WDW 2021 & Disneyland 2022 – Misc. Info & Lessons Learned

This post has turned into a combined post of misc. information from the Walt Disney World trip my mom and I did in October 2021 (Part 1 and Part 2) and my recent Disneyland trip.

Everything below didn’t have a logical home in any of the 3 above linked posts, and includes some FAQ I get from folks in my life – enjoy!

Trip Stats From Walt Disney World:

  • Miles Walked: 8 per park day
  • Pins Purchased: 17
  • Puzzles Purchased: 2 boxes, 5 individual puzzles
  • Mugs Purchased: Shockingly 0
  • Churros Eaten: Somehow only 1

How did we book our Walt Disney World trip?

We went through our dear friend Traci Taylor who is a travel agent specializing in Disney and lives near WDW. The only thing we did not coordinate through her was booking our flights and that was due to using credit card points.

What did we do well in planning our Walt Disney World trip?

We were fortunate enough to be able to add one buffer day after flying to Orlando and before we started our park days, and after our park days before our travel day back to California. Both my mom and I felt like that made a huge impact on our trip as far as avoiding burnout and avoiding impulse / now-or-never buying.

We also did a lot prep work before the trip and went into each park only having 1-2 required rides / attractions and 1-2 food items we prioritized, in a couple of cases having reservations. Again, this removed impulsive choices and buying or spending time debating a bunch of food we weren’t sure if we wanted. It also made sure that rather than rushing from ride to ride we had our “must-do” items and could just experience the rest of the day without pressure to hit XX rides in order for the day or trip to feel “worth it.”

For me, what worked best was to create a Google Sheet so we could filter & prioritize. I had one page for food and one page for rides / attractions. Filters included park, land, and “details” about why we wanted to go to a specific restaurant / stand. I had the app downloaded to my phone so we could filter each day and mark what we completed.

What do we wish we would have done differently for Disney World?

I have two regrets from the trip. One was buying a margarita in Pandora. It sounds silly, but I forgot how Disney proportions their adult beverages and if I were a regular tequila consumer I would have been happy. The other was not preparing better for Epcot. We opted for being more opportunistic and had the intent to sample a bunch of things, however that led to far too many options and lots of indecision (which is funny given the spreadsheet mentioned above), coupled with a very hot day. The Epcot one is more of a lesson learned.

How expensive are your trips?

It depends, and I’m going to start the breakdown with what they look like with my partner. Back in 2017 / 2018, Levi & I were both Annual Passholders paying ~$60/month each for our tickets with our only blockout dates being around Christmas / New Year. We stayed at the same Marriott a little further away from the parks every time, and with our AP tiers we had free parking in the garage. Approx. 2017 was also when I got my Disney Visa.

My birthday in 2018 I bought a Dooney using rewards money and we had some left over for incidentals, too. Back then I was making about 30% of what I do now, and had very little as far as expenses go. Our trips back then were the cost of hotel, gas, and food in the park – incredibly minimal, and why we went as often as we did.

When we went for our anniversary this year, we did splurge on hotel – in part because of that massive bathtub – as well as dinner and a few of the souvenir items we got. We did also have to pay for park tickets out of pocket, and plane tickets for Levi. I also had boarding for the dog. We had budgeted for this, and ended up spending about what we had anticipated.

With my family, it’s very different. My family started going regularly after my dad retired for the first time in 2009 as we didn’t have a ton of family trip time like that prior. We did have annual passes back then, and the cost per person with no blockout dates was <$650 if I remember correctly. With my dad’s mobility being what it was (pre-knee replacement) and having the income, it was worth it on many of our trips to stay at Grand Californian, order room service, and do what was needed. We did eventually start staying off property but still in the same block, and it was a choice contingent on there being a shuttle for my dad. I do want to note that was all occurring from 2010 – 2012 when the cost of Disney was much less than it is now. When my mom & I took my grandma in 2018 for her 80th birthday, we made a similar decision to those we had for my dad and stayed at Grand Californian for mobility purposes.

