I just returned from Florida this weekend and wanted to share some of my experiences. I did a family Christmas trip with my dad and we went to Universal and Disney. All in all, it was a great trip experience. I'll break it down by day, as we were there for 5 days.
Sunday- We flew out of DTW and it was pretty painless. Security at 5:30am was not too terrible honestly. Got through pretty quickly. I got rid of my Clear membership as I could no longer justify the price tag. It has risen quite a bit for a yearly membership. So we just went through regular security. Probably took all of 10 mins. We flew Delta and had an equipment change to an A330. A330's do not have a true First Class area, just Delta One. So that was kind of neat as I have never experienced a Delta One seat before and probably never will again honestly. They are very roomy and comfortable. We were on an older aircraft so these seats were about 6 years old. I have heard from the Flight Attendants that the new Delta One seats are amazing on the newer aircraft. We arrived in MCO on time, got our car rental, and headed to our resort, which was off-property at the Holiday Inn @ Orange Lake Resort. This property is really nice. They gave us a really clean and new 2 bedroom/2 bath condo kind of in the middle of the resort. It had a laundry and a full kitchen also. This resort is about 15 mins from Disney and 35 from Universal, so a great area, close to the highways, and has lots of restaurants and a grocery store nearby. The only caveat I found was the aggressive time-share sales pitches. At check-in, they kind of force you into in by making you go to another desk to get your parking pass and key cards. I just kept politely declining everything she was offering. She eventually got annoyed with me and gave us our stuff and we left. I did however get one more phone call 2 days later trying to sell me another time share. I again kept politely declining until he stopped and I asked that they not call again. We did not get another call for the rest of the trip. For dinner on this day, we went to a great restaurant in Celebration which is about 10 mins from where we were staying, called Colombia Restaurant. This restaurant offers Cuban cuisine and was excellent. It's in a great little neighborhood with a park nearby and on this particular day a farmer's market, which was really neat. Highly recommend.
Monday- This was the first day of our trip to the parks. We started with Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We started early in the am and went to U.S. first. We walked around a bit, and rode a few rides, but our goal was to get back to Harry Potter World. That area of the park is so cool. My favorite ride was Escape to Gringotts. We had some butterbeers (which is basically like butterscotch soda,) which was excellent. Did a little shopping. Then headed for Simpsons World. We found out quickly that a lot of the restaurants and bars at Universal do not open until 11am. So Simpsons World was a bit of a bust, but still cool to walk through. We then headed over to IOA on foot due to the Hogwarts Train between the lands being down that day. We walked through Dr Seuss land, which for children is really neat. And then we headed straight for Harry Potter World again. We were able to ride a few rides and have lunch at the Three Broomsticks, which is a table service restaurant. If I had to make the choice again, I probably would not have chosen the Three Broomsticks. The food was not great and was overpriced honestly. All in all Universal and IOA are worth it if you enjoy rides or specific niche franchises like Harry Potter, Simpsons, etc. However, without the train being up and running there is a lot of extra walking between the lands.
Tuesday- This was our first day at Disney this trip and we chose Magic Kingdom due to the Very Merry Christmas party that was to occur that evening. It is a separate ticketed event and you must pay attention when you arrive in the parking lot if you are not staying on the property. I say this because people with just regular park tickets were directed to the monorail to get on the property and those of us with Very Merry Christmas party tickets were directed toward the ferry. Once we got across the water, they kind of herded us into one area and then the line went pretty quickly for check-in. We arrived at MK at 4pm, thinking it wouldn't be that bad since the party didn't start until 7pm. We were incorrect, as everyone else going had the same exact idea as us. If you are going to this party, I would advise you to either go earlier than planned or wait until closer to 7pm. As far, as the party, it was cool to be in MK at nighttime. All the rides were still going which was great. They had a few Christmas shows in front of the castle and then fireworks at the end. There were special treats throughout the park, however, they were hard to find. They gave us a map/brochure about the party but nowhere did it mention where to get the treats. So that was a missed opportunity. The park was decked out for Christmas though which was neat. All in all, I would say this party is more geared towards families with small children.
Wednesday- Day 2 at Disney, this time at Hollywood Studios. We mostly chose this park for Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy's Edge. The park was not busy when we arrived at 9am. I would say half capacity, which is odd for Disney, but was good for us. Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy's Edge are a lot smaller than they look but have cool rides like Slinky Dog Coaster and the Millennium Falcon ride. Oga's Cantina inside Galaxy's Edge was cool, it is a Star Wars bar of sorts. They had a robot DJ. It was pretty neat. Inside Toy Story Land, highly recommend the homemade pop-tarts from Woody's Lunchbox. Definitely a must-try item.
Thursday- Day 3 at Disney, this time at Epcot. This is and was my favorite park. They did something similar to the International Food and Wine Festival that they do during the summer months for Christmas called the International Festival of the Holidays. They have kiosks set up in the majority of the countries in the World Showcase featuring different holiday foods. The best part? The foods were all under $7 and were large portions. Alcoholic drinks were between $10-13 and non-alcoholic were under $10. My favorite dish was in America. It was blackened catfish, with hoppin' john and comeback sauce. Honestly, the best dish I had the entire trip. The price point allowed us to have many different treats, dishes, and drinks throughout the World Showcase, instead of spending a fortune at one of the table service restaurants.
All in all, I would call this trip a success. I averaged quite a bit of steps each day. Triple what I normally walk in a day. It kind of gets to you after a few days if you're not used to it. That is the only complaint I have. My calves were about done for by the last day. Walking the airport was a challenge. The best I can recommend is bringing two or three pairs of sneakers. Switching them out each day helped a lot. And if you're traveling with someone who has heart issues or any other health issues, make them sit down once in a while! I had to force my elderly dad to take breaks to be on the safe side.
We ended up not using Genie+ at all the whole time we were at Disney. The capacity level was about half at each park except during that Christmas party, so we really didn't end up needing it. Most rides we were able to walk on or have a short wait for. I would really only recommend Genie+ if you have a large party or wish to ride every single ride at a particular park on a day when it is at capacity. Again, this is just my opinion. Genie+ is terribly expensive and honestly not as good of a system as the Fast Passes. I wish Disney would revisit this and revise it.
The same goes with Express Passes at Universal. The capacity was lower than usual so our Express Passes we bought ahead of time went unused. I would advise waiting until you get in the park to purchase them as there are kiosks everywhere to do so. That way you won't waste money if rides are walk-on or have short wait times.