Dan and I are back from our anniversary trip to WDW and what an amazing time we had! To get you up to speed, make sure to check out Booking a Last Minute WDW Trip first! Since this was our first Disney trip without our kids, we wondered how it would all go. There was lots of things that were up in the air and we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Plus, we were doing some things for the very first time, such as staying offsite and learning to get around via ride sharing. We were ambitious going into the trip with what we wanted to accomplish. We covered a LOT of ground. Because it was just the two of us, we really packed in a lot of things. We did all 4 Disney parks, visited 15 of the Disney resorts, one day at Universal Orlando, plus shopping outside of the parks including Disney Springs and Premium Outlets. This post covers some of what we did outside of the parks and shares some of our tips from all the first time experiences on this trip!
First Time: Transportation
Ride Sharing 101
Our first day of travel was a marathon 16 hour day with two layovers! Because we didn’t have kids, a long day and weird times for flights wasn’t a downer… it was just all part of the experience. One of the observations we have for flights is that you are going to notice that the cheapest flights involve a lot of layovers or an overnight flight. Truthfully we didn’t even look at an overnight flight (I have heard they aren’t as available in the off-season), but it probably would’ve ended up being significantly easier for us to just fly out Wednesday night and get into Orlando mid-day Thursday instead of packing it all into one day. Oh well, we can save that “first-time” for our next trip! For saving money we definitely recommend being flexible and taking the cheapest flights.
We finally arrived at the airport in Orlando around midnight Florida time… which was okay cause it was only 9 pm our time (although we’d been up for 16 hours at that point). We decided to use Uber for our transportation to the hotel. We knew that a shuttle was going to be $100 total, and Uber was saying about $30.
This is where we made our first mistake… if you’ve never used Uber or Lyft before, make sure to download the app before you leave, and input any coupons or discount codes BEFORE booking your first trip. Once we used Uber that night, my husband couldn’t use the code I had for “first ride free up to $15” anymore. Because we both had phones, we were able to use the free code on mine, but it would’ve been nice to save $30 instead of $15. Make sure EVERY adult downloads the app and the coupons so you can all use them instead of just one person.
The other thing is, and I don’t want to freak anybody out, but in Orlando (really, anywhere that there is a “hub” for ride sharing) there have been reports of people trying to pick you up who aren’t your designated driver. Just be heads up… always wait for the driver to pull up and say your name. Verify the license plate with your app, and the picture of the driver/car if there is one. We’ve heard some really unfortunate stories about people getting in the wrong car. It seems simple, but at the end of a long day, when there are 50 or 60 cars pulling up to Disney or the airport, it’s easy to make this mistake.
Uber vs. Lyft
We decided to download both apps and try out both companies. Spend a little bit of time and look online for coupons beforehand… we found a lot, and they both offer different ones. The one we decided on for Lyft was $2 off each of your first 10 rides. That came in handy. Because we were offsite, we needed this service a LOT. We always checked both… sometimes Uber was cheaper without a coupon and sometimes Lyft was the cheaper option. As a general rule, we found Uber cheaper heading INTO the park from offsite, and Lyft cheaper once we were inside the Disney area. Once you are in the “Disney bubble” you can use their transportation for free. Buses, river boats, ferries and the monorail. We often got dumped at one of two places… either Disney Springs (where you could catch a bus to any resort or park), or Hollywood Studios (at the bus hub).
We didn’t find any big differences between Lyft and Uber… they were both great. We did like that with Lyft they had a light in the dash that lit up different colours showing that the driver had completed more than 300 rides. In the app it would tell you what colour light to look for (so you knew to look for the “purple” light instead of, like, a black car), and it also gave a picture of the driver.
Lastly, know that the prices change VASTLY based on demand. For instance, on our Epcot day, the park closed at 9 pm. When we checked the apps, both were around $10 for a pick up. We checked again at 9:05 and it was $30! We decided the best plan was to sit on a bench for an hour and wait for it to go down again, which it did.
Other ways to get around
In a previous post we mentioned walking to save money… other than the Target by our hotel, we really weren’t close enough to anything to walk. It was going to take hours (I believe that it said 4 hours, no joke) to walk from our hotel to anything close to Disney!
Public transit from Kissimmee was another option, but not really. It was $4.50 per person, which is $9 for us, and it wasn’t quick at ALL. It was saying it would take at least 2 hours plus transfers. If you REALLY are committed to saving money, this might be for you, but for us our time was valuable. We only had a week, and even with that amount of time we didn’t see all that we wanted to see.
