Amazing and exhausting, that’s how Ellen described her one-on-one trip to Disney World with her teenager. She shares details of this very special trip, including seeing her child grow in bravery and feel safe at Disney.
Ellen and her teenager are Disney veterans but have never been on a trip just the two of them. They wanted to do Festival of the Arts together. This is their first trip as a family of two, a few years post-divorce.
Ellen and her child flew from Cincinnati to Orlando on January 21. They stayed at All Star Movies – their first stay at a value resort. Their trip includes an after hours event, the Disney Dining Plan, and exploring Festival of the Arts together.
Ellen plans to utilize the Dining Plan by having one Table Service meal per day. She has several character meals scheduled.
Arrival (January 21)
Ellen and her child left a very cold Kentucky and arrived in Orlando. It was in the 60s when they landed and it was lovely. The weather was wonderful but the humidity was very high, which made it cooler.
After they landed, they got in a Lyft to their resort. They got the text that their room was ready on their way, which was nice. They liked All Star Movies but did have quite a few school groups which meant a lot of kids.
They were in the Toy Story section and liked that section but did have a bit of room noise. Ellen did have a preferred room. Ellen was thankful not to be next to the pool and be close to dining and transportation.
They got changed and unpacked in their room before taking a bus to the Magic Kingdom. They got on the monorail and went to the Contemporary. They checked in early for their Chef Mickey’s reservation and did some shopping while they waited. They were running about 20 minutes behind.
They did some people watching before they were seated. It was their least favorite meal, but it wasn’t bad. The characters were very slow – they were done eating but were still waiting on characters.
Ellen said that at many restaurants she had to ask to get a check for the tip even though they were using the dining plan. The servers weren’t automatically bringing the check for her to tip the servers.
After their meal, they went to the arcade and had a great time. It was wonderful because they didn’t have to worry about tickets and prizes. That made it much more enjoyable for Ellen.
They left the Contemporary and went over to the Polynesian. This is one of their favorite resorts and they have stayed there many times. Ellen planned to get a dole whip while they were there but it was too cold!
It was starting to get late and they were getting tired. They took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and hopped on a bus back to their resort.
Epcot (January 22)
At 7 a.m. Ellen set up Standby Skipper, got her child to do a virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind, and she was getting an individual lightning lane for Cosmic Rewind for 9 a.m. This was really helpful for their morning touring plans.
Ellen and her child were waiting for a bus by 7:30 a.m. and were lined up for Soarin’ by 8:01 a.m. Ellen’s child really likes Soarin’ and they were in the first show. Most of the people at Early Entry were going to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure so they really didn’t have a wait at Soarin’.
They were excited to see Soarin’ over California. There wasn’t much of a wait so they did it again immediately. When they got off, Living with the Land already had a 35 minute wait. At 8:55 a.m. they went to Spaceship Earth and walked right on.
After Spaceship Earth they went to Cosmic Rewind. She was on and off by 9:40 a.m. The lightning lane makes that so quick! Ellen’s child was not interested in riding and got a little upset. Ellen was able to ride so that she could share her experience with her child.
Ellen’s child was very worried because Ellen paid for two lightning lanes but her child didn’t use it. However, it was completely fine. They left Cosmic Rewind and checked in for their 9:50 a.m. reservation at Garden Grill.
While they were waiting for their table, they saw a guest throwing a tantrum at the host stand because they wanted to have an entire breakfast with Mickey.
They had a really great experience. The characters were very quick and they got to see all of them twice. While they were eating, Ellen’s child wanted to ride Soarin’ again. Ellen was able to get a lightning lane and they went right over.
After Soarin’ they got a lightning lane for Journey into Imagination. Ellen really loves this ride and it was super fun. They also did the Figment meet and greet, which was really special. Figment had a photopass photographer.
They went to meet Joy next and there was not a photopass photographer. Ellen’s child wasn’t feeling getting photos taken. However, in the Imagination Pavilion they just wanted to hang out. Ellen loved seeing them playing like a child at 13 years old.
Ellen said that she was able to give her child more control by asking them if they wanted to be the photographer or in the photos with characters. This gave them a choice.
Ellen had mobile merchandise ordered the Figment popcorn bucket so they went to the Odyssey building to pick that up. They also got the skittles cake. Ellen’s child loves freeze-dried skittles.
