Astute readers might have noticed a lack of freshness in the last week and a half worth of posts. Probably because I wrote them all last Sunday in a binge of blog writing efficiency. I’ve been at Disney World since Tuesday–just got back last night. The trip was a bunch of fun and very relaxing (in a hectic way), but I made a conscious decision before I left that it really would be a vacation–no writing, no blogging, no emails (for the most part), very little social media. I didn’t spend all that money on a Disney vacation so I could go down and do everything I normally do every day.
I was successful in my goal, but I’m also very behind on a whole slew of projects now. So forgive me if I’m a bit scattered the next while. (And did I mention it’s Halloween–today!?!)
However, I wanted to take a bit of time and report on how the Disney vacation went, in case anyone out there’s planning something similar in the not too distant future. (I wrote all about the planning process back when that happened, too.) Three kids–9, 5, and 6 months–and two parents, six days of parks, one rest day, two days of travel . . . Any which way you sliced it, it was going to be an adventure. Here’s the rundown:
We stayed at the Pop Century resort. This was my first time staying on-site at Disney, and it was a different experience than I’d pictured. First up, somehow I’d always imagined the resorts being like hotels. The rooms are like hotels, yes–but the resorts themselves are BIG. Lots of walking involved. Going down to “the lobby” meant a ten minute walk. There were three pools across the property, but I just hadn’t taken into account how spread out everything would be. That’s not a bad thing–just something that I wasn’t expecting. The resort itself was very nice, despite being on the low end of the budget scale. The rooms were cleaned everyday like clockwork, the staff were all super nice, and there were tons of things to do. Pools, arcades, outdoor movies, playgrounds, parties–it really felt like there was something you could do whenever you wanted to do it. The room itself was snug (especially when you added a crib), but you’re not there to lounge in the room. You’re there to go out and have fun. So I found it more than adequate. I’d definitely consider staying there again.
We didn’t get a car. Disney picked us up from the airport, and we took Disney buses everywhere. It was smooth as silk, really. We never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus. They got crowded at times, but it was definitely worth not paying for a rental car. Denisa was always offered a seat, since she had MC in her arms at all times. People were kind and understanding. The downside was that we were locked into Disney. No going for groceries. No Harry Potter Land at Universal. But again, it was easy and cheap–and that won out with out budget.
We were on the Disney Dining Plan, which we got for free. I’d read up about it ahead of time, but it didn’t prepare me for the chaos that was the food court of a Disney resort. We got there the first night and were just overwhelmed with choices. It took finding a manager and having a 5 minute chat to figure out what in the world we were supposed to do. That said, once we had it down, it was very easy. I think the biggest part of the problem is probably that Denisa and I are used to clearly defined rules. The Dining Plan seems a lot looser than that. What can count as a snack or a dessert or a drink–it’s all very freewheeling, and it took a while to understand that and just go with the flow.
But the food itself was good, with a few complaints. First up: breakfast. There just was no option that I liked for breakfast. Whenever we got that meal, I felt like I was using my dining plan poorly. In the future, I think I’ll bring some bagels or cereal or granola to munch on until I eat an early lunch and a late dinner. There’s only so many times I can do pancakes/waffles/eggs/sausage. I’m not a breakfast guy. Second was the kid options. The adult meals had tons of variety. The kids had the same choices, time after time. Grapes. Carrots. Apples. Cookie. Sandwich. Snoozeville. DC was not impressed, and stopped eating. (A daughter after her mother’s heart.) Mix it up a bit, Disney!
That said, I clearly enjoyed the food. I gained 7 pounds. (Sigh) And now I know more about how it works, so next time will be even better. 🙂 I’d say the Dining Plan was definitely worth it–mainly because it was free. It avoided tons of hassle, let us explore new restaurants, and made life much much easier. I’ll try to get it next time, too. (Ideally for free, though.) I’d say the food we consumed would likely have cost $1000 out of pocket if we’d paid for everything, but I want to look at that number a bit more carefully to see how accurate it is.
Great, as always. We had perfect weather. Low 80s each day. Just hot enough to make you want to go on a few water rides to cool off. We brought ponchos, but we never saw a drip of rain. (A slight misting one day for about 15 minutes, but who’s counting?) The crowds were heavy in EPCOT and Magic Kingdom, but sparse at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. October really seems like it’s a perfect time to come. The Food & Wine festival at EPCOT was tons of fun–got to eats lots of different food from across the globe. I also took the kids over to DisneyQuest on our down day, and they loved that. All the arcade games you can play. (It helped that the entry fee was included in our package.) Really, the kids seemed to be in nirvana the whole time.
New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom was nice, but still very incomplete. The main ride (a Snow White coaster) occupies the middle of the whole thing, and it’s very much under construction, so it was hard for it to feel cohesive.
The Magic Bands were super. Little rubber bracelets you wear–they had your whole ticket attached to them. They were our room key, credit card, park tickets, meal vouchers–everything. And PIN codes are attached, so it’s not like someone could just swipe mine and use it to charge up a storm. I didn’t think they’d be that useful, but they were. Big thumbs up here.
I used RideMax again, and I’m glad I did–even with the smaller crowds. The longest line I waited on was about 10 minutes. It takes a bit of knowhow and some finesse, but it really streamlines the Disney experience. We went on all the rides we wanted to, most of them multiple times.
Would I Do It Again?
You bet. I love me some Disney World. It’s the vacation I went on the most as a kid, and I love being able to do it with my own children. It’s expensive, yes–so it’s nothing I’ll be doing for the next few years–but I love how each time we go with the kids, it’s a different experience. DC went on all the rides, as did TRC. (Well, DC didn’t go on Dinosaur–TRC had warned her of that one. But they both came with me on Tower of Terror, though I think DC about had a heart attack, and didn’t want to go on it again. The girl’s fearless, though. We went on Space Mountain–her first coaster. When I asked her what she thought after, she said, “I prayed.” Then I asked her if she wanted to go again, and her face lit right up. No hesitation there!) Last time we went, our kids were much smaller, and so what we did and didn’t do changed. Next time, it’ll be different again. I love watching my kids grow through the same rides I grew through, if that makes sense.
(That said, I’m definitely starting to feel older. My back and feet just killed at the end of each day. The things I’ll put up with to make sure my kids have a great time . . . )
Great to have another Disney Vacation in the record books, with a slew of great memories and pictures to look back on later.