Most hotels also offer “free shuttles to theme parks” but the times for ours really varied. In order to catch the free shuttle back to our hotel we had to leave Universal Orlando 45 minutes before it closed, which is definitely a bummer when you factor in that we paid $480 Canadian for the two of us for the day. And the Disney bus came at 10:30 am, which if you’re going to a park, doesn’t get you there for opening. The evening bus came at 11 pm and the parks closed at either 8 or 9, so we never ended up catching that one. Plus there are also multiple stops. It always took a little over an hour to get to a park, and they don’t drop you necessarily where you want, so you have to add time for the monorail or extra Disney buses as well. We used the free shuttle bus to Disney on our days off when we weren’t in a huge rush, and we did use the Universal bus both ways (but again, we had to catch it at 6:30 pm when Universal closed at 7).
Unlike in Disneyland, you do spend a significant amount of time waiting for the buses and shuttles in WDW. With kids, this can be challenging. With the two of us, we mostly just grabbed a coffee before so if we were waiting, at least we were happy! Some of the times I brought a magazine to read, but we mostly just really enjoyed NOT being the parents having to calm down the children around us! (We know that reality all too well…)
First Time: Offsite Accommodations
We settled on a relatively unknown hotel called Seasons Florida Resort in Kissimmee (every single time our drivers got lost trying to find it… every single time). It was about a 10-15 minute drive from Walt Disney World, and about 20 minutes from Universal Orlando. It had a lovely large room, and one major plus was it was INSANELY quiet. It had a bath tub (but I never did get a plug that worked and the water wasn’t hot enough), a king sized bed, and free breakfast. The breakfast was in a very large building, and they were trying really hard to make it a good one. The ladies who worked there were lovely. It opened at 7:30am, which to me is way, way too late.
This was the only time I sat by the pool… first morning, waiting for the free shuttle.
We would definitely stay offsite again if it was just the two of us as adults or if we were on an adult-only vacation. With our 3 kids and huge family, we would definitely pay the difference to stay on site with Disney. We did save about $600 by staying offsite (plus the value Disney resorts were all sold out by the time we booked), but we spent a significant amount of time waiting for our rides, shuttles, etc., and we spent about $250-300 on it as well. Note that whether you are staying onsite or not, you can take Uber or Lyft at any time. Even waiting for the free Disney buses can take some time, and we did see people booking these services to save time or not worry about sitting with others, etc.
Remember when you stay offsite you also have a smaller window for booking FastPasses. If you’re staying onsite, you can book 60 days in advance… offsite only 30 days. Even though I woke up at 4 am (you can book 60 or 30 days starting at 7 am EST) Avatar Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash were both gone (the two newest/highly sought after rides at the moment… which will change when FastPass becomes available for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge).
First Time: Shopping
We spent a good chunk of our shopping time at Disney Springs and will have a more extensive post coming up soon about that experience. For now, here are some other shopping excursions we took on this trip… all of which we did on the same day!
We wanted to make the most of not having our kids with us on this day, so we started off by going to the closest outlet mall with a Disney Clearance Centre. NOTE: There are about 5000 stores that claim to be “Disney Clearance Centres”. There are only two official ones with actual Disney Park merch. They are on International Drive (Orlando International Premium Outlets) and Vineland Avenue (Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets).
We headed to the outlet mall on Vineland as we heard it was slightly better. It was okay. It had a lot of items with last year’s date on them. It had a ton of Christmas clothes, kitchen stuff, and stuffies. The best deal I think would be the princess dresses… if your kids are into dressing up and don’t already have a dress, you can’t really beat a $25 price tag (they are upwards of $60 in the parks).
Comics & Costco
We got a Starbucks at the outlet mall (shocking) before heading to Winter Park for one of my husband’s bucket list items: “A Comic Shop“. In reality it was quite a small shop, and the owner wasn’t even there (ironically, he was at WDW!). However, Dan was glad to go without having to drag the kids/extended family. We then walked (in the rain) over to the Costco. Note: most places are actually not very far to walk… if you like to walk. The most annoying thing was how long the lights were at intersections. What could’ve taken us 5 minutes was actually more like 15 min because we waited FOREVER at the main intersection for the light to change.
We checked Costco for discounted one day Universal Orlando tickets and they didn’t have them. So overall, it was a bit of a disappointment and a waste of time during our day to travel that far and not really get to save any money… in actual fact, we spent quite a lot of time and money on transportation.
Universal City Walk
Following our trip to Winter Park we headed to the Universal City Walk. It was also okay. There was a Starbucks, and a Voodoo Doughnut, and some fun stores to look at. For food, we didn’t really see anything affordable that we wanted (there was a Burger King Whopper Bar where you could custom make your own burgers), and nothing really spoke to us. You could definitely do the City Walk after a day in the parks themselves and save yourselves the trip.
