WDW/Orlando 5/1-5/8

I felt a little like I was hijacking another trip report, so I thought I would write my own. My daughter's cheer team got a late bid for a competition that was originally scheduled to be held at Universal Orlando and was moved to the convention center. We had around 6 weeks to plan and figured we could make a week out of it and get some time at Disney.

I'll get my thoughts on COVID and this trip out of the way first. I originally said I would probably avoid parks with mask wearing still being a thing. We all 3 had COVID around New Year's and my wife and I were both vaccinated in early April. That said, we both stick to mask wearing and our daughter does the same. I'll go ahead and say this: wearing a mask over the course of a 10 or so hour day in swamp ass central Florida is a complete beat down. I'm in no rush to do it again. However, every day I started out refreshed and thought to myself, "This isn't so bad." The fact that each day started out not so swampy helped, but I couldn't wait to get to the car each night and ditch the mask. I would say that mask wearing in the parks was as close to 100% as it could be. I saw one guy ignore an employee's mask reminder at Epcot and another in the process of being escorted out of MK. That was it. Employees were polite with their reminders and guests were cooperative when reminded. On ride photos were deleted if someone in the party wasn't wearing a mask properly and it happened a couple of times to us because my daughter was terrible about pulling hers down once she sat down on a ride.

Other COVID measures were a mixed bag. MK and DHS had cars skipping spaces in the parking lot (the skipped spaces were filled in later) and Epcot and Animal Kingdom were not doing that. The monorail has temporary partitions and looked to be putting one family per compartment door. Social distancing markers are on the ground everywhere. Some marking lines, some placed in fairly random areas. Some of the switchback areas of the queues are reworked to spread people out and many have plexi partitions above the railings (while some have no partitions at all, I'm sure it wasn't as random as it appears). Most of the lines start outside of the entrances. That results in some standing out in the sun, but the lines moved fast. Social distancing was followed fairly well at every park except for MK. I don't know what the difference was, but I was not the only one from our group that noticed it.

There's obviously a staffing challenge due to the lack of foreign workers and college program workers and it's most evident in the amount of closed food and retail locations. I'm sure some of the attractions that remain closed are due to staffing. Most of the counter service food locations require mobile ordering. The attractions that were running appeared to have a pretty full staff.

We did a few things different from our typical Disney trip. We stayed off property and rented a car. We flew through Tampa because we lucked into $100 round trip tickets on Southwest versus $300 round trip through Orlando. We stayed at the Hyatt on International Drive across from the convention center with free parking thrown in and that made the car rental a no brainer. This worked out great since it gave us a place for our daughter to prep for competition and we were able to walk to the competition. By extension, this meant that I could hang in the room until it was for our team to go on. You have no idea how much I like this. We hit the parks with 2 other families and that put our group at 8, but we met up with another group on a couple of days at the parks.

To be continued with daily details...

Last edited by bigboy,

Day 1 - I had to work on our travel day, so we booked a 7:30pm flight that got to Tampa just before 11:00. We thought we would get to the hotel a little after midnight worst case. Our plane was over an hour late coming in and that put us leaving a little before 9:00 and pushed our arrival to around midnight. Baggage claim, a horrendous rental counter line, and a detour for some caffeine on the way put us at the hotel at 2:30am. I had been up since 6:30am CT for work, so I was more than a little zapped.

Day 2 - We slept in and headed to Epcot around 11:30. We had a 12:30 reservation for Coral Reef for lunch. It was a pricey lunch, but the food and the atmosphere were great. We managed rides on Test Track, Nemo, Soarin', Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, and Frozen. Wait times were pretty close to the advertised time with Soarin' and Frozen being noticeably shorter. We took a trip around World Showcase and hit some of the Flower and Garden booths for snacks along the way (the beer flight at Germany was my favorite). We had a light dinner at the outdoor Mexico quick service right before the park closed (this was the one counter service without mobile ordering).

