South/Southeast Road Trip: Florida – Disney World

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

It seemed like we couldn’t take our kids by Orlando without seeing Disney World, so despite the expected crowds, we resolved to go. After reading the guidebook advice to arrive at the Disney parking lot 70 minutes prior to the 9am opening, we set our alarms for 6:30am, got a quick breakfast, focusing on protein, put on our walking shoes, and checked out the hotel a little after 7:30am. This got us to Disney World about an hour early, so parking was quite easy, the lines to exchange our online vouchers for tickets were short, and the ferry across the lake to Magic Kingdom pleasant. There are six different parks to choose from, two of which are water parks, but we wanted to see the flagship one, so Magic Kingdom it was.

Main Street, U.S.A

We spent some time wandering Main Street, U.S.A. John particularly liked all the Christmas decorations and wondered how long it must have taken them to put everything up. This was repeated later in the evening when he saw how many lights there really were.


One of our first observations was that the castle in Disney World is much bigger than the one in Disneyland.


The Plan

We spent some time debating which rollercoaster to rush to first. We even signed up for a line predictor app, which said that if we went to the the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, we could expect a 34 minute wait. Space Mountain would be shorter, and Big Thunder Mountain minimally short. While we knew that we probably wouldn’t go on the Seven Dwarves ride if we didn’t do it then, we opted for Big Thunder, and were planning to follow it with Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, then the Jungle Ride.

So, we positioned ourselves on the path to Big Thunder. As they opened the gates, we ended up having to follow staff members at a ridiculously slow pace. As we arrived at the rollercoaster some college boys trampled a little girl and the mom chewed them out. Don’t trample little kids while at Disney World.

Big Thunder Mountain

After a few minute wait, Jeremy and the boys got on the ride, while I waited for them at the exit. So sad that I can’t ride roller coasters anymore. When they were through, we stopped by Splash Mountain, but it had a delayed opening, so we passed it by and went to Pirates of the Caribbean. There was no wait at all! Fabulous! Jeremy liked it a bit better than the one in Disneyland since he felt closer to the exhibits, but I prefer the one in Disneyland. The entry through the restaurant area gives such a nice vibe that was missing in Disney World.

Jungle Cruise

By the time we made it to the Jungle Cruise, lines were getting longer and we had an expected 30 minute wait. Grumble, grumble. But we got a particularly hilarious tour guide, so it was all worth it. As it turns out, it was probably my favorite ride of the day.


Splash Mountain

Next, we headed back to Splash Mountain, and had reasonably short lines, probably only 30 minutes. James spent some time hammering on my back. Quite a pleasant way to spend time in line. The boats were somewhat different from those at the Disneyland version, as was the ride structure.


The Afternoon

We got some lunch at Pecos Bill’s. The fajitas were fairly decent for amusement park food. John really wanted to go on Space Mountain, but after spending a couple of minutes in a two hour line, he decided that it really wasn’t worth it. Too bad – it made us appreciate some of the low key aspects of the German amusement park we visited this summer in Soltau, Germany.

Abandoning our quest for rollercoasters, we headed over to the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, which was quite fun. We also stopped by It’s a Small World, the Carousel of Progress, the Hall of Presidents, and a few other things. The Carousel of Progress was surprisingly fun and James thoroughly enjoyed it. He loves telling me and Jeremy that we are “classical,” so he had tons of fun seeing what “classical” actually is. Aren’t you glad that in the early 1900’s laundry only took 5 hours rather than 2 days?


The Fast Pass

At 3:50, our first Fast Pass Plus became available. Apparently if you are staying in a Disney resort, you can reserve them up to 60 days in advance. Regular people can reserve 30 days in advance, and if you are like us and reserve a day or so in advance, there isn’t much left. We went over to the Pirates of the Caribbean and enjoyed getting in a short line for one of the good rides.

The Haunted House

We did a couple more things, then headed for the Haunted House to do our next Fast Pass. John remembers being scared of this as a young kid, but decided he was going to figure out how everything worked this time. He ended up really liking it. He is our boy who loves tricks, so it was fun for him to get some ideas.

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh is one of our favorite rides in Disneyland, so we decided to brave the hour wait and got in line. One thing about Disney World is that the lines are much more pleasant to wait in than Disneyland. This one had a bunch of hands on activities for the kids for about the first half hour. Once we got on the ride, it was a bit disappointing. They really should have copied a bit more exactly from its predecessor.


The Evening

It was time for dinner, so we ended up going back to the same place we got lunch. John really, really wanted nachos again. We wandered a bit, rode It’s A Small World again, and realized just as we were getting on the boat that the fireworks show was starting. Such a sad John. Fortunately, the ride ended just as they were doing the grand finale, and he was able to see a minute or so of the show.

We headed towards Splash Mountain and used our last Fast Pass.


At this point, we could have tried to get 3 more Fast Pass tickets, but everything good was gone, the boys were tired, my back was incredibly sore, and Jeremy was worried about staying awake for the 1.5 hour drive to our hotel, so we decided that we were done and made our way to the ferry. The park was beautiful!


The Exodus

We took the ferry back to the parking area, enjoying the Lock Ness Monster that was guarding the lake, and made it to the car around 9:30pm.


Thus began our 1.5-2 hour drive to Clearwater, on the other side of Tampa. It felt a little longer than it should have after a full day at Disney, but fortunately we made it without Jeremy falling asleep.

Keep reading our travel blog for more travel ideas in the American South/Southeast:

Here are some more blog posts from this particular road trip:

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