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Thread: Heather aka LoveCats - The Plethora’s First WDW Trip Extravaganza August 19-27, 2017

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    Heather aka LoveCats - The Plethora’s First WDW Trip Extravaganza August 19-27, 2017

    Trip Information
    Travel dates: August 18-27, 2017
    Travel method: Airplane, WDW Resort Buses, Uber
    Resort: All Star Music
    Ages Represented in Group: 30’s, Youth
    Disney Resort Experience Represented in Group/Cast of Characters:
    Heather (37) - moi, the planner
    DLR = Literally hundreds, I don't remember a time of not going to the park. Additionally, I've worked for the Mouse off and on over the years as well as a former AP holder for 8 years
    WDW = 1986 (on site - don't recall where), April 2013 (Yacht Club with my BFF), November 2013 (offsite via airbnb), April 2014 (Pop Century), November 2015 (offsite near convention center), November 2016 (All Star Music)
    Bobby (37) - DH, the darling spouse
    DLR = Slightly less hundreds as he didn't go much in his youth. He also has worked for the Mouse and was an AP holder for 8 years
    WDW = April 2014 (Pop Century), November 2014 (offsite near the convention center), November 2016 (All Star Music)
    Bunny (11) - the eldest daughter
    DLR = Mickey's Halloween Party 2014/2015/2016, March 2015, January 2016, February 2016, February 2017
    Bear (11) - son and middle child (10 months younger than his sister)
    DLR = Mickey's Halloween Party 2014/2015/2016, March 2015, January 2016, February 2016, February 2017
    Monkey (9) - the youngest daughter
    DLR = Mickey's Halloween Party 2014/2015/2016, March 2015, January 2016, February 2016, February 2017

    Y'all, I'm wordy. I'm going to give you more information than you could possibly want in the following trip report. If that's not your jam, here is a quick summary of the things I learned and loved and liked/disliked.

    Also, the forum formats my copy/paste oddly and TBH once I got to the end of this I didn’t want to proofread it so it’s going up weird formatting (removes punctuation) and spelling/grammar errors.

    1. I will probably never do another all in package like this again. We were in the farthest building, the buses took forever, and the dining plan was a huge waste of money. I’d much rather stay in a condo or house offsite and drive to the parks daily. It’s more conductive to the way my family travels.
    2. Pandora was nice but it isn’t nice enough for me to ever stress about riding the two attractions again. I think the Africa and Asia areas of the park are still more interesting and beautiful - and Everest will always be king at that park.
    3. Memory Maker is worth the price for a lengthy trip. We managed to get amazing ride photos/videos, character videos, and even funny photo booth photos all added. We ended up with over 400 photos of us (not including the bonus photos). Most of our family photos were taken by the PhotoPass cast members so it’s great to have so many of all of us together.
    4. The Plethora actually learned quite a bit on this trip at EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. It makes me sad that it appears EPCOT is going to go the way of IPs. It’s my favorite of all the WDW parks and I hate the idea of it losing what makes it so unique and special for the latest character overlay.
    5. The water park was definitely worth a visit and next time we come back we will plan for a full day there. Next time we will get a chair first then a locker and towels.
    6. Plan ahead! Having a route and planning dining and FastPasses on the route ended up making life a lot easier in the park.
    7. Don’t forget to use up the remaining snack credits! I picked up a lot of souvenirs of the Chip N Dale dried fruit and nuts and seeds.
    8. I need to figure out the rain situation. I carried rain jackets everyday but the day the sky opened and poured down. I now own more WDW ponchos than people in my house.
    9. Uber or Lyft is super easy to use at the hotels. They are waived through at the gates and most drivers know to pick you up at the hotel. There was a driver sitting and waiting at Universal so we managed to get a ride immediately.
    10. This was still a magical vacation through its ups and downs and everyone already wants to go back. Alas, I think that will be in 2020 once everything has settled down a bit. For the kids at least... DH and I may sneak in a Food & Wine once in awhile.

    Who’s still with me? Bueller? Bueller? Sit back and grab a cup of your favorite drink to perk you up, because we’re going to be here awhile.

    August 18: Red eye out of LAX
    August 19: Arrival, Magic Kingdom, Spirit of Aloha
    August 20: Hollywood Studios
    August 21: Animal Kingdom
    August 22: Typhoon Lagoon, Epcot
    August 23: Blizzard Beach, Magic Kingdom
    August 24: Epcot
    August 25: Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios Orlando
    August 26: Magic Kingdom
    August 27: Disney Springs, flight home

    November 2016: While in Florida, my husband and I decided it was finally time to bring our kids to Walt Disney World. Knowing I wanted to be somewhat stress free, I decided to do a Disney Destination trip booking through Small World Vacations. Reviewing the crowd calendars, the later we go in August the better it would be for maximizing our day. This would mean missing the second week of school. Poor parenting, maybe, but I decided it was the more ideal time to go.

    We adopted the Plethora in 2012 and had spoiled them on their first birthdays and Christmas with us due to “new baby” syndrome. Their rooms quickly filled up with stuff and by the next year I started exchanging stuff for experiences. For last year’s birthday, they received only practical gifts (clothes and books) as well as tickets for the family to go to events such as a Dolly Parton concert, a Dodger game, and Cavalia. They are great kids and actually really love looking forward to going places versus the thrill of getting an item they will hardly use. We managed to scale down their Santa Claus request (they get to ask for a single item) and their parent request (another single item) to make this trip more feasible. We’ve also explained that their birthday and Christmas this year will also probably reduce in scale again. Considering they tend to earn money and save fairly well, if there is something they really want they will just end up buying it for themselves eventually.

    Initial amount (including the regular Dining Plan and a Memory Maker) totaled out to $6,695.11 for two rooms at Disney’s All Star Movies. Riley at Small World Vacations let me know that the rooms were guaranteed adjoining due to more children than adults (it’s the policy) so I felt more comfortable with this decision (versus a suite). I opted for a value resort as well because we don’t typically stay at themed hotels. The best we typically look for is a pool.

    My kids have become fairly hardy travelers. Because I am cheap, we almost always travel on red eyes to destinations. This will be no different and the Plethora will need to hit the ground running though we are taking it a bit easier on the first day. Part of me feels like I’ve been training them for this trip. We often wake them up at 5am for days at Disneyland and run them from 8am to 1am. We’ve traveled a number of times to various states and we always go from airport, to car pick up, to a Walmart, and then to our first destination.

    This will be a little different as I don’t want to deal with a rental car. We will need to get an Uber or shuttle to/from Universal but I’m willing to shell out for a single day.

    We filmed a video in November in front of the castle letting them know their birthday trip would be going to Walt Disney World. Every Christmas they receive what we call their “Last Gift” which is something to help them look forward to their summer Birthday Trip. We always give them this gift right before bed as a way to end the day with a final surprise. In recent years we’ve traveled up and down the state or gone to Ohio for a friend’s wedding making sure to stop at a theme park and zoo. While at the parks in November I purchased some 45th Anniversary shirts (technically it would still be the 45th) and when I came home ordered guide books and Disney book flags.

    240 days
    In December, Delta had tickets available for under $250, round trip. My mother purchased them as 2017 birthday presents for my whole family. It was an exceptionally generous gift and we went back and forth on this for days before I finally acquiesced. With plane tickets purchased it was beginning to feel more real.

    12/24: All the last gift items were ready; three shirts, three guide books, three sets of Mickey page flags and I was so excited for Christmas evening. Not only that, but my parents had purchased new carry on luggage and packing cube sets for the kids. I've a few more surprises for the trip planned but that will happen in the summer.

    12/25: The Monkey literally leaped from her seat into the air when she realized what was happening. The kids wanted to rewatch the reveal over and over again (we stopped after the fifth time). The next day on the way to Nevada ,for our holiday visit with my in-laws, they were already pouring over the guide books and flagging all the things they wanted to do.

    180 Days - 02/20: I set my alarm for 2am and was up without a problem. For the next hour I poked around at the menus again and reconfirmed my list of ADRs. 3am hit and I started clicking without stopping. I finally managed to get everything booked and I looked to see it was not yet 3:15! It's a lot more buffets with characters than I ever would of thought to select but the kids really want character experiences. For me, Liberty Tree Tavern just might have to become a tradition. I really missed eating there the last couple of times. There is something about that Thanksgiving dinner with a cup of coffee that puts me in such a happy place. Spirit of Aloha is new for me, as well as the EPCOT locations, the Crystal Palace, and BE OUR GUEST!!!! I booked that immediately because I've been dying to go there and my girls are in love with the idea of eating in the ballroom. I'm still working out our counter service locations by this point, but once I have begun to layout our trip overview I'll know better where to look at stopping for those meals. Back to bed with happy, yummy dreams.

