Sunday, 3 June 2018

April/May 2018 Walt Disney World Trip Report

Ive been back from my trip 3 weeks as I write this post. Its hard to accept that it is all over for another year.

Today I am going to be giving you a general overview of my trip.

I'll be discussing everything from what went well, what went not so well and what I learnt this time around so that you can use this information to improve your next trip to the Walt Disney World.

No two trips are ever the same to WDW because things are constantly changing throughout the parks so it is always a good idea to look into recent reviews and park news before your trip, even if you would class yourself as a Disney parks veteran.

Lost Luggage 

O.K so I'm jumping straight in with a pretty big negative here. Our trip didn't have the best start. When we arrived in Orlando we found that my sisters suitcase had been completely missed off our flight and was still back in Manchester!!
I have to say Virgin staff were really helpful in this situation, from the ground team to customer services. Everyone did their best to help us.

My biggest bit of advice here would be to stay calm and courteous. It isn't their fault and they can and will help you. Shouting isn't going to get your case across the Atlantic, nor will it make them want to help you very much.

My second bit of advice if this happens to you is be prepared to wait a few days for your case to arrive. We were told that it would be on the next flight out and with us the next morning. In fact it wasn't until our 3rd day that we received the case.

If this happens to you, Virgin will allow you to spend up to $80 per day on clothing and toiletries etc, which you claim back by emailing your receipts later. They also advised us that if we had to spend over that slightly then it wouldn't be a problem.

On the second full day without the case I decided that my sister should by a number of outfits as well as swimwear just incase. We were at the outlets that day and so grabbed a few clothing options, sandals and a swimming costume for just over $90. I didn't want us missing out on our typhoon lagoon day because she didn't have anything to wear, but the case did arrive and she had some nice new clothes and toiletries for the inconvenience.

Staying in Lake Buena Vista 

As you probably already know, this trip was different for me because I was staying offsite for the first time ever. I have stayed on I drive in 2017 but not when doing Disney, so I was interested and a little apprehensive to see how this worked out. 

I'm going to be blunt here otherwise this could go on for a long time... I wouldn't do it again. This isn't to say I had a crap holiday or I didn't enjoy myself, but upon reflection and even at times throughout the trip both me and my sister commented on the fact that certain things would or would not have happened if we had been staying at Disney.

I will do a more in depth post on this soon, but my main reasons are logistics and distance to the parks and generally just missing that Disney magic. After only ever staying at Disney it just wasn't the same. 

However, after staying offsite, I 100% have an even better understanding of the Disney/Lake Buena Vista/ I drive area now in terms of location, amenities, transport etc so if anyone has any questions please do get in touch either via the form below or as you know you can always DM on insta and I will always get back to you either way! 

First Timer Fun

Now I'm no Disney first timer by any means but I did have a first timer travelling with me this trip and on top of that there were a number of things I was also experiencing for the first time. 

I'll start with the most obvious one... Pandora. This was my first time visiting pandora, and I had tried to avoid vlogs and ride throughs etc wherever possible as I wanted this to be as organic an experience as possible. Its not everyday Disney builds a whole new land.

After experiencing this beautifully orchestrated land for the first time in person, I can definitively say that I think my relationship with it will forever be the same as what my relationship will be with Star Wars land when that opens up in 2019. I can appreciate its beauty, detail and intricacy, but I just don't connect with it on a personal level like I do with other areas of the parks. Avatar isn't a franchise I grew up with or that I have any nostalgic connection to and so for me this will always come second to other attractions in the park. 

Flight of Passage (the headliner attraction) was enjoyable, but I am a coaster girl and I like to be in a physically moving vehicle so I would still choose Everest any day of the week.

Navi River Journey was underwhelming to say the least. Pretty but underwhelming. Seriously, if you can't get a fastpass, just don't bother. Queues were 90mins plus on my trip and if I had wasted 90mins for that I would have been gutted. 

The animatronic in Navi River Journey

Also in Animal Kingdom, I saw rivers of light for the first time. People slate this show, but I enjoyed it, apart from the slightly creepy shamans at the beginning who prance through the audience.

The creepy shamans welcome guests in the theatre

I think its a really nice way to round off the day in AK. We got seats easily, but if there are 2 showings the night you go, opt for the second one to get the best view. Also while the first showing is on, you will find rides like Everest go down to a 5-10 minute wait. WIN!

Another first for me was the Frozen ride in Epcot and the new Soarin. I really enjoyed the Frozen attraction and didn't even mind queueing for nearly 40 minutes for it. If you like frozen then the queue really is something you should see and despite stating a 60 minute wait, we were on within 40 so don't be put off by the wait time too much.

