My 1st Official Disney Experience

first time at disney officially happy joy disney world header image

When my sister and I were planning for our Florida trip last summer, there was a stint where there was a possibility to go to Universal Studios or Disney World for the day. For me, even though I’ve never been to universal, Disney will always take first place in my heart. I have only ever had a semi-experience at Disneyland, which wasn't much of it experience at all. But if I was going to be in Florida, I was really set on visiting Disney World even if I had to go alone.


Backstory

Most people who know me know that I’ve been out and about on my own since I was 14, and even before that I was “doing my own thing” much to the dismay of my parents. I have a ton of stories where I’d lead my cousins or neighborhood friends into the forests. This one time, I wanted to go to the playground and my mom didn’t want to go so I went by myself. Yes, I was in a lot of trouble, but that didn’t stop me from still doing it… even all these years later. 

2021 was a chaotic year for me. I won’t call it a bad year because a lot of good came out of the bad. It was just a lot. It was exhausting, but it was a necessary year for me.

My sister had invited me to go to Florida with her and my niece towards the end of June. Which I'll cover different parts of the trip in different posts. Nonetheless, I was over the moon, but even if she had not asked me I wouldn’t have taken it to heart. I would have done my own thing at some point that summer. I’ve done plenty without my sisters, but in the last few years my sister, Aneta, and I have gotten to be really close. We text almost every day, and we hang out quite frequently. I’ve always gravitated towards Aneta, even from when I was young because I felt like out of everyone in this family should understand what I was going through the most. We are the oddballs after all. As I mentioned above, I’ve been out and about since I was 14. At 14 years old, I jumped on a suburban train and went out west to Folcroft, PA to meet up with Aneta and spend the day with her. My parents thought I was at the mall and movies with a friend. 

Anywho! Back to the trip~


The 3-hour drive

In the end, we all decided on Disney because that’s where our heart lies. That’s where the magic happens. I definitely will want to go back and experience other attractions in Orlando, but Disney comes first. We got our tickets, obviously in advance. The capacity thing was still going on, and because we really wanted to see more than one park we decided on the park hopper option. But we weren’t going to be anywhere near Orlando, and as I mentioned in my last post we were down in Cape Coral! If you don’t know, Cape Coral is about a 3-hour drive from Orlando and vice versa.

So we definitely did this crazy thing where we drove up from Cape Coral all the way to Orlando. The 3-hour drive isn’t bad. That’s like us driving to the Poconos or I don’t know Wild Wood, NJ. They’re both about like 2 hours away from us, so what’s one more hour? 

The crazy thing is decided to leave at like 5am in the morning to get there right when Disney opens. Which, isn’t anything too crazy, but it is when you’re going to sleep at like 11pm, waking up at 3-4am, to eat, get dressed, do makeup or whatever, and hitting the road. That’s not something sane people do!

And I remember, I had my niece go to sleep with me because we were sharing a bed. She was like, “Oh I'm not tired, I’m just going to watch anime” and I was like, “Oh no you're going to want a nap sweetheart like this is going to be insane!” So we both fell asleep, even though she thought she wasn’t tired. Kids man, am I right? lmfao

So yeah, I think we woke up at around like 4 a.m. because we wanted to leave at a certain time to get there right on the dot of when it opens. I'm not sure if Disney opens at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., but we really wanted to be there right at opening. Since it was a three-hour drive we literally only had like about an hour to get dressed, eat, and all that. We did the crazy thing, but it was totally worth it. It totally was because we didn't want to stay in Orlando. We wanted to come back and enjoy our Airbnb. We just wanted to go to Disney, have a great day, and come back.

sunrise on the way to orlando florida

We did get there right at opening, but we weren't there on time for the opening ceremony. You know it's not the end of the world. We ended up hitting some traffic closer towards Orlando which obviously makes sense, but nonetheless, the drive was really gorgeous and very smooth. At the same time, I can't even speak up about the experience of the drive because I'm a very easy sleeper. I can fall asleep anywhere anytime on a boat or on a plane, and I fell asleep sitting upright in the passenger seat in the car. I don't know that's just me. As I said, I can fall asleep just about anywhere so I can't really speak from experience too much on the whole drive just because I was asleep during a lot of it. When I was awake, it was very smooth, and we got to actually see the sunrise which was really awesome.


