I recently embarked on a trip of a lifetime to the land of wonder and magic. I went on an African safari, visited the future, travelled around the world, walked through a fairy tale kingdom, entered a world of wizardry and even stepped into a beloved cartoon town. I did all this in less than four days and I got to share this incredible experience with my family. I’m finally ready to share with you the adventures of Fam Jam 2014 in Orlando, FL!
The flight from Toronto to Orlando is a little over 3 hours. This is a nice short flight which answers my question as to why so many Canadians choose Florida as a winter escape. We were meeting our cousins who flew in from Ottawa. This was a serious family trip. There was eight of us in total ranging from ages of 22-37. So this was a grown up family trip.
Upon arrival we hopped into two separate rental cars and promised to meet up at the hotel. I had printed out driving instructions as I am old school and don’t trust GPS systems. Too many times those things have led me astray and plus I am pretty stellar with directions. Yes I am tooting my own horn. TOOT TOOT! After getting lost for what felt like an hour (the drive was supposed to only be 20 minutes), and losing all our money to the ridiculous amount of toll booths (seriously how do people go through these things on a daily basis?) car #1 arrived at the hotel. We rushed into the hotel thinking we were the late ones to quickly realize we weren’t the only ones that got lost. I still stand by my decision to print out directions. I just wish I had printed out directions with distances between each turn and maps to go along with them. The street names and highways are super confusing because there are like three different names to just one exit or one street.
*Loki Tip* Print out directions to everywhere and print out maps with distances. This way you can anticipate the next turn.
We stayed at the Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas. We rented out two villas. This was a perfect booking for us as it felt like we were staying at a friend’s townhouse, very comfortable and affordable. It was also quite close to everything (only 5-10 minute drive to Disney World and 10-15 minute drive to Universal Studios). We had planned for our first day to go to Magic Kingdom in Disney World, however after getting lost, getting settled and ready to head out it was late. We decided to change our first day to a shopping and chilling day.
Photo Credit: Orlando Premium Outlets
We decided to head over to the outlets for some shopping since they were open until 11pm. Yes you read that right, open until 11pm and that is Mon-Sat. We went to the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Ave. And yes we got lost on the way there. We didn’t get to the outlets until 9pm so with such a limited amount of time to shop we left with only one item each. I managed to grab a pair of Reebok Flex running shoes for the gym at a whopping $34! I consider that a great deal.
Character Breakfast @ Cape May Cafe
The following day we woke up bright and early and headed over to Walt Disney World. We had a 7:55am character breakfast reservation at Cape May Cafe in Disney’s Beach Club Resort. We, of course, got lost on the way over and raced in to catch our reservations. I would definitely suggest a character breakfast as this is your chance to get up close and take pictures with some Disney characters.
It was an all you can eat breakfast buffet, but no free mimosas 🙁 That’s okay because we got to meet Goofy.
and Donald Duck! Ken loves Donald Duck. He can actually talk like Donald Duck, it’s quite amazing. This is his parlour trick that he uses to amuse small children. It’s always so cute to see how amazed kids get when they hear him sound like Donald.
And last but not least Minnie Mouse! She was awesome, posing up a storm like the lady she is.
*Loki Tip* Book your dining reservations online well in advance. Reservations go really fast, especially to the more popular spots. You can book up to 180 days in advance. We did not know this and didn’t get around to booking our reservations until about 10 days before our trip. All of our top picks were completely booked 🙁 *
I purchased these ears last year during our trip to Disneyland in California. I was so glad to find out we were going to Disney World this year and I would be able to reuse my ears. The ears were about $16 so I’m glad I got to really utilize them. The headband does start to pinch after a while so I had to save them for only the best times.
*Loki Tip* Another great thing about booking dining reservations on a Disney resort….free parking! The only way you can park on a resort is if you are either staying there or you have reservations. We quickly discovered that there was little to no monitoring of how long you’ve been parked there for and you can easily travel to the various Disney parks via shuttle bus, boat or even walking. This is great since daily parking is $16.
After our character breakfast we hopped on a shuttle bus and made our way over to Animal Kingdom. Walking into Animal Kingdom feels like a completely different park than the rest of Disney World. It’s more of a zoo than anything Disney. I very quickly decided to save my head and put the ears away for this park.
*Loki Tip* You can buy your Disney passes at all of the parks. We went with a Two Day Park Hopper, allowing us to roam any and all the parks during a two day visit.
All the parks have a main landmark in the middle. A sort of beacon and indication of where you are. In the middle of Animal Kingdom we have here the Tree of Life. “The tree is that a way”. I know the tree is fake, but man it looks super real!
The layout is similar to a zoo so you’re bound to run into animals everywhere. Right next to the photo stop for the Tree of Life were some flamingos. Fun Fact: Flamingos are pink because of all the shrimp they eat.
The hippo was super adorable to watch. It was cool because you could actually see below the water’s surface and watch him swimming around. I think we stood there in awe for a good 10 minutes.
I think this is the closest I ever got to a gorilla. He sat there for a very long time looking pensive and when he got up to walk away we discovered he had been pooping the whole time! The funny part was a female gorilla came along and started to make a patty out of it and proceeded to eat it.
This little guy was just randomly wandering around the park. For this reason I have no idea what he is.
The first attraction we went on was the Kiliminjaro Safari. I would highly recommend this attraction because it was cool to see all the different animals up close, plus the tour operator was pretty fun and entertaining. It’s a nice break from walking around as well.
*Loki Tip* When visiting Disney World make sure the first thing you do when entering the parks is get fast passes. Fast passes allow you to take a short cut on a ride so you can skip the long lines. You can get up to a maximum of three fast passes a day, however they are limited to only one park per day. When you get a fast pass it is similar to booking a reservation. You get a one hour time allotment to enter the attraction for fast pass. It’s good to get them as super early as possible because they book up quick! We decided to use ours on the Kilimanjaro Safari, Everest Expedition and Dino Land.
There is absolutely no zoom going on in this picture. We were so close to the zebras and they stood there unfazed as we stopped the jeep to take photos and ooh and ahh in amazement.
Forgive me if I’m incorrect because I seriously can never remember the difference, but I believe these are alligators. There were what seemed like dozens and dozens of alligators in this one spot just sleeping. It was like playing a game of Where’s Waldo, because sometimes you might think it’s a log when in reality it’s actually a slumbering alligator.
We saw the hippos again on the safari. I thought I’d throw in another photo of one just because his bum is so cute!
We saw tons more animals on the safari which was about 20-30 minutes long.
After the safari we walked over to the Everest Expedition. This is some type of crazy roller coaster and I cannot handle so I decided to sit this one out. Our group split up and the rest of us waited in the shade and rested our weary feet.
We had reservations for dinner in Epcot Centre so we had to skip the Dino Land ride and make our way out to the monorail. On our way out we stumbled upon some caricaturists. Realizing we had never gotten one done of ourselves, Ken and I decided to go for one. It cost $20/person which meant our drawing came up to a whopping $40! Ken and I have this problem where whenever we go on vacation we spend money on things we would never spend money on at home. The worst is that we encourage each other.
Me: “You want this plastic cup for $8?”
Him: “Do it up!”
More on that scenario later.
If you would like to read about the rest of our trip check them out below: