Doing anything with a group of 13 people has challenges. Picking a place to eat? That will take hours just to decide. What movie should you all see? Yeah, I’m sure everyone will agree on the same one. Trying to figure out what game to play? There aren’t many games with 13 players. The more people you have in your group the more factors there are to consider. Luckily, planning a 10-day trip to Walt Disney World for that amount of people is much easier… KIDDING! We set out to do just that on our most recent trip to Disney World and now here’s a trip report to see if we made it out alive. You should probably be able to figure this out, but we are alive.
Thankfully, everybody in our group was fairly easy-going and were happy to go along with our plans. While setting up all the plans and reservations ahead of time was somewhat challenging for such a big group, we were lucky to have family kind enough to just go along with what we thought would be best. Sure, there were some requests along the way but for the most part it was an easy process (aside from waking up at 4 AM a few days to get reservations) to plan the trip.
We went to Walt Disney World with the 8 people in my immediate family from Washington state (including Melissa and me) and my Aunt and Uncle’s party of five from Tennessee. My immediate family all stayed at the same hotels throughout the trip while my Aunt and Uncle’s family stayed at the campground in their trailer. The biggest challenge of planning ahead of time was that we were never all together to ask for people’s opinions and explain a few different things. We made it work but it would have been nice to have that ‘meeting’ ahead of time.
There was a lot of buildup to the trip. Seemingly every conversation over the last year had to do with Disney World and by the time we left the anticipation was extremely high, especially for my 4-year-old nephew, Wyatt (the only kid on the trip).
Coordinating all of the schedules for the trip was one of the bigger challenges and we settled on June. Unfortunately, that landed on one of the most expensive airline weekends that I can remember. I’m not sure why it was so pricey (maybe because it was close to the 4th of July) but that was fairly frustrating. Because of the high prices, all of us flew into Tampa albeit at different times. Renting a car along with airline tickets was a cheaper option than flying into Orlando. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most convenient way to go but we made it work.
The first hotel my family stayed in was at Animal Kingdom Lodge in three separate rooms. We found the deal on Priceline Express Deals and through some detective work figured out what hotel it was. All told, we paid roughly $200 per room, which is a steal for one of Disney World’s best hotels. If you’re looking for a deal at Disney World, Priceline has some great offers every now and then.
We checked into the hotel, took a nap (after flying on a red-eye), and then waited for everyone else to get there. Eventually, our group of 13 all ended up at The Mara (Animal Kingdom Lodge’s counter-service restaurant) for dinner. I really enjoyed my meal there and will have a full review up shortly. We saw some animals, enjoyed the lobby and eventually all went up to bed.
On our first full day at Disney World, we started at Magic Kingdom. Surprisingly, even with a group of 13, we all ended up at the park close to opening and rode Space Mountain. Those that didn’t ride went over to the PeopleMover and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
After that brief stint in Tomorrowland, we went over to Fantasyland for our first FastPass on Peter Pan’s Flight followed by rides on “it’s a small world” and the carousel. Breezing through attractions, we went over to Big Thunder Mountain for our second FastPass. After that came a stirring, ever-emotional show at Country Bear Jamboree. Finally, we wrapped up the attraction filled morning with our third FastPass on Jungle Cruise. Mixed in there was a snack break.
The surprise of the morning was how low the wait times were. It was a Saturday in June but by the time lunch had arrived, we’d already gone on seven attractions while still stopping a few times. That was with a group of 13 and not showing up before opening. It was a very nice change from our recent trips in February and November. Magic Kingdom felt less packed to the brim and because of that was far more enjoyable. The lines did start to get long around noon but not nearly as bad as it could have been. Frankly, we should have probably kept going and enjoyed a little more of Magic Kingdom because it was a cooler day than what was to come.
For lunch, we went to Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. A solid restaurant with an extremely long name. Here’s our review of the restaurant. In short, we really enjoy the food here as long as you go for the more creative options. Skipper Canteen is one of the best table-service restaurants in Magic Kingdom. After lunch, Melissa went with the Lost Princess Cone (Lemon Dole Whip) for dessert.
