The Wonder of Walt Disney World

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Before we get too far away from our recent trip to Walt Disney World, I wanted to sit down and share all about our time there! The opportunity for this trip came up only a few weeks before we went so I didn’t have much time to plan! In this post, I’ll share what we did, where we stayed, our favorite parts, and then also a few tips if you are planning a trip to Disney World soon!

We stayed at the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. The hotel design was inspired by the Victorian Era and no detail was missed! Since we had the boys with us, who are ages 5.5 and 4.5, I was very interested in checking out the pools. There are two pools and a splash pad/water play-set and we loved taking a break from the parks to go swimming while we were there.

We visited Epcot the very first day we arrived, but only for a quick dinner and a brief walk around. Justin had to take a later flight than the boys and me so we left Epcot to meet him at the Magic Kingdom in the evening. We went on a few rides and took in the Disney magic that evening, then headed back to the hotel to get the last good nights’ sleep of the trip.

We knew we were going to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on Friday evening, which started at my kids’ usual bedtime, so it was nice to ease into the trip with a laidback Thursday night.

On Friday, we went to Hollywood Studios in the morning after a delicious breakfast at the Grand Floridian. Hollywood Studios was probably my favorite park that we went to. The Toy Story area was incredible! As soon as we walked into that section of the park we were surrounded by oversized toys and games. We met Mickey and Minnie that morning and did a few rides and shows at the park that day.

Justin and I were hoping to give the boys a chance to nap before we went to the Halloween Party so we went back to the hotel to burn the very last bits of our energy in the pool. It worked, and everyone got a chance to rest in the room before we went out for dinner and the party.

We had booked a reservation that I was looking very much forward to at a Mexican restaurant in Epcot for that evening, but it took a little longer than expected to get to it so we had to abandon the plan mid-monorail ride and head to the Magic Kingdom instead. We got some quick order hot dogs, fries, and drinks and quickly ate while we waited to meet up with the McBrides. I didn’t know Lauren was also invited on this trip so it was a fun surprise to meet her in person and bring the families together to enjoy the weekend!

We did a few rides at the Magic Kingdom before it was time to head to the Dessert Party. This was a part of the trip that was offered by Disney and it was nice to sit down and eat some delicious desserts. After we were finished, we walked over to a small grassy area to sit and watch the fireworks show at 10:15pm. I shared this on my stories (and it’s currently saved to a highlight bubble in case you want to watch it!) but the production of the fireworks show at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was mind-blowing. The boys were dancing and watching the castle as it displayed animated Halloween themed videos. And the fireworks made it feel even more special.

It was pretty incredible!

The next day was Saturday and we had the entire day wide open to do whatever we wanted. We grabbed a quick breakfast and then headed over to the Animal Kingdom. We spent the majority of the day there and had a lot of fun! We did a few rides, watched a show, and ate lunch at Pizzafari. We also got some ice cream, as you may be able to tell by my boys’ faces!

By mid-afternoon, we all needed a little break from the heat so we went back to the hotel. We hopped in the pool again for another refreshing break before cleaning up for a quick dinner at the Cafe in the Grand Floridian. We considered heading over to Disney Springs for dinner, and I really was hoping to make it over there, but it was challenging to find a reservation and we were also wiped out from a long day.

We ate a delicious dinner and then crashed in the room for the last night.

Sunday morning we ate breakfast with a few of the other Influencer’s and their families. We were also surprised by a visit from Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The kids absolutely loved it.

We had a few hours free before our ride to the airport so we rushed back to the Magic Kingdom! Luke had been asking for a large swirly sucker and I knew they had them at the Confectionary. We also wanted to try a Dole Whip and found it in Adventureland within the Magic Kingdom.

It was a quick afternoon but we squeezed in as many rides as we could. We ended on a very high note of riding the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train rollercoaster before we had to leave Disney World.

I can honestly say that is was one of the most fun weekends we’ve had in a while. It was very sweet to have some focused time with the boys since we chose to leave Emily home with my parents.

If you are planning a trip to Disney World soon, I thought I’d share a few lessons that I learned while we were there so you can have a smooth and enjoyable weekend! In order to understand our experience fully, I want to be clear that this trip was sponsored by Disney. We were notified about it only two weeks before we hopped on the airplane, so to say it was a last-minute opportunity would be an understatement! Also, there are a lot of thorough and focused Disney World vacation resources (from websites to specific travel planners) that will be able to provide a great deal more information than I will here, so be sure to check those resources while you plan your trip!

