Friday, December 15, 2023

Disney Trip Part 1

  Hi friends! I hope you all had a good week. We are officially on Christmas break-- woohoo! I am very much looking forward to getting to spend the next 2 weeks soaking up some family time. 

Today we are going to have a look back at our trip to Disney. I can't wait! We were there for a full week, so I am going to break this trip up into 2 parts instead of one mega post. Let's have a look at the first few days!

Before we start, we stayed at 3 different hotels. This was obviously not our #1 choice, but because we were trying to save money and this was the only way we could do it for "free". As you know, Disney is crazy expensive! We go every other year, so we try to save money wherever possible. 

Our first hotel was the Dolphin. 

We love the Swan and Dolphin and usually stay here. If you didn't already know, the Swan and Dolphin came under Marriott ownership in 2019 when Marriott merged with Starwood hotels. Swan and Dolphin are technically on Disney property, so you get all the perks of being an on-property hotel, but you can use Marriott points-- score! As you know, Devin travels for his job and has a bunch of Marriott points. So we stayed here for the first two days. 

We got to the hotel on Saturday after Thanksgiving around lunchtime. There is something so magical about walking into the lobby of a Disney hotel on the first day of a Disney trip. I get butterflies every time!! Here's the view from our room. Can you see Tower of Terror?


The weather was sunny and 82 degrees, so we headed straight to the pool. 

The Swan and Dolphin have a beautiful pool, with a cute water slide and waterfall. I didn't get a good picture because I was swimming and going down the slide with the kids, but here's a pretty pic from their website:

The kids were living their best lives. So were the parents. 😁 

After the pool, we showered and walked over to the Yacht & Beach Club area, then the Boardwalk for dinner at Trattoria al Forno. It was delicious, and I would highly recommend it. Then we all went back and went to bed so we were ready for the big first day.

Day 1: Magic Kingdom

Day 1 of visiting the parks was Magic Kingdom!! Since the Dolphin is an on-property hotel, we had early theme park entry. We were on the bus bright and early at 7:00 am so we were ready for rope drop at 7:30. 

My kids are early risers anyway, so getting out the door and on the bus by 7:00 felt like just a regular day for us. 

In case anyone is wondering why this post (and all posts lately) have more pictures of LG than of Liam, please know that we took approximately 15 pictures here and this was Liam's best. He's at a tricky age for pictures. But please know he was right there with us, he was just having too much fun to stop for a good pic. 😊

Yes, we all have matching shirts. I got them off Etsy but I won't link because the quality wasn't the best (bummer!).

We headed straight to Snow White's Mine Train and waited about 20 minutes. This was the longest line we waited in all day!! We've been to Disney 5 times in the past 8 years (I know, we are crazy), and I have to say... the week after Thanksgiving is consistently very low crowds. Not to mention the weather was in the 70's or low 80's. I highly recommend going then!!

After Snow White, we went on a bunch of other rides. We went on:

- It's a Small World (both kids LOVE) 

- Haunted Mansion (Liam said "I liked it, but I don't like that it was so dark", LG "liked it but it was too slow").

- Big Thunder Mountain 3 times in a row (their favorite ride from the whole trip!)

Liam and mommy rode together...

... then LG and mommy rode together.

- Pirates of the Carribbean (also a huge hit)

The kids tried convincing us we needed swords at home. After seeing them sword fight for 30 seconds we realized that was a quick "nope!!!"

Then we went to lunch. We had reservations at Be Our Guest (thanks Sarah for reviewing this on your blog-- we never would've thought to make reservations here otherwise!). This restaurant is beautiful, and just like all of Disney, the ambiance was truly magical. 

We were seated in the West Wing, which was just like you'd picture it from the movie. I took a video of the room, but realized that isn't very blog friendly. Sorry! Here's LG with the enchanted rose:

The kids loved their food, but especially loved dessert. They got to paint their Chip cups (made out of white chocolate) with edible paint. 

Their plates also had "the grey stuff" on them and both kids agreed, "the grey stuff is delicious!"

After lunch, we stopped to get Starbucks for the parents (on Main Street) and got my pin!

Check out that pin!

We spent the rest of the day riding more rides:

- LG and Devin went on Space Mountain while Liam and I rode Barnstormer a few times. 

- Big Thunder Mountain 5 more times (there was no line-- we literally walked right on every single time!)

- The carousel behind the castle

- Pirates of the Carribbean again

- Aladdin and Jasmine's Magic Carpets

We also walked around and did some shopping/looking at the decorations. Here's LG making a wish at Cinderella's wishing well:

 We rode and rode until the park closed at 6 (for the Very Merry Christmas Party). We knew it was closing early, but thought that was okay because the kids would be exhausted and we were coming back to Magic Kingdom another day anyway. We could get them to bed early and hit the ground running the next day. 

Day 2: Hollywood Studios

Before we start on Hollywood Studios, I want to point out that this was the only day we bought Lightning Lanes and it was 100% worth it. Remember how I said the crowds were usually lower this time of year? This one day was an exception. We were very lucky to get in before the park opened to the masses, and then used our Lightning Lanes. Otherwise, we may have all been grumpy!

