Hit or Miss: Walt Disney World Trip March 2013

A week ago, James and I were watching Illuminations and munching on goodies from the new bakery in France.

Tonight, I’m sitting in my pajamas waiting for Smash to come on TV. I’ve had park music on endlessly since our return, and while it’s not completely filling my empty little heart (ha), it’s softening the blow of returning to real life. (I told Sarah from Running at Disney coming back from a Disney World vacation is like reeling from a bad breakup. Oh the dread!)

Anyway, to kick off some recaps about our trip, I decided to play a little game of “Hit or Miss”. I divulged that our vacation was a little different than others. I was under the impression we would get so much done before of our one-park-a-day tickets but nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming crowds and the strange weather. Luckily, James and I are great about making the most out of less than stellar days (in other words, DRINK BEER) but the tone of our trip was definitely not what we thought we were getting into.

Hope you enjoy this one!

Miss: The crowds.

I know it was Spring Break, but in all my time visiting the parks (which has been during many different times of the year) I have never seen it THIS jam packed with people. Spring breakers, Easter, Orlando residents, and Disney World’s discount during that time had to have something to do with it. This severely affected our park touring. Even for two people who know a lot of the in and outs of making the most of the park, it was really really hard.

We spent an average of 8 hours in every park (to be precise: 14 in Epcot, 10 in MK, 10 hours in DHS) and still didn’t get to see everything we wanted. It got to the point that we were just snacking and drinking to at least try to find enjoyment in the day. Thankfully wonderful performances by Voices of Liberty and even the Evening Block Party at Animal Kingdom were nice ways to spend our time. But, wow, was it frustrating.

Hit: Extra magic hours. (FYI: this is a privilege for resort guests only.)

If it wasn’t for the early morning hours especially, we would have missed out on Soarin, Toy Story Midway Mania, Expedition Everest, and more. Twice we went to Magic Kingdom before the sun was even up and we felt like the we had the park all to ourselves. We only really needed the extra night hours at Epcot… where we polished off our to-do list that went to waste during the day hours. Two hours and four attractions we didn’t get to in over eight hours earlier. Insanity.

Miss: Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid

Let me start by saying, New Fantasyland expansion is beautiful. The details, the castles, are just gorgeous. We spent a lot of time walking around there (because there’s not much to do?) but, even after reading all the reviews since the opening, I was still letdown by the lack of cohesiveness of the Under the Sea attraction. Scuttle is the narrator and hardly mutters a word, Ariel doesn’t say anything… and like James pointed out, unless you know the entire movie, you are going to be a bit loss. Minor tweaks could really make this ride more fulfilling. I was also sad there was a total disregard for the King Triton and Ariel storyline; it’s such a huge part of her struggle to choose between being a human and staying a mermaid. I don’t see myself trying to get on this ride on every visit.

Under the Sea New Fantasyland Magic Kingdom

Hit: Brand new Tangled bathrooms

One word: beautiful. I could have spent a ton of time in here. (And I preferred to do that over the Under the Sea adventure.) From the outside (hidden Pascals!) to the beautiful paint job inside + all of Rapunzel’s treasures, it really is a gem. My one reservation is the flow from the bathrooms to the Liberty Square / Haunted Mansion area. The (gorgeous) Tangled background music is a little too loud and takes away from the eerie feeling of that area. I’m hoping this changes a bit in the future (maybe some trees too?).

Tangled Bathrooms Magic Kingdom

Miss: Waiting over 85 minutes for Kilimanjaro Safaris.

I feel like Animal Kingdom was hitting some crowd records when we were there last Wednesday. Oh man, in 15 years, I have never seen it quite like that. (It also seemed like the cast members didn’t know how to handle it either.) After James and I obtained our fast pass for Expedition Everest (after a nasty woman gave us an attitude because she said we were cutting? hilarious because the cast member guarding the FP queue had no idea what he was doing and was allowing people to cut all over the place. No order at ALL). Anyway, 85 minutes is a really long time. I thought the clock was just bullshitting us and it would be 45 minutes tops. But nope. I was more than wrong. Thankfully, we had a great safari and saw a lot of animals. I didn’t feel like it was rushed even though the park was so full and lots of guests were waiting, but wow, that took out of a chunk of our day.

