I was really wanting to make it as stress free as possible, but Disney has sure changed since I last went at age 24 (yes, it was Epcot and I went while working for Club Med in Florida). My first trip was to Disneyland when I was 5 with my parents and sister, then I went at age 9 to Disney World with my mom and step dad, sister and Mimi. Then again at age 12 and again with my dad and sister when I was in high school while he had business there. So when I heard about reservations and Fast passes, I was dreading it. What happened to just walking in and getting in a line that was only about 10 minutes long? Well, gone are those days sadly.
I bought the Unofficial Guide to Disney book and after reading 2 chapters I was having anxiety about it all and threw it across the room, and never picked it back up :)
I did get up at 5am one morning to log onto my computer 6 months before our trip to reserve breakfast at Cinderella's Castle! I had heard that if you get an early reservation, you can get into the park early and walk around and get some good photos. So I got in at 8:30am for the 4 of us- not the early park entrance time but still a great time to go and make use of the park before the crowds. I sadly was not able to get dinner at the Beasts' Castle that I also wanted, but still happy I got into the Cinderella one :( Oh, and you can only make a reservation 180 days in advance if you are staying at a Disney resort FYI.
So as far as hotels go, I read and researched a lot and really wanted to stay at a Disney hotel for the kids. I realized we could use our Starwood Hotel credit card points for the Dolphin hotel!! Yay! We were able to get 2 adjoining rooms too! It's a Disney Resort but the only thing you can't get is a dining plan and the airport transfers that the others have, but we didn't need dining as we brought our own food into the park and we booked an airport transfer that included a 30 minute shopping stop at Publix!! So peanut butter sandwiches, snack bars, fruit and cereal in the mornings and lunch helped save money and time for us, score!!
So 60 days in advance of your first day there you can reserve Fast Passes, so I was able to get all but one, the most important one, the Anna and Elsa meet and greet, ugh!!! I was devastated but knew we would figure it out somehow.
I ordered a few Minnie Mouse shirts and dresses for the girls to wear off Etsy, packed their princess dresses and also luckily found a free double stroller from our playgroup PTA to use (Graco fold and go) since our City Select was way too big to lug onto the buses and airplanes. Sunblock, ponchos, snack bags, sippy cups, backpacks, camera, etc oh my..we were finally on our way!!
We loved flying SWA too, it's direct now! And the airport has a kid playscape in it, love love!! The first afternoon we arrived at the hotel, we walked around as it's huge and they had Santa there, carolers and we ate dinner at the hotel. They have a character buffet at the Garden Grove restaurant and met Goofy, Chip, Dale and Pluto. Belle was not having any of it and was a little afraid :(
Walking into Cinderella Castle was such a dream and loved every minute of it. The girls walked right in and got a photo with Cinderella, then we went upstairs to the dining room. It was gorgeous and we were treated like Royalty. The girls got a magic wand, a wishing star and they gave us a 8 X 10 photo of the girls with Cinderella. The breakfast food was great too, complete with a bread basket. I skipped the lobster crepes and got the healthy egg whites, oatmeal, fruit and muffin plate. Then the princesses all came out and stopped by each table to get their autograph books signed and pictures taken. It was well worth the 5am reservation call :)
Our Fast Passes then took us to Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Dumbo and It's a Small World. We also rode Aladdin's carpets, Winnie the Pooh and the Goofy Barnacle Rollercoaster. It really is worth it to get there early to the park as the lines were super short! We ate lunch at Pinnochio's Restaurant (fast food walk up service and it overlooked the It's a Small World ride). Then we saw Minnie Mouse and Daisy as well and it was well worth the 30 minute wait! It's too bad the days of just going up to characters on the street are gone, and you have to wait in lines, oh well.
Then Todd took Belle back to the hotel after lunch and I took Luna to her Bibbity Bobbity Boutique appointment. Since I was sick and not thinking, I forgot Luna's Elsa dress at the hotel, so we had to buy her a new one there, ugh! Ha, it's part of the whole Disney experience :) It was soooo cute to see Luna have her fairy godmother lead her to her chair and get all dressed up! Luna chose the option of getting the fake hair extension to look like Elsa while mommy was hoping for a princess bun, but there was no convincing her out of it. It was precious to see how happy she was and they did her makeup and nails too. Hey, why not right?? When in Rome.... She was so cute walking around after her makeover and she didn't want to take her lipstick off before her dad saw her so she kept her mouth open on the bus ride home :)
Then we ate dinner at the hotel since the girls were dead tired from a long day at the park!! We had so much fun!!
Anyway, we got there right at 9am and it was empty! We walked around the Africa area and went on a trail, saw Gorillas, Zebras and other birds and monkeys. Then we had our first Fast Pass at the Lion King Festival! It was a great 30 minute musical-in-the-round performance and the girls loved it! Luna even got picked to dance and Belle was not too happy about it, so she threw a fit and Todd had to take her out but shortly brought her back.
