Orlando Vacation Recap Part One: Universal Studios & Epcot
It’s been a few weeks since we returned from our sunny Orlando vacation. A few weeks to go through our credit card purchases, comparing our vacation budget to what was actually spent. A few weeks to reflect on what went right and what went wrong.
Overall I think our trip was a success. There were a lot more meltdowns this time around than in past Disney vacations but with a 2 year old it’s to be expected. We get meltdowns at home all the time, the location of the meltdowns is the only thing that changed for us.
This vacation’s itinerary got pretty detailed. I mean down-to-the-half-hour detailed. Some folks think it takes the magic out of Disney, having to do all that planning. For us it worked out fairly well. To me vacation planning means researching rides and attractions that would be appropriate for Stink while skipping over ones that are too old for her or uninteresting to us. It’s all about maximizing our time.
Even with all my planning we stayed flexible throughout the week, swapping out rides or character meets that we just didn’t feel like doing. Overall, however, we stuck with our itinerary and we were able to get everything done that we wanted to do. Actually we were able to get everything done that we wanted to do once we got there. Making an itinerary for your Disney trip doesn’t mean you’ll feel like completing everything on that list when you’re hot, sweaty and tired at a crowded theme park. So what changed?
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
As you can see we managed to do everything we set out to do, despite going during Spring Break and with lots of lines. However most of our day was centered around the two Harry Potter sections of the parks with very little time spent elsewhere. That was our focus anyway but those wanting to see everything at each park would be better off spending 2 or 3 days there. This was my third trip to Islands of Adventure and my first to see the new Harry Potter at Diagon Alley so there were some things I was willing to skip at Islands of Adventure, like the Frog Choir, which I had already seen.
The Curious George Play Area was a hit at Universal, Seuss Landing was a miss with little shading on a hot day, and Diagon Alley was somewhere in between. Stink loved dancing to Celestina Warbeck, listening to Tales of Beedle the Bard and eating ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s but that fire-breathing dragon and some portions of the Hogwarts Express scared the crap out of her.
Tips and Tricks: The Tales of Beedle the Bard alternates between 2 fables: “The Fountain of Fair Fortune” and “The Tale of the Three Brothers”. Which story they perform isn’t listed in the programs because a magical scroll at the beginning of the show dictates which story is chosen.
The day after Universal was spent changing hotels, having a character breakfast at Cape May Cafe and lounging by the pool at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. Then we spent a full day at Epcot. Well, almost a full day because we all crapped out once again, leaving before the Illuminations show.
Clearly we cannot handle a full day at the Disney parks anymore.
Stink’s attitude was poor in the morning because she really is not a morning person so everything Nemo-related was a flop, even the aquarium. She also didn’t enjoy Spaceship Earth because it was too dark so we focused our morning on character meets until the Three Caballeros Ride opened at 11 am. That ride is always a hit with Stink, just like Magic Kingdom’s It’s a Small World.
A longer stay at the Biergarten restaurant for lunch meant that we were running a little bit behind for the rest of the day. I wasn’t able to fully explore all the countries like I had wanted but was still able to do the important things on our list like visit the Pick-a-Pearl station in Japan. We also spent some quality time at each Kidcot station and checked out the Monsters playground that was set up for Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.
Tips and Tricks: We booked a late lunch reservation to avoid crowds which proved invaluable when we arrived with a napping toddler. Because the restaurant wasn’t crowded we were able to bring her stroller inside while she slept and we ate. Had we arrived during a busier time of the day this would not have been permitted.
The Biergarten lunch was the highlight of the day for everybody and Stink loved the musical performances and spacious dance floor in the restaurant. We watched a LOT more performances on this trip to Epcot because Stink can’t resist dancing to a good beat. Her favorite by far was the band Mariachi Cobre, in Mexico.
I think for our next trip we’ll skip the early morning and instead try to get to the park around lunchtime to stay till the fireworks. Unless Stink miraculously becomes a morning person (which I doubt) this plan of action would be the best for our family. And since my trip planning was so successful this time you can bet that on our next trip I’ll have a new itinerary laid out.
If you’re interested in using my template schedule just download it here. I use the “Notes” section to list my Fastpass+ times and dining reservations as well as other things I need to remember.
Check out our Orlando Vacation Recap Part Two: Magic Kingdom!