    August 19: Arrival Day - Spirit of Aloha Luau
    August 20: 50's Prime Time Cafe, dinner
    August 21: Tusker House, lunch
    August 22: San Angel Inn, dinner
    August 23: The Crystal Palace, dinner
    August 24: Akerchus Royal Banquet, dinner
    August 25: NO ADR - UNI/IOA day
    August 26: Be Our Guest, breakfast; Liberty Tree Tavern, dinner
    August 27: Departure Day - NO ADR

    02/22: After thinking it over for a couple days I went ahead and officially added the 7th day. Based on Dave1313’s great advice, the additional day was less than $80 for the entire family! If we manage to spend 4 hours in the park, that’s worth the price to me!

    04/28: Tusker House finally opened up its dining package for Rivers of Light FastPass viewing. I tried to convert my current reservation but they wouldn’t allow it so I ended up snagging a late lunch/early dinner time instead. I believe the characters are supposed to be there so I’m excited to get the additional perk.

    60 Days - 06/20: Up at 3am again waiting for my FastPass selections. I managed to get most everything I wanted but Flights of Passage and Mission: Space were full. We will just have to wait in line for those attractions, but I heard FoP is a great queue and M:S never has a very long wait.

    August 19: Magic Kingdom - Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
    August 20: Hollywood Studios - Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along, Fantasmic!
    August 21: Animal Kingdom - Finding Nemo - The Musical, Expedition Everest, Na’vi River Journey
    August 22: EPCOT - Spaceship Earth, Meet Disney Pals, Frozen Ever After
    August 23: Magic Kingdom - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise
    August 24: EPCOT - Soarin’, Meet Disney Pals, Spaceship Earth
    August 25: UNI/IOA - Front of the Line Passes
    August 26: Magic Kingdom - Enchanted Tales with Belle, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Barnstormer
    August 27: Departure Day - NO FP+

    2 Days - 08/17: Finally we managed to get the Plethora all packed. Once again DH drove me nuts with his packing but I think I managed to get everything squared away. Of course, now is when I realized he had given away his Hawaiian shirts. I wasn't about to try and scramble and find one so he will not be “theme” dressed for the luau. He's always missing something. We had selected the cheap Delta seats so I had to wait till check in to get the selections. I managed to get two together, seats right in front and behind those on the window, and then one aisle. We are hoping we can trade the aisle seat with the one that is next to the two so the kids can all be in one row and we will also see if a middle person would like to switch for a window and my husband and I can sit together. I went on a late night run to Vons for tupperware for their lunch boxes and ended up dropping $70 on most likely unnecessary medicines. The kids have sensitive stomachs and I'm becoming prone to heartburn (and lactose intolerant) but I'm hoping everything I purchased will be unnecessary.

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    The Trip

    August 18
    TODAY IS FLIGHT DAY! The Monkey was up before her alarm clock and burst into our bedroom to loudly announce that TODAY! IS! THE! DAY! But first… school and work. The Monkey begged me as I dropped her off to let her stay home because she was too excited, and while I am just as excited, I had to decline her request and send her off to class. The Bunny and the Bear were far less enthusiastic this morning before walking to school so I hope the dreaded TWEEN years will not include losing their love for Disney. Once settling into work I quickly went online to check all my reservations and noticed I could check in for the hotel room. Yep! I went ahead and did that and then perused the message boards and dinner menus for the next few hours until I could finally head home. I also checked the weather reports - storms everyday. Fingers crossed some Disney Magic will save the day!

    I ended up leaving work 40 minutes early as my husband decided he had to have a waist pack like the one I purchased and neither of our local Walmarts had it in stock. Seriously, it's something every time but at least he thought about it BEFORE we arrived in Orlando. I drove to one on the way from my work and found it there. Since I had a little time to kill I ran into the TJ Maxx next door and found an $8 shirt that would work for my husband at the luau. Hooray!

    Made it home at 3pm and now I was on a countdown because in 2 hours we needed to get to the Flyaway terminal. The Plethora arrived home shortly after with DH and we rushed them into quick showers. I packed up some final items and did a quick clean of the house barking chores at the kids. Into the garage, loaded up the Rav4, and we were finally off to Flyaway!

    Flyaway is a bus terminal that leaves from the valley to LAX. We managed to only wait 10 minutes for the next bus and were off the the airport arriving a little over an hour later. TSA had a short line but they wanted books and toiletries in separate in bins. Nobody was pulling them out but the Monkey happy announced “We have that!” after every item so we held up the line unpacking our bags. We had two bags that ended up needing further inspection at TSA but we were quickly through it.

    The Plethora were starving at this point as we had not given them their after school snack. Okay, in my mad cleaning I forgot to feed them. Whoops! We stopped at ShakeShake and purchased 3 of the cheeseburgers, 2 of the bacon cheeseburgers, 2 plain fries, 1 cheese fry, and 3 fruit cups for a snack later. $74 out of my pocket! Ouch! One day I will be good about packing meals for the airport but today wasn't it.

    The plane began boarding on time at 9pm and the sign said 20 seats left. I was starting to feel that Disney magic start! Sure enough, the back of the plane had many open seats so with a little shuffling I was able to sit next to my girls and my husband and son were together. This also meant we had plenty of room for our carry ons and didn’t need to check our bags.

    August 19
    Magic Kingdom
    FP+: Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
    ADR: Spirit of Aloha Luau

    The flight was wonderfully uneventful and we landed 30 minutes early! We all had managed a few hours of sleep. The Monkey woke up with excitement levels through the roof but the two tweens were a little more sleepy. We had to wait a few moments as the gate was full but we were soon enough off the plane, quick bathroom stop, on the monorail, and onwards to Mickey’s Magical Express!

    We managed to walk right onto the bus, no waiting until we sat down at 5:57. The Plethora really enjoyed the cartoons as we waited to depart which we did at 6am on the dot! We were the third stop and arrived at All Star Music at 6:37am! Check In was the slowest part as while I was checking in the CM helping me kept pausing to help guests who were checking out. We finally managed to be done at 7:01. We headed over to the resort restaurant and used our first snack credits on pastries for breakfast. My DH and I got cheese danishes, the tweens got chocolate croissants, and the Monkey got a chocolate muffin. This would of been about $19 with the dining plan. I didn't want to get my refillable mug yet so they gave us regular cups which we filled with water for the Plethora and coffee for the parents.

    We managed to get in line for the bus around 7:30 and were in the park by 8:10. The Plethora were astonished how big the park is compared to Disneyland. We headed directly over to Tommorrowland and waited for rope drop at 9. 76 degrees and we are pouring sweat. I hate this weather.

    Headed directly to Space Mountain but the ride was already down. We stepped out of line and then of course it started moving. DH ranted a bit about this and I finally had to shut him down. As we were an hour ahead of schedule and had FPs for later, I didn't see a reason to dwell on this issue. To ease the tension we ran over and took some photos with Stitch and then after a quick restroom break went back into line for Space Mountain. It was about a 25 minute wait but a good solid ride. I still think DL’s ending is better.

    From there we headed over to Astro Orbiter which had a 5 minute wait but was really closer to 10. Of course we had to ride the Peoplemover which was a walk on. The Plethora were not impressed but I'm always nostalgic about it. Carousel of Progress was down so we went Stitch’s Great Escape but it had a little wait. The air was nice so we opted to stay since we had fast passes for Space Mountain and would head there after. Noticed Carousel of Progress was still down so that looks like a pass for this trip. Space Mountain had a little line for FastPass return but we were still on and zipping through space in no time.

    Feeling hungry we went to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Lounge for lunch. We had 3 barbecue pork bacon cheeseburgers, 1 angus cheeseburger, and a kids mac n cheese as well as 2 coca colas and 3 strawberry lemonade slushes (which count on the dining plan and come with the Mickey straw). I put some of my pork into the Monkey’s mac n cheese and she mixed it up with some ketchup. Oh kids. We ate slowly as our next FastPass was an hour away.

    We headed to Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor with a quick bathroom break before. Bear is really into puns and cheesy jokes so this was perfect for him. I didn't expect it to be so much fun but all of us were laughing. Bear’s joke was even selected!

    Do you want to hear a joke about pizza?
    Naaaah, too cheesy.

