By Rachel Cutrer
In our family, we’re more the working kind rather than the relaxing kind. Brandon and I didn’t take a honeymoon, and the only reason we get out of Boling, Texas is either for a cattle show or cattle sale. And, honestly, we’re okay with that.
However, as our children have started to get older (they’re 6 and 2), they’ve started asking us to take vacations. So, for the first time ever, the Cutrer family took a vacation to Galveston, Texas in 2017. I outlined this in one of our most popular Ranch House blogs of 2017. That little trip turned out to be so much fun, we decided to go BIG and take on Walt Disney World next!
As any farmer or rancher knows, leaving the ranch and hitting the big city is quite overwhelming. But, all in all, we had an amazing experience and I would recommend any rancher taking on Disney.
Preparing for the trip
Since we were total Disney rookies, we turned to a professional travel agent to help us with the trip planning, reservations and recommendations. We used Fairy Tale Travel (Jennifer Schaper) and she was a lifesaver—or should I say—like our fairy godmother. She was able to recommend where to stay within our budget, where to go, which FastPasses to select and much more. I probably emailed her 200 times prior to the trip, and texted her 100 times during the trip, but she helped us every step of the way. I highly recommend using a travel agent.
What to wear
About a month before, I posted a question on Facebook of what we should wear. This prompted a flood of information from other ranchers who took on Disney. Let’s be honest, Brandon has one pair of non-cowboy-boot shoes, and he has absolutely no loungewear. All of his clothes are boots, Cinch jeans and work shirts. I was fairly certain he wouldn’t want to wear his boots to Disney. I too wondered what to wear. While I like both, I prefer my Rios of Mercedes boots and jeans to Lululemon. When our bags were officially packed, we chose Nike shoes, jeans for Brandon, workout leggings and t-shirts for me and legions and sweatshirts for Mollie. Oh, and yes, the fanny pack, which I proudly got to wear during the trip. This attire turned out to be comfortable for us – well, not Brandon – as we logged over 18,000 steps a day. (Brandon still said he thinks his boots would have been more comfortable since he’s used to wearing boots and never wears tennis shoes.)
Time of year
We selected the first week of January for our trip. Although, in retrospect I’m not sure I would chose that time again. It just so happened to be the marathon weekend, which drew large crowds. We experienced lots of delays because of the marathon, but these were also worth it when we got to keep an eye out for fellow rancher Mandy Raithel, who was running. The weather was a little cooler than ideal, but like we all said, we’d prefer to be cold than to be sweating.
Our favorite attractions
Since we were Disney rookies, and we can’t bear to be away from the ranch for more than a few days, we only spent two days in the parks. On Friday, we went to the Magic Kingdom and Saturday, to Epcot and Disney Springs. Thanks again to our wonderful travel agent, we had a suggested schedule of where to go and what to do. Without this, quite honestly, we would have been lost. This schedule gave us a guide of where to go, but was flexible enough and had enough wiggle room where we could really make the day ours and choose what we liked best. We experienced anywhere from 10 to 100 minute lines for the various rides, but thanks to Disney’s FastPass we were able to bypass a few of the lines for our favorites.
At Magic Kingdom, we started our day with breakfast at Be Our Guest, then Under the Sea, Meet Ariel in her Grotto, then used a FastPass for Enchanted Tales with Belle (since Belle is Mollie’s favorite). In retrospect, we shouldn’t have used a FastPass for this attraction, but, we are learning. Next, we used the Disney app to select some shorter wait times and we did Winnie the Pooh, Teacups and the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. Once we started to get the hang of navigating the park (that was Brandon’s job) and finding out wait times, we were set! We did Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion and, of course, It’s A Small World. We caught a great seat for a parade where we saw a fire-breathing Maleficent Dragon and more. To wrap up the day, we saved the best for last — Space Mountain! With Mollie barely inching past the 44-inch height requirement, we used our last FastPass of the day for this epic indoor roller coaster. It was the perfect ending to the day. And as our photo pass depicted, Brandon and I were scared to death, while Mollie was riding with her hands in the air.
