Trip Report It's fun in the Summer Time - WDW August 2014


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Our family recently returned from a week-long trip to WDW in mid-August. Our trip included over 1100 miles of driving each way, stays at Art of Animation and Contemporary Resort, and a bunch of firsts for our family (7DMT, Wild Africa Trek, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and dinner at BoG)

In addition to a normal trip report, I’m going to post three additional things and will link to them once available
  • Dealing with the heat in parks (as you can imagine, Florida in August is pretty hot and humid)
  • The Wild Africa Trek (spoiler: it’s super-awesome)
  • Thoughts on MM+

Day 1 Actually more like day 2.5, we left our home the day before and began the 1100 mile drive. This was the second time we made the drive. What seemed to work for us was to leave early afternoon and drive through the night with my better half and I switching driving duties every two hours or so. The kids slept through the night and we would arrive at WDW a bit weary but pretty pumped due to all the caffeine. Last time we did the drive, I tried to reduce the unexpected bathroom stops by wearing adult diapers (not kidding) but in the end, decided it was way more trouble than it’s worth. (if anyone wants more yucky details, I’ll be happy to elaborate, but you’ll probably regret asking).

Some statistics of our drive:
Total miles driven 1200, why the extra mileage? ‘cuz we forgot some things and decided to turn around for them instead of driving on
Total time driving: just under 20 hours, we easily wasted two hours minutes going back
Energy drinks: 3 including the nasty tasting but effective 5 Hour Energy, all of the flavors might as well as be “***” because that’s what they taste like.
Starbucks Double-Shots: 3 (this was the drink of choice for my better half, I preferred the energy drink sampler)
Gallons of fuel: 48, costing about $170 dollars

Our itinerary had us staying at Art of Animation for two nights before switching to the Contemporary Resort. We got to AoA early so we couldn’t check-in online. Instead we just waited in line with all of the other chumps. While we were waiting, they brought out Chip/Dale and a few other characters for M&G in the lobby. The kids went nuts and we were happy they were no longer complaining. I hadn’t experienced this at any other resort so kudos AoA for that. Our room at AoA is a standard room which barely fits us. I vowed to get a bigger room even if it costs more next time.

We arrived at MK around 1pm and happily, we had made FP+ reservations. Everyone was excited to ride 7DMT (a first for us). First thing we noticed getting to MK was that the bus stop for AoA is just about as far as possible from the park entrance. Since we’ve mostly been under AC, the walk to the gates of MK was our first real experience with the heat and it was definitely discouraging. I was instantly worried that the heat was going to take a HUGE toll on us the rest of the trip. Fortunately, the park wasn't that crowded and best of all, no giant tour groups. There appeared to be some small factions from Taiwan, UAE, and Japan. They were blessedly few in number and pretty courteous by comparison to the Argentine mob we experienced two years ago.

We managed to use our FP’s for 7DMT. Though she’d eventually love it, our six year old wasn't so sure about the ride at the start, but the 9 year old was hooked. The first cave in that ride was just spectacular. Our infant doesn’t get to ride, but by the end of the trip, I realize just how incredible it is to have him around and allow the older kids to ride twice using the rider swap. The standby line holds at a steady 90 minutes until early evening when it drops to 65. The heat is pretty oppressive but some light showers have made it somewhat more bearable. We headed back to the hotel right after Wishes happy and excited for the week to come.

Where Dreams Come True indeed! Arriving at Disney (esp after the long drive) is like the realization of a long dream, you arrive full of excitement and glee.

Art of Animation Resort!

The heat and humidity couldn't keep away the crowds who were pouring in, even at 1pm. However, this is noticeably less people than during Christmas time.

Despite the renovations around the hub, the scenery is still beautiful

An old favorite. The first time I looked down over London and saw the moving cars, I could almost believe.

Seven Dwarves Mine Train!

Adventureland Looms large and inviting doesn't it?

