We know that for many of you this was not the Spring Break that you had originally planned but don’t worry! Jolly Holiday Vacations wants to share our tips and tricks for helping to make… More
Have you ever considered a RunDisney race at one of the Disney Parks? My girlfriends and I just completed the Princess 10K over the 2020 Princess Half Marathon Weekend and wanted to share some tips! It was our first race, and we had SO MUCH FUN!
Post-Race at Magic Kingdom
First, Registering for Your Race
The Walt Disney World Resort hosts 4 race weekends a year
- January- Disney Marathon Weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- February- Princess Half Marathon- (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- April- Star Wars Half Marathon- (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- Fall (Oct/Nov)- Wine & Dine Half Marathon- (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon)
- They even have one mile kids runs!
There are virtual races throughout the year as well.
Below is the RunDisney event calendar for 2020-2021:
The 5K and 10K sell out as soon as registration opens. Many people who are logged in and ready to register do NOT get a bibs. NEVER FEAR! You CAN book a race package with an agent at Jolly Holiday Vacations BEFORE registration opens at no additional cost to you!
For those super motivated runners, there are extra medals for running all races in a weekend. Check out the RunDisney website for more information.
For the 5K and 10K races, you can select the pace you think you will be able to run. For the half marathon and marathon, you must submit a proof of time. Your pace will dictate which corral you will be placed in to start the race.
Training for the Race
In my younger years, I could sign up for a run, not train at all, and show up and run. Not so much these days!
Be sure to download a training plan that suits your needs! My group had an accountability and support group text where we encouraged each other and posted our runs. It was such a fun way to stay motivated and to get excited and prepared for the race weekend!
The last thing you want to do is get injured due to lack of training and not be able to enjoy the race and the resort. I was determined to be able to run the race and have plenty in reserves to tackle the parks!
You have to be able to run or walk a 16-minute mile pace. There are a group of people who cross the start line with the last corral. They carry balloons, keep a 16-minute pace, and sweep anyone off the course who can’t keep the pace. Because it takes so long for everyone to get through the start, this shouldn’t be a huge concern.
Planning Your Race Day Outfit
Many runners dress up for the race based on its theme. For the Princess Weekend, my group decided to go as characters from Alice in Wonderland. We were Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts.
Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Some people go all out (there are great options on Etsy), some people buy or make a race tank, and some wear regular running clothes. Costumes are in no way required but add to the fun!
Be sure to think about how comfortable you will be running in your costume. You may even want to run in parts of your costume before the race to make sure you aren’t incumbered in any way.
Planning Your Trip Itinerary
Once you have your race registration secured, it’s time to plan the rest of your trip! Consider the number of people in your travel party, when you want to arrive, dining and park touring.
There were 5 adult members of our group so we chose a Family Suite at Art of Animation (WDW Value Resort). The Family Suites sleep 6 and most importantly, had 2 full bathrooms.
Art of Animation- Finding Nemo Family Suite
Again, you can book a travel package with an agent at Jolly Holiday Vacations in advance of the registration opening to secure your bib!
Our race, the 10K, was on Saturday. We had originally planned for a Friday early morning departure, but later decided to start the drive down on Thursday afternoon after work so we wouldn’t feel so rushed. Since Jolly Holiday Vacations can book Hilton and Marriott brands of hotels anywhere, we were able to get a great rate on a Hilton in Jacksonville (included free parking and free breakfast) to break up the trip!
We knew we wanted a one-day Park Hopper ticket so that we could spend some time in Magic Kingdom and Epcot, so we were sure to have those purchased and linked to our account 60 days prior to race day to take advantage of the best FastPass options!
We were very excited about our DINING options and made reservations when our dining reservation window opened 180 days in advance for best availability. Since this was a girl’s trip without kids, we chose signature restaurants that could really enjoy! With our plan in place, we were ready for the weekend!
Arrival at Walt Disney World & Runner’s Expo
All runners must head to the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex to pick up their race bib before the race. EACH runner must show up with valid photo ID. You cannot pick up bibs for friends. Non-runners are welcome! Parking is free at the Expo. You also get a RunDisney t-shirt with the cost of registration. The Expo usually opens at least one day before the 5K, and you will have to pick up your bib at least one day in advance of your race.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the expo! There are tons of vendors, good food and drink, photo ops, specialized merchandise and more. It was a lot of fun and built on the excitement of the race!
RunDisney events start EARLY because they need to be mostly finished before the parks open. Be prepared to get a good’s night rest before the race! Have costumes set out and breakfast organized.
Disney provides bus transportation to the race start, which is usually in the Epcot parking lot. The 5K and 10K usually start at 5:30am, and the half-marathon and marathon usually start at 5:00am. Buses will start picking runners up around 2:30am (CRAZY, I know) and continue throughout the morning. We got up at 3:45am, headed out of our room a little after 4am, were able to hop right on a bus (there can be lines), and were at Epcot around 4:20am.
Like the Expo, there was a lot to see and do at the race start- vendors, character photo opportunities, a live DJ and more. We explored a little and then got in our corrals. It was very cold on our race morning. You can bring old/inexpensive jackets to wear in the morning, and then can shed them on the course. Disney will pick them up and donate your items to those in need.
If you want to get pre-race pictures with characters, get there early. We were more interested in getting a good night’s rest as we had a big park day planned. By the time we got to the race, the lines for character photos were pretty long and characters were headed in.
