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Our Trip to Orlando and Universal/Disney Travel Tips! (Long Post!!!)

Well, we just got back from our trip to Orlando! And I am tired and sore, but happy and so very glad we were able to do this as a family! Most of my Facebook peeps saw our pictures, but I wanted to share about our vacation and a little travel tips for those thinking of planning something similiar! 

Use a Travel Agent!

First and foremost - I booked my trip, basically last minute, through the amazing and wonderful Lana Kluge . Booking through a travel agent costs you, the consumer, NOTHING. It doesn't make your trip any more expensive and adds nothing to your end bill. What it does do is add a valuable service to your vacation, and that's exactly what Lana offered us. She has been to Disney multiple times and was able to answer all of my many questions up to, and while on, my vacation. Even with booking our resort, we were able to ask where our room was located, as the resort we stayed at (Art of Animation) is very large and I read people saying they had to walk a very long way to the bus stops. She knew exactly where our room was located and how far we would be walking each day (which was not much). While gone, our Photo Pass photos weren't linked to our Disney app, so the pics were coming through with watermarks instead of as downloadable shots. She took care of this while we were off having a good time, instead of waiting in line for Guest Services. So, first things start, book through her, or your own reliable travel agent! 

Universal Studios and Loews Resorts

I am a researcher by nature, so when we started planning our trip, I got a little obsessed with finding out information about both Universal and Disney. Jason had a conference at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort in Universal, so we got to tag along with him. I probably would never even think to go to Universal while in Orlando, thinking that my money would be better spent at Disney. I'm glad I got a little glimpse into the amazing things Universal has to offer!! The resort we stayed at, Sapphire Falls, is Loews newest resort. And it was amazing. All of the Loews resorts (all 6 of them!) are linked together and you can visit any and all of them, and use their resort benefits, as often as you'd like. There are great restaurants onsite, but there is also a great place called City Walk to eat and spend time, and all of these restaurants are on Universal's meal plan. The hotels, City Walk and the three parks are linked...you can either walk (it's not like Disney, these parks and hotels don't have spacious acres in between each one) or you can ride a water taxi to most (very beautiful and short trip). We were greeted with very nice and attentive front desk personnel who were more than willing to help us with any questions we had. This hotel, while family friendly, was definitely geared towards adults, as the restaurants and hotel itself weren't "kid-themed," like you'd find at many Disney resorts. The pool had a beach with sand, a hot tub (which was amazing), a fire pit with large adaronack chairs (and a smores kit upon request, if you are so inclined), a bar with food right by the pool with waitstaff, towels and sunscreen available poolside, and the pool had a slide. Other resorts do have splash pads at their pools and toys like pool noodles and beach balls for the kids to play with. They all have some type of activity for kids each day around the clock and all have a nightly poolside movie (Universal, of course) with different movies each day at each resort. 



When we originally planned this trip, Sophia was supposed to go with us, but ended up not being able to go last minute. Had she come, I was ready to visit the parks with the girls. Universal theme parks are geared more towards older kids and adults, with kid-friendly attractions thrown in the mix, like Dr Suess and Despicable Me. But mostly, they are thrill rides and older kid attractions, the main being the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With only Avery with me, I just couldn't justify the expense of the tickets to a theme park I just didn't think she'd like all that much. However, I spoke with many guests nightly who stayed at our hotel with their older kids who said they love Universal Studios. All of them vacationed to Orlando multiple times, loving Disney as the kids were littler and then loved Universal as they got older. With it being Halloween, many had come this month just to take part in the Universal Halloween attractions, which are much scarier than the Disney alternative. The park-hopper passes run $169 per day, which really isn't that bad considering you get access to 3 parks, including the Hogwarts Express that takes you between the two Harry Potter areas at Universal Studios and Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. 

What surprised me was how compact the area for Universal and the Resorts were. Not small, just compact. Everything seemed much closer together and easier to get to. I was surprised when we went to City Walk, which I will talk about in a sec, and there was the entrance to one of the parks. From City Walk (which is basically the Universal equivalent of Disney Springs) you could see several of the attractions inside the park, like roller coasters. 

City Walk is a place I could spend a few days in. There are so many neat restaurants, bars and dance halls. The first night, we ate at a restaurant called The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen. It was such a cool place....think Willy Wonka, but with steampunk flare!


