girl’s trip, disney world in may

Late last year, my fellow Disney-loving friend asked if we could do a girls trip to Orlando for her 30th birthday in May. We both love planning Disney trips (uh, hello) and wanted an excuse to buy Annual Passes for 2019, so we booked it in January and began thinking of allllll the girly things we could do. 

hammock on beach at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

After my original all-day (but cheap) flight to Orlando got cancelled, I found a new (and cheaper!) nonstop flight that would get me Orlando a few hours before Bailey. Our room was ready when I got there but my suitcase would take a while, so I decided to head to the parks by myself for a little bit. I walked around Magic Kingdom, took some pictures, rode Space Mountain as a single rider, grabbed the bus to Hollywood Studios, and did my two FastPasses for Rock ‘N’ Roller coaster and Tower of Terror (rides Bailey didn’t want to do this trip). I shuttled back over to our hotel to find my suitcase had arrived… as well as a gigantic Mickey balloon and vegan snacks sent by Bailey’s husband haha. I decorated the room for our little celebration, and once Bailey got there, we changed for dinner and grabbed the bus back to Magic Kingdom. 

New Disney Skyliner air gondolas testing in the sky beside Hollywood Studios

We made a 9:25 dinner reservation at California Grill on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort, so we walked over from the Magic Kingdom bus stop a few minutes before 9:00. We walked through to the observatory deck just in time to get a spot at the very end where we could watch the castle fireworks show from above. It was so impressive to watch the show from afar, and they sync up the music on the deck so that you still get the full experience. When the show was over, our table was ready. They seated us by the window and brought out a birthday dessert for Bailey, which was the start of a never-ending series of over-the-top yet wonderful birthday gestures bestowed upon Bailey during the next four days. It really was ridiculous and we loved every. minute. of. it. 

For our first day in the parks, we headed to Hollywood Studios for STAR TOURS FastPass. We split a Mickey pretzel for lunch and walked over to Toy Story Land for another FastPass. We couldn’t get one for Slinky Dog Dash, but we went to ride Alien Swirling Saucers. On our way out, Bailey recognized a Cast Members from Instagram, so we went to say hello and struck up a conversation about our plans for the day.

Jess Pendergrass and Bailey Edwards selfie in Minnie ears

We stopped back by the front entrance so Bailey could upgrade her current ticket to an Annual Pass and stopped for drinks before our show. I had never been to the Frozen Sing-A-Long and laughed when Bailey said we should go… but dammit if I didn’t love every second of it and yelled LET IT GOOOO with a hundred little kids and a few other fun adults. It might be one of my new favorite “rides.” When we went back to Toy Story Land, we were escorted to the FastPass line for Slinky Dog Dash as a “birthday VIP.” Having never been able to get a FastPass for it and not being willing to wait three hours in standby, I’d never ridden it before and was surprised to find it way more of a thrill than I thought.

Jess Pendergrass and Bailey Edwards riding Slink Dog Dash with arms up

We said goodbye to our friend and grabbed some food from Woody’s Lunchbox before stopping by the Jedi training area to watch the cutest kids show anyone has ever seen. The smallest girl on stage took things SO seriously and wielded her gigantic lightsaber like a cute Kindergarten Yoda. She was getting huge cheers from the crowd (including us), and at one point, I said to Bailey, “whose child is that?!” A woman a few people down heard me and said, “she’s hers!” and pointed to her mom. After the show, we walked over to the mom and said she was clearly doing something right. In a place full of princesses, this little girl is obsessed with Star Wars and being a Jedi. There is hope for the future. 

Pink Pop Tart from Woody's Lunchbox in Toy Story Land Disney

We bussed over to Animal Kingdom for the afternoon and opted to sit in the AC for The Lion King show. We had a FastPass for Expedition Everest and after we got off, we noticed there was no one in the single rider line and decided to go again. After grabbing dinner at the Nomad Lounge bar, we rode Everest as single riders one last time (the single rider line was three minutes long) and walked over to see Pandora at night for Bailey. The park was closing soon, so we decided to see what the wait was for Flight of Passage. We waited it out and I cried at how beautiful it is (again) as we walked out of the park and to the bus. 

Disney Pandora waterfall

Since the Flower and Garden Festival was happening, we planned one whole day for walking around Epcot – the hottest day, of course. We decided to sleep in just a little and grab brunch at the Grand Floridian Cafe before we went, which ended with us eating salads, salmon, soup, and a free birthday cupcake around 10:00 a.m.

