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Sam’s May Disney World trip – PREP 411

Sam’s May Disney World trip – PREP 411

Sam traveled to Disney World to meet up with her sister and nephew for a week-long vacation they’ve been planning for two years. She shares about their split stay at Coronado Springs Club Level and Grand Floridian Villas, how the weather affected their trip, and where to find the best mac and cheese on Disney property.

Post trip begins: 36 begins

Pricing provided by Sam:

Coronado Springs 5/9-5/13: booked with travel agent in June 2023

  • Tower standard view 
  • Original cost: $4,662 — includes Disney Dining Plan and 4-day tickets
  • Added a bounce back offer three months later and upgraded to Club Level for only $250. Then removed the dining plan and saved $1,000!

Grand Floridian 5/13-5/16: rented points

  • resort studio theme park view 
  • Booked June 2023
  • Cost: $1,976  – DVC Rental Store 
  • Added dining plan for this part of our trip

Tickets: originally booked 4 day, 1 park per day as package with Coronado stay but when the 4-day magic ticket offer was released our travel agent was able to switch to that and we saved over $500.

The Basics

Sam, her sister, and nephew have planned this trip for 2 years. Since they started planning they have been on shorter trips to Walt Disney World, but this was their biggest.

This is their 5th trip together and it had an unexpected sickness, additional unplanned day, and three different on-site hotels.

They tower standard view club level Coronado Springs room from Thursday-Monday and will move to the Grand Floridian Monday-Thursday. They added on an additional day at Caribbean Beach when their flights were relayed.

This is their first time staying at either of these hotels and they went all out. They have a resort studio theme park view and the dining plan. Sam will also be utilizing Genie+ and Standby Skipper.

Arrival (May 9)

Sam, her sister, and nephew all arrived from different locations (Sam from Omaha and her sister and nephew from Houston), but arrived to Orlando around the same time without issue. They were off the plane, met at baggage claim, and got in an uber all within about 15 minutes.

They arrived at Gran Destino Tower around 1 p.m. but their room was not ready yet. They also were able to drop their bags with Bell Services to hold until their room was ready. They did go to the front desk to request a fan for their room. 

While making this request, a cast member noticed they were staying Club Level and offered to take them to the club. They went up to the club, got some drinks and food, and set up their magic bands. 

The lounge was empty and so peaceful. They stayed in the lounge until their room was ready. Bell Services brought their luggage to their room. Sam requested a high floor and they were on the 15th floor. 

They waited a bit for their luggage and ended up going to Disney Springs around 3 p.m. When they arrived, they went to Summerhouse on the Lake. They split appetizers, sat outside on the water, and had a great experience. 

They got cookies from the cookie bar on their way out. Sam said they were absolutely delicious. The cookie section is separate from the restaurant and you can go there without going to the restaurant.

They did some shopping and because it was a Thursday afternoon, there were relatively low crowds. However, it was very hot. Sam got a drink at Ghirardelli before going to the Lego store for their Mini-Fig reservations at 5:40 p.m. 

Sam and her mini-fig

Sam notes that you can use a stylus for making your mini fig and that might be easier than using your finger because it is so detailed. They had to wait a while for their pieces to print. They also had to get a cast member when their pieces were done. 

Sam says it was a good experience and well worth the $12 cost. It’s a very unique souvenir. 

They left Disney Springs and took a bus back to the resort. When they got there, they joined the wait list for Three Bridges. The wait was about 45 minutes. 

Sam in the Coronado Springs Pool

They got a table right by the water and it was just beautiful. After their meal, they went to the pool. Sam just loves swimming at night. They had a great time and loved going on the water slide.

Hollywood Studios (May 10)

Everyone woke up early and they rope dropped Hollywood Studios. They went immediately to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. At 8:30 a.m. there was a 10 minute wait or so.

They walked right on Star Tours before going to use their 9:20 a.m. Individual Lightning Lane for Rise of the Resistance. At 9:50 a.m. Sam had a Droid Depot reservation. She built it while her nephew took photos and video.

Toy Story Mania has a low wait time so they went over to Toy Story Land. On their way, they saw the green army men, which was fun.

