I recently had a conversation with Janae and Claudio, after helping them plan their family trip to Disney World. Here are some highlights of our conversation.
Me: Today I am talking to my cousin Janae and her husband Claudio. The aspect of wellness that we are focusing on is connection. They’ve had such a fun experience connecting with their family on this vacation that I helped them put together. They recently spent Christmas at Disney World in Florida.
Tell me how many are in your family, and a little bit about how this all came about?
Janae: We have 2 sons, 15 and 17, who came with us, and our married daughter Lexie and her husband and their two and a half year old. We were going to go someplace out of the country, but then decided maybe not. Lexie and Beau had wanted to go to Disney World and take their daughter, so we started talking a little bit, and we thought, for that many people, let's call Barbara and see if she can help us with all the details of it.
We first started looking online to see what was open and available. I think about that time we gave you a call. So that’s how we got started. Lexie went onto a Facebook page to talk to people who were just coming home from Disney World to find out about the rides being open, how people were sanitizing and wearing masks, see what the daily protocols were, and the wait in lines. That was called Smart Moms Planning Disney.
Lines and Wait Times
Janae: I think our average wait in line was probably 30-40 minutes. Some were 20 minutes and I think a couple of roller coasters were like 60 minutes and one was like 85 minutes. There’s this one ride, the Star Wars ride, where they had to get in the queue for it.
Claudio: They (the Rise of the Resistance ride) have a virtual queue twice a day at 7:00 AM and then at 1:00 PM. Everything is done through the application. The number one thing that you have to have with you is the application. I imagine you already have it, because when you make reservations for the park per day, you need to have the app. So just keep using that. And that's how you sign up for the queue. It has to be done pretty close to the time that they say that the queue is available so you can get a spot.
Me: We'll talk even in more depth about the whole Disney part of the experience in a minute. I think people want to know first of all, what it's like to travel right now, and then also, since you went to Florida and Disney World, they want to hear about exactly what worked for you and how you navigate it at all.
Let’s talk about flights. What do you want to tell me about your flights? Were the airports crowded? What about on the flights? Are they practicing health protocols and sanitation?
Janae: I think the airport wasn’t too crowded. There were definitely plenty of people there, but it wasn't packed. It was very easy to go check luggage. When we got on the airplane, they gave us a little sanitizing wipe. So that was different. And they did try to leave a row between people.
Claudio: I actually have a picture of me sitting there with two seats on my side that were empty. Because they use every other seat, the last person who was supposed to be there wasn't there. So I had three seats for myself.
Me: Just to be clear, because not every airline is the same way, you flew on Delta. Delta is still blocking those middle seats.
Claudio: They have this fogging system for sanitizing that they use through the plane. So it seems like it's worked out really well for us. It feels safe.
Janae: Yes. We didn't worry about anything the whole time, as far as that, I mean of course we had our masks on, you have to have your mask on the whole time in the airport and on the plane except to eat. And that was the same with Disney World too. You had to have your mask on.
Claudio: If you're stationary and you're eating or drinking something, you can take your mask off. But as soon as you're done with that and start walking or going somewhere, then you have to have your mask on.
Me: So you arrived and then you picked up your car rental; we rented a large SUV to accommodate everybody. How was it picking up the car? Did you feel like everything was smooth?
Janae: Yep. Everything was smooth with that.
Claudio: So easy; we didn't have any questions either. I recommend if you're going to Florida to have lots of quarters for the times that you're going to use the toll roads, which is not a lot, but each one is 75 cents. That’s the only thing that we didn't think about beforehand. I thought maybe we should have paid for the tag for the toll roads to be included with the rental, but we only spent about $2.25 the whole time.
Janae: We almost didn't have enough quarters the first time, because we didn't know.
Claudio: I called Enterprise. And they were really good. They said, You can just leave the area and then pay it online. Or you have a little envelope at the toll roads. I guess you can take an envelope if you don't have any quarters. We decided just to go and get some quarters just in case. And we were good. Oh, the ride that we got was awesome. I just fell in love with that.
Me: What kind of vehicle was it?
Claudio: A Navigator. Lincoln Navigator. Such a smooth ride.
Also the return was easy too. We got back to the airport and there was a line to leave our car in. There were people helping take the returning cars. That took not even 30 seconds. It took us longer just to unload the suitcases. And there was somebody who was helping us with that too.
Me: Sounds like so far everything was smooth sailing. The place where you stayed was called The Fountains at Champions Gate Orlando, and it was a four-bedroom townhome to accommodate everybody. Was it nice to have all those separate bedrooms?
Janae: It was really nice. My son really appreciated having his own bedroom; it was the highlight of his trip. He has to share a room with his brother at home. So he said it was his dream come true.
