Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

**This is NOT a sponsored post. Just sharing our experience!**

We spent a week at Walt Disney World and Universal, thanks to my parents. What an adventure! After scouring Pinterest, I learned that there was no post, anywhere, that could really walk me through planning an entire trip to Disney. Throughout the series, I shared our days at the parks, tips and tricks, taming the souvenir beast, money saving ideas, things we learned and photos we captured. They’re all linked below. Enjoy!

Day 1: HDYDI – Plan a Multi-Generational Disney Vacation
Day 2: What We Wore to Disney 
Day 3: EPCOT: A Mom’s Guide (this post!)
Day 4: Magic Kingdom: Plan a Visit That’s Fun for All Ages
Day 5: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal: A Family Guide
Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day!

Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome
Day 8: 10 Things to Buy/Borrow/Make For Your Disney Vacation
Day 9: 6 Tips to Capture Your Disney Vacation on Film
Day 10: Meeting Anna & Elsa: An Honest Account 

We arrived in Orlando on a Thursday afternoon and took the early evening to swim, unpack and get our bearings. We woke up eeeearly Friday morning for an 8am photo shoot with our photographer (I promise you’ll hear more soon), just in time to hit the gates at EPCOT around 9:30, about a half hour after park opening. As a sidenote, that’s the only day we arrived after opening to any park, but it was largely unavoidable on this day. You may notice that our days include a bit of daredevil rides, mixed with some cute characters and some pin trading and hidden Mickey hunting along the way. That pace worked well for our group of 14!

Fast Passes
Our three FP+ for the day were Soarin’, Mission Space and Turtle Talk with Crush. Disney has a “tier” system so you aren’t able to have a FP to both Soarin’ and Test Track. We didn’t really need the Turtle Talk FP, but it sure was nice to be in air conditioning in the early afternoon! Sadly, Test Track is the one ride we weren’t able to make it back for during our trip.

What we learned: After realizing some of our kids weren’t really into the more intense rides, we switched up our reservations for other days. That’s the beauty (and the reality) of having so many people of varying ages and dare-devil streaks! If you aren’t sure about a ride, I’m about 99% sure YouTube has a video you can preview.

Park Crowd Level
6/10 (average). EPCOT was celebrating the Flower & Garden Festival, so while the crowds were a little heavier than usual, the scenery was spectacular.

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Top 10 Highlights of the Day + Insider Tips

World Showcase. We entered the park at that entrance, adjacent to Disney Boardwalk where we took our family photos. This area of EPCOT doesn’t usually open until 11, so we were able to check out some countries without hoards of crowds. Our group purchased Disney’s Memory Maker. Any photographer you see in the parks will take your photo (and they’ll even do it with your camera for free!). After they snap pictures, have them scan your Magic Band. I had them take a photo right off, so we could get in the system and not lose any photos for the day. If you’re traveling with a big group of people, make sure those bands are linked so that anyone in your group can have their band scanned.

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Soarin’. The majority of our group enjoyed this ride. Luke did not. And that was ugly. He’s our preemie, but even at 5-1/2 he’s only 39.25-inches. Yes, I measured obsessively the weeks before our trip and I thought for sure he would pass the 40-inch height requirement on the bigger rides. Bad assumption. It took my sister-in-law and I a good 20 minutes to calm him down. Amanda and I were able to enjoy child swap on Soarin’ and then we met the rest of the group over at Mission Space. Again, Luke didn’t meet the 40″ requirement, but Scott said the ride was a little intense, so I’m glad we skipped it.

What we learned: I wish I would’ve checked with guest services about getting him a disability waiver on the rides. Luke struggles with some sensory issues and wears foot braces (which means we couldn’t pad those bad boys with napkins for some added height). Oh well, it was a tough lesson to learn and I almost went postal on the Cast Members, but I knew it wasn’t their fault. Rules stink sometimes, though.

Mission Space. For the daredevils of the group, they loved this ride. We learned that Clare and Ava (the 7 and 5yo) were adrenaline junkies. They thought this one was fantastic!

Italy and the World Showcase. We dined at Tutto Italia for lunch, this was one of the few days we didn’t pack our own. Our lunch reservations were at 11:30 to beat the crowds. The restaurant was completely empty when we arrived, but looked like a zoo when we left. The entertainment in the World Showcase is phenomenal, always something around every corner. While we waited on our food to arrive, the kids and I watched the flag presentation. It reminded me of Siena. Love! One of the best things about the restaurant was the bathrooms. Spoken like a true mom, right? They were spacious, clean and had a great changing station.

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Hidden Mickeys. A friend lent us her book and John Paul really took to finding these throughout the parks. The boys saw it as serious business. Do you spy the Mickey in China? {Hint: look for the frog}

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Character Meet & Greet: Mulan. EPCOT is the only place you’ll find Mulan and she’s usually back in the corner, in the shade. The line was only a few minutes, so we hopped in it and waited our turn. The one thing I came to love about these character meet and greets (and we did a lot!) was how authentically nice each one was. They interacted with our kids – while staying 100% in character – and spent ample time with our group. Never once did I see a character looking to usher us off so they could meet the next guest. Well done, Disney.

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Character Meet & Greet: Donald Duck. We completely stumbled upon Donald Duck, as in we walked by Mexico and he walked out. That, we could not pass up, especially after I captured this “ohmygoshthatsdonald” look from my nephew. A couple of ladies stopped us and asked about our character autograph books. They ended up being a hit, but boy did we learn some things about meeting characters. More to come!

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Character Meet & Greet: Duffy. This is probably Disney’s most under-appreciated character. But I can tell you without reservation he was the kids’ top three characters of all the ones we met. I heard he gave great hugs and when he dropped one of the autograph books and it spilled everywhere?

