Jonathan and his daughter took a long December trip to Disney World. They are DVC owners and frequent travelers, but they were able to have new experiences while also working and schooling at Disney!
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.
Jonathan and his 11 year old daughter traveled from their home in New York to spend a week working and doing virtual school in December of 2021. They left New York on December 13 and were at Walt Disney World until December 19.
They are DVC owners and used points to stay at the Riviera in a tower studio and Boulder Ridge. They originally planned a split stay between the Riviera and the Boardwalk, but when they checked into their room Jonathan’s daughter was too scared of the clown decor to stay.
During the days of their trip, Jonathan worked and his daughter attended school virtually. They went to the parks around 3 p.m. most days.
Arrival (December 13)
Jonathan and his daughter flew from New York very early and it wasn’t crowded at all. The flight was smooth and it felt safe.
MCO was very empty. They got to Magical Express and thought it would take a long time, but it left 9 minutes after they boarded.
They were the first stop and they landed at 10:31 a.m. and they were at the Riviera by 11:15 a.m.
Riviera was wonderful. They got a text that their room was ready at 12:30 p.m. They stayed in a Tower Studio. It was very small. It’s beautiful but it’s very small, which made it difficult for his daughter to do school during the day.
They went to the bus stop and hopped on a bus straight for the Animal Kingdom. The timing was perfect and they arrived at 12:45 p.m.
Because there weren’t any fast passes, there was a very relaxed schedule. They had a great day at Animal Kingdom.
Their first stop at Animal Kingdom was a 20 minute wait for Kali River Rapids to cool off on the hot day. Then they waited about 45 minutes for Flight of Passage. It was nice to see the queue for the first time!
They didn’t mind most of the waits because the queues were so interesting! Their next ride was Expedition Everest. Jonathan’s daughter was very nervous in the queue but when they got in the ride vehicle she was still scared.
After riding once, she wanted to ride again and eventually rode two more times! They stopped for dinner after that at Satu’li Canteen. It was cooler and they didn’t mind criss crossing the park.
Their dinner was so good. Jonathan says it is one of the best quick service restaurants in Walt Disney World. They’d been watching the wait times for DINOSAUR because Jonathan’s daughter really wanted to ride that. The wait times seemed to be elevated and they ended up only waiting about 20 minutes.
They wandered around and checked out all of the Christmas decorations. They really enjoyed that. They saw the Christmas show at the Tree of Life awakening.
At the end of their time, they walked to the bus stop and the bus was there. They got back to their room and unpacked to prepare for tomorrow, a school day!
Magic Kingdom (December 14)
Jonathan’s daughter primarily did school in the room. He was also working in there and because the room was small, he was able to do his work outside while she did her work in the room.
They had a nice balcony and enjoyed the grounds of the resort. They took a break for lunch each day at Primo Piatto. They really enjoyed their lunches!
School ended around 3 p.m. and they took a bus straight to Magic Kingdom. They took it slow, walking around, and looking at Christmas decorations. They prioritized the headliners because the lines just weren’t that long at all.
They were really excited to do Splash Mountain today. The wait was showing 90 minutes all day so they waited until it got dark out in hopes the line would drop. The posted wait time didn’t drop, but an hour before the park closed, the posted wait time was 35 minutes.
However, there wasn’t a wait at all and they rode it 3 times in a row without any wait at all! They also rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The wait was about 40 minutes but it had started to rain. When they got to the front of the line they asked everyone to leave.
They offered everyone sitting in a car to get a fast pass to come back but because they were a few people back, they were just told to leave. Jonathan didn’t like this so he went to guest services and the cast member did add a pass for them to ride later.
Jonathan also discovered that often times the cast members would look up in their system to see what your history is as a guest. They want to see if someone is a habitual complainer and given fast passes repeatedly before offering a solution.
They were able to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad later in the evening and Jonathan’s phone dropped out of his pocket! Thankfully, he was able to get it from a cast member almost immediately.
His daughter really enjoyed the dessert because it was a whole experience. Jonathan enjoyed talking with the cast members. Many of the cast members were working at new restaurants because of the fact that many restaurants haven’t reopened yet.
Epcot (December 15)
They woke up, ordered breakfast at Primo Piatto, and Jonathan did some laundry, which is free for DVC members.
Around 10:30 a.m. Jonathan’s daughter had a break so they decided to go swimming. It was cold and empty but they didn’t stay long. His daughter was uncomfortable not wearing a mask and it was chilly, so they went back up to the room.
After school they took the skyliner over to Epcot and that trip was lovely! They went right to the Land Pavilion and rode Soarin’ with an 8 minute wait. They were even able to sit wherever they wanted.
Their next stop was Living with the Land. This was part of Jonathan’s educational experience for his daughter. It was fine and he’s glad they did it.
They waited a couple of minutes for the next showing of Awesome Planet. They enjoyed that. They enjoyed the educational element and liked it.
