It was the Easter holidays and we were off on a multi-generational family trip to Disney World in Florida. We were a group of six – myself, VIP, the two kids and the grandparents (AKA ‘Granny Mac Ma’ and ‘Ata’).
The trip was a Christmas present from Granny Mac Ma and Ata, so we were thrilled when we found out we were going.
I had fond memories of when I’d visited Walt Disney World when I was 15, so how nice that my kids were getting to experience the magic of Disney! Better still, they’re at an age when they’ll remember.
And if they ever forget, they can always read through these Disney World diaries…(or watch the videos!)
Attraction Tickets Direct was running a special offer on tickets, so for five adults and one child (Luis was classed as an ‘adult’ at 11 years, the Disney World tickets (which included the four theme parks and two water parks) came in at £1,499 for 14 days.
If you’re wondering why a fifth adult (i.e. me) isn’t mentioned in the tickets booked below, Attraction Tickets Direct – being the super, lovely people that they are, kindly gifted my pass.
- 4 x Disney Fourteen Day Ultimate Ticket (Adult 2017) – £1,220 (£305 each)
- 1 x Disney Fourteen Day Ultimate Ticket 3-9yrs (Child 2017) – 3-9yrs – 3-9yrs – £279
Our pack also included…
- 1 x Florida Mall Exclusive Gift & VIP Florida Mall Voucher
- 6 x Free Disney Cirque Du Soleil La Nouba
- 4 x Free Disney Memory Maker Built into Adult Disney Ultimate Tickets
- 1 x FREE Orlando Kids Eat Free Card
Our flight to Orlando (via Washington) left at midday from Heathrow. I pre-booked my parking with Purple Parking’s Park and Ride service through Holiday Extras to save money (definitely worth doing!) and, as a member of Priority Pass, I booked us in at the Plaza Premium Lounge at Heathrow T2.
A lounge booking is a great way of kick-starting a holiday, so I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a nervous flyer.
The flight was relatively uneventful; at least the kids weren’t sick this time (unlike another one of our long-haul trips to South Africa the previous year).
Let’s not start as we mean to go on
Well, our travel was uneventful until we landed in Washington. First, Luis left his mobile phone on the plane.
He had removed his bum bag when he sat down and put it next to him, but had forgotten to retrieve it. He suddenly realised while we were in the passport queue so VIP had to run back to the plane.
They wouldn’t let him on so he had to tell them what he was looking for. Quick thinking, instead of saying he was looking for a bum bag, VIP remembered that in America they call them ‘fanny packs’ and he was able to describe it; we were so relieved that they actually found it!
The next worry was whether or not we’d catch our connecting flight to Orlando.
We were sent on a wild goose chase to the wrong gate (they’d changed it at the last minute!) and we only found out when we were miles away from where we were supposed to be (the airport at Washington is HUGE!).
Thankfully, it all turned out fine and the smaller United Airlines’ flight from Washington to Orlando took less than two hours and had a very decent seat pitch.
The final leg of our journey to the hotel was the transfer; we found out that we didn’t actually have a transfer (we thought we did), so we ended up hiring a van that would fit the six of us and all of our luggage.
When we arrived it was late at night and we had a quick cuppa in reception then decided to call it a night. By this time it was 3am English time so we were more than ready to get our heads down.
Day 1: The recovery
As we knew we’d be bitten by the jet lag bug we didn’t make plans for the first day and instead decided to spend it exploring the surrounding area.
After breakfast (which consisted of Disney-themed waffles) we set off from our hotel to go for a walk along International Drive, which our accommodation – Homewood Suites by Hilton – was located.
It was a beautiful day; hot and bright and, as we walked we came across nice fountains, plenty of eateries and cafes plus the odd supermarket.
We saw helicopters taking off from a nearby helipad (offering tours) and a place called WonderWorks – an interactive play area for kids that looked quite good (the outside was an upside down house!)
We stopped off at Walgreaves supermarket on our walk back to the hotel to stock up on rolls, bread, cheese, ham and drinks – as we had a small kitchenette in our room – before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon lazing by the pool.
For dinner we went to a place called Cici’s Pizza (a cheap buffet style diner) where we managed to feed the six of us for less than $40; it helped that we used our ‘Kids Eat Free’ cards and we joked we’d have to eat there every day.
After dinner it was a quick look around Bargain World (adjoining Cici’s), before going to bed.
Tomorrow was going to be a busy day so we needed to get our heads on the pillow – and pronto!
Day 2: It’s a Magical Kingdom
After breakfast a transfer came to take us to Disney World, which took about 15-20 minutes.
It dropped us at Epcot and we then had to take the monorail within the park to get to Magic Kingdom – forget about walking it!
It was at this point that I realised that Disney World is absolutely MA-HOOOOOOO-SIVE. In fact, I looked it up and the whole area is about the same size as San Francisco!
So no, you can’t walk between the theme parks because between each of the parks are miles of dual carriageways. Who’d have thought?!
I also realised that in theory you can enter Disney World and not actually have tickets, as each of the parks has its own entrance.
Anyway, the monorail took us to the Travel and Transportation Centre and we then had a choice of taking another monorail to Magic Kingdom OR a ferry boat.
