Heather discusses her trip to Walt Disney World that she took in September 2020 with her husband and how it compared to past visits since the reopening.
Shannon and Heather have worked together at WDW Prep School for the past six years. Heather is the Editor of the website. Shannon also considers Heather one of her closest friends.
These are notes from this episode. There’s much more info included in the audio so be sure to listen to the episode for a better explanation.
Heather and her husband, Brent, drove (about 2 days to arrive and 2 days to get home) from Kansas to Walt Disney World in early September for a couple’s trip. Heather likes road trips and was still uncomfortable being inside an airport during a pandemic.
They stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Overall, they wanted to experience the parks (two days planned at each theme park) and have some downtime, as well.
They didn’t want to follow a strict schedule, like they usually do when traveling or at Disney World. They left on Sept. 2 and got home on Sept. 14.
Heather’s husband hadn’t been on a full trip since 2017, so he was looking forward to experiencing many new things, like Pandora, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Toy Story Land.
Heather and Brent also booked dining reservations at The Hollywood Brown Derby, Oga’s Cantina, Le Cellier, Skipper Canteen, California Grill, and The Plaza Restaurant.
You can also follow Heather on Instagram if you’d like: @heather_ak_ht.
First Day (September 2)
Two days after getting home (on Sept. 16), Heather went over her entire trip with Shannon.
She started off by talking about how this trip compared to her other more recent visits. She had been to Disney World every month since it reopened.
Heather said it was more crowded, the weather didn’t cooperate as much, and the shortened park hours didn’t help.
They left after work on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and hit a snafu two hours in when Brent realized he only had the dress shoes on his feet and forgot to pack tennis shoes. So, they stopped and bought some new ones in Oklahoma.
Stayed overnight in Frisco, Texas, because Brent wanted to see the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility.
Second Day (September 3)
On their second day of driving, they drove all day and made a stop in New Orleans. Heather said French Quarter was pretty empty and a lot was closed.
Arrival Day (September 4)
They arrived at Pop Century later in the evening and there were long lines in the lobby thanks to a MagicBand issue.
But, Heather used the “unlock door” feature in My Disney Experience to open their hotel room, which any Walt Disney World Resort hotel guest can do.
Later that night, they went back to the front desk after the lines died down to get their MagicBands fixed.
Hollywood Studios (September 5)
First time for Brent to experience both Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land.
They drove to the park, because they didn’t want to battle the lines for Disney Skyliner and wanted to take precautions in case they weren’t working. Heather also doesn’t like rope-dropping using the Skyliner.
They left about 15 minutes too late and by the time they arrived at the parking plaza (at 9 a.m. for a 10 a.m. park opening), it was busier than Heather would’ve preferred.
It took them a long time to get through the parking plaza, even arriving 60 minutes early. They got inside the park at 9:36 a.m.
They immediately got in line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway around 9:40 a.m., but it didn’t open until 9:50 a.m. It was important to get in line for this attraction to make sure they were outside in line with good cell service to grab a Rise of the Resistance boarding group.
When finished with Runaway Railway, their ROTR boarding group was called. They walked through Galaxy’s Edge and Brent also loved the nostalgia of Toy Story Land.
They ended their day at Oga’s Cantina.
The biggest downside to staying at a value resort was only having one dining option, especially when park hours are reduced.
Heather said everyone Mobile Orders at once during peak eating times and she suggested to order at off-peak meal times to avoid crowds. Something to keep in mind is that deluxe resorts have more amenities and dining choices.
Epcot (September 6)
They took the Disney Skyliner, but not at opening. Their arrival time was a bit more flexible due to their 12:30 p.m. lunch reservation at Le Cellier in Canada.
Got in line for the Skyliner at Pop Century around 11:10 a.m. and entered the Caribbean Beach line at 11:20 a.m. It took about 17 minutes from the time they got to Caribbean Beach to boarding a gondola heading to Epcot.
The Skyliner (like with most Disney transportation) is usually busier at park opening and closing. Your mileage may very.
After eating at Le Cellier, they headed to The Land pavilion in preparation of bad weather, but they had to wait in a line to enter the pavilion to prevent crowding. She said the line moved fast and they were able to kill a bunch of time while it rained.
Heather gets motion sickness easy, but said Mission: SPACE green wasn’t that bad and she was fine partly thanks to her keeping her eyes closed.
While raining, Heather and Brent waited in line just to get inside the Mexico pavilion to ride Gran Fiesta Tour. Wait times and such are upside down and a lot that normally wouldn’t have a wait, did.
At Guest Services by the International Gateway on their way out of the park, Heather left a Cast Compliment for a kind Cast Member working at Spice Road Table who let people come inside to escape the downpour.
Heather and Brent walked to Disney’s Beach Club Resort and grabbed a Lyft back to the hotel, instead of walking to the front of the park to grab a bus since the Skyliner was down to due bad weather.
Non-Park Day (September 7)
Instead of heading to Animal Kingdom, they decided to have a chill day, especially since they moved from Pop Century to Contemporary.
They slept in, packed, and had Bell Services move their stuff to Contemporary. They rode around on the Skyliner and took photos of Pop Century.
Heather said Contemporary is much quieter, which her husband liked, but she prefers Pop Century’s bathrooms over Contemporary. There is more counter space at Pop Century and they had to use one of the sinks in their Contemporary room as a makeshift counter.
They wandered around Contemporary and at The Wave. They stayed in a Garden Wing room on the first floor with a patio and view of the Monorail and the Tower and they were close to the buses, as well. It was prime location.