They also did some activities there. Ellen’s child loved the spin art and had a really great time. They also had a really fun time doing the plaster activity. Each of the projects needed about an hour to be picked up but it was about 2 p.m. and Ellen was ready to leave. They allowed her the opportunity to pick up the next day.
They picked up some snacks as well. Ellen said that she had to fight for paying for snacks with cash versus using a snack credit. Some cast members really wanted her to use a snack credit on things she knew weren’t a good value of a snack credit.
They got on the bus by 2:47 p.m. to get back to the room for a rest. Ellen went right to sleep, which was lovely.
They arrived to Magic Kingdom just after 6 p.m. Ellen says this was too early because they’d planned to stay until 1 a.m. for the After Hours event.
On the bus on their way to Magic Kingdom Ellen set up Standby Skipper to get a Jungle Cruise lightning lane and then Adventureland lightning lanes. When they entered, they had lightning lanes for Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.
When they walked in, they looked at the crystals store. After that, Ellen got a big Starbucks for the evening. However, she had to drink it very fast because you cannot bring it on the ride. They went on Pirates of the Caribbean and were off by 6:54 p.m.
They got in line to check in for their After Hours event. They got checked in right at 7 p.m. They were staying in Adventureland for their lightning lane for Jungle Cruise so they did Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the Tiki Room.
It was time for their Jungle Cruise lightning lane and their skipper Courtney was wonderful. Ellen really wanted to see Happily Ever After but her child didn’t want to slow down!
They stopped for some food at Cosmic Ray’s and then did rides in Tomorrowland. While on their way to get food, Ellen and her child witnessed a proposal at the Tangled photo opportunity. The fireworks were going off in the background and it was really wonderful.
Standby Skipper was able to get them lightning lanes in Tomorrowland while they were in that area. They walked right on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin with a lightning lane. Unfortunately Ellen’s child’s light wasn’t working so Ellen beat them.
They were able to get so much done before After Hours even began! They walked right on PeopleMover before getting a lightning lane for Tomorrowland Speedway. When they got off, they walked over to TRON to see how long the wait would be.
They got some photos taken around TRON around 10 p.m. and the standby wait seemed fairly long. The photopass photographer said it would be about 45 minute wait all night.
They opted to do the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel while they waited. This was the very beginning of the after hours event. By 10:32 p.m. they were on Haunted Mansion before going to Big Thunder Mountain and riding twice in a row during Enchantment.
Ellen was able to get some video from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with Enchantment in the background. Ellen had hoped to see the fireworks but her child was more interested in riding rides.
Just after 11 p.m. they had no wait for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Then they went to TRON and there was very little wait. Ellen’s child opted not to ride on this one. Ellen is glad they didn’t ride because she didn’t think her child would like it.
Their next stop was Space Mountain shortly after midnight. Ellen’s child really loves Space Mountain. From there, they went back to get Ellen’s child’s phone. While Ellen went to get their phone, they went on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train again.
Their last ride was it’s a small world. It had been down most of the night, so they got on at 12:40 a.m. There were a lot of stops for loading and unloading due to wheel chairs. The ride was relatively empty which made it a little bit creepy.
They left the park at this point. They were so tired. They’d done a lot of walking without much stopping. They were able to ride a lot of rides, but that meant they were walking through queues and sitting just for a short period of time for the ride before walking again.
Hollywood Studios (January 23)
Ellen scheduled a 9 a.m. Lyft to bring them to the Riviera. They got up and got ready. Ellen was very excited about her cute outfit for their character breakfast.
They had a 9:45 a.m. Topolino’s Terrace breakfast reservation. Ellen’s kid is still okay with characters coming to the table so they are doing some character meals during this trip.
They checked in a little early at 9:15 a.m. and were seated by 9:26 a.m. They had the very best service and experience. Every cast member was incredible. They especially loved the bacon and waffles.
Their character interactions were really wonderful. This was Ellen’s favorite character meal she’s ever done. Everything was just great and they fell in love with the Riviera because of their experience.
They did some shopping and Ellen got a cold brew coffee before they hopped on a bus. They finished their breakfast and were at Hollywood Studios by 11 a.m. There were some longer lines this morning.
Standby Skipper got lightning lanes to get a Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. While they were waiting for those lightning lanes, they waited 35 minutes for Star Tours. This helped them spend some time before the noon Indiana Jones show.
Hollywood Studios was very busy today. They enjoyed Indiana Jones a lot. Ellen hadn’t done that since she was a child.
