Yes, we are nothing but big kids.
So, we make sure to get to Orlando every couple of years to enjoy the rush of the theme park rides. We also have family in the Sunshine State, so we make them feel loved by telling them we're coming down to see them -- and while we're here, we might as well pass some time by going to the parks. They fall for it every time. Ha!
We don't have children of our own, but that doesn't mean we can't find a way to fit in at a place like Disney World. (Note: We get a little bit for bookings at this affiliate link, but you won't pay more. In fact, you'll find great deals.)
With our park-hopper ticket, we were able to check out three parks in one day. We passed on the Magic Kingdom but got to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot.
1. It is pretty darn busy at ALL the parks on the first day of July -- and it is also very hot. This can be a combination for a meltdown. We saw plenty of cranky kids and parents by the end of the long day. We knew it was likely to be crowded at the start of summer during the Fourth of July holiday week, so we braced for it. You still can have a good time if you get to the park early and get in a few rides before the families start really piling into the parks. Also, kids tend to be on schedules for lunch, etc. So, you'll find lines shrinking around noon and as the day stretches into the early evening.
Also, just try to relax and remember that you are on vacation. The right mindset goes a long way toward enjoyment. Hollywood Studios features a couple great rides that we like: the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror elevator ride (pictured at top) and Aerosmith Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. So, we hopped on the Tower of Terror right away and went to the Aerosmith ride next. They are located next to each other.
2. Use the My Disney Experience Mobile App to plot out your fast-pass rides. You are entitled to three fast-pass ride reservations (the reservation is connected to the QR code on your park ticket). You pick when you want to ride the attraction and select a one-hour window during which you would be able to get in line for it (the fast-pass queue). Once your initial set of three reservations is used, you can set up new fast-pass reservations if any are available.
You can even use the app to set up reservations up to 60 days before you get to the park. The app also is very handy for its map, dining reservations and to check the approximate wait times for rides.
You also can go to designated kiosks around the parks to set up a fast-pass reservation.
3. Disney does a great job moving people. It was ridiculously busy, but there are ample shuttle services that run on tight schedules among all the parks and attractions. The staff also were all extremely friendly, which is very nice. I know it should be expected -- especially at the prices you pay to get in to these theme park meccas -- but it was pleasant to see our expectations realized. That's definitely not always the case at other touristy hot spots.
We used both the shuttle buses and a fun ferry boat service to make our way around the park system during the day. This is included with your park ticket. Just be sure to get on the right bus. We aimed to go to Animal Kingdom and took a side trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge (a resort and not the park we were looking for).
4. Bring a bit of food and water with you. You can bring a backpack of some snacks and drinks into the park. We chose not to bring a backpack so we didn't have to carry it around all day on the rides, etc. Instead, I filled up my cargo shorts with some protein bars, a bag of trailmix and my cameras, cellphone and wallet. I also carried in a Gatorade. We knew this wouldn't last us all day, but it helped stave off cravings and saved us a little cash.
Also, if you can manage without a bag or backpack, you can breeze through security on your way in by going through the dedicated "no bag" lines.
The parks offered a nice range of some healthy food options, too. This was a nice surprise. We found a produce market at Disney Hollywood Studios selling fresh fruit, for example, and allergy-friendly and gluten-free options at Animal Kingdom.
5. Wear comfortable shoes. This is obvious for all you veteran travelers. But here are the final numbers from our day with Disney courtesy of the wife's Fitbit: We put on nearly eight miles (almost 17,000 steps) walking around in the heat.
That's why I slept through nearly 10 straight hours last night before waking up to write this post.
Now, off to the hot tub to soak these sore legs and feet.
Thanks for reading,
VIDEO: Tower of Terror