If you haven’t heard, more announcements than I can count on two hands were made at 2017’s D23 Expo. Many of these have been floating around as rumors for some time, but some took me by complete surprise. If you need a refresher on the announcements, here is a recap post from the Disney Parks Blog.
Out of all the announcements made, here are the highs and lows I can’t stop thinking about!
Third ship added to Disney Cruise Line expansion
Last year Disney Cruise Line announced two new ships (similar in size to the Dream and Fantasy) that would launch in 2021 and 2023. DCL has been quiet since the announcement, so a surprise third ship due in 2022 is icing on my I’m-excited-by-the-idea cake. So little is known about this expansion it’s hard to be excited about specifics. I remember when the Dream and Fantasy launched in 2011 and 2012 and I’m ecstatic to see more ships expand the line. I can’t wait to see what destinations and experiences this brings to Disney Cruise Line!
Space restaurant in Epcot
Normally I give a big eye roll to restaurant announcements for Epcot, but the new space themed restaurant near Mission Space has me pumped. The kid inside me, who wished to go to space camp, who watched Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century more times than you could guess, cannot wait for opening day! I don’t care what space food they feed me, I’m ready to make my reservation!
The Innkeepers Club is the concierge level of the Boardwalk Inn. Club Level at Walt Disney World hotels involves a designated set of rooms, pre-arrival concierge services, on-site concierge desk, and Club Lounge.
The Innkeepers Club is located on the 4th floor of the Boardwalk Inn. Most of the Club Level rooms are located inside the keyed access door (use your Magic Band to open) next to the Club desk. A few rooms on floor 4 and 3 are located outside of the controlled access hallway, and all of the Garden rooms are located on the ground level below this. There are Standard Rooms that sleep up to 5 +1 child under 3 and face the Boardwalk or the Gardens/leisure pool. There is a Deluxe Room that sleeps 6 adults +1 child under 3 that face the Boardwalk. The Garden Rooms sleep 2 +1 child under 3. A few special suites are also part of the Innkeepers Club.
Our first day in the parks was one I worked hard to prepare for. On paper it was just a morning in Epcot with a lunch at Garden Grill. In practice it was the shining glory of a chipmunk toddler.
Since the Garden Rooms at the Boardwalk are not located near the Innkeepers Club Lounge I went up and brought breakfast for all of us back on a tray. After finishing that we walked to Epcot. We arrived 40 minutes after park opening and did the Seas, Turtle Talk, Imagination, checked out the DVC Lounge, and Fastpassed Living with the Land in 2 hours.
Waiting for Turtle Talk with Crush
Our lunch at Garden Grill might be the most magical memory we’ve made in the parks, rivaling baby Goofy meeting Minnie and Pluto. Our little chipmunk had fantastic interactions with the characters and all the staff went above and beyond in making our meal great.
Our November 2016 trip was somewhat an accident. It started out as a long weekend trip after Thanksgiving so we could see some of the new experiences that opened since our January 2016 trip. The trip slowly grew, then a month and half out had to be moved completely. Suddenly it was a week-long trip in the middle of November!
I’ll start by talking about our flight, since traveling with toddlers is sometimes a fiasco. This was not our toddler’s first flight, but it was his first with a seat. I swore off lap children after our last trip, so it suited me just fine that’s he’s old enough to require a ticket now. We have a dedicated travel car seat (Evenflo SureRide DLX Convertible Car Seat) which we strapped to the stroller (Summer Infant 3Dlite Convenience Stroller) using a bungee cord. Our toddler walked or was carried through the airport. At security the stroller was broken down and went through x-ray while the car seat is manually inspected since it’s too big to fit through the machine.
The Candlelight Processional is Christmas traditioperformed nightly in Epcot. The Candlelight Processional uses a choir, orchestra and celebrity narrator to tell the Christmas story from a biblical perspective.