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Oh, Duffy, we will love you forever.

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Turtle Talk With Crush. Like I mentioned above, we didn’t really need a FP+ for this. It was a great show where the kids are allowed to sit up close, on the floor. And, Crush? He’s so totally awesome, dude. Dori even makes an appearance! It’s a completely interactive show with lots of laughs. Luke really enjoyed the pace (and the air conditioning) of this one. Attention moms: if you have a baby that needs to nurse, this is a great place to do it. I sat near the end of one of the rows and fed sweet Gianna. It was cool, dark and even the guy next to me had no idea I was nursing. I did learn a valuable lesson while in this show. I must’ve been checking the MDE app for something and I left my iPhone – in plain sight – on the top of our stroller that was parked outside the theatre. Half an hour later when we retrieved the stroller, my phone was still there. I couldn’t believe it. I’m certainly not advocating that you leave your wedding ring or a wallet in the sippy cup holder, but man, what a safe place. It was refreshing and we never once worried about leaving any of our things in the stroller parking areas.

Disney Rewards Card Meet & Greet: Mickey & Goofy. I mentioned this on day one of the series, but that Disney rewards card got us into a laid-back and interactive meet and greet with two of the greatest characters around. Goofy lived up to his name, playing around with the kids and causing havoc while Mickey tried to keep the peace and sign all our autograph pages. It’s certainly in an obscure location, with no signage, so just ask a cast member if you’re headed in the right direction. And, have your credit card handy as they’ll want proof you’re a cardholder.

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

A few favorite photos of the day.Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Heading to Disney's EPCOT? This park recap shares how to plan a day at the park with kids, ages 1 to 14, quiet spots for cranky babies and toddlers and a few insider tips on pastries, character meet and greets, parking and more!

Our family stayed at the park from roughly 9:30 until about 3, when we called it a day. Everyone was worn out. We had big plans to go back that evening for Illuminations, but because we had a very early wakeup call and long day the next day, we opted to swim in the house pool, eat a yummy dinner and get geared up for another fabulous day. In hindsight? We did it just right.

Insider Tips

  1. The bakery in France opens when the park does. Because pastries! Croissants! If you want to grab breakfast or a sweet treat, that’s a fun thing to do.
  2. Park at the Boardwalk Hotel and walk into EPCOT, near the World Showcase. We got ready to move our van and our photographer told us to stay put. So we did. That would also be a prime spot to park if you’re just coming back for the Illuminations show in the evening. You’ll miss all that crazy monorail traffic! The parking staff was a bit of a stickler when we arrived, but when we told them we were there to meet a photographer, we parked with no problems.
  3. Plan air-conditioned activities for the afternoons if you’re going during the warm months.

22 Comments

  1. Lynn A. on May 28, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I am enjoying your trip posts immensely. I am local (35+ years) and I’m learning a few new things. Thank you! Yes, the French pastry shop is the best. Especially the eclairs. The French movie is fun too. Nice and air conditioned. Did you all do the American Adventure. Has always been one of my favorites. Can’t wait to read the rest of your posts. 🙂

    • Kathryn on May 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      We did not get a chance to do that. The wheels were falling off – fast – so we missed it.

  2. Ali Rodriguez on May 28, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I’m LOVING all of your Disney posts! I’m definitely archiving these for when we take our family in a few years 🙂 looks like y’all had a blast!

    • Kathryn on May 29, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      Thank you! We did have a great time – it wasn’t a perfect trip (is there ever one?!), but we made some great memories.

  3. EC on May 28, 2015 at 11:36 am

    They have Crush talk at California Adventure in the same building with Elsa and Anna. It was cute. Even my 3 year old liked it but not as much as the Disney Junior show, ha!

    • Kathryn on May 28, 2015 at 11:54 am

      The Disney Jr show was fantastic!

  4. Elizabeth on May 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    EPCOT in May is gorgeous. The flowers are beautiful. If we could time travel and hit EPCOT in May and Hollywood Studios in December with the Christmas lights that would be the perfect Disney trip. FYI. I hated Soarin’ – totally unexpected, but it made me sick. I’m a Test Track fan and Josh is a Soarin’ fan. That was the beauty of switch passes!

    • Kathryn on May 29, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      I had to find my legs a bit after that ride. Really, really wishing we would’ve squeezed in Test Track somehow. Maybe next time, if there is one?!

      • Aimee on June 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

        I agree about finding my legs after Soarin’! We’ve been twice, and we rode it multiple times both trips. I ended up liking it, but after a couple of rides at Legoland, I realized that I don’t like my legs to be dangling! I rode Rockin Roller Coaster over and over as well as Tower of Terror. All fine. Just like my feet to be with the rest of me!

  5. Holly on May 28, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Who is Duffy???

    • Kathryn on May 29, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      Mickey’s teddy bear! Minnie made him to accompany Mickey on all his travels. Trust me, before this trip I had no idea who he was either!

  6. Carla on May 29, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Thoroughly enjoying your post as we are planning a family Disneyland trip in December.

    Thank you so much for all your insight.

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  14. Karen on December 9, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    I can’t find a hidden Mickey anywhere near that frog in China… can you give another clue?

    Your recap is amazing, by the way. We’re going in April, and this is all super helpful!

    • Kathryn on December 9, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      LOL. It’s the lily pads! Have a blast – April is a beautiful time to go.

  15. Jody on July 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I am so glad you didn’t lose your phone, but PLEASE folks, do NOT leave your valuables in your strollers when you park them. Although Disney is a safe place, theft does happen there. You need to take the same precautions you would at any place where there are lots of people.

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