After arriving the previous day, the Calkins Family was going to spend their first full day at Walt Disney World (WDW) at Epcot. I gave the girls the option of where to go first, and since the best way that I could describe the park was “like a giant children’s museum that has Anna and Elsa,” they obviously wanted to go there first.
I woke up the girls early so that we could be at Epcot when they opened and the girls surprisingly cooperated (by Day Three though, they just wanted to sleep in). We got the backpack filled with snacks and water, grabbed their mouse ears, and hopped onto the Disney bus service that would take us to the park (transportation is so easy at WDW that we did not need to rent a car). While the excitement was still there for the girls, it really kicked in once they saw the giant golf ball at Epcot. Now they knew that I had not just taken them to a posh hotel in a swamp and called it WDW.
So to preface this, if there was going to be a day on this trip that I was going to lose it, it was going to be this day. It was our first full day at WDW and we were certainly not going to have our rhythm completely down. Unfortunately, that was not the problem on Day One. First of all, I accidentally got us there an hour early, and when the park gates opened, our tickets had not been activated yet. Even though I checked this with the hotel and with a Disney representative beforehand, they still did not work, so we had to briefly wait in line to get that issue fixed (thankfully, the actual park did not open for another 30 minutes, so we still had plenty of time). Adding to that, we were not in Epcot for more than two hours before our Minnie Mouse stroller was taken while we were waiting in line for Spaceship Earth. Since this was the first day and I did not want any added stress, I just coughed up the $40 and purchased a new stroller (which had a cupholder and better wheels, so it was not all bad). Given that most of our time at WDW was spent with one girl in the stroller and one on my shoulders, this saved a lot of time, patience, and arm strength. To be honest, there were two other strollers that looked exactly the same as ours nearby, so it was likely a case of mistaken identity, but I definitely marked “CALKINS” in permanent marker all over the new one. So Tip #1 would be to mark your stroller so that it is unlikely to be taken by accident.
Tip #2 would be to not only book your FastPasses before you get into the park (if able to), but also to have a plan for right when the park opens (I researched for a few days on wait times for attractions and which ones are the best for your limited amount of FastPasses). Basically, head straight to an attraction that will have a very long line in a few minutes (and/or that you do not have a FastPass for) or one that you want to ride more than once; Frozen Ever After met both those criteria. And I am so glad we did, because after we finished the ride and everyone else was still in line behind us, we slid next door to meet Elsa and Anna, which was another short wait. We saved a ton of time by completing these two attractions first, and coincidentally, they also both helped get my girls into the mindset that they were finally at WDW (and it was great for me because, while in the short line for Frozen Ever After, I was notified by my boss that I was selected for promotion to Major… so there was that). And of course, they loved the ride so much that it was a good thing I had already booked a FastPass so that they could ride it again later in the day (Go Dad!).
Speaking of the character experiences, these seemed like the girls’ favorite attractions. Not only did we scope out where all the characters were beforehand, but we also kept track of the wait times so that we were never waiting more than 15 minutes to see them (thank you, Disney app!).
For $15 for each of the autograph books and a few colored Sharpies, this made the trip. The girls almost filled up their books with signatures and we filled the opposite pages with pictures of them with the characters. I was hesitant to get the books at first, but they loved using and looking through them, so I would highly recommend it, especially for younger children.
Tip #3 would be to make sure that they are taking part in the planning of your day and have a major say in choosing attractions. I am all about efficiency and getting my money’s worth, but if you and your little ones are going to have a great time, you need to Let It Go (see what I did there?). When I first took them to Disneyland, it was the least stressful theme park experience I had ever had because I had no expectations whatsoever; essentially, if they were happy, I was happy. They want to eat chicken nuggets and fries? Great. They want to sit on a bench and rest? Perfect. Aside from allowing them to eat candy nonstop, it is good for them to feel that they have the primary say in what you are doing throughout the day. And as you know from this blog, sometimes that leads to surprising results. For instance, since we got into the park, they wanted to go on the “rocket ship” ride that was inside the giant golf ball. Pretty sure something got lost in translation during my explanation of the attraction to them, but nonetheless, they still really wanted to go on it. They absolutely loved Spaceship Earth and ended up going on it twice. A slow-moving ride about history narrated by Judi Dench? While that sounds right up my alley, who would have thought that they would have enjoyed it so much.
Tip #4: Unless your family is on the Disney Dining Plan (which you should not be if you have preschoolers), I would recommend eating only one sit-down meal at each park and snacking throughout the day. Not only does this allow for one quality meal a day that is not rushed, but also gives your children a chance to snack during movement from one attraction to the next. At Epcot, the girls chose Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, located in the Italy Pavilion, which did not disappoint. Great pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, bread, and chocolate milk; needless to say, we all left full and happy.
As a supplement to Tip #4, I would highly recommend buying one of the souvenir popcorn containers, if anything just for the refills (the medium plastic one, not the giant All Terrain Armored Transport one… even though I got that too). For $10, you get the container full of popcorn, and for $2 thereafter, you get it refilled with fresh popcorn. Over the course of four days, I probably refilled that thing ten times or more. And it was perfect for snacking on the go. Definitely worth it. And when it comes to snacking at Epcot, the World Pavilion is definitely the place to do it. Pretzels in Germany. Macarons (and macaron ice cream sandwiches) in France. English Toffee and shortbread in the United Kingdom. Loaded carnitas tortillas chips in Mexico. Yum.
In lieu of going through our entire Epcot experience (Turtle Talk with Crush was amazing for little ones and the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros is like It’s a Small World without all that singing), because frankly it is all amazing, I just wanted to hit the highlights and put out some tips from our experience.
Five- and three-year olds eventually get bored of visiting countries of the world (World Pavilion), looking at fish (The Seas with Nemo & Friends), and playing at essentially a children’s museum (Journey Into Imagination With Figment), so having a park hopper was great. Of course, the girls wanted to go straight to the Magic Kingdom to see their favorite character and to go on some more rides.
After meeting Elena of Avalor and Rapunzel and going on The Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World, the girls enjoyed just staying put to watch the fireworks show. A perfect end to a pretty good day (by now I had almost forgotten about the stroller).
Thoroughly exhausted after the long day, we headed to our bus that would take us back to the resort. Talking the whole way, especially to other people on the bus, Elaina obviously had a really great day; Gabriella, on the other hand, did not wake up until it was time to brush her teeth. We conducted our normal bedtime routine of praying, singing, and hugs and kisses, before both of them passed out in record time. So far, this was turning into an amazing vacation, and it was only going to get better.
Thanks again for checking in on us and hope to see when we get to Day Two at Hollywood Studios. Cheers!