I went into this trip with a mix of excitement and fear. I thought our kids were too young (3 and 19 months) for a Disney trip but we figured we would at least be in a place where their behaviour wouldn’t be a problem and they wouldn’t have too many limitations or be able to break things. This was our first family vacation and our first flight with both kids. This is the longest the 4 of us have been together without any help, breaks or support – not even kidding. Sure it as a lot of work but it went way better than I had anticipated. I thought I would be desperate to drop them off at daycare this morning but I wasn’t.
Why we stayed on Disney property:
- When Daniela and I went to Disney World for our Honeymoon we impulsively purchased a Disney Vacation Club membership (a timeshare). This has turned out to be a really smart purchase for us. This was our first time actually using the timeshare but we have been able to rent it out each year.
- Disney’s magical express picks you up from the airport and brings you to your resort. It’s easy transportation and they also send you luggage tags so that your checked baggage doesn’t need to be claimed when you land, they just deliver it to your room a few hours later.
- Disney Transportation System brings you to all the resorts and to disney springs. Picks up from the resorts roughly every 20mins. Most busses go directly to where you want to go so it’s the fastest way to get anywhere and drops you off right at the entrance for the most part.
- Not having any moment in the trip that isn’t “Disney” is pretty awesome.
- Park tickets – I purchased tickets for everyday we would have time to go to a park. The cost of an additional day goes down for every day you add on so it seemed worth it. In retrospect I would have gotten 5 days instead of 6 and had one day just to relax at the pool or go to Disney Springs. We could’ve added on an additional day if we wanted to.
- Fast Passes – I booked fast passes for Saturday and Sunday because we had planned to meet up with someone and she booked hers so I just copied. I didn’t do fast passes ahead of time for the other days because I didn’t know what our plans were and I didn’t really know that much about them. I ended up booking most things the night before which worked out just fine.
- Airport Parking – we had a 6am flight and I didn’t love the idea of a cab with no carseats with the kids. We debated a hotel near the airport that offered park and fly but it was more expensive than I had predicted and reading reviews about the shuttles not being dependable stressed me out. I decided to prebook parking right at the airport. It was garage parking so no matter what the weather was upon return our car would be in good shape. The parking garage was connected to the terminal via shuttle train that ran every 7 mins. I found a promo code and I think it was totally worth it.
- Disney World App – I downloaded the app. It’s awesome and you can get all the information related to your time at Disney. You can book fast passes for everyone in your party, book dining reservations, view park maps with current wait times for the attractions. You can access the photo pass photos and you can get recommendations about what is happening near where you are at any moment.
- Disney’s Memory Maker – For $150 you can get unlimited digital access to the photos that are taken on some of the thrill rides as well as from any of the photographers in the park which includes in the general areas as well as at the character meet and greets. I went back and forth about this because it’s a big chunk of money but in the end we decided it was worth it in order to get family photos. It also proved to be worth it because it meant when Dylan was screaming and trying to get away from characters one of us could be with her and the other one of us could go with Carter to meet the character which he wasn’t quite ready to do on his own and we still got some great photos. We ended up with about 150 photos taken on a good quality camera. Totally worth it to me. You also can ask the photographers to take pictures for you with your own camera which is nice but not having to deal with the camera was very nice. They get sent to your phone on the Disney app and you can download them from there or you can access them on your computer.
- Clothes for the week – We stayed in a room with washer and dryer so we didn’t have to over pack. We had exactly the right amount of clothes which was lucky.
- Mickey Shirts – I wanted the kids to partake in disney apparel without the price tags. I purchased them matching Mickey Shirts on sale at Old Navy. They were simple, adorable, and affordable. I ended up finding Mickey Shirts for Daniela and I before we left as well. It was a fun thing for us.
- Camera – We barely used this. We took most photos with our phones and used the Disney Photo Pass/ Memory maker which allowed us to have family photos. The waterproof case we have was great though and fun for the pool but totally not necessary.
- Some food: see food section.
In our Carry-on:
- Snacks – I packed bento box style containers with snacks for the flight to Orlando and then we were able to refill each day for our ventures.
- Carriers – I brought two carriers. I didn’t know what our plans would be and I thought it was better to have one for each kid. In the end, we would’ve been fine with one even though we ended up using both (and at the same time), I don’t think it was necessary.
- Maclaren Twin Triumph – We decided to get a double umbrella stroller for the trip. It folds up easily and is small. It’s side-by-side seating so they could share snacks but they were also able to fight which wasn’t great. Both kids fit comfortably and the seats recline. We hoped they would nap in it but for the most part they did not.
- Two CARES harnesses – We had to get a ticket for Carter obviously so his harness made sense. I borrowed another from a friend in the off chance there was an extra seat available for Dylan and she would miraculously sit still. Neither of these things happened. I’m glad I didn’t spend the money on a seat for her because that would’ve made the trip that much worse.
