Walt Disney World | Family Vacation 2021
What a whirlwind!! For some backstory we had our family Disney World vacation planned for April 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19. When we postponed we honestly didn’t know when we were going to be able to go if/ when the parks would open and if was even worth it since it would be our kids first experience.
As the months progressed May 2021 started to sound like it would work. We talked with our Disney travel agent to re-book as much dining and experiences that we had originally planned. In this post I’m sharing all the things we did and loved but more importantly what I would change ESPECIALLY if you are planning a trip this summer. Disney protocol and rules continue to change and it has thrown a major wrench into what is “typical” at Disney World.
Where we stayed
We decided on the Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas purely for the reason that they had a 3 bedroom option. Since my in-laws came with us on this trip we really didn’t want to have to split rooms and wanted a small kitchette. Y’all this place was AMAZING!! Since it’s so hard to do a million pics of the interior head to my video tour here! The one thing that I didn’t get on the video but we used almost daily… washer & dryer in the unit!!
DAY 1/ TRAVEL DAY: DISNEY SPRINGS
When we arrived I had these Target distressed shorts packed in my carryon bag but when we got to the hotel there were few places to change and the massive hit of Florida heat and humidity made me rethink all denim shorts for the ENTIRE trip! I stayed in my crop leggings and was so happy I did.
These kids backpacks were a PERFECT size for our park days. Each kid packed with them their own:
*TIP* The Disney Springs World of Disney Store has sooo much stuff you can’t find anywhere else. Since it was our first day I WISH that I had picked up more of the toys and things the kids wanted here so they could have had them all week. I also would never have packed bubble wands or light up spinners I would have bought them here or scrapped them all together because they barely used them.
Also this is where we picked up the gold swirl “Best Day Ever” pink and gold ears I wear later since my daughter said that over and over again the day we told them they were going to Disney. These can not be purchased online so grab in store. The store line showed 20 minutes to get in but it did move faster than projected.
Also don’t miss Dockside Margaritas in Disney Springs it was a great treat off the plane!
My husband then stood in line for about an hour to get into the Lego store. While in there he signed up for the custom lego figurine building 4 hours later! Luckily we had dinner plans so we were able to get in after dinner.
*TIP* Skip the headache and go to https://storebooking.lego.com and make advance reservations.
We had dinner at T-Rex which was a fun experience with meteor showers complete with rumbling and fiery “explosions.” Part of the restaurant is the “ice cavern” which I swear was COLD so if you are sat there know that you miss some of the show and you might be chilly. I got the shrimp and salmon and thought it was REALLY tasty!
This is a dining reservation we had to do 60 days in advance, I checked for several days to se if another time slot would open up but with limited seating due to social distancing of tables it was booked solid.
DAY 2: HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
My daughter ended up switching this tee out for the Star Wars tee since it came in after this pic but wore this outfit on the plane home and it was super cute. This was the ONLY day I wore denim shorts I quickly realized how heavy and sweat soaked they become so we ended up washing my workout capris and skort so I could wear those over and over.
Another tip about the kids tees, most come in a pack of 3 or 4 with a specific theme. While I didn’t necessary need 3 Star Wars tees they were GREAT backups. We brought the extras as travel day shirts and backup clothes after water rides.
*TIP* if you love Slinky Dog ride and some of the items at Toy Story Land BUY IT THERE!! My son wanted a slinky dog and I told him oh we will find it later, we never could again. They also have super cute slinky dog headbands you can’t find again!
Don’t miss rides are for sure Slinky Dog Dash and Toy Story Mania (just for reference my high score was 141k)
Star Wars Area
I joked and said that we could have spent a week at Hollywood Studios alone because after Toy Story Land there is another area that my husband was so exited for… Star Wars!! This area is so amazing and we didn’t even do all the things.
The first place we went to was Docking Bay 7 for a quick service lunch. When I looked at the online menu everything sounded slightly weird, which it kind of was but also super delicious. The kids Mac and cheese with a hunk of chicken on top was the most kid friendly of items. My daughter and I both loved the kids veggie plate with hummus as the “dirt” and do not pass up the Batuu-bon dessert.
The downside to this very Star Wars themed restaurant is the lighting! It flickers high and low lights and was pretty annoying but I was so hungry and hot I didn’t care! This is a quick service restaurant but a popular one so you want to get your time slot secured early in the day.
Docking Bay 7 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
First if you are wondering if it’s worth the hassle to get Rise of the Resistance passes (we didn’t get them at 7am but was able to get the 1pm) DO IT! This was my favorite out of the entire trip, it’s a 4 part interactive experience with a ride and several virtual and in person experiences. Even the cast members on this ride stay in character to make it even more fun!