We were in different corrals, so we went our separate ways and had a plan about where to meet when the race was over.
One thing I learned that I had not quite expected is that although the race begins at 5:30am, it takes a WHILE to get up to the start line, depending on your corral placement. Our group was divided into 3 different corrals. One group got through the start at about 5:50am, I got through at 6:09am, and someone else in our group got through closer to 6:30am. Disney does this to spread the runners out and to allow for more distributed opportunities to take photos with characters along the way. So be prepared to finish the race later than you might anticipate.
The run itself was SO fun. Pocahontas was the character inspiration for the 10K. She and many of her fellow movie characters were stationed throughout the race in addition to Mickey and some other characters that you typically don’t see in the parks. I never stopped for the characters because the lines were usually 20 people or so deep, but it looked like a lot of people were having fun. There was music everywhere to keep you going and lots of good people watching of all the different costumes! Our course looped out onto service roads, came into Epcot’s World Showcase, extended to the Epcot-area resorts, and back through the World Showcase to the finish. There were water stations and bathrooms all throughout the course. We all LOVED the race!
You have the option to purchase Memory Maker (photography package) for a discounted rate ($169) before the weekend to cover your entire trip OR you can purchase a one-day memory maker for ($69). This will include all of your race photos and park photos from the day. Be sure to hang onto your race bib because the code to link your race photos will be on the back of the bib!
Memory Maker Race Photos
At the end of the race, you are given a nice medal, a mylar blanket, water and Powerade, and a snack box. I highly recommend drinking and eating a lot after the race so you don’t get dehydrated or low blood sugar. The 4 of us met up, got a quick photo, and headed back to the bus to our resort to shower and change as we had a full park day planned!
Highlights of Our Trip
Our Girl’s Trip was definitely about the RUN, but we had 3 supporters who came along so we also really wanted to enjoy all Disney has to offer. Here are some highlights and our basic itinerary:
- Thursday: Departed for Jacksonville to break up the drive, stayed in a Hilton with a great rate, free breakfast and free parking
- Friday: Headed to the Orland and the Expo, checked into Art of Animation, got ready for dinner at California Grill with Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing, early bedtime
- Saturday: Run, Magic Kingdom morning with FastPasses and Be Our Guest lunch, afternoon break and cocktails and Grand Floridian Resort, Epcot afternoon and dinner at Le Cellier
- Sunday: Sleep in, brunch at Chef Mickey’s, head home
We did the Deluxe Dining Plan since two of our meals were Signature meals, and we wanted the snack credits to explore the options at the Festival of the Arts in Epcot. We saved $100s on food using this strategy. Below are some pictures from our awesome Girl’s trip and RunDisney weekend. I hope you have enjoyed following along!
California Grille with Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing
Magical Day at Magic Kingdom
Afternoon Break at the Enchanted Rose Lounge at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Evening at Epcot & the Festival of the Arts
Maximizing the value of our Deluxe Dining Plan at Epcot
Such a FUN way to extend the MAGIC- departure brunch at Chef Mickey’s
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please email Marlee at Marlee.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
Cruising with Mickey!
Disney Cruises are fun for the whole family! You can enjoy a 3, 4, 5 or 7 day cruise to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska & more! There are also extended cruises for other Ports-of-Call.
We often get asked “What can I expect on a Disney Cruise?” so this blog post gives a play-by-play from our family of 5 (Mom, Dad, 14yoGirl, 8yoGirl & 7yoBoy) on a Cruise to the Bahamas. We spent 5 days and 4 nights on the Disney Dream and a magical time was had by all!
Day 1-Boarding time of 10:30. We arrived at the Port and dropped our bags with the steward. Then we headed inside to the line for our check-in. The line moves quickly and you are given your Card. It is very important to keep it with you as it is your room key/charge card and ID for your time on the ship. We loved having our lanyards to keep it handy around our neck! While we waited for our boarding group to get called we caught a picture with Captain Mickey! We wore/packed our suits and went straight to Deck 11 for a buffet lunch at Cabanas. Kids enjoyed the pool & tried the AquaDuck waterslide. You can access your room when you board but bags will not be delivered until later so pack whatever you think you will need in your carry-on. (If you are choosing to bring bottles of wine or beer onboard these must be packed in your carryon as well). All non-alcoholic beverages are included in the price of a Disney cruise but you can purchase special drinks once you get on board.
We decided to purchase the Beer package for $74. It included a reusable cooler (that we still are using 2 years later) & 12 beers. It was a great fit for us and we used the cooler all week and restocked with the beers from our room. (You can also get the cooler with bottled water)
Around 1:30 we headed to our room and to our (pleasant) surprise our bags were already waiting! We took a few minutes to unpack & get sorted then toured the kids club. Children are given special bracelets (magic bands) and can be checked in and out of the kids club by their parents or parental designee. They were well-staffed, super clean and our children absolutely loved them the entire trip! We were called to our lifeboat area for the mandatory Muster drill & then headed back to the top deck for the Sail Away Party! Then it was back to the room to change for dinner! *You will receive a daily newsletter with activities for the day delivered to your room but I highly recommend you download the Disney Cruise Navigator App which will also have all the information you need to discover the magical things awaiting you on the ship!
Day 1 p.m.