- iPads – We brought two. One would’ve been fine probably. Dylan doesn’t really care about it yet and she took the attention of both of us at anytime where we would’ve used one. Carter spent the whole flight on his.
What met us at the resort:
- 4 Brita Water bottles – I had read somewhere that the water in Orlando tastes like sulfur. I hate buying bottled water and I would end up drinking anything but I didn’t want the kids or Daniela to not stay hydrated. In the interest of keeping everyone drinking water I purchased these bottles. They improved the taste of water but truthfully, I didn’t think it was all that terrible to begin with. I was glad I purchased these.
- A frilly skirt that a friend sent. Carter owned this as his Princess skirt. He looked adorable with it on.
- Food was supposed to…more on this below
I tried to figure out ways to maximize our stay using our timeshare points and decided we would do a 1 bedroom suite for 4 nights and then move to a studio for the last two nights.
- 1 Bedroom Suite – Included full Kitchen, pullout couch, pull ouch chair, eating area with high chair, Standard bathroom with bathtub/shower, washer dryer, vacuum, king size bed, 2 TVs, Master washroom with Jacuzzi bathtub and giant shower stall.
- Studio – Queen bed and pull out couch, standard bathroom, mini-fridge, microwave, toaster and sink with 1 tv and small table with two chairs.
I think the room we preferred would be obvious. It was incredibly worth it. In splitting the booking I wish I’d done the studio at the start and then moved into the bigger room (especially with getting our groceries so late) but it was fine. It was nice to come without much dirty laundry.
Our room for the first 4 nights had a full kitchen so we intended to do some cooking of basic meals.
- I packed the following: Made Good Granola bars (kids love them and they have a full serving of vegetables), Popcorn kernels, himalayan salt, coconut oil, can of soup. We like popcorn a lot but don’t like microwave popcorn so we brought everything to make it on the stovetop. This was a REALLY good idea. It was easy to pack in our snacks for the day and was a nice snack at night.
- I had planned to order from Garden Grocer but my mom generously gifted us an amazon giftcard so I decided to try ordering from Amazon Prime Pantry. I spent way too much time looking through options and putting together and order that gave us meals for 4 nights, breakfasts, snacks and diapers. I set up delivery so it would arrive the day before we did so that it would meet us there with no delay. When we arrived it was not there. When I checked tracking, it indicated that it was delayed and would arrive 4 days late. after a terrible flight with a cranky toddler I called Amazon’s costumer service and wasn’t the nicest person. The person on the other end was incredibly nice though. She looked into it and contacted UPS who apparently did not know where the package was. It was just missing. She said they could send it out again but it would take a minimum of 4 days to get there because Prime Pantry must go through ground delivery. This didn’t make sense for us so I said no. They refunded me and gave me an additional $20 credit which was nice.
- In a pinch I picked up pretzels, a box of pasta, soy milk, cereal, crackers, peanut butter, jelly and bread from the resort store. Not cheap but not ridiculous and at least gave us some staples.
- I re-looked at Garden Grocer to find they have a 48 hour requirement for delivery but the next day I just went for it and ordered from them. Bonus for them is that you can order beer and produce. Ordered some beer, sauce, lentil soup, fruit, yogurt for the kids, almond milk, more crackers, bagels and muffins. This was an unfortunately carb heavy trip. Garden Grocer was awesome. They delivered the food and bell services refrigerated what needed to be until we were able to grab it.
- Restaurants – We don’t eat meat (aside from some fish) and don’t consume dairy for the most part. We are pretty much loose vegans who eat fish and eggs. We don’t check every ingredient but we don’t get anything that obviously has dairy products in it. This obviously resulted in some added limitations for dining.
- Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom – Our first day there we stopped here for an early dinner. When we told them we don’t eat meat they gave us some extra menu items that had tofu which was awesome. We got sweet and sour tofu and the Tuna Nachos. It was fantastic. It was a meal I’d go back for.
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe in Magic Kingdom – Veggie burrito for us which was the only option without meat (requested the fajitas without meat and they told me they couldn’t do this for some reason). Kids got a cheese quesadilla that came with carrots, grapes and milk. Toppings bar was awesome and meant we could have a ton of guac, peppers and different salsas.
- Boma – Buffet restaurant in Jambo House at the Animal Kingdom Villas which was just a short walk from where we were staying at Kidani Village. We went for breakfast. There were many vegetarian options and I think if we had requested vegan options they would have made them available. The coffee was good.
The quinoa breakfast was tasty. It was nice to have some fresh fruit and salad. If I went back I wouldn’t do it for breakfast but it was an okay meal and filled us up before our groceries arrived.
- Tangierine Cafe in Epcot – Falafel Platter. I heard mixed reviews but our experience was great. Falafels weren’t dry and had a lot of flavour. Platter was piled high with hummus and salads and a ton of olives. Pita left something to be desired but that’s not what I was there for really.
