WALT DISNEY WORLD… (which will have absolutely nothing to do with High School Choral Music!)

WDW w Mickey

Happy New Year and New Decade!

My husband Rick and I spent the Holiday Break in DisneyWorld.  (Get comfy – it’s a detailed description of our Disney Days – complete with video clips!)  Thanks in part to Ridge Choral Grad Jennifer D’Armiento, who has become an independent contractor; MAGICAL VACATION PLANNER BY JENNIFER D’ARMIENTO LLC- an authorized Disney travel agency.  Here’s a commercial message for her highly recommended personal service!   

J D'ArmientoContact me for a free, no-obligation quote for your next Disney Magical vacation!  My services will include:  *Creating a magical vacation itinerary that is the perfect fit for you and your family!  *Booking any/all of your itinerary, including resorts, airfare, dining, special events, and cruises!  *Fastpass+ suggestions, touring options and more!  *Applying discounts and promotions to your trip to get the most magic for your dollar!  I am your personal concierge for your Disney Magical Vacation!  Best of all, my services for you are 100% free!   Contact me to hear more about Walt Disney World, Disneyland or Universal Studios, a Disney cruise or an Adventures by Disney tour!  Let’s plan your perfect Magical Disney experience!

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From the moment we began planning, Jennifer had great ideas about special events of which I was unaware.  We had visited the parks before but the addition of these suggestions really made this a very memorable Disney experience!

I wanted to stay on-site this time and I wanted to stay at Animal Kingdom.  Jennifer was able to book 4 of the 5 nights at the Jambo House – Savannah View – which was just perfect!

We planned two travel days and four park days – no hopper – just a park a day.  Our United flight on the 26th was on-time and uneventful – just the way we like to travel!  We use the Valet Service at Newark Airport Long Term Parking on Olympia Drive.

img_1685Download the app, schedule the arrival and departure, drive in, leave the key and the shuttle takes you to the terminal.  When you return, your car is waiting for you with the trunk open and running.  It was $12.99 a day with a 15% discount code on FaceBook!

We also were able to travel with our rolling backpacks and a drawstring carry-on which just makes everything simple.


Once we arrived at MCO (Orlando Airport), we went downstairs to find the MAGICAL EXPRESS bus which would take us to the Coronado Springs Resort for night 1.  We arrived around 6:30p and went in search of food.  Once dinner was finished, we went exploring and found a sign advertising a SANGRIA flight which was the PERFECT way to begin a holiday!

Jennifer was helpful in securing our MAGIC BANDS which were pretty handy throughout the stay.  The band will unlock the resort room door and ring up food purchases.   She also made sure we were familiar with the My Disney experience app which proved HUGELY helpful in ordering food in the parks, with FastPass+ reservations and with Rick’s day-long STAR WARS adventure.  (That’s Day 3!)

PARK #1-EPCOT.  Epcot is undergoing a boatload of renovation – updating and building.  If you’ve been to DisneyWorld over the years, it’s interesting to see how much of it is now dated – given the burst of technology over the years.  Rest assured, we made a considerable contribution to the advances that Disney is making to its theme parks and resorts!  As it was Day #1, we needed to use our first 3 FastPasses before we could freely use more than 3.  So, Living with the Land, Soarin’ and Mission to Mars (the less aggressive trip)  were all part of the EPCOT experience.   It just never gets old for me.  I love the creativity and the story-telling and the engineering and the ingenuity that Disney brings to its parks.  (And…We found NEMO!)

The afternoon was spent exploring the countries.  We made a 5:30 dinner reservation at the Biergarten in Germany which guaranteed seating at the Candlelight Processional (Thanks, Jennifer!)  We were entertained at the German buffet with an Oom-Pah Band and Alpine Horn players, reminiscent of Westendorf for my AMA friends!  The Candlelight Processional was lovely – Marlee Matlin was the narrator with her personal translator and she signed the entire performance.  The green-robed singers were part of Encore, Disney’s cast performers and the yellow-robed singers were high schoolers.  The Orchestra were professional players.


The evening ended with the over-the-top Disney fireworks display.  We LOVED the kites that were flown by the jet-skiers!  We now returned to the JAMBO HOUSE at Animal Kingdom for the remainder of our stay.  Disney’s Bell Service was a perfect way to move our backpacks from Coronado to the Lodge.


I have no idea why these video clips are so large!

PARK #2 HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS and Rick’s STAR WARS Experience (while I stayed behind and slept in!)  Rick left the Jambo House at 4:30a to catch the 5a bus for the 6a park opening.  He was there with hundreds of others who were all hoping to be able to experience STAR WARS: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE!  The rope dropped at 5:50a and the masses rushed toward the far end of the park.  At 6a, everyone was now able to access their desire to be placed in a “group” – no FastPasses for this one.  Rick scored GROUP 76.  The waiting game began.

He gets on the single rider line for SMUGGLERS COVE, which cuts 2 hrs and 30 minutes off his wait time!  (His review:  “Meh.  No new technology at all.”)  He also cut time the same way off the STAR TOURS ride.  Meanwhile, it’s “Florida” raining (warm and a constant drizzle).

