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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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. ;)
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!