disney world photographs & trip tips

I thought I would share a small handful of photos from our trip. I am so happy with how bright & colorful these are! This is just the way I see Disney World: loud, bright, colorful and full of energy! This is barely a dent in the photo collection (we took some videos too!) but it’s a start. I also purchased our PhotoPass CD as I always do. All of my family photos are on there since I was not handing my camera off to anyone. The only reason there’s a family picture posted here is because not only did I pay for the CD to be mailed to me but I purchased an individual download of the Woody & Jesse shot because well, patience was never my strong suit.

Top row L-R:

1) Meeting Drizella, Anastasia and Lady Tremaine AKA Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters. I love the panoramic feel to the shot (not to mention those big, bright costumes!) I shot this with my 50mm 1.4 lens which is a fixed lens so, no zooming in or out. Anastasia (pink dress) was cut off of this particular capture with all 3 of my kids looking on. The whole scene was too wide for my lens. So I ended up splicing this together in Photoshop last night and then re-canvasing it so it will print perfectly. I just left the wider crop posted here because I think it looks like fun!

2) Sisters telling secrets.

2nd row L-R:

1) Andrew has recently started to add African tribal dancing to his arsenal of weird dance moves. I dared him to break out into a tribal dance to the beat playing through Adventureland on our way to Pirates. He obliged.

2) Posing outside bright and early before heading out one morning. Our hotel’s outside walls were all bright orange.

3) The very first character we met was Mickey Mouse! We waited about 20 minutes to meet him in Exposition Hall. Grace was in her glory!

4) Playing in the hotel pool area. We were in the 60’s section so we overlooked the flower-shaped pool. They had crazy flower-shaped sprinklers spraying into the water and this cute pull-down flower shower in the kiddie section.

3rd row L-R:

1) The castle during the day.

2) The castle at night.

3) Getting Chip & Dale’s autograph in Epcot.

4th row L-R:

1) Our annual family picture with Woody & Jesse in Frontierland.

2) I told the kids that they would get wet if they sat on the left side of the tram during our Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios. I caught Grace’s laugh as all of the water barreled down and slammed into our car.

Bottom row L-R:

1) The view from our top-floor room.

2) My favorite picture from the entire trip!

After our Disney vacations, I journal details about our trip. They help jog my memory when I get a chance to work on our scrapbooks.

Grace’s favorite characters were Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, “Piggy” (Piglet) and Pooh. If he was tall (Goofy, Pluto, Woody, Tigger) or a monster (Mike Wazowksi from Monsters Inc., Stitch), she would run and bury her head in our arms. Either Vin or I are present in all of these character photos.

Grace’s very favorite ride was It’s A Small World AKA “the boat ride with the dollies”. Emily and Andrew love Splash Mountain. They rode on it with Vin this year while I did an extra round on Small World with Grace. My favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean which subsequently, was the very first ride we rode on this year! We waited in line for 40 minutes.

We have never been able to make the lines for Toy Story Mania so we made it a point to get to Hollywood Studios when it opened this time and head there first. It was a lot of fun! We actually grabbed FastPasses to ride again but it was so humid out that the kids were crying because they were so sweaty. We ended up giving our passes to a family of 5 heading into the park. Toy Story was probably the ride we waited on longest (about 50 minutes). When I checked the wait time from my phone app later in the day, it was up to 110 minutes.

Characters we met this trip: Mickey (in classic clothes, his chef outfit and country western gear), Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Stitch, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Cinderella, her wicked stepmother & sisters, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Green Army Man from Toy Story, Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc., Woody, Jesse, Alice, the White Rabbit, Chip & Dale and Duffy the Bear (which is Mickey’s teddy bear and the mascot all throughout Epcot). Whew. That’s a lot of characters.