We were a bit early so we started an On-Board Digital Detective game as the headquarters was just outside our first restaurant. (The kids loved these interactive pictures throughout the ship and we continued playing them throughout our cruise.) Dinner at the Enchanted Garden was fabulous with our Server Radu & his Assistant Sebastian. They catered to the children’s wants and needs and were very attentive. I tried the Scallops & Prime Rib! The ambiance was true Disney & they gave us the tip to come back in the morning for a quieter brunch buffet. Then we went to explore the shops (& we bought our son a jacket b/c we forgot his and it gets chilly at night-all the ladies needed jackets at dinner). At 8:15 we headed to the theater for the Golden Mickeys. We were in our seats a bit early which was perfect b/c the kids got chosen to go onstage for the Snow White Medley where they each wore a dwarf hat & beard! It was so cute & the show was first class! At 9:30 the kids were dying to go back to the kids club so we dropped them off for 45 min while our teen checked out Edge & the grownups toured the District & took a stroll around the deck. It was a very full first day.
Day 2 a.m.
We woke at our usual time (7:30) and watched the coast of Nassau appear in the distance. A quick call to room service brought coffee and allowed us the luxury of a first cup on our verandah. We dressed in suits/cover-ups & headed to a quiet breakfast buffet in the Enchanted Garden (again, delish). We chose not to get off the ship for excursions in Nassau but instead grabbed chairs on the deck & headed for a family AquaDuck ride. Then we warmed up in the hot tub. After some time enjoying the pool deck the Littles changed for a Stars Wars activity in the kids club & our teen headed to a drawing class at the Edge. Left to our own devices my husband & I went to the Adult Pool Deck before meeting back up with our teen for lunch.
Day 2 p.m.
We grabbed the Littles from Kids Club for some more pool time. The weather was perfect. Then it was back to the room to shower & change for dinner. It was the optional formal night and there were some that went total glam but plenty did not. The characters were in their fancy clothes though! We got dressed and finished our Detective game from the night before which sent us all over the ship! (I recommend starting a game early in your trip as it is a great way to explore the boat). Dinner tonight was at Tiana’s Royal Palace. I was proud of the girls ordering off the adult menu and trying new things, among them Broccoli cheese soup, Potato & Endive Soup, Fried Brie & Duck confeit. Our son really wanted to go back to the kids club so we let him while the girls and I went to get seats for the show. If you get to the theater early you can go up to the balcony and around the sides to the ‘box’ seats which we did this time. The show was Disney’s Believe and it was great! (If you sit in the ‘box’ you will see all the trap door action that you don’t notice from the floor. It may take away from the ‘magic’ for some but our girls, being theater junkies, loved it!) After the show we were worn out and it was back to the room for bed before our beach day.
Day 3 a.m.
We woke up to the ship already docked at Castaway Cay and the view was breathtaking. Crystal blue water & sky as far as the eye could see.
We ordered coffee, croissants & fruit to the room as soon as we woke up so we could maximize our island time. (You can also order ice from your room steward which we did every morning to refill our cooler and ice down our drinks for the day!) As the kids were stirring and we were getting into suits & sunscreen the food arrived and it allowed us a little extra prep time then we headed straight to level 1 to Disembark. (We also ‘uncrustables’ sandwiches for the kids for beach snacks just in case. We used room service a lot and always kept a little cash on hand for a tip.) When getting off the ship everyone MUST have their card (this is another time when those lanyards come in handy). We had our beach bag, cooler & an empty bag for towels (you pick them up as you get off the boat-make sure to get plenty as there are not complimentary ones on the beach). We also brought our own masks/goggles for use in the snorkel area. We did not bring snorkels/flippers but the goggles did just fine for our kiddos.
Day 3: Castaway Cay
We exited the ship, grabbed our towels and took the short walk to the tram. (Make time for a pic with the Dream!)
The tram stops at 2 beaches as we got off at the second ‘family beach’. It seemed very crowded but we persevered and kept walking towards the end of the line (past the Sand Bar) and got chairs for our family in the perfect patch of paradise. First we had to get wet and the water was chilly but that did not stop the kids! We had pre-reserved some floats but had brought our own sand toys. My husband went to get the floats while the kids discovered the sand was perfect for sand castles. We swam & played and then my husband took the littles to the water slides (Note-kids can not wear goggles on the slides). My teen and I stayed on the beach to soak up the sun. It did start to rain so we decided to get wet anyway & make our way across the cove via the water to see if we could spot them on the slides. Lunch was a buffet of BBQ ribs, burgers, chicken or hotdogs. The food on Castaway is included as ‘cruise fare’ and the only charge is for alcohol which the servers happily deliver to you on the beach. (Note: They do tell you if you choose not to visit CC there will be very limited food choices on the ship for lunch as it seemed much of the staff is on the island helping).
After lunch the Littles went snorkeling with their Dad while my teen and I read, basked in the sun & floated a little. By the time we needed a break it was time to return to the ship for a wash up and to don our pirate attire.
