I’m having trouble figuring out where to start this post because my brain is swimming with info right now but first things first…if you have ever thought about taking a trip to or with Disney, do it. Talk to a travel agent (hopefully me, once I get established with an agency), find out what the best options are for your budget, bite the bullet and as Nike says,”Just Do It! “
To give you some perspective on what our trip looked like, you should understand the makeup of our party. My amazing mama decided to take our entire family to Disney World which included my brother & sister in law, almost 4 year old niece, 15 month old nephew, Mama (she’ll kill me if I put her age in here, but she’s retired…let’s just say that) Dhubs and me (we’re in our 40s). It was a celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary, my niece's upcoming birthday and our first family trip since the pandemic hit. If you are celebrating anything, Disney goes all out to help you celebrate. I could not have imagined a better way to celebrate these things and Disney has officially hooked me for life.
My husband and I travel a good bit. We like cruises, road trips, destination resorts, and adventures of any sort that a couple of chonky (that’s a good bit past chunky) middle aged people can do without feeling like death is coming for us at the end of the trip. Before we met, I traveled a lot with friends, for work and on my own for fun. So, I typically plan our excursions and do it on a pretty tight budget. During the 10 years we’ve been together, we’ve never had a total cluster of a trip. As a matter of fact, I’ve never gone on a trip that was completely lousy. Some of that has to do with keeping my expectations reasonable and some of it has to do with planning things I actually enjoy. Even when things got super jacked up on a full family beach trip because of a hurricane, we still managed to make the most of it and have a good time until it was time to evacuate. I’m the person who takes a lot of day trips but keeps a weekend bag stashed in the car just in case it turns into a better adventure than anticipated. So, as you can tell, we like to travel. Today I am kicking myself because, for the past ten years, we avoided Disney. UGHHH! For years I have listened to people talk about their couple’s or friends' trips to Disney World and could not understand how in the world “It’s A Small World” could possibly be that much fun for adults without kids. I mean…I work with kids and have watched every Disney movie possible, like... literally. The idea of wandering around an amusement park filled with kids shout-singing “let it go!” seemed horrible. Plus, we didn’t want to feel weird about visiting a super family oriented destination as grown folks with no kids. Some of that feeling comes out of wanting kids and not having them which makes the idea watching happy families a little difficult to process. Well, that feeling ended with this trip! Bump the kids…Disney World is most definitely for adult-ish people. Old, young, big, or small, athletic or lump on a log lifestyle, there are things for you to do and fully enjoy at Disney World as grown folk. It was such an incredible experience that I started budgeting and planning the next trip before we left the resort. So here are the things that made Disney awesome. We also have a post coming with things to do to make it even better the next time so stay tuned.
Disney is on point with their safety precautions. When you enter the park, you scan your magic band (it looks like a faceless watch band) or your digital ticket, put your finger on the scanner and head in the park. Yup, you are trackable and basically fingerprinted so don’t do dumb things in the park. Kids also have their photos taken each day they enter the park. If a child gets lost, every cast member is trained to engage and help lost children. It’s a brilliant strategy and every theme park should adopt the photo practice. I worry about kids that I don't even know, so seeing the attention and focus on security makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Creeps and crazies are out there and Disney has serious security measures in place to protect all their guests. You see officers and K9s around the park and metal detectors at park entrances.
Numerous behind the scenes security measures also exist. I found this out by asking some cast members who were off duty waiting on the fireworks show some random questions about how they felt about working for Disney. I'm always curious about what it's really like behind the scenes. They were good cast members and didn't give specifics about what security measures there are but did say they feel safer working at Disney than anywhere else. That's saying something. They don’t advertise all the security in place because if they did, people would hunt for ways to exploit the system. I respect and appreciate that way of doing things.