Some of our favorite rides are those that are found in Fantasyland. We did them all. Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel (all 5 of us rode next to one another. The ride seemed fairly short), Peter Pan’s Flight (we FastPassed this early one morning and rode right after we met Peter Pan), Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Emily rode alone, Andrew rode with Vin and Grace and I were in an elephant that didn’t want to any higher than he felt like. Hmph), Mad Tea Party (Vin rode with the girls. Andrew and I waited in line to meet Alice), It’s A Small World (Grace’s favorite part was waving to the woman working on the bridge up above), Snow White’s Scary Adventure (definitely NOT Grace’s favorite. I think she kept her eyes covered the whole time), The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (one of the rides we got to go on twice. Grace’s favorite part was the psychedelic Heffalump room) and we saw a 3D Mickey’s Philharmagic.

Even if Grace seemed frightened on a ride or by a character, it was short-lived. She would get off and beg to “go on another ride!” The kids and I did go on Haunted Mansion but we waited for Grace to take a nap in her stroller before we did that.

We spent $40 on ponchos one day. Unfortunately (yet understandably), there were no PhotoPass photographers around to take a family shot of us covered in head to toe plastic. We were cracking up! We only made it through one country in Epcot, the least I’ve ever traveled through there, but it was a wise idea to head out of the rain and get ready for our BBQ with Mickey anyway. We beat the rain clouds on this particular day by doing a craft in Mexico’s KidCot station and eating lunch there. I had a delicious Passion Fruit margarita. Yum!

We love purchasing our annual Mickey ears in the Chapeau hat shop! Last year the kids made custom ears which allows you to add your own ears to a plain black cap plus an embroidered name and a patch. This time around, the only plain caps they had were navy with red mohawks (yes, seriously) Uh, no thanks. We ended up picking out some cute pre-made ones on our last night. Emily was a pirate princess this year, Andrew got a colorful, crazy Mickey-printed hat and Grace’s hat had a giant polka-dotted Minnie bow in the center.

We love pin trading! The kids got into it during our trip last year and even Grace participated this time around. Each kid wore their lanyard with pins they wanted to trade. I ended up wearing a Minnie lanyard the last two days with pins we knew we wanted to bring home (since sometimes in the heat of the moment, they try to trade a pin they told me they really liked). We purchased a pin trading portfolio before coming home and I’ve set up all of our pins in there.

And lest you think this trip was all made up of sunshine and rainbows, I am sure we’ll never forget:

The crowds were really not that terrible however, I will most likely never go back in June (or July or August for that matter). The humidity was insane. Granted she wasn’t feeling well, but Grace literally started melting the nanosecond we stepped outside. She would be all fine and perky on the air conditioned bus or in a gift shop but the second we stepped outside (I am not even exaggerating here), she would start sulking around and whining. It was very uncomfortable, even if we did stock-up on beverages and have battery-powered spray fans with us.

Grace and I were on a cab ride from hell. I actually called Vin at one point in tears. I couldn’t even tell if the cab was driving me in the right direction or not because uh hello, I’m a New Yorker in the backseat in Florida! Long story short and $50 later, this cab took me to the wrong walk-in clinic but I did manage to get Grace to the correct pediatric one where she was given an ice pop for her 102 fever and diagnosed with Strep.

I set foot into a Publix for the very first time! Why don’t we have these here? They filled Grace’s amoxicillin Rx for free. That’s kind of unheard of where I come from.

We waited on a big, huge security line in Orlando’s airport. Emily was literally crying at one point that she was so tired. I knew she was getting sick. She never just cries because she’s tired. We were maybe ten people from the front of the security belts and she goes “Moooom…” I ditched our bags, left the other kids with Vin and asked two people if I could fly off the line and to the bathroom before my kid got sick on their floor. Sure, sure I was told. We returned 15 minutes later (she never got sick but you can guess it, was diagnosed the next day with Strep too) and they wouldn’t let me back on line without our boarding passes. Our boarding passes that were now past security with Vin and the other kids. Fantastic.

And just because he didn’t want to feel left out, Andrew got motion sick in the plane. Wait. I amend that. He felt sick at take off but fell asleep. He actually got sick after the wheels touched down in New York. As in, we were literally driving to the gates, minutes from getting out. First time in my life I’ve had to take out and open up the barf bags. Hey, there’s a first time for everything.