Day 3: p.m. Pirate Night
We chose not to eat in the dining room for our 3rd night (it was a repeat of Royal palace but with a different menu). Instead we took our time getting ready in our pirate gear and let Littles go to kids club while we had some time with our teen. We played theme park trivia in Pub 687 then picked the kiddos back up at 6:00 for a dinner at Cabanas. Cabanas opens at 6:30 for ‘causal’ dining which, while not a buffet, is still great food but more ‘full service’ than lunchtime and not quite as drawn out as other dining rooms. You still see a host for seating. The servers were decked out in pirate gear and were just as friendly and catered to the children. After our (much shorter) meal we went to the deck for a round of Mini-Golf and got a seat up front for Mickey’s Pirate show at 7:30! Everyone in their pirate gear was awesome (and yes-a LOT of people dress up and it is super festive). Then we walked downstairs to peek in the shops again and get seats for the Magic Show (again-fantastic). After the show we headed Back to Deck 11 for some ice cream and the tail end of a movie on funnel vision. We returned to the pool deck and moved up close to get seats (we just sat on the pool deck) for Captain Jack Sparrow’s show & fireworks.
They did not disappoint as Disney doesn’t do anything half way. Pure magic! On the way back to the room we passed through Cabanas which opened up for the ‘midnight’ (11:00) buffet where the desserts were too tempting to resist so we scored a few to bring back to the room!
Day 4: a.m.
Everyone slept in (until 8:45 anyway) and we were ready for our Sea day. We ordered coffee & croissants to stave off our hunger and got dressed in suits/coverups to head to Enchanted Garden for breakfast. A combination of our later rising & everyone being on ship meant slightly longer lines at the buffet but the dining room was still only half full. Then it was up to Deck 11 for pool time. It seemed super crowded (Tuesday spoiled us) and it took a minute or 10 to find chairs. My teen & I scoured the deck while the Littles got in line for Aquaduct. Luckily we found a family heading to lunch and we got their 2 chairs in the shade. Littles swam, slid & splashed while we read & took in the movie on deck. Flo’s was open for burgers/chicken/pizza for lunch and after filling up and swimming a bit more the Littles wanted to go to kids club. My teen & I read some more until she was ready for some quiet time so she went to the room and my husband & I went to enjoy an hour on the adult deck.
Day 4: p.m.
We all gathered back in the room for clean-up and family movie (while mom & dad packed the suitcases-which need to be outside the room between 8:30-10:30 at night). We were ready to hit the ‘town’ by 4:00 and made it to the atrium to shop for souvenirs & join in the fun of ‘Officer Pin Trading’. Our kids are just getting into pin trading and had brought lanyards from home with some they were willing to trade away. Officers come to the area and stand around the perimeter happy to trade with anyone who walks up. The kids ‘worked’ the room for a solid 30 minutes and came away happy. Then we waited to see Minnie for a quick pic & headed to dinner. Animator’s palate was whimsical decor with animated screen all around and was probably the kids favorite for ambiance. Characters from Nemo we’re constantly swimming by and Crush was there and periodically interacted with diners (ala Turtle Talk style from Epcot). The food was good and they reminded us that it would be our same table in the morning (at 6:45) should we choose a sit-down breakfast. We left before dessert as we had promised the girls a 7:30 princess greeting. It was good to get there early (at 7:15) as we were 5th in line to see Tiana & Belle. The Beauty & the Beast show was not to be missed so we headed to our favorite spot (top right balcony) to wait for the doors to open (they open at 8:00 for the 8:30 show). We bought popcorn but brought our own theater candy. It was a great show but afterwards we were worn out. We headed back to the room to put our suitcases out and snuggle down for our early departure. Note: Keep lanyards with Key-to-the-World card & passports with you (you need cards to get off ship and passports for customs. Also make note of the tags they leave in your room b/c the character & color is where you find your bags).
We set our alarm for 6:00 so my husband & I could grab showers. We kept one rolling carryon to pack our pjs & personal gear and we were out of the room by 7:00 to head to breakfast. It was a seamless buffet at Cabanas (one last Mickey Waffle) and then we headed out. Knowing we had a drive in front of us we thought it better to get on the road. We headed to the atrium to depart and there were still few crowds. Once off the boat we grabbed a porter (they are kindly waiting with hand trucks and worth every penny of the tip!). He found our bags with ease-walked us through customs and then across the street to our ride. We fell in love with Disney Cruises and we will definitely be back!
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, contact Meredith at Meredith.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
Villains After Hours
Villains After Hours is a special ticketed event at Magic Kingdom with an additional cost from the normal park ticket. The tickets are limited so it offers low crowds and great theming! My family are fans of all the After-Hours events. Prices for these events can be high but the promise of low crowds and a unique experience is a draw for us. The price is $145 per person but there are discounts for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. The price increases $10 per ticket if purchased the day of the event. To offset the price, some guests elect to not buy a regular park ticket the day of the After-Hours event.
The 2020 Villains After Hours will be running on select dates from February 7th – July 10th. We attended the February 7th date which ran from 9 pm – 12 am but for some dates, the time runs from 10pm – 1 am. The crowd levels are considerably less than the normal park day as well as the Holiday Parties (Mickey and Minnie’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.)
The Villains After-Hours event started at 9pm but guests are allowed to enter the park two hours early (7pm for our evening.) There is a new benefit recently added: guests can now book Fast Pass+ reservations for the two early hours even if they do not have a normal park ticket. During the Villains After Hours, Fast Pass+ is not available but guests do not need Fast Pass+ because the lines are so short.