Hit: Catching the Jammin Jungle Parade from the Yak + Yeti during lunch.

Having a lunch reservation felt like a safe haven during this trip. We booked at 3 p.m. at Yak + Yeti, in hopes of catching the 3:45 parade from an upstairs window. The cast members were super gracious and our timing worked out perfectly. During our meal, the parade started and we had a great view. Plus we were away from the giant amoeba of people forming outside. Score!

Jammin Jungle Parade from Yak and Yeti Restaurant in Animal Kingdom

Miss: The weather.

Well, the tornado warning that turned into a dark, disastrous rain storm with high winds and people running for cover… that was real and not marketing for Oz. James and I hid in the Storybook Circus bathrooms and still got completely soaked, with a huge chunk of our afternoon stolen by the untimely storm. The weather really cooled down the weather too. I wore shorts for two days + the last few, I wore jeans and almost every layer I brought with me. (Yay for overpacking and a jean jacket!) It wasn’t exactly the sunny and warm Spring Break we were hoping for… but we still had fun.

Hit: Behind the Seeds Tour

When there are New York temperatures outside, it’s always warm in a greenhouse. Because of the utter chaos at the Land Pavilion and the slim chance of seeing any of the bigger attractions, James and I decided to last minute join the first Behind the Seeds tour. For about 18 dollars a person (a bargain in WDW), you spend an hour in a small group with a tour guide getting an in-depth look at the plants and hydroponics you see while passing through on The Land boats. We both agree that it was a really cool and laidback behind-the-scenes look at an attraction we’ve done a billion times. Awesome for those plants and nature enthusiasts too, and the tour guide is willing to answer all questions. (Plus you get to taste some cucumbers!)

Miss: Having non-park hopper tickets

Before I left I had a lot of “deep thoughts” about our touring and one of them was weighing whether or not to get park hopper tickets this time around. Because of our budget, we decided to not park hop this time. We saved plenty of money, that is for sure. And while we felt satisfied while the day was rolling forward, I would get all tense towards the end realizing oh gee we are not coming back here and we have not done this and this and this. Normally, I save this feeling for the last day but it felt even more intense this time around to experience it four times.

Hit: Having non-park hopper tickets

No, this is not a typo. Even though I did feel like dread towards the end of our days, it really felt relaxing to know we weren’t moving for the entire day. A few times we took little jaunts to a resort for dinner or drinks or to hang out at the beach near the Yacht Club but other than that, committing to one park a day did ensure that we really made the most out of our time there. Even though it’s not our first choice, I think that staying true to the one-park-a-day might be our reality for as long as James is in school. If we want to go to Disney, we need to make some sacrifices and this is one we can live with. (As long as the crowds calm down.)

It’s not everything, but it’s a start!

What are some of your most recent trip triumphs and disappointments?

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

15 thoughts on “Hit or Miss: Walt Disney World Trip March 2013

  1. I completely agree with the Little Mermaid ride. I think it definitely could have been longer and explain more of the story. The Tangled bathrooms weren’t open last time I was there so I definitely have to stop by when I got back in October! Glad you guys had fun!

  2. Great blog Estelle, and some really good points made.

    Some recent trip triumphs for me was-
    HIT- staying on property at Disneyland Paris and having a long visit (5nights). Even though my non-Disney park fan husband chose to go there (for me!!), and he chose to stay on property, I wanted to make the most of this chance to give him a far more relaxed Disneyland visit than our Tokyo Disneyland/Sea day trips of the past where we run around and rush to do as much as we can in a day at each park, then exhausted get the train a long way out to where our hotel is. And it worked. He had a great time, and we could relax, take our time and tour much more to our leisure.