At 10:13 a.m. Toy Story Mania had a 30 minute wait. While they waited in line, Sam downloaded the Disney Play app. She and her nephew played the game in the queue and it made the wait go very quickly.

They went back over to Galaxy’s Edge to get a puff bread snack and a blue milk swirl. They waited for the next stage show in the shade. They enjoyed the show.

Sam, her sister, and nephew in Galaxy's Edge.

Then they took the droid to the play area to play around there. They had a lightning lane for Smuggler’s Run at noon and went there next. They didn’t do well, but it was very fun. 

They made a stop at Ice Cold Hydraulics for drinks and snacks. They liked the pretzels but Sam did not like the candied cinnamon rolls. They sat in the shade and relaxed a bit.

Sam got a lightning lane for Indiana Jones to get a good spot. They used that lightning lane and at 1:45 p.m. they took the bus back to the resort for a break for a few hours. 

Sam and her sister took naps while her nephew wandered around the resort. It was a very hot day. They went back to Hollywood Studios around 6:30 p.m. 

Sam and her sister at Tower of Terror

Sam and her sister went to Tower of Terror for their lightning lane. While they did that, her nephew did some shopping and got some drinks. Sam and her sister love Tower of Terror and they were able to sit in the front.

They went back and did Star Tours again, using a 7:30 p.m. lightning lane. There were some seatbelt issues which caused the ride to malfunction. They finally got it to work and Sam was chosen to be the spy. 

They planned to go to Muppet*Vision 3D but Star Tours took so long that they missed it. They went straight to their 8:35 p.m. dinner reservation Roundup Rodeo. They all really loved it – the food was good and the atmosphere was wonderful.

Sam made Disney-inspired friendship bracelets and wore a few every day to give to cast members. This was a really fun experience! 

Sam with a lightsaber

They did Toy Story Mania and then Slinky Dog Dash. They loved doing Slinky Dog Dash at night! It was very cool. Then they went to Alien Swirling Saucers right as the park was closing. 

They walked over for their 10:20 p.m. reservation at Oga’s Cantina. They really enjoyed this and hoped to exit the park without crowds. However, there was a later Fantasmic show and they left at the same time. The bus was very chaotic.

They were back to the resort and in bed around 12:30 a.m. 

Rest Day (May 11)

Sam’s sister got up and went to the fitness center. She was disappointed that there wasn’t a space in the fitness center to do yoga so she opted to just jog outside around the resort. 

They got breakfast at the club lounge and really enjoyed that. The next day was Mother’s Day and the cast members made bedazzled Mother’s Day buttons. Sam’s sister got one of those to wear.

After breakfast they took an uber over to mini golf at Winter Summerland. They did the Winter Course and thought it was really cute. It was very easy. 

Even at 10 a.m. it was very hot. They stuck to the shade as much as possible. 

They tickets for mini golf were included in their package. They found the tickets in the app. 

Playing chess in the club lounge

After playing mini golf, they went back to the resort around noon and got lunch in the club lounge. They played Clue in the lounge as well, which was really fun. 

At 12:30 p.m. they went to Dahlia Lounge in hopes of getting into the art class. They waited until 1 p.m. but there weren’t any openings. 

They went to the pool. It was much more crowded, but it was still a lot of fun. 

They originally had a Toledo reservation at 5 p.m. but they wanted to enjoy the pool for a bit longer. Sam used the Stake Out app and was able to get a reservation for 7:30 p.m. 

They wandered around and went to El Mercado at Coronado Springs. Sam’s nephew got a scavenger hunt for Coronado Springs. They spent some time finding things for that.

Sam went back to the room for a bit while her sister and nephew finished the scavenger hunt. They came back very hot and sweaty. They took a break after that.

Then they went up to Dahlia Lounge for drinks before their dinner reservation. It was very crowded so they just got drinks and went to their reservation. 

They had great food and really enjoyed this experience. Sam’s sister didn’t enjoy the chicken dish, but Sam would definitely go back.

They went back to their room just in time for Magic Kingdom fireworks. Her sister went down to watch them but she and her nephew stayed in the room. 