Thoughts for the day: 7DMT, despite all the naysayers that it’s not an E-ticket attraction, is fantastic. It’s a great balance of thrills and theming and I’m enchanted by the atmosphere. I predicted that this will be the star attraction of this trip for us. Finally, the Broccoli Salad at Columbia Harbor House is freakin delicious. I would eat this many times this trip. We’ve stayed at a variety of Disney properties across the range and AoA, despite its newness was definitely closer to Pop Century in terms of level of comfort than the nicer resorts we’ve experienced. That said, the decorations were great and there were lots of happy people milling about the resort. If we didn’t need more space and if the bus stops were more convenient, I could easily see our family staying here.
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Day 2 It’s HS day. Our MO is almost always to make the rope drop. Our family split up as soon as we got in, the the younger ones head to TSM and I took the older kiddo to do do thrill rides. Thanks to EMH, we got to do RnR once and ToT four times before meeting up again. We used our FP’s, rode the Studio Backlot Tour before being told that “it’s closing forever”. Little did I know that they meant the AFI Showcase and NOT the Studio Backlot tour. When I ask a cast member, she says “I sure hope not, I’m supposed to be working this tomorrow!”. Somewhere in the middle of the day, we get handed some Olaf Frozen Summer Fun fans. These will end up being super-valuable due to the heat we would later experience on this trip. We duck into Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post within which they built a tiny skating rink. It seems silly but there were people who had forked over money to rent skates. As for us, we were just glad to be in such a cold environment considering the ambient temperature and humidity outside. The gift shop part was jammed full of Frozen stuff but our favorites were the desserts, they were a real treat.

Also, there’s a heavy downpour in the early afternoon which soaks everything and everyone. This helps a little with the heat but drives the humidity through the roof. Also, as a result, they abbreviate the Indiana Jones Stunt show, eliminating the airport scene. I’m disappointed about this but glad they did the show anyway. This day, we got to try out the additional FP after we used our three reservations. In all, we ended up usingin 8 FP’s per family member. Incredibly, at around 1pm we were able to get a TSM FP for 2:30pm, I’m pretty sure that was a fluke because TSM FP’s usually get completely taken by by mid-morning. Even the cast member was like, “wow, that like never happens”. We also score an FP for Fantasmic, which causes us to miss the Frozen Fireworks show at DHS.

Olaf Fans, for which we were hugely grateful. They were the difference between just uncomfortable and simply unbearable.

Topiary Earful Tower, you get to see this on the Studio Backlot Tour

Ever looked down at the ground? You'll see Disney's own survey markers.

Actual Earful Tower, at one time, this was planned to be the Iconic structure of DHS. As much as people hate the hat, I'm glad they used that instead of this water tower.

Another interesting thing that happened this trip, some skywriter kept writing messages of "Jesus Loves you" and whatnot during the whole week. That must have cost a fortune but it was sure entertaining.

One of my favorite things is the attention to detail and the beautiful signage. This was near the Mike and Sulley M&G.

Check out that crazy weather!

Tower Directory at the Hollywood Tower Hotel

There's a Rainbow!

DHS has some of the most beautiful night time signage.

Thoughts for the day: We obtained at least as many FP's as during the paper system days. I’m feeling pretty good about the changes to the FP+ policy. Our strategy of reserving E-tickets in the mid-morning and using the additional FP to skip lines on less popular attractions (Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, etc) in the afternoon seems to work pretty well for us. The Fairfax Salad at the Fairfax Fare (basically a salad with chili and tortilla chips on top) has got to be terrible for you, but oh so delicious. The Olaf cupcakes are sickeningly sweet, but I still have to have one. And maybe it’s the weather, but there’s a lot of parents who are literally dropping F-bombs on their kids in the park. That seems excessive, even to my ears (and I work with hard drinking business types all the time).
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Day 3 Everyone was pretty pleased to be checking out of AoA. It’s a nice resort but staying in the Little Mermaid section makes for a long walk to the buses morning and night. If you can get it, Lion King section is the way to go. This morning, we have to check out of AoA, check into Contemporary, and make it to a before-opening breakfast in Cinderella Castle (a first for our family). We get to Contemporary so easily I wonder aloud why we don’t drive to the park more often. The nice valet nicely tells us we don’t have to check-in, just self park and head over to the park to make our breakfast time. If you that have never had breakfast at the park, I highly encourage booking a breakfast prior to park opening. You get let in early and basically get the nearly empty park to yourself which makes for pictures that are otherwise never possible. The walk from contemporary to MK was nice (though by evening when everyone is tired, it proved to suck). We arrived 45 minutes prior to breakfast but they let us in. We proceed to casually hang around and take pictures. I have never stopped to look at the tile mosaic in the castle before because we were always in a rush, but it’s stunningly beautiful. The breakfast itself was okay though for the money, I think we will likely never do it again. The only annoying thing about breakfast was that we finish after park opening which means we’ve missed the rope drop and lines are starting to get long. We still manage only a 20 minute standby for Space Mountain. By mid-afternoon, we caught the Festival of Fantasy Parade (another first for us). Wow this thing was just awesome. I immediately feel terrible for the performers because I can feel the terrible heat standing in the shade. The parade was all smiles and spectacle and I was thoroghly charmed. The kids were really excited to see Anna and Elsa and they acknowledged the Olaf fans we waved at them. The Maleficent dragon was just awesome. As it raised its head to breath fire, you could hear the shouts of delight all around. About this time, we figure our room was ready so we head to check-in and then return to the park after a nap.

