Have you ever wondered what taking a road trip to Walt Disney World with a toddler would be like? Mary Margaret joins us today to chat about her recent trip with her husband and their 15-month old son. They attended many character meals, Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours at Magic Kingdom, and much more!
Mary Margaret is traveling to Disney World with her 15 month old son and husband. They are driving from Arkansas and will stop in Atlanta for the night each way.
They will arrive on January 16 and depart on January 21. They are staying at the Beach Club Resort. This is their son’s first trip.
Their trip includes character meals, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours, and her son’s first haircut! This was a big motivator to do the trip when they did.
Their first trip as adults was in 2020 and was very different. Masking was mandatory, the parks weren’t crowded, and events were limited. This will be very different. Mary Margaret didn’t find the crowds to be that bad. They had Genie+ each day and paid $15/person/day.
They have 4 day park hopper tickers. They will also likely use Genie+. Mary Margaret wants to eliminate as much friction from their trip as possible. They will also use Disney Transportation as well.
Mary Margaret and her sister used the dining reservation system to their advantage and booked multiple dining reservations for different places at similar times. Because you can hold them up to 2 hours before without penalty, they canceled the ones they didn’t use that same day.
Driving (January 15)
They drove from Arkansas to Atlanta. Mary Margaret had originally booked the same hotel for their trip back but ended up canceling it and reserving a different one. It wasn’t the best fit for their family.
Arrival (January 16)
They left Atlanta around 8 a.m and as soon as they left Atlanta, a rock hit their windshield and cracked their windshield. Thankfully, it was okay for their trip. Their stroller also arrived from Scooterbug.
They arrived at Beach Club at 4 p.m. Mary Margaret put in a very specific room request for a king bed. This delayed their check-in process. They weren’t in their room until 4:30 p.m. At that point they were. so ready to be in a room, they took two queens and then moved for the next night.
The had a babysitter coming at 6:30 p.m. Their sitter from Kids Nite Out was so professional. She communicated with them throughout the day, brought toys for her son, and it was a very great experience.
Mary Margaret’s son was so tired from traveling that he fell asleep as soon as the sitter arrived. They left the room and waited for a bus to Grand Floridian to go to Enchanted Rose. They waited 20 minutes before decided to get a Lyft.
They had a great experience at Enchanted Rose. At 8 p.m they took the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom and arrived during Enchantment. They went right to their dinner reservations at 8:45 p.m. at Be Our Guest.
They had a great dinner at Be Our Guest with a really great cast member. They finished their meal at 10 p.m just int time for After Hours!
Their first stop was for Haunted Mansion. There was no wait at all. Mary Margaret and her sister wanted to do Splash Mountain next – it was the last week it was open in it’s current form.
It was a bit chilly so there was no wait. But they had rain jackets, so it was okay! They went to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad next and were on and off by 10:45 p.m. Pirates of the Caribbean was a walk on and Peter Pan’s Flight was the longest wait of the night at 12 minutes!
Next Mary Margaret wanted to meet the princesses. The last time she was at Disney World face characters weren’t meeting. She met Rapunzel first and then went over to meet Tiana.
While she was waiting to meet Tiana, the cast members translated with a child that didn’t speak English. It was a very special moment. After meeting Tiana, they walked on to Seven Dwarves Mine Train. It was just after midnight so they also purchased Genie+ for the next day.
They did Under the Sea – Journey of the LIttle Mermaid and then they hopped on the bus. They were back to their room by 1:30 a.m.
Magic Kingdom (January 17)
After getting in late the night before, it was an early morning! Mary Margaret and her family had an 8:55 a.m. breakfast reservation at Ohana. They took a Minnie Van from their resort to the Polynesian.
The Lyft kept telling them to walk to the Yacht Club main building. However, then the Minnie Van driver went to the Beach Club. However, the cast member was wonderful and it was so nice to have the car seat!
Mary Margaret was so nervous about how her son would do with the characters. The first character to get to their table was Lilo and although her son didn’t know her, he LOVED it!
They had a lightning lane selection for Jungle Cruise and got there about 10:45 a.m. The posted wait time was 80 minutes but they only waited 12 minutes.
Mary Margaret got a lightning lane for Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh after they tapped in at Jungle Cruise. Their next stop was the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel and it wasn’t much of a wait at all.