    We loved this so much we decided to come back after our FastPass for Tomorrowland Speedway. I rode with the Monkey, DH with Bear, and Bunny went on her own crash course. Did I mention she will be eligible to drive in 3 years? When Bear was exiting the vehicle his hat when to the opposite side of where he was supposed to exit. He jumped over to get it and was promptly scolded by a castmember. We explained to him she had to raise her voice for his safety, but even ice cream couldn't get him to smile. Luckily, another trip to the Laugh Floor did the trick! During the mind reading section the gentleman in front of us was selected and Bunny tried to ham it up by waving behind his head. Hilariously, the camera pulled back and called her out. She was so embarrassed and turned bright!!! Then during the “talk to a kid section” Bear once again was selected. Too much fun!

    We had 8 minutes till our next FastPass and Carousel of Progress was running so we ran over and just made it in. The Monkey ended up loving it and I managed to stay awake the whole time. We headed to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters to use the FastPass but there was a huge FastPass line. The heat, the exhaustion, and the fact we were running out of time had us all agree to skip it.

    We managed to get on a bus a few minutes after arriving at the bus terminal. I hadn't received a text that the room was ready but I checked my emails and the confirmations came through. We went to the rooms which were not the Jazz buildings we were initially told but the far Country Fair building. Into the rooms, everything looks good, except no luggage. I called luggage and they said they would send it up shortly (15 minutes later, ahem). I got the Plethora into the showers and of course one of them isn't draining. I call maintenance but nobody shows up in the 30 minutes we are in the room so I just hoped for the best.

    We hustled back to the buses and a Magic Kingdom was just loading. We got on and soon enough we were back. We asked some people the best way to get to the Polynesian and they all said by boat. So we headed to the dock and a boat was just pulling up. We managed to squeeze in as the last group and ended up arriving at the Polynesian before the 4:15 check in time. After we finally checked in we took some photos in front of the center tiki and then headed over to the luau where we waited in dreadful heat sipping ice water and waiting to be seated. Our seats were on the riser section but almost dead center to the stage. It was a great view! The food was delicious and I went ahead and splurged on Pele’s Fire Punch which was heavy on the syrups and light on the booze. That's okay, all I really wanted was the carved monkey coconut. I highly recommend this show! It was a lot of fun and the fire dancer was just superb. We did get seconds on the ribs and pulled pork and totally stuffed ourselves.

    Waddling back we thought it might be fun to take the monorail back but once we got up there the line was so long that we just turned around and headed back to the boats. Everything ran rather smoothly. The boat showed up quickly and the bus was waiting. It pulled into the hotel just before 8:30. We stopped into the restaurant and picked up our refillable mugs and the Plethora really wanted to go into the pool. Under our luau outfits we had worn our swimsuits so we headed directly to the pool. I could see lightening off in the distance; the lifeguard said the situation was being monitored. The Plethora started to splash around and I floated watching Maleficient on the outdoor screen. About 40 minutes in and I realized that I needed a hairbrush. I toweled off and went to the gift shop purchasing an overpriced little one. When I was returning I found a cute little frog hopping around in the pool area. I called the Plethora out to look at it and the Monkey of course immediately tried to pick it up. After shooting them off to leave the poor little critter alone, I stayed out at this point and updated the trip report and continued to watch the movie from one of the lounge chairs. DH managed to drag them out at 10 and we rinsed them off at the outdoor shower.

    We finally managed to get the Plethora in bed and asleep around 11. I went to bed about an hour later and DH was up for awhile after uploading photos.

    August 20
    Hollywood Studios
    FP+: Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along, Fantasmic!
    ADR: 50's Prime Time Cafe

    I woke up to the alarm at 6am and just laid in bed till the 6:30 alarm went off. I let the Plethora sleep a little longer but that was a bad idea as they were just so slow to move and we got off to a rough start. We went to the resort restaurant for pastries again and missed the first bus. We caught the second and were on our way making it into the park around 8:05. The Plethora really wanted Tower of Terror so I shuffled some plans around to ride that and a Rock N Roller Coaster first.

    Tower of Terror had a 10 minute standby. Surprisingly, I'm a touch nervous to going on this attraction. The one at DCA had set drops so not knowing what I need then brace for is scary! It was so much fun! Moving through the space to the drop zone is such a fun element. DH called this his last ride ever so we commemorated with a pressed penny. What’s up with the credit card pressed penny machines??? Takes out the fun but it totally used it. We went to Rock N Roller Coaster next and it was a 50 minute wait. So we waited. Not sure what happened but I started to pour sweat. Everyone looked hot but I was just dripping like crazy and I'm not a person who perspires profusely but something happened and it was awful because I have a skin condition where I'm (in easiest explanation) allergic to my sweat so I started to break out in hives.

    After a quick water bottle refill and bathroom break we headed over to Star Tours that had a 35 minute wait. This is where the Monkey had a full on meltdown because of the heat. She calmed down once we got inside but today has been a little tough for all the kids. It was a 35 minute wait but a great ride. I managed to finally get the combo of my four favorite scenes! Not only that, but our Bunny turned out to be the rebel spy! We browsed around the gift shop and headed over to the Backlot Express but we were too early of lunch. Monkey started her meltdown again and wanted to go back to the gift shop to by Star Wars mouse ears while Bunny and Bear wanted to and watch Trials of the Temple. We could tell they were getting into meltdown mode again so we acquiesced to their requests. I headed inside to just sit as the heat was making me too hot. At this point I'm in total misery as well as the rest of the family. Our FastPass for the Indy stunt show was in an hour and the heat was already becoming unbearable. We decided to stop for some ice cream (well I had a pretzel and khalua milk shake) and sat and watched the storm troopers parade down the street.

    Our Indy time had arrived and we entered the theater getting a front row. Things get a little blurry here as I had a single determination, to be selected as an extra. So with some liquid courage and bucket list items to cross off I enthusiastically waved my hand and was selected as a giggling extra. YES! I had so much fun with the group of extras including a guy Jose who had been an extra in the show 22 years before. I got to hang out next to the faux extra during the shopping sequence and had a blast hamming it up on stage.

    My touring plans for the day had been trampled by the Plethora and the Monkey was going into full on meltdown as she was being outvoted. The tweens wanted to see shows to sit and cook off but the Monkey wanted Tower. Everyone was sweating and I knew all she wanted was a “win.” I suggested we go into one of the stores so she could buy a watch (which she had been talking about buying for weeks) and everyone could cool off, she could get what she wanted, and then we could with cooler heads continue on. Sure enough it worked, the tweens were browsing as well so nobody was upset. I stopped at a slushee stand to get some Coca Cola, wild cherry slushies, and strawberry lemonade cup. Muppets had a 15 minute wait (but we just walked right in) and that combined with the slushees put everyone in a good mood. Afterwards we hustled to Beauty and the Beast (Bunny’s favorite princess) and managed to slip in for the 2pm show. The girls liked it but thought they cut out too many characters. We walked past some streetmosphere that was starting and the Plethora wanted to watch. We had 7 minutes till our Frozen FastPass so we hung out till it was time to walk over.

    The Plethora enjoyed the Frozen sing along and I enjoyed tormenting the Bunny by gesticulating wildly during “Let it Go.” Even in a darkened theater I could see her turning bright red. The show is LONG and went past our ADR check in time. We hustled over and was seated within 5 minutes. We had a nice server, but not a “fun” one. One day we might get one that decides to play around with us. DH got the stuffed pork chop, I selected the meatloaf, the tweens picked fried chicken each, and the Monkey chose meatless meatball spaghetti. For dessert we picked apple crisps with ice cream, cheesecake, strawberry milkshake, and fruit salad. The fruit salad is HUGE. Which makes me hate this dining plan. I know I signed up for convenience but it is too much food for kids.

    After dinner we headed to Voyage of the Little Mermaid. At this point I talked to them about planning and mentioned we had spent the day crisscrossing through the park which made us extra tires and hot. They agreed afterwards to follow the set plan from before to be more efficient. The show was very cute and Under the Sea was a delightful number. We headed over to the Star Wars Launch Bay and did meet and greets with BB-8, Kyle Ren, and Chewbacca. Did not know this until we got there but Star Wars characters don’t sign autographs.

    After some photo experiences we headed over to Fantasmic! A steady, hot drizzle was coming down but the show was still happening. It was an hour till the showtime and when we crossed the FastPass checkpoint they upgraded us to the dining package seating for free! Woohoo! We managed to snag some fantastic seats. The kids all had leftovers to munch on and DH grabbed a bag of the glazed almonds for us to share.

    Today was just okay. The heat, meltdowns, and free-flow plan ended up making for a volatile mix. Hopefully tomorrow improves!