We briefly contemplate standby for 7DMT during MSEP and Wishes, but the line held at a solid 60 minutes the entire time. Between aching feet and the heat, we decide just to sit around and watch the parade/fireworks. Btw, if you have never seen the fireworks from behind the castle, it is a nice chance from the throngs on Main Street and worth doing. You end up having to look in several directions because some of the fireworks are behind you, but they are literally right behind you and their massive explosions are thrilling. We end the night by going to our much larger room at the Contemporary. As nice as the resort is, I can’t stop wondering who the heck designed the bathrooms. The sinks are very large and shallow, but there’s also literally no bathroom counter space. As Art Deco as that might be, it’s hugely impractical. That said, the Resort is lovely and we took full advantage of both walking to MK as well as being able to wait for the monorail in AC during our stay.

Even with early entry, there's plenty of people on main street

So few people!

The sky was just such a rich shade of blue that day.

An almost-empty hub, something you'll never see under other circumstances.

We waited for the folks to make their way down so we could take this shot.

A shockingly empty hub

Around the castle, it's just so pretty

The gorgeous tile mosaic in the castle walkway

It is of course, the story of Cinderella

It fits!

Caramel Apple Stuff French Toast. This was actually pretty good.

It's a Festival of Fantasy!

Stay Warm!

On another day, Rapunzel was wielding a frying pan. So sorry I missed that shot.

These seahorse guys in front of the Ariel float were wicked cool.

Maleficent was an imposing float.

We were so close you could feel the heat from this fire.

Our room at the Contemporary

The crazy bathroom sinks. There's like no counter space.

Thoughts for the day: Contemporary is really nice. Because it was there from the first days of MK, the rooms are some of the largest across all the resorts. I can’t wait to watch fireworks from here. I am glad that we got to do Cinderella’s Royal Table but honestly, it wasn’t worth the cost. Next time we want to get into MK early, we’ll likely do breakfast at Crystal Palace. Finally, we LOVED the Festival of Fantasy Parade. It was pure Disney awesomeness.
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Day 4 It’s AK day! AK is my personal favorite of the four parks and I can’t wait. We go in early again having had breakfast reservations at Tusker. Our plan this day was to eat breakfast, hang around the parks for our favorite attractions and then pop out for an early dinner at Boma before doing something else for the night. Breakfast was great, pretty much a repeat of the last time we ate at Tusker. I’m slightly disappointed that there’s literally no menu variation at all, but hey, it’s hard to complain when you can pile up on bacon and danishes all while hanging out with Safari Donald and his crew. I couldn’t help taking lots of pictures of all of the signage in and around Tusker. Oh yeah, if you’ve never tried Tusker, it’s worth it for their Jungle Juice alone. Jungle Juice (or pog) is a mix of Passion Fruit, Orange, and Guava juices (thus POG) and it’s freakin delicious. Best of all, they sell Jungle Juice slushies right at the refreshment stand outside of Tusker. It’s absolutely worth it and I promise myself that I will experiment with making our own Jungle Juice when we return.

Our AK plan always includes several trips on KS and a couple of rounds on EE. Our less daring family members opted to sit in on the Nemo show and we totally skipped both Dinosaur and KRR. Last trip (during the winter), we rode KRR and you know where they warn you that you might get SOAKED? Well, that happened us. It ended with a lot of crying, instantly having to go back to the hotel for a change of clothes and a solemn promise never to go on that ride again. I’m thinking how great it would be to be soaked with cold water this day, but whatever. However, we did have a great surprise on the Pangani Forest Trail. Some five days earlier, one of the gorillas at AK gave birth to a new baby gorilla. At the time, they hadn’t even determined sex/name for the newborn yet. There was a huge crowd pushing and shoving to get photos and see the newborn. Mom was fairly protective and we got to see the baby gorilla and it was every bit as cute as you can imagine a baby anything to be.