Old Town & International Food Trucks
When we were driving with one of our many Uber/Lyft drivers, we asked them where to eat that was more “off the beaten path”. We were given many, many good places to eat… but we’ve always had a soft spot for food trucks and Latin food, so when we found out that across from Old Town in Kissimmee there was a food truck “village”, we knew we had to go. We actually wanted to go for lunch one day, but we found out it doesn’t open ’til about 4 pm. We went at the end of our all day shopping adventure and were pretty tired… the good thing was our free shuttle from Universal Orlando stopped to drop people off at a hotel right behind the food trucks (remember, when you are on the free shuttles you don’t just have to get off at your hotel, you can stop at any of the stops). So we hopped off and walked across the street!
These food trucks were AMAZING! Most of the menus weren’t in English.. and being from Canada, our second language is French, not Spanish. Thankfully we’ve been to Mexico enough to get the gist. Most of the things we ordered weren’t what we expected (except the tacos of course) but they were all incredible. If you are an adventurous eater, we definitely recommend it!
Across the street from the food trucks is Old Town, which is an outdoor shopping mall and entertainment complex. We didn’t get a chance to check it out this trip, but we heard good things about it and will put it on a future “to do” list. You can check out more about it here.
Local Walmart and Target
We had no idea what to expect at these other than what we’ve experienced in California or at home. The ones by the parks are INSANE! They have entire sections dedicated to Disney stuff, and we really liked a LOT of it. I bought an over the shoulder top at Walmart for $16.99 and saw the same one for $20 at Target. If the people you are buying for don’t REALLY care that it comes from the park itself, we definitely recommend heading to a local store. You can also pick up essentials like breakfast foods and snacks if needed. (We bought some carrots and apples.)
First Time: Disney Experiences
WDW Resorts & Restaurants
We spent most of our days off resort hopping within WDW this time. Honestly, this was one of our favourite activities on the entire trip. Each resort is so unique and has it’s own distinct Disney flavour. I am sad to say we only got to 15 of the 21 resorts… there is just SO much to see at each one and they are SO spread apart. We loved doing this so much we are already planning to take our kids to our personal faves the next time we visit. Watch for a post soon where we break down each of the resorts and highlight what we loved about each of them!
In the midst of our resort hopping, we also took the time to check out a couple highly recommended Disney resort restaurants. We had dinner at Ohana (which you’ll find at Disney’s Polynesian Resort) to celebrate our anniversary, and lunch at Sanaa (in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) on Valentine’s Day. Stay tuned for a couple restaurant review posts coming your way soon!
As Disney says, their best kept secret is DVC; Disney’s Vacation Club. Essentially it’s a Disney timeshare program where you can buy into the newest resort and get points to stay for 50 years. We knew going in that we weren’t going to buy this year, but there is a very real possibility that we will in the future. (The thing is, the longer we wait, the more it goes up!) So we decided to take in a presentation in order to get all the info for a possible future purchase.
You have to sign up for a presentation, which can be done at any DVC kiosk in the parks, or in Disney Springs, or in any of the resorts. We happened upon one in Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, which also happens to be where the presentation and preview centre for DVC is… truth be told, we had a bit of a hard time finding the centre, so we were lucky to run into the kiosk. We wanted to take in the presentation on a day off, not a park day, so we made a reservation.
The presentation takes about an hour. You start in a lobby with refreshments (they even had an alcoholic cocktail, if that’s your thing), then a very short video in a larger room, then immediately into a private room with a sales rep… err, I mean Disney Cast Member. The presentation closes with an opportunity to tour through a bunch of preview rooms from their resorts. (And if you have kids with you, Disney will take care of them while you go through the presentation!)
For your time, they will give you 3 FastPasses (which are only good for a couple of days following the presentation, and exclude some of the newer/bigger rides at each park), and a $25 Disney gift card each… if you’re staying in a moderate level Disney resort or higher, it’s a $50 gift card each!
One of the things we’ve greatly enjoyed since launching this blog is the Disney community we’ve been welcomed into. During this past trip, we had the pleasure of meeting up with our friends Brendan and Katherine from Detour to Neverland that we met through the Disney community on Instagram. You can hear our episode of their podcast here or anywhere that you listen to your favourite podcasts. It was incredibly meaningful to meet up with them in person and spend some time chatting about the parks and life in general!
Thanks for stopping by! Have you ever been on a kid free Disney trip? We’d love to hear about it!
Have a magical day!