    August 21
    Animal Kingdom
    FP+: Finding Nemo - The Musical, Expedition Everest, Na’vi River Journey
    ADR: Tusker House

    I was up at 6am and did the “Mom Run” for pastries and drinks. Okay, there may of been a couple of men but let’s be honest, it’s mostly mothers getting up super early and carrying 5 mugs and a tray of breakfast back to the rooms. I roused everyone else when I got in and while the kids were sluggish we managed to get everyone in line for the first bus to Animal Kingdom by 7am.

    The line and bus were packed and when we got to the park it had a healthy crowd waiting at the entrance. And yes, 99% of the crowd was going to one place. As soon as rope drop was complete we (and the other 99%) hustled over to Avatar Flight of Passage. When we got there the line was already curving towards Africa. It was quick moving but ultimately lasted 45 minutes. The queue pulses are also quite a bit off. We spent a lot of time in the rock work area, but in the science labs where the cool stuff is we were rushed through.

    The actual attraction is very good but not something I HAVE to ride again. Even the attendant said in two years expect it to be a walk on once Star Wars land opens. There were some very nice effects such as being able to feel the banshee breathing between your legs. The actual ride vehicle was fairly comfortable though it does surprise you when it pushes down on your back. I would describe it as a Soarin’ type attraction, very similar in that you are just flying around various vistas of the land. There was build up in the pre-show of the “dangers” of Pandora, but nothing dangerous happened. Still, I was glad to ride it and was even happier the line was only 45 minutes for us. When we got out it had increased to 120 minutes. Yikes!

    Feeling peckish, we stopped into the Saty’li Canteen for a second breakfast. We ordered three of the breakfast steamed pods, one of the steak and eggs, and a kid’s french toast. The food here was very delicious and the Plethora enjoyed eating the fun and colorful looking food. I would definitely stop back here for a meal in the future. We took a few daytime photos but knowing we would be back later, we headed over to Everest.

    There was a 25 minute wait and the Plethora exited the rides loving the experience! Between WDW and DL this is definitely my favorite coaster attraction. Of course, our FastPass for Everest was now active so we popped right back on for another ride to see the Disco Yeti.

    After this our Nemo FastPass time had popped up so we headed over to the show. This is my favorite of all theme park shows as well! The music is so catchy, we were all humming “Big Blue World” for days. And unlike the hatchet job on Beauty and the Beast and Voyage of the Little Mermaid, this show manages to hit all the important points and characters. It’s delightful and a must see each time.

    While I tend to avoid the Dinosaur area on DH/ME trips, we took the Plethora who went on TriceraTop Spin and Primeval Whirl. I sat out on both of these attractions because I was hitting extreme misery in the heat. Primeval Whirl has a nice covered area with fans so I was able to cool off. The Monkey opted out of Primeval Whirl as well so we hung out together while DH and the tweens rode.

    It was getting very hot at this point and the kids had never seen It’s Tough to Be a Bug at DCA. The theater was always showing previews for upcoming movies. I loved watching their reactions during this even though the wasps/spider sequence scared the Monkey (don’t worry - she loves being scared). It was also great to be in a nice cool, dark space and rest my feet.

    We headed over to Kali River Rapids and it began to sprinkle a little while we picked up some pretzels and ice cream to eat while we waited in line. The wait was listed as 45 minutes but ended up being more like an hour and we were drenched in sweat and rain by the time we made it to the actual ride vehicle. DH, the Monkey, and myself were soaked by the end of it and I couldn’t of been happier! It felt so nice to be drenched! We picked up our stuff at the lockers and headed over to catch the Flights of Wonder show that had only just started. So well done and we got some great pictures of the birds flying and after the show when the handlers bring out a couple of them. We were mostly dry by this point and we headed over the our ADR at Tusker House.

    While waiting for our name to be called a very nice family offered to let us look through their eclipse glasses. Monkey, Bear, and I took them up on the offer and managed to get a glimpse of the moon mostly in front of the sun. Such a neat experience!

    This is the first character meal the Plethora experienced and we had to explain to them to wait for the characters to come around. In rotation that day were Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy. The kids has a great time getting autographs and photos with each of them. I enjoy this buffet and the fact that we also were able to book the Rivers of Light FastPass dining plan, I was very happy with how it all worked out.

    Waddling out of the restaurant we headed over to the Festival of the Lion King. Another great show and the Plethora really got into all of the acts. From here we went to Kilimanjaro Safaris. I’ve never had a lot of great luck with the animals no matter what time I went on but there was some good activity with the hippos, hyenas, and cheetahs today. I know there are opinions but I think that it’s hit or miss no matter what time you decide to go.

    We decided to head over to the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and the Plethora really got a kick out of the reptile and insect room. The Monkey asked a lot of great questions about toads (she’s now fascinated since we saw the little frog by the pool) and the Bunny asked about jobs that worked with animals. Bear (being a tween boy) was more interested in the poop examples! We didn’t see any gorillas out today but the birds and fish kept them pretty interested.

    We headed back to Pandora and took some dusk photos of the area. The Plethora played with the drums a bit but then sat down near the ride as they were tired. DH and I walked around a bit and stopped at Pongu Pongu for a Night Blossom drink and Pongu Lumpia. We ate the Pongu Lumpia, and while the Night Blossom drink had a good flavor, we gave it to the Plethora to share when we met up with them. We managed to use our Na’vi River Journey FastPass five minutes earlier and was on in no time. To me, this is the highlight attraction of the area. The projection integration and animatronics are top notch and very well done. During the day there had already been lines as short as 15 minutes so I imagine this will very quickly become a walk on attraction.

    After this we headed back to the FastPass waiting area for the Rivers of Light show. WOW! I thought this show was just beautiful. The music was fantastic and I loved everything about the lighting and the projections. I realize I might be in the minority but this is such a great evening show and I can’t wait to see it again.

    With 30 minutes left we raced over to Everest and managed to get two rides in before the park closed. We headed back to the bus area and waited forever for one to show up. DH and I wanted some Mom + Dad time so I walked the kids to the room while my husband went to the bar area. Our eldest will be turning 12 in a months time, and we have an 11 year old and 9 year old. We thought they could handle getting ready for bed and going to sleep while we stayed up a little longer. Yes, they managed to get themselves into bed, but the also managed to lock us out.

    We had twice before mentioned to the Plethora not to close the latch on top of the door as the person outside can’t get in. Well, my eldest wasn’t thinking and went ahead and had the Monkey latch one door while she latched the other. Now remember, we are tired, it’s midnight, and we are in the farthest building from the front desk. First we tried calling the Plethora’s phone, then we called the front desk to call the rooms, then the operator said it was our Magic Bands resetting and kept trying to reset them from the phone. Finally, I walked to the very far front desk. I was told it was my Magic Bands so I had them reset the bands and I walked back. Nope, the bands didn’t work. This time both DH and I walked back to the front desk. They asked us to wait while they looked into it and then came back saying the kids had latched the door. The woman at the front desk said someone was heading over to try and let us in. I asked what would happen if we couldn’t get in and the woman just shrugged. Then I asked if someone could drive us back as it was late and we were exhausted and we were told there was no golf cart available. So we dragged ourselves back to the room and met up with the woman who had the magic set of keys. First room tried, no go. The Bunny had latched and bolted the door. The second room, we managed to crack open the door and with a bit of coaxing was able to get the Monkey out of bed to open the door.

    There was a lengthy discussion about how doors locked and a lesson learned that our kids are not ready to be left on their own. Finally, I managed to crawl into bed around 2:30 in the wee hours and went right to sleep.

    August 22
    FP+: Spaceship Earth, Meet Disney Pals, Frozen Ever After
    ADR: San Angel Inn

    Due to the locked door incident, our plans to go to Typhoon Lagoon in the morning were cancelled. The Plethora were able to amuse themselves and ate some leftover pastries while we slept till 9. We took our time getting ready and walked to the buses around 11:30. We had to wait a little while and arrived around 12:30.

    I knew where we had to go first! The heat was already getting to me and we made a beeline for Club Cool. We talked up the Beverly and thoroughly enjoyed the kids NOT AMUSED reactions. We let them try the other sodas for a bit and the girls ended up purchasing chapsticks in soda flavors.

