As anyone who knows us or follows our blog is aware, we like theme parks. A lot. Keller and the kids are very passionate about them and will ride pretty much anything and everything that they can!
We started planning a trip to Orlando in early summer 2019. It would dove-tail nicely with our planned trip to The Netherlands in spring 2020, would hit the lowest season at the theme parks, and the weather should be pleasant.
These plans also fit together in what we were calling “The Year of the Roller Coaster.” It’s not really a true calendar year, but in about 18 months we had plans to visit some 25+ theme parks around the world, starting with Port Aventura in Spain and including Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan from our Asia trip. That’s a tall order! Florida would contribute 7 parks to our total count! (Unfortunately, the current corona virus pandemic has put many of these plans on hold — the European and Ohio theme parks will have to wait.)
And as an added bonus, Min came with us! She had a wonderful time with us when we visited Disney in California in December 2016 and really wanted to come hit the Disney World parks too. Seeing the parks through the kids’ eyes is a lot of fun and Min wanted to experience the parks with us.
This week was truly a whirlwind, but we had a great time! We managed to visit all four Disney World parks, both Universal Studios parks, and Keller and Kamy slipped into Sea World to add a few more coasters to their list. 😉 We were blowing and going and managed to do it all in 10 days.
Since the parks are so photo heavy, I am going to break each park down to it’s own post, but I’ll hit the highlights in this post. Hopefully that’ll make it more manageable and easier to scroll through. 😉 I’ll also update the park names below to link to the specific post as I get them up.
We booked a minivan rental car through Turo (as we did in California) and an AirBNB near the Disney Parks for our stay. This gave us a great home base to hit the parks easily and plenty of beds for everyone. Kamy and Min shared a room, Caden had his own, and Keller and I were in the master. The house had a small private plunge pool but it was too cold to use. We also had access to the community pool which was heated and the kids really enjoyed it on their down days. They even made some new friends on Wednesday who were visiting from Canada!
All the Disney Parks allow you to bring in food, so we definitely took advantage of the policy to help save money. Disney isn’t a cheap place to visit! I prepped breakfast burritos to eat in the park most mornings and brought either sandwich stuff or fajita ingredients for a bigger meal in the park. We did order a few things from counter service, but it was definitely minimal. After the parks closed in the evening we often stopped at a local restaurant for dinner. Two favorites were Flippers Pizza and Pei Wei.
Every day we were at a theme park was a marathon. We try to slow down at the parks, but I really struggle not to rush rush rush to the next ride or show. And heaven-forbid we leave a park before it closes! 😉 We were at every park at least 30 minutes before opening (except Epcot) and left after closing time each day. Some days were longer than others — Hollywood Studios was the longest by far because we were in the parking lot by 5:45am and left at 8:30pm! I’m just glad the parks weren’t open any later than they were!
Saturday, January 25 — Today we flew from Dallas Love Field to Orlando. We checked into the AirBNB, hit the grocery store, and called it a night. We have a big week ahead of us!
Sunday, January 26 — Disney World, Magic Kingdom
Monday, January 27 — First thing this morning, Keller and I went to a time share presentation with Disney Vacation Club. We weren’t really interested in a time share, but following my parents’ lead, we were happy to take advantage of the perks of spending an hour visiting with their team. In this case, we were each given five golden fast passes that we could use at any of the parks and for almost any ride. We figured that would be worth our time! The kids played in the kids club while we talked over the proposal. It doesn’t make sense for how we travel and how often we are at Disney, but if you DO come to Disney regularly and have the funds, I can see it making financial sense. But that’s not us.
After the time share, we grabbed lunch and dropped Keller and Kamy off at Sea World. Caden isn’t tall enough for the biggest coasters there, so alas it didn’t make sense for him to go and just watch from the sideline. So he hung out with me and Min instead! We grabbed Min from the house and then went shopping.
Keller and Kamy had a pretty good time at Sea World. There were multiple large tour groups from Brazil in the park, but they were still able to ride the three big coasters several times and ended up staying until close. Keller said he was glad they went but doesn’t need to go again. No new favorite coasters there. Min and I focused on the hunt for shirts to create a t-shirt quilt as a souvenir and Caden just wanted something cool. He ended up choosing a remote control car and a rubik’s cube.
Tuesday, January 28 — Disney World, Hollywood Studios
Wednesday, January 29 — Keller and Min spent the day on the Backstage Magic Tour! They really enjoyed the behind the scenes tour of Universal in California, and they were very excited to do this tour. It was all backstage access and no rides. They ended up visiting sections of each park and were shuttled around with their tour guides. Min was particularly impressed by the costuming department and Keller really enjoyed learning about what went on behind the scenes for the River of Light night time show. While this was a full seven hour tour, both Min and Keller said it felt like a “light day” compared to what we had been doing. 😉
Meanwhile, the kids and I had a down day at the house. We slept in, ate leftovers at the house, and spent the afternoon down by the pool. The kids made some new friends who were vacationing from Canada and happily amused themselves in the water for hours. I opted to stay dry and read my kindle in the shade. I cooked spaghetti for dinner once Keller and Min were back and we all turned in early.
Thursday, January 30 — Disney World, Epcot
Friday, February 1 — Disney World, Animal Kingdom
Saturday, February 2 — Today we scheduled in another down day. We definitely need a little breather when we’re up before dawn and home after ten each night. Keller was a little antsy and was seriously considering driving to Tampa to visit a theme park for the day, but issues with our rental car prevented that. We also scheduled dinner at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Keller, Min, and I actually ate here fourteen years ago when we visited the Disney Parks shortly after our wedding. It was still quite tasty and atmospheric and the kids really like going to a buffet — especially Caden. 😉
Sunday, February 3 — Universal Studios
Monday, February 4 — Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure
Tuesday, February 5 — Today we flew back to DFW. We had a bit of a saga once we actually landed in Dallas. The truck had a flat tire in the parking garage, so Keller and I had to pull down and change to the spare tire. Once that was fixed, we dropped Min off to pick up her car from the body shop. Then we left the kids at Min’s house while we went to the bank to take care of some paperwork, when we discovered that the truck wasn’t driving right. So we diverted to Discount Tire where we dropped off the truck to have them repair the flat and swap the spare back out. We caught a Lift back to the kids, then grabbed pizza from Jet’s until the tire was fixed. Back to pick up the truck, pick up the kids, and then drive two hours home. We were all a bit loopy by the time we made it home! But we were home safely.
We definitely put our legs to work on this trip — there wasn’t much sitting around wasting time. My fitbit didn’t catch all our steps, but 80 miles in a week and a bit is a lot of walking!
Regardless, we had a great time in Florida! I am glad we were able to do all the parks with the kids — now they can REALLY compare the different versions of rides from around the world. 😉 I don’t think we’ll be back for several years though. We definitely hit everything we wanted to this trip! There were two clear favorite rides across everything we did — Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios) and Avatar Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom). I think all five of us would ride those over and over again if we got the chance! Both were totally unique and immersive.
The Disney Parks Grand Slam still awaits — Shanghai and Hong Kong are the only two parks we haven’t visited yet! Plus Keller really wants to visit the Universal Studios park in Japan and Universal is building a new park in Beijing set to open in 2021. Maybe we’ll be in Asia again in 2022? We’ll see!