This is Penelope and her robot Jacque who visit the table throughout your dining experience. The walls have several flat screens with the inner-workings of a chocolate factory showing throughout the meal. 


The restaurant is huge and has a restaurant section, a shake-only bar, and a candy and dessert area. This area was unbelievable - the truffles, macaroons and cupcakes were out of this world. And they were so good. I had a lavender macaroon to DIE FOR. 

Image result for toothsome chocolate emporium penelope

The restaurant was very reasonably priced, with most items $15 or less. The desserts were the most expensive and for good reason - they were enormous!


This restaurant is a must for anyone in Orlando, whether or not you are even going to Universal. It's a huge tourist trap, but such a cool one, and the food is very tasty, with lots of chocolate themes throughout the meal selections. They even had a chocolate beer, which we had to have a taste of, just to say we tried it. It tasted exactly like it sounds - chocolate beer. It was good for a swig, but I couldn't drink an entire glass of it. But if you like very dark beer, this might be one for you. 

City Walk has so many other places to visit, live music, dancing, outdoor dining, and is good for walking around and seeing the sights and colors.

Image result for city walk

Avery very much enjoyed spending time in the resort pool. All of the pools have very attentive life guards, which makes you feel very comfortable about children swimming. None of the pools we visited were deeper than about 4 feet, but we did get a chance to watch the guards in action as a younger girl started struggling in the water. While she met friends and swam, we took advantage of the pool view from the hot tub, and all of the lovely people we got to meet while there. It was heavenly. Thursday, she swam for literally 7 hours straight. It wasn't too hot there, but the pools were somewhat heated and were comfortable for kids. And there were a lot there for her to play with, so she absolutely loved it! 





Disney Experience - Art of Animation Resort

We left bright and early Friday morning at 7 am, to head over to our resort, grab our wristbands and drop off our luggage. We weren't expecting to have a room ready that early, but were pleasantly surprised that it was ready for us, and we were able to drop off bags before heading to our first breakfast reservation. The Art of Animation Resort was a very neat hotel. There are 4 separate sections - Lion King, Little Mermaid, Nemo and Cars. This resort is sprawling. We stayed in the Lion King section, reasonably close to the main lobby area. The resort is very nicely decorated and is a great place for kids, with bright colors and characters all over the place. 






This resort is a moderate resort - there are 3 levels of resorts: value, moderate and deluxe. We had no choice but this hotel as we booked so last minute, but we were happy with it, although we really didn't spend very much time there. We were only there for 3 days and 3 nights, and were on the go almost the entire time. We could have just as easily had the same experience in a value resort, had one been available. However, for those staying longer, I think the resort of choice does make a huge difference. There are a lot of differences that make these resorts various prices. Room size, amenities, restaurant options, view, proximity to the parks, and theme all go into what make these parks more or less expensive. This is where you'll have to decide what type of vacation you are looking for. Do you want someplace with lots of restaurant options? Do you want a larger room with more amenities? Will you be spending much of your time outside the hotel, therefore the hotel you sleep in doesn't matter than much to you? Would you like a more family friendly hotel in decor, or something more upscale? All of these things go into choosing the right resort for your budget and experience. Just remember - all resorts have transportation to all of the parks and other resorts, and all of them allow you to take advantage of the dining plan, however, most value and moderate resorts do not have a table service restaurant, though you can travel to other resorts should you want to have a meal at another hotel. This is where a travel agent will come in handy, as they can tell you all the info you'd like to know to make a great decision. All in all, I was very happy with our resort choice. We didn't eat at our hotel except for once at breakfast, so the lack of a table-service restaurant didn't bother us in the least. With that said, onto the dining plan....