As for Soarin, I LOVED it! It was even better than I remembered and I just love the new finale now. So many people say Flights of Passage made them cry. Well I won't spoil it for you but the final scene in this get me emotional way more than any banshee ever could. If you are a Disney parks fan you will really enjoy this. 

Uber vs Lyft

I have always used uber on my previous trips to Orlando and rate it highly. You never have to wait long for a car and the prices are so much cheaper than Mears or the cabs that wait outside hotels etc.

We used Uber to get us from Orlando International Airport to our hotel in Lake Buena Vista and it cost us just $38 for all 3 of us in a car with our luggage!! If the 3 of us had paid for transfers through our travel agent that would have cost us £22pp (£66in total) so nearly $30pp just to get to the hotel!!

Midway through our trip I was on twitter and noticed one of those promoted articles for Lyft offering you up to $50 in savings. I had heard of Lyft from other Disney goers but had never used it myself. I decided to download the app and have a look. 

I had a quick check on a few possible journeys and everytime Lyft was a $ or 2 cheaper than uber, and then there was this promotion. If you enter 50TWITTER as a promo code you get $5 off your first 10 journeys saving you a total of $50!!

As we were staying offsite we decided to take advantage of this saving and used Lyft to get to Typhoon Lagoon when we were going there as there was no bus from our hotel. This cost us less than $3 with the discount. I also used it to get to MK one morning when my sister and her boyfriend were going to the cinema. That trip cost me just under $8 from Lake Buena Vista! 

You could use Lyft to get to the outlets, universal, I drive, anywhere you like! 

We used it on our last day to transfer back to the airport and saved even more money than we did on the way in! 

Now I would still say Uber is a good service, Lyft has surpassed them in value and so I would opt for them every time. 

Construction in The Parks 

Walt once said that the parks would never be finished and that has never been Truer than right now. No matter when you travel to Walt Disney World you will undoubtedly come into contact with some construction or a ride closure somewhere. 

Currently however it feels like it is hard to escape it and I think it is important to prepare for this. I wouldn't have liked to have been a first timer on my most recent trip, especially in Hollywood Studios for example. 

HS has such little going on there now I can quite confidently call it a half day park. I have no doubt in my mind that what is on the way is going to be fantastic for the guests and Disney Parks alike, but if you are travelling throughout 2018 or the first half of 2019 then I wouldn't plan to spend much time here. I cancelled some of my planned in time at this park as it just wasn't needed. 

I would say to do a morning in the parks to do all the headliner attractions and see the frozen show, beauty and the beast etc and then either pop back at night or go after say a water park day just to see Fantastic which still shouldn't be missed. Apart from that I would say your time is better spent in Epcot just 5 minutes away or queueing for flights of passage in Animal Kingdom if you haven't experienced it yet.

Speaking of Epcot, you will also notice some slightly less obvious but equally annoying construction going on there too. If you are after a nice picture of the France Pavillion, be prepared to have a 50ft crane in the background! Work on the highly anticipated Ratatouille attraction is well underway now and although this is going to be a great addition to the park, we will have to endure the temporary weenie in the pavilion, probably until it nears completion.

No hidden mickeys here...just a half hidden crane

There is also a lot of construction at certain resorts including Caribbean beach and Coronado. Now I understand that you generally don't spend a lot of time at your resort but if you are staying at one of these in the near future I would look into how these plans may affect you in terms of transport, food offerings etc. 

Crowds and Queues 

A wise woman once said... 'if there are 2 things you can be certain of at Disney, its that there will be crowds and you will have to queue'. 

That wise woman was me!! It has never been more necessary to plan your days and your fastpasses wisely. Loads of people, sites and forums say it, but there really is no off peak season anymore. There is busy and really busy and you just have to get over it.

Now there is nothing nicer than walking onto a ride with a 5 minute wait, and every once in a while you get lucky and this happens. We had it late one night in AK when we walked straight on Expedition Everest and ran straight back round to do it again before it closed. But generally you need to be prepared to queue a fait bit in between your fastpasses. 

This trip I also tried to eat at more off peak times as well to beat the crowds. This means less time queueing for food and a better chance at getting a table as well. There is nothing worse that staring at your food whilst walking round in circles for a table so you can eat it. One afternoon we headed into Pecos Bill in Magic Kingdom around 1pm... we queued for our food for literally half an hour! 

If you are staying on site then I would definitely recommend rope dropping a park then heading back to the room/pool for a rest mid afternoon before heading back out to the same or different park late afternoon or early evening. The heat and queues will be at their highest from lunch time to about 4pm so you really might as well.

Staying Flexible

I have always said how important it is to stay flexible on your Disney trips and this was definitely the case on mine. When you are travelling with other people you need to remember that people are going to want to do different things.