Claudio: It was a gated community and a very short drive to all the parks because it was right next to Highway 4, which is the one that takes you to all the parks, and is a non-toll road. And the location was great.
Me: Was there a pool there? Did you use any of the amenities?
Janae: There was a pool there, but we did not use it because the temperatures were around 70-ish most days. But one day when we were at the park, it did get up to 80, which was nice, even getting a bit warm. But then the next day it dropped down between 30’s to 50’s. So when we got to the park, it was like 40. My son-in-law did have to buy a sweatshirt when we were there because of those two cold days. So it was like 39 or 40 those two days when we got to the park.
Claudio: I think that was the perfect time to go to Florida. Some people prefer warmer weather than me. It was just great. The second day we just put on an extra layer below the jacket and we were good. Check the weather for the days that you'll be going, because it could be cold one or two days.
One day we knew that rain was coming at 9:00 PM, so we left. But we heard from other people who stayed, who said that they were fine as long as they just stayed out of the rain for a couple of minutes. And then it passed.
Janae: And then after that, there were no lines for any of the rides.
Janae: One thing we did differently this time was add trip insurance. I wanted to make sure we were covered. I had a trip that we had to cancel in March, when the virus started. We were unsure whether we’d be able to go on this trip. And we wanted to make sure too, that we had insurance so that if the park closed and we couldn't go that we would be able to go at another time. We got it to cover the flights, the hotel and the tickets.
Me: Insurance right now is huge. I would say in the past I have maybe a third of the people that I book trips for that would buy trip insurance. But now it's rare not to have insurance.
Janae: It’s not only if the parks closed. It’s also if one of your kid gets COVID, then you might have to cancel. We had a few really close calls right before we went. We're so glad it worked out. But just that peace of mind.
Claudio: In case something happens, it's nice to have the insurance. We didn't need to use it, but just knowing that we had it was great.
Me: I completely agree.
Me: Let's move on to your Disney World experiences. First let’s talk about the whole planning process, because that is different now. A lot of times people are used to the pre-virus days when all you did was book your trip and then show up, but it's different nowdays. It's a process.
What we did from the beginning, in order for me to book the package was, we had to go onto the Disney website and make sure that the parks were open on the days that you wanted to go. After we booked your package, I handed it off to you.
Claudio: So what we did was talk to everybody and see what was it that we wanted to do and what days.
Janae: Because of COVID, instead of park jumping, you can only do one park every day.
Me: Right. You're assigned to one park per day and don’t have hopper passes.
Claudio: Yeah. This was the most complicated part. Once we were in the park, everything went smoothly, not a single problem. So if you pay attention to this part of it process, you'll be good. We got a code from you, Barbara, after you booked the tickets. And with that number, we went on our app and added all the people in there. Then we went park by park and checked their calendar to see what was available. And then we said, okay, on this day, we're going to this park. And these are the people who are coming with me that day. We did the same thing with every day we were there. We had five days in the park. So we had plenty of things to do every day.
Janae: Oh, always make sure that you leave a day in between the parks too.
Claudio: Yes, you will need it. We did two days, two parks and then one day for just resting or doing whatever else we needed. And then three more days after that, and we repeated one park.
Janae: They did have a few things closed. Park of Disney Springs was closed. And not all the food places were open, but the majority are open.
Claudio: You just order food on your app. When your food is ready to be picked up outside, you don't see all the tables they have inside. And sometimes they have some tables outside, but when you go inside, a whole new world opens up for you. And usually there's tons of tables available.
Janae: That was just the restaurants. But we only ate at the restaurant places a few times. The majority of the time was outside. Mostly we were sitting on benches outside, or there were some tables outside, but a lot of the times we were just sitting on a bench.
Me: Do they still have the churros and the popcorn? And all of the regular vendors?
Claudio: We had churros; everything we wanted.
Janae: There was some of those you didn't have to order with your phone. I think when we did get popcorn, I don't think that was on our phone. I think we just were able to get it.
The best gelato was at Disney Springs. Not actually at Epcot, where we thought.
When we had it, I said, this tastes like the real gelato. And they told me they have their ingredients flown in from Italy. And three minutes down this road is where they make it. I could tell. We've been to Italy. And after that, you have to have the real gelato.
Me: Mmmm. Sounds wonderful. Anything else you want to add?
Janae: Thank you getting this set up for us, Barbara.
Me: Thanks for being willing to talk about this, and let people know what it's like to go to Disney right now!
Claudio: We enjoyed it so much this time, and the crowds were so good, that maybe it will make it easier for us to decide to go again!
One more thing I can say is that Disney has done a great job in managing the amounts of people, because things never felt overcrowded. It was great.
Me: Thank you so much for sharing all your experiences with us!