NOTE: The events in this post and the following series all took place pre-COVID. Many of the rules and planning for a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW)have changed since my last trip. Be sure to do your own research as things change frequently right now at WDW and any destination in general.
Our final day at the “most magical place on Earth” had arrived. Our bags were packed and stowed away waiting for the Magical Express. But as we had intentionally booked a late flight from Orlando to Detroit we still had all morning and part of the afternoon to finish up our visit. We boarded the bus one last time to head to the Magic Kingdom. We had only one goal for the day – a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
As coasters go this one is actually fairly mild. But as the newest attraction in the Magic Kingdom Fast Passes were difficult to get. So we opted to go into the stand-by line. Which was nearly two hours long even on a relatively uncrowded day in Fantasyland. Part of the reason we chose this ride was because I enjoyed the theming and the “drive by” of the Seven Dwarfs Cottage at the end of the ride. I won’t spoil the tableau it presents for those who haven’t ridden it yet but it is that wonderful blend of humor, happiness, and tragedy all rolled into one that makes many a Disney movie great.
We joined the line which started well outside the queue. So far outside the queue that a cast member stood at the end of the it holding up a sign which read “line starts here” for all the good it did. We observed many people once again jumping the line to join friends and family who were further ahead. None as bad as the group who joined in the line for Pirates on Day 7, but enough to be annoying. Fortunately, a large heron also joined the line and, heedless of the throngs of humanity surrounding it, hunted for small lizards which were hiding amongst the plants. It “terns” out that this bird had an “eagle” eye as he caught lizards that we didn’t even see until their tails were sliding through his beak!
Some people cheered the canny hunter, some made sounds like they were going to throw up. It was a “True Life Adventure” right in front of us – and at no extra charge! The folks at Disney think of everything.
Further into the queue there are all sorts of activities for the children (and the very *ahem* mature children) to play with. Spin the jewels, play music with dripping water, etc. All designed to keep us distracted from the length of the line. We’ve noticed this in several queues and I think it’s a great idea. However, I do think that the Imagineers might need to spend a little more time thinking about typical family dynamics. Especially when there is only room from one sibling to “play” with a barrel and mom and dad are forced to referee.
Anyhow, to make a long story a little longer, eventually we did make our way to the front of the line and boarded our train for a well-themed trip through the seven dwarfs’ mine and a peek inside their happy home with Snow White. The line was probably the longest of our trip – except for the Peter Pan line – but because much of it was outside in a gardened/wooded area I thought it was a much more pleasant wait. At the very least it was less claustrophobic!
The Trip Home
With our mission accomplished it was time for one last stroll through the Magic Kingdom and back to the hotel to catch our Magical Express to the Orlando airport for an uneventful trip home – which is the best kind of trip!
Summary and Lessons Learned
As I believe I stated at the beginning of this series of blogs, I considered this Bob’s trip as it was his first to WDW. Thanks to his meticulous research and enthusiasm I learned to experience the “world” in a way I hadn’t in a long time. Here are a few of my take-aways and tips. Some of them may work for you, some may not and your experience will vary. So in true grumpy old man fashion let me “illuminate you” (extra points if you can identify that quote):
- For us the dining plan was a big plus. We ended up going to restaurants and having experiences I never would have done on my own. This plan did not save us money – as we would have had to eat anyway – but it did ensure that we got at least two decent meals each day (one quick service, one table service) and a couple snacks as well.
- Our plan to prepare breakfast in the room ended up being nixed fairly early on, I think we only did this on the morning we went to Rise of the Resistance, mainly because I preferred a more substantial breakfast. The hotel breakfast was reasonably priced (by Disney standards) and I thought a good way to start each day. Next time, I might try having breakfast in the parks.
- Go for the experience when dining in the parks. Our most memorable meals were the ones in themed restaurants!
- Don’t forget to tip the wait staff just like you do in the “real” world.
What to Take Into the Parks:
- At least one person in your party should have a backpack to carry stuff. Be nice and trade off carrying it (I wasn’t good about sharing the load – sorry Bob!).
- Be sure to pack a cheap poncho as it will rain during your trip.
