So since we had two little mini getaways cancelled in March and June respectively, we are back again super quickly after our July trip, which I don’t hate at all based on how the parks were last time. Can’t wait to walk onto more rides!
We are yet again sitting on the back row of the Magical Express waiting for everyone to board as I write this. We have had two unlucky Magical Express experiences in a row now, where we are the only ones in our line inside and we wait awhile and then they board us first onto a bus (which means we are assigned the back row) and then they board a ton of other random unrelated resorts which will presumably get dropped off before us.
But back to the beginning…. yet another seamless travel day. We took the exact same flight as last time: Sunday morning at 8:05am on United (direct from Newark to Orlando). The airport was more crowded, but mostly at the baggage check in area, which we walked past since we aren’t checking bags. The security line (TSA pre check) wasn’t completely deserted like last time, but it still took less than 5 minutes (with a toddler, a stroller, two carryons, and two personal items … and one me). We raced over to our gate since we were running late, and were able to walk right on the plane. Boarding ended about five minutes later. Boarding was about 20 minutes again. This flight was about 75% full. I think it is the only direct flight to Orlando from Newark today (or maybe one of only 2 flight options), so that may be why it was more crowded, as opposed to more people traveling now vs a month ago. I had selected seats in advance in a particularly empty looking section and I had picked a window and an aisle seat for me and my son, figuring no one would pick the middle (this is what we did when traveling as a couple during normal times by the way, the logic is that if someone does pick the middle, they will gladly trade so you can sit together, otherwise you end up with a full row to yourselves). Surprisingly the whole area around us, including the middle seat was full when we arrived, so definitely don’t go off of the seat maps when checking how full the flight is. I had checked last night at midnight and the flight looked less than half full. So there must have been a lot of Basic Economy people with unassigned seats that got seat assignments at the gate, that is my best guess for the discrepancy between the seat map and how crowded the plane actually was. Anyway, the flight attendant saw me trying to squeeze my toddler in past a stranger and whispered “follow me” and brought me up to a nice big empty row in what must have been the Economy Plus section that people avoid since it costs a tiny bit extra. So that was amazingly nice and made our trip 100% better. We were able to spread out and play with lots of toys, watch the iPad comfortably, etc without being right on top of a stranger. I think they are happy to spread people out whenever possible now FYI. They seem more than happy to move you to a more empty section if available. The goal is to spread people out, so definitely ask if you can move once you’re on board your flight if you feel like you are in a crowded section.
Fun fact: they gave out little prepackaged snack baggies in Economy that were totally better than the snack boxes in First Class on our July flight. Literally nothing was edible in the First Class snack box (I have cheap taste). These little baggies today had bottles of water, sanitizing wipes, pretzels, stroopwaffles, and Oreos! I’d take all of those any day. Major upgrade lol. So if anyone is debating first class on United, maybe consider Economy Plus for the legroom and since it’s emptier, but still has the good snacks haha.
Our flight landed 15 minutes early in Orlando and we were quickly allowed to de-board (is that the term?). They let us off in groups by row again, which still seems ineffective to me with regards to social distancing, but I guess there isn’t much of a solution that is better. They ask everyone to remain seated until their row was called, and people listened somewhat this time, as opposed to last time when everyone stood up simultaneously when the plane reached the gate. Again our stroller was already waiting for us when we got off the plane, which is amazing. They are so speedy in Orlando. This time there were 2 other strollers, which shows that more families with kids were on board. In July we were the only family with a child on the plane, which is SO WEIRD for a flight to Orlando.
The entrance to the Magical Express was completely empty again (we didn’t have to go to wait for any checked bags, so maybe we just beat people there). We waited in a completely empty line for about 10 minutes before they boarded us onto a bus. We were assigned to the back row again. Every single group that came on after us made the same exact comment about not knowing which row to sit in because they were told a row number and there are no numbers on the seats, you have to actually count the rows. I imagine the seats will be numbered in the upcoming weeks. Groups are assigned to sit in every other row. I thought in July we were more spaced out than that. I thought it was every third row, but I may be crazy. I believe they try to cap the buses at 21 guests. Also worth noting: the video was different on the Magical Express this time. They had clips about the “Incredicrew” and safety procedures like wearing masks, hand washing, etc. We did not see this video in July. Our bus stopped at Pop Century, Riviera, Boardwalk (our stop woohoo!), and then somewhere else I couldn’t quite decipher. The ride didn’t feel exceptionally long. It was pretty average. It still feels weird stopping at Pop Century, but being the 3rd stop is better than being the 4th, so this trip is already winning 🙂
I got a text that our room was ready while we were on the Magical Express. I had requested a higher floor, but I selected the option to prioritize having the room ready early over any other room requests. It was ready early and is on the 4th floor (of 5), so double win. It’s a Boardwalk view studio. I was hoping for some of the pixie dust I’ve been hearing about endlessly where everyone is saying they’ve gotten upgrades left and right lately from studios to one bedrooms and whatnot, but that’s never happened in my life, so why start now lol. So just to rain on that parade for anyone reading: we booked studios in July and August and neither were upgraded. Both were awesome views and were ready upon arrival though! That’s all you can really ask for !
So that’s the end of our travel. We are off to melt on our way to lunch at Garden Grill with Mickey. I’m sure we will take a detour to ride the “gondola gondola!!” and I’ll let you know if it’s boiling hot in the summer, because that has been my big question since it opened.