    Miss- the cultural differences to the Japanese Park, and even DL (Cali) guests. The rudeness and disrespect of some DLP park guests, pushing in front after I’d waited an hour or so for my Dreams show spot, or parade spot. And the smoking EVERYWHERE, in queues, walking around, in every non-smoking outside place there was. Graffiti in attraction queues. Disgusting.

    Hit- dining reservations for the first time. Hubs didn’t want to eat junk food, and although I was a bit hesitant at the extra cost, I did my research, made some reservations and hoped for the best. He LOVED the table service restaurants, the choice between a-la-carte dining or choosing from a set menu. The general quality of the meals and service, the non-rushing, the atmosphere and romance.

    Miss- my heart was broken the train around DLP wasn’t up and running. I was truly looking forward to that relaxing attraction, but sadly it wasn’t to be. I could live with Pirates being closed for refurbishment, but I was SO looking forward to the train.

    Hit- finding an awesome book about DLP, and Park Audio cd’s actually for sale IN the Park! Terrific souvenirs for me, I was so happy.

    Miss- some, not all, (but a lot more than is acceptable), poor Cast Members. Some excelled, but some just couldn’t give a damn about their job, or making a magic moment for the Park Guests. Walking through lands in costumes not from that land, walking down Main Street with their lunches in plastic shopping bags, on their iPhones, walking past trash. I was shocked.

    Hit- falling in love, like obsessive love, for unexpected parts of the resort. I am in love with Fantasia Gardens, the gardens out the front of the Disneyland Hotel, before you walk under and to the park entrance to Disneyland. It’s my new Happy Place. And simple charming rides like Story Book Canal Boats, and Casey Jr. Just wonderful, simple charming fun.

    There ya go, I think I’ve waffled on enough, far more than I could have on Twitter anyway! -Q

  3. Eek, 85 minutes is a long time!!! The only thing my sister and I waited that long for was the Toy Story ride/feature in Hollywood Studios because it was only our favorite thing EVER. And we used a fast pass once hahaha.
    I have that same picture with my feet in sandals in the water 😦 It rained the WHOLE TIME we were in Disney a few years ago. It was a drought for literally two months and of course we went the week it rained. The whole week! We were soaked, but we got ponchos and sucked it up through the cold & rain. Looking back, I barely remember that it was raining since we still had so much fun, but I also think of how much fun we could have had in the sun! Haha.
    Very fun post! Love the trip recap 🙂

  4. I was there in March also (Annual Pass Holder). The one day that it rained I was on the Keys To The Kingdom Tour, but wore my trusty Walmart Poncho (about half of our tour did not have them. This decreased the crowds slightly, but all parks were packed.

  5. Don’t you love when a vacation takes an “interesting” turn? Glad you had fun in spite of the minuses! Man…Casey Jr. really got a cleansing in that downpour.

    Apparently, queue aside, the CA and FL Mermaid rides are nearly identical, so I can say I completely agree with your view. I find it pleasant, but blah and completely monotone in its disjointed storytelling. No drama, no highs, no lows, just the movie’s greatest hits song parade. It’s often a walk-on at DCA, so I usually just use it to sit and enjoy the air conditioning!

    What a great view of the AK parade! Plus a great meal — Glad the timing worked out. And your Epcot Behind-the-Seeds tour sounds like a great option — I’m going to remember that one!

  6. I enjoyed reading this. Nice way to do a trip report instead of just saying “We went here and did this…” We do the same thing with non-park hopper tickets. Saves some money. And I always feel like getting from one park to another takes a good bit of time out of the day, too.

  7. Totally agree about the Little Mermaid ride. Thank god we went during extra magic hours and there was no line.

    Good to know about yak + yeti. One day I’m going to see that parade.

    And thanks for the feedback about the non-park hopper. I think we’re going to look into this for our next trip.

  8. Great post! I think this is good info for anyone who doesn’t have the flexibility of going anytime they want to. To be honest, I’m not a park hopper fan and most of my clients don’t get them. The exception I find is adults traveling alone and guests that frequent the parks a few times a year. For new travelers or those that go every 2-4 years they aren’t a necessity and are a great savings!

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