- Citrus Garden Delivery – My online searches prior to disney made me think that getting take-out delivered to a resort was pretty much impossible. I had friends coming to do dinner with us one night and thought it would be more enjoyable if we ate at the room and the kids could relax, watch tv and then go to bed while we got to catch up. Room service looked unappealing. Ordering from the restaurant in the hotel seemed really pricy. I decided to ask at the front desk if there was anywhere we could order Chinese food from and they offered me a menu of an off-site restaurant. It was inexpensive, quick delivery, and decent. Had I known this was an option earlier in the trip I may have ordered another dinner in and looked at other options.
- Mr. Kamals Vegetarian Cart in Animal Kingdom – We brought enough food for lunch but wanted a little something more so we got some falafels, hummus platter, and veggie samosas from the cart. They were small snack size portions but were pretty tasty and not too expensive.
- SciFi Drive-in at Hollywood Studios – We had planned to see the fireworks at Hollywood Studios on our last night and we decided we would try to do a sit down dinner as well. I looked at our options and went with the SciFi drive-in because i thought the running movies would be decent entertainment for antsy kids and their menu had a few veggie options. Daniela got the grilled salmon salad which was pretty awesome and I got the veggie burger which was also really good although I wish I’d gotten the cucumber salad instead of sweet potato fries which were more sweet than salty. Kids shared the Grilled salmon kid’s meal which was served with green beans and israeli couscous, apple slices and milk. Overall it was good food but the seating wasn’t ideal and I wish I’d looked into more because there is the option of sitting in bench seats in a Car which is two across or at tables. The novelty of the bench seat was cool but not being able to see each other or chat wasn’t.
Things that were awesome:
- MagicBands – Disney is now using these for everything. They open hotel room doors, they are your admission to the park, they are your fast pass, you can buy food and other items on them from the resort stores and they use them to pull up your info if necessary at the front desk. They were fun and easy.
- The animals outside our hotel – I knew they were around the hotel but I had no clue that they would be so close. Honestly, Daniela packed her binoculars so she could see them…she barely needed her glasses. They weren’t there all the time obviously but they would eat right outside and we loved seeing them.
- The resort pool – we could’ve happily spent a lot more time at the pool but our days were over booked. There was an awesome big water slide, a small water slide and then a full water playground. There were 2 hot tubs and one lagoon style pool that was relatively shallow. There were towels available right at the pool as well as life jackets for the kids. It was never crowded at all and the water was warm.
- Fast passes for character meet and greets – Carter was really interested in the characters but hesitant. He wanted to meet them but didn’t want to get too close at first. Not having to wait in line and being able to go see them each day made things easier for him. He wanted to see Mickey 4 times!
- The performances and parades – They were happening everywhere. You didn’t even really have to plan to see them you could just stumble upon them. It was fun for the kids, required no wait (though we did wait for the parade one day). The kids loved dancing at animal kingdom and they loved seeing the acrobats at Epcot.
- The Community Hall at the resort – Open from 9am-10pm they had all sorts of craft projects. Some were free and some were a nominal fee. They had toys and blocks and a pool table and fooseball table. The also had a TV playing disney junior and another set up for xbox or wii though no one was ever using them when we were around. We could’ve spent a lot more time in here.
Things I’m sad we missed:
- Fireworks – We didn’t see any. We didn’t really plan to see them because we tried to do meals at the hotel. We planned to see them on the final night but Carter asked to go back to the hotel and it was all for the best. We were all exhausted. Kids fell asleep earlier than most nights and it gave us a chance to pack up but I’m sad we missed them.
- Rides – We missed a lot of rides at magic kingdom where there were the most rides. I only went on one ride without the kids (Daniela got on a few).
- Evening entertainment at the resort – By the time we got back to the resort each night there was only time to eat dinner and then get ready for bed. It would’ve been fun to watch a movie outside, or participate in the sing alongs.
Things I would’ve done differently:
- Booked a longer trip – we only had 5 full days there. Sure it was a decent length of vacation but there is so much to do and we didn’t get around to a lot of it.
- Skipped Hollywood Studios and maybe even Epcot – While I like these parks there was much for the kids and ended up not feeling all that worth it. If the trip was longer I would still include Epcot but if not I would just do Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.
- Another alternative to skipping those parks would have been to get park-hopper tickets instead of single park tickets. This would’ve let us go to epcot for a little while and then head over to magic kingdom or vice versa. It would’ve given a little more flexibility and we could have gone for evening activities at other parks after animal kingdom shut down for the day.
- Already stated, but I would order from Garden grocer and I would purchase way more produce. Even Dylan ate 4 bowls of salad when we got home last night. We missed a high veggie diet.
- Booked a later flight on the way there – We had a 6am flight to Florida. This meant we had to wake the kids up before 4am. They didn’t get back to sleep at all and they didn’t have a chance to move around at all before the flight. They were a terrible combination of antsy and exhausted. Dylan was extremely difficult on the way there. It wasn’t fair to anyone.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and I already feel desperate to go back. I thought the kids were too young, but they weren’t. Most of our issues were a result of planning that I could’ve done better (and will next time).