Disney Experience - The Dining Plan

This is a huge decision and in my opinion, one of the most important to our vacation, because it was our first time to go and we probably won't be going back for a while. Since we were only there a short time, and there was only three of us, there wasn't a huge price difference from one option to the next. The dining plan also offers a 3 tiered option - quick service dining, regular dining, and deluxe dining. The difference between all three of these is the type of meals you get a choice of. With the quick service, you get 2 quick service meals, 2 snacks and a refillable mug. With regular dining, you get one quick service meal, a table service meal, 2 snacks and the mug. With the deluxe, you get 3 table service meals, 2 snacks and a mug. There are vast differences with each of these plans. First and foremost - remember that you can only take advantage of these meal plans if you stay at a Disney resort and if you booked your trip through a Disney agent or website. For example, if you book your stay at the Dolphin resort (a Disney property) but you book it through a 3rd party travel site, like booking.com, you can not add the dining plan onto your stay. Second, remember that dining at Disney, regardless of which restaurant you choose, is going to be expensive if you pay by the meal. With that said, I didn't realize until I got there that you are allowed to bring food and drinks into the park, as long as it's not alcohol or in glass containers. This is a great way of doing Disney on a budget and we saw many people eating their own sandwiches and snacks along the way. If we had been to Disney before and had driven in, or had the opportunity to grocery shop while in Orlando, I would definitely take advantage of being able to bring in our own food, as it would save a lot of money. 

But because we only had one kid with us, and we were only there three days, and we wanted to not have to worry about paying for food while there and we wanted to take full advantage of all we could, we opted for the deluxe plan. 





Here are a couple things to remember with the plans. For every night you are staying at the resort, you get that number of credits. For example, if you arrive on Monday and leave Friday at lunch, and let's say you get the deluxe dining plan, you will get 4 days worth of credits, so 3 table service meals plus 2 snacks each day, times 4. You will start off your week with a total of 12 table service credits and 8 snack credits, per person. These can be used at any time throughout your stay, even on the last day you checkout. You can use all 8 snacks the first day, if you wanted. One thing I didn't think about was the fact that while we were there three full days, we would also be needing a breakfast and lunch at the resort on the 4th day before we flew out. Luckily, I remembered in enough time to save snacks and we were able to get some breakfast items as snacks, like muffins and cereal so we didn't have to pay for an additional meal. 





The difference between quick service and table service is vast. Quick service meals are meals where you order at the counter and eat at a table, much like fast food. These restaurants do not accept reservations and you just wait in line to order. Our hotel restaurant was mostly like a food court and that would be considered quick service. There are several quick service options at each resort and throughout the parks. Mostly, you get a lot of hot dog, hamburger, chicken strips options with these type of quick service meals. However, there are very good blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to dining in Disney, as well as using your travel agent and friends who've been who can guide you to quality quick service meal options. If you do a little bit of research prior to going, you can certainly find good options for quick service plans. Table service includes any restaurant where you are waited on, they usually require reservations, there are often gratuities on top of the plan and they are always seated inside. These include all of your character meals, as well as your finer dining establishments. Now - with that said - there are certain restaurants that are quick service for breakfast and table service for lunch or dinner. Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom, which allows you to eat inside of the Beast's castle, is one of these places. While at breakfast, you do not get the benefit of a character breakfast (The Beast doesn't go from table to table or appear during this meal), you do get to dine in the castle and experience the ambiance, which was great for us. This meal does usually require reservations so you don't have to wait, but I did find this to be easy to find, especially for breakfast or lunch. Also something to remember - not all table service options are 1 credit, some are 2. For example, Cinderella's Royal Feast is 2 table service credits. There are also combo options for some, that give you a table service meal which comes with VIP seating to the evening shows which are also worth 2 credits. When choosing your meals, it will tell you on your Disney app (which I will get to in a second) how much each of these is worth. Just keep that in mind when planning. Despite having a Disney dining plan, a credit card is required for securing the reservation and if you aren't paying attention to your meal credits, and you've run out but still have another meal to eat, you could end up at a $200 dinner and not even realize you are getting charged extra for it. 