Day 3 - My wife and daughter met up with friends that were staying at the Grand Floridian that morning and I headed into MK solo for an hour or so. I had a Dole Whip float for my breakfast around 10:00 and just casually walked around Adventureland and Tomorrowland before I met up with the rest of the group. We managed to get on Big Thunder Mountain twice, Space Mountain twice, Small World, Haunted Mansion, and Seven Dwarves Mine Train. We had a 2 hour break in the middle for a team practice at a hotel near Disney Springs and shut the park down. We had dinner at Pinnochio Village Haus and had some really good flatbread pizzas.

Day 4 - Competition day and a break from the parks. We had dinner at a seafood restaurant at Celebration that I like and took a drive down International so my wife could enjoy that spectacle (she's never been anywhere in Orlando other than the airport, Disney property, and in between). We finished off the evening at the pool.

Day 5 - Competition day again and made it to MK around 5:00. A short night and we managed to get rides on Seven Dwarves, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain.

Day 6 - Started the day early at Animal Kingdom. Had 2 rides on Everest with a wait time that was around 10 minutes instead of the advertised 30 minute wait. We then made it on Kali River Rapids, the safari ride (which was a bit of a dud, I've been on it a half a dozen times and this was by far the fewest animals I've seen), and Flights of Passage. We had a quick lunch at Restaurant-asaurus and hopped over to MK. Rode Peter Pan, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz, and Haunted Mansion. We finished off the night with a reservation at Be Our Guest 15 minutes before the park closed. The food was great as usual and we quickly figured out that we were in for a treat when we finished dinner around 10:15. We walked out through an empty Fantasyland and Main Street. Fantastic picture taking opportunities and the employees following us out were more than patient (we didn't take advantage and still left pretty quick). There were a few amateur photographers near the town square flag pole, but we were part of the last dozen or so guests to leave.

To be continued...

Day 7 - This was DHS day and I figured I would give it a post by itself.

We sought out all sorts of advice on securing a ROTR boarding time. 3 of us woke up at 6:45 with the intent of logging in. We each refreshed our screen as soon as the clock turned 7:00 and all of us came up empty when trying to join a boarding time. I hesitated when checking the list of our linked group members and that might have been the difference. We took off for the park at 9:00. We went directly to Toy Story Land and made it on Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, and Mania. Slinky Dog Dash is a really fund coaster. I would put it on par with Seven Dwarves - just thrilling enough to be a lot of fun, but tame enough for the whole family. The swirling saucer ride is identical to one of the Cars flat rides at DCA, but it had some incredibly rough spots where the cars transferred from one part of the ride to the other. Toy Story Mania had a break down right when we made it to the end and one of our groups was in a car that wasn't working, so we got another ride on it immediately.

It was approaching 1:00 and we wanted to try one more time for ROTR. An employee gave us the tip to get off of the park WiFi and post up near Launch Bay to get away from the crowd. There were a handful of people there, but it was less congested than the rest of the park. We did the same refresh trick and I landed in group 98. The ride had been down for most of the morning and they were only then in the mid 20s, so I wasn't very hopeful that we would make it on.

We stopped for a quick lunch at the counter service near Tower of Terror and it's probably one of the worst meals I've had at a Disney park - a cold burger for my wife, overcooked french fries, and chili with beans and chunks of tomato on the hot dog. We took in 2 rides on Rockin' Rollercoaster with a 20 minute wait each and a ride on Tower of Terror that was a good 20 minutes longer than advertised. We realized that ROTR resistance was flying through groups and was in the high 80s around 4:30. We had a 6:15 reservation at Prime Time Cafe, so we were going to be cutting it close.