At 11:45 a.m. Mary Margaret, her sister, and nephew had a Individual Lightning Lanes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The posted wait time was 105 minutes but they were on and off in about 20 minutes.
Their next stop was Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and as soon as they used their lightning lane, she got one for Pirates of the Caribbean. At this point it was about 12:20 p.m. and it was time to start going to Harmony Barber Shop! On their way, they watched the end of the Festival of Fantasy parade.
Mary Margaret had a 1 p.m Harmony Barber Shop first haircut package scheduled for her son. On their way, her son was having a really good nap. He was still sleeping as they got to the barber shop.
They woke him up for his haircut and it was so special. They got some great photos and the haircut transformed her baby to a toddler! It was also under $30 total including tax, which was very affordable. It was only about 15 minutes.
At 1:36 p.m. they got to their lightning lane for Pirates of the Caribbean. Mary Margaret was worried about how her son would handle this ride, but he did great!
They stopped for ice cream at Sunshine Tree Terrace. Mary Margaret mobile ordered but it still took quite a bit before it was ready to pick up. At this point it was getting hot and a bit more crowded.
They got a lightning lane for Journey of the Little Mermaid, which wasn’t necessary, but it helped. At 3:15 p.m. they left the Magic Kingdom and went to Epcot, arriving at 3:45 p.m. via the monorail.
Their lightning lane for Cosmic Rewind wasn’t until 5 p.m. so they stopped in Mexico to get a snack before going to their lightning lane. Mary Margaret really loved it. She called it amazing!
Their song was September and they felt like they were flying. Mary Margaret rode it with her hands in the air the whole time. They finished at 5:30 p.m. and went to their 5:55 p.m. Garden Grill dinner reservation.
After dinner, they were all very tired and grumpy. It was time to go back to the room. They were back in their rooms by 8 p.m. They were also going to a new room – the room Mary Margaret originally requested.
The number is 4565 if anyone is interested. It was very large. The one thing that made sleeping easier was that they brought their own pack n play and a SlumberPod. This creates a room for the child that is black out and a noise machine.
Because of this, Mary Margaret and her husband didn’t need to keep quiet or turn the lights out.
Hollywood Studios (January 18)
At 7 a.m. Mary Margaret’s sister purchased Individual Lightning Lanes for Rise of the Resistance for all of the adults and Cosmic Rewind for the sisters and her nephew. Mary Margaret got lightning lane selections for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
They took the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios at 8:20 a.m. They went right to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Thanks to their lightning lane, they were on and off by 9:15 a.m. Mary Margaret was churning lightning lanes and getting a new one as soon as she tapped in.
They went to their Individual Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance next and they used Rider Switch. Mary Margaret got to ride it twice, which was wonderful! She rode first with her sister and nephew. The first ride was done at 9:50 a.m. and right when they were ready for their second group, they were evacuated.
They got an anytime pass to come back to Rise of the Resistance. Mary Margaret’s husband wasn’t sure he wanted to do it again, so the cast members suggested that they to go a blue umbrella. Which they did, after getting some blue milk!
Mary Margaret was able to switch their anytime experience to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. After some shopping, they hopped on the Skyliner for their 11:40 a.m. Topolino’s Terrace reservation.
They enjoyed their lunch but the cocktails that they previously enjoyed weren’t available. The food and experience were good. On the Skyliner on the way back, Mary Margaret booked a lightning lane for Test Track for later in the day.
They went back to the hotel for a nap. While everyone else napped, Mary Margaret went back to Epcot at 1:45 p.m. She was able to enter the park just before 2 p.m.
Her sister and nephew joined her and they were off Test Track just before 3 p.m. Then they went to Cosmic Rewind. They got the song Conga and it was so fun! After this, Mary Margaret had to say goodbye to her sister and nephew.
Mary Margaret went back to Beach Club to pick up her husband and son. They took the boat to Hollywood Studios for their 4:55 p.m reservation at Oga’s Cantina and to use their anytime pass for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
They stood at the bar for Oga’s Cantina and while it wasn’t toddler friendly, Mary Margaret got a tall high chair for her son. He tried some of the charcuterie they got and water.
After that, Mary Margaret and her family went back to Epcot and used a lightning lane for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Mary Margaret’s son really loved this.
After this, they were ready for their 7:40 p.m dinner reservations at Via Napoli. The meal was really good, but everyone was getting very tired. Mary Margaret’s husband ended up going back to the room after dinner but she and her son stayed to see Harmonious.