We wanted the ability to pick wherever we wanted to eat, so we got the deluxe plan. We didn't choose this because we wanted to eat a lot while we were there - we chose it because almost every meal we picked was a character meal and knew Avery would love it. Just be sure to do your research with each of these and don't assume anything. Look at the reviews, as people rate these experiences and you can read each person's take on if the meal is worth visiting or not. Also keep in mind your schedule - if you are unable to attend a meal that you've reserved a time for and don't cancel it in enough time, the credit card you secured the reservation with could be charged a cancellation fee. I spent a lot of my time prior to and during my trip on my Disney app, changing around reservations to accommodate to our schedule. I cannot tell you how invaluable this app was to our trip. When I say assume nothing, here's what I mean - we were able to get a reservation for Cinderella's Royal Feast. I assumed this was only a character experience for Cinderella and Prince Charming. However, it was for Cinderella and 4 other princesses - all of which we'd seen the night before at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot. We were much happier with the Cinderella Feast than with the Princess Dinner at Epcot and had I read more on it, I would have gladly only done the Cinderella dinner and found another character meal with a different experience for our other meal. Also, don't assume that because you are paying a lot for a meal at these character experiences, that you will get the best service and the best food. I tried not to look at the price tag when the bill came (it will show you the price on the receipt for each meal, which you have to sign for, but the amount you owe will be $0 because of the plan). There were some meals I would have been very disappointed with for what we paid vs. what we got. The Princess dinner, while it was very pretty, had not-great service and the food just wasn't all that impressive. As long as you realize the hefty price tag is for the experience, not just the food, you will find yourself much less disappointed. Our favorite non-character table service meal, with the best food we had and the absolute best service in all of our trip was the Coral Reef in Epcot. Our server was amazing, our food was delicious and we made some good convo with the hostesses prior to being seated, so they hooked us up and sat us right next to the aquarium glass, which was so much fun. We arrived right at feeding time so we got a bunch of views of some hungry fish!! We also got a Fast Pass to Turtle Talk with Crush from the hostesses, and right after lunch we headed to his show. I don't know that we would have done this had we not been given the fast pass (which you really didn't need), but it was probably one of Jason and mine's favorite experience. 



Not all restaurants or meals are on the meal plan, even the deluxe meal plan. Some places do not accept it and some meals are not included in it. The server will ask you prior to ordering if you are on the pass and what is included on that pass. Most of the bigger meals had a non-alcoholic drink option, an app, an entree or buffet, and a desert. All kids' meals included the same. The app will allow you to filter all dining options on your plan prior to making your reservations, so you can rest assured you aren't reserving a restaurant not included in your plan. 

One other thing I didn't realize - and I assume most people didn't either - was that the refillable mug is only refillable at your resort, not anywhere at the parks. I found this greatly disappointing and couldn't really understand the reason for this. Even on the Six Flags dining plan, you get to refill your cup all day every day, anywhere you go. I would assume Disney would get on board with that as well. However, given that any of the snack kiosks or restaurants would gladly give you water in a cup for free, you could essentially bring your cup into the park and at least keep water on hand at all times. You could also get a refill on any drink during your meals and carry that around with you. We also figured out that on our way out of the resort in the mornings, we would fill our cups with coffee or soda and were able to carry it into the park with no problems. Just realize that you can only get your cup at your resort and you won't get refills on it in the parks. 

Disney Experience - Photo Pass Memory Maker

Of course, I'd seen picture after picture on friend's Facebook pages from Disney, with perfectly centered castles in the background or cute little cartoon characters in the picture. These are generally the perks of the Memory Maker package. For a one time charge of $169, you can have the option of having photographers take pictures of you and your family, then have them linked to your Disney app, save them onto your phone or device and keep them forever. This package is the only way you get the "magic shots," the shots with extra characters added after the fact. Here are the pros and cons of this package: 

Pro: The picture quality of their cameras are excellent - they can take very quick pictures with no blur. So, let's say Avery was talking to Tiana and I took a pic of them hugging. My pic on my cell phone might take a very blurry picture, while their cameras are crisp and clear. 




Pro: You are able to be in the picture experience along with your child, and the photographer (or the good ones, anyway) will take several pictures with both posed and candid shots. I was personally very interactive with the characters to help Avery feel more comfortable, so I was in a lot of the shots. As the mom, sometimes, we are busy being the one to take the pictures, and are often not in them, so for me, this was a huge plus. 



Pro: You can take as many pictures as you want, in as many different poses as you want. In all parks, they generally have at least a few photographers set up with tripods located in the prime "shot" area for background. For example, at Magic Kingdom, I think on our way in, there were at least 8 photographers along Main Street, each with a different shot of the castle in the background. When you walked in, there was immediately a fall themed area where there were tall pumpkins on either side, allowing you to get the castle in the background with the fall decor on either side. They also had a photographer set up right in front of the castle, so if you only wanted the castle and nothing else, you could get that shot. You could get a day shot, a night shot, whatever you wanted. And the picture quality was astounding, as some of the colors and lighting made the pictures that much better. I'll show you some different shots and compare those taken with my phone vs their camera.

