We arrived home late last night from our first big trip since enduring pandemic life, of which felt a little too close to my generation’s beloved Oregon Trail. Sure – we PCS’ed last summer and we’ve taken long weekend trips to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Saugatuck but this one was our first big trip since outfitting our cars with multiple bottle of hand sanitizers and developing strong face mask preferences. I’ve already explained why we decided to bite into the Walt Disney World apple again sooner rather than later (spoiler – it involved not being able to travel internationally yet) so let’s talk about what we liked about this trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth and what we didn’t like about it this time around.
What we liked: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. We stayed 9 nights at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and have absolutely no regrets with our resort choice. Inspired by turn-of-the-century National Park lodges, Wilderness Lodge has a rustic vibe that meshes well with our interests.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has two pools (one with a rock slide), a small water park/playground, multiple hot tubs, three restaurants on-site, and plenty of gorgeous scenery.
Our standard room (2 queens) overlooked the Copper Creek Springs pool. The room itself was very nice and had plenty of storage for our long stay, despite not being a suite.
Considered a Deluxe Resort, Wilderness Lodge’s close proximity to Magic Kingdom made it the perfect place for us – especially since the Polynesian is still closed for renovations. We loved being able to take the boat over the Magic Kingdom and very much appreciated not having to wait long whether it be early morning, mid-day, or late at night.
Our favorite restaurant at Wilderness Lodge was Geyser Point Bar & Grill. Located on the water, the food and drinks were fantastic and they were open until 11:00pm so we ended up there quite a bit during our stay. I particularly loved the Cheesy Brisket appetizer with house-made chips and the Huckleberry Punch (pictured).
What we liked: Short wait times! I was admittedly quite worried that the lack of Fast Pass would mean long wait times for all the rides but for the most part, that wasn’t the case of us. The majority of the wait times on the Walt Disney World app were inflated (e.g. if it said 30 minutes, it was closer to 20 minutes) and most rides we waited 15 minutes or less. The longest we waited for a ride was 50 minutes and that as Flight of Passage, which is pretty darn good! And honestly, waiting in line didn’t bother us much because we were happy to have something to wait in line for after the past 18 months!
What we didn’t like: 9 nights at Walt Disney World. While I’m sure we’ll visit Walt Disney World again at some point, it won’t be for 9 nights. We had a blast and we certainly weren’t bored but the four of us agree that 4-5 nights is our sweet spot.
What we liked: 5-Day Park Hopper tickets. We took advantage of the Armed Forces Salute promotion and purchased 5-day Park Hopper tickets. We built in resort/rest days so we could maximize the days we spent in the park. We rope-dropped all of our park days and stayed until close. Our schedule was as follows:
- Day 1 – Arrival at Wilderness Lodge
- Day 2 – Magic Kingdom/Hollywood Studios
- Day 3 – Hollywood Studios/Magic Kingdom
- Day 4 – Resort/Rest Day
- Day 5 – Epcot/Hollywood Studios/Epcot
- Day 6 – Resort/Rest Day
- Day 7 – Magic Kingdom
- Day 8 – Animal Kingdom/Magic Kingdom
- Day 9 – Resort/Rest Day
- Day 10 – Leave
What we didn’t: Waiting until 2pm to park hop. When Walt Disney World reopened after closing due to COVID-19, many things were different than before. While some restrictions had loosened by the time we were there (like not wearing masks!), park reservations and not being able to park hop until 2pm were still very much in place.
What we liked: Being at Walt Disney World with family and friends. Seeing our son reunite with his best friend from our previous duty station is a top 10 parenting moment for me. We loved having the opportunity to experience Walt Disney World with dear Army friends and also my sister and her family. We also had plenty of time with just the four of us – it truly was a great mix.
What we didn’t: Inconsistent service. This admittedly feels like a bit of a cheap shot because the service industry has suffered so much during the pandemic. We knew grace and understanding would be needed throughout our trip and for the most part, we encountered very pleasant and knowledgeable staff. However, we came across a few employees who seemed to go out of their way to be unpleasant. Our room received modified housekeeping (emptying of trash and new towels) every other day so by our last day, it was painfully obvious that a vacuum was never used on the solid surface floors for the duration of our stay. I’m sure rooms weren’t vacuumed due to staffing issues but it would’ve been nice to at least have a broom so we could tidy the floors ourselves.
What we liked: The food. We ate well this trip. The first time we went to Walt Disney World we had a the Disney Dining Plan. That has been suspended due to the pandemic so we paid for our food as we went this time around. When tallying up the totals, we ended up spending about the same amount of money. We don’t consider Disney food prices to be that expensive because the prices are pretty comparable to the past couple of places we’ve lived (Washington DC and Chicago) courtesy of the Army. Most days we had one sit-down meal reservation and then the rest of the day we ate quick service and/or snacks. My favorite thing I ate this was the Ahi Tuna nachos from Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom. We also really enjoyed our meals at The Skipper Canteen and Be Our Guest (surprisingly!) in Magic Kingdom.
What we liked: No masks for vaccinated guests! With the exception of public transportation, masks were not required for vaccinated guests during our time at Walt Disney World. The mask mandate lifted the day we arrived – talk about Disney Magic! Our children are too young to be vaccinated so they wore masks occasionally but for the most part, they were unmasked as well because there were very few situations were they were in another party’s personal space.
We have absolutely no regrets about scheduling a trip to Walt Disney World this summer. When we booked the trip in January, we took a gamble that we’d be vaccinated by June and restrictions would be loosened enough to make for an enjoyable trip. Five years ago I never would’ve thought of us a family that would take Disney vacations aside from the obligatory one-and-done trip but here we are…if you know, you know. While it will likely be a few years before we tackle Disney again (Europe and Asia are calling our names!), we thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to visit again when the kids are older.