First moments at Disney

One of the first things we did at Disney was when we got to our first park, Magic Kingdom, as we had to get breakfast and coffee. I don't normally drink coffee. I say this on my Instagram story all the time. I don't really drink coffee or caffeine. Occasionally I'll have a cappuccino, but like it's only because they don't have as much caffeine as actual coffee and whatnot. But I really need coffee just because of how much I was sleeping in the car, and I was just really groggy. 

sleepy hollow at magic kingdom in disney world orlando florida

We had breakfast at Sleepy Hollow which was kind of busy, but still fast-moving. I felt like I had two left hands when I picked up my tray. I really don’t like fast-moving things like that because I always fear I’m going to drop it. I’m that coordinated. 

We did get to see Tinkerbell going by while we were in line, so I got videos and photos of that. 

Sleepy Hollow is outdoor seating, first-come-first-serve. Luckily we were able to find a bench and a table for us all to sit down and actually eat. Which was really awesome and good luck to us. I had waffle a Mickey waffle with whipped cream and strawberries on top. It was so so so good, and I really want to get a waffle maker in the shape of Mickey's head now. I’m not sure how they make their waffles, but it was super fluffy and delicious! Reminded me of Belgian waffles. 

mickey shaped waffles and an ice vanilla coffee from sleepy hollow in disney world

The coffee I got was an ice vanilla coffee, I believe. Which was a really good size of coffee, and I know how I am with coffee. If I drink the full coffee, I'm just going to want to go back to sleep. What I do instead is, drink about half a cup because that's the only thing that will kick me into gear without making me extra groggy. I really didn’t want to get rid of it though, because it tasted so good! But I knew if I were to drink the full thing, the day would be massively long for me. So I had self-control.


Disney at pandemic capacity level

Disney at the pandemic capacity level, that it was at during that time, was still very packed! Supposedly it was maybe at ¼ capacity, which is insane to me because it was still very crowded! 

disney world magic kingdom

We weren't able to go on some of the big notable rides in any of the parks. Magic Kingdom was not the exception. The wait time for all those rides was 3 to 4 hours, and the fast pass rides, or whatever they used to be called, weren’t around. I remember one exact moment, we were sitting down off to the side, taking photos, when a group of young adults (18-22) was walking by. I remember the one guy literally saying, 

“Oh man we never got to go on any of the rides because we were waiting in line all day.” 

Can you imagine waiting in line, just to not get on a ride? Or waiting in line and then giving up waiting, and then waiting in another line and still not getting on anything?! I know Disney introduced a new system, but I’m not sure how good this new system is. I would definitely be willing to pay to get on rides though, unfortunately, but capitalism wins in the end!

diana at the winnie the pooh ride at magic kingdom in disney world

So on one hand, we didn't end up doing any of the big rides, but on the other, we got to experience Disney by riding all the smaller rides. Pretty much the “kiddy” rides that like none really goes on. But they were SO AMAZING. I was in so much awe just from them alone. We rode the Winnie the Pooh ride and the Little Mermaid, and just about anything that had a fast-moving line.

If you’re planning to go to Disney during the summertime, that’s my tip for you. Either pay to get on the big rides, if not, plan out all the small “kiddy” rides to do instead because they’re just as fun and amazing! Plus they have great photo ops around those areas.

great photo opportunity at the kiddy rides in magic kingdom orlando florida disney world this is around the little mermaid ride

Honestly, if you want the full Disney experience, it’s legit getting stuck in all the people traffic. If you want, to experience all of Disney, well then that requires different planning for a different time of the year. 

So don’t have expectations to get on any of the roller coasters and the bigger rides during peak hours, aka summertime, holidays, etc, because it’s not happening. That’s something a lot of blogs failed to mention when I was doing my Disney research. So I’m telling you. Don’t have expectations because if you’re going during peak hours, those expectations fly out the window. If you want to meet your expectations, be a solo traveler, and go alone, during off-peak season. That is actually one of my bucket list musts! It was during this trip that I realized to really actually experience Disney the way I want to, I’m going to have to do this on my own during some off-peak season times. I don’t know when it’ll happen, but obviously, I will report on it when I do.