At 12:46 p.m. they went to Alien Swirling Saucers and them immediately to Slinky Dog Dash to use their lightning lanes. Ellen’s child was a little bit nervous about Slinky Dog Dash but did ride and LOVED it.
They went to their Droid Depot account and the cast members were really impressed with Dawn’s child’s bracelet. They’d gotten a bracelet in the Seas Pavilion that has a QR code where you can track a dolphin. It was really neat! Ellen’s child like that everyone was interested in that.
They spent some time at Droid Depot. Ellen’s child has done this before but their droid lives with their dad. They are building one for their mom’s house. Ellen will also be building a droid for her fiance.
Droid Depot was not busy. Ellen saw some people walk up to get a droid without an appointment. Ellen had a backpack from a previous trip and also purchased another one.
After their droid appointment they’d hoped to get some lightning lanes in Galaxy’s Edge, but they couldn’t. They decided they would slowly leave the park to take a break at the resort. They took a break until about 5:15 p.m.
They went over to Epcot and had some lightning lanes for Test Track and Cosmic Rewind. They spent time building a car for Test Track but then were put with a single rider and their car over-rode Ellen and her child’s car.
They scanned in at 6:31 p.m. for Cosmic Rewind and were off before 7:30 p.m. They used an individual lightning lane. Ellen and her child loved it. They got Disco Inferno.
They did all of the photopass opportunities before using a lighting lane for Soarin’ because Ellen’s child really wanted to ride it again. They had a return time for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at 8:30 p.m. but needed to get their artwork from the Odyssey Building before 8:30 p.m. when they closed.
They walked all the way to get their artwork and then went to their Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure return time. They went into the bakery in France and got some snacks and pastries for breakfast. This was the end of their day at Epcot.
Magic Kingdom (January 24)
They originally planned to rope drop Magic Kingdom but they were tired and opted to take a slower morning. Ellen got a coffee and they got to Magic Kingdom around 9:40 a.m.
Ellen had reservations to get photos taken with her child. She wanted to have good photos of the two of them. Ellen went into the shop to get bride and groom ears and have them embroidered.
The cast members at the shop were very different – one was very grumpy and one was very jolly. Ellen thought it would take a while but they said they would text her and they were ready within 10 minutes.
They checked in for the Capture Your Moment reservation. Ellen has done this before and they were able to be more flexible about where they went for photos. They wanted to do the Castle and Crystal Palace.
They did have an assistant and a photographer, which was helpful when people stopped to get in line. The assistant was able to redirect them to the nearest photopass photographer. It was a really wonderful experience and they got about 60 photos.
Their next stop was a Pirates of the Caribbean with a lightning lane before checking in for their 1 p.m. reservations at Crystal Palace. This is Ellen’s child’s favorite restaurant. After getting so many Capture Your Moment reservations, her child was not interested in getting any other photos during the meal.
They had a good lunch. Ellen says she preferred the food at Crystal Palace to Chef Mickey’s. After their meal, they opted to go back to the room. They were wearing clothes when they thought it would be cooler outside.
At 2:30 p.m. Ellen took a Lyft to the Polynesian to meet with other Patrons. They went to Trader Sam’s and had a wonderful time. At 5 p.m. Ellen’s child took a bus to the Magic Kingdom and the monorail by themselves to meet Ellen.
After Trader Sam’s Ellen and her child left to go to Hollywood Studios. They arrived in time for their lightning lanes: Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, and Smuggler’s Run right in a row. They waited about 15 minutes for Smuggler’s Run.
A little bit after 7 p.m. they went on Slinky Dog Dash. They loved doing this at night. Their next stop was Toy Story Mania with a lightning lane. They opted to continue using Standby Skipper to get lightning lanes.
They went on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway with a lightning lane. After that, Ellen wanted to go on Tower of Terror for the very first time. She met a friend on the ride who was also on it for the first time. Ellen’s child didn’t want to ride so they opted to stay off.
After that, they decided to walk out of the park. They waited a very long time for a bus. It took 35 minutes to load two wheelchairs on the bus. Ellen doesn’t know why it took so long for them to be able to get on the bus.
Ellen’s child was able to make some friends on the bus, which was really lovely. They left safe enough at Disney to comfortably speak with others who had some similar interests.
Animal Kingdom (January 25)
They got up and left at 7:26 a.m. Early Entry began at 8:30 a.m. and they weren’t necessarily trying to get there very early. They were able to get into the park at 8:20 a.m. and went right to Flight of Passage. The wait was immediately 50 minutes.
