Travel has been virtually non-existent for our family since we entered pandemic life but back in February, we gambled on being vaccinated and tourism opening up and began booking late spring, summer, and fall travel. Life right now looks a lot different than this time last year – Clay and I are vaccinated, our kids are in school full-time, and spring sports are dominating our schedule. We knew we wanted to celebrate the end of the school year with a big (domestic) trip so when we asked the kids where they wanted to go, they excitedly asked, “Can we go back to Disney World?“
We arrived home from our last (and first) week-long trip to Walt Disney World the first week of February 2020 so it was technically our last trip prior to entering pandemic-life. It wasn’t our favorite family vacation (check out Walt Disney World – What We Liked and What We Did Not) but we had a great time and we left knowing it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime trip and we’d be back again someday.
Prior to 2017, we weren’t what I’d classify as Disney people. While I had been to Disneyland a handful of times as a child and Walt Disney World once as a teenager, Clay had never been to either location and we never went to either one in the years together prior to having children. When stationed in San Antonio in 2017, we took an epic road trip through the Southwest and incorporated three days at Disneyland ‘for the kids’. And wouldn’t you know? Clay and I learned that we love Disneyland and of course the kids do too. We opted for a couple of family trips to Europe before jumping into the Walt Disney World pond but especially with our upcoming trip, I think we’re officially Disney people. Truth be told, we’d be going to either Eastern Europe or the Mediterranean instead of Walt Disney World if we weren’t still living in (hopefully) the tail-end of a pandemic. But with everything our kids have endured this past year-and-a-half, we were thrilled to be able to enthusiastically answer “YES!!!!” when they asked if we could go back to Walt Disney World this summer.
So what is our plan this time around? Well – Walt Disney World has a lot of pandemic-related restrictions and rules in place that will no doubt make this trip feel different than our last (read Disney-related COVID-19 updates here) but we’re still very much looking forward to our trip. We are staying at Wilderness Lodge and have 5-Day Park Hopper tickets (Armed Forces Salute). We stayed in a Fort Wilderness cabin on our last trip and while the cabins themselves were very nice, the resort was way too spread out for our liking and it felt like the internal bus system took forever. We’re looking forward to staying at a much more compact resort this time around.
Additionally we’ve planned a much more relaxing trip and will utilize rest days and have mid-day dining reservations to combat the Florida heat and humidity in June. And the most wonderful aspect of our 9-day trip? Good friends of ours are staying at Wilderness Lodge at the beginning of our trip and my sister and her family will be staying at Wilderness Lodge at the end of our trip. We will get to see (and hug!) people we haven’t seen since we PCSed to Fort Sheridan last summer. So. flippin’. excited.
Itinerary: We’re going in June. It isn’t ideal but we had to wait until school was out because our kids’ school requires a 10-day quarantine for any airplane travel. All of The Walt Disney World parks are operating at 35% capacity so in addition to purchasing tickets, you also have to reserve the parks on the days that you want go. We recognize that the capacity may change the closer to our trip – if so, we hope they bring back some sort of Fast Pass system. We have our park reservations all set and have planned the following:
- Day 1: Arrival
- Day 2: Magic Kingdom
- Day 3: Hollywood Studios
- Day 4: Resort/Rest Day
- Day 5: EPCOT
- Day 6: Resort/Rest Day
- Day 7: Magic Kingdom (with my sister and her family)
- Day 8: Animal Kingdom (with my sister and her family)
- Day 9: Resort/Rest Day
- Day 10: Departure
On our previous trip, we did 6 days with 6-Day Park Hopper and while fun, it was exhausting. We wanted to make this trip equal parts fun and relaxing. We plan to rope-drop and stay until the parks close so the resort/rest days will be very much appreciated, I’m sure.
Advanced Dining Reservations: Because all the table-service restaurants are operating at a reduced capacity, advanced dining reservations are pretty much required if you want to eat a sit-down non-quick service meal at Walt Disney World. We’ve managed to secure the following reservations for our trip: Jungle Skipper Canteen, Prime Time Cafe, Raglan Road, Chefs de France, Whispering Canyon, Be Our Guest, Yak & Yeti, Chef Mickey’s, and Beaches & Cream.
While Walt Disney World isn’t our only trip this summer, it will be our first vacation as a family since the pandemic that involves airplanes, crowds, and a lengthy hotel stay. We’re vaccinated. We’re well-adept at adhering to mask-wearing policies, and we’re 100% ready to visit the most magical place on Earth. Is it June yet?