I’d like to take a step back—back to before no one could leave their homes due to the COVID-19 quarantine. Back to when I visited the most magical place on earth!
It has always been a dream of mine to visit Disney World. I’ve been to Disneyland a bunch of times in Anaheim—when I used to live in the West Coast, family road trips frequently tried to account for making a stop there. When I was young, after telling friends I went to Disneyland, they’d then ask if I’ve ever been to “Disney World”. I had no idea there was a Disney World and the idea of a bigger Disneyland existing was crazy to me. I needed to go.
It took me long enough to try and visit. The boyfriend and I decided we’d treat ourselves—I took a week-long vacation from my job (a well-needed break since I took it immediately following my project’s biggest event of the year) and booked ourselves a Disney getaway.
Here’s me recounting our trip! And maybe help you plan for yours! If you prefer, here’s a video of the trip:
Plan well in advance for Disney World
Every single Disney guide, blog, or video will tell you this: you need to plan 3-6 months in advance for your Disney vacation. This is because you now can (and given it’s an option, it means everyone else will be taking advantage of it) book FastPasses in advance. Depending on if you’re staying at an on-site Disney hotel or if you’re just getting tickets online early, that “early-registration” window for FastPasses, dinner reservations, and more will open up at a certain timeframe for you.
We honestly started a bit late, and didn’t order our FastPasses until January. Our vacation was in February, and given we were staying at a Disney hotel, we really should have tried to snag better times for our FastPasses. A lot of restaurants were also already booked out by the time we were doing our bookings.
If you have a family and you’re hoping to actually sit down for your meals, make reservations. It kind of sucks you’ll have to plan activities around them, but it is worth it given you won’t have to try to squeeze into a restaurant the day of your visit. We had tried at Animal Kingdom to walk in for Yak & Yeti and we had attempted over the span of 4 hours (From 3PM to 7PM) to check in repeatedly for a time slot. In the end, we didn’t get to eat there because after the fireworks show, they were completely full for the night.
There are lots of good options if you’re willing to head off to Disney Springs though—it’s basically a separate shopping/dining area at Disney World where 3rd party restaurants and shops are allowed to operate. We did eat at Raglan Road one night, and then did some shopping at the giant Disney store there too. They’re opened later than the parks, so it’s a good option to have in mind.
We booked our flights to Florida late since we were trying to wait for a drop in price. Different sites recommended looking out for cheap flights 3 months ahead of your trip, but there never was a good window for us. We could have saved more on our flights if we booked our trip surrounding cheap flight periods. But I wanted to go during February—both as a break after a hectic period at work, but also because it was a cooler time in Florida. I hate the heat.
Our park tickets were expensive, but not terrible. Since we’re Canadian residents, there were special discounts! We ended up buying a 5-day pass with the 1 park per day option. We did each of the 4 parks, and then I knew I’d want to do a repeat day of Magic Kingdom.
If you want to save money, trying to bring your own food into the parks is one of the worst cost-benefit ways to reduce your costs. Plus, you’re not going to want to miss out on the cool snacks and themed-restaurants there, so I’d highly suggest not necessarily splurging, but accounting for eating in the parks. That being said, you are allowed to bring food into the parks. You might have a slightly longer wait in the security line for bag check, and will have to deal with carrying the food around with you that you’ll want to keep fresh (especially if it’s hot out)—but it’s do-able. Personally, the boyfriend and I bought some snacks (granola bars) so we had something if we absolutely needed it (should we get stuck in ride lineups), but ate what we wanted around the park otherwise.
Our itinerary was as follows:
- Day 1: Epcot (we landed same day at 11AM in Florida, and spent rest of the day here)
- Day 2: Magic Kingdom
- Day 3: Animal Kingdom
- Day 4: Hollywood Studios
- Day 5: Magic Kingdom
We had planned for our first day in Florida to be at Epcot. This is due to it having relatively few rides, and since we were landing in the morning, we wanted to do a lighter park.
But oh my goodness, I didn’t expect to like Epcot so much! While they don’t have the most rides, the pavilions themed around different countries were really neat to look at. They have excellent food around the park—also themed based on the pavilion you were in.
The one ride I really loved was Journey Into Imagination With Figment! We followed Figment the playful dragon through various surprising, visually stunning rooms, and our imaginations got turned upside down. It was so lovely. I thought my favourite ride would be the Frozen one, and while Anna and Elsa did entertain spectacularly, I think Figment has a unique charm to it.
We didn’t end up eating dinner at Epcot though and opted to go to Disney Springs to eat at an Irish pub. We wanted to check out Disney Springs anyway and wanted a proper sit-down meal after our flight and long day.