Ellen opted to get an individual lightning lane at 1:50 p.m. and they decided to use that and not wait in line. They got a night blossom and shared it, took photos in Pandora, and then waited 7 minutes for Navi River Journey.
Ellen really wanted to do Festival of the Lion King but they missed one and went to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and went to the Affection Center to see the animals. They wanted to do the Animation Experience, but decided they would prefer to do Festival of the Lion King so they went back to see that.
They loved Festival of the Lion King. After that they went to get some photos taken. Ellen had a lightning lane for Expedition Everest. They got in line around 12:30 p.m. Ellen’s child was nervous but they rode it and loved it!
They wanted to ride again, but Ellen’s child was getting warm so they decided to do It’s Tough to be a Bug. After this, they took a break and got water. They did this until their 1 p.m. Flight of Passage lighting lane.
Ellen knew that her child needed to go back to the resort to take a rest. She sent her child on the bus back to the resort and she went to Disney Springs to get Gideon’s. Ellen took the Coronado Springs bus to Disney Springs.
She went to Gideon’s and waited about 20 minutes. She got 4 cookies and an iced coffee. She also shopped around World of Disney. She wanted a specific spirit jersey that she had seen at Epcot on the first day of their trip.
After Disney Springs, Ellen planned to take a bus to the Beach Club but accidentally got on a bus to Caribbean Beach. She ended up taking the bus to Caribbean Beach and hopped immediately on an Epcot bus.
Ellen arrived to Epcot a little early before meeting her child. They met up and had a really great dinner at 7:30 p.m. at Teppan Edo. They had some great tablemates and had wonderful conversations.
After dinner, Ellen’s child went immediately out of the park to go back to the resort. Ellen stopped at some art booths and took her time leaving the park. She was able to see a little bit of the fireworks before leaving the park.
Epcot (January 26)
They didn’t feel like they needed to rush this morning but were up and out of their room by 8:30 a.m. and were at the park by 9:20 a.m.
They stopped for photopass photos on their way in before a 9:30 a.m. individual lightning lane for Cosmic Rewind. They got Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
They enjoyed Cosmic Rewind and they were able to be on and off without any delay. They walked to the World Showcase and just wandered around. They enjoyed Gran Fiesta Tour and enjoyed the Mexico Pavilion.
Ellen’s child was getting very tired. When they got to Japan, they opted to go back to the front of the park and went back to the resort to rest. Ellen got some food at Regal Eagle to rest for a bit. She got some photos taken by photopass photographers and continued wandering around the World Showcase.
When she was done in Epcot, she took the monorail to Magic Kingdom. She enjoyed being in Magic Kingdom by herself until her child met her. When she arrived, she took the train around and met some Princesses, which was really fun.
Before meeting her child, she did Journey of the Little Mermaid before meeting her child at Crystal Palace. Standby Skipper got lightning lanes for Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean around their dinner reservation at Skipper Canteen.
After doing the Tiki Room again, they went to their dinner and had a wonderful experience. They really loved it, had a great server, and delicious food.
After dinner, they went to the Jungle Cruise. Ellen loves doing this right after dinner at Skipper Canteen. Then they went to Pirates of the Caribbean where they had their first negative guest experience. The row two in front of them had three women recording with their phones at full lightness. They were asked to put them away, but they refused.
Their next stop was it’s a small world and then Journey of the Little Mermaid. They were stopped several times on Journey of the Little Mermaid so it took a bit longer. They also went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as a walk-on.
At 9:38 p.m. Ellen’s child opted to go on again, assuming it would be a walk-on again, but the posted wait time was 35 minutes. Unfortunately it was a very long wait and they weren’t off until 10:25 p.m. When they got off, they were done and asked to go back to the resort.
Ellen went to PeopleMover next and ended up waiting 35 minutes for this as well. Ellen got on at 10:53 p.m. and didn’t get off until closer to 11:30 p.m. It felt like forever. It was neat to see Space Mountain with all of the lights on.
When she got off, she tried one more gift shop and was able to get the spirit jersey she was looking for. On her way out, she took photos and took her time leaving the park. She’d hoped to get a snack on the way out but was just so tired.
Ellen ate some goldfish and coke on the bus on the way back to the resort.
Departure (January 27)
Ellen slept a few hours before it was time to get up and get on their way to MCO. Their pick-up time was 7 a.m. They arrived at MCO and met a lovely family at the gate who had been on their first Disney trip.
They got back to their home and Ellen slept until the next day!
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