First, I wish I would have taken time to research the parks, meal options, transportation, and just gather a birds-eye view of what was available for us before we arrived. It was tough to get reservations for dinner and I wish we had prepared more in order to experience different restaurants, or perhaps a Character Breakfast, instead of their counter-order quick food. We didn’t find a huge variety of counter-order food options within the parks, but there’s also a chance that we missed some great options since we were underprepared.

Staying at a hotel that allows you to hop on the Monorail or a boat makes transportation very easy. The last thing you want to do is spend time traveling on a day when you know you’re going to spend time waiting within the park for rides or food, so quick transportation is key. If you aren’t able to do that, finding a hotel with a pool would be a good idea. The boys and I loved having the little break from the parks to swim and cool off in the middle of the afternoon, and it was a nice way to break up the day!

It was such a pleasant surprised to meet Lauren and her family while we were there. Justin and I agreed that if we come back to Disney World again, we’d love to travel with friends. It was very fun for the kids and the adults as well!

Lastly, I wish I had packed totally different clothes. I’m notorious for packing late the night before we leave on a trip, and I wish I had given more thought into what I wanted to be wearing in September, in Florida, OUTSIDE all day. It was toasty, which isn’t wildly different from Raleigh right now, and even though I knew that going in, I still feel like I packed the wrong clothes. I had denim shorts and a few tank tops, as well as a lightweight dress (I was actually very happy I brought this!), athletic shoes and sandals. I wish I had brought full-on work out clothes, from quick-dry athletic shorts to a sports bra and lightweight work out tank. You don’t go to Disney World with kids in the summer to look cute, you go for fun and all you need to wear is what the weather and activities call for: sweat and fun.

We were given Fast Pass access that allowed us the skip the lines without scheduling when to use the “fast passes”. I don’t believe this is standard, but correct me if I’m wrong. In general, I believe you are able to use 3 Fast Passes a day, having scheduled out when you want to use them. The nice thing about that is that it structures your day a bit more, and you have an hour window of when you’d like to actually do the ride. In general, the times we did not use our Fast Pass access we found the lines to move relatively quickly so I’d say wait times weren’t horrible for us. We did not attempt a single ride with a wait time more than 25 minutes, though, so I can’t speak to whether the rides that claim a 60-80 minute wait were accurate!

Justin and I have talked about taking the kids to Disney World over the past year or so but we always agreed to wait until they were a bit older. In fact, we wanted to be past the “afternoon nap” time of their childhood so we could have the full day to be out without worrying about naps. David is in Kindergarten and Luke is in his final year of Preschool and I think they were at a great age for this trip. There is simply so much to do, see, and eat at Disney World and it’s full of wonder and magic for kids and adults alike. The “cast members” that work everywhere from the restaurants to the greeting staff were happy, engaging, and very helpful. Nearly every single person we spoke to went above and beyond. I can’t say enough great things about the service and commitment to making the full Disney World experience of the Cast Members

A few quick Q & A’s via Instagram Stories:

One. Would you recommend the Halloween event? The Halloween party was certainly cool and we had a great time, but I don’t think you’d be missing TOO much by skipping it. Disney World IN ITSELF is full of shows, fireworks, and parades that I hardly think you’d leave wishing you’d attended if you were on the fence.

Two. What bag did you carry in the park? I bought a belt bag/fanny pack to wear while we were there but Justin ended up carrying his backpack so I just stashed my stuff with him. We also rented a stroller for the boys to sit in order to move around the park. If Justin wouldn’t have brought his backpack, I think we would have regretted that. So, I would say bring a small, lightweight backpack. There are always places to stash it on the rides too!

Three. Could adults go to Disney without kids and not feel silly? I’d say YES! Honestly, I’d love to go back with Justin and visit Epcot and Disney Springs.

Four. What are the best shoes to wear? Athletic, comfortable shoes. Style should be the *last* thing in your mind when dressing for Disney!

Five. Is staying on-site essential? If we decide to go back and need to break up the budget, I would so much rather pack a bunch of sandwiches, breakfast bars, and reusable water cups in order to save money on food and drink so we could stay somewhere within the Disney World property. So I can’t say it’s “essential” but it did make the whole trip VERY smooth.