Knowing AK would be the hottest of all the parks (no rain this day, all the foliage in AK tends to block most breezes, and there’s not very many AC venues at AK to duck into), we cut the day relatively short to make a 4:50 dinner at Boma. If you’ve never eaten at Boma, it is, by a long mile, our family’s favorite restaurant in all of WDW. It’s setup like a small village with buffet stations for entrees, sides, soups, kids, desserts, etc. For the kids, there’s always the usual kid stuff, but also some awesome desserts like their Zebra Domes. For me, I got my fill almost entirely on the soups. This day, they had many of our favorites: Butternut Squash, Haira, Curried Coconut Seafood Stew, Chicken-Corn Chowder... I swear I’m salivating just typing this. The rest of the menu is pretty great too though I don’t even bother with the giant hunks of meat as I’m going for the stuff that’s cooked with a little more finesse (they had a special spinach bread pudding which was pretty good, but I really liked the succotash and the couscous as well). Finally, Boma had a drink they called Frunch. It’s somewhat similar to Jungle Juice but made with very different ingredients. Frunch was a hit for everyone.

We end up going back to HS to do some rides. This time, we caught the Frozen Fireworks and they were pretty good. Not as good as Wishes or Illuminations, but still a wonderful addition to HS. The people next to us were literally squealing with delight and just saying over and over “wow, that’s amazing!”. I was like “wait till you see Wishes”.

Welcome to DAK!

Hot air Balloon Trip? Yes please! Though who the heck flies hot air balloons at 4:30am??

There's that crazy sky writer again.

This is one of my favorite signs. Remember that "We do not inherit the earth from our parents - we only borrow it from our children."

OMG baby gorilla! The mom just say there cuddling and staring at her baby the whole time.

This crazy train isn't going to be able to keep going this way.

More DHS signage magic

Thoughts for the day: The whole family agrees that Boma is our hands-down favorite meal while at Disney. I would love to learn how to make some of the things on their menu (esp the soups). AK continues to provide a whole different kind of Disney unlike any of the other parks. I hope that the addition of Avatar-land doesn’t dilute the animal or conservation aspects of AK. The Frozen Fireworks show was great and a worthy addition in HS. Finally, we gotta learn the recipes for Jungle Juice and Frunch.
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Day 5 Some of our family went with me on the Wild Africa Trek while the rest decide to sleep in. I’ll do a more full writeup of the Wild Africa Trek but I’ll say a couple of things here. First of all, I got so used to using my MB for everything at Disney that I basically stopped carrying my wallet around (one less thing to lose right?). However, I do think that this was stupid and I won’t be doing that again. While you are in the envelope of Disney, your MB can unlock everything. However, if for any reason you end up having to leave the property (say you have a medical emergency), then it’s a really critical thing to have with you. Also, when you are greeted at the start of the Wild Africa Trek, they don’t have an MB scanner so you have to prove that you are who you say you are. I started thinking about just how badly I screwed up until the cast member cheerfully let me in by showing him my RoadID (which I DO wear everywhere). This is one of the elements of how awesome Disney is in their cast member training. I’m sure the “policy” such as it were would be that I needed to show a photo ID. But by empowering front-line individuals with independent decision-making, the cast member was able to ascertain that given my somewhat uncommon name, it was unlikely that anyone else would be wearing an ID bracelet with the same so he just let me in. I can easily imagine this not happening at many other places so three cheers to Disney for common sense.

