I went on two trips to Walt Disney World in November 2019. The first of the two had a lot of first time experiences for me. This trip was partially solo trip and partially a business trip. The trip was booked so I could participate in Royal Treatment Travel‘s Royal Retreat. Not unusual for me, I added a night for better airfare. I would be arriving a day prior to the rest of the agents traveling to the meeting with a lot of extra free time to explore on my own.
I was really excited. This would actually be my first time EVER traveling anywhere alone. I’ve driven places to meet friends or family. I’ve been on work trips departing and returning with other workers. Of course, I’ve been on plenty of vacations, but always with a travel companion. It was a cool sense of freedom.
There was also a slight tinge of guilt going to Walt Disney World without my family.
I was a bit anxious. I scheduled a flight departing Cleveland just before 7am. My husband decided the night before I had to leave it was the right time to buy a new car even though he’d been looking at vehicles for at least two years. So I spent the evening at a car dealership instead of going over my final checklist and re-packing one last time.
I had planned to shower before leaving for the airport, but was so nervous I’d miss my 4am alarm that I barely slept. I woke up about 20 minutes before the the alarm and couldn’t allow myself to doze before. I showered, triple-checked my luggage, and called for a Lyft ride. According to my receipt he arrived at 4:53am and I was at the airport at 5:05am.
The Starbucks line was longer than security, but I made it to the gate and all I had to do wait for boarding time.
This time instead of my normal preference of airlines, Southwest, I opted for Frontier Airlines. The flight was cheap and direct. It was also very fast. I slept through the majority of it, but my nap was cut short with an early arrival at Orlando International Airport. I was walking up to Magical Express less than 5 minutes after my scheduled landing time! It was a great start to the trip.
My arrival was a Wednesday morning. There was a very short line to check in and then about a 15 minute wait until my bus arrived. The first night of my stay was at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. It was the second of three stops the bus would make. Just as we pulled away from the airport I got a text alert letting me know that my room was ready! It was a welcome surprise. I had just planned to drop my bags with Bell Services upon arrival but this gave me a better opportunity to freshen up.
I had my FastPass+ reservations booked for a little later in the day so my plan was to meet a blogging friend, Meghan from Magic For Miles, at Caribbean Beach Resort where she was staying, then visit Port Orleans French Quarter for some “lunch” before getting into the parks. Since the buses do not transport between resorts I called for another Lyft ride rather than shuffle between the parks and resorts. It really was the most efficient way taking less than 15 minutes rather than possibly an hour or more.
Caribbean Beach Resort
Outside the main building at Caribbean Beach Resort I was able to observe the Skyliner and see the almost-ready to open Riviera Resort! During our October 2018 stay at the resort Riviera was just a lot of scaffolding and beams now was it looked gorgeous, even from afar.
I had a great time visiting with Meghan and her family! The resort lobby always reminds me of being a Caribbean resort, even on a chilly November day.
Port Orleans French Quarter
Next, I was on my next resort stop: Port Orleans French Quarter for some Mickey-shaped beignets! This time I was taking the long way for transportation. Caribbean Beach Resort is the main transfer station for the Disney Skyliner and I was thrilled to go on my first ride. I opted to walk through the property rather than wait for a bus as the Cast Member in the lobby suggested. There wasn’t a lot of signage directing me and I was mainly following my view of the Skyliner to get me there. I was a little turned around a few times, but after about 10-15 minutes I arrived at the Skyliner station. To me, the walk was worth it because I may have been waiting almost as long for an internal bus to take me there and it would have made other stops along the way.
It was a very quick five minute ride from the resort station to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I was tempted to go into the park, but stuck with my plan and followed the signs to the bus station so I could catch my ride to Port Orleans French Quarter.
I’ve been a bit enamored with this property since we walked through on our way to the Riverside portion of Port Orleans after a late night bus ride in 2017. The grounds are super cute and it was nice to see it in daylight this time. Before giving myself a short walking tour, I went straight for the beignets, a.k.a., my lunch. I had read that there was a Annual Passholder promotion for free beignets, but apparently missed the fine print about the hours they were offered. I put my Passholder ID away and pulled out my credit card for payment. Then the Cast Member told me not to worry about it. She was giving me the promotion early. I offered to pay a few more times, but she wasn’t accepting it.
It was pretty quiet during mid-day in the restaurant, at the food court that I passed on my way out, and on the grounds. I wandered around for a few minutes to catch a glimpse of the buildings, the pool, and the path along the river. The resort had moved onto my “stay here” list before but after really seeing it. Hopefully we make it there in 2021.
Finally it was time to get to a park. This the first time I’ve visited Walt Disney World and not started at Magic Kingdom. It definitely felt different. Animal Kingdom was the one park not on the agenda for the next few days. I didn’t want to miss seeing the Christmas decorations in the park and a few of my favorite attractions. My FastPass+ reservations were set for Meet Mickey & Minnie, Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safaris. My plan with the safari was to ride around sunset since our family has never done an evening ride and I’ve heard the experience can be very different.
I was immediately wowed on arrival by the giant Christmas tree just outside the park entrance. I LOVE Christmas and the resorts I’d visited weren’t decorated yet for the holiday. Animal Kingdom changed all that. The gate was lined with holiday decor. Festive entertainment was going on between Island Mercantile and Discovery Trading Company. There was a long line at the tree of Life PhotoPass so I veered to the left to go to Dinoland. Every Christmas light or garland wrapped post made me smile a little more.