    We headed over towards the Canada Pavilion to take a tour of America’s Hat with Martin Short. The bathrooms are a bit far from this pavilion and I had to go back and forth twice with kids that decided that “oops! I do have to go.” I love Canada, I love this pavilion, I love Martin Short. The experience definitely did the trick because now the kids want to go see the wonders of Canada! Maybe this is a bit of me laying the groundwork for our summer trip next year. I’d like to visit Prince Edward Island and Montreal with the kids. The Plethora went to the Kidcot stations to color in some Duffys and I ran up to the store to pick up passports for them. You don’t need to purchase these but the kids had a fantastic time putting them together and getting them stamped. Definitely one of the cheaper souvenirs available for the amount of enjoyment. Once the Plethora were satisfied with their Duffys we began to walk over to the UK. I stopped first to get some maple popcorn which was so delicious and the kids loved the taste and novelty of it.
    As we crossed into the UK, we managed to slip into the Alice meet and greet line as the last family. The girls were so excited to meet her but froze up with such shyness when she began conversing with them. It was pretty funny to watch them become so tightlipped. We heard Mary Poppins was heading out so my husband went to the garden area and waited as I wrapped it up with darling Alice.

    We walked to the back of the Pavilion and the Plethora had a wonderful time with Mary Poppins. They were starting to loosen up! During this I decided to move up our buffet time when we came back to EPCOT in a few days. After this we wandered the stores a bit while the Plethora waited for their passport stamps. Bear almost dipped into the money he was holding tightly onto (his interactive wand) to buy a Paddington bear stuffed animal but he ultimately decided against it. My son may of just turned 11 but he has a huge soft spot for cute plush. Mommy may indulge him this Christmas with one is his stocking.

    It was getting warm but no-one was particularly hungry yet. We headed over to France where we saw Aurora was about to come out and got into line. DH nixed the France Pavilion movie (that we’ve slept through twice). It was so hot and we would be waiting awhile so I went and picked up some ice-cream cones and sandwiches for all of us to dig into. I had just walked out with everything when the kids were wrapping up their photos. Y’all… this Princess Aurora was BEAUTIFUL. Maybe one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I was awestruck! Afterwards the Plethora went on updated their passports. I thought the gentleman was drawing a mustache on top of an Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t until we were outside I realized he had drawn Belle. Or something kind of resembling Belle.

    We decided to wander over to Morocco which is one of my favorite pavilions to browse in. The Plethora waited in line for their passports while I picked through the bracelets and hair clips. Like every visit, I did end up buying an overpriced bracelet because it was too lovely. Jasmine wasn’t out and the times were not posted so we headed over to Japan to look around their store. Bear held it together but the itch to buy a Pikachu was strong! I did end up buying little nail clipper set as my youngest was asking me for the past few days to cut her nails. I looked through some of the candy hoping some Korean favorites might of snuck in (no luck) while the kids had cute Tsum Tsums drawn on their Duffys. It’s really hit or miss with the passport stations though each one is fun for the kids. They just really loved the Tsum Tsums.

    We were beginning to get hungry so I directed everyone to the Italy Pavilion for the walk up pizza window. Waaaah waaaaah. It was closed for another week. Oh well. We forgot to get the passports stamped as we were hungry, hot, and a little tired. We walked to the American Pavilion to eat.

    At the Liberty Inn we picked up 3 Surf n Turfs, 1 Chicken Avocado Sandwich, and a kid’s Pasta Marinara meal. I really was not in love with many of the options for kids meals at the parks and resorts. Not all kids are interested in just Mac N Cheese or Chicken Fingers and I was often disappointed with what was available. At this point reality had set in that the Dining Plan was a waste of money.

    Feeling somewhat rested and after a quick bathroom break, we decided to head over to Spaceship Earth. It was so hot I didn’t want to walk so we backtracked to the Friendship Ferry that had just docked and took a nice little boat ride over to the Canada Pavilion area. It felt closer this way and we used our Spaceship Earth FastPass for the attraction. The Plethora really enjoyed this attraction, especially the Monkey! It was cute to hear her reference some of the information a week after the trip in regards to things she was learning in school. See! Disney IS educational!

    For whatever reason the Monkey had become obsessed with a bubbling light up Ariel wand. I had been promising her we would stop all day and so we did while my husband went and bought us some iced coffees at Starbucks. Trekking backwards we went to the Character Spot for our nest FastPass and the Plethora took some great photos with Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie.

    It was time for our dinner reservation at San Angel Inn though nobody was particularly hungry. Three years prior we had been in the Mexico pavilion buying our kids their first presents for the day we would meet them when we returned home. It was so special to be back with them this time. We ended up ordering the combination platter, enchiladas, carne asada, the catch of the day (red snapper), and chicken tacos for the Monkey. Dessert was three of the Creme Bavaria (DELICIOUS), a cheesecake, and a dulce de leche brownie. I also indulged in a passion fruit margarita at dinner. Worth it! We packed up the leftovers (which there was a lot of) and waddled over to the Three Caballeros attraction. The Monkey was in hysterics watching Donald’s crazy antics. She still gets the biggest kick out of the older cartoons. In the shopping area I purchased the kids some of their favorite Mexican candy while they filled out their passports.

    We headed over to Norway for our Frozen Ever After FastPass and of course the girls just adored this attraction. Bear kind of shrugged it and thought the backwards drop was cool but he is no longer a fan of Frozen. The Plethora worked on their passports while I browsed through the shops and took photos of other families at the troll statue. I mean, I was just waiting so might as well be helpful!

    Afterwards we crossed into China for the passports and the evening Magic Hours began. We managed to get a ride on Test Track and another on the Orange side of Mission Space. Surprisingly, the kids didn’t fight while designing their car for Test Track and managed to work together to build the winning vehicle. I sat separately from them on Mission Space and my DH said he had a great time teasing the kids about needing to push all the buttons and flip all the switches. I sat with a father and son where the son (who looked to be a very tall 14) was SUPER nervous. He didn’t believe me when I told him there were barf bags in the ride and sort of freaked out when he realized there were some in there. Afterwards I asked how he enjoyed it and he said it was great!

    Meeting up with my family we began the long trek back to the buses. There was a HUGE wait but we were finally on and back in our room and in bed by midnight. Luckily we could sleep in a little the next day because we were going to Blizzard Beach in the morning.

    August 23
    Blizzard Beach and Magic Kingdom
    FP+: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise
    ADR: The Crystal Palace

    The Plethora still managed to get themselves up by 7 in the morning. They even knew to heat up their leftovers from the night before and ate them while watching cartoons in the other room while we parents got another hour of shut eye.

    We dressed for Blizzard Beach and I carried my large backpack for the day to store all of our clothes for the park. The bus arrived rather quickly and we were on our way for a morning of water park fun!

    Once in the park we headed over to the lockers and towel rentals. I just rented a single locker and we managed to cram everything inside while my husband rented a towel for each of us. He was surprised they were free to hotel guests. This took us about 20 minutes to get situated and in that time the loungers and chairs really filled up! We went to the leftmost corner and managed to find two loungers and a chair in a shady spot.

    We dropped our towels and items and headed directly into the lazy river. Because we were in a less populated area we managed to snag a double and two single inner tubes. The Plethora let the single inner tubes go because they were having more fun looking for dropped items in the lazy river. My son managed to find a NY Driver’s License! He turned that into the next lifeguard we saw on the river.

    I wanted to just lounge a bit and the Monkey wanted to play in the sand. DH and the tweens headed over to the tidal pool where my son found a magic band this time! He turned that into a CM he saw walking by. I walked the Monkey over to the tidal pool and she swam around for a bit. Those waves are a bit rough! We managed to lose sight of Bear but finally found him searching for other dropped items. This time was a gold chain and he turned that into a lifeguard.

    DH and the Plethora decided to go on a waterslide and I headed back to snooze longer on the lounger. A half hour later only DH and the two younger ones returned back to the lounge. Monkey and Bear had chickened out at the last minute and Bunny was going down the slide alone. DH and the other two got bored of waiting so they LEFT HER. I was a little more than livid at this. DH shrugged it off and said she would find us and headed to the lazy river with the two other kids. I stayed put on that lounger and sure enough about 10 minutes later Bunny came walking up. She had been waiting at the exit for her father and brother after going on the slide and decided to risk it and walk back to the lounger.

    Bunny decided to head over the the lazy river a bit and luckily did manage to catch up with her father and siblings as they all returned back to me together awhile later. During this time I decided to look up things all the Plethora could do together. Realizing the Ski Patrol Training Camp was the best bet we head over there. It was perfect! Just thrilling enough for Bunny and not too thrilling for Bear and Monkey. The Plethora had a great time crossing the ice obstacles (none of them fell), using the zipline (HILARIOUS), and DH and the Plethora went down the smaller inner tube slides.

