Disney World and Puerto Rico May 2014 trip report

by Shannon Albert 35 comments Like the Facebook page

momdaughterheaderpicMy daughter and I just returned from a week-long and first annual mom/daughter celebrate-the-end-of-a-college-year trip. We visited the northeastern part of Puerto Rico and then spent a couple of days at Disney World.

We had SO much fun together. Here's how it went.


Puerto Rico

Many people following along on the Facebook Page liked hearing about our time in Puerto Rico (especially the Puerto Rican readers - I had no idea there were so many!) and we just had SUCH an amazing time.

I often wish that I had an outlet for non-Disney travel info because I go to as many other places as I do Disney World. If you're interested in some suggestions for Puerto Rico, expand the area below by clicking the "show" button to read more.

Puerto Rico travel info Show

48 hours in Disney World

While visiting Puerto Rico was my daughter's request, I decided to tack on 48 hours at Disney World to try a few new things before we came home.

First up was checking into our resort, Port Orleans French Quarter.

We've visited Port Orleans French Quarter before but hadn't stayed until this trip. It's so beautiful, so small and so convenient. We were in building 4 and felt like we got to everything so quickly.

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Some pics...

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I think this is definitely my new favorite Moderate Resort. The downsides are that this resort is often excluded from promotions and it has fewer amenities than its sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside. We took the bus and walkway to get between French Quarter and Riverside which wasn't bad at all, and allowed us access to more things.

In fact, it was a beautiful walk back after dinner and watching Yehaa Bob at Riverside...

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Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios

The first thing we did after arriving to our hotel was drop our things off in our hotel room and head to Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Jedi Mickey Character Dining Meal at Hollywood and Vine.

These reservations sold out quickly after being announced a couple of months ago so I knew everybody there was a big fan (and not a group with all grey MagicBands in sight!).

After checking in, we were told to get in line to wait our turn taking a pic with Chip and Dale (sadly, there was a family in this line thinking they were going to eat inside but they didn't have a reservation so they were waiting for no reason)...

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Then we were told to wait outside in a sitting area until our table was ready. My daughter said she felt like she was at a ComiCon because people were SO dressed up for Star Wars Weekends. Here's a family that was waiting while we were...

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After about 10-15 minutes, we were called to our table where the characters made their way around...

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And we ate at the buffet between characters, including these cute little desserts...

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And kids were driving their parents crazy with the paper light sabers that were at the tables. The servers give you pieces of tape to put it together...

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The verdict? The food is just OK which is typical for Hollywood and Vine, and most of the food offered is just the normal offerings that the restaurant always has (but the food has been given new Star Wars-themed names). The experience was fun and since I've done so many things at Disney World, I really look forward to the chance to experience new things.

I think Star Wars fans will like this experience, though at the price of $55.99 for adults and $33.99 for kids 3-9 (or 2 Table Service credits on the Disney Dining Plan), you'll have to decide if the price is worth it. This is currently only offered through mid-June but since it's proven to be so popular, maybe they'll extend it and start offering it year round.

After dinner, we decided to sneak in a couple of rides before it was time to watch the fireworks. We had a FastPass+ for Rock n Roller Coaster and we were surprised to see that the standby line wasn't too long. We then headed to Star Tours where the standby was just 10 minutes (and a bonus - we got to do my favorite version of this ride which makes me laugh hysterically).

At this point, it was time to find a spot to watch the Symphony in the Stars fireworks which are only being shown during Star Wars Weekends. There's a pre-show before the fireworks start and if you are positioned close enough to watch the pre-show, you won't be able to see the fireworks as easily. We stood further back which gave us a better view of the fireworks which is a huge priority for me - I LOVE Disney fireworks.

Here's a video taken by somebody who was positioned a little bit closer than we were...

Afterward, we headed to the second showing of Fantasmic as there are always two shows scheduled during Star Wars Weekends - the first one is at 9 p.m. and the second one is at 10:30 p.m. Whenever two shows are offered, the second one will always be less crowded.

We ended up close enough to get some great pics...

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At that point, it was time to head back to our hotel and try to get some sleep.

Magic Kingdom day

When I booked this trip, I had assumed we'd get to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train while we were there which is 1 of the reasons I wanted to be there at this time. Unfortunately, it wasn't open at all (except for Cast Members who were riding it) so we'll have to save that for next time.

I don't normally recommend Magic Kingdom on Saturdays because it's a popular day for people to be there, but I was prepared to arrive early and fit in as many rides as possible before the crowds arrived.

We stopped by the Port Orleans French Quarter food court to order some beignets (if you're on the Disney Dining Plan, an order of 3 beignets is a snack credit; an order of 6 beignets is a Quick Service credit) and took them on the bus with us to eat at Magic Kingdom.