The Trek itself was lots of fun. Oddly enough, the entrance to the Trek is on the Pangani Forest Trail. In all my previous visits (including this trip) to the Taill, I had walked right by the trek entry gate and never noticed it. That’s a nice testament to how well it’s blended into the scenery. We had to leave all of our non-attached belongings behind in key code locker (you better remember the code you put in) and we were all harnessed up short order. Our two guides, Becky and Ashton were friendly, knowledgable, and just overall great. My nine year old who did the trek with me is still spouting all of the facts she learned on the trek. Speaking of which, she was easily the youngest kid on this trek but overall, it was completely fine for someone her age. If you’re on the fence about whether your kids will like it, I think they will. We learned a bunch of interesting details like how they only have male crocs at AK because the females would just kill each other, or how giraffes have roughly the mental capacity of someone stoned out of their mind. As Becky told us, “they’re only about as smart as they need to be”. The trek ended with a small snack at their boma (basically a small enclosure on a high spot in the savannah). You’ve probably seen in, near the Flamingo pond on KS. (Did you know that the flamingo pond itself is a hidden mickey?) The fee for every trek includes small donation to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. At the end of the trek, we were given the option to vote how the conservation fund portion of our trek fees would be used (you drop a stone into slots representing different kinds of animals: rhinos, elephants, big cats, etc). As a result, you get a special Disney Conservation Hero button only available to Wild Africa Trekkers.

The rest of the day was spent using FP’s at Epcot. Because you can’t get Soarin AND TT, we end up doing the rider switch on Soarin. We also got to ride Living with the Land while waiting for the Soarin contingent. The aquaponics system (plants on top, fish on bottom) tank was back in operation which I was happy about because it seemed so neat to me. Also, the Mickey Shaped Pumpkin is long gone, I hope they get another one back. Finally, super-starved, we practically ate our way across the world showcase. Some of our favorites ended up being the Funnel Cake with giant slab of ice cream on top in America (the ducks have learned to come up and beg for funnel cake when they see people ordering it), the chicken cutlet curry at Katsura Grill, and the Cronut, oops, I mean Croissant Donut (don’t sue me Dominique Ansel) at the Refreshment Port near the World Showcase Gateway, and finally, the ice cream at L’Artisan des Glaces in France. I was upset that my belly didn’t have room to fit in a fish and chips from England. We end the night with dinner at Coral Reef, another of our favorites. There’s something mildly surreal about eating seafood while you watch it swimming by. Then again, there’s something extremely funny about sitting down to eat while listening to the blood curdling screams of riders of ToT on Sunset Boulevard too.

A close up of the hippo pool

Did you know that from the top of their mouth to the bottom, it's like five feet?

The suspension bridge we got to cross as part of the trek. This one went right over the croc pit.

And there's one of the killing machines right there. It's mouth is open to expel heat

They call this one "Lefty" because he lost a paw in a fight. They have another croc named "Dr. Evil" because he only has a pinky on one paw.

This was their "stud giraffe" at DAK. Apparently they bring in all sorts of females for him to "date".

Did you know these Ankole Cattle are raised purely as status symbols? They barely even eat the meat, it's purely for dowries and to show that you're so well off you can afford to raise these ridiculously impractical pets.

African Elephant Ears DO look like Africa!

Parting gifts from Wild Africa Trek

Our two trek guides, who could not have been more awesome!

The Soarin waiting lounge.

I love that the monorail runs right through the park.

The blue hour in front of the fountain

Dancing lights on the footpath

Lovely colors on Spaceship Earth

Thoughts for the day: Be prepared! Even if you plan on being on property your whole stay, it pays to carry ID, credit cards, and some cash. You never know when that might come in useful. The Wild Africa Trek was awesome and if within your means, something I really think is not to be missed. I can see us coming back and letting each of our kids experience the trek. Finally, to me World Showcase at Epcot is primarily a food experience. I’ll openly admit that it’s not the finest example of cuisine from any given country (that said, Nine Dragons has some fairly good and authentic Chinese food), but I can’t think of another place where I could access that variety within easy walking distance. I can’t wait to come back to Epcot for Food & Wine Festival or Flower & Garden. I could spend days just snacking at their various pavilions.
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Day 6 It’s back to MK. First thing I notice is that they did an abbreviated welcome ceremony for the EMH rope drop in the morning. In years past, I seem to recall them doing a full welcoming ceremony even for the EMH opening. We walked straight to 7DMT only to notice that there’s already a huge line (people must have sprinted through MK to get there) and unfortunately, the ride was down. I bet that the line that’s accumulated was about 45 minutes long (within minutes of the EMH opening). Of course, it’s a curse to be at the front of the line because you are committed to waiting for the ride to open whereas we made the easy decision to ride Mountains instead. We got in Space Mountain three times, Big Thunder Twice, and Peter Pan twice before the lines got long. We then took in a morning break and did some relaxing things (Haunted Mansion, Pirates) while we waited for our 7DMT FP to come up. By mid-morning, we decided to drop in on Be our Guest for lunch despite having BoG dinner reservations in the evening. BoG lunch is everything we remember it to be, the kids love the Croque Monsieur, I went for a French Onion Soup and the Salad Nicoise. We find a hidden mickey in one of the halberds in the knights room (yah!). By the time we leave at 11:30 in the morning, they’ve already put out the “BoG is at capacity for lunch” sign. So folks, if you want to eat at BoG for lunch, it’s either FP+ or show up early (like 10am early) for their 10:30 opening.

