leaving! But honestly, and I mean it when I say, they are some of the best times I’ve ever had at Disney. Experiencing Disney in general is truly incredible - but experiencing it with actual no crowds — that’s magic!

Thursday: I hated leaving The Grand Floridian. Hated it. But, I checked out, stowed my luggage with bell services and took the monorail over to Magic Kingdom. Note to self: monorail first thing in the morning is PACKED FULL and it’s SO SWEATY. I got to Magic Kingdom around 9:15 - I grabbed some Starbucks with a minimal wait and hit a couple of rides while waiting for my friend to join me! Once she arrived, we did a couple of FastPasses, snacked on the best waffle fries I’ve ever had, rode some more rides, before snatching up a last minute lunch reservation at Be Our Guest. It rained off and on so much all day, so we called it a day around 4 pm and I headed back to the Grand to charge up my phone before my flight (which then ended up being delayed…)

My Resort(s): This was only a quick two night trip, so I decided to dabble in split stays. A split stay is when you stay at more than one resort during your vacation. So for mine, I stayed the first night at All Star Movies - I was lucky to get a newly remodeled room! They are the exact same as the Pop Century remodel from a few summers ago, and they are amazing! I, uh, might like it more than Pop Century now…? STOP THE PRESSES!
My second stay was The Grand Floridian in an “outer building, garden view” room - which is basically G-Flo speak for “standard room”. I was put in the Sago Cay building (which I had previously put in a request for - so that was honored!), and put in a lake facing room - since upgraded views are something you have to pay for, I didn’t get a room that faced the Castle (though it could be seen from the marina area outside of my building!), I did face the monorail, which was so fun to watch it pass by every few minutes! The room was gorgeous and by far the nicest room I’ve ever stayed in. I would stay here again in a heartbeat.

Dining: I started out this trip with reservations at 1900 Park Fare and the Afternoon Tea at the Grand, as well as a breakfast at Be Our Guest…. all of which ended up cancelled! The dining I ended up sticking with was Kona Cafe, Trader Sams and lunch at Be Our Guest. All of which were solid choices. In terms of quick service, I also ate at both quick service locations at my resorts and Golden Oak Outpost in Magic Kingdom (REALLY SOLID WAFFLE FRIES).

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All in all, I had an amazing time. I’m really loving these little short bursts of trips. Being located in Missouri, it’s a long way to fly when I’m really only there for less than 72 hours, but every time, it’s so worth it and I never regret making the trip.
I also really love sharing these “reports” with you because I have experienced all different kinds of vacations over the last few years, and I just want to showcase how every trip is truly different each time! There’s no such thing as experiencing Disney World the exact same every time you go. This was one of the most relaxed and care-free trips I’ve ever had and now I’m going to be their biggest advocate!

Until next time. :)
-Haley