I’m happy to report that everyone is fine and medicated now. :)

Instead of doing the Deluxe Dining Plan like we did last year, we opted for the Quick Serve Dining Plan this time and then paid for some meals out-of-pocket. It was perfect! Our hotel had lots of yummy dishes. We really enjoyed the breakfast wraps, Mickey-shaped waffles, supreme nachos and bacon cheeseburgers. All adult meals come with a dessert too so we had plenty of food to go around. This meal package also came with a refillable drink mug for each person (usually $14ea) so we had plenty to drink as well.

We pre-paid for two meals prior to our vacation: Hoop Dee Doo Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. I’ve been going to Hoop Dee Doo since I’m a little kid. It’s fantastic! My kids love it so much that Andrew is begging us to take him there for his October birthday one year. This year we had a wonderful table too: it was actually attached to the stage. The kids loved interacting with the performers. Mickey’s Backyard BBQ was something new that we tried. We would totally do it again! It’s family-style picnic seating. You serve yourself. There is no wait staff so it’s not fancy. But the food was delicious (ribs, chicken, burgers, dogs, corn, mac & cheese, watermelon, etc) and you definitely get your money’s worth when you watch your kids interact with the characters. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Chip & Dale actually hang out on the dance floor and dance right along side of you. There’s a live Country Western band playing the whole time. Both dinner shows are located in Fort Wilderness.

Since we weren’t on the Deluxe Dining Plan, we paid for two sit-down meals this trip: dinner at Chef Mickey’s and breakfast at The Crystal Palace. Both were delicious (and the red sangria at Chef Mickey’s was extra-pleasing). If you’ve never been to Disney World and aren’t sure about character meals, book them as soon as you can! They fill up fast but not only that, they are your best bet for meeting the characters. There are no long lines to wait on. With a character meal, you are guaranteed to get some autographs! The Millers recommend Chef Mickey, The Crystal Palace and if you are looking to dine with the Princesses, Akershus in Norway (Epcot). We have eaten in the castle before and it’s a novelty. If you must do it, do it. But it’s pricey and you need to pre-pay before your trip. Akershus is covered in the Deluxe Dining Plan and we think the food is better (breakfast is our choice).

Book a Crystal Palace breakfast (featuring Winnie the Pooh characters) on a day where you know the park doesn’t open early for Extra Magical Hours. For example, we had an 8:05am breakfast this past Wednesday when the park opened at 9am. You are now allowed inside the park before it’s open to the public and that’s where I get my Main Street shots of the kids skipping down a very non-crowded street (image posted yesterday and also one below). This is my number one tip that I share with everyone asking for Disney planning advice.

I printed a calendar for us this time and it worked really well. The kids even wanted printed copies to carry in their carry-ons and they would refer to it from time to time (but they understood that Mom got the final say if we needed to skip something). :)  Don’t overbook yourself! Traveling to and from different parks and dinner shows takes a lot of time. Kids get very cranky very easily (and if your name is Grace Miller, after being in 100% humidity for not even 30 seconds). I made sure to schedule in pool breaks every afternoon. I think I especially loved the Quick Serve Dining Plan because I never had more than one ‘big’ meal booked per day. It left plenty of room to grab a light meal back at the hotel, go swimming and take a nap.

Take advantage of the PhotoPass photographers! You walk up to anyone wearing the official vest and ask them to start a card for you. You can have more than one card going. I usually have about 3 in my bag so I always have one in reach. Stop and pose for pictures – lots of them! We had about 110 photos on our cards when we came home in addition to the 620+ I took with my camera. You are going to pay one price for a CD of images once you return home whether there are 30 or 130 pictures on there so the more, the merrier!

We still love Orlando Stroller Rental but the stroller I picked out this time was just way too big (red & black City Elite Double). For our trip next Spring, we’ll be back down to one single stroller. If you are looking for a great double stroller, we loved the orange City Double Stroller that we rented last year.