Disney is expensive though! But it is worth it. 

poncho photo op with my niece and sister at magic kingdom disney world florida

Also, during the summertime, there is a lot of passing rain showers in Florida. Come prepared with a poncho. That was something I was aware of, and I bought my poncho for like $3 at Target. Because it will just randomly start raining, but it’s a great photo opportunity!

poncho photo op at disney world florida magic kingdom

After the rainstorm, my niece started complaining about a sore throat and a headache. Obviously, during the time that we were there, you shouldn’t say stuff like that out loud. We kind of figured that was she was probably just tired, dehydrated, and hungry, hence the sore throat and headache. My sister and I both had our own bags and hydro flasks, my niece opted for neither. But I really don’t recommend that. I really recommend everyone have their own bag and their own water bottle. Water is free throughout Disney, and in the summertime, you NEED to drink as much water as possible. No and's ifs or buts. Especially if they want to buy stuff or carry around a notebook for autographs, they need to have at least a small backpack of some sort of their own. It’s called responsibility.

We, my sister and I, didn't want to leave early and like ruin our day and lose out on a good amount of money we spent just to get these Disney tickets. So what we decided was to drive over to Disney Springs and get some food there. Disney Springs is a great choice to get food quickly and anyone can go there. You don’t have to have Disney park tickets to go to Disney Springs, which I find really awesome!! We ended up being able to find a spot to eat pretty quickly at Planet Hollywood and let’s just say that was quite a bit of experience of its own.


Planet Hollywood

Now Planet Hollywood is absolutely stunning. Disney Springs is absolutely stunning. The first thing I noticed about Planet Hollywood was how BIG it was inside. All those screens and right when we came in Ice Cream by BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez was on. So I was like, oh my God there's KPop at Disney!

This is when things get interesting. 

I decided that I wanted the penne pasta with steak instead of chicken, and the server asked me if I wanted to add shrimp to it. I said, “no I'm allergic.” 

planet hollywood in disney springs orlando florida with the penne pasta

I had NO idea it was going to shoot off the number of questions and information on my minuscule allergy that it did.

I kept reiterating a few times, you can cook shrimp in the same kitchen, I just can’t ingest it. Like I'm not that allergic, and I get like some people are so allergic to things to that extreme point, but like I'm not. When I eat shrimp I end up in hives and swelling up like a blowfish. Nonetheless, it was quite an intriguing experience because never in my entire life would I ever blame my allergic reaction or even someone mistakenly putting shrimp into my meal on the restaurant itself, the server, the manager, or anyone living or breathing. I was raised differently. 

I know Americans do that. I know people do that, but that's just not how I was raised. To me, an allergy is MY problem and my problem only. I don’t expect people to go out of their way to make me comfortable. I was not put on this Earth to make others feel comfortable, therefore, I don’t expect it. I’m not a queen. 

It's more so, I have this allergy, I should know better. Ask for no shrimp, if a mistake is made, not a big deal I let them know. But people make it into a whole issue. Now I know there are people out there with peanut allergies, and some oil is made of peanuts, but they need to be very clear in communicating that they have this allergy. It’s not, “No peanuts,” it’s “I’m deathly allergic to peanuts.” The meaning and messaging is not the same, but there will be people who will say, “No peanuts,” instead of what they actually mean because they don’t know or refuse to communicate well.

ANYWHO! They got all the information from me. The manager actually did a once-over. And he was the one who actually brought out my food, which I was really impressed with. My sister and I were so blown away because we were raised differently. I know this is their job, their livelihood, the way things have to be because people have had and made issues in the past, but to us, it was a culture shock. 

The food was absolutely delicious. My niece felt better after eating. I felt great even though I actually didn't finish all my food. Instead, I decided to take the rest with me as leftovers. 10/10 would definitely go back to eat at Planet Hollywood! Enjoyed my stay! Enjoyed my meal! 


Disney Springs

We opted to stay around Disney springs for a little while longer.  Just to shop around, check things out, etc. 

disney springs in all of its glory! gorgeous decorations throughout!