We woke up at Swan and Dolphin and took the ferry boat over to Hollywood Studios. It was a Monday, so the early entry was at 8:30. This gave us a little time to sleep in and get ready at a slower pace. We got into the park and headed straight to Slinky Dog Dash. 

We waited about 15 minutes, and then went straight to Toy Story Mania. Slinky Dog Dash and Toy Story Mania were both BIG hits. We were able to ride both rides before the park opened to everyone else and the craziness began.

Lily Grace's "new friend Bethany I met at the Chick-fil-a playground" told her Tower of Terror was the best ride, so LG was insisting on trying it. Since LG wanted to try it, Liam insisted he wanted to too. Waiting for Tower of Terror, peep Devin in the background. 

The line was only 10 minutes, so luckily we didn't wait too long before Liam realized he wanted to back out. He said "I didn't like how the building looked liked it was falling apart and had spider webs, it was too spooky." I thought "if that is too spooky, you're going to hate this ride." We left the line and went to get a donut:

It turns out LG was also not a fan of Tower of Terror. She "liked the part where it went up and down, but not the TV parts. The parts where the building got struck by lightning and the people turned electric. That was scary." There were no tears, but she was pretty adamant that she wasn't going on it again. Now she calls it "Tower of Never Ever Again". 😊

After Tower of Terror, we went to Rock'n Roller Coaster.  Liam wasn't tall enough, so he and Devin explored the Cars area with Lightning McQueen. Rock'n Roller Coaster was a BIG hit, but please check LG's face on the ride:

She swears she loved it, despite those eyes in the picture saying otherwise!

Next, we rode Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, which was a hit:

At this point, the park was crazy crowded. We had our Lightning Lanes, but the time window didn't start for another hour and a half and the lines were too long for everything else. We remembered that the kids wanted to play at the beach at Beach Club when we walked past it the other day, so we hopped on the Skyliner (the kids LOVED the Skyliner-- Liam said it was "one of my favorite rides") and let the kids play while the parents regrouped/figured out the rest of the day.

We played for awhile, and when our next Lightning Lane time slot was open, we hopped back on the Skyliner. 

Now, in case anyone reading this is planning a trip to Disney and is wondering "should I bring my Double Stroller? My oldest is way too old for a stroller" let me remind you how much walking/standing there is at Disney!! We thought LG would never want to ride in the stroller, she's 6 years old and hasn't been in a stroller in years. But girlfriend's legs were tired, so our stroller situation ended up looking like this towards the end of the day:

We made it work, and luckily these two are best friends and get along super well so sharing wasn't an issue. We stayed until about 7:00, and then headed home to shower and watch the fireworks from our hotel room. We could still see them, but then didn't have to fight the masses getting back to the hotel at 9:00 pm. Watching the fireworks in our pajamas was fine by us!

Day 3: No Park Day

The next day was a "day off". We were switching hotels, wanted to grab some groceries and have a more chill day. I have very few pictures from this day, but there wasn't too much to see. We switched to the Signia by Hilton, which is also on property in the Bonnet Creek area. I have to say, it was nice to be able to use Hilton points and stay for free, but we won't be staying here again. The Swan and Dolphin are MUCH better. Signia's shuttle service to the parks was so inconvenient we ended up driving ourselves more than once. The decor of the hotel didn't have that same Disney Magic feel as the other on property hotels do.

We took the shuttle over to Magic Kingdom because the kids wanted to ride the monorail and we wanted to see the Christmas decorations at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian hotels. 

Please note that LG dressed up her stuffed animal cat as Cinderella too so they could be matching. So cute! This was the only cold day, at 52 degrees and windy. Liam and I bundled up to stay warm while waiting on the shuttle back to the hotel. 

That's it for the first 3 days. Come back next week to read about the rest of our trip!

Today I am linking up with Andrea and Erika for Friday Favorites. Have a nice weekend!


  1. We like to stay at the Swan and Dolphin too. Your kids are brave to go on those scary rides!

  2. I didn't know that you could use your points at Swan and Dolphin for Marriott. When we stay off property we always drive because the hotels transportation isn't the greatest. There was one hotel that took you to the park at 10 then picked you up at 6, like what a waste of the day.

  3. I was so excited to see a post from you, and then a Disney post with a shout out to me!! The best! You guys killed Magic Kingdom! I love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad too. What a great idea to write down what the kids had to say about the rides, a fun memory to think about later. I'm pleased you enjoyed Beast's Castle, the grey stuff is delicious!!

  4. What a fun trip! You are so smart to figure out ways to save money at Disney! My fave is the pic of LG with her little cat in the cinderella dress! Tanya

  5. What a great post! I totally agree about the stroller. We’ve only been to Disney once, but I always recommend a stroller. My kids were 5 and 7 when we went and both needed a stroller break occasionally. I knew it would be our only time going so we went open to close a few days and that wouldn’t have been possible without a stroller. I am so happy to see that you are feeling good enough to do Disney two days in a row!
    Sarah @ Sunshine & Books