If you check-in online or via the app, pick “Close to Transportation” for room preference. There’s a chance you’ll get a room in the same area.
Magic Kingdom (September 8)
They left their room at 7:56 a.m. and got to the security line via the walkway to Magic Kingdom at 8:05 a.m. They got through security and walking up to the Magic Kingdom at 8:17 a.m.
At 8:24 a.m., guests were allowed to line up at the touch points. The park opened at 8:27 a.m. for a 9 a.m. opening.
Before it got busy, they rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train immediately and then knocked out Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. Boat rides should be prioritized due to how they are loaded for health and safety reasons.
They had lunch at Skipper Canteen, which was Brent’s first time eating here. After, Peter Pan’s Flight was their list ride of the day.
They walked out of Magic Kingdom at 2:01 p.m., got in the resort Monorail line at 2:02 p.m., and walked into their room at 2:12 p.m.
Hollywood Studios (September 9)
Heather learned from her previous mistake and made sure they got to the parking plaza earlier.
Before leaving, they had to call maintenance for a leak in the ceiling. They left around 8:05 a.m. to head to the park. It was so early that there was security blocking the entrance to the parking lot, so they had to hang out until they were allowed into the parking plaza.
There was a 15-minute difference compared to earlier in their trip and it made a huge difference. Overall, Heather said it was much smoother and faster.
They were inside the park and in line for Runaway Railway 15 to 20 minutes earlier than their previous day. They were even on and off the ride before official park opening. They nabbed boarding group 8 for ROTR.
They were also able to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror before boarding ROTR. They ate lunch at 50’s Prime Time Café after Rise.
During lunch, they got a call that they would have to move rooms. They were moved to the 11th floor in the Main Tower with a balcony view of Bay Lake. Heather said Bell Services helped them move and the resort made it easy for them.
Rooms are identical in the Garden Wing and the Tower. Parking is more convenient in the Garden Wing and the pool is closer here compared to the main building.
Garden Wing rooms might be a better choice for some, especially due to parking situation and the pool are super convenient. Plus, you’ll pay less. The walk from the Garden Wing to the Magic Kingdom compared to the Tower isn’t a big difference.
After, they rode Slinky Dog Dash and got back to their room at 2:35 p.m. They had dinner at California Grill and it was great.
Animal Kingdom (September 10)
Arrived at the parking plaza at about 8:20 a.m. and it opened around 8:27 a.m. for a 9 a.m. park opening.
They went straight to Flight of Passage, which they were on and off by 9:30 a.m. Na’vi River was next and they only waited 20 minutes, even though there was a posted wait time of 45 minutes.
Heather and Brent then rode Kilimanjaro Safaris and ate lunch Flame Tree Barbecue, which has lots of outdoor seating and a great view of the Discovery River (you can see the cavalcades here). Expedition Everest was only a 10-minute wait at noon.
They finished at Dinosaur and then left the park at 12:55 p.m. She said there was no need to plan an entire day at Animal Kingdom, based on hours and what was available.
Heather said it is nice to have a car so you can go offsite, especially if you want to explore and grab something to eat that’s not on property.
Epcot (September 11)
Heather did some laundry, but she had to go over to the Garden Wing to do so (yet another Garden Wing perk).
Shannon told Heather that during longer trips she’ll take an extra suitcase for dirty clothes, which she can then roll to the laundry room.
After Brent was done working and Heather finished laundry, they went to Epcot with one goal — Food & Wine. Per Heather, they “conquered it.”
Heather said World Showcase, where some festival kitchens are usually located, is a great space to eat, cool off, sit down, enjoy entertainment, and escape any bad weather.
They went back to the hotel around 4 p.m. and were asleep by 7:30 p.m.
Final Park Day At Magic Kingdom (September 12)
They woke up and it was rainy, which was fine with them because they weren’t in a hurry to get to the park. They only had two things on their list: Thunder Mountain and “it’s a small world.”
They also went to the Country Bears, the Enchanted Tiki Room, ate some Dole Whip, and had lunch at the Plaza Restaurant.
Heather said she loves the Plaza, because even though it’s Table Service, it’s not that much more than what you’d pay for Quick Service. You can also get ice cream here from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.
They left the park early afternoon and that was the end of their trip. They left the next morning and got home on September 14.
Heather said it was a “lovely trip,” slow-paced and low-key, but crowds were much larger and wait times weren’t that bad. She said Labor Day could have played a part in the bigger crowds.
Heather and Shannon also announced they would be traveling to Disney World again in mid-October and staying at Fort Wilderness (and renting a camper).
- If your MagicBand doesn’t work, you can use the “unlock door” feature in My Disney Experience to open your Disney World Resort hotel room
- Being outside or in an outdoor queue is better (cell service-wise) when trying to join the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue
- Don’t Mobile Order during prime meal times to avoid crowds and for a better chance of seating
- Park openings and closings usually see longer lines for transportation
- If the Disney Skyliner is down, you can walk either take a bus back to your hotel at the front of the park or simply walk to Beach Club and grab a Lyft
- If you do a split-stay, Bell Services will move your luggage between resorts for you
- If rope-dropping and driving, you may have to wait a bit until the parking plaza opens, but it’s usually worth arriving about 75 minutes prior to park opening
- Garden Wing rooms at the Contemporary might be a better choice for some due to lesser price and proximity to parking and the pool and access to laundry
- Driving and/or renting a car has its advantages, especially if you have the time and want to go offsite
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