Saturday, we started the day at Epcot, which also happened to be a spot on the race, so it was fairly busy and very crowded. Our plan was to spend about half the day at Epcot, then go to Disney Springs where Mollie had an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that afternoon. We loved Epcot and wished we had more time to spend there. Of the 11 countries in the World Showcase, we only had time to visit Mexico and Norway. We started the day at Norway, of course, because that’s where Frozen resides. It was so fun. We then went to Meet Disney Pals for some photo shoots with Mickey, Goofy and Minnie. Then, we went to Mexico, my favorite country besides the United States. Mexico featured exhibits about the movie Coco, which I love. We breezed through Morocco, Mexico, Japan and China just quickly, though I wished we had more time. I probably could have spent two days at Epcot, because it was like an amazing museum to explore all day.
Sadly, we had to leave Epcot to stay on our schedule and make our appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney Springs. I secretly think it was a ploy of our travel agent just to get us to Disney Springs since it’s full of shopping and dining.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect of Disney Springs. I was somewhat expecting a regular size outdoor shopping mall, but we had no idea. This was the largest outdoor shopping area I had ever seen! Our appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was on the far east side, and like total Disney rookies we had made our dining reservation on the complete west side, so we got the pleasure of exploring the entire venue. Our appointment at BBB was a real treat for Mollie. She’s six and enjoyed the hair, makeup and dress-up. We then had about two hours to explore the shops, including getting some candy at Goofy’s Candy Shop and then braving the LEGO store. The LEGO store was simply amazing! Our little LEGO enthusiast spent an hour there. We meandered around for a while and finally settled in for dinner at the House of Blues.
We were very pleasantly surprised with the Disney dining choices. We dined at restaurants in the parks and at the hotels. Each time we enjoyed a unique, delicious meal. Our travel agent recommended we do a Disney Dining Plan, which worked well for us. We liked the option of using our MagicBands to go cashless and use our dining plans. We loved the buffets, the dining choices and even the snacks. At Magic Kingdom we ate at Pecos Bills, which had delicious tacos. We also enjoyed breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, where we got to meet Mary Poppins. Every dining experience offered a unique menu and delicious food.
Take it from the rookies
As they say, “Every expert was once a beginner,” and while we are certainly NOT Disney experts, we did learn a few things that I’d share with other rookies.
• Use your FastPasses wisely. We wasted one of ours on the Enchanted Tales with Belle, and we had saved 3 FastPasses for Epcot and didn’t need those.
• There is a new service named MinnieVans, which is like an Uber for Disney parks. Using the Lyft app, you can catch quick rides all throughout Disney.
• Our resort offered complimentary drink mugs and you could get unlimited free drink refills, including fountain drinks, at the hotel. It was awesome and really came in handy.
• The fanny pack was awesome! While it definitely added 10 pounds to all my pictures, it was so worth it.
• We loved the Disney PhotoPass, where we could get our pictures taken at different spots throughout the park and then download them when we got home.
Favorite rancher quotes
In true rancher form, you can take the man off the ranch but you can’t take the ranch out of the man. Brandon and I got some kicks out of some of our quotes from the trip:
“Can you imagine how amazing V8 Ranch could look if we had Disney’s grounds crew!”
“We’re ranchers, we need a steakhouse in our dining plan.”
“My boots would have probably been more comfortable than these tennis shoes.”
“Here I am, wearing my Ingram Angus cap at Disney!”
“18,000 steps…that’s a normal summer day on the ranch for me!”
All in all, we loved our few days at Disney and can’t wait to go back! Since going, we’ve discovered a complete network of fellow Disney fans, making it fun to share stories, experiences and tips. I’ve also become a super Disney nerd, googling every possible question I’ve ever thought of about Disney and I’ve also bought several Disney books. The sheer logistics of how Disney operates at such an impeccable level of perfection amazes me. If you’re a rancher thinking of going to Disney, take our advice and do it!