Six. What is the best age for kids at Disney World? This is impossible to answer but I’ll say this: The right mindset and expectations for the day will prepare you and your family, no matter what their age, for a successful Disney trip. Had we taken Emily, our daytime activities and restaurant choices would have changed radically, but that’s just how we operate. Some families can roll with whatever the day holds, but Justin and I don’t do well in those situations. It’s simply a personality and lifestyle choice, really!

Seven. Was it crowded? Yes, absolutely. But again–you must expect this with Disney World, especially on a weekend!

Eight. Were 2 full days enough? So we had the second half of Thursday, all day Friday and Saturday, and a half-day on Sunday. For us, I found that to be a perfect amount. We were all tired by Sunday and if we had another full day I think I would have been tempted to hang at the pool for a lot of it (simply due to the heat!). I wish we had gone to Disney Springs and spent more time at Epcot, so I’d like to do that if we go again. I’d say 3-4 days would be a great amount of time to really experience a lot of what Disney has to offer, without being totally ruined with exhaustion.

Nine. Did you go to the new Star Wars area? We popped in briefly so the boys could build their own Droids but Justin and I aren’t really into Star Wars so it wasn’t a priority for us.

Ten. What was the best thing you ate? I’d have to say the soft-serve ice cream at the Animal Kingdom was RIGHT on time after a hot afternoon. Also, breakfast at The Grand Floridian Cafe was delicious!

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Comments (24)

  1. Posted September 21, 2019

    Beautiful pictures and aIso want to go back to Walt Disney World.

  2. Posted September 21, 2019

    Gosh, Disney never fails to amaze! I had lots of fun reading your post. Wishing I could go too! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  3. Allison Roberts Smith says
    Posted September 21, 2019

    Fun trip .
    We stayed on the grounds to take advantage of the extra magic hours . It’s so challenging to budget Disney . Even though they make travel so easy . Staying at GF , flights etc can cost upwards of 12-15K $$$ so that is amazing that it was gifted to your family

    We spent 5k for flights, value hotel and our experience.

    • Kate says
      Posted September 21, 2019

      That is expensive for flights for sure! We feel very lucky to be able to have that weekend there and I hope my post was helpful for this considering a visit to Disney soon!

      • Allison Roberts Smith says
        Posted September 21, 2019

        The flights from New Orleans was the least expensive, because it’s a direct flight to Florida , and the magical express took us straight from airport to hotel . The hotel at Disney , while worth staying on grounds , was the most $. I think contemporary is 6-8K for a week ? And Grand Floridian , maybe a coupon thousand more .

        Would love to know if you applied for this somewhere with Disney or did they reach out ?

        I’d love to win a Disney trio like That.

        Thanks for sharing yalls experience

  4. Angela says
    Posted September 21, 2019

    Where did you get that Mickey donut??? Amaze!!

    • emily says
      Posted September 30, 2019

      there’s no way she remembers. did you not read the recap?

    • Kate says
      Posted September 30, 2019

      At the Starbucks in Magic Kingdom!

  5. Sarah says
    Posted September 21, 2019

    Disney doesn’t have to be insanely expensive! By planning ahead and using credit card points and miles, you can save a TON! We stayed at the Swan (not officially Disney, but on property with some of the benefits), spent two full days in the parks (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom), did character breakfasts and ate all of our meals in the parks, flew Southwest from Raleigh, and rented a car. The cost for 5 adults and a 5-year-old was only $1000 total out of pocket (not per person)!

    • Allison Roberts Smith says
      Posted September 21, 2019

      What CC? How much did you have to spend to accrue the points?
      Just curious why you chose to rent a car when the magical express is complimentary?
      We use our other cards to get clothing GFs, booked aspects of our Paris trip for free.

      D

      • Sarah says
        Posted September 21, 2019

        We used a few different cards – Southwest for flights, AmEx SPG for the Swan stay, Chase Disney visa for park tickets (I think this was right), can’t remember for the car. The spend varies by card, but we just put every normal expense that we could on those cards (preschool, gas, groceries, bills), and then paid off the credit cards in full each month, so we weren’t going into debt for a free trip.

        The reason for the car is that we were also going to Gainesville after the Disney part of our trip for a cousin’s graduation. We did use Disney transportation the entire time we were there.

  6. Gina says
    Posted September 21, 2019

    Oh sweetie , you sure do need to plan when going there . My daughter is a pro- and you can book those dinner reservations months in advance . She literally waits till 12:01 am on the day you are able to book. You did good for no planning. Also us adults loved the Halloween party! We all dressed up as pirates and trick or treated around the park. The Halloween parade was amazing ! Would do that one for sure again! The best time of the year to visit for sure as you can do food and wine – Halloween party- and if you do it over Halloween – the next morning the parks are decorated for Christmas !!

