I’ve been sitting on this Disney post for a while now! I thought I’d type it all out before I forget some of the important details.
Ok, first and foremost, some context about our group. We went with two other families, so there were 10 people total in our group – six adults and four kids (7 yo, 5 yo, 4 yo, and 3 yo).
Where we stayed
We rented a house in the Reunion Resort in Reunion, FL. We decided to stay off property because we 1. wanted to stay altogether and not in separate rooms 2. we inserted a ‘free’ day in between our two park days and figured a house would allow us to relax and have fun (we had a pool), and 3. we preferred having a kitchen and buying groceries to eating out the whole time (a big perk was being able to eat breakfast at home and then pack simple lunches for everyone to eat at the park).
The house we rented sleeps 16, so we had plenty of space. The kids slept in bunk beds (boys in one room, girls in another) and each of the couples got a spacious room to themselves. Everyone had their own bathrooms too.
Before I talk about Disney itself, I have to say that inserting a free day between park days was the best idea because it allowed us to rest, recuperate, and then go hard one more day. If we had done back to back park days, I think our group would’ve been exhausted and a littler miserable. Even though we went in early October, it was still hot, and I was definitely a sweaty mess at times! We spent our day by/in the pool (in our backyard), and it was so much fun!
Genie, Genie +, Lightening Lanes, and Rider Swap
Ok, so this whole Genie/Genie + thing brought up a lot of discussion as we were planning out our days. I didn’t truly get it until the middle of day 1, so don’t feel silly if you’re like, “What the heck is this?!”
I’m going to share a simple analogy that our group came up with…
Genie is a FREE app and it’s like a highway – everyone is allowed, anyone can access, and in fact, it’s sort of must download and use kind of thing. It tells you what the wait times are for certain rides, it has restaurant info on it, it has a map, etc. The Genie app is basically your one stop shop for all things Disney.
Now, Genie Plus is like the HOV lane. You have to pay to get this service. Essentially, you can reserve your arrival time in advance for one ride at a time using the Lightning Lane. Once you’re checked in for a ride, you can use Genie + to reserve your next ride. It’s not AS simple as that, but it’s a great resource to have when you’re trying to do lots of things in one day. Genie + is not free. I believe we paid $15 per person per day for it. I would highly recommend purchasing this for everyone in your party.
And just to add on another layer to this puzzle, there are rides at each park that have their own lightening lane pass. HOWEVER, if you are not staying at a Disney resort, you can only access this via the app at 8 am (not 7 am like with Genie +). At Magic Kingdom, the ride was Mine Train and at Animal Kingdom it was the Avatar ride/experience.
One little hack that helped us with getting everyone on Avatar was a rider swap. So we had six adults in our party. The three girls basically stood in the regular line for Avatar (about 1 hour and 45 minutes long). We rode the ride, came out, and the guys got to go through the lightening lane line (which was much shorter). While we were in line waiting, they took the kids on another ride. All we had to do was let the attendants at the front know that we wanted to do a rider swap. They did something in our app to get everything to register correctly, and we were good to go.
Truthfully, I wasn’t involved at all in booking the parks and all that came with, but my friend Samir (and my friend Monica who went in September) worked with Pixie Travel to build our itinerary. If you’re looking to make the planning process more efficient, I recommend checking them out.
Magic Kingdom was the first park on our itinerary. While we were all exhausted after our day at the park, all of us also had a blast!
Here are the rides/experiences we did…
- It’s a Small World
- Pirates of the Carribbean
- Mine Train*
- Big Thunder Mountain*
- The Barnstromer* (great beginner roller coaster)
- Tomorrowland Speedway (would’ve been fun except I was leading our lane and got stuck behind a slow poke!)
- Jungle Cruise (Kaiden and I didn’t go on this one)
- Stage show (we happened across this at the castle on our way to a different part of the park)*
- Parade (this was a fun break for the kids/adults!)*
- Nighttime fireworks*
*The rides I highly recommend!
Animal Kingdom was an absolute blast! We had so much fun exploring and taking in all the different sights and sounds!
Here are the rides/experiences we did…
- Lion King show*
- Finding Nemo show*
- It’s a Bug’s Life*
- Everest* (a roller coaster)
- Gorilla walk*
- Avatar* (an immersive roller coaster like experience)
Soooo as you can see, I recommend it ALL! The shows are a great way to be entertained and rest your body and/or cool off from the heat. The rides/experiences are just so well done and fun. Even the simple Gorilla Walk we went on while waiting for our lightening lane time was interesting for everyone!
The last time I went to a Disney park, I was a teenager. Going back as an adult, I didn’t know if it would appeal to me as much as it would to Kaiden. But I was so wrong! They really do know what they’re doing. From the rides, to the customer service, to the cleanliness of the park, to just about everything. The magic that’s present and created throughout is so fun.
Strollers – If you’re renting strollers at the park, which I highly recommend you do, even if you think your kid can walk the whole time, definitely figure out how the strollers work beforehand. And try to do all the adjustments beforehand as well. It’ll save you time when you get to the park.
Dole Whip – Dole Whip is as good as they make it sound! Unfortunately, they were out of the pineapple kind while we were there, but I tried the strawberry, and it was delicious. They also have alcoholic versions…just saying!
Magic Kingdom nighttime fireworks – While this was an amazing fireworks show, and super cool to see at a Disney park, my personal advice is to leave a little early and not stay for the whole thing. You could even position yourself near an exit and watch from there and then jet out. We got out semi-early, and the crowd behind us was insane. Not something I wanted to get stuck in with a tired kid.
Pack food and take coolers – There are plenty of restaurants and fast food type places in the parks, but you can bring your own food and I would highly recommend doing this. We packed PB&J sandwiches, snacks, fruit, and water/drinks for everyone. Hunger could hit while you’re waiting in a long line, and while that’s fine for adults (for the most part!), for kids it’s just not. I’m so glad we did this!
Freeze water bottles and/or any drinks the night before – This was a handy little tip someone shared with us. Freeze water bottles the night before so that when you’re ready to drink them at the park, they’re nice and cold and stay that way the whole time.
That about sums up our Disney trip! Let me know if you have any questions. Happy to help!