I will say that Smugglers Run is also fun and both have REALLY long lines so eat first and be prepared to wait (our longest wait was about an hour for Smuggler’s Run).
The other 2021 blessing in disguise was Droid building. We had lightsaber building booked last year and with our cancelled plans we had to re-book all our “extras”. When we went back Savi’s Lightsaber workshop was completely booked so we had both kids sign up for Droid building. I’m SOOO glad we did this instead. It was super interactive and they love their little robots.
*TIP* The Droid budding experience is $99 but you can upgrade it with a bag and additional voice chip for $170. This carry bag was a lifesaver on getting our droids back home in good shape. The kids ended up using these as their carry-on backpacks.
By the afternoon we need a REST! We stopped by Baseline Tap House in Hollywood Studios for a pretzel and beer. I still think this pretzel was better than the ones in Epcot (or maybe I was just starving).
It was a great place to stop for a rest and recharge, but what didn’t need a charge was our Anker solar powered charger! We plugged it in every night but it was great to know that if needed it also could draw some juice from the super hot Florida sun.
We ended the day at a character meal, one of the few places to see Mickey and Minnie at Hollywood & Vine. Honestly the food was only ok, my kids were so tired from such a full day that they barely cared about the characters and it was expensive since it’s no longer a buffet and a set 3 course menu.
For $55 per adult and $36 per child not worth it in my opinion, I wish we had opted for another quick service meal or tried the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. For reference this is as close as characters can get, there is no hugging Mickey or coming close to the tables. At dinner you do see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto.
DAY 3: MAGIC KINGDOM
As you can see I’m back in my trusty skort! I know that Magic Kingdom was going to be HOT and I knew we wanted to do slash mountain so I grabbed this Athleta skort with lightweight mesh shorts.
Grab the Nutella waffle at Storybook Treats by doing an early mobile order, we did ours on the monorail on the way over and it was perfect timing. Of course we had to try a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, same thing do an early mobile order we grabbed ours after Aladdin ride (which wasn’t great for older kids). Honestly it wasn’t my favorite and since it’s a soft serve the thing melts SO FAST! I did get my daughter the raspberry/ dole whip float and liked that the best out of all the ones we tried.
Now mid-day after our water rides it was so hot that the kids switched into dry bottoms (ride seats get wet) and I grabbed my lightweight Athleta top and was so happy! Plus a top knot and scrunchie and we were ready then for Belle’s Castle at the end of the day.
Athleta tee tts, L // Skort tts, 12
Be Our Guest dinner was one of my favorites! We stayed in the West Wing with dark lighting and occasional thunder storms. At first my son was a little freaked out but then when I showed him that the picture of the Prince on the wall would flash into the beast when it thundered, then he was excited for the next round of weather!
This three course dinner was honestly some of the best food we had at Disney. The kids dessert included a paint your own white chocolate teacup and the portions were amazingly large. I loved being in the West Room but the beast barely walked in and since it was so dark it was nearly impossible to even take a picture. If you are going for character interaction save your money, if you are going for food and ambiance do it!
Now after I spent the morning trying to elbow through the crowds to get a cute family pic in front of Cinderella’s castle it was honestly the afternoon that had almost no crowds and BEAUTIFUL lighting. I heard the new pink paint is for the 50th anniversary celebration starting October 1, 2021 and honestly I LOVE IT!
*TIP* YES Pin trading is still going on! We thought it was gone during COVID times but rather there are pin trading stations in all the parks. You take the back off your pin then view a board of available pins to trade. Sir Mickey’s In Magic Kingdom was our first pin trade station.
Elsa tee runs small size up I wore a L but it was tighter than I would have preferred, skort tts, 12
Since I was on a rotation of skort and capris I ended up in Epcot with my leggings which was perfect since we did no much walking and minimal sitting.
Also I had a ton of question about did I do the drink around the world.. in a word, NO.
Not because I wasn’t up to it but rather having kids that were hot, tired and not of age to drink with me made it harder. I can see Epcot being an AMAZING place to come as a couple or with grown kids. With a 6 and 9 year old the rides weren’t fast enough for them, they weren’t thrilled about the “weird” food (their words not mine) and waiting in line for a sing-a-long just wasn’t their jam (although I LOVED the Frozen ride and my daughter fell asleep).
Since we visited during the Flower & Garden Festival there were more little booths with interesting foods to try. I had heard that the corn was amazing (not a fan) and that they had oversized chocolate macrons (I would take a dozen please!) We also grabbed the tostadas and guacamole while at Choza de Margarita but they were so good I never got a full pic before they were devoured!