When my mom & I went to Disney World, we spent a very long time discussing what we wanted in a trip and what our non-negotiable features were. For this trip, exploring the parks and Disney Springs were the most important to us, so we were cognizant of modes of transportation available at each resort area. Food and souvenirs were also a priority. My mom did also make the decision that class when flying was a non-negotiable. Where that landed us was flying first class, making reservations at the nice restaurants we decided we wanted to try, mapping out what mobile order food we wanted outside of that, and choosing a hotel that was near the Skyliner and would be comfortable which ended up being Pop Century. We heavily debated Animal Kingdom Lodge and Riviera, but every time we came back to the fact that our goal was to spend time absorbing the parks. As a result, spending all that money on a room we planned on using as a landing point to sleep, store items, shower, and get ready in did not make sense, and we were very happy with that decision in the end.

When we went to Disney World, I had nearly $800 in rewards money which covered most of our pricy meals and souvenirs, and had nearly $200 left over with how I broke things up. I had just under $400 built up by the time Levi and I went to Disneyland and that paid for our 3 reservations. Having credit cards that earn points for things that matter to you are important, and I’m happy with my choices in cards.

In both cases, I did have cash for tip.

Are you planning on getting back to your previous Disney trip frequency?

Honestly, no. Part of it is location, part of it is money, and part of it is time spent. Disney still holds the same weight it has, and I’m at a point where I would rather have one trip of the exorbitant quality I want it to be per year than to go for quantity of trips.

How do you think the parks compared?

I am thankful that I didn’t compare them nearly as much as I thought I would and I do treat them as separate entities.

Things I did notice:

  • PhotoPass people are EVERYWHERE in WDW.
    • PhotoPass was still pretty sporadic in comparison at Disneyland outside of the Sweetheart’s Night event. I’m interested to see how this shifts with character meets coming back.
  • The ride queues are prettier at WDW – there is a lot more covered queue area and I’m sure there’s a weather related reason.
  • The churros at Disneyland are better – this is not up for debate.
  • The castle in FL is massive. You can look at height comparisons and pictures all you want, seeing it in person is different.
  • Expedition Everest > Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain, and Thunder is one of my favorites so that says a lot
  • Mine Train > Disney World Big Thunder Mountain
  • Facade of Disneyland Haunted Mansion > Facade of Disney World Haunted Mansion
  • Interior of Disney World Haunted Mansion > Interior of Disneyland Haunted Mansion

Walt Disney World – Part 2

…. continued from Disney World Part 1:

Wednesday, October 6

In-park day 3 of our trip was for Epcot and I chose a dress and sandals. I had done Disneyland twice in a dress and sandals, though I don’t believe either of those times were as walking intensive as our Epcot day was.

I got this dress for $10 at the Dillard’s Clearance Center earlier this year and not only does it have pockets, it also makes me feel like I should be sitting on a beach singing “By the Sea” to whoever is begrudgingly with me.

Around 7 that morning I got on the app and got mom & I a boarding group for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure with an ETA on return time working out to about 2p. Since the park opened at 9, we were slow getting to breakfast and then getting on the Skyliner to make our connection out to Epcot.

We arrived at the Skyliner Station on the west side of the World Showcase near France. Our first order of business in the park was coffee. From there, we continued working our way clockwise around the World Showcase towards the Norway Pavilion.

We got in line for the Frozen ride and clearly did not do our research or read the ride notes because we were confused about why there was a warning about drops and getting wet. That did not stop us, though.

After Frozen we made our way towards the Epcot ball and went on Spaceship Earth. Since I was a kid and had the Walt Disney World Explorer on CD, I wanted to go inside the Epcot ball, and I got to mark that off my list.

After we got pictures in front of the Epcot ball, we made our way around the path and went to Living with the Land.

After our boat ride we continued down the path back to the World Showcase as it was time for lunch. We stopped in the Mexico Pavilion and got tacos.

After we ate we continued our walk clockwise around the World Showcase looking at the Pavilions. By the time we made it all the way around the lake it was our turn to go to the queue for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. We ended up waiting a little over an hour before we loaded into a car, and it was well worth the wait!

After Remy’s we decided we wanted to go on the boat ride through the Mexico Pavilion so we made our way back over.

Once we completed that ride (which has one of the most spatially tight queues I have ever experienced), we knew it was time to figure out dinner. As weird as it sounds, we ended up opting for a sit-down dinner at Le Cellier in Canada. 

Following dinner we took one more round trip of the pavilions making sure to go into each one that we hadn’t gotten to yet.  

After our last lap around the World Showcase, we headed back to the Skyliner station and went back to the hotel for the night.

Thursday, October 7

Thursday morning we got up, got breakfast, and made our way to the Skyliner. Once boarded, we made our connection, and found ourselves at park entrance for Hollywood Studios.

First order of business once inside was making a beeline for the line for Rise. We made it through the line and to interrogation when the ride shut down, which was unfortunate because we had waited a couple of hours, but we did get the equivalent of a FastPass to return later.

Once we got our passes set up, we made our way back to the park entrance for coffee. With our coffee, I also grabbed a carrot cake. As we wrapped up coffee and what we wanted of the carrot cake, my mom decided to take it to the trash and on her way fell off the curb and I barely caught what happened as it happened.

As soon as she was down, 4 moms from other groups swooped on her. One grabbed a cast member, one pulled ice out of her stroller, one pulled bandaids, and one was doing a preliminary check on her. Mom was adamant she didn’t want to go to first aid when the cast member arrived, and I helped her set the bandages we did get from all of the wonderful people who stopped. She then sat for a little bit with the ice on her knee (which was the biggest casualty).

Once she stood up again, I immediately recognized that the bandage job would not hold and told her that we were going to first aid. She tried to protest saying it was too far away and I did not allow that for a moment – for context, we were sitting in front of the Pandora store and first aid is at the front of the park. The stars on the below picture show how far we were (Galaxy’s Edge got cut off on my screenshot).

First aid was just as much of a hands off adventure as it was the few days prior. Mom signed in, they asked us what we wanted for her injury, and the passed the supplies to us through the gap in the divider. We moved over to the little bench in the lobby and I got to work cleaning and replacing the bandage on her knee.

We joked about all the practice we have with odd bandaging because of dad and the nurses asked a few questions that led to us giving them a brief history of his injuries over the last 35 years. Once mom’s knee was situated, we made our way out of first aid and started walking the shops on Hollywood Boulevard before moving towards Tower of Terror.

After losing The Tower in DCA, this was probably my most highly anticipated ride of the whole trip. Though it was a little different from what we had in California, I was very, very happy with the differences (and honestly a little shocked to find I still remembered most of the video scripting).

Once we finished our stay, we made our way through the park to Toy Story Land as we knew we wanted to have lunch and go on rides out there.

We decided to get in line for Slinky Dog Dash – which was by far the hottest queue we waited in – and while we waited we put in a mobile order for a BBQ Brisket Melt at Woody’s Lunch Box.

After the ride we made our way over to the Alien Saucers since we still had some time before our mobile order return.

Following our ride on the saucers we crossed the pathway to collect our mobile ordered food. The day was another warm one and we were lucky to find a table in the shade. We split the BBQ Brisket Melt and were very happy that we did. It was so good, but with it being a hot sandwich and a hot day we could only really consume half each before we were full.  

We walked around Toy Story Land a little more once we wrapped with lunch, and then followed the path on the far side of the land around to Galaxy’s Edge.