(theirs)

(theirs)

(my phone)

(their camera)

(my phone)

(their camera)

(mine)

(theirs)


Pro: You get all access to every ride picture you go on with that option. I will get to how they get linked to your account in a second, but you can get all of those shots with the Memory Maker. 

Pro: Any picture you take in the park is saved for you. Let's say that you are in an experience, like Enchanted Tales with Belle, and you are actually chosen to be in the performance and are unable to take pictures yourself. There is a photographer that will do it for you so you don't miss out on photos with that experience. Let's also say your phone gets lost or stolen - along with all the pictures you took. All of your Memory Maker photos are safely saved for a period of time, allowing you to download onto any device you choose. 

Pro: Bonus Pictures...I just realized that there are "bonus pictures" of each park that day taken by the photographers. These are general pictures from the parades, the fireworks shows, the stills of the buildings - all pictures you'd take yourself but much better quality. There were so many people taking pictures of the fireworks at MK. I mean, watch it! Don't film it. These bonus pics allow you to have pictures without having to take them yourself. 

(Yeah, like I could have taken that one myself.)

Pro: Magic Shots - We didn't get offered this option except by 2 photographers. Apparently you have to ask for it, as some photographers simply don't want to take the time to do it, especially if there is a long line for that particular shot (Ex. Cinderella's Castle). We got a few of these, but I will say, I didn't really care if I had these or not. Maybe because I didn't know all of the cool things we could get, but I thought it was a neat perk. 




Con: There aren't many cons, but I felt it important to say that most of these photographers will definitely take the same pictures with your camera. A photographer will take any picture with any device. However, they won't take as many with your device as they will with theirs. Mainly because your camera doesn't do all of the cool things their cameras do. Just understand that you can still get family pictures with any background or any character experience with your own device, as well as take your own video or pictures throughout the experience. So don't feel like you have to pay for this - it's certainly a perk but not a necessary one, if you don't want to spend the money. 

Con: I do not know why, but these photographers weren't in any of the character meal experiences, with the exception of the front where there might be a posed character. This bugged me, considering how much these meals cost. Basically, I would have to keep my phone out to snap shots of Avery with the characters. I felt like for what you pay, you should get a photographer taking the pictures. I'm sure there are reasons for this, but I wasn't a fan of that. So, just know, no matter what, you will be taking those pictures yourself. 

Disney Experience - The Disney Experience App

When you book your trip, your agent should tell you to download the My Disney Experience App. This is linked to your entire stay - your resort, your dining plan and dinner reservations, your Fast Passes and itinerary, your Memory Maker photos, your Magic Band charges, park times, character experiences, wait times for each attraction, maps of the park, restaurant locations, and much more. This is your ultimate best friend. 

You can start using this app almost immediately, even before you've booked anything. You can actually set up reservations for restaurants with your credit card, even if you haven't booked a dining plan yet. 

Disney Experience - Fast Passes

When you book your trip, I would start trying to plan your Fast Passes as soon as possible. Each day, you start off with 3 Fast Passes available for any ride that has availability. You can request more as the day goes on, but everyone starts off with 3. You can only book those Fast Passes at one park. So, you can't book one at Magic Kingdom, then two more at Animal Kingdom. At least, not beforehand. If you use all of the MK Fast Passes, your app will usually give you one more, or you can request more from the Fast Pass kiosks throughout the park. The way I decided our Fast Passes was to look at my app on the day we'd be visiting the park and seeing which ride had the longest wait. For example, I knew we'd be going to Magic Kingdom on a Saturday. So that Saturday before, I looked at the park to see which rides had the longest wait. Then tried to book Fast Pass times for those rides. 

