Our Dec 2019 - Jan 2020 Trip Report

nats80

Member
Our Dec-Jan 3-week Orlando Adventure

As we were in Orlando for nearly 3 weeks a traditional Trip Report would be too long (and probably too boring!) so I thought I’d do a summary and include some information that will hopefully be useful to a fellow EASYWDW’er

Who
Me, DH, BIL, DD10 & DD11

When
14 December to 3 Jan (yes the craziest time of the year)

From
UK

History
My 8th visit since 1989 :) DH's 7th visit since 2006 and our DDs 5th visit since 2011.

Accommodation
Off-Site in Kissimmee in a 3-bed Villa with pool and hire car (7 seater minivan)

Itinerary (we didn't visit WDW until week 2 as we had 14 day tickets and wanted to be at Disney until the end of the trip)
12/15 - Aquatica
12/16 - Sea World
12/18 - Universal Islands of Adventure
12/19 - Universal Studios
12/21 - HS
12/22 - EP
12/23 - HS (p.m.)
12/24 - AK
12/25 - Fort Wilderness (Horse Riding, Motorboat Hire, Dinner at Trails End and then touring campsite loops on Golf Buggy to see the decorations)
12/27 – EP and MK
12/28 - Discovery Cove
12/29 - Contemporary (breakfast at The Wave), Grand Floridian to see the decorations and then MK
12/31 - EP
01/02 - MK

Days not listed were travelling/rest/shopping days.

No rope-drops!!!

FP+
We booked a throwaway night at Fort Wilderness so were able to book FP+ at 60 days for 2 of our days and then at 30 days for the rest. I was able to get everything we wanted for pretty much the time we wanted and even got FOP and Slinky Dog!!!!

We loved the FP+ system and made amazing use of 4th, 5th, 6th, etc FP+s. I really enjoyed the fun and thrill of trying to nab additional FP+s and making overlapping bookings work for us. It was a bit of a distraction, but I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way!

As we had multiple visits to each park (apart from AK) and as we were there at the busiest time of the year, we were more than happy to just do our 3 x FP+ and then just see what else came up. I found that the morning of each day we were able to get almost any FP+ by obsessively refreshing (I got what I call a ‘FP+ refresh finger’ injury by the end of the trip!).

I can honestly say we didn’t queue for any ride other than Monsters Inc Laugh Floor (30 mins) and Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal (90 minutes) which I think is amazing for the busiest time of the year and without any rope drops!

We made good use of Single Rider (we rode Exhibition Everest multiple times and even walked straight on Smugglers Run and they put us all together anyway) and were sometimes able to get FP+ for rides less than 5 minutes in the future.
 

nats80

Member
Rides
I’ll just give a few comments about the ones that were new (to us).

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (Universal Islands of Adventure)
Hands down the best ride Disney or Universal has to offer. The unique seating position on the motorbike is great fun. We queued for 90 minutes but there was also a single rider option (which was not open when we got in the queue). When we got on the ride I had to ride with a 'single rider' as we were a group of 5. I think the staff need to make it clearer to the single riders (who have queued for a fraction of the time of the Standby people) that they won't get 1st preference of riding on the motorcycle or the side car. I had to be quite firm with the young boy I got paired with as he tried to get on the motorcycle (which I felt a bit guilty about afterwards)!

Slinky Dog (HS)
Really good fun. Not sure if it is worth queuing for too long, but with a FP+ definitely worth doing.

Smugglers Run (HS)
Rode this Single Rider and for some bizarre reason they put us all together anyway. The 'Millennium Falcon' is pretty cool when you get inside it for the ride but the actual ride was slightly underwhelming.

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (HS)
I've always been too scared to ride this previously or the queue has been too long. We LOVED it. Such great fun and the loops were not too bad at all.

Monsters Inc Laugh Floor (MK)
Not a new one for us but we did this twice this trip and both my daughters got chosen (once each)! They were delighted after never being successful in being picked before.

Splash Mountain (MK)
Not sure why but we’ve never been on this before. Really enjoyed it and didn’t get too wet :)

ADRs
Biergarten
– One of our favourites. Never disappoints.

Liberty Tree Tavern – Food was delicious. It was dinner so we had the family style meal and we were stuffed! Would definitely go here again. Only negative was the air-conditioning was too high and we were FREEZING!

Hollywood and Vine - First time here. VERY expensive for what it is. Food was quite good and the character interactions were 'fair' but wouldn't go there again.

Teppan Edo - Really enjoyed this meal. Great experience and the food was yummy

Pizzafari (Family Style) - Wasn't expecting much, but the food was delicious (salad, sides, entrée/pizza, etc). Good value too (for a Disney meal)!

Trails End - We had Christmas Dinner there and it was very nice. Long delay for our reserved time though.

'Ohana - Again very expensive, but WOW the food and atmosphere was lovely.

Sanaa – Really enjoyed it here although DH and BIL thought it was not as good as when we visited there 2 years ago. You HAVE to have the bread service!

The Wave (breakfast) – Lovely selection of food (breakfast offerings) and fresh fruit.

Mobile Ordering
Unfortunately many more people are using this than when we were last at WDW in 2017 and the wait times were extremely long on some occasions. The wait for a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle was longer than the 'normal' queue!!

Night Shows
Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam
Good, but wouldn't go out of my way to see it again.