  7. Melissa says
    Posted September 21, 2019

    I’ve stayed at two places on property. Animal Kingdom Lodge (amazing view of animals from balcony) and more budget friendly Art of Animation (loved having a closed bedroom and 2 full baths plus a sleeping area for our boys). But my favorite non Disney property is the Wyndham at Bonnet Creek Villas. Loved having a full kitchen , separate bedrooms and the resort has SO MANY FUN POOLS with kid friendly activities all week! They even had a shuttle that went to the parks but we took Lyfte’s everywhere for super cheap. Also, I highly recommend going to the food and wine festival! It’s epic!

  8. Georgia says
    Posted September 22, 2019

    Sounds like you all had a fab time!! Makes me want to book the next flight to Disney – absolutely love it no matter how old I get!! Great photos!

    Georgia Rose
    Xx

    http://www.justgeorgiarose.com

  9. Robin says
    Posted September 22, 2019

    Sounds kinda awful, exhausting, and like if you don’t play your cards right, you don’t get to do anything. Glad you got it for free, as I don’t think I’d be willing to drop money on what you described. Thanks for the write-up!!

    • Heather says
      Posted September 23, 2019

      Disney is great and worth the money if you plan for it!

    • Hilary says
      Posted September 23, 2019

      Ha, I’m with ya, Robin! This trip looks wonderful and the post is great- I know a lot of families travel there and I trust Kate’s opinion of it. However, I’m the grinch parent that has zero plans to take our daughter there. For thousands of dollars, I’d rather take a trip to Europe! For those who love Disney, I’ve heard great things about Disney cruises! A few friends took them and raved about them.

      • Lynn says
        Posted September 23, 2019

        I’m so glad to read this…..I thought I was the only mother who isn’t taking their kid. I live in Florida and it would still cost a small fortune!! Add standing in lines with a bunch of hot and sweaty people? No thank you!

        • Allison Roberts Smith says
          Posted September 23, 2019

          I went to Disney and Paris in the last year with our 5 year old . I can vouch – Paris/London was less expensive.
          However , Disney does make it so easy : quick flight , safe and easy and free airport transportation , and they make it easy to travel with families .

          We had a Disney planner (free too) she woke up early in the morning for out fastpass .

          Certainly the trip Kate took , was a once in a lifetime style Disney – staying at the highest tier hotel .

          But Paris , by far , blows Disney out of the water with food and culture!

          Just wish it didn’t involve jet lag

    • Posted September 26, 2019

      It’s all about your attitude and perspective. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on ANYTHING for it to be amazing. And you can plan for weeks and everything can fall apart. If you decide to enjoy your time and just be at a theme park taking everything in together, you’ll have a great time.

  10. Posted September 25, 2019

    I’m so glad you guys had a blast! I grew up in Florida and we went to the parks often. (My brother is a cast member.) Mickey’s Not So Scary was so fun even without kids. 🙂

  11. Posted September 25, 2019

    I absolutely love Disney, whether it’s Disneyland or Disneyworld, I think they are so magical. Yes they’re crowded but more importantly it’s SOOO magical and I think all the rides, attractions etc are worth the wait. You’ve made me v jealous and I definitely want to go back! xx

    http://www.iridescentplaces.com

  12. Nancy Merrey says
    Posted September 26, 2019

    My husband and I tried to plan a big California road trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary this time last year but because of the wildfires we ended up with a week at Disney World. We always have stayed at the Swan, which we like because it’s a little quieter, and you can also walk to Epcot, our favorite park. We had a wonderful time, but September in Orlando is stinking hot. I also ended up wearing gym shorts and tanks most of the time. We got into a routine where we’d go open a park, and after lunch we’d go back to the pool at the Swan for a couple hours and then cool off in the room, and go out again at night.

  13. Posted September 26, 2019

    Bless you for being real about dressing practically. I get so tired of these “influencers” who dress up in clothes that don’t work for the situation at all. Yes to being real and actually helpful.

    And I’ll chime in on the bags on rides – we went to Disneyland Paris and I was so surprised that most of the rides have a place for you to put your bag with you on the ride! And the ones that don’t are really great about making you feel secure if you have to leave it on the platform (aka they’re always being watched).