At 10:04, they called group 53.  I texted to ask if he had done any other rides and suggested he explore the Aerosmith Roller Coaster.  At 10:24 he was on the single rider line and Stand-By was 105 minutes!  At 10:26, the group was now at 60 and he had clocked in 12,000 steps.  At 11:01, the group was holding at #61. (We’d later learn there was an “issue” with the Force!)  11:48 – Rick has completed the roller coaster ride which was “really, really fast!”   (Zoom in on his face!) I head to the bus stop at noon to meet him in the park.  img_1601

We meet in Toy Story and are hungry so we decide to use the Mobile Dining app for  Woody’s Lunch Box – Grilled Cheese and a Turkey Sandwich.  Simple to order and ready when we walked up to the window.  There were easily 50-60 folks on line that we completely bypassed for food.  Amazing.  Finish lunch and go see MUPPET 3D.

2:45-Rick receives a text that his GROUP HAS BEEN CALLED!  At 2:53 – he’s in! (Well, he’s on the first of many, many concrete mazes and lines).  I go over to Indiana Jones and am on the standing room only line.  As I enter, I ask about single seating – the elderly man said there was none.  The pretty teenage girl found me a seat – SECOND ROW CENTER!

3:19 – Rick receives his “Mission Briefing”.  3:44 – Rick has finished the ride!  Success!  We bus back to the hotel so he can nap a bit – he’s had a LONG day!.  We have an 8:30 reservation (Thanks, Jenn!) for the VIP DESSERT experience at FANTASMIC back at Hollywood Studios.

7p-Back on the bus to Hollywood Studios. We check the weather app – Great! No rain.  SO we leave the ponchos in the room.  DON’T EVER LEAVE YOUR PONCHOS IN THE ROOM!  When we arrive, it starts to mist.  No big deal, we’re wearing hats.  Then it starts to rain.  The amphitheater is open-air.  So then we become the proud owners of DISNEY PONCHOS (grrrr…)  We get our VIP Dessert bags and our “Mickey Juice” in our sparkly-light-up mugs and we go to the wet stadium metal bleachers to sit our dry butts down onto chilled wet metal seats to have dessert in the rain.  Real rain.  Chocolate covered strawberries.  Brownie.  Cheesecake cup.  Chocolate Mousse.  Babybel Cheese, Crackers and Grapes – and Mickey Juice.

The show starts at 9p.  All along, the announcement is warning of a cancellation of the show due to inclement weather.  They were also serving beer/wine so folks were pretty mellow about the weather.

At 5 to 9, the rain stops and the FANTASMIC show begins.  It was really lovely!  Probably, for us, the best thing Hollywood Studios has to offer!


PARK THREE – ANIMAL KINGDOM and a 3-hr Africa Savannah Trek! (Thanks, Jennifer!)  We wake up to more Florida rain.  We bring our ponchos today as we head over to Animal Kingdom where we are about to take the three-hour tour through the Savannah!  We meet our guides, Kathy and Alex, who were exceptional, and we are weighed (can’t be over 400 pounds) and fitted for our safety vests.  We are strapped in, I was given a wrist strap to take my cellphone for pictures (although they both take tons of pictures along the way as part of the package and provide a website from which to download), complimentary water bottles, we join 8 others and off we go.

Wild Africa Trek-2

We hike up to see the hippos and meet their trainer who bangs five times on a bucket and the hippos come for their lettuce lunch!

Then we hike further to one of two suspension bridges which will take us above the crocodiles. (gulp).




Then we hike to the waiting truck, shedding our safety vests, for a more private safari tour of zebra, giraffes, rhino, long-horned steer, elk, elephant, cheetah and lions.  The truck brings us to a boma (hut) where we are served a tasty lunch.  A return to the lockers to retrieve backpacks and the tour is over.  Highly recommend!  And the weather was just perfect!

We then take Rafiki’s Train to Conservation Station mostly to sit for a few minutes!  We end up in an Animation Experience where we are given paper, a pencil and a clipboard and an animator is walking us through the creation of TICK TOCK – the crocodile from Peter Pan.  My first work of art – ever!

We wandered to the Tree of Life to catch It’s a Bug’s Life, saw The Lion King show and then to Pandora to see what the new space was all about.  Both rides there were a wait of 205 minutes with no FastPasses. Skipped those.   Our final FastPass of the day was for the River of Life: We Are One, which was just beautiful!

PARK FOUR – MAGIC KINGDOM!  But first…I had developed what I thought was a stye in my right eye; it turns out it was really cellulitis (yuk) which did not seem to be getting better so I thought it prudent to taxi to the local Urgent Care to have someone take a look at it.  Arrived at 9:20a.  Here’s the lesson here:  Go online and schedule an appointment first!  Walk-ins are treated AFTER those with reserved times (repeat patients) and those who have made appointments online.  If you call in, they tell you to schedule online as well.  SOOOO…three hours later with antibiotic and eye ointment in hand, we were shuttled to the Magic Kingdom!  

Because I have fond memories of DisneyWorld’s Magic Kingdon as a teen, the Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents and Country Bear Jamboree are a must-see as well as the afternoon Parade.  They never disappoint…


Back at the JAMBO HOUSE, the resort was just beautiful.  Spacious rooms.  Gorgeous lobby.  “Resort” animals roaming free near the pool at hot tubs…paradise!

It was a truly wonderful holiday.  Thanks again to Jennifer – please contact her for your next Disney experience.  She’s just the best!

Happy New Year!

Thanks, as always, for reading!


NOTE:  Pack instant oatmeal packets, granola bars and lemonade packets for trips like this.  Having the oatmeal for breakfast, the granola bars for long lines and the lemonade packets for the refillable water bottles all come in handy!




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