Okay, so I wanted to write a blog post every evening after getting back from the parks and give updates in real-time. That SO didn't happen. It was just too much chaos (one of my favorite words clearly). Don't get me wrong, we had a great time and I'm so glad we went. Part of it was just the normal hustle and bustle of being on a family vacation with 3 young kids, part of it was struggling to be prepared for the morning rush to get out the door and into the park, and another part of it after looking back, I realized I over planned and made it harder on myself. Then all the craziness happened for in our lives during the second half of 2022 (You can find that blog post here). So I am now playing catch up on all my writing. I decided to write a long overview post of the trip to hit the highlights, what our trip schedule was, and anything that really stood out to us. Then break things down into more detailed, focused posts afterwards.
We drove from Maryland which is about 12 and a 1/2 hours, give or take depending on traffic and stops. While we have made that kind of drive in one stretch before with the kids, it's exhausting. And we usually spend the next day or two recovering, which I didn't want to be doing because the day after we got there was our first park day. So I decided to leave a day earlier on May 30th and stretch out the drive across two days. Which also gave us the chance to do some sightseeing as we hadn't been to either of the Carolinas yet. This calendar is a very basic view of what our schedule was like. There were multiple dining reservations we ended up missing or canceling because I had booked us chalk full with reservations.
On our first night (May 30th), we stayed at an Airbnb in Charleston, SC and had a REALLY good time that evening. I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the city seemed compared to similar big cities that we've been to. I didn't explore the entire town through every nook and cranny, and every town has its nicer and rougher parts. But overall it seemed clean, I felt safe, and it was a very nice evening. We took a private horse-drawn carriage around the city and I can't say enough good things about the company, Palmetto Carriage Works. The horses were well cared for, the guides were informative about the history of the town, and he was safe with us, the horse, and everyone around us on the streets. I will say while the Airbnb was super cool, I wouldn't really call it kid friendly.
The next day we stopped in St. Augustine, FL to visit the lighthouse and maritime museum there. The lighthouse was having restoration work done so we weren't able to go inside but it was still cool to see. The museum is spread out across multiple buildings on the property and was very interesting. That evening we arrived at Disney and checked into our resort, Caribbean Beach Resort. I absolutely loved it there, we had a pirate room in the Trinidad section. I was initially a little bit worried about being at one of the sections further away from Port Royale (the main lobby building, food court, and bigger bus stop) but ended up really liking it. We were just a short walk away from the Spyglass Grill and the staff and food there were amazing. We ate there almost every day, and on multiple occasions the staff went out of their way to give my kids some Disney magic and were overall very kind.
Our first park day was June 1st at Epcot. It's technically only the second biggest park at Disney World at 300 acres (Animal Kingdom is the first, but of course not all of it is guest accessible) and man did we feel it! I didn't really have the hang of Genie+ yet so we didn't use it much. Actually, we didn't ride any rides that day except the Living with The Land garden ride. We had reservations at San Angel Inn Restaurante (major thumbs down from us), Garden Grill (one of the best places we ate at the entire trip), and Spice Road Table (also one of our favorites from the trip). The rest of the time we just walked around and enjoyed the sights and smells. I think we circled the whole park at least twice. We did a lot of back and forth throughout the day. It was pretty hot that day which made it hard to think and we definitely enjoyed sitting inside to get out of the heat. As I started to feel more confident about how to use the app in the afternoon and evening we had a better time compared to the morning. One thing I will note, try to see the princesses earlier in the day. We saw Anna and Elsa in the morning which was really fun. We then did a lot of walking and eating, we were planning to go back and see other princesses in the afternoon/evening only to learn they leave in the early afternoon so we didn't meet anyone else that day. We did see Minnie Mouse, Joy, and Vanellope from a distance though. We had the dinner and dessert package at Spice Road Table, which has a covered patio with lakeside views of the fireworks show. It was phenomenal, awe-inspiring, and one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.
My drink and patio view at Spice Road Table
June 2nd was a rest day for us. My husband and I have a little bit of a difference of opinion when it comes to what can be considered a rest day. I consider any day we aren't going into the actual parks and doing all the walking for 8-15 hours a rest day. He considers a rest day to be not leaving the hotel/home resort for the entire day. I had originally planned to drive the hour and a half to the Tampa zoo first thing in the morning. The kids and I watch a show on Disney+ that goes behind the scenes there and we really wanted to go check it out. I was then planning to drive the 40 minutes from there to Clearwater beach and spend the rest of the day at the ocean. That did not happen. By the time the fireworks were over at Epcot and we got on the skyliner back to our resort, it was like 11? 11:30? So after walking around in the heat all day and getting to bed so late, we were not moving well the next morning. What we ended up doing was just hanging out at the resort. The kids and I caught the tail end of breakfast at Spyglass grill and brought some back to the hotel room for Bryden. We watched some tv, swam at the pool, ate lunch at the grill, and played in the sand area twice throughout the day. It was a super chill, lazy day and we had a great time. I have a really hard time slowing down and doing nothing, especially when I'm traveling or on vacation; I always want to do all the things. So it was a new (to me) but refreshing change of pace.
