A visit to Orlando in May with my teen daughter was full of adventure, whimsy and fun. In talking about our plans for the trip we agreed that we should have a good idea about what we wanted to do and see, as we had just 2.5 days. Our trip was a success – we ate at wonderful restaurants, met multiple princesses, rode the best rides, survived a minor monsoon, and laughed our way through the happiest place on earth.
Our trip started out well with airline tickets from the Midwest to Tampa for just $160 RT on American Airlines. With family in St. Petersberg we were able to have some quality time before we started our mini vacation to Disney just 1.5 hours away in our bargain rental car from Alamo.
About 2 months before traveling, we started researching hotels at the Disney World website. The site is a great source to research Disney resort hotels, tickets, park hours and all things Disney.
Link to Disney World
We also used TripAdvisor Forums to do research on our potential hotel choice.
Trip Advisor Link to Orlando Forum
We wanted to stay at a Disney property as we had not stayed on site during past visits. We had a budget of $200 per night and wanted to get the best value and location for our stay. Our choice was the Dolphin & Swan resort. It is not a “Disney” property – but it is part of the Starwood Hotels Group following their service and comfort business model. In addition, the hotel is centrally located near Epcot and the room rate was about 30% lower than Disney properties. The final bonus was that I could earn SPG points for the stay and accrue these toward a future stay at this or another Starwood property.
I have posted a link to our post stay review on on Trip Advisor below:
Review of Walt Disney World Dolphin
Our planning included, purchasing our Disney World Tickets on line before leaving. We opted for two One-day tickets as our focus was going to be on one park per day. After purchasing the tickets we registered for My Disney Experience and scheduled our day. We chose our “fast passes”, created a map, made our lunch and dinner reservations and felt great about the fact that we were going to have a great time!
Day One – Magic Kingdom
Our plan was to arrive when they opened at 10 AM then take a break to check in to our hotel about 3 PM, after the Festival of Fantasy parade . About 4pm we wanted to head back to the park to take advantage of extra Magic hours as the park was open until 3 AM versus the “normal” extra magic hours until 1 AM.
We arrived as scheduled and after showing our pleasure by jumping in front of the castle, we headed to Frontier land and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, just a 30 min wait in humid weather was not really too bad with all that there was to see as we waited in line.
After our wild ride on the Thunder Mountain roller coaster we headed to Splash Mountain to cool off. We did not have a fast pass,and we waited for about 45 minutes, but it was all worth it with “zippity do da” playing and thinking that around each turn was that big drop. When we finally made that drop we laughed out loud and walked off the ride with huge smiles.There were characters all over the park that day and the My Disney Experience Park App told us all that was happening around us, reminded us of our reservations and allowed us to change our fast pass selections if we wanted to. We walked toward Main street to find a spot to have a snack and relax for a bit before the Festival of Fantasy parade. We visited the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor for generously sized ice cream treats. Just $12 for both – not a real lunch – but really delicious and besides, we are on vacation! We walked up main street to Tony’s Restaurant and found a covered porch with rocking chairs where we were able to just sit and people watch for a bit. We even saw Mary Poppins walk by!
The parade route was being roped off, so we found a spot on the curb and watched the excitement build as we waited. It was just 3 pm and we were having such a great time. The mother daughter connection was there, but we were just enjoying each others company and could not wipe the smiles off of our face!
The parade was coming and all the anticipation was so worth it. Each character was connecting with the crowd. Waving, smiling and shouting messages to the little kids and thrilled parents.
It brought such happiness to see everyone having such a great time and these wonderful Disney characters coming to life before our eyes. My 17 year old daughter was smiling like she was 7 again. After the parade we headed over the Walt Disney World Dolphin to check in, recharge our energy and check out our place for the next 2 nights. More to come on our evening……..stay tuned!
Ana and Elsa