We did stop for a few photo spots, and made our way over to Rise. With our return pass we basically walked on the ride, which was great, and we are very happy we got to go back and experience it. Following the ride we spent a little more time walking through that section of the park before heading back towards the center.

We are both fans of the museum/history type things at the parks, and next on our list of things to do was walk through the exhibit and watch the short film at Walt Disney Presents.

After the show, we exited the theater and made our way back down Sunset Boulevard to get in line for a second round at Tower.

Around that time we were able to check in for our dinner reservation for the Hollywood Brown Derby. The food was exactly as I was expecting, and I was surprised by how loud it was in there (especially after how quiet Le Cellier was the day before). We did get a booth on the edge of the main dining room, and overall had a great experience!

Once we left the restaurant we wandered the shops on Hollywood Boulevard and I snagged the last of the souvenirs I wanted from this park.

As far as attractions, we decided to end our night with one more round on Rise of Resistance. Since it was so late in the night, we stopped in the Storm Trooper room and took a picture.

While we were in line for Rise, mom discussed wanting ice cream, so we decided to go to the stand just outside of Tower.

After our ice cream, we wandered back down Sunset Boulevard and then up Hollywood Boulevard to the park exit. We boarded the Skyliner and made our return trip back to our hotel for the night, and along the way got to see the Epcot ball lit up.

Friday, October 8

Friday we had planned to be a slow day of packing and going out to Disney Springs to get final souvenirs. We got up as we woke up (which if you know my mom and I, you know that means we still woke up at the crack of dawn).

After getting ready we made our way over to get breakfast and then got on a bus to be at Disney Springs as early as we could. We started our morning by going to the Lego Store since the mini castles had been released the day before. We managed to get one for each of us and then made our way to Starbucks, the Disney Store, and wandered over to check out Uniqlo (which I got a bunch of new clothes at).

We finished up our shopping for the day and went back to Polite Pig for lunch – again opting for a collection of sides to make up a meal. After lunch we took the bus back to the hotel and started packing for the travel day that was to follow.

Saturday, October 9th

With our flight time being a little later in the morning and a confirmed Magical Express Shuttle time of 8:00a, we got up, finished packing, and got breakfast before making our way to the front of the hotel where the shuttle pickup was.

You may find yourself wondering why our return trip get it’s own day marker at this point in the storytelling and you’re about to find out why.

We arrived at airport around 8:30, gathered our luggage, and made our way to the ticket counter to check our bags. When we got to the counters, it was immediately apparent that the mass flight cancellations of the day before had not been handled by any of the carriers. It was to the fault of exactly 0 of the humans we saw or interacted with, and that also does not make it any less stressful. I am thankful that everyone involved in the ticketing area seemed to uniformly understand that the situation was not in anyone standing in that room’s control and treated people as such, which was nice.

We had opted for first class and the Sky Priority line was essentially just as long as the standard queue. The line we were in did not move for nearly 45 minutes and it took us an hour and a half to get our bags just dropped off. I had not had a true anxiety attack in a public place in nearly a decade and that situation was enough to do it.

Once we got through that line we made it to TSA and thankfully made it through in less than 10 minutes. We got to the gate around the same time they started boarding, so it all worked out (it would have either way), and that was appreciated. However, we did sit on the plane door closed for 40 min and that made our connection that was originally had an hour and a half window have a boarding time window.

We did end up making our next flight, as did our luggage, and made it home safely that afternoon.

to be continued with misc. information & thoughts….

Walt Disney World – Part 1

This year has been beyond full of unexpected twists and turns, and far busier than I had anticipated. I am happy to be back to writing and excited about the topic that sparked it! Without much more of an introduction, let’s get to it:

Levi flew out to Phoenix the weekend before my mom and I were set to go to Disney World to help me pack and prep the house to be gone for 17 days.

As per usual operating rhythm with trips, we had a couple of date things set up. One of these was getting up and going to the Phoenix Zoo with coffee during the member’s only hour and walking the park looking at animals (as is becoming a standard part of our Phoenix trip routine). Another was getting reservations at Undertow – an effort to get our tiki themed bar fix in the interim while Trader Sam’s is not an option.

