Volume 35 | October 2 2020
Our Fall Break at Disney World!
Last weekend, we took our annual fall break trip to Disney World with Bradley and our friends Marilyn and Addison. It was definitely different this year. Some things were better, some were worse. All in all, a few days at Disney were a wonderful retreat from the long summer at home. It was nice to travel again and leave the world behind for a few days.

Many of you have trips booked for the last few months of this year. I wanted to give you all a glimpse of what is happening to prepare and plan. Others may decide they would like to squeeze in a trip before the year ends. Please remember that as the days pass by, things are constantly changing. We will keep you as updated as possible as we plan into the winter months.
The Atlanta airport and Southwest Airlines
We decided to take advantage of the great fall prices on Southwest and fly to Orlando.

The Atlanta airport was almost empty compared to a typical day before Covid. We went through the socially distanced, plexiglass queues of TSA security very quickly. Although many stores and food locations inside the airport were closed, some of our favorites were open, including the Chick-fil-A and Starbucks. Airport announcements periodically asked that everyone wear a mask while waiting.

When it was time to board the plane, they asked us to use the digital copy of our boarding passes on our phones. They called only 10 people at a time to board, asking us to remain seated until our turn. This kept people from crowding around trying to get in line before others. I honestly wish they would keep this rule forever!

Once onboard, face masks were required the entire flight unless eating or drinking. The middle seats of each row were empty, and will be until the end of November on Southwest. We were given a pre-packaged snack mix and water in flight. No other choices were available.

Overall, I felt very safe and secure. The Southwest planes have HEPA filters onboard and air is recirculated with fresh air from outside every 2-3 minutes. Other than a little turbulence on the way, we had no issues at all.
Magical Express Transportation
Disney's Magical Express Bus service is available when you stay at a Disney World Resort. We used the service on arrival to and departure from the resort.

Once you disembark the plane, you will have to retrieve any checked bags at bag claim. Disney is not providing luggage pick up and delivery service at this time.

Magical Express is located on Level 1 of Terminal B in the Orlando airport. Check in at the desk with your Magic Bands. Once they validate that you have a reservation, your family will be directed to the appropriate line to wait for a bus.

Although there was a long line of people waiting at check in, we had a relatively short wait time for a bus. We were assigned seat numbers onboard, loaded, and left for the resort almost immediately.

On our departure day, we also had to take our luggage with us on the motorcoach. The resort airline check in and luggage service is currently unavailable.
Resort Update - Disney's Pop Century Resort
We stayed at Disney's Pop Century Resort for this trip. It is really one of my favorite resorts. I love the theming, the fun atmosphere, the uniquely spacious rooms, and most of all the access to the new Disney Skyliner.
Table pulled down as bed
Remote clean and bagged
Bathroom area
Mousekeeping is currently not being offered on a daily basis. They will come in every other day, unless specifically requested. We called guest services from our room and asked that they stop by to refresh the towels for us on the off day. For those of you staying here in the fall, I am adding a few more close ups. You can see they have everything you will need here, including a hairdryer, ironing board, shower soap, shampoo, and conditioner. There is a sliding door for privacy between the sink area and the room, plus a door between the sink area and the shower/toilet area. Each room has a mini-fridge and a small coffee maker. The table pulls down to make the second bed.
Quick service dining and mobile ordering
Most of the quick service dining locations on property are now using the Mobile ordering system. This does include the "Everything Pop" dining hall at the resort. Using the My Disney Experience App on your phone, you can order and pay for your meal in advance.

We placed our breakfast order from the room while getting dressed each morning. From the main page, you will first select the "+" button in the bottom center of the screen.
Select "Order Food" from the next screen. All available quick service mobile order locations will pop up for you on the next page. They are separated by park or resort to make them easy for you to find. Next, you will select your arrival window time.
#1- Build your order. Don't forget to order drinks or desserts!
#2- click on "Review your Order" at the bottom of the page.
#3- The order summary page will appear and you will see the credit card that you have stored in your My Disney Experience account, plus the option to pay with a Disney gift card or a Disney Visa Rewards card.
#4- Once you hit "purchase," you will see a page appear with a button that says "I am here, prepare my order" to begin your wait time. A cute little spatula with a flipping burger will appear.
We quickly learned to go ahead and push the "I am here" button before leaving our room to walk down to the dining hall. You will NOT be allowed into the dining hall or restaurant to find a seat until the final page pops up to show that your order is ready for pickup. There will be a cast member at the door who will ask to see that page on your phone. From there, you will go in to the counter and pickup your order to sit down.

I think this is a convenient system. We never had trouble finding a table to sit down. We didn't have to stand in a long line waiting to order. We could decide where to eat and order after getting off of a ride, take our time walking to the restaurant, and our food was ready when we arrived!

