In efforts to get this post up in time for y’all, I am working on this on our drive home from our trip 🙂 It is always my intention to get these live quickly, but laundry, life, and jumping back in always prolong getting these posts live. I am excited to get this post up before we even get home!
I had 6 days to plan this trip and thanks to my sweet friend Mary Helen at Mouse Counselors, she was able to get us set up super fast! HUGE thanks to her for being willing to help on such short notice… ahem, Christmas Eve! We had considered this trip around Thanksgiving when we knew LSU would be playing in the Reliaquest bowl game, but really didn’t get the desire to do the whole trip til a few days before Christmas. We jumped in and didn’t look back. We knew we’d be going at one of the busiest times of the year, but since we have gone many times, we felt like we could manage. Even though this was Shep’s first time, he still won’t remember it all. I hope he remembers a lot, but we will be back for when we take Stratton next 🙂 The older two kids went last in November 2022 and so they had just gone and remembered a lot. Shep turns 5 next month and we loved the idea of him going for his early birthday. This trip was really just a bonus to get to do while we were already there for the LSU game. We lowered our expectations, but truly still had so much success given the larger crowds! Largely by staying on Disney grounds next to EPCOT & Hollywood Studios and using Genie +, Individual Lightning Lanes, Lightning Lanes and Standby Skipper. It all got pricey, so make sure you check into rides you want to ride and whether or not you may want to buy LL or ILL for when you are there (especially if its a busier time). I mention this because if you are a first timer, all these extra may come as a surprise. And you do not have to get Genie + or Lightning Lanes, but given how busy Disney is (all the time) I feel like if you’re already spending that much, it’s worth it to have a guaranteed better time by not standing in lines for every.single.ride.
Helpful Things We Did / You Need to Know While There:
Bought Genie+ for each day we were there. We also bought ILL for main ride attractions that we didn’t want to wait around for. During off season, you can try for a Virtual que, which is what we have done in the past, but this time we just couldn’t.
Use Standby Skipper. Let it book your first genie+ for you and your next so you don’t have to. It was a game changer during the busy peak times!
You need Re Chargeable Battery Packs — an absolute must. I purchased two of these and Joel and I each used one. I was down to < 20% and got back up to 95% in about 10-15 mins. Good for about 1 total re charge from that low battery mode.
Whether you’re flying or driving. Apple Air Tags for your luggage, kids shoes, and stroller are a must! I hid ours behind the stroller strap. It’s just peace of mind for all mentioned above.
Get the PhotoPass if you can! It’s honestly really nice not to have to worry about asking other people to get a family photo or a photo of your kids. Pro tip! The kids listen to their photographers far better than they listen to their parents telling them to smile 😂 And you can hit as many of them up as you want, all times a day, and at every park! We’ve done it since 2017 and appreciate it in the long run. We did it for our trip in Nov 2022 and the Disney cruise in 2023 and now again this time. ** For this trip, it was too crowded to wait in line for every park, so I chose to get all the photos I could for a 1-day photo pass on the days we park hopped. I did Epcot and Magic Kingdom since those were our favorite for photo moments. It is $75 for a 1 day photo pass vs the $210 for all your days. So, if you don’t want to pay the bigger fee, this is also a way to do it.
Even if you have a 5yr old, bring the stroller! There is so much walking. They get exhausted, cranky, and having it could also let them take a stroller nap if they will.
Pack a cooler backpack. The food is pricey even for the fast food options. And we personally like packing healthier options like cheese squares, fruit, carrots, hummus packs, pretzels, etc. We brought our own ice packs and ziplocks to make lunches on most days. We ate bagels, smoothes, muffins each morning and then packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids/us 2 out of the 4 days. Food lines are also long. This saves you so much time to be able to just sit down and eat or even eat lunch in a longer ride line. It helps pass the time.
Bring some interactive games that you can do in the longer lines for kids while you wait. Some rides can be up to 2hrs. Some ideas HERE.
For adults, if you can get a zofran script before your visit, that is super helpful. Especially if you are prone to motion sickness. It’s just a bit more effective than dramamine. I believe there is a kids dose, too. But check with your kids pediatrician! And if you/your family isn’t prone to motion sickness and just want to have dramamine on hand in case, this multi pack is what I always carry!