For those worried about spreading germs, Disney is doing all the things the CDC recommends. There are full hand sanitizer stations everywhere, clean bathrooms every quarter mile or so and people wiping things down at every turn. The characters are not available for meet and greets at this time, but you do see them and can take photos as they float by in parades or on boats. They sometimes appear in roped off outdoor areas where you can take distanced selfies. They still interact with the crowd but from a distance. When inside a building on Disney’s property, whether it’s a hotel or an indoor attraction, be prepared to wear a mask until the CDC stops the recommendation. If you don’t have one, they’ll give you one and remind you to wear it in an ever so polite but effectively direct manner. Same thing goes when riding Disney buses.
As for protecting your personal belongs, you can leave the stroller or scooter outside a ride in the stroller park with an attendant and know that your things will be there when you return. There are cast members everywhere and they help park strollers and scooters and keep an eye on things as well. Obviously, you don’t want to leave your wallet but nobody is stealing your water bottle or snacks off the scooter if you leave it out there. It’s a pretty awesome setup created by some pretty awesome people.
Disney World is the Ritz Carlton of theme parks and resorts. It is every cast member’s pleasure to assist you with anything you need and these lovely people go out of their way to be helpful. Employees at Disney are called cast members and they play the part they have been given exceptionally well. The level of customer service within Disney blew my mind. It started the minute our family arrived at the resort. There had been mix up with they type of rooms we had booked and the type of rooms we were assigned. The cast worked with our travel agent to work out the kinks and as they did so, they invited us to relax pool side until they got things straightened out. In the end, there was no change to the rooms we were given (bummer), but they did provide financial compensation for the inconvenience. There are always potential kinks in a vacation, how the people working there handle your issues makes all the difference. Disney cast members do a good job at problem solving in whatever form they have available. The restaurant servers, ride operators, parking attendants, security team, admissions folks, transportation drivers and photo pass photographers are all so incredibly friendly. They greet every person with a smile and hello, congratulate and give well wishes to people wearing birthday, just married or anniversary buttons. Wear matching mouse shirts and you’ll get compliments from the cast and random strangers. Yes, I was proud of those shirts...it was the first time I'd used the new Cricut to make something fun. Ask a question about where to find mouse ears and they’ll point you in the right direction and tell you which ones are their favorite. Forget to pick up a mobile order in the appointed time frame because you got stuck in a ride line, no problem, they’ll ask to see the confirmation and hand you the dole whip swirl anyway.
They will do everything they can to make a grumpy child smile, and when they can’t, they’ll still make a funny memory out of it by giving them a sticker or adding pixie dust to a photograph of your tantrum throwing child. They take every opportunity to make guests happy and it is a collaborative act that definitely improves your experience when you’re hot, tired and potentially hangry. My favorite part of the park experience is the way the characters stay in character and interact with guests in a manner befitting their persona. Gaston poses, smiles and admires himself, the evil stepsisters are playfully rude and the princesses are polite, happy and kind to everyone. It’s an absolute hoot to watch.
Most of us think that Disney is designed for kids, and while it’s true there are a lot of things that are geared towards children, almost everything is accessible and fun for adults of all ages as well. Each park has rides that are designed for adults to do with their children because Walt Disney wanted that way. He wanted his parks to be full of things people could do with their children instead of things they watched their children do. That’s why the carousel has the big horses for adults, dumbos flight fits big people and most of the rides have big people cars so you can fit tall and wide loads alike.
The 3D/4D technology used in many of the new rides is amazing and gives you the sensation of a thrill ride without the actual risks related to a massive G force spin and drop. There are plenty of rides for the true thrill seeker like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Rock N Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, Expedition Everest and soooo many others at all the parks. I love these rides but the visuals of rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Soarin Around the World, Avatar Land Boat Ride, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Micky & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad are just as much fun and there are a lot of others that I didn’t name. Along with the rides, there are so many shows. Some are nostalgic like the Tiki Room with the robotic birds and others are interactive like the Frozen Sing Along. Yup…grown folk go to the Frozen Sing Along. I mean…it snows…inside when it’s 90 degrees outside, of course we went. The Kite Tales show at Animal Kingdom was awesome and nothing beats the Disney fireworks displays at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Whether you are 3 years old or 90 years old, there are things for you to do at Disney World. You can scooter around Animal Kingdom and look at the floating Islands of Pandora, putter around the Star Wars universe and make a light saber or droid or go see Cirque du Soleil and eat yourself stupid. There are tons of things to enjoy as adults.
