For my 59th birthday my sweetheart wife took me on a vacation to Disney World to, primarily, visit The Animal Kingdom. Long a fan of zoos and animal sanctuaries, I had heard good things about WDW's treatment of the animal experience. I was excited to go.
We also scheduled time at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, the future (as in August 29th) home of "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" and "Toy Story Land." It was a great trip. I always enjoy and look forward to time with Cynthia. It's a peas and carrots kind of thing. We just simply love to be in each other's space and this was no exception.
Here are a few observations, then some suggestions.
- The paper straws are ghastly. They turn to mush too soon and have to be replaced. You cannot even think of using them successfully for a slush or smoothie. Maybe bring your own plastic or reusable straws?
- Wear comfortable shoes. Real comfortable. I have no idea how people walk ten miles or more in flip-flops, but think it over long and hard before you try it.
- You can tell the American girls from the visitors from Central America or Europe without them ever opening their mouths and speaking...the home-grown gals will be wearing inappropriate clothing almost every time. The foreigners have some modesty, those born in the ol' USA seemingly do not. OMGoodness it was...was...tacky & embarrassing.
- Use deodorant. Enough said.
- Hydrate. Restrooms are everywhere and very clean and tidy.
- Disney does what it does really, really well. Yeah, I do not like the political correctness and philosophy of Disney (embrace the LGBTQ community, push away Christians by killing the hugely successful and popular "Night of Joy"), but it knows how to treat guests and keep their parks and resorts/hotels looking terrific.
- "Toy Story Land" is wonderful. More on that in the suggestions below.
Suggestions (in no particular order, though I will try to organize them). I know there is more than one way to climb a Space Mountain, but...
- Get the My Disney Experience - Walt Disney World app. Yes, it has bugs. Yes, it can be complicated to set up, but you are a simple phone call away from it being able to do the important stuff if you need help to set-up the app. Just call. The app will be invaluable on your trip.
- Use MagicBands. We LOVED ours. Picked our colors, engraved with our name. Also we set ours up for payments, parking, admission, Fast Pass+, and even room entry. #Convenient.
- If you stay at on-site properties you get to pick Fast Passes 60 days early. Off property 30 days.
- Yes, there are reasonably priced hotels. We stayed at one, the Pop Century Resort. Loved it.
- If you stay on property you will be charged for daily parking, but it covers theme park parking, too. We drove to the parks. Easy in, easy out. Loved it and did not have to wait on buses, boats, etc.
- If at all possible order your tickets at least thirty days before you go (if not staying on site). Set the date(s). Here's why:
- You can select your FastPass (FP+) 30 days in advance of your visit and you want those 30 days to have a chance at the rides you want.
- Rides/attractions at all parks EXCEPT Magic Kingdom are on a tiered basis for now. That means you can only FB+ one tier "A" ride or attraction. The other FP+ you select will be for lower tier rides, etc.
- BUT, if you get to the park first thing in the morning when it opens (and I mean be there at the gate, past bag inspection) you can go to the one ride you really want to get on FIRST without a FP+. There will likely be no wait at all.
- Plan to go on your first big ride without the FP+ at the start of the day when the park opens, and then pick your first three FP+ rides/attractions. This is why you do it ASAP...because you cannot pick another FP+ single ride/attraction until you use your FIRST three. So when you select your parks and the dates you are going to them pick your first set of three FP+ for the morning/mid-day. This allows you to pick one at a time later in the same day. After the first three FP+ you go one at a time. Use one, pick another, etc. This is really important, this is also why you get on that first "must" ride when the park opens without the FP+ because you get to save your FP+ for a second tier "A" ride!
- Single Rider Lines. They exist on some rides and if you get down to it and really want on a ride it's a great way to experience the ride at roughly the same time as everyone else (depending on the age of the kids, of course).
- Bring one or more portable charging bricks for your phone. Priceless. Charging stations exist, but they're risky and are easily hacked. Use a brick.
- As for age...my wife thinks kids 5 yrs and older are good; I think it's closer to 8 yrs and older. "Wait until eight!" I also would never bring a stroller to a theme park. Ever. Always keep in mind their maturity and be honest with yourself about your kids. It is no time to bargain when your kid is throwing a tantrum over a toy in a gift shop. Settle all of that before you ever head to WDW. You're welcome.
The parks (we did not go to the Magic Kingdom...too young of a park/rides for us).
- The Animal Kingdom
- Must do the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Go first thing in the morning to see the animals at their most active. Then the Jungle Walk after.
- Expedition Everest roller coaster looked pretty cool. We did not ride due to weather (it shut down for a couple of hours due to lightning) and uncertainty of whether or not it did inversions. Not down with loops, etc. Still, looked fun.
- Do the Kali River Rapids, BUT you WILL get wet. It was not my wife's preference. I think you ought to dress with fast dry clothes and go for it.
- We went to Pandora and the line was too long for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, so we missed it. The Na'vi River ride was lame, to me, but if you want calm and light for the little kids it's perfect. I just did not think the wait was worth it. The environment in Pandora was cool though.
- Missed the Dinosaur ride (bummer), but all of the Animal Kingdom shows and attractions were top-notch. Highlighting the list was Tough to Be a Bug, Festival of The Lion King, Up! A Great Bird Adventure.
- Make sure to stay for the Rivers of Light at 9:00 PM and use a FastPass+ on it. Premium seating is well worth it.
- Here are the must dos
- Test Track, Mission Space (they have moderate and intense - we did the former and had a great time), Soarin' Around The World (might want to do that one first, then FP+ Test Track).
- We also really enjoyed Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival. It's 3D and fun.
- After that it's preference. We love seeing the American Adventure, if only to hear the Voices of Freedom singers. Brilliant voices inside the waiting area. Be under the dome when they sing. Outside is a Guardians of The Galaxy concert which was a lot of fun.
- Skip the brats, as in food, (unless you like a big roll filled with sauerkraut and a tiny bratwurst) in Germany.
- I thought the Frozen Ever After ride was ehhh.
- If you do Soarin' go ahead and take the time to go on the Living with The Land ride. I love the innovation. You'll see some cool things.
- Here are the must dos
- Hollywood Studios
- Here are the musts
- Toy Story Land's Slinky Dog Dash coaster. We did not get on that one, but really wanted to do so. Need to go right away when the park opens or make it a FP+ selection. A lot of folks like the Tower of Terror (my wife does), not me. It's another long wait, though. So, if you want both go to one first thing in the AM and FP+ the other. Star Tours is a must and, of course, the new Star Wars land, Galaxy's Edge is coming August 29th. There are other rides, but they did not interest us.
- Attractions worth seeing are the Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy and any of the shows. The Frozen Sing-Along was a surprisingly good choice. The Indiana Jones Stunt Show never disappoints, though we did not see it this time - did years ago.
- Here are the musts
I am sure I have forgotten things and your preferences may be different than mine, but I hope you found this useful and, at least, interesting.