I’m no Disney connoisseur but my goal is to seek out the expertise of those who have experience in areas that I do not and learn from them. My close long-time friend, Kerry, is a Key To The World Travel Planner. She lives and breathes all things Disney and even got married there, so I knew without a doubt that she was the perfect person to help my husband and I plan our trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Planning The Trip
- Dates – I let Kerry know some potential dates we were considering for Disney and she was able to look at the crowd forecast for each day, guiding me toward the day that would potentially have fewer crowds at the parks. We had been to Magic Kingdom and Epcot before, so our main priority was seeing Animal Kingdom on this trip.
- Budget – My husband had fond memories of vacationing on Disney properties when he was a child, and wanted to stay on property again. As you may know, there is quite a wide range of Disney properties to choose from, ranging from the more budget-friendly end where we stayed (All-Star Movies Resort) to the more luxurious lodges on the Animal Kingdom property itself. Knowing our budget from our initial conversation, Kerry was able to customize the best property for us. This was my first time staying on a Disney property and I was definitely impressed with their level of service.
- Transportation – There are free shuttles to take you from each property to all the parks (right near the entrances), so this was convenient and a great way to avoid having to drive your own car and walking long distances from the parking lots to get to the park entrance.
- Amenities – Our resort had several pools and its own dining area along with many other things, but we spent almost all of our time at the park so we didn’t get to enjoy much time hanging out on the property. One thing we did enjoy seeing was how each section of the resort was themed. Ours was The Mighty Ducks with a hockey theme, and next door had a 101 Dalmations theme.
- Reservations & Fast Passes – Kerry asked which rides we were most interested in and planned out a route for us to make the most of our day in the park. She was able to secure Fast Passes for us which we could view in the My Disney Experience App. She also asked if we needed any restaurant reservations. I didn’t even know there were any sit-down restaurants in the park, so the concept of needing to make reservations was new to me as I thought it was all just quick serve. I was definitely wrong about that! Animal Kingdom has several high-class dining options which I will detail later in this post.
We arrived at our resort late in the evening after a long drive from North Carolina, and thankfully it did not take long to check in and get our Magic Bands which serve as a room key and can also be used to pay for everything in the park. We got settled and headed to bed, knowing we had an early morning the next day to get ready for our plan of attack!
Itinerary For The Park
- Thanks to Kerry’s guidance, we got to the shuttle by 7:30 am and were at the park by 7:45 am. The official opening time the day we were there was 9:00 am, but she hinted that sometimes they allow guests in early. Boy, were we glad we listened to her about arriving early! They opened the gates for us in at 8:06, and since we were almost at the front of the line, we got first dibs on the best rides!
- Flight of Passage – This ride is probably the most popular in the park and is in Pandora. Even if you haven’t seen the movie Avatar, you will love this area of the park. Seeing the “hanging rock” for the first time was breathtaking. I won’t spoil the ride for you, but it was an incredibly unique and immersive ride! Kerry told us to make this ride our first priority that day since Fast Passes were not available for it, so we literally ran to it as soon as the gates opened and were able to get on with virtually no wait. As soon as we got off the ride, the wait time for it had already jumped to 2 HOURS! Definitely glad we dodged that bullet!
- Kerry could see live wait times and let us know it would be a good time to check out the safari while animals were most active, so we headed there next. We both loved seeing all the animals up close! The wait wasn’t too bad here, only about 35 minutes.
- After some time with the animals, we headed over to use our first Fast Pass on the Everest ride. This one is a roller coaster and is partially in the dark. Just scary enough without being over the top. Definitely be sure to check out the pictures afterwards – you can see how comical ours was below. Note: you will also be able to view your photos in the app!
- We walked through Dinoland but didn’t end up riding anything there as it seemed more geared toward kids. Ready for a little break, we decided to go see the It’s Tough To Be a Bug show in the Tree of Life. It was so nice to get out of the sun and enjoy the intricacy of the carvings on the Tree of Life – so neat! The show was light and fun – interactive too!
- Kerry got us another Fast Pass for the Na’vi River Journey ride. It was so nice to be inside in the shade for this. I didn’t think the ride was anything too special, but it was neat to see how they had modeled it after Avatar.
Food & Drinks
- We stopped for a giant pretzel and cookie near the Everest ride for a snack mid-morning. They were good, but I was most excited about the all the ethnic food options the park offered, so I felt like a bit of a sell-out for getting standard American snacks. In our defense, nothing else was open yet and we were hungry!
- We ate at Yak & Yeti for lunch around noon. We hadn’t made reservations, so it was a 25 minute wait, but we got lucky and snagged 2 spots at the bar almost immediately. There we ordered the delicious dim sum basket to share and relaxed with the Yak Attack and South Seas Traveler for our drinks. Icy cold beverages never tasted so good!
- Since our lunch was basically an appetizer, we also stopped for another snack in the afternoon in Pandora at Pongu Pongu. I got the blossom drink with Boba (not that good), and pineapple lumpia (AMAZING).
- We ended up exploring almost the whole park, but were getting ready for a break from the heat, so we headed home for a little nap at the resort. YES, we’re old 🙂
- Once again, Kerry made a great recommendation that we return to the park at night to see Pandora and the Tree of Life lit up and to see the River of Lights Show in the Everest area. I loved seeing the park take on a whole different vibe after dark! She had also made a reservation for us at Tiffins Restaurant right after the light show which was PACKED, so we cut out a little early to go get our dinner. Tiffins is a fine dining restaurant with top notch service. We started with the bread topped with some pomegranate balsamic (yum) and for entrees ended up getting fish, charred octopus, Thai curry oysters, and amazing mushroom soup. They also offered triple filtered water (so fresh and so clean clean!)
Though we just had one day at Animal Kingdom, I was thankful that we were able to maximize our time there thanks to Kerry’s planning and recommendations. She stayed in communication with us throughout the day to see if we needed any other Fast Passes or reservations and was such a huge help in suggesting the best route to avoid wait times. It was nice to have her take care of everything for us so we could just enjoy immersing ourselves in all Animal Kingdom had to offer. In case you’re wondering, using her services does NOT cost you anything, so what do you have to lose? I hope you will consider contacting her for your travel needs in the future. Though she specializes in planning Disney and Universal itineraries – she is able to assist you with planning other destinations as well!
Do you have a favorite Disney park? Maybe you’re considering visiting for the first time? There is definitely something for everyone!
Until next time, thanks for reading!