On Wednesday, Sept 29th we drove from Phoenix to Fresno with Shay in tow. She was the neediest baby alternating who’s shoulder she was resting her head on between naps.

I used the next few days to knock out a few appointments, visit with family, and do both my mom’s nails and my own (since COVID I have been doing dip gel myself at home).

Saturday, October 2nd

My dad and brother dropped my mom and me off at the airport in Fresno first thing in the morning. We had a layover in Salt Lake City and then were on our way to Orlando. Prior to our trip I had finally caved and bought a Kindle, and I must say that is one of the best decisions I have made.

When we arrived in Orlando, we gathered our luggage and moved to the Magical Express. We had a great time and appreciated this service, and with Disney discontinuing it at the end of the year, I’m interested to see how the paid options pan out.

We opted to stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort which was the perfect choice for us. We did not want a rental car and knew we would need to rely on Disney Parks transportation. We also wanted to be centrally located. Pop Century has buses and access to the Skyliner, and both were perfect.

When we got to our hotel, I had our room number on the app and our Magic Bands were already set up as our room keys, so we got our luggage off the bus and got to go straight to our room. We got semi unpacked and went to the main building of the hotel to get food.

We also took a little time that evening to wander around the hotel property.

Sunday, October 3rd

We got up and went to the main building food court so I could snag my Mickey Waffles. Once we wrapped up breakfast, we gathered what we needed for the first part of the morning and started exploring.

We started by going over to Art of Animation – accessed by crossing the bridge over Hourglass Lake and passing the Loading Dock for the Skyliner – to explore that hotel. The way that hotel was set up brought me so much joy.

Once we walked the property of Art of Animation we went to the Skyliner and boarded. We ended up taking a trip to Hollywood Studios and then back to the hotel.

After doing a little more exploring that way, we decided to go to Disney Springs to preview what was there.

We ate lunch at Polite Pig which was AH-mazing.

In the afternoon, we returned to our room and got ready to take the Skyliner to the Riviera Resort to see the mosaics.

Monday, October 4th

Monday was our first in-park day and one of two park days where we would need to rely on the bus system for transportation.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom during the early entry hours for folks staying at the resorts. We stopped at a couple of photo spots and got some good pictures in, and then made our way to Pandora.

The first ride we did for the day was Flight of Passage knowing full well it was 3D and that we both ran the risk of having motion sickness. We only had to wait a little over an hour and it was so worth they hype and the wait, however we definitely needed something a little calmer after that.

We worked our way back through Pandora and went to the Na’vi River ride. Once we made it through that ride we made our way over to the Starbucks near Discovery Island before moving towards Dino Land USA for Dinosaur.

Once we rode Dinosaur, I wanted to trek to Expedition Everest. My mom was such a trooper and on this ride came one of the best quotes of the trip.

We made it to the point of the track where the whole train is angled up and comes to a stop where the track looks like it has been pulled up by the Yeti. There was a child in front of us that said “oh, this is the part where it goes backwards!” and my poor, sweet mom who did not know what she had gotten herself into started yelling “What!? NO NO NO NO” as we switched and flew backwards. Clearly it didn’t scar her too much because we ended up doing the ride again later in the day.

After Expedition Everest it was time for food, and we decided to mobile order from the Satu’li Canteen. Mom got the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods and I got Combination Bowl.

After lunch we wandered over and got in line for the Kilimanjaro Safari. Once we got off of the Safari truck we took the Rafiki Train on a full loop before deciding it was high time for Dole Whip.

After Dole Whip we wandered back over to Pandora so I could buy a puzzle. We also got alcoholic beverages and found a place to sit where we could talk through the game-plan for the next day. After we sat for awhile we wandered towards Expedition Everest for it’s 2nd run, and took our time walking through Discovery Island as we did so.