My niece was actually looking for this charm bracelet cart store. They weren’t sure which park it was exactly in, but it was around the last time they were at Disney. Basically, it was just a whole cart dedicated to Disney charm bracelets. Not like a brook and mortar type store, but a cart pop-up type shop. Nonetheless, we did check out most of the big Disney stores, and none of them had what she was looking for. I would have been so interested in that too if we had found it, but we never did. 

world of disney store in disney springs orlando florida has this awesome way of checking out with your phone


Park Hopping

After Disney Springs, we hopped over to Hollywood Studios. While there, we got some photos. In fact, I saw this really cool vintage gas station, I wish I had dressed the part for it better! But nonetheless, I got some cute photos.

vintage gas station at hollywood studios disney world florida photo op

We even got to see Chip and Dale, Minnie, and Mickey drive by. Unfortunately, none of the characters were doing autographs within the parks which kind of sucks. That's another reason why I felt like I couldn't get a full Disney experience. I brought my planner with me in hopes of getting some signatures. Believe it or not, my favorite character is Pooh, but I was dressed as Minnie. So cliche of me, but next time, I'm definitely going to dress as Pooh and I hope to get a photo with him & his signature.

chip and dale at hollywood studios disney world orlando florida gif

minnie mouse at hollywood studios disney world orlando florida gif

mickey mouse at hollywood studios disney world orlando florida gif

Then in the late afternoon into the evening, we checked out Epcot for a bit. While we were leaving Hollywood Studios, we got a bunch of free stickers because there weren’t that many people around. It was still packed enough that the wait times were pretty long for the Slinky Dog rollercoaster ride, but once we got to Epcot everything was fast-moving, empty, and would have been perfect for rides. We didn’t really get to go on any of the rides there either, besides Spaceship of Earth or something like that, all because of this damn charm bracelet. Which put a bitter taste on my tongue.

Expectations need to be learned to be managed better.

I just keep reminding myself, when I come back to Disney it will be me, myself, and I, and I will go ALL OUT. I will have a photographer. I will ride all the rides. I will sleep here, eat here, and take my good ol’ time enjoying everything I want in and around Disney with no care in the world. It will be intentional. It will be an experience. It will be self-care.

It’s true, it’s hard to travel with others, and after you travel and adventure alone for so long it’s really hard to go along with someone else’s plans for something when you really want to do something else. But I wasn’t going to be selfish on this trip, especially since my sister paid for the Airbnb, and the transportation, and I also didn't want them waiting on me either. So I let it go.

posing in front of the epcot ball


Good-bye Disney, see you soon~

I really wanted to stay and go back to Magic Kingdom for the firework display, but we decided against it due to: 

  • Having to be on the road again for 3 hours.
  • We were already dead exhausted and walked so much. 
  • We never found this charm bracelet, 
  • And everything was closing. 

The drive back to Cape Coral was really insane! It's actually a really good thing that we did leave when we did and not wait for the firework display. 

Before we hit the road, I ended up getting myself a Mickey-shaped pretzel for the road and hitting up the bathrooms. That's just my kind of thing. I always go to the bathroom and make sure I have food before I'm in the car for long periods of time. 

epcot in the evening with a mickey pretzel and the epcot ball lit up

Honestly, it was so intense of a drive. It was bad because we were tired, it was just so dark, and it just felt like the road was never-ending. It just kept going and going and going. It got to the point that we were about an hour away from Cape Coral, and my sister was like, “Diana where are we?” I was looking at the Google Maps and I literally couldn't see where we were. I kept zooming in, further and further, and I still couldn't see where we were. I couldn't see the letters. Nothing. I was that tired. My sister usually sleeps at 10:30pm, and we left Magic Kingdom around 10pm. So the drive just felt really really brutal, but we did we made it back in one piece around midnight - 1 a.m. We showered and we just went to bed. It was totally worth it, but it was definitely brutal.


What’s next?