- Don’t forget extra chargers for your phones as they will run out of juice during the day – the My Disney Experience app seems to be an energy hog and if you add the hundreds of pictures you will take, you get the idea. There are some places you can sit for a few minutes and plug your phone in – if you can find a free outlet – but a portable power supply will allow you to keep going with minimal interruption to your day. I used a Fuel Rod I had purchased on an earlier trip because they can be swapped out at kiosks in the park (for a fee).
- A refillable water bottle of some kind.
- An emergency credit/debit card in case your Magic Band or the mobile app fails.
- Did I mention sunblock? Put it on your lower legs, too.
What to Wear
- Hats! Especially if you happen to be follicly challenged as I am.
- Comfortable walking shoes. Have a spare pair. One pair can rest and air out back at the hotel while you are wearing the other pair.
- Be aware that some of the restaurants in the hotels have a dress code. It’s still resort causal for the most part (“dress” shorts and a collared shirt for men) but worth checking when you make your reservation.
- Layers – a sweatshirt can be taken off if it gets hot. But it can’t be put on if you don’t have it.
Attitude and Mental Health
- Remember – you are at WDW to have fun!
- Don’t worry about trying to impress anyone or looking foolish. You are in a land of make believe where grown adults are wearing mouse ears.
- Don’t be afraid to take breaks from the parks. Even staying for a week we didn’t see everything. I’m not sure that it’s even possible to see everything in two weeks. So don’t kill yourself trying to do it all. I didn’t mention it in the earlier blogs but we found time to spend a couple hours just relaxing poolside back at the hotel. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you aren’t there to stress out but to relieve stress (I hope).
- Go with the flow. Something will go wrong. A ride or attraction will break down or not be available. You won’t find the exact mouse ears that you’ve been dreaming of. Just take a deep breath and remember that you are in the most magical place on Earth. If you forget this don’t worry, a cast member will remind you.
- Be willing to experience everything in a different way than you planned. I began this trip as the expert but I learned that there is no right way to enjoy all that Walt Disney World has to offer. Sure, I offered suggestions now and then (i.e. constantly) but over all I found that trying new things made my trip more enjoyable not less. If I had insisted that we had to “do this” or “do that” otherwise our trip was ruined both Bob and I would still not be speaking to each other. If you want to do everything exactly the way you want to do it then go solo!
- I’ve always been a fan of staying on-property whenever possible. This isn’t because the Disney hotels are so great in fact, as I pointed out in an earlier post, there are areas that the Disney hotels can fall short. But you can’t beat the fact that they are close to the parks and are tied into the WDW transportation system.
- I view the hotel as a home base and need plan spending a lot of time at the room or even in the hotel. So I go for the least expensive option which usually means an All-Star hotel. I have stayed in more “upscale” hotels but other than the room being decorated nicer the beds in the All-Star hotels are just as comfortable.
- We used pretty much every form of Disney Transport during our trip and our favorite was the Skyliner. Usually a short line, a smooth uncrowded ride, and a great view!
- Busses were overall reliable but usually packed. We were careful to build plenty of time into our schedule to allow for at least an hour to get from place to place using the bus.
- We only used Uber once because we needed to get to Hollywood Studios before the busses started running in the morning. The driver was familiar with driving around Disney and our experience was good.
- Everyone needs to ride the monorail at least once just because!
- A ferry ride from the Magic Kingdom to the Transportation Center is a nice relaxing cruise. It’s not crowded mid-day and we rode it just for fun.
- For the curious among you a complete list of the attractions and shows we saw is located HERE.
- A list of all the restaurants we ate at is HERE.
- A list of the characters we encountered is HERE.
- A post on where to go when you have to GO in WDW is HERE.
So there you have it. The entire adventure and proof that even a couple jaded grumpy old men can have a good time at the most magical place on Earth. Even when they know all the “behind the scenes” tricks. Now if I could just talk Bob into going to Disneyland…
Thanks for reading along. I’d love to learn more about your favorite tricks, tips, and things to do in the comments below.
As they say in my “real” world – have a magical day!