Guests can check in for the party any time during that 2 hours period. Check in is available at the front of the park and inside the park. Checking in is important to get a wrist band. Once the park officially closes, guests will need to have a wristband visible to stay in the park and ride the attractions. We were asked multiple times to show our wristbands. At check in, guests are also given a map with the show times, parade times, food options, where to buy special villains Merchandise and Photo Pass opportunities.
Villains offers specialty “Villain” themed food for purchase for this Special Event at various quick service restaurants: Some examples of options: Body Language (Available at Storybook Treats) – Cookies and cream mousse with chocolate cake, meringue tentacles, and a chocolate shell.
Hades Hot Dog (Available at Casey’s Corner) – All-beef hot dog topped with buffalo chicken, diced celery, fiery cheese dust, and spicy ranch drizzle. There are many other Villain themed foods for purchase.
Also included with guest’s admission – all you can eat Popcorn, Ice cream bars and bottled soda and water. We love the “free” snacks and take advantage of it! Our evening was quite chilly, so we ate more popcorn than ice cream. The snack carts are all over the park and the Cast Members have snacks set out just for guests to take.
Disney offers many entertainment options for the night. Grab your popcorn, Mickey Bar and drink and head to the castle to check It out. (When you are tired of just walking on every ride)
- Villains Unite the Night show hosted by the Hades…. which includes many of the most infamous Disney Villains as they take over the castle. Each villain themes out the castle!
- Dance Party in front of the Castle in between the shows. It’s a great time to dance along and embarrass your kids.
- Villains Cursed Caravan – joining Maleficent this year are some other notable villains as the parade thought the park twice during the night.
- Villain special effects on Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain – very fun for the change up: Space Mountain was our favorite, but Pirates was also very fun!
- There are no character meet and greets at this After Hours which does make it different than a non-themed After Hours, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Guests for the Villains After Dark can also purchase special Villain Merchandise. The Cast Members check for a wristband before they allow guests to buy the special merchandise, Disney has new items this year which feature some of your favorite Villains. Just like last year, Hades is the Grand Marshal of the festivities and is featured on a lot of gear. I like to wear my Maleficent Ears.
20 of the most popular Magic Kingdom attractions are open for the night with very low wait times. Our longest wait time was 20 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Low Ride times is one of the main reasons my family loves the After-Hours events. Walking on most of the rides is such a treat! Space Mountain is my favorite and we were able to ride it 3 times with the longest part being just the walk into the attraction and the walk off the attraction. The kids even talked me into the Mad Tea Party which may have been a bad call after my free Mickey Bar!!!
Photo Pass Special Pics
Photo Pass offers villainous special effects (aka “magic shots”) for Villains After Dark. We stopped to take advantage of a few of them, but the kids were tired of stopping when they could ride the rides with no lines. Did I mention that was our favorite part of Villains…?
Villains After Hours is so much fun and has more of a party atmosphere than the regular After-Hours events at Magic Kingdom but it comes at a price. We were able to take advantage of the Annual Passholder discount which helped with the cost. It’s nice to not wait on long lines for rides and plan fast passes ahead of time. The free snacks were a huge hit and we took a few bottles of soda back to our room. We loved the Space Mountain Villain makeover and the Villains Unite show was very fun! My family will continue to take advantage of these low crowds events when we can.
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please contact Anne Marie at AnneMarie.JollyHoliday@gmail.com,
We rode Rise of the Resistance! It was an unbelievable attraction which needs to be experienced first-hand. I am going to describe our process of getting a boarding group and experiencing the attraction but there will be no spoilers!
After much anticipation for this Galaxy Edge “e-ticket” attraction, my daughter Caroline and I headed to Disneyworld in mid-January and planned to ride Rise of the Resistance twice. Currently, you can only get one boarding group per day, so this meant that we needed to start two of our days at Hollywood Studios and early!
The Boarding Group Process:
The process of obtaining a boarding group has changed a couple of times since the attraction opened but Disney has found a process that seems to work. To obtain a boarding group, guests and their entire party must be physically in Hollywood Studios. Meaning, guests must be through security /bag check and the tapstyles to be able to join a boarding group in the My Disney Experience App. Guests are admitted into the park about 45 minutes before the posted opening time (meaning through the tapstyles,) but cannot join boarding group until the posted opening time for the park. Once a boarding group is called, guests have 2 hours to return to experience the attraction. Guests do not have to stay in Hollywood Studios once they have a boarding group assignment so they can park hop or going back to the resort. They just need to be back within the 2-hour window.
Our Experience Obtaining a Boarding Group
Caroline and I decided we wanted to arrive at Hollywood Studios an hour before park opening to get through the bag check and the tapstyles with plenty of time to spare. We headed down to the lobby of the Contemporary at 5:40 AM, ordered a Lyft Ride Share (the buses weren’t running that early.)
There were several other groups also waiting for Ride Share’s, so we knew it was going to be busy. We arrived at Hollywood Studios at 6:00 AM and we were not alone!
We passed through security /bag check very quickly. The lines were very short – many people were there before us. After we passed security, we joined the crowd of people waiting to enter the park. They opened the tapstyles at 6:15. It took about 10-15 minutes to get through the tapstyles and we did have to scan our fingerprints.
The Starbucks line at Trolley Car Café was LONG!! The Contempo Café at the Contemporary had coffee to fill up refillable mugs (even though it was before the posted opening time), so we were able to skip that line! Plan accordingly if you need coffee!