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Just make sure you have some wet wipes because these are MESSY.

We arrived at Magic Kingdom a few minutes after 8:00 and crowds stayed light until about 8:20 when they started to grow...

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We were sitting on the seats surrounding the tree near the entrance to Magic Kingdom so we were able to stay comfortable while eating breakfast as we waited.

I took this video of the opening show from where we were sitting.

 
At that point, it was time to go in and I was a little bit stressed about this because the opening process has changed due to people running to see Anna and Elsa. Cast Members now hold everybody back to make sure the walk is slow and steady. Although it was weird to be packed in so tightly, I didn't find it to be too difficult.

Once you get to the point where the various lands split off, you can go whichever direction you need to. We were going to do Fantasyland first so we followed the crowds through the castle and then split off to our own area.

When I posted a video on the Facebook Page of the crowds going in, people seemed really freaked out by it and many said they'd be showing up later to avoid it. I don't recommend doing that.

I do recommend showing up early to be toward the front of the group. The walk is slow and steady and you can still enjoy rides with low waits as soon as you get down Main Street.

We went right to Peter Pan's Flight but it was closed due to some ride issues so we ended up doing Journey of the Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh and Haunted Mansion in the first hour.

In the second hour, we did Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain.

In our third hour, we used a FastPass+ reservation to ride Big Thunder Mountain and then it was time to dine at Be Our Guest for lunch.

I had reserved a FastPass+ for lunch at Be Our Guest. The line to check in had several people in it but the line to get into the restaurant is realllllly long so this is a big time saver.

Although I had pre-ordered all of our food online, the order didn't make it through to the restaurant so we had to order again. My daughter was happy about this because she didn't like what I had picked beforehand. She ended up ordering a kid's meal which was just the right size for her.

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After lunch, we went to Tomorrowland to ride the PeopleMover, see Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and use a FastPass+ reservation to ride Space Mountain.

At that point, it was about an hour before the Festival of Fantasy parade was set to begin so we headed toward the front of the park to find a spot at the train station which has tables and chairs and is shaded.

Due to the scale of this parade and the fact that it takes place in the afternoon, I really like this spot so you can be up higher to see more of the floats while being shaded from the mid-day sun.

Even though we were there an hour beforehand, all of the table and chairs had been taken. We sat on the ground and still had a great view. Many people were holding spots here (lots of grandparents seated while their younger relatives were out doing things in the nearby shops) so that's a good option you might consider.

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This parade is absolutely great and I've never felt that about an afternoon parade at Disney World. For people wanting to take mid-day breaks, this could make planning difficult. If you have little ones who can rest in strollers, it might be a good chance to have them rest in the stroller on this day instead of back in your hotel room.

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After the parade, a huge crowd of people will follow the parade (this happens at EVERY parade) so your best bets are to either exit the park before they get to the front or hop on the train (you're already at the train station so it's just a few steps away) and head to another part of the park.

We got on the train and rode it over to Fantasyland where we walked the path to Tomorrowland to use a FastPass+ to ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.

At that point, we had used all of our FastPass+ reservations and wanted to see what it was like to get a bonus FastPass+ at the kiosks. There are kiosks positioned everywhere. Just look for the FastPass+ signs and Cast Members wearing turquoise shirts.

We only waited a few minutes before somebody was able to help us. We told him we wanted a FastPass+ for Space Mountain (we had already ridden it but bonus FastPass+ reservations can be for any ride you want, including those you're already used a FastPass+ to ride). At 4 p.m., the soonest we could ride was going to be 9 p.m. We were actually planning to leave at this point but just wanted to see what we could get.

Tips on getting bonus FastPass+ reservations:

  • I don't think they're really useful at any park except for Magic Kingdom, unless you really want to re-ride something at the other parks
  • Availability is limited and likely to be either not available or for hours away
  • If you're planning to leave for an afternoon break, it makes a lot of sense to use the first 2 hours to tour without FastPass+, then use your 3 FastPass+ reservations for late morning and early afternoon, stop to get a bonus FastPass+ for later on, leave for a break, return in the evening and use your bonus FastPass+

We ended up leaving to rest in our hotel room, hopped a bus to Port Orleans Riverside (we walked to the bus stop, asked the first bus that arrived if it was going to Riverside and rode there) to get dinner at the create-your-own-pasta station in the food court there, watch Yehaa Bob and then walk back to Port Orleans French Quarter.

Epcot day

Our final day was a bit hectic because we had to wake up at 6 a.m. to get our room packed up, take our bags to the airline check-in desk, take 1 carry-on to luggage services and then be at the bus stop for our early breakfast reservation.

Our breakfast was scheduled at 8:20 a.m. at Akershus and we were at the bus stop around 7:15 and arrived at Epcot by 7:40 a.m. or so.

Every park has a special area for people with reservations to go...