If you have a younger child, bring a pull up. Just do it. Even if they are potty trained. This is the one thing Disney needs improvement on… you get in line for a 90-115 min wait ride and 30 min into it a child says they need to potty. If its number 1, then easy. I’ve slipped one on them and they go real quick and I toss it. I have also left the lines, too. But when you are deep deep into the line… that may no longer be an option anymore. You just never know who will tell you it’s okay/not okay to get back in line. Cast member or just another Disney guest.
If you are prone to general body pain after a long day on your feet (like me) bring your heating pad. I’ve done this the last two trips and was so thankful I did. It’s incredibly nice and feels like a luxury to have after the longest day of your life 😂
We chose to stay at the Beach Club Resort this time! Originally, we had booked The Swan Hotel (on Christmas Eve) but, Mary Helen found us The Beach Club on Christmas morning. As we literally were opening gifts I see a text from her come through sharing the best news! It’s the closest resort to EPCOT (like literally a 3 minute walk out of our hotel room to the back entrance). Which was really amazing! On our EPCOT day, we walked up at early guest entrance and rope dropped the Remy Ride so that we didn’t even have to burn a genie+ on that ride. It was maybe a 45 min wait total? Which is so rare. It’s also a huge perk to be at the Beach Club because its about a 5 min walk to the Sky Liner which you can take over to Hollywood Studios very easily. We did that on our HS day. The kids loved being in them and riding over the parks.
The resort has been recently renovated and it was great to see that! I still felt it was slightly dated and since we had just stayed at the Grand Floridian the year before, I could see where maybe they skipped some extra luxuries, like a sliding door separating the bathroom sinks to the living space and the added door to the toilet and shower. There is just one door separating the sinks and toilet shower. No 2nd door separating sinks to bed area. There were many nights we put the kids to bed, but were then taking our showers and getting ready for bed with the lights on in the sink area with no closure. We made it work, but did miss that. The Beach Club is known for its epic pool area and shipwreck boat and slide. It’s amazing! The kids have their own sandy beach connected to a designated pool area, too. Really would love our kids to experience this resort in some warmer temps. I know they’d love to spend more time there.
The cutest beach themed dining experience, Cape May, is also at The Beach Club. It’s adorable! We had the kids pick, and they chose Chef Mickey over Cape May. Although, I was pulling for them to choose Cape May 😉 Next time! The arcade area and the Ice Cream shop at The Beach Club area also incredible! Definitely take a moment to stop there if you are staying in that area.
Monday: Checked into Beach Club Resort + Chef Mickey’s for dinner
We had never done this character dining experience and since Shep still loves Mickey we decided to go for it when I found a last minute opening. He loved it. The experience was cute and fun! Food was mostly chicken tenders, Mac n cheese, cheese pizza for the kids and buffet style for adults. Not my favorite, but you pay for the experience and seeing Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald all in one place was a win for us! Not standing in line in other places to see them. Plus, we were there a few minutes before our reservation and got to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks before our dinner from the Contemporary resort.
Tuesday: Hollywood Studios (Full Day)
Originally, we had Magic Kingdom as our first day, but we decided last minute that we wanted to have a more low key first day. There were less rides we were wanting to ride at HS than most other parks we did. We rode Slinky Dog ride first thing and got genie+ for Toy Story Mania and the Saucers. We got 3 in a row which was really great given how busy it was. We purchased ILL for Rise of Resistance and got a Genie+ for Millenium Falcon later that night. We also rode the mickeys runaway railway, saw Frozen ever after, and while Shep napped Joel and the kids did Rock N Rollercoaster and the Star Wars Quest. It was full day! But a good first day to start with. We stood in 2 lines total for rides that day without Genie+ which I thought was a real win. We took a break at the resort and the kids swam in the awesome pool at the Beach Club that afternoon. Then we headed back to HS for Millennium falcon and fireworks.