June 3rd was our first Magic Kingdom day and our afternoon was better than our morning, mostly because I struggle to get my family up and moving in the morning while I'm a morning person (it's really a reoccurring theme throughout the trip). I also started getting a better understanding of how to use Genie+ which helped a lot. We drove our car there and walked in to catch the ferry. The first thing we did was run to the back of the park to eat a cinnamon roll from Gaston's that everyone raves about. It was pretty good but I wouldn't say it's the best I've ever had, still delicious though. We had a capture your moment session booked but we couldn't find where to go. I even asked 3 different cast members and they had no idea what I was talking about, so I just let it go because at this point we had missed almost half of our session trying to find it. We started making our way through the park checking out the different rides/sights. We had lunch at Be Our Guest; the food and dessert were pretty good. The kids' dessert is really cute, they get to "paint" their own Chip cup and then eat it. I wish the interaction with the Beast was more personable but I knew going in that it wasn't. Pre-covid you use to be able to do a meet and greet/photos with the Beast in a side room as you leave but now he just walks around the tables and waves at everyone as he passes. I will say that even with the rushed interaction they clearly were trying to make sure every table got a wave. Kammy's favorite ride was the Seven Dwarfs Mine train, she's a daredevil- I'm glad I have her dad to take her on those rides. We ate dinner at Casey's Corner and loved it! The pianist that day, Grayson, was amazing, and watching his fingers fly over the keys was one of my favorite parts of the day. He played the Monsters Inc theme song for me at request. We also heard him play some ragtime songs and Into The Unknown from Frozen 2. We had the fireworks after-party package, so we got a reserved area to watch the fireworks and then drinks and desserts at Tomorrow Land Terrace after the fireworks were done. We hung out in the reserved area from 8:20 ish until the fireworks started about an hour later. The drinks and dessert buffet was a very nice ending to a long but good day. And by the time we were done, most of the post-fireworks crowd had already dispersed and getting to the ferry to get back to the car was pretty easy.
June 4th was another rest day for us. I'm not sure what I was thinking to plan an 8 am reservation the morning after Magic Kingdom but I did and we totally didn't make it there. We were supposed to go to Trattoria al Forno, but once again after a late night with fireworks I couldn't get the family up and moving that early, and I decided it wasn't worth the fight. I've determined after going on that trip that I shouldn't make any reservations or plans before 9:30 at the earliest. At least until my family is older, because despite the fact that I am totally a rope drop kind of person, the rest of my family is not. We did make it to our 11:45 reservation at Ohana and 5 pm Boathouse reservation. We loved both of them. At Ohana, the food was AMAZING. I also got the Polynesian Red Eye drink with my meal and it was one of the best drinks I've had, ever. I'm dying to recreate it here at home. At the Boathouse, the food was also very good. I got the Duck Duck Razz that I've seen people raving about. It was good, not the best tasting I've ever had but not terrible. I will say that it is strong, at least for me, and I was definitely feeling it (but in a good way) by the time we were leaving. And I got to keep the little duck! In between the reservations and after dinner we just hung out at our resort again. The kids and I discovered another sand area on the walk to Port Royale that had a hammock instead of chairs. So we hung out there for a while, I sat in the hammock watching the kids play in the sand. It was so relaxing, I even bought a hammock for my house after getting back.
June 5th was our Hollywood Studios day. This was the hottest day of our trip, by far. We struggled to find as much shade here, so between that and the black "roads" in some parts of the park, we felt like fish in a frying pan. It was also a VERY rough morning trying to get out the door for my family. But we rallied and made it there to Hollywood and Vine where we had late breakfast reservations. Honestly, we did not enjoy the food there. I know it's similar food that's offered at most of the other breakfast locations, but it just wasn't that good. The pastries were good but once the main food came out, we weren't impressed. While the food wasn't great, the kids loved meeting the characters which is why we were there. Overall that day was just incredibly hot, I know it's Florida in June but even the devil would have needed to cool off if he stayed out in it all day. Some good points of the day were the Frozen sing-along (this was my favorite part-watching the kid's faces light up and singing with them), and riding Slinky Dog Dash. My kids still rave about it and ask when we can ride again. I also got to meet Sully from Monsters Inc, which is one of my all time favorite characters. In the end though, we were frying and just not having a good time so we ended up leaving the park around 5 pm.
June 6th was another rest day for us. We had late breakfast reservations at Chef Mickey's. Once again, we didn't particularly enjoy the breakfast food but we had a good time seeing all the characters. Then we went back to our resort and hung out until our dinner reservations at Artist Point. My sister in law, her husband, and their two kids (who are the same ages as my two oldest) were also flying in that evening to join us on the second half of our trip. I really didn't like the food at Artist Point, Bryden did though. It was hit and miss with the kids. But we had an AMAZING time with the characters there. I had bought a dress for Kammy off Etsy and had a former Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique worker who started her own business come to our room and give Kammy a princess makeover. She was a joy to talk with and her work was amazing. You can find her contact info here, Coco's Pixie Dust.
