I'll be honest with you - a LOT of planning went into making our Disney trip as magical as it was. If I didn't have a plan for each day of our trip, I'm certain that my whole family would have been exhausted and I would have been stressed. Disney World is serious business - it's so huge and it can feel overwhelming to try to understand how to take the most advantage of the experience. And since I'm a planner by nature, I knew that I would be happiest if I made a plan for each day of our trip. This included planning our meals (and making reservations for character meals), planning in nap times for my kids (okay, for myself too), and for strategizing how to visit each section of the parks. This also included adding in extra rest days! If you're a planner like me, I wanted to share how we structured our trip and what we actually did while we were at Disney World.
Day 1 - "Off" Day.
Checked into our hotel. Explored the grounds and found our beloved restaurant on-site where we did a lot of meals. Bless that meal plan, I'll share more about that later!
Our hotel, Port Orleans French Quarter, is a southern-style hotel with a New Orleans vibe. I loved our hotel because there were old-fashioned water fountains, miniture parks and fenced-in manicured green space between each building, so we could sit on a bench and sip coffee while Everett ran around and Daxton crawled. It felt kind of European in the sense that they made the most of every bit of space. Along the side of the buildings was a beautiful river. There was also a great playground with turf, which we visited on both of our non-park days. The room was very comfortable and felt like a Holiday or Hampton Inn. It wasn't dazzling, but worked wonderfully for what we needed - to bathe and sleep :)
Day 2 - Magic Kingdom!
The park opens at different times every day, but it's a safe bet to try to arrive at the park at least 1 hour before the park opens. Does that sound insane? Why yes it does. But trust me on this one. It takes a lot of time to park, unload the car, load up the stroller, walk to the park, get your magic bands activated, go through security... etc. etc. It's a lot. But when you allow for tons of time then you can actually get into the park and walk around Main Street before the park officially opens, which is so nice. Main Street is one of the most magical experiences at Magic Kingdom, so you want to enjoy the stroll through this whimsical area. The rides won't begin until the park opening time, but you can actually be on-site inside the park and in line for your first ride right as it officially opens. And believe me, you want to take advantage of every cool moment of the morning, because things get very humid very quickly.
We stayed at the park all day on this particular day, because it was closing early at 7pm for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party (which you need a separate ticket for, and we chose not to do this.) So we bypassed naptimes on the first day, banking on the fact that we would be running on adrenaline (and Starbucks, which is included in the meal plan, HOLLA.)
Magic Kingdom (Day 1) Park Itinerary:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant - The most perfect ride to begin with at Disney with little kids. It's so peaceful and both of my boys loved feeling like they were flying! It's a gentle, soothing ride, the perfect way to warm up for the day!
- The Barnstormer - This was maybe Everett's favorite ride, a roller coaster! It's a small one, perfect for little kids, but I couldn't believe how much he loved it! We rode this one several times because it was so much fun with him! I tried to get him to put his hands up, but he wouldn't do it ;)
- Mickey's PhilharMagic - this is a show, kind of forgettable in my opinion. But Everett loves all things Mickey so it was great.
- The Many Adventures of Winne the Pooh - kind of a sad ride, in my opinion. I love these stories a lot, but this ride wasn't my fave.
- Be Our Guest Restaurant - If you're planning a trip, make sure to have brunch here! I feel like lunch didn't seem as special (just normal sandwiches and salads), but we had a yummy brunch of croque monsieur and french toast and an omelet and pastries AND got to explore Belle's castle a bit. You can even visit a part of the castle that is still "under the spell" - it's dark and the tapestries are shredded and there is the wilting rose in the corner of one of the rooms! It was a super fun experience and yummy. Really pricey if you're not on a meal plan, though. I'll go into details about the meal plan in my upcoming "tips and tricks" post!
- Casey's Corner - Get the corn dog nuggets! I'm serious here. It's the best tasting corn dog I've ever had. Plus, it's a beautiful view of Main Street and Cinderella's Castle!
- Swiss Family Tree House - A fun little walk through the tree house. I wish I knew more about the story, it's made me want to go back and read it!
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin - This feels exactly the same at the Dumbo ride, but so fun. Perfect for Daxton's age.
- Sleepy Hollow - Get the waffle crepe sandwich! Yum yum yum.
- Its a Small World - the boat ride for babies. It's such an odd ride but its really air conditioned and perfect for babies. Daxton and Everett both adored it... it's just really hard to get that song out of your head. For pretty much the rest of the trip.
Day 3 - Pool Day!
In an ideal world, I wanted to build in a day to sleep in and rest. But you're probably laughing reading this, because you know that I HAVE KIDS. And they have no concept of sleeping in. But it was really nice to wake up much more slowly than the previous park day and have a leisurely breakfast at our hotel, followed by playing outside at the playground and then going to the pool for the afternoon. After running so hard the day before hand, this was the perfect way to recharge. And prepare for the next day :)
This was also the day that we went to dinner at 1900 Park Fare at The Grand Floridian hotel, which is a character buffet with Cinderella, Prince Charming, her evil stepmother and step sisters. The hotel is absolutely stunning and is in my #disneygoals to stay at one day.
Day 4 - Magic Kingdom!
Magic Kingdom (Day 2) Park Itinerary:
- Peter Pan's flight (we reserved a Fast Pass) - What a wondrous ride! It's so sweet and makes you feel like you're flying through moments of the movie. Daxton especially enjoyed this one, and I think this is the ride where he learned how to clap his hands in excitement. OH THE DISNEY MEMORIES.
- Enchanted Tales with Belle ((we reserved a Fast Pass) - Everett's face meeting Belle! It was priceless. I feel like I'm using that word to describe a lot of our Disney experiences, but they really were priceless!
- Lunch at The Crystal Palace - This is where we met Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet & Eyore! Also, we visited The Crystal Palace in Madrid's Retiro Park a few years ago when we took Everett on his first trip abroad, so I especially wanted to eat here because it felt special and nostalgic. And Pooh was so so cute.
- Town Square Theater to meet Mickey Mouse! (we reserved a Fast Pass) - This was a mega experience. This particular version of Mickey is the only one in all of Disney World that actually talks, and his voice sounds exactly like how you imagine it should! And he says cute things like, "Hiya friend, I've been waiting for you!"
- Snacked at Aloha Isle - GET THE DOLE WHIP. Best treat at Disney. Yes, you can quote me on that.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - I am so glad I rode this last minute! I went by myself and howled with joy the whole time. There's something really awesome and empowering about being alone and being happily LOUD.
- Tomorrowland Speedway - Everett loved driving his own race car! Such a big moment for a little boy. We did this one twice so that we could each ride it with him.
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover - This is essentially a big train, but it was super relaxing to ride in the middle of the day. Daxton actually fell asleep. Stevie might have, too?
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor - You can't miss this show. It's so so cute and funny. I was actually nursing Daxton right when we sat down in our seats and this man almost sat down next to me, realized what I was doing, and then got up and found another seat with his son. It's still so funny to be how freaked out people are about breastfeeding! C'mon people. Everyone likes boobs, for one reason or another. Just relax.
- Country Bear Jamboree - One of the strangest, funniest shows ever. Very air conditioned, so it's a good spot to take a break when it gets hot mid-day. But truly, you feel like you're getting entertained in Pigeon Forge.
- Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid - We had to cover Everett's eyes during a part of this ride that features Ursula, so you might want to skip this one unless your kids are older and have seen the movie. He asked us for the rest of the evening why we had to cover his eyes, which was hard to explain without using fear-inducing words. See, there were a few things that I didn't love about Disney. But only a few ;)
- The Fireworks show! It's not just any run of the mill fireworks show - it's incredible!!! I've never been so impressed with fireworks. Disney, you're awesome at EVERYTHING.
- Columbia Harbour House - If you're burned out on park food, this is the right place to go for something pretty darn healthy. There is a dinner meal that consists of salmon, grilled vegetables and quinoa and it is seriously SO good. It made us feel better about the frosted lemonades we pounded immediately after ;)
Day 5 - Pool Day!
Another day to relax and enjoy the hotel amenities. On this particular day we braved going to dinner at one of the fanciest Disney restaurants (because this was me trying to milk that meal plan for all it's goodness!) We went to Jiko at The Animal Kingdom Lodge and it was honestly such a memorable experience. For a few reasons:
1.) The food is spectacular. Truly, truly. It's exotic, all African-inspired and gorgeously creative in presentation. The wine pairings were spot-on and they brought out extra appetizers to keep my kids occupied while we attempted to entertain them.
2.) My kids decided they wanted other people to remember them too, so they decided to make all the loud noises they could muster. At one point I had pulled out the Kindle for one child, the iPhone for another, and propped up their respective screens for them to just watch Netflix shows while we attempted to dine. Stevie and I laughed in embarrassment at the fact that we were those people - those awful parents who pacify their children with screens. I promise, if you judge those people in restaurants, one day you will find yourself being those people!
Day 6 - Animal Kingdom!
The final day of glory, and we seriously went out with a bang. Animal Kingdom is SO different from Magic Kingdom - it's like the fanciest, most impressive exotic zoo you've ever been to! The lands are much more spread out, so it takes longer to walk between ths different parts of the parks. But the walks are truly inspiring - you're trekking through Africa and Asia and it really feels like you're walking through different countries. Although I admit, I've actually trekked through Nairobi in Kenya, and I prefer Disney's safe version. JUST SAYING. Our day's itinerary (and my recs!)
- Pandora Flight of Passage - If you watched on my insta stories, you might have seen that the line for this brand new ride was 3.5 hours long. We had no fast pass for this, so I knew we weren't going to be riding it. However, Stevie SOMEHOW charmed his way into getting us fast passes. Please don't ask me how, I'm still baffled by it. I think he just explained that we had two babies and there was no possible way that we could each wait 3.5 hours to actually ride it, and those Disney cast members are so kind, so her response was something like, "Alright sir, we will make an exception this one time..." FYI THIS RIDE WAS AWESOME. It's a virtual reality experience 3D thrill ride where you are flying on top of an actual banshee, you can feel it breathing beneath you and your stomach actually drops as if you are thousands of feet in the air, peeling around waterfalls and freefalling over cliffs. Its completely extraordinary. But Stevie has a particularly weak stomach, so he was kind of done with rides after this one. Good thing that Animal Kingdom is more like a zoo and we walked and saw stuff for the rest of the day ;)
- Pandora Na'vi River Journey - Such a peaceful ride along the bio-luminescent river and through caves. Daxton particularly loved this one.
- Pongu Pongu - This is the spot where I had a 9am margarita (#vacation) while Stevie rode the Flight of Passage. Everett enjoyed a bubble tea smoothie situation and Daxton yelped a lot. FYI Disney margaritas taste like Minnie Mouse mixed them up - they actually taste pink and I'd make a bet with you that there's no alcohol in them at all.
- Festival of The Lion King - Absolutely phenomenal. This one show is worth your entry ticket alone. This show is as good as a Broadway extravaganza but perhaps even better because we were able to sit so close to the action. There are acrobats, stilt walkers, enormous animals, singing and dancing and incredible sets. One of the monkeys came and gave Everett a high-5 during the show twice. He was completely enamored, we all were! It was spectacular.
- Tusker House - This was our last character meal, a buffet (again, the African-inspired food was incredible!) with Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Daisy. Once again, Daxton lost his mind at the characters but Everett was overjoyed. You win some, you lose some.
- Kilimanjaro Safari - I went on a safari in Kenya once, in the Masai Mara. We rode for three days in an open-top van through the mud, enduring nightly torrential rains, slept in a tent with blankets from who knows where and we actually got stuck out there in the bush for an extra day, because #mudslides. With lions. There are no fences in the middle of the pride lands in Africa. I just want to say that this Disney safari was 20 minutes long and I saw all the exact same animals that I saw in Kenya. You understand what I'm saying? Okay good. So go ahead and ADD THIS ONE TO YOUR LIST.
- Expedition Everest - Okay, Stevie's stomach could not handle another ride, so I took up my cross and rode this one alone, because I'm selfless like that. MUAHAHA. It was freaking amazing - the roller coaster goes backward and upside down at the same time. I screamed so hard.
- Finding Nemo The Musical - So great! Another amazing show, although perhaps 10 minutes too long, in my opinion. Everett fell asleep during this one.
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail - This is where I got my exotic bird fix. I wish I could bring them all home with me and set them free in my yard. I loved them so much!
And there you have it, friends! Our trip itinerary. We flew out the afternoon after the Animal Kingdom day. It was the most fantastic trip! I would be negligent if I didn't mention that we had an amazing trip planner, Alyson Pitzer of Magical Moments Vacations, who tailored the trip entirely to the needs and desires of our family. She made our dining reservations for us, snagged all the fast passes we wanted as early as 3 months prior to our trip (yes, Disney is serious business), booked our hotel reservations, changed out hotel reservations multiple times (due to my pregnancy and Stevie's work schedule) and created this comprehensive itinerary for us so that we could just implement it and enjoy our time as a family, without the added stress of figuring everything out as we went. She did all the figuring for us - and it didn't cost us anything extra! She is compensated by Disney World, so there is absolutely no reason under the sun that you shouldn't use her services if you are planning to visit Disney. Her help is a must - I will never do anything Disney related without her guidance and help. You can reach out to her at apitzer AT mmvagent DOT COM. Or you can reach out to her on her Facebook page messenger for more information on planning a Disney trip. Happy planning to you, my friends!
P.S. - Our Disney trip in photos and snippets.