Getting to the parks within Disney World when you are already in Disney World was a lot harder than first thought. It turns out the Magic Kingdom is probably the hardest to get to from the centre (Epcot).
Just to be different, we opted for a ferry ride, but young Nadja (9 years) was a bit worried about crocodiles in the lake.
I told her that (a) there are no crocodiles in the wild in Florida (only alligators), and (b) it's a man made lake so I doubt they'd put alligators into it.
Okay, I told a porky about the man-made bit, but I had to find a way to calm her nerves – and we weren’t even in the park yet!
While we were crossing the lake Granny Mac Ma decided to tell Nadja that there were definitely crocodiles in the lake and if the boat were to sink, be grateful that she wouldn’t be the largest piece of meat swimming around! The look on Nadja’s face made my mum howl with laughter.
In the park…
We had Fast Pass booked at Splash Mountain for 9.40-10.40 (which gives you an hour's window to get to the ride/attraction) so as we were a bit early we stopped at the shooting range, before coming across a 4G show which said the wait time was just 5 minutes (unheard of here!).
By the time that finished we were on our way to The Haunted Mansion, which Nadja enjoyed as she’s currently got a bit of a fascination with ghosts and hauntings at the mo.
After lunch – and while walking around – we that we ate lunch came across a parade with music, dancing and Disney characters. So we watched that for a while and Nadja and Ata even joined in with some dancing.
Before our next fast pass was due we grabbed an ice cream then headed to Seven Dwarfs mine train as it looked fun.
However, by this time it was 1pm and the ride wait was 140 minutes! So we decided to look for rides without a long wait time – easier said than done!
The park was heaving and the kids were tiring. We found something called Peoplemover, which was a transit system. Although the queue was long it moved quite quickly so we decided to give it a go; at least it would get us out of the sun's heat and give us a chance to sit down.
The ride turned out to be a really long (and interesting) monorail ride. We even wanted to go round again but we'd have to re-queue.
When we got off, we spotted a show without a queue called Carousel of Progress. It actually turned out to be really good and charted a history of technology and inventions throughout the centuries. It also had a really catchy theme tune that we all couldn’t get out of our heads for days!
Our last fast pass of the day (booked from 2.20) was Space Mountain – a rollercoaster that keeps you in the pitch black. It was epic and because Granny Mac Ma and Ata didn’t go on it, the kids used their fast passes to go on for a second ride.
After that we decided it had been a long, busy day and headed home. After all, it would take us at least an hour to get back using Lynx buses.
We were catching the number 50 bus from the Travel & Transportation centre, which you can pick up in Disney World. It heads to SeaWorld where we jumped off and picked up the Number 8 bus to take us to International Drive, where our hotel was located.
Unfortunately, we were sent on a bit of a wild goose chase (a park attendant gave us incorrect bus information) which added at least another hour to our journey.
As you can imagine, when we returned to the hotel we were really ready to sit down and not get up again.
But our rumbling bellies were telling us to refuel so, after a very long rest (complete with wine and beers while the kids relaxed in the room), we headed out for dinner at Denneys round the corner, which was really nice and well worth a visit.
Day 3: Blizzard Beach (water park)
Following a very long day yesterday we decided to take it easy on day 3 and went to Blizzard Beach water park.
This meant that Granny Mac Ma and I could take a bit of a rest (it’s where I’m sat typing this now), while VIP, Ata and the kids could go off and explore.
To get here we had to take a bus from Epcot (where our transfer from the hotel dropped us). We ended up waiting about 20 minutes for the bus to turn up and then, when we were on it, it then took another half hour to get to Blizzard Beach, stopping at lots of different hotel resorts within the park on the way.
By the time we got there it was 10am (almost two hours after we left our hotel!), but it was just as well as the water park opened at 10am, so it was good timing.
Our hotel only offers transfers back in the late evening (8.15pm) but because VIP made friends with the transfer guy (who is from Haiti) and had a conversation with him in French, he offered to come and pick us up at 5pm.
See – it pays to learn a language! People naturally warm to you when you can speak their lingo and make an effort.
VIP also worked his magic with some Spanish-speaking people at the bus stop yesterday to get us home and found out which bus to get and from where.
Once in the park we headed to the beach area and managed to find a shaded area to plonk our belongings.
The only downside about the sun loungers were that they were not adjustable, so we ended up sitting on chairs for most of the time.
After lunch Nadja wanted took me on a slide which was almost vertical – it was great fun – and afterwards the kids played in the large pool which had a wave machine.
Mid-afternoon the heavens opened and I think the park thought that a storm was on its way, so they decided to close.
We were lucky enough to see a bus waiting for us so we jumped back on it to Epcot centre.
We were an hour and 10 mins early for our transfer man, but the big news that happened today was that he didn't turned up.
We waited for about 20 minutes for him but he didn't show. In the end we got an Uber back to the hotel to make life easier for everyone.
When mum saw the guy at the hotel she gave him a piece of her mind – he claimed that the transfer times were in the evening, hence why he didn’t turn up.
It was a shame as it spoilt the afternoon for us a bit; even though we tried not to let it annoy us, the guy really narked us off.
When we got back to the hotel we were lucky to make it back in time for dinner, which sorted us out.
Had we taken the bus instead we would have had to go out that evening for dinner, so in a way we saved money by getting back earlier.