We had a dinner reservation for 4p at Tiffins Restaurant, and when it was our time we made our way over.

Yes, I am being that person and uploading a picture of food. I would eat there and order this again in a heartbeat.

Overall, we could have started our day a little later in Animal Kingdom and still gotten to everything we wanted to. As it was, we left the park early and the only thing we did not do that we had on our list of potentials was see the Tree of Life lit up at night, though we don’t regret missing that.

Tuesday, October 5th

In-Park Day 2 of our trip showed us that mindset is everything. Our day started off with us in a broken-down bus on the side of the highway. The bad news: it was hot in the bus. The good news: we were in the ‘fun’ part of the bus, in true Disney fashion we had replacements in ~5 min, and we still made it to the park in time for park open (not rope drop).

First order of business once we were in Magic Kingdom was to knock out the key 3 pictures:

I cannot get over how long my mom’s hair is or how dang happy she is.

With our pictures at the Park Gates, on Main Street, & in front of the Castle out of the way, we made our way to the Seven Dwarves Mine Train.

Between our morning bus delays, pictures, and the wait for Mine Train, it was time for the first coffee of the day around 10:30a. I have never been so grumpy to wait for coffee in my life and I regret not stopping at a coffee cart prior to that adventure.

Once I had coffee in hand and refilled our waters, it was time to see The Mansion.

I personally like the style of the exterior of the mansion in Disneyland more, however the ride portion of the WDW rendition holds the new spot to beat in my heart. I don’t know if I loved the library or the staircase room more, and can say they are both reasons why Magic Kingdom is my favorite of the two. Once we got off the ride, I got pictures in front of the building, and mom and I wandered through the shop just outside the queue.

Following that, it was time for lunch, and we once again opted to mobile order. We ordered Lobster Rolls from Columbia Harbor House and sat upstairs in that building. I must say, Disneyland can hide some people, but Walt Disney World can make them disappear into buildings you don’t even think are able to be the size they are.

Once we finished eating, we went on The Little Mermaid ride (which is identical to the one in DCA). On my “required rides” list I had the PeopleMover, so once we were done with Ariel we wandered toward Tomorrowland. It moved faster and had a much longer track than I was anticipating, and none of that is a complaint!

After the PeopleMover we wandered over to Carousel of Progress and then went to the Monsters Inc. Comedy Show. From there, we crossed to the other side of the park and went on Pirates. While on that side of the park we also went to Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.

After Big Thunder we made our way to First Aid near the park entrance as I had not properly bandaged the burn I got on my wrist Sunday afternoon curling my hair – to add to the fun, the burn was where my Apple Watch band sits.

While there we poked on over to City Hall to pester our favorite Guest Relations cast member:

Next up, I got a Churro and my mom and I headed back to Haunted Mansion for our 2nd round on the ride.

Around the time we got off of Haunted Mansion, the Taylor family was getting off of the Mine Train, so we met them behind the castle. That day it was Traci’s birthday, and we had planned to see them that day anyway. The last time we had seen Traci was when she and Tyler were in Disneyland at the same time we were back in June 2018. To add to the fun, Tyler and his fiancée Katelynn flew out from Alaska to surprise Traci!

Once we had spent a little time catching up with them, my mom and I went to the Mine Train for the 2nd time that day. It was once again time for food and we mobile ordered Mac & Cheese w/ Bacon Hot Dogs and I have 0 shame about that.

After we ate, we decided to go for one more round on Haunted Mansion and since it was now dusk, we wandered over to see Rapunzel’s Tower with the lanterns lit up.

We decided to close out our night by riding Mine Train one more time because my mom and I are absolutely the people who like to “experience it at night, too.”

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the Emporium for final purchases of the day before finding our bus and going back to the hotel for the night.

Days 3 & 4 in park and our trip home to be continued in Part 2…