Operation: Turkey Day in F-L-A

I’ve been meaning to post this one for weeks, December flew by!  About a year ago we started planning to spend Thanksgiving with my Mom in Florida. Because we hate leaving our 3 dogs in the kennel we started searching for a dog-friendly rental home.  We found a great one on the FlipKey website – it was harder to find one with a full fenced back-yard than I thought!  It was only a few miles from my Mom’s and about 20 minutes from the Disney parks. We rented a small SUV to not put miles on our own car (it was 800 miles one way).   Next on our list was to get Disney tickets…we are military so took advantage of the Salute to Heroes promotion and got 4 day park hopper passes for about half price.  These passes also included the Fast Pass which turned out to be a huge benefit.  I thought I’d share a few things I learned from this Disney experience:

1) We had no idea how busy Disney would be the week of Thanksgiving…but yeah, us and a billion of our closest friends.
2) The passes we purchased at the Military Morale office were just “vouchers” and so had to be exchanged at a ticket office for actual park passes.  So we planned ahead and went to Animal Kingdom on our first day in FL (Sunday), received our passes and spent a few hours exploring the Africa exhibit. Note that you cannot use the Fast Pass until you have the actual passes, so once we had the passes we were able to load them into the app and reserve our times for Soarin’ and Spaceship Earth (on Tuesday!)
3) Parking: we purchased preferred parking at Animal Kingdom and had to walk for about 3 minutes to the front gate.  They are really efficient with the trams though so on the other days when we used regular parking, there was never a long wait for a tram. Note that if you hop parks in a day, the parking you pay for at one park is good at another park (this was helpful when we went to Hollywood Studios in the morning and then Epcot at night).
4) Getting into the park: if you have a bag you have to get in the line to have it searched, those without bags go right to the gates.  The times we went (10am)  it was not a long wait, maybe 10 minutes.
5) Fast Pass: priceless.  I used the Disney app on my phone to register our passes and then I was able to use the Fast Pass to set up times for us to ride Soarin’, Spaceship Earth and Space Mountain.  Other rides were already fully “booked” with the Fast Pass (like I said there was a billion people there!) and wait times were over an hour and a half at some points :/
6) Disney phone app: priceless.  You can set up your Fast Pass times, see the wait times at all the rides/attractions, get maps etc.
7)At all the parks I was impressed with how clean it was given how many people there were in the park, and there was never a wait for a bathroom!

We didn’t spend hours and hours at each park, we went around 10am and stayed until around 1-2pm.

We first went to Animal Kingdom and made our way through Africa, the bird enclosure was so cool with different brightly colored birds.  The meerkats were super cute and of course the Tree of Life was an amazing sight.  We would definitely return here to see the rest of the park and ride the Safari.

We went to Epcot during the morning to ride Soarin’ and Spaceship Earth. We took the boat ride across to the American Pavilion and just missed seeing the American Adventure (runs once an hour). One night we went back for the Grand Illumination and took time to see the O Canada! attraction which was very interesting (and air conditioned!) The Grand Illumination and Fireworks are brilliantly presented, a definite don’t miss!

We went to Hollywood Studios mostly to see a childhood friend who is a Disney actor, we used the Fast Pass to get on the Great Movie Ride (slow moving through iconic movie set ups) and then walked around a bit. We are not huge roller coaster fans so Tower of Terror and the Aerosmith coaster didn’t hold any appeal for us.  I was sad to find out the Backlot Tour ride had closed in 2014, it was one I remember being so very interesting and exciting.  There are a bunch of new things happening for Hollywood Studios with a new Star Wars and Toy Story attraction area, so some things are already closed off for that construction.

Magic Kingdom we spent the least amount of time at – we arrived right in time to see the parade which was neat, we rode Space Mountain, had lunch and then tried to walk around the Castle…there was just so many people it was not enjoyable.   I would definitely like to go back at a less-crowded time and see the Castle at night.  We heard that Tinkerbell flies down the guidewire from the top of the Castle to the Tomorrowland pavilion at night during the fireworks show!

This was a wonderful trip, capped off with a turkey dinner and swim with my family on Thanksgiving day at my Mom’s ❤