The afternoon was unbearably hot with no rain in sight. We ended up trying the Enchanted Tiki Room (another first of us) and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We spent the rest of the day strategizing on how to avoid the heat while still taking in entertainment. I end up holding up my six year old so she can watch the FoF parade. I’m tired and hot but the delight on her face made it all worthwhile. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting add-on FP’s for our favorite non-E-ticket attractions (never really having any problems whatsoever) and finish the evening with dinner at BoG.

BoG dinner, another first for us. It was a lovely dinner, but probably not something we’ll likely go back to do again. The French menu was a bit of turn-off for the kids. They like the Croque Monsieur at lunch, but very little on the dinner menu appealed to them. They stage everyone waiting for dinner on the bridge to the castle which means that you’ll basically waiting out in the heat. Only when it started pouring outside did they then move everyone into the foyer of the castle. When you eat dinner at BoG, you can only sit at your assigned table unlike lunch where you can choose any room. The best part of the meal was the table side dessert presentation. The kids thought it was great and “The Grey Stuff” dessert was divine, I could eat several servings of that stuff. Lastly, I just wanted to again commend the service side of the cast members. My better half was suffering from heating exhaustion and was having a hard time. When I mentioned that we might need a minute before we could make it to our table, our hostess didn’t show the least bit of irritation about the delay. Instead, within minutes, three separate cast members had brought us cold waters and offered to do anything they could to help. It really made our night just in terms of the compassion that was displayed and though we didn’t really like the food a lot, the overall dining experience was fantastic. We end up heading back to the Contemporary to watch the Fireworks.

The abbreviated welcome show was kind of a surprise.

I just love that they would go through the effort of making an attraction-specific sign, it really blends well.

On the gate at BoG

Apparently this bathroom is only for sword-wielding, helmeted knights

You can see just how far behind the castle the fireworks are actually being launched.

This was taken on a previous trip, but Wishes is truly just a spectacular show.

Dumbo at night produces some trippy colors.

Thoughts for the day: BoG continues to be as popular as ever, I think we’ll end up doing more lunches than dinners here. At this point, I’d say we’re pretty comfortable with FP+. We were there for the paper FP, there during the transition when some parks were FP+ only and some still allowed us to double dip both FP+ AND traditional FP and we also were there during the time when you could only get three FP+ reservations. I’d have the say that the current incarnation, if it persists, seems to be a good balance that will go a long way towards allowing you to plan ahead and still have spontaneity. Also, because so many more attractions have FP+ entrances, you end up being able to use FP+ to shorten the line at many attractions that used to not have paper FP (haunted mansion for example). Also, I don’t understand why people would do a 45min standby for an attraction like Haunted Mansion or Pirates when you could just get your FP from a kiosk. Finally, watching Fireworks from the Contemporary is a neat experience and gives you a different view of the show. It’s only from this vantage point that you realize just how far behind the castle a lot of fireworks are actually being launched.


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Day 7 It’s back to Epcot for a full day. This time, we opted for TT over Soarin for our reservation but manage to easily make it to The Land to ride Soarin standby after rope drop. The standby wait time immediately sky-rocketed to 60 minutes by the time we went through our first round on Soarin. Our rider switch allows us another short wait and by this time, the standby wait got to 90 minutes. By mid-afternoon, there were some epic rainstorms pouring down. Unfortunately, after several days of no rain, we decided to leave our ponchos behind. Thus we ended up hiding in Mouse Gears and took the chance to pick up some souvenirs. I was disappointed that they didn't carry a full selection of things (I wanted to pick up a “I’m with the Band” t-shirt for a friend, but they didn’t carry it). After the rain let up, we got to ride Maelstrom a couple of times with pretty minimal wait (which was surprising) and I still didn't get to eat any Fish and Chips. But all things aside, we got a pretty great day in. I know I’ve said a lot about the heat but it was really just overwhelming and you couldn’t help but notice it everywhere you went. I felt seriously bad for the kids who dressed up in the Elsa costume, complete with wig. Yes it looked nice, but holy smokes, it’s gotta be hella-uncomfortable.