I tried something new this trip. I ordered a 4 1/2 foot Mickey balloon to be placed in our room. The card read “Welcome back to Disney World Emily, Andrew & Grace. I am so happy that you are here! Love, Mickey Mouse”. It was a really fun surprise when we came back after a long first day in the parks. I would definitely recommend this balloon idea.

Don’t forget your lanyards and pins to do some pin trading! You can read more about pin trading here. The kids get a kick out of it. Cast members must trade with you if they are wearing pins so don’t be afraid to ask to make a trade.

We love these guide book (adults, children) for planning and getting excited about our vacation!

When you return home (or before you go as in my case), you can make some customized keepsake maps and mark off your favorite attractions! Disney prints and sends them to you via snail mail.

This app is super-handy to have. I used it all trip: Magic Guide. I used it to check wait times (which were always accurate as far as I could tell), park hours and even to decide where we were having breakfast one morning. It was well worth the $4.99.

Disney has their own mobile site which is helpful but not nearly as detailed. Still, I would recommend bookmarking m.disneyworld.go.com because one of the features I love that Magic Guide doesn’t offer is a character link. You can tell it what park you are in and it will tell you what characters are waiting to meet you! Along the same lines, make sure to pick up a Times Guide in all park entrances because they are printed weekly and they will also tell you what characters are around and where they are located.

clockwise from top L:

1) Meeting Alice and the White Rabbit in front of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

2) Posing by the fountain on our way into Epcot.

3) Cooling down with frozen Cokes in Hollywood Studios.

4) Skipping down Main Street on our way into the park.

Have a magical day!






9 responses to “disney world photographs & trip tips”

  1. Jennifer Woodbury Avatar

    Love the pictures and the trip recap – I am getting so excited to go in September! And as urgent care experts (we have been twice during our last two trips to WDW), I can tell you that Disney will provide you with a free ride both to and from the clinic! Just something to keep in mind for your next trip.

    1. Gina Avatar

      We did get a free ride Jen – but they put me in the WRONG cab so I had to pay cash (and then was reimbursed later). The front desk called us the next morning to see how Grace was which I thought as nice. And I swear I was thinking about you the entire time. LOL!

  2. Susan Avatar

    You are right. June and July are our rainy season and when the ground fills with water we get humidity from the ground and from the air. It can be sweltering. Best place to be is in the pool. And August is just too hot. The very best month seems to be February. Having live 45 minutes from Disney for 30 years I can say with confidence that we avoid it at holidays and those three summer months.
    Glad you and your family had a good time. And, yes, we LOVE Publix!!!

  3. Shannon B. Avatar
    Shannon B.

    Disney should pay you for this post. It’s going to make it’s way around the internet for all future WDW travelers!

    I’m so sorry the kids got strep. :( How awful that must have felt in the heat and humidity. I hope everyone is on the mend now!

    Love all of the beautiful shots! Especially seeing Grace running around with everyone like a big kid! More photos! More photos!

  4. Robin Avatar

    Thanks for all these great tips, Gina! I’m going to Disney in November with my brother’s family and I can’t wait. I think I’ll have more fun than the kids! :)

  5. Regina Avatar

    Hey Gina, I have come back to this post several times already since I am planning my Disney trip this year. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this post. I read on mousesavers.com that you should stear clear of the value resorts but it seems like you stayed at one. It seems pretty nice from the pictures so I was wondering what you thought of it. I like how it has Mickey on the bedsheets and it seems fun for little ones. A lot of the moderate resorts seem sort of boring for Disney. Thanks, Regina :)

  6. Jamal Avatar

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    I came to give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m
    bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and excellent design and style.

  7. Jen d Avatar
    Jen d

    Hi there,
    We are going on our first family Disney trip next week! I also have 3 kids and just came across your story when looking for tips. I love your photos and I have a 50mm 1.4, I’m just not a pro and have to try alot of different settings to get a nice shot. Do you have any tips that could help me out?

    Thanks a lot,

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