On top of my vacation wishlist is another trip to Disney World, because I discovered my happy place – and Minnie Inner. Never having visited the Orlando beach resort as a child, I always felt like I had missed something, so when I was invited to give a talk on the Royal Family in Miami, I felt like I was missing out on something. seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a detour with my husband Chris and children Matilda, nine, and George, four.
As we pulled up to the Disney Yacht and Beach Club Resort, we let out a collective hiccup. The size of the place is mind-boggling. “I can’t believe we’re at Disney World! Moaned Mathilde. Me niether.
At check-in we were given Mickey Mouse wristbands which give access to all parks and contain passes that allow us to skip the lines.
Fantastic life: you will find Mickey and Minnie and all their friends in the four parks of Disney World
Too excited to unpack, we grabbed a daytime bag full of essentials: sunscreen, plenty of water, a folding umbrella (for lining up in long queues in the heat) and Mickey Mouse cupcakes loaded with sugar left in our room.
As we made our way to Epcot, with an Eiffel Tower and a vast lake, I marveled at the scale of the park. Disney World is not only the number one tourist destination in the United States, it is a county in its own right with a municipal district.
Sophisticated transport infrastructure makes it easy to get around. New cable cars offer a bird’s-eye view, boat rides provide a scenic experience, while the monorail and Walt Disney World bus service whisk you quickly between parks.
Proudly sporting our newly purchased Mickey and Minnie ears (a must!) We strolled through the World Showcase, stopping off in England with a quaint pub, lipstick letterboxes and beautifully manicured gardens in which we are stumbled upon Mary Poppins, many in Matilda and Le Délice de Georges.
Fast track: Katie and her husband can try the Slinky Dog roller coaster, pictured above
Super nanny: Katie’s kids meet Mary Poppins in the “England” corner of the resort’s World Showcase
It was a hop and a jump to Norway, where we sailed through the fantastic world of Frozen on a Viking ship. With the music from the movie and amazing 3D technology that makes the models wonderfully lifelike, I loved the ride so much that we did it three times and even met Elsa and Anna.
With George being so young, we were limited to Epcot which has some of the most exhilarating rides. However, Spaceship Earth, housed in a giant golf ball-like dome that lights up at night, was suitable for all ages, while a journey from the Stone Age to the Digital Age on slightly rickety trains. was educational and fun.
The kids also loved The Seas With Nemo And Friends – a ride on a “clamobile” that spins and turns as the underwater world of Finding Nemo passes by.
My highlight was Soarin ‘Around The World – a virtual reality hang-gliding flight. Matilda, who just met the height restriction, packed us the front row seats, which meant we had a thrilling view as we flew over an African savannah alongside a herd of elephants.
Then we overlooked the Taj Mahal before heading to the North Pole, where a breath of freezing air surprised us and the pleasure of seeing a very realistic polar bear and his cub jumping into the sea made me cry.
Epcot stages the most incredible nightly fireworks display over the lake that is set to music and a state-of-the-art light show.
The kids were exhausted and fell asleep on the train back to the hotel, but I stayed up to plan the route for the next day.
We wanted to reduce the four parks in just three days, which is ambitious but just about possible. There is so much to see and do that you probably need at least five days here, so planning is essential. And it’s worth staying at a Disney hotel, because guests can enjoy the crowded-free “magic hours” in the morning before the parks open to the public.
According to Katie, there is no need to carry cash to Disney World. She says: “Just debit everything from your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse bracelet”
The Disney Genie service is also a great way to navigate and check wait times for rides. He can get you passes to bypass queues, reserve meals (essential if you want waiter service), and pre-order food to reduce wait times.
No need to carry cash with you – just debit everything from your Disney account, which is linked to your Mickey Mouse bracelet – the one piece of the kit you don’t want to lose.
While you can pay for a VIP guide, rates range from £ 315 to £ 630 per hour, depending on the season, with a minimum booking of seven hours and a maximum of ten guests per tour.
“We spent our entire last day exploring the Magic Kingdom and its four lands: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland,” says Katie. Pictured is the complex’s Cinderella Castle, which is the gateway to Fantasyland
You enjoy the luxury of being driven around the parks in an SUV, and from snacks on arrival to sticky wet hand wipes, the service is five star.
Our lovely guide Mark knew every nook and cranny, and his shortcuts when we tackled Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom on day two got us around at lightning speed. He also had a pass which meant we never had to stand in line longer than ten minutes, even for the most popular rides.
The kids were too small for some of them, but Mark was happy to keep them entertained so my husband and I could experience the Tower of Terror (a drop in the dark – never again) and the Slinky Dog roller coaster.
Minnie’s Adventure: A fireworks show at Walt Disney World Resort. “The whole experience was sensory overload,” says Katie
Katie Nicholl was a guest of Disney. Virgin Atlantic Holidays is offering seven nights at Walt Disney World starting at £ 5,284 for a family of four, excluding flights, departing August 27. Includes Disney Magic tickets with the Disney Genie + service (vacationsvierges.co.uk).
The shows at Hollywood studios are brilliantly produced – we enjoyed Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid – and they provide a much-needed time away from the sun and the crowds.
We then headed to Animal Kingdom, home to “Africa” and “Asia” and the Amazing World of Avatar, which includes a spectacular descent down the Na’vi River from the film. The kids loved the jeep ride around the park, where we got to see hippos, lions, crocodiles and giraffes.
We spent our entire last day exploring the Magic Kingdom and its four lands: Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Adventureland.
Mathilde desperately wanted to visit the castle, so we booked for lunch with Cinderella and the other Disney Princesses.
Watching the children’s faces as they met the movie stars they adored was wonderful, and when I discovered Disney champagne I was in heaven!
The whole experience was sensory overload with parades, music, fireworks like I’ve never seen and magic rides.
After a fairly difficult year and a half, what I liked the most about Disney was the escape. I forgot about the real world and just reveled in being a kid again.