By the time we arrived in Galaxy's Edge, our group number came up. We took a quick photo in front of the Millennium Falcon replica and headed to ROTR. I won't spoil any major details, but it is easily the most immersive and amazing ride I've ever ridden. You really do feel like you're in a Star Wars movie. The final scene with Kylo Ren is a little wonky, but otherwise, it is incredible. We were quickly approaching our dinner reservation and I called an audible and took the kids to ride Smuggler's Run while the rest of the adults went to check in for dinner. The 20 minute wait, 5 minutes or so on the ride, and the long walk to Prime Time almost caused us to lose our reservation. It all worked out, but I felt a little bad for the host at Prime Time that was kind of ticked. Smuggler's Run is almost every bit of good as ROTR - immersive and a ton of fun. I was standing in the waiting area with the game table where Obi Wan trained Luke and thought, "Holy sh*t, I'm on the Millennium Falcon!"

I really wish I had more time to wander around and enjoy Galaxy's Edge and I think, for that reason alone, I just wasn't exactly bowled over with the area. The main entry area has a lot of dead spots, it's incredibly spread out, and all of the shops had long waits due to the limited capacity. I would attribute the "deadness" of it to a lack of characters wandering around, which I'm sure is a COVID thing. They did have Rey and Chewy in a shop area along the main pathway and that was a lot of fun.

Day 8 - Time to head back to Tampa and fly home. My daughter had a gift card that she had not used, so we stopped by Disney Springs to go to World of Disney. The whole place was a madhouse. This was the only time I encountered traffic trying to enter a Dinsey area and we waited 30 minutes just to get into the store. The restaurants all had huge waits, so we bailed out as soon as my daughter found something to buy. We had lunch at the nearby Tijuana Flats. I had a friend who tried it in Fort Walton and I saw it on the map when we tried to look for something quick for lunch. I'm from Texas, you know, the Tex Mex capital of the world, so I'm immediately skeptical of anything claiming to be Tex Mex in another state. This place was the real deal. We don't have anything quick serve along the lines of that here, maybe Taco Cabana (awful) or Rosa's Cantina (bland, bland, bland), so I'm hoping they find it in their heart to come here someday. The loaded guacamole was worth the trip alone.

We had a pretty uneventful trip back to Tampa even if it was twice as long as our 1:00am trip the other way due to traffic and an on time flight back to Dallas. I need a few days to recover. I had plenty of short nights and I walked nearly 120,000 steps in 7 days.

Jeff's avatar

To be clear, it wasn't swamp ass yet when you were here, it was just hot. Humidity was pretty average. Come back in a month when the humidity is 80% or higher. :)

And yeah, mask wearing outdoors in 90+ is not comfortable. My hope is that the outdoor requirement eventually goes away, and if they want to require it indoors, that's fine. Lord knows they crank up the AC to obscene cold.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Yeah, I've been in early June and late July and the heat is definitely worse. Friday at DHS was the worst day. I don't know if it was any hotter than the rest of the week, but the lack of shade in many areas and a long stretch without water and with a lot of walking in the late afternoon really took it out of me. Indoors wasn't bad anywhere except for the Tampa airport. There was a distinctive lack of cool air coming and going.

We had a few days last week that felt much more like July than the first week of May. I'd absolutely agree a few of them fit the formal definition of swamp ass.

Call it "Swamp Ass Passholder Preview Week" if you like.

Since I'm from Texas I should be able to handle it like a pro, but we've had cooler than normal weather with rain for the last couple of weeks and it's in the 70s today. The warm weather and humidity is part of it and I know what to expect. Wearing a mask in it through the late afternoon and evening really made it seem worse.

Jeff's avatar

Humidity right now is only 37%, with 88 degrees. That's about what we've been having lately.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I left Florida on May 4, after ten days. On that day it was 95 degrees and had gotten increasingly hotter. The humidity wasn’t bad though, it seemed steamy in the mornings then it burned off or something.
It’s been downright cold here in Ohio. Mother’s Day is usually the benchmark for safe planting of things like annuals and tomatoes. Not this year- we’ve had to cover the stuff still sitting in pots and flats.

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