Over the years, we’ve made our way to Disney a few times. From day trips to Disneyland when our oldest was small, to week-long adventures at Disney World, to our most recent quick trip to Disney we’re familiar with Walt’s vision.
An Overload of Disney Information
First, let me be completely transparent. I am not the foremost expert on all things Disney. Truthfully, I know just enough to be dangerous. And there is so much to know and learn! You could get a four-year degree in Disney and still not know everything!
There are so many blogs out there devoted to all things Disney. Many of the bloggers are native Floridians with annual passes. They know their stuff.
Some are dedicated to saving money (MouseSavers), others devoted to Disney food (DisneyFoodBlog), several specifically for parents of littles or teens, and even a few for Disney adults (Disney Dinks). There are even blogs geared for many of the Disney resorts, like Port Orleans for the two sister resorts.
My point is this, I’m no expert, but there’s plenty of information out there. If you’re thinking of planning your own trip to Disney, you can go through their official site or search for a specialized Disney travel agent. We haven’t used one but we hear good things, and there’s never a charge.
On this particular trip, we were sandwiching a quick trip to Disney between a short visit with family in the Lake Placid area and a cruise that sailed out of Jacksonville. We made our plans through the Disney website for my husband and myself, and our twins who were at the time 17-year-olds.
Quick Trip to Disney: Port Orleans French Quarter
Our trip was for two nights and I considered staying at one of the value resorts. However this trip was a bit of a splurge, sort of a senior trip for the girls, so I booked Port Orleans French Quarter.
We’d stayed there previously and absolutely loved it. It’s the smallest of Disney’s moderate priced resort properties. On another visit we had stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. While I enjoyed that stay as well, I find French Quarter much easier to get around and like the feel of the resort.
Port Orleans French Quarter resort has a New Orleans during Mardi Gras aesthetic. The main pool features fun characters, clam shell water jets and a giant sea serpent slide. If you get bored with that pool, you’re able to use the O’l Man River themed pool at Port Orleans Riverside. It’s sort of an old-fashioned swimming hole theme.
Both of the sister resorts have convenient dining options. The only thing I wouldn’t skip would be the beignets at Scat Cat’s Club Cafe. They’re Mickey shaped and amazing. They have a bit of a cult following among Disney foodies.
Saving Money on Food at Disney
Over the years we’ve been able to save the most money in the food category. We would have breakfast in our room that would consist of Pop Tarts (I know, I know horrible.), granola bars and bottled water. This would get something in our bellies to start the day.
Then for our time in park, we would pack in waters and some snacks. I’d pack little bags of Cheez-Its or Teddie Grahams. No, we never ate a balanced diet while at Disney. Yes, I know these were horrible choices, but we never went to Disney more often than every third or fourth year so I don’t think it hurt them too much.
Our snacks keep us full until mid-afternoon. This is great timing. The restaurants fill up with hungry people during the lunch and dinner rushes. Hitting right between the two and having one big meal makes for less rush. This was great because this trip was planned last minute and we didn’t have reservations at any of the sit-down restaurants.
The kids wouldn’t be hungry again at dinner time, so we would wait until evening and get a snack. Most days when they were little we would get buckets of popcorn. These featured different Disney characters and made great souvenirs which over the years were repurposed for sand buckets, popcorn bowls, and ummm, sick buckets.
Saving Money on Souvenirs
On previous visits to Disney, we were able to save money on souvenirs as well. I probably seem like a mean mom, but I just told the girls that we went to Disney to do things, not buy things. I let them know that we’d look for souvenirs during other parts of our trip. To be honest, they never seemed to mind.
This visit, like I said was a little special being their senior trip. I told them to pick out one thing on my dime and anything else was on them.
Our Quick Trip to Disney
Getting back to our most recent trip. In order to squeeze the most fun out of our time and money, we decided to arrive early on the morning of Day 1.
Even though rooms aren’t ready until around 4 p.m., you can use the facilities including the pool and Disney transportation all day. We parked at the resort and headed over to the bus stop, ready to get the magic started.
We got off the bus at Magic Kingdom, the park the girls had selected for our first day. Natalie, ever the planner, had done some research on rope drop techniques and decided our first ride would be on Big Thunder Mountain. By the way, if you’re interested in planning your day ride by ride or coming up with your own rope drop plan, there are plenty of blogs for that as well. You can check out this article at Mouse Hacking.