The first day we went to get a boarding group, we headed towards Galaxy’s Edge to ride Smugglers Run -Millennium Falcon. The Cast Members held everyone back just past the Frozen Sing Along Theater. We all stood for about a half an hour. They made announcements every 10 minutes about how to obtain a boarding group number…. people around us had packed breakfast and everyone patiently waited. Exactly at 7am, everyone was on their phones obtaining their boarding groups on the Disney app. (use your data plan for getting a boarding group, not the Disney WIFI). We were assigned boarding group 17. Then the cheers started! Everyone was very excited to have gotten boarding group numbers
The walk to Smugglers Run felt like the walk to Flight of Passage but not quite as dicey. There were definitely people running to get a better place in the line. And like Flight of Passage, the crowd was a little overwhelming but the line for the attraction moved fast. We waited in line for about 40 minutes and we were completely off the attraction before 8AM. While on line for Smugglers Run, our boarding group for Rise of the Resistance was called. We went straight to Rise of the Resistance after getting off Smugglers Run. We waited in the standby line for Rise of the Resistance about 25 minutes and the attraction itself is 18 minutes. We were off the attraction by 9am.
Our experience was different on the second day we went to join a boarding group. We left the resort and arrived at Hollywood Studios at the same time as the day before. There was a sizable crowd but no different than the day before. We decided to head to Toy Story Land instead of Galaxy’s Edge. The boarding group process was the same whether we were waiting for Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land. We waited and as soon as it was 7am, we joined a boarding group. – Group 9. We were so excited and expected to be called almost immediately.
We headed to Toy Story Mania but most of the guests for Toy Story Land headed to Slinky Dog which was an immediate 65-minute wait. Toy Story Mania was 5 minutes.
Rise of the Resistance was having technical difficulties and didn’t open right away. The delay caused us some trouble with other fast passes and dining reservations. Our breakfast reservations were in Epcot. After checking with the cast members and waiting as long as we could, we headed to Epcot via the new Skyliner Gondolas. Our boarding group was called while we were at breakfast. Having 2 hours to return was very helpful and we headed back to Hollywood Studios after we finished breakfast -again on the Skyliner Gondolas. We are big fans of the Gondolas!
The standby line was longer than the day before and the actual attraction took a little longer too due to some loading that occurs during the attraction. It was an hour between the standby line and the actual attraction.
The Cast Members on the attraction are amazing! No spoilers but one First Order CM didn’t like our Minnie Ears….
Our verdict, it’s amazing! And not like any other attraction we have experienced because it’s not just a ride or one type of ride…it is an experience with a detailed story and plot. And absolutely worth getting up early to get a boarding group assignment. Pack up some breakfast and your coffee…. I am a huge fan of the boarding group process. It’s much less stressful than rope dropping Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please email Anne Marie at AnneMarie.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! What is on your children’s wish list this year?!
Rather than shopping the big box stores and adding more toys to your children’s ever growing collections, why not give the gift of Disney!? Forget the video games and electronics, quality time is much more important than screen time.
There is nothing more exciting than announcing, “We are going to Disney World!” Our agents have compiled a list of creative ideas for you to utilize to surprise your family with the magical news on Christmas morning!
Best. Gift. Ever!
“Surprise! We Are Going To Disney World” Ideas for Christmas Morning
Create a personalized puzzle that when put together reveals – We are going to Walt Disney World!
Getting matching Disney-themed t-shirts for each member of the family and have everyone open the gift at the same time.
Wrap a Mickey Mouse ornament for a gift to announce an upcoming trip.
Utilize the Elf on the Shelf to make the magical announcement – Have the elf hold the magic bands & dress the elf in princess attire or add Mickey Mouse ears with a special note to the child.
Get each child a personalized Mouseketeer ear hat – so cute to wear in a castle picture during the trip!
Give Disney-themed beach towels, Jolly Holiday Vacations lanyards, and a cruise magnet to announce a Spring Break cruise.
Wrap the magic bands and/or a personalized letter from Mickey Mouse inviting them to Walt Disney World
For an Adventures by Disney trip, fill a gift basket with goodies relating to that particular destination that the whole family could enjoy – passports, a guide to that city or country, wine and cheese for France, a CD of popular Broadway tunes for NYC, hiking shoes for Montana, etc. Add in fun Minnie Mouse ears that represent your destination.
Create oversized tickets with the child’s name and date of trip and laminate them.
For a Spring Break trip, bundle together fun items like a Disney bathing suit, flip flops, mister fan, sunscreen, beach towel, and more.
Create a photo book of the resort, castle and other iconic Disney pictures and wrap the book as a present including a page that says – We are going to Disney!
Get a Disney-themed calendar and write the date of the trip on the calendar, use this as a fun countdown until the trip.
For a trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, wrap a lei for each member of the family and give each person getting a clue to where they will be going.
Wrap up their favorite princess dress and accessories with an announcement that they will soon go to Walt Disney World for a princess makeover and more.
Put an autograph book in their stocking with a message from Santa as the first autograph.
Hid a new Disney-themed ornament on the tree and let the kids hunt for it. When they find it, then announcement the surprise.
Put Mickey helium balloons in a box with a tag that says, “You’re going to Disney World!” You can do the same thing with Universal.