Bailey with her birthday cupcake at Grand Floridian Cafe

We took the monorail over to Epcot and started with a beer and margarita from Mexico, as one does. We grabbed a seat on the searing hot pavement for the Coco show, which was wonderful in so many mariachi ways and well worth the burned butt cheeks.

Jess Pendergrass and Bailey Edwards outside Mexico at Disney's EPCOT
Bailey with the Tres Caballeros topiary for the Flower and Garden Festival at Disney's EPCOT

Next, we walked through China and around to France, where I found a frozen orange slushie made with vodka and orange Grand Mariner and declared it the most delicious drink I have ever consumed. Then we went to Japan for the sushi made of fruit (“frushi”) and Italy for whatever was on the festival cart.

Frozen orange slush cocktail drink at Disney's EPCOT
Bailey Edwards and Jess Pendergrass mirror selfie at Disney World EPCOT
Fried eggplant and noodles from Italy at Disney's EPCOT

We went back to the orange slush cart one or two (or three?) more times, got some free champagne in Morocco, rode Bailey’s favorite ride – Gran Fiesta Tour, practiced speaking different languages,  caught some of the fireworks show as we walked to Soarin’, and ended the day with my first ride on Frozen (it is so ridiculously fun). Once we got back to the hotel, we grabbed some food from the resort restaurant, walked it back to our room, and ate on our beds in exhausted and happy silence. It was wonderful haha. 

The next morning, we headed to Magic Kingdom a bit late (I blame the orange slushies). We had three early FastPasses all back-to-back, so we had to jog for our first FastPass before jogging to the nearest place we could find food at. The gigantic cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern saved a life or two and then we knocked out our second FastPass for Seven Dwarfs. We didn’t have much time to stop as we went over to Mad Tea Party, something I was really excited about since I hadn’t ridden it since middle school. The heat was getting the best of us, so we found an ice cream cart and walked beside the street party parade on the way to the bus area. 

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Instead of going back to our hotel, we decided to visit some other resorts and caught the bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. We walked outside to see the animals just chilling mere yards from the hotel doors before heading over to the bar. As we sat there, we made a last minute reservation for Satu’li Canteen that was next door because we were starving and needed “a little snack.” We ordered their Indian bread service and ate ALL of it without looking back. Then there was another free birthday dessert, of course. 

Jess Pendergrass riding the teacups on the Mad Tea Party ride, Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Next we went to the Polynesian Resort, where we were greeted with leis and found more fun drinks at a bar upstairs. We took them out to the pool and beach area and walked around exploring the hotel for a while before our dinner reservation at O’hana, trying to regain our appetites. After neither of us could finish our dinners, there was another free birthday cupcake we had to eat out of politeness haha. Bursting at the seams, we made our way back to Magic Kingdom for a few more evening rides and meeting Ariel (another thing I haven’t done since I was a kid and I enjoyed too much). 

Pina CoLAVA at Disney's Polynesian Resort

Our flights didn’t leave until late Monday evening, so we packed up and dropped our bags off before heading back to Animal Kingdom again. We had a FastPass for Flight of Passage this time (still cried) and decided to ride Everest again… four more times haha! We had a few more drinks and used a free ice cream voucher a Cast Member had given to Bailey a couple days before for one last Mickey-shaped snack. 

Expedition Everest Mountain from afar, Animal Kingdom, Disney World
Himalayan Explorer frozen margarita at Animal Kingdom Disney World

One fun last thing to cap off the level of magic this trip held: a few minutes before my airport shuttle was set to leave, we spotted Jade and Matt Billington, who I follow online. We stopped and spoke with them for a few minutes and they invited us to lunch (they are the sweetest ever!), but I had to jump on my shuttle and catch a flight back to Charlotte. It seriously felt like our trip was lucky end-to-end. 

I’m so glad the Disney Magic was in full effect in honor of my girl turning 30. I expected to have fun but it was so effortlessly perfect, but it was a really special trip. Even though we’ve seen each other with friends or our husbands, this was the first extended time we’ve had one on one since college and it was so fun. Getting time to catch up with each other was just what the doctor ordered we’ll definitely be back before Bailey’s next turn around the sun. Happy birthday to my favorite princess! 

Jess Pendergrass and Bailey Edwards outside the Pandora waterfall at Disney World