I desperately wanted some Dole Whip so we went to Captain Cooks in the Polynesian for a relaxed dinner. Only, they didn't have any Dole Whip! I was seriously disappointed but the pork with asian slaw sandwich was still pretty tasty. We finished the night again with watching Wishes from the Contemporary. This time, we just hung out on the skybridge between the Contemporary and Bay Lake Towers. They piped in the music from the fireworks show and it was awesome. And as a bonus, no crowds after the show ends!

Spaceship Earth is just hugely cool

Here's another

Everyone loved Mission:Space I still can't convince everyone to do Orange though.

The Viking at Norway.

Beautiful Waterlily in Living with the Land

Epcot at Sunset

Thoughts for the day: If you’re going to bring ponchos, commit and carry them with you. They do you no good if they’re sitting in your hotel room. On past trips, some of my best park photography opportunities arose when it was raining because the park was virtually empty. This epic downpour would have made for some interesting shots that I missed due to not having any rain gear. Also, keep in mind that there’s a first-mover advantage to going out as soon as the rain lets up. Many attractions with outdoor lines will basically clear out when it rains. Being the first to reach that line will give you a huge advantage when it comes to a shorter wait.


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Day 8 It was our last half day as we had to drive home. Some of our family had caught a cold so they relaxed at the hotel while I took the rest to MK for one last hurrah. As we’re on a short schedule, we make a beeline for 7DMT right after rope drop. I’m gratified to see the full MK welcome ceremony for the normal opening. However, on this day, they did this really interesting thing. I guess because of the expectation and to reduce traffic, after rope drop, a number of cast members walked down main street in a line holding a rope, basically keeping people from just rushing towards 7DMT. As we passed areas, people would peel off but it was clear that their intention was to control traffic for people headed to 7DMT. We walked at a slow pace all the way to 7DMT and I’m disappointed to see not only a pretty substantial line, but also, people who sprinted through Tomorrow Land joining the standby line ahead of those who walked behind the moving rope. All in all, we ended up waiting for about 25 minutes to ride which wasn’t bad. But the wait time shot up to 85 minutes by the time we finished our first go-around. This reminds me of when people would sprint for the Anna/Elsa M&G in Norway at Epcot. I swear we made straight for Norway at rope drop last trip and still found a four-hour wait.

The rest of the half day is nice. We get in all of our favorites and some to which the kids would have objected if not for the AC (Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress) and wave a tearful goodbye to the Magic Kingdom.

The drive home started rather interestingly in that our GPS gave us some crazy directions that went on roads intended for cast members. We ended up driving past huge cast member parking lots and cast member housing on our way out of Disney property. Whereas in years past, we’d always gone in and out the front door, this time felt like sneaking out the back and it was definitely strange to be near so much normalcy in such close proximity to the parks.

The drive home was about 1,125 miles which we cranked through in roughly 18 hours. We arrived home sad to no longer by at Disney but full of yet another vacation’s worth of memories. We’re already anxiously waiting for the next time when we can go back.

Sculptures in the hub. Sometimes, people blaze right through here and miss all of these wonderful little tributes to Disney's characters

Welcome foolish mortal to the Haunted Mansion.

The tiki gods will bring you, well, some water spray which is kinda nice.

The end of 7DMT

Thoughts for the trip: Another incredible Disney vacation passed by way too quickly. Everyone else thinks driving 1100 miles in one shot is kinda crazy but at this point, I feel like we’ve got a good handle on managing the trip. The parks continue to a great experience and so far, doesn’t show any signs of wearing thin. There’s so much attention to rich detail that I spot things during rides for the first time almost every single ride. We’ve even managed to make a game out of trying to spot new things on each and every ride. Every trip, each family member picks a favorite attraction. This trip, it was pretty clear that all the kids preferred 7DMT. It was my own favorite as well.