If your trip is close to the announcement, give a countdown calendar to document the days until your magical vacation. There are tons of ideas for this on Pinterest.
Give Disney-themed luggage as a gift. Have it already packed if you are leaving within the next day or week!
Create a Disney-themed scavenger hunt and have clues hidden around the house that hint that you are going to Walt Disney World.
Make Mickey waffles or Mickey-shaped pancakes for a special Christmas morning breakfast and make the announcement.
Book a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, one of the award-winning Disney cruises, a trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, or an all-inclusive vacation with Adventures by Disney and celebrate new experiences together!
Did you know for just $200 down, you can reserve a Walt Disney World vacation package! Give the gift of magical memories in 2020.
Share with us your favorite ideas for making that special surprise announcement.
For more practically perfect tips and information about booking a magical vacation or cruise, contact one of our agents today!
The Wild Africa Trek is a privately led VIP Tour that centers on behind the scenes of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. The tour is a remarkable experience! It provides insight about Disney’s animal care and conservation efforts at Animal Kingdom. It has been one of my family’s favorite tours at Disney World. It lasts about 3 hours and gives you greater appreciation of the expert care provided to all the animals at Animal Kingdom.
The tour runs every 45 minutes and there are usually discounts in the warmer months for the afternoon tours…because as all know, Florida is hot especially in the afternoons! We took advantage of the discount and our tour started at 11:45 am. If you would like an earlier morning tour, they start as early as 8:00 AM.
Know Before You Go:
There are a lot of disclaimers to be aware of before the Wild Africa Trek…from clothing requirements, health requirements, age and weight requirements…..all with safety in mind. A few that I thought were important: (the full list is on the Disney website https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/animal-kingdom/wild-africa-trek/)
- You should be in good health without any major medical conditions and expectant mothers are discouraged from participating. You should have decent physical stamina and not be afraid of heights, have motion sickness and be able to do some mild hiking.
- Wear comfortable clothes and closed toe shoes. No flip flops!
- Must be at least 8 years old, 48 inches tall and between the weight of 45 – 300 lbs (and they do weigh you for safety because you will be using harnesses)
- Finally, you cannot take anything with you that isn’t attached or hooked to your body including your Magic Band or your phone. I had a phone case with a cross body strap so I was able to take mine along, my husband was not. No personal items can accidently drop in an animal enclosure!
We checked in for the Wild Africa Trek in front of the Kilimanjaro Safaris at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail Kiosk. It’s the same check-in kiosk for other Animal Tours such as Caring for Giants. They suggested we get there 10 minutes early to get checked in. They told us to make sure we used the restroom because we wouldn’t have access to a restroom for the first 1 ½ hours of the tour. They weighed us in (ugh!) and gave us lockers for our belongings. Our guides then helped us put on our harnesses and ear pieces so we can hear all the information during the tour. The guides went over the rules of the tour, how to work the harness lock and how to hook ourselves into the various harnesses we encountered on the tour. Don’t worry, they definitely double checked our harnesses to make sure they were locked in safely before we were in any animal enclosures. The check in process for our group took about a half an hour. They gave us sunglass holder straps (so they are strapped to our bodies) and a water bottle which was clipped to our harness vest and was also a nice souvenir. We were be able to refill our water along the Trek but being careful because the next restroom was an hour and a half away….
Pictures of Your Amazing Experience:
While our guides were both animal experts and safety experts for the tour, they were also excellent photographers. Most people were not able to take their phones and cameras so the tour guides took pictures of everyone on the tour as well as pictures of the animals and other interesting things that happened on the Trek. At the end of the tour, they gave us a code to download all our pictures. (All the pictures included in this article were taken by the Trek guides)
The Trek gave us the opportunity to learn more about the Safari animals then what is told on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction. We were given the chance to get closer to the certain animals by experiencing them in their enclosures. Have you noticed the rope bridges over the crocodiles while you are on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride? We climbed on those on the Wild Africa Trek! We experienced the animals with our safety harness for about half the tour which allowed us to get close to animals such as hippopotamuses. When we took the harnesses off, we spent time in our own private safari truck to experience the animals on the Savannah. We were able to ask our tour guides any questions we wanted about the animals. We learned more about how the staff at Animal Kingdom care for and train the animals, conservation efforts etc…Each experience and tour is different. Each tour guide brings different experiences and of course, animals are never predictable. For example, our guide Ali was present for the birth of the baby giraffe on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction in front of guests. She explained to us in detail how they usually handle pregnant giraffes and why this birth was so unusual (the giraffe gave birth very early and with little signs of being in labor.) She explained how they handled the guests on the attraction to make sure the giraffe and her new calf were healthy and safe.
Have you ever noticed the small hut that is in the back of the Savannah portion of the Safari attraction? During the Wild Africa Trek, we stopped at that hurt about halfway through the tour for a break including bathrooms and a snack/light lunch. Our tour was in the afternoon so we had more of a lunch snack but the morning tours offer a breakfast type of snack. Our snack included a curry chicken salad, cured meats, fruit salad, salmon roulade, hummus to name a few. Lunch included the Jungle Juice you may have tried at Tusker House…it’s irresistible! The food is made by the chefs at the Tusker House but it’s a special menu for the guests of the Wild Africa Trek. (if you have a food allergy, let them know when you are booking your tour) It was nice siesta where we took in the sites of the Savannah, got to know our fellow tour guests and guides and take some more special pictures.