Wednesday: Magic Kingdom (Full Day)
We knew Magic Kingdom would be absolute madness no matter what, but we are glad we saved it for day 2 when we got our first day out of the way. Felt up to a longer day on day 2. Our first ride for MK was thunder mountain railroad, then pirates of the Caribbean, jungle cruise, haunted mansion, and the liberty boat cruise. We snagged all of those with genie+ and then at nap time my older two and Joel rode TRON via ILL since Shep wasn’t tall enough to ride yet. I took Shep back for a nap and the other 3 came back to have some down time for a little while too. We went back for Seven Dwarves mine train, Barnstormer, and Peter Pan and the fireworks that night. It was a FULL day. We knew we’d park hop back the last day, so we were hoping to get a ton done that first day so we could just enjoy our last night there when we hopped back. Even though we had park hopper passes, we knew we’d probably not park hop since the crowds were bigger that day and we likely wouldn’t finish super early.
Thursday: Animal Kingdom (park hopped)
Animal Kingdom was our most laid back day! We were nearly done at 1:30 with everything, but we added in Festival of the Lion at 2pm, so we were done by around 2:30. We started with Kilminjaro safari (which I highly recommend doing in the morning since the animals are so active– that was the most active we’ve ever seen them) and Everest (just Joel and older two kids since shep is too small) both via genie+. Then we did Avatar (via ILL), Na’vi river (stood in line), the older 2 and Joel did Everest (genie+), and Dinosaur via genie+). All 3 kids still enjoyed playing in the dinoland playground exhibit. We grabbed lunch at Sat’uli again this year– last year we loved it since it has more fresh food options vs chicken tenders/fried options. Love the bowls!
After Lion King show we hopped over to EPCOT and grabbed a genie+ for Soarin Over California! Love the new scenes on this ride. Always a favorite! We also did the ride in the EPCOT ball and then headed to dinner at Hacienda! We were in the mood for Mexican and a margarita! Caught the beautiful new Epcot light show and headed in for an earlier evening.
Friday: EPCOT (park hopped)
EPCOT opening at 9am was so nice because we were pretty tired at this point. A later morning was what we all needed. Early entry was at 8:30 for resort guests, but we showed up at 8:15 and they were already letting guests in, so hot tip there! We first did rope drop Remy ride– since remy is at the back of the park (so was our resort) we got there in no time and had a short 45-50 min wait. It was great because we didn’t burn a genie+ with it (as we planned for) and scheduled frozen for 9! We then went to stand in line for test track (about 45 min), then had a genie+ for mission space. All of us really enjoyed the new Moana Water attraction! So cool and really a fun little laid back activity to do. ** My boys loved mission space and Scarlett and I absolutely HATED it. This is your warning. I assumed it would be similar to Avatar and it was far more intense. They don’t warn you until you are really already in the pod and it’s too late. People get sick often and I felt horrible after. You are closed into a tiny area and it’s intense simulation. Just warning those who would be uneasy in that environment. We then headed to Coral Reef restaurant, which was a favorite from 2022. You eat inside the restaurant with a fun view of a large wall to wall aquarium. You get to enjoy views of sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, sting rays, and more! We got to sit even closer to the aquarium this time which the kids loved.
We then hopped over to Magic Kingdom for a few hours and knocked out some more rides we had been hoping to do. We were skipping Shep’s nap time, so we opted for some laid back rides that wouldn’t require much standing around time for any of us. The train around the park was what we did first and it was great! Shep especially loved it! We then let the kids do some shopping they had been wanting to do, watched a little bit more of the parade, and then headed to Little Mermaid. We had never done Mickey’s Phillarmagic and it was surprisingly really fun to watch. And also a great experience to do during a time Shep would have been napping.
We then headed back to EPCOT for our Guardians of the Galaxy ride (which is my absolute favorite)!! I always say its 100x better than space mountain and just has a smoother experience with more fun! Make sure to grab that one. We did ILL since we didn’t get into the virtual queue at 7am.
Then we headed back to Magic Kingdom to end our night there! We had a dinner reservation at Crystal Palace. Which was really sweet to see Pooh and friends! Food was much better for a character buffet dining experience. We saw the fireworks a little bit from inside then headed to ride a few last rides; pirates of the Caribbean (genie+), dumbo (genie+), thunder mountain (genie+), and the carousel. Capped it off with the carousel and called it a night around 10:30 pm.
Til next time…. ✨✨✨
I think this about covers it 🙃 Even though this trip was during a busier season, Joel and I both agree that we actually rode more than we did last time when we had one less kid and had even more days in Disney, haha! The standby skipper was a big help this time! Really loved having it help book that initial ride so we didn’t have to worry. Feel free to email me any questions you may have or shoot me a message on IG!