Sam's nephew watching fireworks

Sam was able to start the fireworks on the TV at the same time that they were beginning so they had the sound and projections on the TV and the actual fireworks outside their window. 

Animal Kingdom (May 12)

They got up early, grabbed breakfast at Barcelona Lounge, before going straight to Animal Kingdom. They arrived shortly before 7:30 a.m. and went to DINOSAUR. There was no wait at all. 

Sam says she thought DINOSAUR was more jerky than she remembered. Her hat also flew off during the ride. Her nephew didn’t like it at all.

They went to Expedition Everest next with hopes to ride it a few times but it was down. They grabbed a snack and Sam ate breakfast. They did some shopping and then went to It’s Tough to be a Bug. Her nephew also hated this as well.

They had some time before the Winged Encounters show, so they did a little more shopping before going over to the Flamingo encounter by the Tree of Life. It was already very hot at 9 a.m. 

They got a great view of Winged Encounters. It was amazing! 

They had a 9:30 a.m. lightning lane for Na’vi River Journey. They went there next and really enjoy this ride. 

Next they used their Individual Lightning Lanes at Flight of Passage. Sam had been worried about fitting on this ride. She wasn’t able to ride and was given two passes for another ride. The cast member also gave these to her sister and nephew. 

They got in line for Nomad Lounge for lunch. They arrived at 10:20 a.m. and it opened at 10:30 a.m. They sat on the patio at the couches. It was lovely. 

The food was delicious. They got a bunch of appetizers and shared everything. It was incredible. 

They had a noon lightning lane for Expedition Everest. Sam and her sister rode twice in a row by using their multi-experience passes as well. While they did that, her nephew rode Kilimanjaro Safaris in the rain. He said it was amazing.

They met back up at Kali River Rapids and rode in the rain. They didn’t get super wet but they enjoyed it very much. 

Sam does note that her seatbelt came unhooked during the ride in the middle and she couldn’t get it on again. Be sure to make sure that your seat belt is fully secure.

Their next stop was the Maharajah Jungle Trek. It had stopped raining and it was just lovely. They hurried through the end to get to the bird show in time.

They were in the 2nd row for Feathered Friends in Flight at 1:30 p.m. They enjoyed the show and afterwards they were so hot they got some cold treats. 

The next area they went to was Rafiki’s Planet Watch. They took the train over and went to the petting zoo before using a lightning lane for the 3:15 p.m. Animation Experience. They loved this and got to draw Mickey.

Sam, her sister, and nephew at the Animation Experience

They had a lightning lane for Kilimanjaro Safaris. It was hotter and not raining, so there were less animals out than earlier. 

While on the Safari, Sam started not to feel great. They powered through and saw the 5 p.m. Festival of the Lion King show. Then they got some dole whips before heading back to the resort around 6 p.m. 

On the way back, Sam stopped at First Aid in order to get some cold medicine. They didn’t, but said the baby care center did. They didn’t either. 

When they got back to the resort, they went to the club lounge to get some dinner. Sam says the macaroni and cheese was the very best she’d ever had at Disney.

This was their last night at Gran Destino. Sam needed to do some laundry. They went to the tower laundry room but it was closed. They were told they could use the Casitas or Cabanas laundry room. 

Sam wasn’t feeling great but didn’t have clean clothes and needed to do laundry. Sam’s sister and nephew did her laundry for her, which was lovely. 

While they were down doing laundry, Sam took it easy and packed up. They watched the fireworks from their room and were in bed by 10 p.m.

Epcot (May 13)

Sam woke up still not feeling great. She was very tired. She was moving slower so her sister and nephew left after breakfast in the club lounge. 

Bell services picked up their bags around 8:30 a.m. to switch their bags to the Grand Floridian. Sam also ordered cold medicine to be delivered to their new room. 

They packed up and met in front of Epcot. Sam had purchased Cosmic Rewind individual lightning lanes for all three of them so her first stop was to go to a blue umbrella to have her nephew’s removed and reimbursed.

Standby Skipper booked a lightning lane for the afternoon for Frozen Ever After. They weren’t able to ride this on their last trip, so they wanted to be sure they got one.