    We were nearing our time to leave so we headed back to the lockers to get our clothes. I appreciate the free shampoo/soap in the showers and we all cleaned up and dressed for the afternoon at the Magic Kingdom. Before heading over we stopped at Lottawatta Lodge for lunch. Monkey at this point was OVER the kids meal options. I ended up getting a flatbread for her and picking up the kids chicken strips for me which unfortunately came with a bucket and shovel we HAD to keep. The tweens picked up a pizza flatbread and bacon cheeseburger while my husband opted for the shrimp roll. The food here was just okay, but it seemed to hit the spot.

    We were given poor information about how to get to the Magic Kingdom by the first bus driver we talked to. Animal Kingdom buses kept showing up so DH walked up to the fourth one we saw and they told us it would be much faster to go with them. We did and were soon at MK.

    I didn’t want to lug the backpack around so we dropped it off in a locker for the rest of the day. A large locker held everything with no problem.

    From here we went directly to Critter Country to ride our Big Thunder FastPass. Except it was only a 15 minute wait so we headed to standby first. I love the interactive elements in this queue and it definitely kept the kids busy. We managed to luck out and get the first two rows on the ride so it was a lot of fun to be at the front of the train. When we exited we ran back around on went through the FastPass queue. Good timing too because the wait had extended to 25 minutes. It began to rain a bit on this ride but only a small sprinkle. Afterwards the Plethora expressed it was fun, but they preferred the Disneyland version more.

    There was thunder and lightning in the distance and they shut Splash Mountain down. We headed over to Country Bear Jamboree (my love!) to miss the rain. This is a must do every trip. I loved it as a child when it was at Disneyland and I’m just so happy to see all my furry friends when I come to Florida. The Plethora were a little weirded out but totally got into it. In fact, the Monkey still enjoys singing “Blood on the Saddle” with dramatic enthusiasm.

    We headed back to Splash Mountain for our FastPass and happily found it open and running. The girls loved all the extra drops in this version and Bear appreciated the less steep final drop as it didn’t make him feel funny. They all proclaimed this version better than the Disneyland counterpart (and I agree).

    Our reservation for Crystal Palace was coming up so we headed over. While we checked in 15 minutes early it was a good 20 minutes past our reservation time when we were finally let in. The characters were just starting the next rotation so we managed to see Piglet and Eeyore right away. The food was good, very solid American fare, and the Monkey was very happy that she could dig into the “adult” options this evening. We were on our dessert plate when Pooh and Tigger stopped by for their photos and autographs.

    The fireworks show was just starting as we exited and we managed to slip into a nice spot to watch it. This show is fantastic! As much as I loved Wishes, Happily Every After hits the feels in all the right places. Don’t miss this show because it’s really a wonderful experience.

    Crossing back into Adventureland we took a wander up the Swiss Family Tree House. It turns out Bunny had watched this movie at school so it was a lot of fun listening to her excitedly point out different things and talk about the film. I’ll be honest - I think I may of seen this movie but I don’t remember anything but the ostrich race. Sunshine Tree Terrace was closed which meant no Citrus Swirl for me on this trip. TOTALLY HEARTBREAKING. We headed over to Jungle Cruise for our FastPass and had a poor skipper unfortunately. The Plethora did love the indoor sequence.

    Magic Hours had begun so we had no wait for the Magic Carpets which is a fun little ride. Of course we had to head over to the Enchanted Tiki Room. This layout feels so funny; it’s a larger room but the birds are still the same so the place feels a bit empty. Also, I was surprised they edited down the show. I know for certain the cut the sing-a-long portion of “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing.”

    Walk on at Pirates of the Caribbean and I still can’t see the mermaid projection! It’s just an okay version. I think because its so spread out it feels less thought out even though most of the scenes are the same. With plenty of time we crossed over to the Haunted Mansion which the Plethora really enjoyed! I hope to one day see each version of this attraction across the globe as I think that each place has it’s own special and wonderful version.

    We crossed over to Tomorrowland after this and took a spin on Buzz Lightyear that had a 10 minute wait. It’s still terrible but I had the top score of everyone in the family so I’m fine with it for the most part. With just a few minutes left we redeemed ourselves with another trip on Space Mountain.

    I did remember to pick up my backpack in the locker and we went to the buses. They were starting to combine resorts so there was a lot of initial confusion and cross yelling by the CMs. We had to wait 45 minutes for a giant bus to show up that would go to all the All Star resorts and as with every evening there was no seating. An Italian family was on the bus this evening with two boys, one about the age of Bunny. He got up an offered the seat to her but she declined. I congratulated the parents on having a polite son.

    August 24
    FP+: Soarin’, Meet Disney Pals, Spaceship Earth
    ADR: Akerchus Royal Banquet

    Everyone got a solid 7 hours of sleep but we were at the buses early and at the park before rope drop. The Plethora had hit a little bit of a wall but once we got in and had our photos taken they were ready and eager to get going for the day. Still, I could feel a little bit of a lag so we ended up spending our entire Magic Hour at the Living Seas.

    This pavilion is fantastic! We walked onto Nemo which the Plethora were very happy to find out are not submarines. They do not like the Disneyland version (I don’t either, I miss the submarines) and they “oohed” and “aahed" at the large aquarium tank at the end. They really wanted to explore the space and since we had done so much of the pavilions on our prior trip we acquiesced. There were scuba divers in the aquarium who waved and took photos with the kids and they loved looking at the manatees. We combed through the entire space playing in the play area and looking at all the various sea life until it was time for Turtle Talk with Crush. I love this little show and it’s always so much fun.

    The Plethora were getting peckish so we went over to Sunshine Seasons and everyone picked up a cinnamon roll and either milk and coffee. It was time for our Soarin’ FastPass so I chugged my coffee which was a terrible idea.

    I’m putting it out there forever and ever - this version of Soarin’ is terrible and I hate it. Too much CGI, too much “WOW,” the music doesn’t fit well… bring back California! This was the first time the kids have ever been on this attraction (it was always down at DCA) so they enjoyed the thrill of the attraction but didn’t really have any passion about the film.

    Journey Into Imagination had a short wait so we took a trip with Figment. We played in the area afterwards where the kids built their own Figments and tried out the music area. We were starting to feel some weariness so we headed over to watch the Pixar Short Film Festival. Great choice! I’ve seen all the cartoons (as have the kids but they didn’t remember) and the Plethora were laughing along the whole time.

    While we had another FastPass for characters it was the same as the other time so we headed over to the waiting queues to meet Joy and Sadness and then Baymax. Baymax does not autograph and he is quite funny to take a picture with. This took about 45 minutes for both sets of characters and I hopped out of the Joy and Sadness queue to wait for Baymax,

    We headed over to Norway for our ADR at Akerchus Royal Banquet Hall. We waited about 15 minutes to be called into the banquet hall. WOW. THIS PLACE. Belle greeted us when we first came in and was just delightful. After quickly sitting down and doing a round of drink orders, we went to the appetizer buffet. I could of dined on this alone. It was fantastic! As we were eating round one of the yumminess Ariel stopped by followed quickly by Cinderella, Snow White, and Aurora. The kids each ordered the meatballs as the other items looked too intimidating. DH had the Brassert Biff and I selected the Svinestek. The food was absolutely amazing and we had the most lovely waitperson who chatted with us about the food and life in Norway. The princess were great and the kids (even my son) enjoyed taking photos with each of them. My husband managed to make four trips back to the buffet but I had to stop at 3 (the kids only made one each). This will be a must stop location every time we come. It is just that fantastic.

    Waddling out of the restaurant the girls wanted to see Anna and Elsa and it listed a 25 minute wait. My son decided to go to the restroom and hang out in the land with his dad, he was over meeting princesses for now. We managed to quickly maneuver through the well themed rooms and the Monkey was just ENCHANTED by meeting her beloved Anna and Elsa. We were definitely through everything in around 15 minutes.

    The kids wanted to wrap up their passports so we started to head back over to Germany. The kids ran into the location while I browsed some of the merchandise. They were able to get everything done rather quickly so we began to head over to Italy when DH decided he needed to get the grapefruit beer from Germany so he peeled off while we continued on. Baloo was out and had a short line so the kids managed to get a few pictures with him. Italy was quick as well and I texted DH that we were heading over the the America KidCot location.

    The kids finally wrapped up their passports here and DH made it back with that delicious grapefruit beer. He had stopped to take some photos with some of the CMs in front of the fountain for a few of his friends who love the German Pavilion. Silly man! A music group, X2, was starting at the outdoor pavilion. We all needed a little rest so we sat down and watched them perform. The Plethora love Pentatonix so this was a great treat to see a similar group perform. Afterwards, we headed up to the American Adventure where we listened to Voices of Liberty (which the kids also loved) and then into the show where I’m sad to say we all took a nice, cool nap. I did that thing, where my head would roll and wake me up and I would nod like Mark Twain was saying something very interesting. My kids were just OUT COLD. I didn’t feel too bad as I noticed a few other families having to rouse various people in their party to wake up. I do like American Adventure, but I’ve seen it twice so I think a nap was okay this time. Right?