So as I said, I definitely want to have my own experience with Disney, off-season, one day. Solo. I actually really don't want to go with anyone else. I just really want to go by myself for a few days and get to experience everything I want to experience. I want to visit all the parks, even Animal Kingdom. I also want to pay for the photographer. I want the whole package deal. But I also want to experience Universal, and Discovery Cove. While my sister Aneta, my niece Noelle, and I were in Cape Coral & Disney, my sister Evelina, my nephew Ryan, and their friends were experiencing Discovery Cove. It sounded and looked amazing, but some of their trip was janky that had nothing to do with Discovery Cove.


All in all,

I think my first-ever official Disney Experience was a great experience, and I got to enjoy it with my sister and my niece. That was great girl time! It was such a good bonding trip. We had taken a lot of great photos. 

1st time at disney pin


Photos Tips

With that being said, it was so packed that I couldn't get any of the photos I really wanted to get. For example, the photo with the Disney Castle was not possible. People kept getting your way, walking in front or behind you and also trying to do the same thing. There were just too many people to accomplish the aesthetic photo. In general, you can’t get the aesthetic photos you want during peak hours or peak season. What influencers do to get their photos, they either get special access to come even earlier to some places, or they come during off-peak seasons. Your reality and their reality are going to be completely different. Instagram vs reality, type of a situation. 

can't get a decent photo at disney world during peak season too crowded people in every photo

Also, my sister is also not that great at taking photos, but I did manage to get some. Honestly, I messed up my leg & foot all over again from taking so many photos that day for my sister and niece. Because when I take photos, I squat or get on one knee. Don’t use a wide-angle lens on your phone, it distorts your legs and feet and just makes you look awful and fake and butchered. If you want to look tall, have someone take photos with the camera leaning upwards slightly, but they have to be squatting on the ground–which many people are unwilling to do. Hence why I take all my own photos with a tripod. A mini tripod is allowed at Disney, but with the crowds, it’s impossible unless you want your camera trampled on. 


My Disneyland Experience

Curious about my Disneyland experience? 

I went to Disneyland when I was ten years old. My family was visiting family friends in San Diego, California. I don't know how we exactly came to the point that we decided to go to Disneyland for the day, I was really too young to quite remember. 

Firstly, my mom didn't like the fact it was so packed when we were there. I didn't get to experience anything, and I remember my parents standing in one spot the entire time, with me, waiting for my sister Evelina and her friend. 

My sister, Evelina, 14 at the time, left me with her friend to explore and go on rides alone. I was literally stuck with my parents, and they didn't want to do anything. Honestly, it was just not even an experience at all! I get you don’t want to bring your siblings with you, but it’s a fucking drag when your parents are so fucking foreign and don’t even try to make the day worth it for you. Parents always think kids are too young to remember things, but bad experiences I charred into our brains like no tomorrow. THEY WILL REMEMBER IF YOU GIVE THEM A SHITTY THING TO REMEMBER.

So yeah, I definitely don't consider that Disneyland trip my first experience because it was a shitshow. I do remember we all went on one ride together. It was the Indiana Jones ride, and my mom was on it too. It's kind of funny because she doesn't go on anything, ever, she doesn’t even go swimming or anything. So we get on and we get into a car where none of our safety harnesses are actually working. So the entire time my dad is like literally holding it to himself so I don't go falling out. My mom is a headless chicken on a DAILY BASIS, but when she is in freak-out mode it’s HORRIBLE! She was literally freaking out, calling this ride the devil. It was a whole ordeal! 

Honestly, I blocked that experience out of my mind because I didn't get to see Pooh. I didn't get the experience. I didn't get anything. They don't come from a country that has this kind of stuff, and they still don’t really know English like that. So on one hand I get it, but on the other, I’m still frustrated by this experience. 


In conclusion,

After over 1000 photos and 100 videos from this trip, and having to only post a select few, I think that's about everything I wanted to say about everything. I wish I wrote down my thoughts as it was happening or as soon as that day was over, or utilized speech to text because trying to recap it now almost a year later is hard. But as soon as you get home from an adventure or travel, you just want to relax, and you keep putting it off.  

Hopefully, I do get my solo trip in the future to Disney. It's really hard to have expectations when you're traveling with others. Nonetheless, I wouldn't trade this trip for the world. It was one of the greatest things in 2021 for me considering how chaotic 2021 was.

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Till next time!

~Diana

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