Their first stop after the blue umbrella was Living with the Land. They got in line at 10:05 a.m. and there was a 15 minute posted wait time. However, it went down and they got out of line. Sam booked a lightning lane for Living with the Land so that it would be a multi-experience pass.

They used one of their multi-experience passes from the day before for Soarin’. They loved this ride and when they got off, they went to Awesome Planet. Sam really loves this and enjoyed cooling off in the air conditioning.

Next they went to Port of Entry to get a scavenger hunt. While they were there they also got the prize for completing it. 

Then it was time for their San Angel Inn reservation. They got their right when it opened because Sam really wanted a good table right on the water. They got the perfect table.

Sam really loves the food and vibe here. This was their first day to use the dining plan as well. Sam says the rib eye tacos were absolutely delicious. 

After their meal, they went to Gran Fiesta Tour. The line was very long and they ended up waiting about 15 minutes. They said it was very cute.

Then it was time for their Cosmic Rewind lightning lane and they got Everyone Wants to Rule the World. While Sam and her sister did this, her nephew worked on the scavenger hunt. 

They had a lightning lane for Spaceship Earth, but Sam opted to go back to the Grand Floridian. She met her delivery driver with her medicine order. She then went to the front desk and ended up waiting for 20 minutes or so. 

Their room wasn’t ready at 2:30 p.m. so Sam just waited in the lobby. She took a little nap on a couch and took some medicine. At 3 p.m. her room was ready but she wanted to wait until her sister and nephew were back. 

It was really nice sitting in the lobby. Around 4:30 p.m. Sam’s sister and nephew arrived back to the resort. They did Journey into Imagination after the Spaceship Earth lightning lane. After seeing Figment from a distance, they went on Living with the Land. 

They took the monorail to the Grand Floridian. This was slightly inconvenient because of the transfers, but they made it. They were on the 4th floor and had a good view of the Magic Kingdom. They had a couch that flips down to a bed for her nephew.

Their bags were delivered by Bell Services and then they took a bus to Hollywood Studios around 6:15 p.m. They hopped on the skyliner in order to get to the International Gateway.

They went straight to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to use a lightning lane. Then they went to Japan, stopping to also do the scavenger hunt. The Garden Rocks concert was Simple Plan and Sam enjoyed hearing them from a distance.

They picked up some food when they saw spots without a line. Sam used a snack credit to get a muffaletta in the American Pavillion. 

They went to use their Frozen Ever After lightning lane. It had started to rain at this point, but thankfully Sam brought her umbrella. 

After Frozen Ever After, they walked back to Germany to get some food. They got a pretzel at the cart and grabbed food from Lotus House and some food booths. 

Around 8:45 p.m. it was starting to rain harder. Sam hoped to see Luminous but her sister and nephew weren’t interested in that. Sam got some vegetables and rice from Honey Beestro and her sister and nephew continued doing the scavenger hunt. 

She saw the beginning of Luminous while they finished the scavenger hunt. They went over to Journey of Water. It was her nephew’s first time going through. It was totally empty, which was wonderful. 

Their next stop was to do Nemo and Friends without any wait. Her nephew opted to go back to the resort at this point in the evening. Sam and her sister did Spaceship Earth and then at 10:10 p.m. their boarding group for Cosmic Rewind was called. 

When they got over there, the line was very long. The cast member estimated that the wait was about 40 minutes. However, it was 60 minutes. They got September, which is Sam’s favorite. It was a very late night. 

They left the park at 11:30 p.m. The monorail took a very long time and they weren’t back to their room until about 12:30 a.m. Thankfully, Sam was feeling better. 

Rest Day (May 14)

Everyone slept in and then went to their 9:45 a.m. Grand Floridian Cafe breakfast reservation. They really like this restaurant.

They went to get their refillable mugs. At this time they realized their pins weren’t working and a cast member helped them reset them in the app. 

Sam, sister, and nephew on a pontoon boat

Just before 11 a.m. Sam went to the Marina to rent a boat. It was about $55 for a half an hour to take a boat out. They got a short tutorial on how to drive the boat. 