Epcot Forever
Really good and a close second to Illuminations. I loved the part with the 'kites' especially when they had fireworks shooting off them :)

Epcot Forever (with special ending on New Year's Eve)
This was the same as the standard Epcot Forever show but they added on a mini display for each country around the World Showcase and then a massive amazing finale for the USA's countdown. WOW, just WOW!!!

A Frozen Holiday Wish
When the lights switch on at the end, it almost takes your breath away! :)

Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks
Really good and fun with all the Christmas songs. Very different to HEA and with less emphasis on the projections on the castle.

Fantasy in the Sky
Special New Year's Eve show on 30 December (they do it 2 days in a row). We watched this from the beach at the Polynesian and I have to admit I cried (quite a bit) at the end!!!! Really really special and I LOVED watching it from there.

Happily Ever After
We watched this on our last evening and it was great as always, but spoiled slightly by our unfortunately bad viewing spot and all the noise of chattering around us (and CMs shouting at people to 'KEEP MOVING' along the walkways!!!

Pin Trading
Highly recommend this to families. The children loved doing this and interacting with the CMs. As we always visit in December we are usually able to pick up some starter packs really cheaply from the Disney outlet stores for the year that is ending, but unfortunately there were no 2019 Starter Packs available ANYWHERE. Our first bit of Disney Magic occurred when we were in the Disney Outlet at the Premium Outlets Mall (can't remember if it was Vineland or International Drive) and we were talking to a member of staff in there about wanting to do trading and not being able to find any 2019 starter packs. He then disappeared in the back of the shop and came back to present us with a lanyard with about 10 pins on it 'to start us off' :) We were gobsmacked!!!

Postcards at EPCOT
Last time we bought the Passports, but this time we just collecting the free postcards in each country. The children really enjoyed it and I loved the way that it encouraged all of us to visit and look around each country much more than we usually manage to.

Universal
We booked 1 night at the Universal Royal Pacific Hotel which gave us 2 days of Express Passes and also the convenience of not having to drive to the parks and spend 1 evening at the Universal City Walk. We had a Club Level room as I upgraded using some loyalty points I had. The lounge access was great with dinner and breakfast provided as well as snacks and treats :)

The hotel was lovely and the pool looked great (although we didn't use it as the weather turned quite cold).

The Express Passes were well worth spending the money on the hotel stay.

Discovery Cove
The highlight of our trip. A wonderful day with lovely memories and a very expensive 'must have' photo package to help the memories last. The staff were really great and the unlimited food, snacks and drinks all day was great. We swam with dolphins and did the underwater SeaVenture too. All in all an amazing experience.

Conclusion
(Sorry my short summary has become rather long!)
I cannot quite put my finger on it, but although we had a wonderful trip (as always) I feel that we won't be back again quite so soon. The parks did not feel as exciting as previously and for me personally (the planner) it was not such a challenge and less satisfaction to be had as we have already sussed out the best ways for us to tour and how to get FPs+, etc etc.

Our highlights of this trip were Discovery Cove and Christmas Day at Fort Wilderness (Horse Riding, Motorboat Hire, Dinner at Trails End and then touring campsite loops on Golf Buggy to see the decorations), so that has made me feel that our priorities have shifted slightly.

We visited California in 2018 (San Francisco, Monterey, Big Sur, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, etc) and that gave us a taste of what there is to see outside of Florida. I think our next big trip will be back there, but need to start saving the $$ first!

However, creating memories of the children at WDW 2 years older each time has been magical and I feel slightly sad that it felt just slightly less magical this time.

Thank you to Josh and to all of you for all your amazing tips and advice and for making our WDWs as wonderful as they have been.
 
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LoobyUK

New member
Thank you for all the info! I am new to this and so don't understand some bits sorry! How do you get additional FP+, and what are rope drops?! Thank you x
 

Mrs Darling

Well-known member
Great summary & even better photos! ❤
Can you tell me more about the EP passports & postcards? We've never done either before
 

nats80

Member
Thank you for all the info! I am new to this and so don't understand some bits sorry! How do you get additional FP+, and what are rope drops?! Thank you x
I'm sure others may be able to explain better than I can, but once you have used your 3 pre-booked FP+, you can then use the App to select a 4th FP+ and then once you have used that one you can look for a further FP+ and so on. You can also do this at various FP+ booths around the parks, but using the App is the easiest (in my opinion).

'Rope drop' is when you arrive at the park before opening and get let in as they open (or sometimes a bit before) therefore missing the worst of the crowds for around the first hour (so less queues), but as I think I mentioned we have never actually done this ourselves! :)

Great summary & even better photos! ❤
Can you tell me more about the EP passports & postcards? We've never done either before
Loads of information on this post:-


I think the packs are about $9.95 - $14.99 each but obviously you can use it each time you visit EPCOT and it's a great (and slightly educational!) keepsake.

The postcards are similar (and are free :)). You collect them in each country at the Kidcot Station and there are tables with colouring pens for the children to colour in each postcard. When you make your first stop, they will give you a little see-through bag with a handle to keep them in and then once you have completed the collection you get a final postcard saying you have finished it all. The cast members at each stop write little messages on the cards in their language and give you a sticker too.

I think both are great ideas, as we love looking around the countries at Epcot and it almost forces you into exploring more of each country than you may otherwise do. It's also fun for the kids and nice for them to chat to the CMs in each country.
 
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