Monday, October 20, 2014

Ten Lessons Learned at Disney & Universal Studios

We found Nemo

 By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

My family recently wrapped up an amazing eight day adventure to Disney World and Universal Studios.  My mom, who is currently in remission after a battle with bladder cancer, wanted to take all five of her grand kids to Disney World, so luckily, my brother and his family, my wife and kids, and my parents were able to make it happen.  We've been before, but this is the first time all 11 of us were together for the trip.  As you might imagine, I've learned some lessons along the way...

Memory Maker in action 
10.  Splurge on the Memory Maker PhotoPass.  It costs $149, but this option gives you access to all the pictures that are taken of your party at any given Disney Park.   We have nearly 50 photos and two videos.  Anytime you're on a ride, the pic "magically" connects with your Magic Band and you don't have to wait in line to purchase individual photos.  We have plenty of great, professional shots to share now as a result.

My nephew
9. When a four year old tells you he has to poop, he means it.  A couple of times my nephew got caught up in the excitement of the Disney Magic and didn't make it to the bathroom on time.  In one case, we were about to board the Toy Story Midway Mania ride.  But like the professionals they are, the folks at Disney's Hollywood Studios gave my dad and nephew new FastPasses so they could enjoy the ride too.

8.  Read the instructions thoroughly when the information comes in the mail.  I screwed up and didn't make sure that my brother received his luggage tags when they were mailed to us. You put the "Disney" tag on your suitcase and the folks there get it from the airport and deliver it straight to your room.  You can get off the plane and head straight to the Magical Express Bus and not worry about your baggage.

Seven Dwarfs, it was fun!
7.  Roller coasters hurt more after you hit 40.  We rode everything from the Rock n Roller Coaster, to Space Mountain, to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  The kids rode some of these more than once.  I didn't venture onto the Hulk this year because after the Dragon Challenge, Expedition Everest, and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster, my body had enough.  Don't get me wrong, they're all enjoyable rides, but the older I get the more things like Winnie The Pooh, Peter Pan, and Dumbo appeal to me.

My parents and the kids
6.  People tend to not pay attention to folks in wheelchairs.  My mom, as I mentioned, is in remission from cancer.  She's also dealing with other health issues, including a severe case of asthma.  Our first full day we spent at Magic Kingdom and all the walking wore her out, so we rented a wheelchair the rest of our stay at the parks.  In general, people are respectful, and the Disney cast members go out of their way to accommodate on rides and in restaurants.  But there were a lot of people who cut in front of the chair, make snide comments, or completely ignore it.  It made me more aware of others in similar situations.

Casting spells at Universal Studios
5.  Take time to cast a spell at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  Harry Potter fans can end up at Hogwarts and visit Diagon Alley.  You need tickets to both parks to do this though.  There are interactive wands to purchase and you're able to do different tricks at the various store fronts.  I'll share more on that in a future post.

Flaming Moe & a Krusty Burger
4.  When visiting Universal Studios, you have to eat at Krusty Burger, get a beer a Moe's Tavern, and have a donut at LardLad Donuts.  As a Simpsons geek, I was in heaven in the newly updated Simpsons area of the park.  I drank a Flaming Moe, Buzz Cola, and Duff Lite while there.  I'll go into greater details later this week.

Our resort 
3.  Don't leave the Magic behind.  We stayed at the Art of Animation Resort for six nights.  We left and took a cab over to the Holiday Inn next to Universal Studios for a couple of days of Harry Potter, Simpsons, and Marvel fun.  In hindsight, I think we should have stayed on the Disney property (as they will arrange transportation to get you over to Universal and back).  To be fair to the folks at Universal, we did not stay in one of their resorts, so I don't know if things would have been better on their property then a regular hotel.

Magic Kingdom after midnight
2.  Take a day to rest.  We arrived on a Saturday afternoon.  After getting checked in at the resort, the eleven of us hopped on a bus and hit Downtown Disney.  Every day after that we opened and closed the parks, including Universal Studios across town.  Magic Kingdom was open until 2 am on one of our nights there, so my niece, son, and daughter, went back with me for some late night fun.  We always talk about taking a day to relax and enjoy the pool at the resort.  One day we will.

Loving the Magic!
1.  Disney Magic, although paid for, is real.  I can't properly express in words how much more enjoyable the Disney experience is compared to any other vacation I've ever been on before.  From the way the resorts are decorated, to the buses to get you to and from parks, to the Magical Express to and from the airport or even other theme parks, to the overall hospitality. It was a great trip, made even more special by the way we were treated while at Disney World.  Walt Disney's legacy is alive and well and I can not wait to return to his Kingdom.

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