The show runs after Thanksgiving and before New Year’s Eve (November 25-December 30, 2016). It runs three times a night in the American Gardens Theatre, 5:00 PM, 6:45 PM, and 8:15 PM and is about 45 minutes long. IllumiNations, with a special holiday tag, starts at 9:30 during the Christmas season. If you enjoy the 8:15 show, you’ll want to find your viewing spot around the lagoon immediately after the show is over.
Day 6 of our January vacation started exactly the way Day 5 ended – rainy. Since we accomplished so much at Extra Magic Hours, we planned a sleep-in morning. That’s not always possible with a baby, but we tried!
Rainy Magic Kingdom from Bay Lake Tower. The train left a picturesque trail all morning
We left our room at Bay Lake Tower at 9:50, and by 10:18 were in the Fastpass line for Jungle Cruise. We had an excellent skipper for our only daytime journey.
Mekong River is my favorite on Jungle Cruise
Up next is one of my personal favorites, Enchanted Tiki Room. I love the show and the music, and it never has a line. You really can’t be that!
Day 4 of our January 2016 trip started in Animal Kingdom. We had an easy drive of less than 15 minutes and were in one of the first few rows of parking. It took about 20 minutes from parking to entering the Kilimanjaro Safari Fastpass line. We had an excellent crisp early morning safari with lots of animal sightings.
They stood so still they looked fake peeking above the bushes
Up next I rode Expedition Everest by myself with a Fastpass and then again as a single rider. Since I’m the only one who rides this in our group and it has a single rider line, the Fastpass was not necessary. Next we child swapped Dinosaur with Fastpasses.
Dreams do come true. Day 3 in Hollywood Studios brought us back to our favorite ride, the Tower of Terror. I haven’t ridden it since March 2014, which is far too long. But I’m jumping ahead…
This morning was the most on time we’ve been in years. In 17 minutes we drove from the Grand Floridian to Hollywood Studios, parked, unloaded the car and were on a tram. First stop was Toy Story Midway Mania with a Fastpass. We were through the ride quickly and stopped to see Star Wars Launch Bay.
Star Wars Launch Bay
Star Wars Launch Bay
Star Wars has taken over the Animation building, with a making of video in the theater, meet and greets for Chewbacca and Darth Vader, props and costumes from Episode VII, Disney Infiniti stations, mock Cantina, and of course merchandise shop.
Day 2 of our January 2016 trip started like 95% of our vacation days do – late. It was my resolution for this trip that we would be at the parks as close to park opening as possible. We have a night owl baby, which means we have to wake him up to accomplish this. After already running late, halfway to the monorail platform I realized I forgot a key part of the baby’s costume and had to run back to the room. Ok, I speed walked after about 5 seconds of running. Running is a poor choice for me overall, especially so when the overnight low was 31.
Once on the monorail, it was only a 30 minute journey from leaving the Grand Floridian to arriving at Epcot. I meandered around Mission Space and Innoventions West while the other adults rode Test Track with a Fastpass. I bought a Starbucks mug at Fountain View to add to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios mugs we have already. I got in line for Baymax, but had to leave the line before meeting him.
Our January Walt Disney World trip is one of those you start planning a few years in advance and have a lot to look forward to. It was a long and winding route to end up at the trip we’re taking, but all things happen for a reason.
I’m going to attempt a live trip report for the first time. [This is already live-ish!] I hope to share some trip planning tidbits that don’t land in their own blog post with a few photos along the way. I apologize for typos, I have a new laptop and am not used to this keyboard.
This trip had the best start to any trip we have taken in the last 10 years. I finally learned a packing secret that is so obvious I don’t know why I’ve never done it before. I’ve always had a large selection of travel size toiletries which helps with luggage weight and space. After our last trip, I refilled all the refillable bottles and replaced anything that ran out. Instead of putting these away, I kept them individually sealed in a ziploc (serious lifesaver for air travel leaks!) and in my suitcase. This cut my packing time in half. From now on, my suitcase will be half packed and ready for our next adventure!