They went to Bay Lake to see the old Discovery Island. They explored around on the boat and it was really fun. They were near the Contemporary they were told that some weather was coming in and they needed to get back to the dock. 

They got stuck behind another boat and ended up docking at the Contemporary. Because their ride was cut short, the cast members didn’t charge them. Sam says it was absolutely wonderful. 

They wandered around the Contemporary. It was good that they got off the boat because as soon as they walked inside, it started pouring. They got some snacks and shopped around the Contemporary before hopping on the monorail back to their resort.

The rain had stopped and it was beautiful by the time they got back to the Grand Floridian. They enjoyed the weather on their balcony for a little bit before getting ready for their 4 p.m. reservation at 1900 Park Fare

They went to the Enchanted Rose first but it was very slow so they didn’t end up getting anything. They checked in for their reservation and ended up waiting for a while. The food was good and Sam says the Strawberry Soup was the best. 

After their meal, they went to the pool. The water slide was very fast! Sam liked the beach pool. 

They went back to their room and waited for the electrical water pageant. They could see it from their room, but they couldn’t hear any of the music. 

They watched Happily Ever After and could hear the music from the Polynesian beach, but not as well so Sam turned on the TV again to hear it through the TV. 

They really loved having a theme park view room. Sam went to the courtyard pool after the fireworks. It was empty and so beautiful. Sam’s sister and nephew went down to the beach area and just relaxed. 

They were all in bed by 10:30 or 11 p.m. It was a wonderful day. 

Magic Kingdom (May 15)

Sam woke up to book lightning lanes and realized that Orlando was under a tornado watch. This meant that it was cooler, there would be some rain, and it was very humid.

She booked an individual lightning lane for her sister for TRON. Standby Skipper booked a lightning lane for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for later in the way. 

They left around 9 a.m. to get their breakfast at Gasparilla’s Grill. Sam’s sister and nephew had ordered hot chocolate but their machine was down. They ended up just using hot water and a powdered packet. 

They got on the boat at 10 a.m. to Magic Kingdom. They went immediately to the train and did a full loop around the park. Then they took another loop to Frontierland. 

They went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Sam and her sister rode that while her nephew waited in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. It went down while he was in line so he did some pin trading. 

They met up again at Tom Sawyer Island. It had started raining lightly. They walked around the island for a little bit. It was empty around 11:30 a.m. 

At noon they were headed back to Frontierland. The crowds were very low at Magic Kingdom today. Then they did Hall of Presidents before their Liberty Tree Tavern reservation.

They had a good meal. It was one of her sister’s favorite meal. Her nephew didn’t really like it and Sam said it was just okay. The dessert was delicious. 

After their meal, there was no wait for Mad Tea Party so they did that together. Then Sam’s sister did TRON. While she did that, Sam and her nephew rode on Dumbo. Then they got some snacks at the Big Top.

They did the Smellephant scavenger hunt in this area. They did it by sight rather than smell. Sam said this was really cute.

Sam was able to get them a Barnstormer lightning lane and they did that before meeting her sister at PeopleMover. Sam really loves this ride.

Standby Skipper booked a lightning lane for Space Mountain. The posted wait time was 30 minutes at 3 p.m. They went on Space Mountain while her nephew did more pin trading.

Then they all went on Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. They all thought this was really cute. On their way out, they saw the Main Street Philharmonic band. Sam really loved this. 

They got some snacks on their way out before getting on the boat at 4:30 p.m. They took a break at the resort. 

They rested until dinner. They mobile ordered at Gasparilla Grill. Sam really loved the mac and cheese but her sister didn’t love the food. They used their quick service credits here. 

They took the boat back to the Magic Kingdom but it took them nearly an hour to get there! They got to see the full electrical water pageant, but they had to follow it the whole way, which means they went slow.

They wanted to watch the fireworks from the Swiss Family Treehouse, but they arrived too late to get a spot. They did a quick walk through the tree house. 

Sam’s nephew wanted to do the Jungle Cruise so she got a lightning lane. They got on right as the fireworks were ending and they walked right on. They had a great skipper and were off just as the line got super long. 