Over the course of the day, we rode most of the major rides and several of the retro rides from my childhood as well. It was a little chilly so the girls decided to skip Splash Mountain and sadly the Haunted Mansion was closed for repair.
I was happy to visit old favorites like the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Peter Pan and even the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. (The girls, by the way, had no idea who the Swiss Family Robinson was.) While they belly-ached a bit about Small World, they really seemed to enjoy the Carousel of Progress.
We had our mid-afternoon meal at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. It’s a counter service Tex-Mex restaurant located in Frontierland. I would have much rather had a nice sit down meal, but we didn’t plan far enough ahead and I couldn’t get a reservation.
Later we all enjoyed Dole Whips for our snack while we waited in line for the Tiki Room. (I’ll bet that tune is stuck in your head now! Hopefully it replaced the Small World ditty from the last paragraph.)
Back in our room the first night we crashed. I like to think of Disney as a working vacation. It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work.
I planned day two as a down day, or resort day. I highly recommend you adding one to your itinerary. It’s good for recuperating between parks and you’re paying for all of those resort perks, so you may as well enjoy them.
I had planned on possibly making this day a pool day. The Florida weather, however, did not want to cooperate and it was a little chilly. Instead I got to live out one of my Disney fantasies.
I’d always wanted to visit the several of the Disney resorts using each one of the types of transportation. This includes trips by bus, boat, monorail and skyliner. I know, I know this is a strange Disney fantasy. I also like being nosy and seeing the different resorts.
During the trip around the World we stopped by the Walt Disney World Swan hotel. As part of our package we’d received passes for one of the Disney mini golf courses. We decided on the Fantasia Gardens courses.
On arrival I was excited to try the family friendly course. It looked like a lot of fun, a traditional mini golf course with moving parts. The girls and my husband voted against me and we ended up on the more challenging course. This one was more about skill and it was fine, I didn’t mind losing.
Polynesian and Ohana
Afterward we completed our transportation odyssey. The monorail eventually took us to the Polynesian, one of the Disney Deluxe resorts. On a whim I stopped by the registration desk for Ohana, the resort’s premiere dining experience. The hostess told me they didn’t have any cancellations but took my number and told me they’d text me if any came up. I wasn’t hopeful.
As we browsed through the gift shops, my phone started buzzing! They had a cancellation if we could report back right away.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend an evening at Ohana. It’s a little on the pricey side, but the food was delicious and the space was welcoming. Everything is served family style and everything from the side dishes through dessert was amazing. I particularly enjoyed the coconut bread pudding.
We finished off day two at Disney Springs. This is the area that used to be called Downtown Disney and for the life of me I can’t break myself from saying it that way.
There is so much to eat, see, do and buy here. I’ll let you click through the official Disney link to see it all. Our favorite is the World of Disney. They have everything Disney you can imagine. We browsed around a bit before catching a bus back to Port Orleans and again, falling quickly asleep.
Our last Disney day was a visit to Epcot. Our energy was starting to flag at this point, but we got up early to pack up our room. We put all of our luggage in the car and checked out of the room. We would ride the bus back to the resort after our park day and head out from there. No sense in paying additional parking.
We had a few rides that were on our short list. Of course, we had to ride the iconic Spaceship Earth, which you may know as the giant Epcot ball. We were also excited for Test Track and weren’t disappointed.
My favorite ride in Epcot is Living with the Land. It’s a slow ride through the farming techniques of the future. For some reason I fell in love with this ride when I first visited as a 12-year-old and I’ve loved it ever since. Luckily my girls enjoy it as well.
My other favorite ride is in the same pavilion: Soarin’ Around the World. This hang glider experience barely moves, but the scenery around you does. You’ll have to experience it for yourself.
After our visit to the future, we took a tour of the world and visited all of the country pavilions. For this visit we had fish and chips in Great Britain. It’s counter service by the food is amazing. Though if you have time, I highly recommend eating at the sit down restaurant in the Mexico pavilion.
We finished our day at Epcot well before closing. All four of us were beat and anxious to head to our next destination. We took the bus back to the resort and headed toward Jacksonville and our next adventure.
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