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As long as you have a reservation, you can get into the park early. However, once you arrive at the restaurant, they will likely be calling names according to the time of your reservation so people with 8:05 reservations were called before we were.

Once checked in and hearing our name called, we were taken to have our pic taken with Belle. This printed photo is included with the breakfast reservation.

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You then wait a moment to be taken to your table where a server takes drink orders. You can go to the buffet to get uncooked food items like yogurt, bagels, fruit, etc.

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And then the server brings a plate of hot food for the table...

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And then princesses start to appear...

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And then children are invited to join in the princess processional. Notice that many of the kids dressed in the costumes of one of the princesses are walking in the processional with that princess...

 
My thoughts: this restaurant is the best value on the Disney Dining Plan (only 1 Table Service credit) and much less rushed and hurried than the princess meal at Magic Kingdom. Of course, it doesn't take place in the castle which is a big draw there, but I'd highly suggest Akershus as a great princess option (breakfast is a better bet than other meals since many people don't enjoy the food served at lunch and dinner). We enjoyed the experience, liked our food and had fun watching all of the little ones meet princesses.

Afterward, we headed to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills and Living with the Land. Then we used a FastPass+ for Soarin', saw Captain EO, rode Figment, saw the butterflies (only there during the Flower and Garden Festival) and then headed for the World Showcase.

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We started on the Mexico side of the World Showcase and made our way over to Canada. I had just been at Epcot for the Flower and Garden Festival in March with my son and last year with my mom but visiting with my daughter was a totally different experience.

She LOVED all of the special kiosks and displays that are set up for the festival. She asked lots of questions about some of the all-natural beauty products (and we purchased a few), the bonsai trees, the decorative items, etc. It's so funny how different an experience can be based on who is there. She made me look at this event a little differently. It wasn't just pretty flowers for her; it was a whole experience full of lots of interesting things that she loved.

Some pics of our time in the World Showcase...

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And I decided on this trip that the Canada pavilion is probably my favorite. It's just beautiful. The gardens out front are modeled after Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia (which I visited a few years ago), there's a waterfall, it has my favorite of all of the movies shown in the World Showcase and I love eating at Le Cellier.

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At this point, we wanted to sit down and take a break so we went to Refreshment Port which is located between the Canada pavilion and Future World because they sell cronuts there (they actually call them "croissant doughnuts") because I'd been wanting to try one.

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I thought it was delicious and a great snack option. It costs $4.49 or 1 snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

After that, we visited a couple of shops, rode Ellen's Energy Adventure and Spaceship Earth and then headed for the bus stop to get back to our resort before Magical Express picked us up.

While we waited for our Magical Express bus at Port Orleans French Quarter, a janitor drew this on the sidewalk near us.

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Post-trip thoughts

Although I've been to Disney World a million times, I always come away with some new lessons or affirmations of things I already believed.

Don't make your arrival or departure days too hectic
Since we only had 48 hours to spend at Disney World, I purposely crammed as much in as possible but it did make for a stressful start and end to our trip.

On our arrival day, our flight was delayed and we ended up missing a couple of FastPass+ reservations and I thought we might also miss our dinner reservation. I wouldn't suggest planning things so soon after arrival.

On our departure day, we had to wake up early to pack and get out to our breakfast reservation. On a previous trip, we scheduled a late breakfast at our hotel which gave us plenty of time to pack and we didn't have to rush to get on a bus. That pace was much better.

Split meals!
My daughter and I can't eat a lot at one sitting and really should have shared more entrees. You can split entrees at most restaurants if you're paying out-of-pocket (except buffets and restaurants that require pre-payment) and you can split Quick Service meals if you're on the Disney Dining Plan.

The pasta we ordered at Port Orleans Riverside is 1 Quick Service credit on the Disney Dining Plan and each portion could've fed 2-3 people.

We did split the beignets from Port Orleans French Quarter which cost 1 Quick Service credit for an order of 6.

If you're willing to split meals, it's pretty easy to stretch your credits to eat 3 meals a day on the Disney Dining Plan (or save a lot of money if you're paying out-of-pocket).

Bad stuff can happen on trips
We had many unfortunate (but relatively minor) things happen on this trip - I lost my prescription sunglasses in the ocean (I ignored the sunglass strap suggestion on my own packing list!), my daughter shattered the glass on her phone, we spilled a drink, a bird flew into my neck while we were walking to breakfast at Epcot, etc.

When I was a kid, my mom would've screamed at me for doing a lot of these things but most people aren't sociopaths and already feel guilty about making mistakes. It's important to just take a deep breath and not let it color the rest of your day. This was something I kept having to remind myself because we had so many things happen so close together.

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So - did you learn anything new from my report? Or suddenly have a desire to visit Puerto Rico? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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