They did Magic Carpets of Aladdin and then used their last multi-experience pass for Pirates of the Caribbean as the park was closing. Their first stop for extended evening hours was Haunted Mansion, which was a walk-on.

They tried to ride it’s a small world next but it was down. They did PhilharMagic to wait for it to come back up. It started right as they arrived, which was great.

Then they waited 20 minutes for Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. At 11:23 p.m. they got in line for Peter Pan’s Flight. They waited about 15 minutes. This was their first time seeing the queue and they enjoyed that.

It’s a Small World was open again but they only had time for one more ride – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or It’s a Small World. Her nephew chose Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Sam opted not to ride, but her nephew and sister did. They had a 35 minute wait. 

Sam mobile ordered Casey’s Corner and ended her day with corn dog nuggets. At 12:30 a.m. they were back on the boat on their way back to their resort. 

Rest Day (May 16)

This was originally their departure day. However, they woke up to an alert that Sam’s sister and nephew’s flights were likely to be impacted by storms. They opted to change their flights to the next day. 

Sam contacted their travel agent. She used a bounce back offer from their Gran Destino stay. They got a night at Caribbean Beach resort. Everyone updated their flights and they changed their plans for the day. 

They booked a Mears Shuttle for the next day. They packed up and took their luggage to bell services at 11 a.m. Sam requested a late check out but it was not granted. 

They got on the monorail and did a full loop to the Polynesian to get lunch at Captain Cook’s. They ate outside and really enjoyed the food. This was a good use of the quick service credit. 

Sam’s sister and nephew wanted to go to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Sam didn’t want to do that but preferred to just take it easy. They took a bus and Sam hung out at the Polynesian. 

Sam took the bus from the Polynesian to Hollywood Studios and hopped on the skyliner to Caribbean Beach. When she arrived, Sam went to do some laundry.  

Their room was ready at 11:30 a.m. and they were in the Jamaica section – the perfect location just between the skyliner and the main pool. From the room, Sam called bell services to see if their bags were ready. They were delivered shortly after and Sam just enjoyed relaxing.

They hadn’t thought about staying at Caribbean Beach before because it was so large, but Sam really enjoyed it. They had a view of the skyliner from their room, which was lovely. 

Sam’s sister and nephew did the scavenger hunt at Animal Kingdom Lodge. They were out of prizes, so they were offered the opportunity to make friendship bracelets. They liked this.

They got back around 4 p.m. and at 4:30 p.m. they all went to the pool. They went to the main pool and there were a lot of kids. Sam notes that she found the water slide to be a bit scary because it’s enclosed. 

At the pool there was a bracket type game of ranking rides at Walt Disney World. Cosmic Rewind won, which made Sam happy. After getting cleaned up, they wanted to do a sit-down dinner but nothing terribly expensive. 

They took the skyliner and a boat to the Yacht Club to go to Ale and Compass. Their experience was very slow. Sam got a steak but it wasn’t as good as Toledo

They took a long skyliner route all the way to Art of Animation so that they could watch the fireworks and then got back to Caribbean Beach by 9:30 p.m. They went immediately to bed. 

Departure Day (May 17)

Sam woke up at 5:15 a.m. and scheduled bell services to pick up their bags. Mears picked her up at 6:45 a.m. 

The bus was very full and she didn’t get to the airport in time to check it at the curb. She had to go between terminals from where she was dropped off because she was flying Southwest. 

Sam notes that Southwest has a People of Size Policy that gives you some extra room if you are a larger size and might infringe on the seat next to you. It also means that you can preboard. Sam has used this a few times. All you need to do is ask the gate agent or call ahead of time. 

Sam’s sister and nephew were picked up 4 hours prior to their flight. Their bus was also completely full but when they got to the airport their flight was delayed 3 hours. It could have been worse if they’d tried to fly home the day before. 

Sam notes that they probably aren’t dining plan people. Her sister and nephew didn’t worry about maximizing it. Sam says they ate at some quick service restaurants they wouldn’t have without the dining plan and really didn’t maximize it.

Standby Skipper booked 36 lighting lanes and was very helpful. 

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