Growing up my family wasn’t a Disney World family. We had access to my grandparent’s lake house and that’s where we spent most of our summer holidays. We took a few bigger trips as we got older but theme parks and resorts just weren’t our thing. That’s why at the ripe old age of 31 I finally had my first Disney World experience. My travel-bestie Lindsay and I were slated to be bridesmaids in a Florida beach wedding and we couldn’t think of a better opportunity to stop in Disney World and Universal Studios.
After months of planning this trip, I got very sick with mono and even landed in the emergency room a week before we were supposed to leave…but I wasn’t about to let that keep me from Disney World. After years of hearing about everyone’s Disney family vacations, I was ready to go all out. Give me some Mickey Mouse ears and show me where to meet Donald Duck!
Lindsay and I arrived in Orlando in the early afternoon and hit the ground running by going straight from the airport to Disney Springs. If you aren’t familiar (which I wasn’t until this trip) Disney Springs is a free dining/shopping complex. It was a great way to test out my energy levels, get our theme park feet wet and build excitement for the next day.
Disney World in One Day
Based off of the feedback I received from friends and family, if we only had one day to spend in Disney World, Animal Kingdom and Epcot were two parks we couldn’t miss. Word on the street is that Magic Kingdom is a stroller-filled nightmare and we are two adult ladies who would rather avoid that. We purchased Park Hopper tickets with plans to start at Animal Kingdom and move on to Epcot in the afternoon.
We also purchased FastPass+ to skip the regular lines because we needed to make the most of our only day. We never regretted this purchase. You can lock in three fast passes per day and once you use those up you can unlock additional passes one at a time.
We arrived at Animal Kingdom as the gates opened and headed to the Expedition Everest ride to use our first FastPass+. This was one of my favorite rides. I wasn’t sure how my 31 year old body would react but I didn’t vomit and I was reminded how much I used to love rollercoasters.
We spent the rest of the morning taking in the attractions. We used our remaining fast passes to see the Festival of the Lion King show and to ride DINOSAUR. I was very impressed with how efficiently we were able to get through the park. Lines were never too long and crowds were never too thick. We were even able to get photos with some of the characters that we just happened to be walking passed.
We enjoyed lunch at Animal Kingdom and then made our way to the car to head to Epcot. One of the many conveniences at Disney is that after you pay for parking once you can drive to the other parks and simply show your receipt to get access.
We arrived at Epoct in the early afternoon and it was very hot. Fortunately, most of the attractions are inside and for some reason the lines weren’t too long that day. We only used one FastPass+ to ride Soaring which had the longest wait and we were able to experience pretty much every other ride as well.
After hitting up all the ride, we walked over to the Countries area of Epcot. There are tons of restaurants and bars themed around different cultures and countries. We originally planned to end our day with some beers from around the world but because I was recovering from mono I wasn’t able to drink alcohol. (Dang liver enzymes.) But when one door closes another opens and this freed up our evening so we could make it to a third park of the day!
We arrived at Magic Kingdom a little before sunset, just in time to take some obligatory photos in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
As we walked around and took in all of the magic, we were able to hop onto a couple iconic rides like the magic teacups. When it came time for the fireworks show, the crowds became a little crazy so we headed for the tram as it was wrapping up to avoid being trampled by strollers.
If you work in the corporate world, you may have heard of the “Disney Way”. Disney provides companies with training on how to run a well-oiled, top-notch customer service machine and now that I’ve seen it first hand, I get it. There was none of the disorganized mayhem of an NFL Stadium on gameday. Disney has it all down. Parking, ticketing, ingress and egress, lines, everything runs smoothly even though there are thousands of people and children everywhere.
As someone who is a huge fan of Disney movies, this one day truly was a magical experience and probably once-in-a-lifetime. I pushed through my illness, opened up my pocketbook and said yes to everything Disney World had to offer and I think that was the key to getting the most out of my first time.