Pictures from Artist Point and the princess makeover
My sister in-law's family got in later in the evening and had been traveling all day so they just went to their hotel. We reconvened the next morning, June 7th, to go to Animal Kingdom together. They were staying off site, so in the mornings my husband would drive over to pick them up, bring them to our resort and we all caught the bus together. We had a great day there, Animal Kingdom is my husband's favorite park. We went on Kilimanjaro Safari as soon as we got there and saw a lot of the animals. My husband, oldest daughter, and sister in law LOVED riding Expedition Everest and went on it multiple times throughout the day. My husband even convinced me to go on it. Never again will I do it, I about died I swear. But I did it once and bought a T-shirt in the gift shop as a reward for myself. I also then got a drink from a nearby bar because I still felt terrible, even after getting off. We ate at Rainforest Cafe for lunch, which was really fun because my youngest, my niece, and my nephew had not been there before.
The next day we went to the Kennedy Space Center. I will admit, I am pretty sure I got ripped off. When I looked up the Space Center I wasn't paying attention and didn't realize I was looking at a third party website until I was about to check out. But by that point I was super excited about all these "VIP" things they offered in a package, including transportation from Orlando. My car was 2 seats shy of being able to fit everyone from both families. So I went ahead and booked with the third party. The transportation through the third party site was also a contracted third party company that they worked with. I really liked our driver (Paul?), and the transportation company. But between my own research after booking and some things Paul told me, I realized the booking website hyped up these "VIP" things that were already included in admission at the Kennedy Center. You live and you learn. I definitely won't be booking through that site again. Despite being overcharged, we had a really good time at the Kennedy Center and even got to watch a Space X launch. All of the kids are very into space and talk about being astronauts together. We also got to do a meet and greet with an astronaut and she signed Kammy's shirt and Bryden's hat.
June 9th we went to Magic Kingdom again, this time with my sister in law and her family. We had a really great day there again. This was the day that we celebrated Kammy's birthday during the trip. I had got us reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table for breakfast and Kammy was in another special dress from Etsy, I also got Oliver a prince outfit. Once again, didn't really enjoy the breakfast food. But we got to eat in Cinderella's castle and meet her which made for the best 6th birthday ever. At least according to Kammy. We rode a bunch of rides, ate yummy food and treats, saw the parade, got rained on a little bit, and watched the fireworks together. My family had booked the after-party dessert package again but my sister in law didn't want to. We weren't particularly in love with the reserved section after sitting there to watch the fireworks the first time. So we checked in at Tommorrowland Terrace ahead of time and then we actually watched the fireworks with my sister in law and her family from the bridge coming from Big Thunder Mountain towards Frontierland. After the fireworks, my family went to the dessert party while my sister in law and her family did some shopping. We then met back up and left the park together.
Unfortunately, the next morning as we were leaving to go to Seaworld Oliver threw up and was miserable. Bryden stayed at the hotel with him for the day. I took the girls and met my sister and law and her family at Seaworld. We had reservations for a dolphin trainer experience and a shark up close tour. We had a really good day together and enjoyed our up close encounters a lot. It poured rain off and on during the day and actually during our shark up close tour we had to shelter in place in the back building with the sharks. Chase, who did our shark tour, was very knowledgeable, kind, and took the curve ball in our schedule like a champ. He entertained us for extra time when we had to stay there longer due to the shelter in place order.
That evening into the next morning Oliver still wasn't doing great. But the rest of us were fine, so once again Bryden stayed back to relax at the resort and hang out with Oliver while the rest of us went to Discovery Cove. Bryden and I had been to Discovery Cove together when we went to Orlando on a baby moon before Khamryn was born. This time we had a VIP cabana and really enjoyed it. Our attendant, Aly, was great. She spent the day helping us with our food, drinks, leading us around to different parts of the resort, and going to reservations we had. Khamryn and I also did a dolphin swim together and we got a private animal experience as part of the VIP package. We got to meet a kinkajou and their handler. It was a really great day and we are wanting to all go back as an extended family trip again sometime in the future.
Flamingos out on their morning walk at Discovery Cove
The next day, June 12th, we packed up and started our drive back to Maryland while my sister in law and her family went to the airport to fly back to their home. Thankfully, Oliver was feeling mostly better at this point so the drive back was normal. We stayed at another Airbnb in Greensboro, North Carolina for the night. It was a gorgeous property and I wouldn't mind staying there again. The day after that we arrived back home in Maryland.
If I had to rate the Disney parks from favorite day to least favorite day based on this trip and how it went it would look like this:
1st place- Magic Kingdom (We went there twice)
2nd place- Animal Kingdom
3rd place- Epcot (It was very close for 2nd place)
4th place- Hollywood Studios
While I was sad about not having a good time in Hollywood Studios and Oliver getting sick, overall it was a really great trip. We learned and saw a lot, and had a great time as a family.