Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Disney: Epcot

Planning for a Disney trip?  Make sure you have a budget and a plan.

Day 1, Monday, was Epcot for us.  Our plan was to follow the one-day tween touring plan in the morning, take an afternoon break back at our hotel, then return after dinner for evening touring and fireworks.  That was our plan, anyway.

We started out early.  The park opened at 9 that day.  All the experts say to arrive at the park as soon as you can.  Getting to the parks early is crucial if you want to avoid crowds and lines.  One of our favorite parts of staying on Disney property was the transportation system.  The first bus of the morning left our hotel one hour before the park opened.  So we were at the bus stop at 7:55 ready and excited for that first bus.

When you arrive before the parks open, you just line up behind the turnstiles and wait.  For excited little kids (and parents), that was kind of hard.
 But snacks and drinks helped.

**TIP: Disney lets you bring in food and drink.  
I highly recommend doing that, especially if you are trying to save money.  
You will be buying a LOT of snacks and drinks if you don't.
We brought in a drink bag and a snack bag every day.  That helped keep our family much happier. **

**TIP:  Make friends with people standing in line near you.  The nice lady behind us got our first of many family pictures that day.  Even if you don't want pictures from them, you can met lots of interesting people and it makes your time in line go faster.  We met people from Philadelphia, Colorado, and Indiana while we were there.  **

Then it was time to go in.  Yay!!  We were so excited.  For 3 of us, it was our first time ever in Epcot (Tim had been there as a child).  If you've never been there, let me enlighten you on the layout of the park.  The front section is full of rides and educational exhibits.  The back section is called the World Showcase and is made up of sections themed as different countries of the world.  The idea is that you can experience multiple cultures all in one place.  The front section opens up earlier than the World Showcase so that's where our touring plan started.

First on our agenda - Fastpasses for Soarin'.  On the way, we got to check out some of the cool topiaries in the park (it was the flower and garden festival time).

It's hard to see but David has on his new Mickey ears/Goofy ears/Mater hat.

After we had our Soarin' passes in our pocket (really they were all in my little backpack) we went back across the park to Test Track.  

My kids had seen Test Track advertised on a Disney informational video earlier, so they were super excited about that ride.  And it didn't disappoint.  It was awesome!!  I've got a great picture on our Disney PhotoPass account of us in our Test Track car.  When I get all those pictures back, I'll put them on here.

Next on our plan was Mission: Space.  The premise is that you are on the first space mission to Mars.  You take off in your rocket, fly through space, take a little hypersleep nap, then wake up and land your spacecraft on Mars.  Mission: Space has two sides to it.  The Orange side of the ride spins you around and around and takes you to 5 G's.  Lots of people get sick on this side...and walk around miserable all day.  That is the side our touring plan called for.  We thought about doing that one - for a split second.  Then we said, Uh, No way.  So we trotted over to the Green side.  Nice, safe green.  On that side you lean forward a bit and back a bit, then you push a couple of buttons.  And it's still cool.  It still feels like you are blasting off to space.  As soon as we got off David declared it his favorite ride "because I got to push buttons."  Glad he's easy to impress.

After all that excitement, it was time for a relaxing ride.  Lucky for us, we were within our Fastpass time slot for Soarin'.  We went back across the park to the Land building.  Soarin' (where you feel like you are riding in a hangglider over lots of scenery) was good, but it wasn't the best ride we've ever been on.  I know a lot of you are gasping right now.  All we heard beforehand was how awesome this ride was.  Maybe we were expecting too much, but it was just good for us, not great. 
Waiting in line for Soarin'.  Even with a Fastpass, it was a 20 minute wait.

 **TIP:  For rides that you have a Fastpass for, you don't have to go to the ride within the times listed as long as you go after the first time.  For example, if your Fastpass says 12:20-1:20.  You can't use the pass until after 12:20.  But you don't have to use it before 1:20.  So you can use the pass at 2 if you want or at 5 or 6, whenever, as long as it's after 12:20.**
**One caveat to that tip: we got reprimanded when we did that at a character meet in the Magic Kingdom.  There they told us we needed to be within the times listed on our pass.  So maybe it's different between characters and rides or maybe we just encountered our only snotty Disney employee of the trip.  I don't know, but just keep that in mind.**

Our touring plan called for riding the Living with the Land boat ride next, but it looked boring, so we skipped it.  Nemo was next on the agenda.  We found the super big stroller parking, pulled in, and went to get in our clamshell.  We helped find Nemo again and made things right with the world.  Whew!

We were going to stay for Turtle Talk with Crush but we were hungry, so we bowed out of that one.  But here we are in front of the fish tanks in the short time we waited.

At that point we went back to the Land building for lunch.  And we kind of veered away from our touring plan at that point.  That was a mistake.  We were having so much fun that we didn't want to leave and go back to the hotel to rest.  We toured the Innovations West building for a few minutes, then we decided to start our World Showcase tour.  What that resulted in were hot, tired and cranky kids.  In hindsight leaving for a few hours and returning in the evening like we had originally planned would have been better.

But, before we got hot, tired and cranky, we did have a little fun in France and Japan with Kim Possible.  Back at the Innovations building we signed up to help Kim Possible save the world from bad guys by using her ultra-cool cell phone.  

Ah, the cell phone.  

It was equipped with a GPS and Kim's voice and a fun "OK" button to push.  So what was the problem with it?  There was only one of them and two children.  Hmm, Disney, wish you would have let us have two of those to use.  Our day might have lasted longer that way.  But despite all the fighting, the kids loved going on the cell phone scavenger hunts.
The one time they weren't fighting over that phone.

We also managed to meet a few celebrities out in the World Showcase.
 Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
Alice - she was hilarious.  The kids loved her!

Overall our Epcot experience was wonderful.  There are a few wishes I have for the next time we go back.  I really want to have more time to explore the countries.  We only made it through Great Britain, Canada, France and Japan.  I also wish we could have seen the evening show on the water.  Next time, we will go with our original plan. Rest and recharge in the afternoon, return to the park in the evening and stay for the show.

**TIP:  If you have elementary-aged children or younger, go with the plan to tour in the morning, break in the afternoon then return at night.  I think you will be happier and less stressed.**

**TIP:  If you have young children, rent a stroller.  You can bring your own stroller; however, it has to be fully collapsed before you get on any Disney bus.  Watching others who had to do that, it can be pretty annoying to do when you are juggling stuff and kids.  Even if we didn't have children small enough to fit in the stroller, we still would have gotten one to store all our stuff in while we went on rides.  It's $15 a day to rent a single stroller.  If you rent it for multiple days, it goes down to $13 a day. So go ahead and rent one for all the days you are in the parks and save (your multiple days don't have to be consecutive). **

Stay tuned tomorrow for tips we learned on our first Magic Kingdom day.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like it was a wonderful day! My daughter's favorite ride was Soarin and my son loved Test Track. I love your play-by-play of the day and your tips too. Very helpful! Looking forward to reading more.

    By the way, my daughter wore that exact same Minnie Mouse shirt! She loved that it changed colors in the sun. In fact, it was one of her favorite memories of our trip!