We eventually headed out of the park, walking alongside Festival of Fantasy to the exit. The Maleficent float is a showstopper.
It was a beautiful day. Certainly hot but not unbearable like the days that would follow.
We ended up back at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a little while to rest before meeting back up with everyone at Animal Kingdom for the evening. Melissa and I went back to the park a little early to enjoy the Iced Tea and the Nomad Lounge. That’s become one of our favorite places in all of Walt Disney World and we couldn’t recommend it enough.
Before long, our whole group was there and we took the short walk over to Pandora for dinner. Satu’li Canteen remains one of our favorite counter-service restaurants. We tend to end up there on every trip, regardless of whether we’re on the Disney Dining Plan or not. At this point, we weren’t on the dining plan so Melissa and I opted to share our meal and dessert. It’s a good way to go if you aren’t starving, especially considering Animal Kingdom’s impressive snack options.
After dinner, we took a slow walk across the park over to Everest. I was able to grab a FastPass for the ride earlier in the day so we all walked right on. Riding up Everest near sunset is beautiful.
After the ride, a few people rode again while the rest of us tried to figure out what to do next. Rivers of Light was about to begin but we opted to take Wyatt on TriceraTop Spin instead. It was a good choice as this dumb, little spinner ride became his favorite of the trip. I’m pretty sure that him and grandpa rode this five straight times. I know I just called it dumb but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few smaller attractions (not necessarily spinners) being added to Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Those parks could all use more things to physically ride and they don’t all have to be incredible attractions. Simply having more rides would help Disney World tremendously.
We all met back up and ended up going on Dinosaur, as there wasn’t a wait for the attraction. Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot all had low wait times at night during this trip. We didn’t always take advantage of it but morning and night remain the best times to go to the parks. Stay away from the afternoons unless you have limited time.
We watched a couple vignettes from Tree of Life Awakenings before leaving the park. The Lion King addition is solid and fairly subtle. I still prefer the non-IP versions but they’re all beautiful and well made.
That ended our night as we took a very crowded bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. After relaxing in The Mara for a while, we went off to bed. The next morning, we dropped off our bags to be transferred to The Boardwalk Resort (where we’d check in later that day) and activated our the dining plan. Before long, we were back at Animal Kingdom dodging giant birds.
After another round on Everest, we ate an early lunch at the always excellent Flame Tree Barbecue. Even with it being late morning, the day was already hotter than the previous day. Combining that with being in Animal Kingdom had us all sweating quite a bit.
We took the walk from Flame Tree over to Kilimanjaro Safaris for our ride. Is the safari the best family ride Disney has ever created? There are quite a few options but I’m not sure that there’s a ride more appealing to any age. The animals weren’t as active on this ride but there was still plenty to see.
Our final FastPass of the day was Flight of Passage. I really enjoy riding this attraction with people who haven’t gone on it before. It’s also fun to see what everyone’s favorite part of the ride is because there is a wide variety of answers. Flight of Passage is paced so well and an excellent ride.
Once we were done in Pandora, my Aunt & Uncle’s family headed over to a water park while we stayed at Animal Kingdom. Looking for anywhere with air-conditioning, we took in a showing of Finding Nemo The Musical. It’s fine. As I’ve said before, I’m ready for a replacement to come to this theater. I’m not sure that there’s an obvious replacement (Jungle Book, Tarzan) with things having to be IP but something new would be interesting. The recently replaced Out of Shadowland at Tokyo DisneySea actually fits the Animal Kingdom theme wonderfully but I don’t see that happening.
We closed out our day at Animal Kingdom with an early dinner at Yak & Yeti. Despite the heat, it was a really enjoyable few hours in the park. What it does stop you from doing is exploring Animal Kingdom though, a park that’s meant to be wandered. When the heat index is over 100 degrees, enjoying some of the parks trails doesn’t sound enjoyable at all. Despite that, it was a great start to the our trip.
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Categories: Trip Reports