All The Tastes
Churros, Dole Whip Swirls, pretzels, sugared pecans, celebrity chef restaurants, flavors from around the world, turkey legs, family style dining, you name it, Disney has it. There are a ton of options for grabbing quick meals throughout the parks. If you’re a foodie, Epcot is chocked full of tasty treats from all over the world. The lines at the best places are pretty long so if you know what you like, make reservations as soon as you book your trip. This made a huge difference for us at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. If we hadn’t made reservations, we would have been waiting around outside a restaurant for at least 90 minutes waiting to get in. As it was, we checked in online, stayed within a 5 minute walk and were seated about 10 minutes after we checked in. If you want to get away from the parks for dinner, you can get reservations at a resort restaurant or head to Disney Springs. Disney Springs is a huge retail and restaurant area with options likes Frontera Cocina, Morimoto, & Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’. There are some great restaurants in Disney Springs and we had some very tasty food and great service. I’ll have a Disney foods post coming soon because the uniqueness of the dining experiences there deserve their own moment in the sun.
Disney has worked hard to provide every level of accommodation for guests. There are at least 25 different Disney resorts in Orlando and they range from value resorts to deluxe resorts. The All Star, Pop Century and Art of Animation resorts are considered value resorts. These range in price from around $120 to $330 per night. These are more like your typical hotel experience with basic room setups but still have all the fun Disney themed decor/wall art and cast member friendliness. These are nice budget friendly options that I’m sure we’ll be taking advantage of more often than not. After some research, the iconic decade theming of the POP Century Resort will probably drive us to stay there on our next trip…children of the 70s and 80s with boomer parents, we still get the references to 50s/60s culture and Roger Rabbit and Rubik’s Cubes are my jam!
The Animal Kingdom Lodge, on the other hand, is definitely a deluxe resort and with good reason. You walk into a swanky rich, dark yet somehow airy lobby. Look up to see giant wooden beams and a full glass wall where exotic beasts are roaming and grazing just beyond a stone porch adorned with big rocking chairs. There’s a fireplace/pit inside surrounded by comfortable chairs, a bridge that walks across a mini waterfall and overlooks the bar/lounge area and restaurant below. There are African artifacts and artwork scattered about as if you were in a museum instead of a lodge lobby. It’s impressive. I mean, there are giraffes and zebras and a bunch of other exotic animals I don’t know the names of walking around eating right outside your window. They can’t reach the lodge windows, but they are no more than 100 feet away. As you walk down the long halls to your room, there are windows you can take a break at and peek out to see more animals. If you’re like us, you’ll need the break. Disney Resorts are known for having some of the longest hallways ever! When you reach your room, open your door with your magic band, app, or keycard and walk into room that feels luxurious and inviting.
Between the view outside and the African motif in the hotel room, I felt like I was on a hoity-toity safari. It was truly surreal. The pool at the Jambo House is huge with a nice long slide and there are scheduled kids activities and contests going on throughout the day. There’s a game room and a kid’s club as well for those with children. There’s a nice tiki bar just outside the pool area and tons of lounge chairs and tables available to bask in the warm Florida sun or relax in the shade of giant palms. There are restaurants with African inspired foods, your typical quick serve burger and tenders restaurant and a beautifully appointed bar in the resort. It is one of the best places I have ever stayed and I will definitely stay there again. As we visit other resorts, we’ll keep adding info and more photos of the spaces to the travel section of our blog.
So what’s our next Disney adventure going to be? A CRUISE! Unless I get a wild hair to see Disney World at Christmas…which I might. We’ll be jumping on a cruise ship this winter to see what Disney is doing on the water and what the world of Castaway Cay has to offer. Tropical fun filled adventure, here we come!