I'm a mom of three kids, and we went with all of them to Disney World for the first time in April.
My kids are all under 5, so seeing the characters was a huge highlight for them over rides.
We went in April and the heat was already unbearable.
Although I wouldn't consider myself a Disney adult, I love visiting the parks every so often. We had been to Disney World when my oldest was 18 months old in 2019, and I was eager to take our twins for the first time.
My family had a trip to Florida planned, and I decided to check last minute to see if there was still availability to visit Disney World. To my surprise, there was, and we were able to stay in a property hotel and do all four parks in four days.
And although it was truly magical to take my three kids to Disney together for the first time, not everything was perfect. Here are the things we loved and didn't love about our visit.
We loved the benefits of Genie+
Last time I was in the parks Genie+ didn't exist, so it took me a bit of researching and eventually talking to a Disney travel agent to understand how it works.
The long story short is that you can pay between $15 to $35 — depending on how busy the park will be — to be able to book Lighting Lanes for rides. You can only use it for one ride at a time and can book the next after you're scanned into the first ride you're taking.
Paying more to enjoy Disney is not a plus, but the ability to not stand in line with three little kids under 5 really improved our experience. That said, there were some rides for which we could never get a reservation for, like Remy's Ratatouille Adventure or Slinky Dog Dash.
Epcot was the only park we felt like we could've done without the extra expense.
I was also impressed by how many characters we were able to see
During past visits, finding characters in the wild seemed almost impossible. I still remember standing in line for almost an hour for my then-toddler to take a photo with Donald Duck at Animal Kingdom.
This time around, between booking meet and greets with Genie+ and just walking around the park we were able to have our kids see so many characters.
This was important to us because, being so little, our kids were mostly into the characters while in the parks. Even if a character was not available for photos and just said hello to us from afar, my kids' eyes were glowing with excitement to see them in real life.
The PhotoPass was great, even with its glitches
Because I wanted to document this vacation as much as I could, I paid $169 for the Memory Maker PhotoPass. This meant we could scan our MagicBands (wristbands that help you engage with the park) both with photographers around the parks or after rides to collect all of our photos.
We made sure to stop by as many photographers as we could to get photos and got some incredibly special shots.
That said, the system is not perfect. I was given three other families' photos from rides and meet and greets with characters, and I'm still chasing down our photos from riding Expedition Everest which are nowhere to be found.
Even with these glitches, we were able to really get our money's worth.
The new roller coasters were awesome
My husband and I were able to go back into the parks after we put our kids to bed to do all the roller coasters they are too little to ride on. We were truly blown away by Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Tron Lightcycle.
We did have to purchase individual Lighting Lanes for the new rides since we had very limited time and wanted to make sure we could get on all of them. It was absolutely worth spending money to make sure we would hit the attractions we wanted to without standing in line for hours.
But dining at Chef Mickey's was disappointing
Our kids are all young, so they were more interested in seeing characters than getting on rides. Because of this, I made sure to try character dining.
First, I made a reservation for Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, which went above our expectations. The food was delicious, the service was incredible, and the characters came over multiple times to dance and interact with our kids.
We loved it so much that we made a reservation for Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort the next day, but it was a totally different experience.
I don't expect fine dining at a restaurant aimed to keep kids entertained, but I was shocked by how much we disliked the food. The dining room was packed and I thought the service was just OK.
But the most disappointing part was that the characters going table to table spent little time with my kids and the experience seemed rushed. The line to take a photo with Mickey was also incredibly long and packed with overstimulated, screaming toddlers.
The heat was unbearable, even in spring
The last time I visited Disney World was in June and it was scorching hot, which was to be expected in Florida.
This time, I thought things would be better temperature-wise because we were going in early April. I was wrong. We found the heat to be especially unbearable at Hollywood Studios, where there was hardly any shade to be found.
This made our days truly exhausting for the kids, so we made sure to stop by attractions like the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along Film to enjoy some air-conditioning and shade.
I also thought upgrading to MagicBand+ was kind of pointless
We all opted to have MagicBands so it'd be easier to scan into our reservations from Genie+, use our Memory Maker, and charge things to our credit card. I upgraded the adults to the new version of the bands that are rechargeable and supposed to give you access to interactive elements around the parks.
It costs $10 per band to upgrade, but we only paid $5 because we were staying on a Disney property. But, in my opinion, the extra dollars spent weren't worth it.
The upgraded bands are supposed to activate golden statues throughout the parks, prompting little songs or phrases. We regularly saw people standing in front of these statues waving their arms, double tapping their bands, and waiting for something to happen. We had trouble getting these interactions to work and, when they did, we were disappointed.
Our bands also lit up during certain rides and shows. During the fireworks at Epcot and Magic Kingdom, our bands shined a rainbow of colors and vibrated with the fireworks. Although it was neat, it wasn't worth paying extra for.
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