She was nervous about how he would like them, but he loved the fireworks! Then they went back to Beach Club. After she put him to bed, at 10:11 p.m. Mary Margaret went to Magic Kingdom by herself!
She arrived at 10:30 p.m. and most everyone was leaving. The park closed at 11 p.m. and that is when Extended Evening Theme Park Hours began. She went right to PeopleMover and got on at 10:45 p.m.
Her next stop was Space Mountain – she only waited about 10 minutes. Then she rode the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel and it’s a small world before placing a mobile order at Casey’s Corner.
At 11:50 p.m. Mary Margaret was able to walk on Pirates of the Caribbean. She picked up her food and ate it while watching the castle. It was peaceful and such a wonderful experience. Mary Margaret is really thankful that she had this time alone. Mary Margaret purchased Genie+ for the next day as well.
She was on the bus by 12:30 a.m. and back at the room in about 20 minutes. Mary Margaret says that Extended Evening Theme Park Hours was far less crowds versus After Hours.
Epcot (January 19)
The morning came early after a late night. Mary Margaret booked lightning lane for Frozen Ever After. They had a 7:45 a.m Cape May Cafe breakfast reservation.
The breakfast experience was a bit chaotic due to the nature of a buffet. There were also several larger parties that took a lot of time with the characters.
However, it was worth it because Mary Margaret’s son LOVED the characters! It was absolutely precious. The food was delicious for everyone.
After breakfast they walked to Epcot and went to Frozen Ever After. The posted wait time was 60 minutes but they were on and off in 10 minutes. Mary Margaret’s son loved it.
When they finished Frozen Ever After Mary Margaret got herself a lightning lane for Soarin’. She didn’t think that Genie+ was necessary for Epcot on this day. She really wanted to focus her attention on the rides they could do together.
Mary Margaret noticed on Soarin’ that there weren’t any scents and she was disappointed! Next they walked on to the Seas with Nemo and Friends. After that, they did Turtle Talk with Crush. Unfortunately it was getting close to her son’s nap, so they had to leave before it was over.
Their next stop was the Mexico Pavilion. Mary Margaret and her son did Gran Fiesta Tour together and it was a walk-on. They were off by 11:15 a.m. and they went to the China Pavilion.
Mary Margaret is Chinese so she really appreciated this pavilion and the items out for the Lunar New Year. At this point, Mary Margaret’s son took a great nap in his stroller.
Mary Margaret and her husband enjoyed some drinks around the World Showcase. They also did some shopping. When her son woke up, it was time to head to their Beaches and Cream lunch reservation at 1:30 p.m.
Before going to lunch, they went to the arcade next to the restaurant. Mary Margaret got a massage in the massage chairs at the arcade before they went to lunch. After a great lunch, they went back to the room and took naps.
At 4:45 p.m. they went to Disney Springs. They had never been to Disney Springs before. They drove to the lime garage and found it very impressive how it could tell you how many spots were available.
They walked around Disney Springs but everyone was getting a little grumpy. In retrospect, Mary Margaret would have built in a rest day – they needed a rest day today!
Mary Margaret left her husband and son on a bench near Homecomin’ and she went to World of Disney. She got some special Lunar New Year envelopes. She was able to do mobile check out which made it so easy even though the store was very crowded.
They arrived at Homecomin’ a bit early and they were still very full from lunch. They got fried chicken salads so they got to try the fried chicken. At dinner, Mary Margaret’s son was screaming joyful screams to hear his own voice. It made for an interesting meal!
Mary Margaret and her son went over to Epcot after dinner. Their first stop was Journey into Imagination. Her son liked it!
Just after 8 p.m. Mary Margaret and her son rode Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure together. They were back at their room by 8:40 p.m. After putting her son to bed, Mary Margaret did laundry. She went on an adventure looking for her AirPods. She finally found them thanks to helpful cast members.
While she was up after midnight, she purchased Genie+.
Animal Kingdom (January 20)
At 7 a.m. Mary Margaret got a Lightning Lane for Kilimanjaro Safaris and purchased an Individual Lightning Lane for Flight of Passage. She used both her and her husband’s phones to get this done.