We actually ended up cancelling a couple of reservations this trip. One of the days was in MK and we were planning to eat at Skipper Canteen. The parks were super busy and we were tired and we just couldn't have stayed all day. We left mid afternoon and I think we ended up eating at Millers Ale House. On the final day I had booked The Plaza on Main St, but all 3 of us said we really wanted to eat at Caseys Corner one last time so again I cancelled that too.

I can't ever say no to a Caseys !

We even changed whole days this trip. I had planned in a bit more Hollywood studios time, however after going to the park at the beginning of the trip we decided we would rather use that time to do other things in other parks.

I know you spend weeks and months making these plans, but you 100% have to be prepared and ready to change them at the drop of a sorcerers hat.

If we had have stayed in MK that day just for our skipper reservation, I can guarantee we would have been hot, tired, grumpy and wouldn't have even enjoyed it. Instead we had a relaxing evening, some great food at Millers and were ready and refuelled for the next day.

Eating Outside the Parks

Following on from that Millers meal I want to discuss eating outside of Disney.

When I first visited Walt Disney World some years ago, I wanted to spend every waking second in the parks and on Disney property. I ate at quick service, table service, signature restaurants and did my fair share of character meals. 

Years later, I still love to try things in the parks and I visit caseys at least twice every trip but there is so much more to an Orlando holiday than just Disney and if you take the time to venture a little further than the Disney gates, you will be rewarded with good food, cheap beer and great hospitality. 

This trip we tried Dennys, Millers and Perkins bakery for the first time. Perkins was O.K. For me it was just a not so good Dennys but each to their own. I loved Denny's. Our server Lashan was the most genuine and helpful waitress I have ever had and the food was delicious. We ate here for breakfast and me and my sister shared our meal as it was huge. I will do an in depth review soon!

Dennys is my favourite way to rise and shine

We also ate at Millers Ale House, twice actually. It was that good we went back a couple of days later. The portions here are just ridiculous. The starters are big enough to share as a main course and they have loads of offers on both food and drinks every night of the week. Mon to Thurs you can get a bucket of 5 miller lite for $9.95. On Disney property you pay nearly that for 1! 

Nachos at Millers

Eating offsite is a great way to see the real US, try something new and save some serious dollars at the same time! I can also recommend Longhorns Steakhouse, Joe's Crab Shack and Olive Garden as other good options which I have eaten at previously.

Snap Happy 

Finally I couldn't go without talking about the fact that this was my first trip to WDW since starting this blog and my @foolish_disney_mortal Instagram account. I have always been someone to take a lot of pictures on my trips but this year was a little different. 

I have always been the sort of person to see something cool or fun or pretty and simply point the lens and shoot, without actually checking or thinking about what I am doing. 

This time round I put a lot of time and effort into photographing my favourite things really well. It might sound boring or like a lot of effort, and I can't deny it cost me a fair bit to start up with my camera etc, but honestly it made my trip for me. 

My Sony A5000

Taking a picture is one thing but actually capturing the magic of the parks and what you see and experience when you are there in a single shot is truly exhilarating. The buzz I get when I finally get that angle just right or I manage to get the moving water infant of spaceship earth, or I get that Main Street picture at night without the glare. 

I have so much to learn when it comes to photography and I honestly cannot wait to learn more, but for now getting these semi decent pictures of my favourite place in the world is enough for me.

Being able to look back at these pictures and remember my trip exactly as it was is super special and if you can afford to, I would definitely recommend investing in a decent camera before your trip. Especially if you plan for it to be a once in a lifetime excursion. 

There were a few times this trip when we split off from each other to do different things, and I still had a fantastic time for those few hours or entire mornings by myself. I have done every attraction, I have seen every show and so there is no rush for me anymore to get to a ride or continuously be in a queue. I used to hear people say they could go to the parks and not do a single ride. I used to think they were crazy. Now I know they just really love Disney. 

Being on my own allowed me to go at my own pace and to spend that extra time taking pictures and getting the shot just right. 

I don't really know how else to round this blog off, apart from by saying, as usual I had the most magical time and here a few of my favourite snaps. Enjoy.

This was the first time I worked out how to set my camera to capture movement

This trip Animal Kingdom became my favourite park to photograph

The details are just stunning, everywhere you turn.

Harambe in AK

Being able to experience AK at night was amazing, and something I really wanted to capture in photos

I love the colours in this pic

I spent a morning solo in World Showcase to get some beaut pics...

 ... with virtually nobody in them

I even managed to get a few selfies with the flip screen on my A5000

really starting to get the hang of this moving water thing

 I found night photography the hardest by far...

..but I got a few semi decent pictures

got some super Insta-worthy pics

and on my final day in Magic Kingdom I hit 1500 followers!!! THANK YOU!!!


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