The Wild Africa Trek is not cheap. The price for the tour ranges from $189-249 per person with the cheaper rates for the afternoon tours. We were told there were not additional discounts for Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members. A good portion of the fee for the Trek is donated to animal conservation efforts. They even let you select which animal you would like your portion to go to. I chose elephants.
My husband and I love trying different tours at Disney when we are on an “Adult only” visit but the Wild Africa Trek isn’t just for adults. We loved it so much that we left our tour, went to the check-in kiosk and signed our older children up for the tour for our next trip to Disney on the spot. Our children did the tour in the afternoon in August (it was very hot) and they loved it too! I did remember to tell them my daughter has a shellfish allergy. I would do this tour again anytime. It was a truly unique experience that we thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend, escpecially If you are an animal lover and are interested in learning more about the care of the animals at Animal Kingdom. The Wild Africa Trek has been our favorite Disney Tour so far!
See ya real soon,
Anne Marie Wienkamp
For more practically perfect tips, please email Anne Marie at AnneMarie.JollyHoliday@gmail.com.
Magical Express: Disney’s Airport Transportation service that starts your magical vacation almost as soon as you get off the plane!
For guest traveling to Walt Disney World resorts from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) there is a special transportation option that is included in your resort stay.
The Magical Express (ME) bus service will take care of you from start to finish. All you need to do to start the process is let your Jolly Holiday agent know your flight itinerary before your final payment is made. They will note it on your reservation and make sure your luggage tags get sent to you. You should put the yellow Magical Express luggage tags on before you check your bags and when you disembark the plane all you have to do is head to the Magical Express bus. (Don’t worry if you forget the yellow tags, you can also turn your baggage claim ticket into the Magical Express desk and they will transfer them for you, or you can go get them and bring them to the bus yourself)
When disembarking the plane you will head to the Main Terminal Side B then to the baggage claim area. ME is marked with a Mickey head on the map and signs throughout the airport will point you in the right direction.
You will likely enter on level B3 so you will need to follow Escalators/Elevators all the way down to level B1.
Remember, you don’t have to retrieve your luggage from the carousel-Mickey will take care of that for you so all you have to do is get out your magic band and prepare to board the bus! (Make sure you have your Magic Band in your carry-on, not your checked bag).
ME is on level B1-all the way at the far end. If you haven’t used the restroom yet you may want to go ahead and do so before getting in line. There are several on the route from the gates to the check-in desk.
When you reach the end of the hall you will see the check-in desk and you can start to feel the magic as you step up to the desk when the cast members greet you with a “Welcome Home”.
The Cast members will check you in by scanning your magic band to confirm your resort reservation. Then they will direct you to the line where you will wait to board the bus.
When it is time to board the bus the driver will stow any larger bags you have underneath (rolling carryons, larger duffles and checked bags if you choose to retrieve them yourselves. Remember, those with the yellow tags will be delivered directly to the resort so you do not need to retrieve them. It may arrive sometime after you do, so always pack emergency items, medications, etc in your carryon).
*Jolly Tip: It is appropriate to tip your bus driver if he handles any bags under the bus for you. A good rule of thumb is a dollar a bag when he retrieves them for you at the end of the ride. As with any service, tipping is at your discretion and based on the level of service you receive.
You may wait a few minutes as others arrive to board the bus but you will soon be on your way to the magic!
Overhead screens will pay Disney trivia and cartoon shorts to keep you entertained on this 30 minute ride from the airport to your resort. Snacks are allowed so if you have folks (young or old) in your party who need a little pick-me-up then now is a great time to pass them out. On our most recent trip the time from check-in to our resort was only 50 minutes total and we loved the convenience.
When you arrive at your resort your driver will retrieve any bags they may have stowed for you. Bags that were checked with yellow tags will be delivered straight to your room.
Now it’s time to start your vacation! You can head to the resort check-in desk and stow any larger carryon items and see if your room is ready. If you are arriving early and planning to go to a park you can head straight there.
*Jolly Tip: If you are using a dining plan make sure they activate it at the resort check-in desk if your room isn’t ready so you can start dining and snacking right away!
Magical Express will also transfer you from your resort back to the airport. On the night before you leave you will get a letter at your door.
Keep the letter in your carry-on as it is your ‘ticket’ on the bus. It will have a time for you to be in the lobby to board the bus back to the airport. (Standard report time is at least 3 hours before your flight departs).
Some airlines offer airport check-in for your checked luggage and you can receive your boarding pass right from the resort. Head to the “Resort Air-line check-in” desk the morning of your departure.
If you do not have this service, or choose not to use it then you need to bring your checked bags to the Magical Express bus with you when you check-in to board the bus. You can not use your magic band to check in for your bus departure, you must have the magical express letter that was left in your room.
*Jolly Tip: If you plan to enjoy the parks on your departure day the Bell Services will hold your larger carry-on items for you. You can check-out of your room, drop off your bags and enjoy the parks before coming back to your resort to catch the bus.
Magical Express is a complimentary service and is designed to help you have a stress-free start and end to your vacation. Ask your Jolly Holiday Agent about using Magical Express for your next vacation!
See ya real soon,
For more practically perfect tips, please email Meredith at Meredith@JollyHoliday@gmail.com.