Orlando, part two: 12 hours at Disney World {Magic Kingdom and Epcot}

12 hours at Disney World {Magic Kingdom and Epcot}
*Disclosure: I received media tickets from Disney World in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Not going to lie: one of the reasons I was excited that BlogHer was in Orlando this year is that I applied for and was accepted for a media pass from Disney. It had been eleven years (2006) since I had last stepped foot on Disney grounds, not including my day at Disneyland three years ago, and I was super excited about it.
My mom and I at Disney World, circa mid-1990s

Disney generously provided me with two one-day hopper passes (meaning, you can go to any of the four parks during the day), and I started off the morning with Pamela and Vanessa, my two BlogHer roommates.

12 hours at Disney World {Magic Kingdom and Epcot}
Thanks Pamela for this and a few of the following pics!

You are allowed to choose your "FastPasses" 60 days prior to your trip, if you are staying at a Disney resort (or 30 days prior if not), but you are only allowed to choose THREE rides, to start; we chose Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean, all which are at Magic Kingdom. Once you use your three initial FastPasses, you get one more to use, then once you use that, you get one other one, and that repeats for the rest of the day.

I'll let you in on a secret: Splash Mountain is EMPTY in the morning. For Space Mountain, the line was getting a little lengthy (about 45 minutes), so I was glad we did the FastPass for that ride, but we could have used our Splash Mountain one on another ride.

I had to run back to the hotel midday for my volunteer meeting, and by the time I got back (around 2pm), the Orlando heat had my friends wanting to leave the park - the weather was about 90-95 degrees, and HOT. Therefore, I was on my own for the rest of the day.

Pamela got us these fun buttons to wear at the beginning of the day - if it's your first time at Disney, if you're celebrating something (birthday, anniversary, etc.), or if you're at Disney for any specific reason, you can get them, and they are free. I believe you can find them at City Hall, on Main Street, according to TripAdvisor, and Pamela said any vendor who displays pins usually has them.

After my friends left, I looked around on the Disney app to find some rides with long lines that I could grab FastPasses for. I highly recommend downloading this app - not only can you grab FastPasses midday, you can also see the wait times for all the rides, find directions, and even locate the closest restaurant or restroom.

I ended up riding It's a Small World (kitschy, but still one of my favorite rides); Peter Pan's Flight, which had a 70 minute wait so I grabbed a FastPass for it; Pirates of the Caribbean, which I waited a long 60 minutes to ride; and The Haunted Mansion, which is another of my favorite rides, albeit a creepy one.

12 hours at Disney World {Magic Kingdom and Epcot}

I was running around so much that I barely had time to eat, but I grabbed this Mickey-shaped pretzel before I had to leave for the hotel, and I also stopped at Casey's Corner for the corn dog nuggets meal (which, at $8.49, is a bargain, IMO - it was a very large order of corn dog nuggets, plus fries).

I was determined to make the most of my 1-day hopper pass, so I decided to hit up Epcot for a few hours, where I rode on Soarin' and Test Track. I had rode Soarin' at Disneyland—although I knew what to expect, it was still great—and I don't remember ever previously riding Test Track, which ended up being a fantastic ride.

Tip: Test Track has a "single riders" line, which I definitely recommend, even if you're with a group. At around 7:30pm, my wait time was 15 minutes, and the "regular" line was about 45-60 minutes. 

Secondary tip: Epcot closed at 9pm that night ... if you're in line for a ride, they won't kick you out, but ALL of the restaurants closed promptly at 9, which made for a hangry Liz who had to grab a burger at the hotel bar later that night.

12 hours at Disney World {Magic Kingdom and Epcot}

Some things to know before you go:
Tips for Navigating Disney World - Epcot and Magic Kingdom
  • You are allowed to book FastPasses 60 days in advance, if staying at a Disney resort, and I recommend doing that, especially for their insanely popular new Avatar/Pandora rides (Animal Kingdom). I wasn't able to go this time but I've heard it's amazing. I didn't stay at a Disney resort this time, so I'm guessing I was able to book 60 days in advance because I had a media pass. If you are staying off-property, you can book FastPasses 30 days in advance.
  • Some people get "Magic Bands" which are like bracelets - these contain your FastPasses and I've heard you can even hook up a credit card or meal plan. Being that I only had a one-day media pass, we just had a badge-type thing (credit card-sized) that we used for our FastPasses. 
  • It is HOT HOT HOT in Orlando in the summer, so if you go during that time period, pack accordingly - bring lots of sunscreen, and a water bottle to fill up throughout the day. You may also want to bring a good hat.
  • I said this after my 2006 trip, and I'll say it again: it's worth it to stay at a Disney resort, even if you're at one of the "value" All-Star resorts. Not only do you get free airport pick-up/drop-off (and UberX does NOT pick up at Orlando's airport, by the way - only Uber Select does. It IS allowed to drop-off, though), you also get "Magic Hours" in the park, meaning you are allowed to enter the park before non-Disney-staying guests, and also stay in the park an hour after it closes. Some Disney resorts are even accessible via boat or monorail from Magic Kingdom. Which brings us to ... 
    • You start your day at the Ticket and Transportation Center, and from there you can take a monorail to Epcot or Magic Kingdom, or the bus to Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, I believe. You can also take the boat to MK if you choose. The monorail was closed when we got there, and then the boat was closed when I left early for my BlogHer volunteer meeting, so sometimes you don't have a choice. Allow time for this, especially in the morning, when everyone is trying to get into the park.
  • Bring extra battery packs for your phone - it is REALLY hard to find outlets at Disney. There's actually a group of fake logs near the Peter Pan / It's a Small World area, in MK, that have charging ports, but you have to look for them ... and they weren't charging my phone very well. You can also drop your phone off at the Guest Services area and they will charge it for you; however, at Epcot, in the two hours when I dropped my phone off, it went from 6% to 18% - just enough for me to get an Uber back to my hotel, actually. 
Tips for Navigating Disney World - Epcot and Magic Kingdom
  • Check online on Disney's website for the best rates - I may be going again in December with some friends, one of whom was able to add a FREE meal plan onto his trip (two snacks and two quick-service meals per day) due to a special that Disney was running at the time. 

And the most important tip of all is ... have fun! Although booking FastPasses ahead of time is a great perk nowadays at Disney, there are still some aspects that can be left up to spontaneity :). 

Tips for Navigating Disney World - Epcot and Magic Kingdom

Have you been to Disney World before? If so, which of the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Animal Kingdom) is your favorite? 

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