To see a current list of restaurants available during your stay, visit the website here: Dining: Know Before You Go. Table service locations, including character meals do require advance dining reservations. These are available 60 days in advance of your stay.
Transportation to the parks
The Disney Skyliner!! I absolutely love this mode of transportation. The Skyliner connects Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and the Riviera Resort to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. It is clean, fast, and very relaxing.
Station between Pop and Art of Animation
All guests will need to stop at the hub station located near Caribbean Beach resort to transfer to the gondola lines that lead to the parks.
People with scooters, wheelchairs, or strollers can roll right on. There is plenty of space in each gondola for up to 10 guests.
Only one family is allowed per gondola. It was nice to have a mask break in the sky!
Bus transportation was not quite as lovely on this trip. I have to say that this was my biggest complaint. Lines to get a bus to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom were super long in the mornings. Guests started lining up as early as 7am for the 9am park opening.

The bus ride itself was nice. Disney has worked hard to implement safety measures in every way possible. Each seat had numbers and was separated in pairs from others with plexiglass shields. Only 4-5 families were on the bus at a time, so no one had to stand up. The ventilation was open on the ceiling to circulate fresh air throughout.
Visiting the parks
There were some big differences in visiting the theme parks this year. The first and most important is that you now must have a park reservation to enter each theme park for the day. The second one: everyone ages 2 and above must wear a face mask at all times. There are NO exceptions to this rule.

Each guest must pass through a temperature check and bag check on the way in. They are not requiring fingerprints at the gate, only a swipe of your Magic Band or card. There are hand sanitizer stands and handwash stations throughout the park and at every entrance and exit from the rides. If you need a mask break, you can find "relaxation stations" in each park to sit and rest without your mask on.
Handwash station
New castle paint!
Relaxation station
From the outside, queue lines looked very long. The reason was all of the distancing and safety measures we found in place on the inside. Many lines had markers more than 6ft apart. Middle queues have been roped off and are not in use. Plexiglass separates rows from one another on rides where the queues cannot be spaced out far enough.
There are no Fastpasses currently in use. All guests are waiting in the standby lines. We timed several of the lines and found that they moved much faster than the times posted. There was very little stopping and standing. My guess is that Disney wants you to keep moving to not be in one place too long. The removal of Fastpasses has allowed for this. Although it seemed crowded, we rode everything we wanted and sometimes twice in a day.
Plexiglass barriers
Look closely and see that two rows were skipped between you and other parties.
Cleaning the queue lines
How do I get in queue for Star Wars Rise of the Resistance?
From Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, or the Riviera Resort, I recommend getting in line for the Skyliner at 1.5 hours before park opening. It seems extreme, but it is worth it. You will ride to the hub station, get off and get in another line for the gondolas to Hollywood Studios. We arrived and were through the gates before they opened the parking lot to cars. From all other resorts, take Disney buses to the park, which start running 45 minutes- 1 hour prior to park opening.

Once we cleared temp check and security, we walked directly to Toy Story Land and rode Slinky Dog with a 10 minute wait. At 10am, when the park officially opened, the boarding passes were released for the Star Wars ride. They were gone in seconds! We did not get a pass at the 10am drop. We were able to get a pass when they dropped them again at 2pm. So, you will have 2 chances to get a pass. I honestly think it may easier at 2pm, but I highly recommend being at the park and through the gate at the first drop time to guarantee yourself 2 chances. How do I do this? You must be scanned into the park. Open your My Disney Experience account to your home screen.
Go to your home screen to select virtual queues
Click Join a group
Your boarding group number will pop up here
Park atmosphere
There are currently no parades or fireworks in the parks. However, you will see cavalcades go by at different times during the day. We saw 3 different ones at Magic Kingdom and a few at Animal Kingdom. Epcot features a horsedrawn vehicle of princesses and a double decker bus with Mickey and friends.

We caught several characters out and about during the day. Buzz Lightyear was spotted in Tomorrowland, Jack Sparrow in Adventureland, and Tigger in Fantasyland.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in the parks. Fall decorations were up and as beautiful as always. There were many yummy seasonal treats to enjoy, including the famous "Food and Wine Festival" kiosks in the World Showcase of Epcot.
I will leave you with some video clips of the character cavalcades we spotted during the trip. It added so much fun to our day to see them pop up when we least expected it!
Donald and Daisy start off the day with a fun song!
Mickey's Boo to You! Cavalcade of Characters
The Royal Princess Processional
I hope you all enjoy your weekend! We are looking forward to football games, watching Bradley play in the band, fall weather, taco soup, and a visit from the girls and their grandparents!
In gratitude,

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26
About April:
Fond memories of traveling with her parents and grandparents inspired April Hicks to launch Family Memories Travel in 2009. April blends her passion for creating strong family relationships with her love for travel. She focuses on multi-generational travel, and considers the needs of each individual family member.  She offers a specially tailored trip planning service that will make every trip special. Having 3 children of her own, and 2 with special needs, she has seen the importance of getting away from the daily stresses of life at home to strengthen and nurture the family bond. She shares her expertise of Walt Disney World and many other family friendly destinations throughout the world with her clients. April has extensive experience in group travel and planning. From senior adult and couples getaways, to family reunions and school groups, she has taken her clients to cities throughout the United States and beyond.