Though we stayed on Disney property, this was yet another trip where we opted to not do the Disney dining plan and I think that it’s working well for us. The problem with DDP is that you end up feeling obligated to sit down to a meal every day. For us, that seems far too restricting. Sure I like planning ahead, but not being tied to a dinner res at a particular park or resort also means that we can park hop whenever we like. Speaking of which, we did significantly more park hopping than during the beginning of the FP+ era. Adding FastPasses was simple enough and I liked that there was a central location to get passes for any attraction which meant you didn’t have to walk all the way to the attraction itself to grab an FP. For example, think about walking all the way to Soarin from the International Gateway at the back of Epcot to grab an FP. Instead, you can do that at the kiosk and make your way slowly to the attraction instead. Overall, each day of our, we used our three FP+ reservations and added on as many as five additional FastPasses per person on any given day. Plus our group split on a number of occasions each getting separate FP’s. That would have been much more difficult in the paper FP era.

I have a hard timing trying to see how much longer we’ll sustain going to Disney but I’d imagine we’ll be back for many more years to come. Our oldest declared that she’d want to be back even when she was 20, we’ll see if that actually proves true. People ask why we love Disney so much, and I think someone else said it best, “you arrive just KNOWING that you’re going to have a great day”. Even with all of my complaining about the heat, what we’ll remember is the delight of riding 7DMT for the very first time and hearing the “Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho!” or seeing Anna and Elsa wave at us from the Frozen Float in the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Those are the experiences that will stay with us. As much as we swore we’d never be back in the summer, I bet we’ll be back in the summer within three years time.


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Original Poster
I really enjoyed your trip report.
Thank you! Though we've been to Disney a few times, this was my first time documenting the experience. Actually, it was interesting, we were looking through our Disney pics over the years and compared against a relatively fixed setting, you could really see your kids growing up over the years. Maybe from here on our, we'll start taking the same picture at each park year after year just for comparison.


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Thanks for sharing your trip report! I absolutely love the pictures you included. The Wild Africa Trek sounds like something I'd enjoy doing with my daughter when she gets older!


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Original Poster
Thanks for sharing your trip report! I absolutely love the pictures you included. The Wild Africa Trek sounds like something I'd enjoy doing with my daughter when she gets older!
Thank you! I was really hesitant but the cast member who took my call in reservations said that she herself had done this and encouraged me to go ahead and sign my daughter up. It turned out to be a great experience.


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Original Poster
Great report and photos! I also enjoyed your "daily tips".
Thank you! I figured in the interest of not just repeating the same experience every trip, I would write down something for each day that I thought was the most important in terms of things that went good or bad. These turned into the daily tips.


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Thanks for the share! Great TR! Hope our trip will be as good :) In 13 days we can choose our fastpass+ for the first day.

Just one question about the fastpass system. Do I understand it right that you don't have to go to the ride itself if you wanna arrange FP for that ride but there are kiosks you go to and in the kiosk you arrange your FP?


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What an great report. Thanks for sharing it with us. Seems to me that everyone had a wonderful time in the parks.


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Original Poster
Just one question about the fastpass system. Do I understand it right that you don't have to go to the ride itself if you wanna arrange FP for that ride but there are kiosks you go to and in the kiosk you arrange your FP?
Hi there! Thanks! Yes, as far as FastPasses go, you can make your three FastPass+ reservations ahead of time, online either via the MDE website or app (you can also change reservations that way). Afterwards, once you are in the park, after you've used your three reserved FastPasses, you can add additional FastPasses, one at a time at kiosks as opposed to at the attractions themselves. You can add FastPasses for any attraction from the kiosk so no need to run through the park grabbing FastPasses. Be warned that additional FastPasses for the super-popular attractions will be difficult if not impossible. For example, you are unlikely to get TSM or RnR unless someone cancels their FP+ reservation, ditto 7DMT, Soarin', or TT. They tend to have all disappeared by 10 or 11am.

Here's a list of kiosk locations.


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Original Poster
What an great report. Thanks for sharing it with us. Seems to me that everyone had a wonderful time in the parks.
Thank you! Yeah, despite the brutal heat and humidity, what our family keeps talking about are all of the delightful things that happened. As I predict, we'll probably completely forget about the heat before too long and go back again in the summer, and then wonder why we went back in the summer :)


Well-Known Member
Loved your report!! I saw the crazy airplane writing when I was there too! Our trips were the same time! It was brutally hot... Thank you for sharing :)
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