I will try and give you the rides or character experiences I found at each park to suggest using your Fast Pass for: 

Magic Kingdom Rides: Peter Pan's Flight (always has a long wait, no matter what time), Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Tomorrowland Speedway (if your child is into that, I didn't think that ride was worth some of the waits I saw, especially since I've ridden the antique cars at Six Flags and it's almost exactly the same thing)

Magic Kingdom Character Experiences: Mickey Town Square, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Cinderella and Elena

Epcot Rides: Frozen Ever After (this always has the longest line in Epcot, from what we saw), Soarin, Test Track (we didn't get to do this, but I heard it's amazing)

Epcot Character Experiences: Anna and Elsa, Epcot Character Spot

Hollywood Studios Rides: Rockin Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Star Wars ride, Toy Story Mania

Hollywood Studios Character Experiences: Mickey and Minnie Red Carpet Dreams

Animal Kingdom Rides: (FYI - we could never get any Fast Passes to this park. Since these attractions are so new, there were never any available, but we've heard these are amazing) Na'Vi River Journey, Avatar Flight of Passage, Expodition Everest

Not sure about the character experiences, since we opted to skip this park. 

Rides to DEFINITELY do, that won't require a Fast Pass but are very cool: 

Mickey's PhilHarmagic: This is a 3-D show and was in Avery's top 3 things she did. It was the only thing we did twice. There is never a line and it is so much fun. This was suggested to me by the employee we made friends with in line as one of the most underrated experiences in Disney. I agreed after seeing how much Avery loved it.

Disney's Carousel of Progress: There is never a line and this is a great way to spend about 20 minutes. 

People Mover in Tomorrowland: This is a nice, long, relaxing break! 

Turtle Talk with Crush in Epcot: He is absolutely hilarious. This is an interactive cartoon in which Crush from Nemo interacts with the audience. The kids love asking him questions and he has the best responses!!! 

Nemo in Epcot/Ariel Journey in Magic Kingdom - These are almost identical except with different movies. The lines move very fast and it's a nice long ride that is relaxing. 

Dumbo: We were told not to use the Fast Pass on this one, even if the wait is long. Dumbo now has two rides and on your way in line, there is a playground inside a carnival tent where you are given a pager and your child can run off and play while you are waiting (and sitting). This is a great way for kids to get rid of some energy while you wait in the A/C and catch up on some phone time. 

Disney Experience - Restaurant Reservation Suggestions: 

Here are the restaurants I would recommend that we tried that don't have reservation times available often: 

Cinderella's Royal Feast - we ended up finding a reservation last minute, for 11 pm on Saturday night. It was late, but totally worth it. The food was good, but we didn't really eat much because of the time of day. It was very much worth the experience. 

Coral Reef - I know I already said it, but this was a very neat experience. 

Crystal Palace - This restaurant is in the Magic Kingdom. While Winnie the Pooh isn't exactly something we watch, these characters were lovely. The buffet was very good, and the location of this restaurant is awesome. We could see the view of Cinderella's Castle from our table. 

Be Our Guest - This is a must. The castle is very interactive. There are three dining rooms you get a choice of - the Rose Room (this is a dark room with the Beast's torn portrait and it lightnings occasionally, creating very cool ambiance), the Ball Room (this room has a "view" of the courtyard that snows) and the Library/Portrait Room (with a "dancing" Beast and Belle statue in the center.)

Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios, especially for a seasonal meal - This meal is "hosted" by Minnie. Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Minnie are all dressed up for Halloween and go from table to table. We had our best character experience here, mainly because we made friends with the manager and Guest Experience coordinator, who made sure we got plenty of character time, but this Mickey and Goofy were just in good moods to spend time with guests and were very interactive. 

What I could have skipped: 

Hollywood and Vine Disney Jr Breakfast. The characters were cool I guess, but the kids in this breakfast are much younger than Avery and we heard a lot of crying when the characters left the area to take a break. It took a long time to see each one and Avery only really cared about Doc and Sofia. It just took a while and the breakfast itself (and service) was only OK. 

Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot - I was pretty disappointed the night we were there, but was really disappointed after we did Cinderella's Royal Feast. The food was not good. The service was not good. None of the Princesses were very interactive or talkative that I saw. They were much better with Cinderella at her castle, plus their dresses were fancier. If you have a choice, do Cinderella and skip the other. You'll be glad you did. 

What I wish we could have done: 

Chip and Dale's Harvest Grill - I've heard this is a very fun experience and I'm sad I canceled this reservation. I think it would have been very fun!