They got on the bus at 8:11 a.m. and arrived at Animal Kingdom at 8:40 a.m. They went right to Flight of Passage. Mary Margaret was riding alone and was on and off in about 25 minutes. She was disappointed to miss part of the queue because of he lightning lane.
On their walk to Kilimanjaro Safaris they saw a Flotilla and it was adorable. As soon as they tapped in at the safari, Mary Margaret got a lightning lane for Na’vi River Journey.
Mary Margaret was so excited to have her son see the safari, but he ended up falling asleep as soon as they got going! They saw lots of animals and when they got off, he continued his nap in the stroller.
While he slept, Mary Margaret and her husband got some snacks at Tamu Tamu. Animal Kingdom was very hot and getting crowded. At 10:45 a.m. they got in line for the Festival of the Lion King. While they waited, Mary Margaret started booking Lightning Lanes for their evening at Magic Kingdom.
She was able to book a lightning lane for Peter Pan’s Flight for that evening. She was very excite to find that available!
Mary Margaret’s son LOVED the Festival of the Lion King. They all really loved it. After the show, they went to their 11:50 a.m reservation at Tusker House. While the food was amazing, the restaurant was chaotic. There were some wild children running around the restaurant making it difficult for everyone to do their job.
After lunch they walked over to Na’vi River Journey. It was an easy walk on the path. They were on and off by 1:20 p.m. and they were ready to leave Animal Kingdom. They took the bus back to their resort and were back just before 2 p.m.
They were back in the room to nap and Mary Margaret was stacking lightning lanes for Magic Kingdom for that evening.
They arrived at Magic Kingdom at 4:30 p.m. and were immediately greeted with a cavalcade. They used their lightning lane Peter Pan’s Flight and were off just after 5 p.m. It was starting to get crowded so Mary Margaret was using lightning lanes to bypass the crowds.
They used a lightning lane for it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion. They got to Haunted Mansion at 5:35 p.m. and they got stuck. Unfortunately they weren’t evacuated. (Mary Margaret really wanted to!)
They went to their Liberty Tree Tavern 6 p.m. reservation next. They had the best experience! The food was wonderful and Alaina, their server, was excellent. As soon as they left dinner, Mary Margaret went to the Christmas Shoppe to get a customized First Visit pin.
At 8 p.m. their pin was finally ready and they were headed out of the park. As they were leaving, they were ushered behind Casey’s Corner to exit the park. They watched the fireworks from the bus stop. They got back to their room just after 9 p.m. They were exhausted!
Departure (January 21)
They woke up sad that they didn’t have Genie+ selections to book because it was their departure day! They did get breakfast from Beach Club Marketplace and were on the road by 10 a.m.
They stayed at a hotel that was much more family friendly on their trip back.
Originally Mary Margaret and her husband said they would never bring a child in a stroller. However, now that they have a child, they wanted to book something before he turned 3 because he is free under three.
She began working with a travel agent to plan her trip and she was looking at a moderate resort. It was much more affordable than she anticipated so she discussed a deluxe resort.
Her travel agent highly encouraged this because with a child in a stroller, you cannot beat the convenience of a deluxe resort. They had 5 nights in a water view room at Beach Club and 4 day park hopper tickets.
The initial cost for their trip was just under $5,000. To finance their trip, she used a Disney Premier Visa to pay the balance of her trip. She got a $350 signing bonus when she put the entire package on the card. This card will also give her 10% off merchandise $50 or more in the parks.
She had 6 months at 0% interest to pay for the trip. She also got $100 in points to use to pay for things in the park. She has the money to pay off the card in full but she placed that money in a high yield savings account. She will earn some interest and will take that money to pay off the credit card before it starts accruing interest.
Don’t forget to request your rewards card well before your trip so that you get it in time!
She also uses a Target Red Card to purchase Disney Gift Cards at a discount and then she uses those for the purchases she makes on the trip. This includes meals too! Each day she estimates how much they will spend and she will load that amount to the gift card for that day.
- Copy your gift card numbers into the notes app on your phone. Then when it comes time to purchase something (especially mobile order!) you can just copy and paste it into the My Disney Experience App.
- If you are resting a stroller that you haven’t used before, watch some YouTube videos on it before you arrive so that you know how to use it.
Links for this episode:
- Mousekeeping Envelopes
- Disney After Hours Guide
- Disney After Hours Tickets and Info from Walt Disney World
- Best Disney Character Meals
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