We grabbed lunch at a curry stand while the girls ate their peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Then we went to Asia and went on the trails there to see huge massive bats, tigers and monkeys. We got on the Kilimanjaro Safari and it was so amazing, I wanted to ride it again!! They imported authentic plants, trees and terrain from each region and the animals roam as freely as possible. Then we went to see the Nemo Musical which was really cool! The actors sing and tell the story while holding these mechanical puppets, hard to describe but super cool. The girls loved it! We walked around more and wish we could have stayed but it was 3pm and the girls were done. We ate dinner at the Disney hotel next to ours, the Boardwalk and had an early bedtime. We really enjoyed Animal Kingdom and it was so amazing to see a zoo type environment that is so clean and well taken care of!
It was a drizzly day anyway, and our first stop was Frozen Sing A Long! It was a cute show where Anna, Elsa, Kristoff and local Arendale citizens came out on stage and sang songs with the audience on the big screen. The last one of course was 'Let it Go' and they had snow falling out of the stage into the audience! Then we went to Oaken's Trading Post to a world of nothing but Frozen merchandise and a snow playground. Luna bought a reversible Anna and Elsa doll and Belle got yet another Anna doll. We visited with Santa Goofy and then headed to see Princess Sofia and Jake characters at the meet and greet area. Then it was our next Fast Pass at Disney Jr Studios. It was a cute puppet show of all the characters from Doc McStuffins, Sofia, Jake and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Our last Fast Pass show was of Fantasmic which I heard was amazing. A light show set to water and music. It was at 6pm and it was 55 degrees out but we stuck it out. It was well worth the wait because Fantasia Mickey performed as well as the Disney princesses, and the evil villains from all the movies. It was pretty amazing to see fireworks, water and film all on display outside. We took the boat back and I was feeling not so great. After the girls went to bed, my temperature was over 101 and I ordered soup from room service. I took every med I could find before bed, because our next day was huge (meeting Anna and Elsa without a fast pass) starting at 8am (6am alarm call), and I was not going to miss it for anything!
They told us no pushing or shoving so they walked us thru Main Street and people were on my heels, it was nuts. Todd maneuvered really well and managed to stay in front most of the way. I coached Luna to jump out as soon as I told her to get out of the stroller. Todd had a plan to push it to the stroller parking lot immediately and I would hold Belle. Are you laughing yet at the craziness? So we finally got to the line and we were 3rd! Yay, we walked right in and saw Elsa visiting with another girl. I was over the moon we were 3rd in line, unbelievable! Luna turned and asked me if Elsa had magical powers while in line, adorable age! This is why we went at their ages now, because they believe in these sweet things! Anyway, so we first meet Elsa and she is so nice, spent time talking to my girls and asking them questions and then we saw Anna, and she spent time too. They made a big fuss over how my girls looked just liked them, the youngest a red head and the oldest a blonde. I think I was just as excited to see them as my girls were! When we walked out, guess what the wait was? 70 minutes, at 8:05am! I also think the wait is long because they do spend a lot of time with each child.
The park was so empty because it was early, we made use of the free waits and rode Peter Pan, Ariel's Grotto, and ate chocolate croissants at Gaston's Pub. I was still so excited about our good luck that I went up to the Beast Castle and asked if they had any cancellations for dinner (since they were booked 6 months ago) and he said they had one spot at 4:15pm! I took it and was super excited, could our day get any better? Seriously good luck. Then we got our first Fast Pass at Storytime with Belle. I really recommend this one! They take you and a few others back into this room, open a secret door and then ask each child to play a part in a play. Belle was Chip and Luna was the wardrobe lady. Then Belle comes into her library and the children put on a play with her. It is so sweet and then they take a picture of each child with Belle.
Then we visited Cinderella and Rapunzel, rode the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train (Todd and I took turns with Luna), watched Todd spin the girls in the Tea Cups and then rode the Barnacle Rollercoaster a few more times. Visited Tomorrowland and then decided to head back to the hotel to rest. I really recommend visiting Magic Kingdom right when it opens, because when we left at 12pm it was a zoo!
We came back at 3:30pm and had dinner at the Beasts' Castle at 4:15pm. It's such a nice experience there as the waiter will come and get you at the front and lead you to your table by candlelight (Lumiere). The dining room is decorated just like you would imagine and the windows outside look like fake snow was falling down. The food was amazing too and they served wine and beer! The adjoining rooms had the falling rose on display from the movie, and a library. Then the Beast makes an appearance and we went to visit him in his chamber for a photograph. Loved, loved eating dinner there!
Then Todd rode Space Mountain and we saw the Disney Frozen Parade in front of the Castle, and Elsa lit up the castle with her special powers. We left the park around 7:30pm and walked down Main Street and it was so nice to see the street lit up at night with Christmas decorations. I was sad to leave but knew we would hopefully return in a few years! And for those wondering about Todd, yes he really did enjoy it and can't wait to go back :) We had an amazing time and wish we didn't have to go back home!