Like we did the last time, we spent five nights at the Wilderness Lodge and bought the basic dining plan. Our package, which we bought through AAA, also included a four-day park hopper pass so we could go to different Disney parks as we pleased. We didn't get passes for five days because we spent one day at Universal parks and knew we wouldn't feel like going to a Disney park later that evening. Good choice because we were exhausted when we got back to the hotel that evening. Walking and standing on cement for hours and hours and hours wracks your bones.
Having been to Disney parks just about very two years leads me to believe I'm qualified to give you some advice, so here goes. First, the dining plan is a good thing—it depends on how much you eat, but the plan supposedly saves you 20% on the average food expense with one snack, one quick service meal and one table service per person for each night you spend at a Disney hotel. At a table service restaurant, whether you order the cheapest thing or the most expensive thing, all you pay for in addition to your voucher is the tip and any alcohol. Dessert is included, but you'll have to pay more for an appetizer. We actually had trouble using up all the vouchers because we arrived around dinner time the first evening and had a day's worth of meal vouchers. Second, don't be bummed if it rains on a day you plan on being at a park because rain will keep the crowds down, which means the lines will be shorter, and you won't feel compelled to violently elbow stadium-sized crowds walking at a snail's pace through Frontier Land. Third, use Disney transportation because it's free and reliable, and there is always a way to get from your hotel to any park you choose. Fourth, feel free to skip Disney's Hollywood Studios park, or at least don't feel you need to spend an entire day there. With the exception of a film biography of Walt Disney and the Toy Story ride, which is the greatest ride in all of Orlando, ho hum is what I'm saying. Granted, I will not go on the Tower of Terror or the Aerosmith roller coaster, but still. You might want to go there in the morning (get a fast pass ticket for Toy Story immediately because the wait will already be 70 minutes) and then use your park hopper pass to go to the Magic Kingdom later. Or stop by the Animal Kingdom park, another place not worth an entire day's visit. All of this is in my humble opinion.
For the rest, go to Epcot, and wear your most comfortable shoes. Ride Soarin' and Living with the Land. And ride the big giant ball. You'll probably get stuck in it at some point, but ride anyway, and on the way back down when your seat leans you back, look up and be amazed at the stars. Do not ride the boat thing in Mexico because it's an offensive stereotype, and Disney should be ashamed. Sit through the America show in which Benjamin Franklin has a conversation with Mark Twain, but don't be surprised if you want to stick your finger down your throat after the over-the-top schmaltzy ending. They do everything but sing God Bless the USA. Eat in China and in Morocco and in Japan and in France. In fact, eat in every country. If, at the end of all of that, you are still able to stand up right, and your spine hasn't collapsed into your ankles, stay for the light display.
Go to the Magic Kingdom. Go to the Magic Kingdom often because it's fun, and it's set up so well, you can cover the entire park without hyperventilating. Adventure Land is to the left of the castle—ride the corniest ride ever, Jungle Cruise, but do that after dark because it seems less corny that way. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean over and over because you'll see different details each time. Then head into Frontier Land, and if you don't mind a five-story drop down a water fall, ride Splash Mountain—the actual drop only takes three seconds. I timed it. Then, ride Thunder Mountain, but don't expect it to be a crazy roller coaster. The kid in the seat in front of us sat there with his arms folded and whined, "This is retarded," to which his mother turned around and said, "I think it's FUN." Then, even if you think it might be stupid, get on the raft to Tom Sawyer's island, and when you get there, wind your way through the cave and the mine and the escape tunnel in the fort, which are surprisingly creepy. Next up is Liberty Square where you can see the Hall of Presidents, which has been improved a great deal, and the animatronic presidents have smoother movements. Sort of cool, and if the guy in the lobby who talks while you're waiting for the show is any good, you'll learn interesting things. Then go through the Haunted Mansion. Yes, I know it isn't scary, but do it anyway. Mwa ha ha ha.
Fantasy Land is just around the corner, and there is so much there. Do not under any circumstances turn your nose up at this place because you aren't five. Ride the stinking It's A Small World ride as many times as possible and soak it all in. Definitely do not miss the Peter Pan ride, even if the line is sort of long. It's long for a reason. Maybe do the Snow White thing, but don't bother with the Winnie the Pooh thing. Do ride the tea cups, and don't be shy about making the tea cup spin until you're dizzy. Disney World is in the process of doubling the size of Fantasy Land, so go there in 2013 to see the unveiling, and save a spot for Eustacia and me because I'm sure we'll be right there in just a minute.
In Tomorrow Land, ride Space Mountain. Really. I have avoided this thing for years because I am horrified by roller coasters, but this is doable, and it's really fun shooting through stars in the dark when you don't know what's coming next. Then ride the dopey Carousel of Progress and thank me later. Then take the elevator up to the Astro Orbiter, and then, by all means, ride the Buzz Light Year thing. You sit in a spinning car and shoot laser beams at moving targets and rack up points. The points count for absolutely nothing, but it's really fun anyway.
After all of that, get a great view of the castle by 8:45 to see the light show projected onto the castle. Designers and engineers have done some amazing things you really must see. And that's followed by the fireworks display of your dreams. Go back to your hotel and lay down your weary head because tomorrow, you'll want to get up and do it all over again.
Flowers at Epcot—the place is covered with them: