Disney on a Budget, Part 6: Day 1 at Hollywood Studios

Two weeks ago I reviewed the Team Made Family time spent at Epcot Center. This week I will share the highlights of our first day in Hollywood Studios.

Our time at Hollywood Studios was split over two days. The first one was the first evening we were in Florida. Our oldest girls had a dance practice that evening, so we made it our destination for the day once our commitments were finished. We only had a few hours, and the kids wanted to do some shopping. So we shopped. And shopped. I don’t think we bought much that night, but we looked at EVERYTHING.


Since shopping is so tiring, we needed to stop for a dinner break in the middle. Maybe it was because the older girls had been dancing while Melissa, Jocelyn, and I ate dinner. I think it was the shopping. Whatever the cause, we grabbed dinner and snacks at Rosie’s All-American Cafe. The selection was decent, and the price was right. Once the kids were fed it was time to do some more shopping.

The main reason we even planned on going to Hollywood Studios on our first night in Florida was to see Fantasmic. After the kids had filled their shopping needs we still had some time before Fantasmic. We waked through the streets of the park looking at the facades and people. After a slow wander it was time for us to line up to find our seats. Once we found a place to sit it was time for our youngest daughter to makes friends with all the complete strangers around us. While it is a bit awkward, it is not at all unusual. In this case it was actually OK. Stranger danger rules are much more relaxed at Disney World.  We had to sit and wait a while for the show to begin so it helped pass the time.


For those of you not sure what Fantasmic is, it is a laser/water/theatrical show performed in a aqua-theater (water amphitheater?). There are numerous characters that make appearances. Many are on the rock “mountain” in the middle of the water. Others are on floats that pass around the outer ring. There are many laser displays projected on jets of water. Fireworks light up the sky. Mickey directs the show. And the entire performance is set to music. The part I enjoyed the most was trying to find all the characters and themes the weave through it from many different Disney movies. Having been trained by three daughters I was pretty quick to find most of the princess movies.

After the show was over we had some time before the park closed. We checked the wait time for the new Toy Story ride on the My Disney Experience smartphone app. The wait was short enough we figured we would have enough time to get a quick ride in before it was time to leave the park. Unfortunately that is where we quit looking at the app. The app really makes things easier while in Disneyworld. You can check ride wait times, find maps, add Fast Passes, and many other things. While we found the map portion of the app extremely helpful on our other days, we figured we could find the ride ourselves. Unfortunately there were many things being remodeled and moved around due to the addition of a few Star Wars attractions being added.


Long story short, we wandered around the park long enough that we no longer had time to ride the ride before the park closed. We even stopped and asked an employee for directions at one point. They sent us down a closed, dead end path. It was one of those nights. With tired feet, and exhausted legs, it was time to head to the parking lot and catch the shuttle bus back to the hotel. At least it would be nice to not have to drive I thought.

Then I saw the line we needed to wait in. There were probably 250 people in front of us! Yippee, more waiting. We waited in line for a loooong time before we finally made it to the front. As we were waiting for our bus we noticed that all bus traffic had come a nearly complete stop. This can’t be good. It had slowed a few times before to let cars out of the lot. But it had never completely stopped. There were buses everywhere. And they were not moving. We could see the next bus, OUR BUS, not more than 100 yards away trying to get through the maze to pull into the designated spot so we could all climb aboard.

After what felt like an eternity our bus finally arrived. Since we were first in line we were able to find seats next to each other in the back of the bus. We squished together as much as possible to make room for as many others as we could. At this point we had stood waiting for a bus for nearly an hour. We were glad to finally be seated. Unfortunately after 20 minutes of sitting and not moving the euphoria wore off. I don’t know how familiar you are with buses, but they are not the most comfortable places to be. Especially when they are stuffed to capacity in order to get exhausted people to their hotel rooms. Disney buses are no different. The only thing they offer is extremely catchy songs played on a 20 minute loop. Think really bad karaoke songs and you get the idea. Like Sweet Caroline and Bohemian Rhapsody.


As we sat there enjoying the second round of these wonderful songs we learned that there had been a small accident in one of the main intersections heading out of the park. Not the news anyone wanted to hear. It was at this point that things could have gotten very tense and hostile. Instead, the bus full of 60 complete strangers turned it into a milk carton shaped karaoke show. I don’t think anyone on the bus could sing at all. But we sang and laughed and made the best of the situation. We even got good enough by the end that we could sing the echo parts of songs from one end of the bus to the other. As we reached our hotel very early the next day (and an hour and a  half after we got on) we realized that maybe, in certain circumstances, Disney is the happiest place on earth. The bus ride was not fun, but it was entertaining. It definitely could have been much worse.  And Jocelyn slept through almost all of it on Melissa’s lap.

For those of you who know me, crowds are not my cup of tea. Nor is singing. Nor is being sleep deprived. I woke up at 2am that day in order to get myself and Jocelyn to the airport. When we finally arrived at our hotel room at 12:30am the next morning I realized I had truly made the most of my first day of the trip. I survived the crowds. All of them. I even sang along in the bus. Not all the memories we made on the trip were in the parks. But they were all made as a family.

Do you have any fun, or not so fun, stories of travel experiences gone wrong? What did you do to make the most of it? Share it with us in a comment or email!