Magic Kingdom highights
Magic Kingdom is my favourite park. There are SO many rides, so much variety, and is the most classic Disney park that comes to mind.
We spent 2 days here, but spaced out the days between the other parks. I’m so glad we did, because there’s just so much to do here that one day would have been too rushed.
During our visits, we managed to dine at both Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest. Cinderella’s Royal Table places you in the actual iconic castle itself for a meal where all the princesses come out while you eat. They greet you and will take pictures with you! It was pretty pricey, but I think it was worth it—dining at least once inside the castle was a dream come true.
For Be Our Guest, we were hoping to visit during lunch since it converts to a quick-service meal area. So we didn’t initially have a reservation. But it was constantly super full and the line ups were insane. We were lucky enough to snag a reservation for their breakfast/brunch for our 2nd day there and I’m so glad. The inside is beautiful, and we sat in the main ballroom area. You can walk around and explore the West Wing. It’s really cool there because it’s dark, and there are ambient thunder sounds. The iconic rose is also there, as well as the ripped painting of the Beast in his prince form.
The boyfriend and I rode on the Haunted Mansion ride at Magic Kingdom at least 4 times throughout our trip. It’s our favourite ride! A bit of it is due to nostalgia since our first trip together was to California’s Disneyland and we both recalled it as a treasured memory.
I was happy to feast on a turkey drumstick, cold treats from Storybook Treats, and various other goodies in the park! I can confirm this is still my favourite park out of all of them!
Animal Kingdom highlights
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for Animal Kingdom. It is pretty much a giant zoo, with themed areas. It might be because we went on the hottest day during our trip, and Animal Kingdom had a lot of outdoor areas, but I liked this park the least out of all 4. That said, it was still really cool.
Pandora (the world of Avatar) was stunning to behold. I remember just standing under the giant floating rocks and watching the waterfall for 5 solid minutes. Amazing.
For food, they had pretty good food both in Satu’li Canteen, and the Flame Tree Barbeque. The BBQ platter at Flame Tree could technically be shared among two people—especially if you were going to go around and have snacks like what we did.
As for rides, this park is quite lacking. The Avatar area has two pretty neat rides, but otherwise, Kilimanjaro Safaris will be your must-see here. Take an open-air ride through the Animal Kingdom safaris and see lots of different animals up close! The fast passes fill up fast though as it’s the main thing most people prioritize.
This was the day when we tried walking in to Yak & Yeti restaurant, while also trying to catch the fireworks show. It was impossible. We went back to the hotel defeated and dined at the cafeteria instead.
Hollywood Studios highlights
Hollywood Studios’ main draw for me was Galaxy’s Edge. And oh my goodness, it’s amazing. Themed around Star Wars, the area feels gritty, and everywhere you look, the details are so whimsical. I even bought a themed Coca-Cola: it’s just a regular disposable Coke, but the bottle is round and has Batuuese written on it!
As for the rides here, it’s on a whole different level compared to all the other rides at Disney. Rise of the Resistance was what we were trying to get a boarding pass for. Unlike FastPasses, the boarding pass requires you to get it the day of your visit. You must be in the park when it opens, and try to get into a boarding group via the Disney World app on your phone.
We arrived to the park at around 7AM, having taken a bus from our hotel at 6:40AM. We waited till 8AM for the park gates to open so everyone can go in. Mind you, the park actually officially opens at 9AM, which is when you can start trying to get a boarding pass. There was a huge line up to get in, but since we went early, we were able to make sure were ready for our apps when 9AM came around. We moved away from the Galaxy’s Edge area since it seemed like there were a few hundred people standing at the entrance with their apps ready. We paid for data roaming specifically for this day, but didn’t want to risk poor connectivity due to the crowds. So we moved towards the entrance of the park.
At 9AM, the clock struck and you could hear cheers all around the park as people successfully secured a boarding pass. We ended up being boarding group #17!! Which was pretty high up in terms of timing. A couple near us also got in and we all ended up high-fiving. It was such a strange moment!
The Rise of the Resistance was amazing. Overall, the entire experience lasts 18 minutes! You transition from scene to scene, until you eventually make it into a First Order Fleet Transport vehicle. The ride is trackless so you don’t quite know where you’re headed, making it all the more surprising and engaging. It does have a big drop, and I’m a thrill ride wimp. But it was well worth it!
It was very bittersweet when we eventually spent our last day at Disney World. The experience was amazing and the exhaustion was well worth it. Im not sure when we’d be able to come back since it was a pretty expensive trip. Here’s hoping to another visit in the near-ish future!