I am going to preface this with saying that I am NO means an expert with Disney and believe every trip is different with different goals depending on who is going, your level of Disney and what you want to do and see.
We booked this trip pretty last minute as a surprise for Amelia. she absolutely loves fireworks and Disney and we figured 3.5 was the perfect age to dip our feet in as parents in Disney. .
Amelia had no time to prepare or care about what she would want to do and everything was new to her. I had a very short list of must do’s that included Safari, Lion King Show, fireworks, character breakfast and some rides which all got done. The whole Disney system is quite overwhelming between dining reservations, genie plus, park hoppers and there being four million things to do but I tried to focus on what would work for us and what was available. I highly recommend booking with my friend Courtney (at no cost to you) to help tackle some of the big things, she is beyond helpful and truly just wants to see your family enjoy the magic of Disney, I could not recommend her help anymore! Now I am going to break down a few things that I was asked and hopefully this helps some families.
Hotel - We stayed at the Swan & Dolphin which is one of my favorite resorts on property. It is also a Marriott resort and not Disney but that doesn‘t really change much except yay more Marriott points. We even got extended hours at Magic Kingdom one night with just a few other Disney properties. The pool is very “resort“ like which I loved (adult only pools, hot tubs, poolside dining). The busses were very convenient and you can walk or take a boat to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We snuck right out of Epcot when fireworks ended and walked back to our hotel in about 15 minutes and it was awesome. If I was not going to stay there I would have stayed at Caribbean Beach, Riviera, anywhere on the Boardwalk or monorail! .
Dining - Dining reservations in Disney are hard, overwhelming and completely thrilling when you score a good one. We booked after the 60 days ahead of time when they open up so I missed Toppolinos which I hear is unreal. I did score a few good ones the week before we went as people start to change and cancel theirs! Since we had a late flight getting in I booked a dinner reservation right in our hotel for that night which was super convenient and also Schulas Steak house so I got a filet 👏🏻
Genis Plus - YES we did it 🤣 this is what everyone has asked. The first day I am not sure I even used it but did use it a few times the second day. If you are going and have popular rides that are “must do“ or you are trying to get as much done as possible, absolutely get it. Amelia was more into shows, parades and characters so we probably did not need it but used it a few times. It is basically like a fast pass on your phone. You can only do one at a time and have to wait until you use your current one or wait two hours to get another. There are also some rides you have to pay additional for if you want that. It is a little confusing but I figured it out pretty quickly. When I go through the parks, I’ll tell you what I used it for!
Parks: We did two park days with hoppers and I absolutely love what we did, again, this is what works for you and I think this was a great plan for us.
Magic kingdom - There is so much to do in MK and I think we got to about 14% of it even spending two different times there. We did the evening first so we could see the fireworks and then take advantage of the extra hours we got for staying at Swan and Dolphin. The lines were a lot less after the park cleared post fireworks and we walked right on a few rides. Phillar magic was by far one of Amelia's favorites and is always one of mine! We also got to do Dumbo, Buzzlight year (used Genie +), teacups, Peter Pan (used genie +) and Little Mermaid. We also used genie + to meet Mickey. It would have been a 15 minute wait but we walked right in! When we were in MK for the day we grabbed a take out service at Peco Bills for burgers and tacos, was great.
Epcot - We were headed to Epcot in hopes to have a napping child while we had a few adult beverages and it WORKED. We realized that if we went back to the hotel before Epcot we would most likely crash so I stuck with my plan and went right there despite two grumpier companions that may not have agreed. We hit a few of the rides like Nemo and checked out the aquarium after the Nemo ride. On our walk to check our the world showcase Amelia magically passed out and I headed straight to the margarita stand in Mexico. We had a few hours to kill before out dinner reservations and just walked around, got drinks, checked out all the art work and found where our dinner reservation was. Once Amelia woke up we took her on the duck ride in Mexico and then headed back to Italy for pizza! We planned an 8:00pm reservation at Via Napoli knowing that we would get out just in time for the firework show. Since we were staying at Swan & Dolphin we headed out the back entrance as soon as the show was over and walked back to the hotel. It was the perfect way to end such an incredible day. This back entrance gets you to the skyliner, boardwalk and boats.
Animal Kingdom - This was the first park we went to and knew that we were not going to do too many things but I had a few must things. We got there for the extra 30 minutes it was open for hotel guests and went directly to the safari ride and hopped on immediately. We saw SO many animals and it was so exciting, the lion was my favorite! From there we went right to our character breakfast as Tusker House. This may have been one of the best moments of the trip and where we realized we made the best choice by booking this trip. Amelia was screaming the characters name, waving and just SO excited. She could not believe that Mickey, Goofy and friends were all giving her so much attention and I absolutely cried happy tears. The food was great and all brought to you including Mickey and Simba waffles. HIGLY RECCOMENND. Another must have at Animal Kingdom was the Festival of the Lion King, this is where I worked when I was an intern at Disney. Again, brought completely to tears by Amelia's joy and my old stomping grounds. The Disney magic hit this mama hard. While there we checked out Kite Tails and Amelia got to participate in a turtle parade, we were so proud watching her go off with the other kids and have fun. Again, not too many rides but an incredible time and shows the parks have so much more to them than just roller coasters.
Must have items:
Here are some of my favorite items that we used and wouldn’t highly recommend!
Stroller Tag : Little Happies - this made our stroller so easy to find in the sea of strollers!
Amelia Backpack - TRVL design - wipe down and we stored extra change of clothing, snacks and activities for everywhere she went.
Phone Cord - The Caep a great way to be hands free and also not have your phone in a bag!
Stroller - Uppababy Minu. We got this stroller when Amelia was a baby as our umbrella stroller and it’s been on every trip with her and folds up nice and small With good storage underneath!
Amelia Disney Outfits - Amelia’s sweatshirt with the Minnie’s on the back and the dress with the castle were sent to us from Benoit & Matisse, be sure to check them out! I have linked some other outfits below as well :)
Hope this very length post is helpful and let me know if you have any questions!