Their next stop was Test Track and then on to Teppan Edo for dinner. They’ve never eaten there before but they are familiar with the style. His daughter got Ramune soda which was a whole experience – very unique and magical!
They did some shopping and wandering around the World Showcase. Epcot closed at 9 p.m. so they took the skyliner back and went to bed.
Magic Kingdom (December 16)
Jonathan and his daughter woke up and went to breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace. They enjoyed it very much! The breakfast was delicious and the character interaction was great. The terrace was gorgeous.
They walked from the skyliner to the Boardwalk. They checked into their room and when they got to their room she admitted that she was very scared of this resort. The clowns made her very uncomfortable.
Jonathan made a call to DVC to see if they had any availability at another resort. He was given a few options and ended up moving to Boulder Ridge. The DVC representative was able to give them the information and told them to go to the front desk to switch.
Everything was very smooth after they got moved to their new room. The Christmas decor at Wilderness Lodge was gorgeous. They really enjoyed the resort. The room wasn’t updated and needs an upgrade, however it felt very spacious.
It started to rain in the afternoon so they grabbed their ponchos before heading over to the Magic Kingdom. The bigger attractions had low wait times. They did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and only waited a short time for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
They also tried the raspberry dole whip before doing the Hall of Presidents. They enjoyed this. They were ready for dinner but noticed that their options were very limited. There weren’t very many mobile order options at all.
They went to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe so that they could go on Space Mountain. The meal wasn’t great, but it was convenient. After dinner they went on Space Mountain three times in a row without any wait at all!
Magic Kingdom closed at 8 p.m. so they went back to go to bed. Jonathan went to Geyser Point while his daughter went to bed. He had a beer and burger – they were great.
Epcot (December 17)
Jonathan walked around the resort while his daughter was in school. They had a fairly lazy day. They weren’t the most excited about Epcot because of the construction. They didn’t end up arriving to Epcot until after 4 p.m.
Everything felt very crowded. They’d planned to do the cookie trail and they went to the first booth to get a cookie and ended up waiting more than 20 minutes before even getting close, so they decided not to do that.
They decided to go back to the resort and get dinner at Roaring Fork.
Hollywood Studios (December 18)
Jonathan didn’t sleep much the night before because he was worried that he would miss the opportunity to get their boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. They woke up early and got to the lobby at 6:45 a.m.
They ended up getting boarding group 17. Jonathan’s daughter went to one class and then they want to Hollywood Studios. The park wasn’t opening until 9 a.m. but Jonathan was worried that they might start running it early and they would miss their boarding group time.
They didn’t start calling boarding groups until 9:45 a.m. and their boarding group was called at 10:15 a.m. They arrived at Hollywood Studios around 9:40 a.m. It was very cold!
Jonathan was very excited about riding Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The wait was 50 minutes when they arrived so they decided to wait. It ended up only being 30 minutes. They LOVED the ride. Jonathan said it was fantastic and a great experience.
As soon as they got off Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, their boarding group was called. They went right over and were able to ride. They rode on their last trip, but there was technical difficulties so they didn’t see the whole thing. They were able to see the whole thing this time.
However, Jonathan’s daughter left her phone on the ride. 10 minutes later they had it back and were headed back to Slinky Dog Dash. They only waited about 40 minutes. After that it was time for their lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby.
They had a wonderful lunch. Jonathan got the Cobb Salad and his daughter got an Asian soup. They really loved the food and ambiance.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway had a short wait so they got on again only waiting 10 minutes! They got churros from the churro cart and while they waited for the churros they got cotton candy.
They went over to Toy Story Land and rode Slinky Dog Dash twice in a row with only 20 minute waits! They rode Toy Story Mania three times with a 10 minute wait. Jonathan’s daughter rode Alien Swirling Saucers alone because Jonathan doesn’t appreciate the spinning.
They’d been watching the wait for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and went over there before the end of the way. They waited about 40 minutes but they both got to be pilots, which was fun.
At 6:55 p.m. they had 5 minutes before the end of the day and ran over to ride Slinky Dog Dash one last time. They did that in the dark and it was wonderful. They got a free churro while they were passing the cart and then got to ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway without a wait even though the park was closed.
It was a great way to end the trip!
Departure (December 19)
Jonathan and his daughter had to get covid shots before flying home. The only place they could find was getting a rapid covid test at Maingate. It was a Saturday so their wait for their covid tests was 2 hours and 15 minutes.
There was no shade, food, or water, so waiting was very difficult. This was also the only time they saw a lack of mask compliance. It wasn’t the best experience.
Because that took so long they didn’t have time for anything else. They went back to the resort and got lunch from Geyser Point. His daughter was even able to get chicken nuggets, which weren’t on the menu.
After lunch they headed back to the airport to fly home. And they got to fly home first class! Jonathan was able to upgrade them for just $43 each. It was great.
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