This one was for the kids! A couple of years ago, we had discussed organising a two week fly-drive vacation to Disney World, Florida, amongst our wider friend circle, and identified this Summer as the one to go in. In the end, we made the trip with one other family. Knowing this holiday was inevitably going to be expensive, we waited for a flight sale to book our flights and car hire in a package, and opted to fly in to Tampa, as this worked out considerably cheaper. We also waited for Disney’s Two Weeks For The Price of One promotion on their Multi-Park Entries, before purchasing our passes. We rented a 9 bed / 7 bath Luxury Villa at Solara Resort, Kissimmee, co-hosted by Margarita and Maireddy. Despite being much bigger than what we needed, due to the affordable price, it fell comfortably within our budget, and the space itself was the perfect environment to relax in for both the adults and children as we took time out from the amusement parks.
The tickets we purchased gave us 14 days unlimited entry to six Disney parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot Centre, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach Water Park, and Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. Making the most of all that was on offer (and indeed all that we had paid for), required some logistics and planning. Our package included Magic Bands, which although not essential, were a nice feature, that simplified daily entrance to the parks, allowed us to check in at the Fast Pass+ queues for the rides, connect the Memory Maker Digital Photo Pass, and left us with a nice wristband souvenir each. Magic Bands can be purchased as extras by day-trippers if desired, but otherwise the plastic credit card style Admission Cards you get on your first arrival do the same job. In our case, to collect, activate and link our magic bands, we had to visit the Guest Relations in Disney Springs, which was a bit inconvenient and time consuming, as it would have been so much easier if we were simply able to do this in one of the theme parks. Once our wristbands were linked to the My Disney Experience App on our smart phones, we were finally, fully operational. With this, the Fast Pass+ feature allowed us to reserve queue jumps on three rides at one park per day, but there were limitations. We only seemed to be able to book the Fast Passes up to ten days (the website says 30 days) in advance, and not all the rides were available all the time, but nevertheless, it made a huge difference to the quality of our experience.
We picked a peak time of year to visit, there were large crowds, especially in The Magic Kingdom, it was very hot and humid, and there was some rain most days. Thankfully, as we had so many days available to us, we didn’t feel a pressure to cram everything in. Guided by the availability of the fast passes, we deliberately never spent much more than half a day at a particular theme park in one go, and minimised the number of meals we ate there, as we were keen to avoid the largely poor quality expensive fast food. I believe that having this luxury meant we weren’t all exhausted all the time, and could enjoy the attractions. At $25 per day, parking was steep, but an unavoidable extra cost. To compensate for this, we were a little thrifty when it came to souvenirs, checking the Disney Outlet Stores, unofficial souvenir stores outside the parks, and online retailers, before buying the gifts we wanted.
Aside from the Parks, we spent some quality time with our Floridian family, had fun in the pool and other facilities at the villa / resort complex, and went shopping for bargains in the Orlando Vineland and Orlando International premium outlet malls. We made the decision to not go to the Waterparks, although they were included in our ticket price, giving us some ‘days off’ from Disney, that really proved to be reenergising highlights of their own.
My memory of going to Disney World as a child is of fast rides, meeting my favourite Disney characters, and the spectacular fireworks shows. As an adult, the experience is quite different. The rides definitely seemed slower than 30yrs ago, I was much more aware of the crowds, and have lost the patience for queuing that I used to have. So, to ensure the main objective of the holiday was being met, we asked the children for their thoughts: ‘We loved everything!’, ‘The Everest Ride was my favourite,’ said our eldest, ‘I liked the Toy Story Rollercoaster best,’ said the youngest, ‘We didn’t mind queuing in the heat,’ were the happy responses we got. This was a fabulous holiday, in which the kids had a great time, and will hopefully remember for a long time.