Trowel & Trellis Outdoor Kitchen Grilled Street Corn | Jumbo Pretzel (Germany) | Margaritas and we also got guacamole and tostadas at Choza de Margarita (near Mexico) | Fleur de Lys (France) Macaron au Chocolate en Sucette
One thing to realize while visiting right now it much of the casual “seating” has been labeled as no seating for social distancing reasons making the whole snack and relax idea harder than in years past. If you are going with grandparents or family that might have mobility issues for SURE rent an electric scooter this can make all the difference in their experience.
So many of you recommended Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom I had to come back and report that YES it was amazing!! By our final day I finally got the trick of the mobile ordering system. This day we put in our order for an 11:30 pickup window while we were still in our hotel! It made it much easier for everyone to take a look at the menu then get to the park ride a few rides and then sit down in a shady area.
As I mentioned previously with many of the shows cancelled and seating blocked off just having a “reservation” with a snack ensures you can get into this area to sit down and rest. Without a mobile order reservation they do not let into the seating area.
*TIP* As much as we loved many of the official Disney Ears they are HEAVY and hard to wear the entire day. We both loved the thinner headband of the Amazon versions. I would highly recommend buying those especially for younger girls and stay away from any with sequin on the headband area, it’s just irritating.
On the last day we ended up using our rain ponchos, LOVED the easy use of our sunscreen stick while in line and my slip on shoes dried quickly after we were DRENCHED on the water ride.
Now I’ll be honest I could NEVER find a comprehensive packing list for Disney with pictures so here you go I’m doing all the hard work for ya! Since I took these pics after unpacking there were a few things that went back with my in-laws that I was not able to photograph. Here are all the things we brought that were not clothes and shoes!
We decided that daily my husband would carry our “big” park bag filled with our daily needs. Each kiddo carried their own backpacks (see top of the post) and I carried a small crossbody bag. This allowed for us to also bring a foldable backpack each day if we needed it for souvenirs, shoes, etc. The system worked out amazing!
This bag I was soo impressed with since it has a front insulated cooler area where we kept cool towels and food items. Big enough side pockets for our Mickey and Minnie water bottles AND a built in USB charging cord so you can keep your phone on the outside and charger inside.
Park Bag/ “Extras” List:
- Mesh Bags (we used these for extra clean masks while packing, magic bands, makeup etc)
- Lily Jade Clear Packing Cases
- Small Crossbody Bag / Similar
- Folding Travel 3 in 1 Charging Stand (Apple Watch, AirPod Pros & iPhone)
- Wet Ones
- Brush on Sunscreen
- To-Go Welly First Aid kit We also brought the Children’s Medicine Travel Kit and Travel Medicine Kit
- Campho Phenique (great for bug bites, small cuts etc)
- Bandaid Blister
- O’Keefee’s Lip Repair SPF 35
- Ultra Sheer SPF 70 Clear Sunscreen Stick works amazing while walking/ standing in line
- Foot Glide (prevent blisters)
- Nut Butter Anti-Chafe Salve (would have preferred this but didn’t come in on time)
- Liquid IV use code THERECRUITERMOM for 25% off
- Anker Solar Powered 2 USB Charger (talk about NEVER running out of power!)
- Loopy Phone Case (or any kind of loop case so you don’t drop your phone on rides!!)
- Clorox Wipes (these individually wrapped ones you can find as an Enterprise Car Rental customer or grab the packs on Amazon)
- Spray Sunscreen
- Hempz Hand Lotion
- Hempz Hand Sanitizer
- Travel Advil
- Travel Childrens Tyenol (this just melts on their tongue came in huge help when Amy daughter’s ankle was hurting)
- Disposable Masks (these are cute and comfortable enough to wear all day)
- Magic Band (keep in carry-on)
- Mickey Fans
- Cooling Towels we ended up buying some at Disney but would have preferred to bring more
- Foldable Backpack (we carried this in the bag on days we knew we would change or have lots of take home items)
Toiletry Bag List:
- Travel Bag
- Olaplex Bond Smoother
- Olaplex Travel Size Shampoo
- Olaplex Travel Size Conditioner
- Colleen Rothschild Hair Travel Set
- Elemis Travel Skincare Set
- Elemis Eye Mask
- Charlotte Tilbury mini Magic Cream
- Drybar Sparkling Soda Mini
- Drybar MoneyMaker Mini // Also love this hairspray
- Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo Mini
- Billie Razor & Cover
- Dove Deodorant
- Invisalign & Cleaner
- Lumify Eye Drops
- Travel Aquaphor
- Mini Tweezers
- Travel Toothpaste
- Quip Toothbrush
- Slip Skinny Hairties
- Drybar hair clip
Ok friends this blog post is already sooo long and I haven’t event talked a ton about our favorite rides and all the other weird 2021 stuff (like no fast passes). Since things are changing so quickly in WDW I think I’ll skip it but if you have any questions just leave them below! Hope this helps making your packing and Disney experience easier and more MAGICAL!