    We headed back to Morocco to see Jasmine (thank you app!) and all the kids took a photo with her. Since we had already browsed these stores previously, we decided to catch the ferry. It was just loading as we got there so we popped on and sailed over to Canada. We got into line for Mission Space: Orange but that side broke down after waiting for 20 minutes. We opted to get into the Green line and were directed immediately onto the ride. You know, this may be my preference now. I don’t hate Orange, but it always puts some discomfort on the temples of my head. Green turned out to be just as great and fun an experience. We then decided to stop in for dinner at Electric Umbrella. None of us were particularly hungry but we all wanted to sit for a little bit. We picked up four Angus Bacon Cheeseburgers and one kids Cheeseburger which didn’t come with any fries so I gave the Monkey some of mine.

    After dinner we headed back to Test Track which had a 40 minute wait. This time the kids were not as good at working together and ran out of time with their car. Which means, THE PARENTS WON! WOOH! Bear had a little fit about this as we were leaving so we had him sit down for a moment and cool off while the girls and I refilled water bottles.

    We had missed our FastPass for Spaceship Earth but it was a walk on as we were walking towards the exit. We raced on and I rode with the girls. The camera wasn’t working so it only managed to capture Bunny. Afterwards we let the kids explore the exit activity area. DH and I sat to rest a bit but the Plethora had a burst of energy and were racing back and forth to the activities.

    The park was closing so we finally headed out to the bus where of course it was another madhouse evening. Lines were double backing on themselves and people were lost and confused. It took three buses for us to finally get on and get back to the hotel where we put the kids right to bed.

    August 25

    We had a little time this morning so the kids took showers and we all walked to the resort restaurant for Mickey Pancakes and coffee (the Plethora of course had hot cocoa). The pancakes were just okay, maybe a little too dry and dense. I requested the Uber and a driver was quickly on their way. There was no issue with the driver being waved onto resort property and they knew exactly where to go to pick us up. Obviously, she had done this before! It was $34 with tip and the drive was quick and uneventful.

    Bear started to grin from ear to ear as we pulled up to the Universal drop off area. He had been waiting for this day all week. Through bag check and then those long walk ways, we hustled over to the Universal Studios area to start our day.

    I went to the kiosks to pick up our free tickets (thanks to a friend of mine) and was able to quickly swipe my card and get them printed out. We were through the gates quickly and headed directly over to the Harry Potter area to take the train over to IOA. We would be back on this side later in the day but we knew we wanted to ride both ways on the train. Bear loved the Platform 9 3/4 visual gag and was so excited to have us video him walking through it. The train was fun and the kids loved seeing the Trio “up close” just behind the doors.

    Soon enough we were in the other Harry Potter area. Bear beelined for the wand shop but Bunny didn’t want to go. I offered to walk her to the loading area of the Dueling Dragons ride. I wont ride it, but I said I could chicken exit. They still made me check my bag in a locker (dumb) and I walked her up, watched her load, and then waited. I know I could hear her screaming loudly on it as her voice can be piercing! She came off beaming and absolutely loved it. The other two are not into coasters so I’m glad she at least is brave enough to go by herself.

    The rest of our family was still in line so we swooped in and were part of the second group to enter after that. Even though he was in front with his round Harry Potter glasses, he was not selected for the wand test. A very unenthusiastic girl was chosen which was too bad but Bear didn’t seem to mind at all. I took the girls outside to look at the window displays to give Bear some space to decide what he wanted for a wand. He didn’t need any influence from his sisters. DH and he exited about twenty minutes later with a Dumbledore interactive wand. We wandered the streets a bit trying out the interactive elements. I stopped into the candy store with the girls and picked up my fried eggs and pineapple cubes as well as a pumpkin pastry for my DH. Bear was content and didn’t want to spend anymore of his money, he just wanted to wave that wand.

    We finally arrived at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the Monkey was so excited to get to ride. She was too short when we went in Hollywood so this was something she had been waiting a year for. The wait was about 35 minutes and we were on, girls on one vehicle, boys on the other, and we were off. The vehicle gets into the first screen and promptly breaks down… starts up… breaks down… starts up…. breaks down… We were stuck for about 20 minutes before an announcement came on and said that the ride was going to exit. We didn’t get to walk off the ride, but we did get some cool footage on our phone of all the lights on. They gave us one free “FastPass” for any attraction. Monkey was a bit disappointed but we cheered her up with a cup of frozen butterbeer. We moved quickly through the land, the kids didn’t want to stop in the Seuss area, and went to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. I love this attraction! It’s so much fun and the kids had a great time on it. The line was pretty long when we popped back out so we continued on stopping at Me Ship, the Olive for the kids to burn off some energy.

    The kids weren’t interested much in the rest of IOA but we did head back to the Forbidden Journey but it was still down so we headed over to the train and took it back to the Universal Studios side.

    The train was another success and when we were off we headed over to the Leaky Cauldron for Lunch. The Plethora all wanted Fish and Chips while DH and I split some Scotch Eggs, Bangers and Mash, and a Toad in the Hole. I do like that they help you locate your seating and don’t really allow for people to go and squat at a table until they have ordered.

    We walked around for a bit so Bear could try out his wand. Monkey promptly had a bit of a melt down. I had to pull her aside and talk about today was more “his” day and she needed to be patient and pleasant as he has stood next to a number of princesses, sat through all the princess shows, and even went to a princess buffet. She agreed that he had been patient all week and she wouldn’t complain anymore. We rejoined the group and Bear offered to help her with some of the interactive elements and try out his wand.

    From here we popped into line at Gringotts and waited what seemed forever to go through it. In hindsight we should of used the pass here but we were holding onto it for later in the evening hoping to get on Forbidden Journey. The kids enjoyed Gringotts and when we exited the dragon was breathing fire. Such a cool effect! We walked around a bit more and then headed over to the Mummy ride.

    This ride is terrible in California, but I LOVE the Florida version. The tweens have been on this in California but Monkey was too small. Of course this was a success! My DH loves it so much too we all agreed when he suggested to ride it again to pop right back into line. Both times it was a direct walk on which was great. We headed over to the Jimmy Fallon attraction because I wanted to see what it was all about. Oh great, another ride simulator. I find most of these so boring.

    The waiting area was kind of fun, the kids enjoyed watching all the clips on the monitors. The actual ride was just okay. A lot of inside jokes but since I don’t want Jimmy Fallon I didn’t know the references. We walked out and grabbed some churros (pretzel for me) to snack on as it began to downpour. I sent everyone off to a bathroom break to decide what to do next. T2:3D was going to start shortly so we headed over.

    I have a soft spot for this attraction as I was obsessed with Terminator 2 growing up. I’m really glad I was able to ride it one more time now that they have closed it down. Farewell, old friend. Because, I hate it so much, we headed over to ET: The Ride which is as awful as I remembered.

    This ride makes zero sense and I need to get a couple things off my chest:
    ET and his alien pals are ugly and gross looking.
    If ET is so special (he’s the only one that can give life to the plants on his planet) than why do they just leave him on Earth and not start a search party? Your planet will die without him.
    How do the other aliens know English?
    ET’s planet is ugly and gross looking.
    This is the dumbest ride vehicle ever.

    After ET we decided to walk back towards Harry Potter. There was a 5 minute wait for Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster so the kids ran over to ride. We then walked over to Men In Black and rode it where once again I got the highest score but because everyone else in the vehicle brought down the average, I was flashy thinged. The kids love these movies (I bought them to watch when we do our drives to Las Vegas to visit my inlaws) so I was glad they knew the characters and premise of the ride. We exited and I decided to buy the photo package which was a great idea because it was $20 off. Woohoo! Gringotts was the only attraction not connected to their system so we walked back. We ended up using the pass which maybe saved us 10 minutes. Forbidden Journey was still down so unfortunately, Monkey will need to wait till Christmas to go on it in Hollywood.

    The park had closed when we exited and this is where you can see the Disney/Universal difference. The Universal people were more than happy to push us all out. We walked to CityWalk and grabbed a quick dinner at Panda Express which was a terrible idea as the food was stale and just poorly flavored. We walked back to the pick up area, called an Uber and there was one waiting for us right there. The driver was very nice and dropped us off near our building versus at the porte-cochre of the hotel.

    We got the kids showered and into bed rather quickly and we all managed to get a good night of sleep before our last full day in the World.

    August 26
    Magic Kingdom
    FP+: Enchanted Tales with Belle, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Barnstormer
    ADR: Be Our Guest, Liberty Tree Tavern

    Waking up a little sad today, it’s the last full day in the world. The week just blitzed by but overall I think we managed to get nearly everything in.

    The buses were full today but we managed to get on the first bus and arrived at the park in plenty of time. We headed directly to Fantasyland and stopped in at the Princess Meet n Greet Hall. There was no wait and the kids managed to get photos with Cinderella and Elena. We exited that hopped back into the other line where they met Tiana and Rapunzel.

    It was time for our Be Our Guest ADR and we headed in. Finally! I’ve been dying to eat here and am so excited to finally get to see all the rooms. We ordered two Croque Madames, a Croissant Donut, an Open-Faced Bacon and Egg Sandwich, and a kid’s French Toast. The Monkey had to have the goblet glass which she paid for herself.

    We ended up sitting in the ballroom but checked out the library as well and watched the transition. We all grabbed some drinks (juices for the kids and coffee for the adults) and a cast member was soon over with tasty pastries. We ended up getting a second round of these as they were wonderful. The food here was wonderful and it definitely makes me want to eat here again!

    Afterwards we headed to Tales with Belle that had a 10 minute wait so our FastPass wasn’t necessary. We had coached the Monkey beforehand telling her that she needed to growl really loudly if she wanted to be cast as the beast. This is still such a fantastic presentation with walking through the magic mirror portion. Casting began and up came the Beast’s role. We watched the cast member make a beeline for the Monkey as she let out a ferocious and loud growl! Admittedly, there was a bad moment of parenting as my DH and I fist bumped and YES! in a very loud whisper in the back. The tweens decided to partake in the end as miscellaneous furniture once they saw the other kids getting involved. So… I cried. When Belle began dancing with my little Monkey Beast, and my daughter just beamed up at Belle with such adoration and love… If you knew what these kids had been through you would of teared up too. It was such a wonderful and special moment.

    We still had plenty of time before the Snow White Mine Train FastPass so we took a ride on it’s a small world. I love this attraction in every single iteration. My kids tolerate it but they don’t mind mom having her fun. It was great seeing our names pop up at the end of the attraction as well. We crossed over to Winnie the Pooh and I saved space in line as the kids explored the play area. Even the tweens were getting into all the interactive elements! The kids enjoyed this version more than Disneyland but did say it was a pass for future trips.

    Getting a little peckish we stopped at Gaston’s Tavern for a La Fou brew, Hummus and Chips (I was over sweet food), a cupcake, macarons, and chocolate croissant. As we sat inside the sky opened up and began to pour. We had spent the entire week carrying our rain jackets and just a little drop here and there. So I took them out the night before. UGH. The DH took the Plethora to the Mad Tea Party and I went into a store to buy ponchos. I made it before a long line appeared behind me! I did end up buying the backpack that was available and three of the discounted fidget spinners for the kids to play with.

    We headed over to the circus area and Dumbo only had a 5 minute wait. Crazy! We popped on for a little spin. After that we headed over to the Barnstormer for our FastPass. Yep! Just like Gadget’s Go-Coaster at Disneyland. The Plethora enjoy it and it’s a nice little ride but I wouldn’t wait for it or use a FastPass on it in the future.

    The kids explored the area a bit and we went into the store to escape the downpour. It was finally time for our Snow White FastPass so we headed over. Luckily the rain had cleared a bit so they had reopened the queue. It was moving quite fast compared to us in the FastPass line. Oh well! It’s such a quick little ride but lots of fun. The kids passed on going on a second time and wanted to go see Gaston instead. We knew Gaston was a bit difficult to see so we waited for his one set to wrap up to get in line for his next one. I know, it seems silly, but Gaston was the MUST SEE character for this trip so we waited. Gaston was fantastic and the kids had a great time interacting with them and showing off their muscles.

    The rain had started again as we walked for our lunch ADR at Liberty Tree Tavern. Thanksgiving is my favorite of all holiday meals. If there is a Thanksgiving option or sandwich on a menu, I’m going to get it. I love eating dinner here with a nice hot cup of coffee. We ate far too much asking for seconds on the meat and the macaroni and cheese. The kids eyes began to droop a little as they tucked into their third round. Nothing like steamy rain to perk one up!

    Since we were just across from it, we headed over to the Haunted Mansion. We got into the line and I wasn’t aware it was possible, but the skies opened up even more. Everyone was running for cover and we were getting soaked just standing in the queue. It took about 15 minutes to get into the inner area and we were soaked from sweat and rain. Afterwards, as it was down pouring, we decided to head back to Tomorrowland and watch another Monter’s Laugh Factory. The Plethora were a bit subdued in line and I think just happy to get out of the rain. It was again, a very funny show. The rain had yet to let up so the kids asked to go on Carousel of Progress. I won’t say no to that! The Monkey is just in love with this attraction and sang along through the whole show.

    The rain had finally let up and queue times were getting long. The kids had some pent up energy so the headed over to the Tomorrowland Dance Party and had some fun dancing around for a few songs. We walked over to Tomorrowland Transit Authority and took a last ride around and discussed what to do next. The kids didn’t want to leave but I needed some more coffee.

    Here is the final not so happy moment of the trip. The Plethora have a phone they share when we travel and when the tweens go to school (they walk themselves). DH and I really wanted the coffee but the kids wanted to go on Buzz Lightyear as it was a 15 minute wait. We agreed they could go on but they must text us the moment they exit the ride and we will meet them at the exit. Everything seemed like it would go well, we walked them to the attraction then back to coffee stand. A few minutes later texts start coming in that Bunny no longer wants to go on the ride and she has exited and begun to walk towards another attraction. We head over and the Plethora are arguing. We seated them down and apart to cool off while we got the story from each of them. We asked if they still wanted to ride Buzz and Bear and Monkey said yes while Bunny said no. So we gave Bear and Monkey permission to go on but Bunny had to stay on a bench outside with us. SHE WAS FUMING. She wanted to know why she couldn’t go on something else while they went on the ride and we said it was her consequence for walking away. By the time the other two appeared she had managed to get over it and we all decided our last ride should be on Space Mountain.

    The line moved very quickly even though the time was posted as being 30 minutes. We managed to get two rides in before the park had hit its closing time! Since it was our last night there, and we had so many snack credits left, we decided to get some ice cream on Main Street at the ice cream parlor. The line was long so I gave DH my order and went to the Emporium using up the remaining snack credits. After our ice cream we headed to the buses and waited the long wait to get back to our hotel. It was a little sad to say goodbye!

    August 27
    Disney Springs

    I had stayed up late the night before doing all the laundry so we managed to get up, showered, and packed by 9am. The Plethora ate some leftover pastries we had in the fridges and we were leaving our luggage before heading to Disney Springs by 9:30.

    We arrived at Disney Springs and stores were just opening. We had to wait for the Daily Poutine to open and when it did we ordered one classic and one special (a cheeseburger) to share between the five of us. At noon we were meeting a number of our friends who had move to Orlando in the past year for lunch.

    We browsed around the World of Disney store for a bit and promised the kids we would come back. It was getting close to lunch so we headed over to D-Luxe Burger. The Plethora were not that hungry so they each ordered the kid’s cheeseburger meal. My husband and I split the Ultimate Duo (and El Diablo and a Southern) as well as a side for fries. Our friends had arrived and we had a great time catching up with them. They keep telling me I’ll need to make my way to Orlando and well, I just don’t know…
    After we said our goodbyes we still had a few hours till we needed to return back to the hotel for our transportation to the airport. We wandered through all the stores and at this moment the girls decided to spend the rest of their money on pins and pin trading. Bear held out, wanting to save the rest he had left, but he did enjoy watching the girls trade and would make suggestions. He asked later for a set to begin trading with for Christmas and I think we can make that happen.

    I purchased penny press books for the kids who had been collecting a few as went along throughout the week. DH and I also selected our trip pin (we don’t trade but we like to buy one or a few to commemorate a trip). We picked up the “D” pin as well as one that slides around showing all the parks.

    Finally it was time to go. The rest of the journey was uneventful even though we hit some rough turbulence on the way back due to Hurricane Harvey. I can’t wait to return with the kids in a few years or who knows… maybe even sooner.

  4. #3

    Hi Heather!
    Looks like a great trip, lots of special moments for your family. Thanks for sharing them 👍.

  5. #4
    Registered User ericles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Maryland's Eastern Shore

    Great report - really enjoyed it!

    Mrs. Slocombe is my spirit animal



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