I was early for my FastPass+ reservations so I was taking it all in while hoping to find Chip ‘n Dale in the dinosaur costumes. I did, but right as I arrived a Cast Member mentioned they were going to take a break. Right across the way though there was one family in line to meet Daisy and she was expected back any minute. The little girl was so excited. It was almost the end of her first trip and she wanted to tell me everything about it. It was fun to see another child’s perspective. Daisy came out and she shrieked with joy. Daisy was super fashionable and full of sass.
Now, it was about time to meet Mickey and Minnie.
I made a quick trip to Asia to see my favorite nook in the park. Animal Kingdom has some of the most serene and picturesque areas. I took my own pictures and then stopped at the PhotoPass photographer who added some magic snow into my picture. It was actually a bit cool, especially when it got breezy, so it wasn’t difficult to shiver for the picture.
I also used my FastPass+ for Expedition Everest. Since I was riding alone they also pulled another rider from the single rider line to ride with me. We didn’t speak anything other than a greeting at the beginning and a mention of how awesome the ride was at the end. We both clearly loved the ride.
Everything I did on this trip was pretty intentional. I had a list of not to forget items. One of those things was to order food from Flame Tree Barbecue. It’s a restaurant I’ve intended to try the last three times we traveled. I placed my Mobile Order right after exiting Everest and went to grab my early dinner.
At this point I was starting to feel tired. As I walked to grab my lunch I started to have some doubts about traveling alone. Conversations had been few and far between since chatting with the girl in Daisy’s line. I wondered if I was bored. I also admit I wondered if I was coming back to Disney too soon after my last trip. I was having fine at times– like on Everest. I pondered a lot while eating.
I kept going. I was really hoping to find Chip n Dale. It would be the last opportunity during the trip to check this off my list. This time there was a short line and I made it before the cut off! They were really cute. I loved the reindeer ears and Christmas lights added to their costumes.
All the PhotoPass pictures came out a bit blurry.
It wasn’t quite sunset, but I was within my window for the Safari. It was still a very cloudy day and I wouldn’t actually see a sunset. I also knew I wasn’t interested in walking around the park any longer to waste time. If I rode it then I wouldn’t have a “nighttime” experience either, but I could get to Magic Kingdom sooner.
The safari was a great one! The hyenas were incredibly active. Our guide couldn’t even contain her excitement.
Springbok on the trail were “pronking” which our guide explained was the dancing/jumping they were doing. From my seat on the truck my view was limited but I could see some in the far distance just bouncing across the open land. The rhinos where walking around. While I hoped to see the lions more active, they were still perched on the rocks, but the male was sitting up keeping watch.
I made the right choice to ride when I did. I loved it.
I was still tired but ready to hop over to Magic Kingdom. The park was offering late night Extra Magic Hours for resort guests so it was not surprising when I arrived at the bus stop the line was pretty long. A bus arrived as I was entering the line queue. In four minutes it was completely full and I didn’t make on. It was a really long 14-minute wait for the next one to arrive.
Magic Kingdom is the furthest park from Animal Kingdom and I think I may have dozed for a minute or two on the ride over. Getting up so early was definitely wearing on me. I had originally intended to stay for fireworks and enjoy Extra Magic Hours. I already knew I would not make it until 11pm. I was also still questioning traveling alone and wondering if I should even be going to another park.
Then I arrived at Magic Kingdom. I caught one glimpse of the Train Station and every single doubt faded away. I loved it with Christmas lighting and landscaping.
I walked in the park and saw that Christmas tree. I was stunned and speechless.
I turned the corner and looked down Main Street and I cried at the sight of the Castle.
The park was extremely crowded. With the Extra Magic Hours available and it being one of the few nights the park didn’t close early for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party I knew it had a high chance of being busy. I was so happy to be “Home.” Yes, it really makes you feel that way. I knew the people were all around, but I also barely noticed.
I sat along the fence of the hub grass and I stared at the Castle. It was gorgeous. I felt really guilty my family wasn’t there to see it with me for the first time. I did video chat them and heard their ooohs and aaahs. Every picture I’ve seen– every video– none of them prepared me for how beautiful the Castle decorated with holiday icicles would be in person.
I managed to stop staring long enough to get a few pictures along Main Street.
It was actually quite cold and breezy by this time, but I still wanted ice cream from the Main Street Ice Cream Parlor. I purchased my favorite Mickey Brownie Sundae. I found a spot in one of the turrets out of the way of any moving traffic to eat my snack and stare at the Castle even more.
I was thinking about staying there for fireworks, but that was still more than 30 minutes away. The wind was gusting through the turrets and the hub areas were packed for viewing. It would still be just under an hour before the fireworks ended and then more time to get a bus back to my resort. I decided it was time to go bed. I had big plans for the next morning anyway.
The two hours I spent in the park were entirely spent on Main Street. I didn’t ride a ride or meet a character. I just enjoyed the scenery and I couldn’t have been happier.
There was only a short wait for the bus back to All-Star Movies. I’m pretty sure less five minutes after entering my room I had washed up, called my family once more to stay good night, and was sound asleep.
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