'Ohana - This is a character experience at the Polynesian Resort with Lilo and Stitch, sometimes Moana and other characters. I heard several times from different cast members and guests that they really enjoyed this meal. 

Disney Experience - The Magic Band (otherwise known as the "Magic Money Remover")

Everything you do is on this band. Everything. Your meals, your charges, your Fast Passes, your photos, your entrance to the parks and your hotel key. Just realize it is tied to your debit or credit card - so keep track of your charges via the Disney App. 


Disney Experience - My General Tips and Suggestions

  • If you can squeeze your kid in a Disney stroller, DO IT. Avery is the size of a 3rd grader and we forced her in that thing. The first day, we didn't get one and we kind of lost her after about 5 pm. We had to stop halfway in Epcot World Showcase in the American Experience for a long break and to let her lay down. A stroller would have been fantastic. Lesson learned - and we got her one the next two days. 
  • Make sure you check park times in advance. We were in Disney Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday and Sunday, the MK closed at 7 to open up for the private Halloween party, so the only night we could see the fireworks were Saturday. 
  • If your child is like mine, and loves to dress up, definitely bring a few dresses/costumes with you for character meals. I brought her 2 dresses and her fancy shoes, and redid her hair, and let her put on lip gloss. She loved feeling like one of the princesses! We just changed her clothes right before, then put on her tennis shoes after. 
  • Make friends with people in line! We spoke with several people who were able to give us some insight, as well as spent time in line with a front desk person from one of the resorts who was there on her day off, and was able to give us some good tips.
  • Don't bypass all of the character experiences and spend all of your time on rides. Some of the character experiences were very much worth the 10-15 min wait, in between going from one ride to another. Gaston was very funny, Peter Pan was very interactive, Anna and Elsa were very good, and Merida was amazing. Not all of the characters were as fun - but it does depend on their demeanor and if that particular person is "into it" that day. It shouldn't depend on that, but it does. Aladdin and Jasmine, in my opinion, weren't as fun as some of the others. But Avery loved seeing them!
  • Get an autograph book, even if you don't buy one there. One of Avery's favorite things was to get as many autographs as she could. They are all so willing to sign, and it was fun to see how each one was reflective of that character's personality. 
  • As the parent, talk to the character with your child, if your child is too "star struck" to do it themselves. I would always compliment their outfits, tell them how much we loved their movie/show, and try and help Avery interact. They really all loved me doing that, as it gave them ways to work off me to interact better with Avery (I've read this to be true in several sites also). Daisy and Minnie, especially, love to be complimented. Goofy was a huge flirt and he was so much fun! When we told Mickey we'd been waiting 3 days to see him, he stayed at our table for 5 minutes, just interacting with us. Peter Pan was probably the best. He interacted with people in line, he interacted with parents, he was very funny. Don't force your child into it - these people are trained VERY WELL to interact with your child, regardless of how shy or outgoing your child is. If you let them do it without you forcing it, it will be a much better experience for all. 
  • Get a spot very early for the fireworks. They were amazing but this was, by far, the most aggravating and patience-testing time in all the three days. There are like, 10,000 people crammed into about 3 square feet of space. We got there 45 min early and were so far back into Main Street, fighting our way through everyone to find somewhere to stand. Then, to get out of that mess is even worse, especially if the park stays open past the show for Magic Hours, as you are fighting against the flow of traffic to go in while everyone else is trying to leave. Don't skip the show - it's amazing - but I wasn't thinking so at the time. 
  • Wear good socks. And good shoes - but definitely get some good, thick pairs of socks.
Above all else - remember that everyone's trip to Disney is unique and personal to you and your family's likes and dislikes. Even if I didn't care for one ride, doesn't mean you won't like it, either. Take everyone's opinions for what they are worth - and realize that every day in Disney is different. Restaurants there have bad days just like anywhere else. Characters aren't always the same each time. So, just research as much as you can, then decide for yourself what matters to you and go with your gut. It's impossible to have a bad Disney vacation - but don't book yourself so solid that you don't have time to just enjoy the experience and watch your kids soak up what is going on around them. 

I think for now, that's about all I can say!! If you have any tips and tricks, please let me know!




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