The 3 mistakes that nearly ruined my family’s first Disney World holiday

I’M JUST back from a holiday to Disney World with my two kids and our extended family, and while it was a trip of a lifetime, I made some costly mistakes.

Looking back on our holiday to Orlando with nine family members to celebrate my 40th birthday in October, I’ve decided to share the bad (and good) decisions we made at the theme parks, so you don’t do the same.

Mark Hudson took his two children to Disney World for his 40th birthday


Mark Hudson took his two children to Disney World for his 40th birthdayCredit: The Sun

I’m glad I paid for queue jumping – and should’ve spent more

First up what is Genie+ and how is it different from Lightning Lanes?

Genie+ is the service you pay for that allows you access to Lightning Lanes, which are the shorter queues for rides.

The service changes price depending on demand but in October it cost us around $27 per person per day.

You get one Lightning Lane per ride per day. And – confusingly – there are a small number of rides that aren’t included in Genie+ and you need to pay for them separately.

These are:

  • Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Tron in Magic Kingdom
  • Guardians of the Galaxy in Epcot
  • Star Wars Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios
  • Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom

These individual rides cost between $11-$15 per person.

Genie+ felt like a lot initially for our party of ten – but not if you consider how much more you’re able to fit in during the day.

As an example, check out our Magic Kingdom day with and without Genie+.

We got to the park for rope drop at 8.30am and were in the Seven Dwarves queue for 65 minutes.

Disney ride queues

10:05am – Mad Hatter’s Tea party
With Genie+: 5 minutes
Without Genie+: 20 minutes

10.15am – Big Thunder Mountain
With Genie+: 15 minutes
Without Genie+: 50 minutes

10.45am – It’s A Small World
With Genie+: 15 minutes
Without Genie+: 40 minutes

11.15am – Pirates of the Caribbean
With Genie+: 5 minutes
Without Genie+: 50 minutes

11.45am – Jungle Cruise
With Genie+: 10 minutes
Without Genie+: 60 minutes

7pm – Space Mountain
With Genie+: 20 minutes
Without Genie+: 95 minutes

7.30pm – Buzz Lightyear Ranger Spin
With Genie+: 5 minutes
Without Genie+: 45 minutes

9pm – Haunted Mansion
With Genie+: 10 minutes
Without Genie+: 60 minutes

Mark and his family pose in from of the world-famous Cinderella castle


Mark and his family pose in from of the world-famous Cinderella castleCredit: The Sun

We then had a lunch break, waited to join the 1pm virtual queue for Tron which you can only do if you’re in the park then headed home for a rest.

We returned to Magic Kingdom later that night and managed to achieve more rides before being called to ride Tron at 9:30pm – the queue took another 75 minutes then we left the park around 10:30pm.

As you can see, with Genie+ we were able to ride eight rides while also ticking off Tron at the end of the day and Seven Dwarves at the beginning. Without Genie+ we would have been able to ride four.

With rides at the top of the kids’ reasons for coming to Florida, the $27 per day felt like a wise investment.

We had a similarly productive day at Disney Hollywood Studios where we were able to cram in twice as much as we would have without Genie+.

For Animal Kingdom and Epcot, we decided not to pay for the full day’s Genie+ and instead pay for the individual rides there – Avatar Flight of Passage and Guardians of the Galaxy which were both incredible experiences and well worth the money.

I appreciate a trip to Disney is an expensive one, but our trip was absolutely enhanced by Genie+.

Our family rarely fight. The journey out there changed all that.

The excitement of our trip to Disney perhaps meant we’d forgotten how tough long-haul flying can be with five kids aged eight to 15.

Our only saving grace was that we flew with Icelandair which meant a usually non-stop nine-hour flight was broken into a more manageable three-hour flight to Reykjavik followed by six-and-a-half hours to Orlando.

The airport at Reykjavik was one of the most well-stocked I’d ever seen, with delicious local produce and plenty of space to stretch out and refresh.

And when you do a transatlantic flight with Icelandair you can have a one to seven-day stopover in the country at no additional airfare.

We all wish we’d pinched a day from our holiday to have a totally different adventure in the land of geysers and the Northern Lights and a stopover would’ve added an extra air of excitement to the trip home.

The best rides according to 8 and 11-year-olds

My favourite rides by thrill seeker Lily Hudson, aged 11

Avatar Flight of Passage, Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest, Animal Kingdom
Guardians of the Galaxy, Epcot
Space Mountain, Magic Kingdom
Tron, Magic Kingdom

My favourite attractions by super hero Clark Hudson, aged eight

Kilimanjaro Safari, Animal Kingdom
Avatar Flight of Passage, Animal Kingdom
Beauty and the Beast show, Hollywood Studios
Journey of Water, Epcot
Happily Ever After Fireworks, Magic Kingdom

Make time for rest!

With so much to do at Walt Disney and the rest of Orlando, the temptation is to cram it all in and do everything.

After all you’ve come this far, you’ve got to make the most of it.

In my initial plan every rest day was spent at a waterpark, which worked initially. But then we all became exhausted.

So even though Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon was an enormous amount of fun, we should also factor in some time to lie in and relax.

Especially considering many of us Brits aren’t built for the sweltering Florida temperatures, which were regularly in the high 20s in late October and average the mid-30s during the summer holidays.

We did between 15,000-20,000 steps each park day with few sit downs and early starts.

A few more pool days occurred throughout the latter stages of the trip which enabled us to feel recharged to really enjoy the parks when we did go.

But don’t forget you are in for the time of your life – there’s a reason they call this the most magical place on Earth.

Walking down Main Street for the first time, seeing the awe on my kids’ faces, hearing the music and having our whole family pictured in front of the iconic castle is a happiness that I can’t do justice too.

And there were so many memories every day. The thrilling rollercoasters, the hugs with our favourite characters, the shows and – my favourite – the Happily Ever After fireworks.

My kids still don’t stop talking about it.

Yes I could’ve done all the things I’ve listed out in this article. But my goodness did we have a good time.

Book with Walt Disney Travel Company International and enjoy a 7-night stay at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida from £739 per person, including accommodation at Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista and Disney 7-Day Magic Ticket for the whole party.

Visit or call our Disney Experts on 0800 169 0737 for current pricing, full terms and conditions and to book.

He was glad he paid to skip certain queues on top rides - and wished he'd forked out more for this perk


He was glad he paid to skip certain queues on top rides – and wished he’d forked out more for this perkCredit: The Sun


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.