Disney World vacation – our first long haul family holiday

Holidays, Parenting
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In March we flew to Florida, Orlando, on our first long haul family holiday. Our destination won’t be much of a shocker – Disney World. We’re huge Disney fans, we watch several Disney films a week. If it’s not Take That or the local radio playing, it’s usually Disney. I feel I’m majorly winning after years of nursery rhymes! H is the hugest princess fan, and Rapunzel obsessed. I swear all she’s drawn in the last 6 months has been Rapunzel and her sister, B. B’s not even 2 yet, but absolutely loves Anna. We didn’t even know she knew who she was until we were at Disney. We’d just exited the Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot, and she made a beeline for some Anna dolls. Exclaiming “Anna, it’s Anna” over and over. Until then I didn’t even know she knew who Anna was, never mind liked Anna! So, for us Disney World with a 4 year old and 20 month old was a huge success. A MAJOR success at that. Since we’ve been back H asks every other day if we can go back, or says “mummy I wish we were at Disney.” Yes, it’s expensive, yes, you walk a billion miles, and yes, you’ll have tired kids moaning their feet are sore or want carried. But you will LOVE IT. Seriously, at least for us, it was the happiest place on earth. I’m pretty sure hubby mentions going back every other day too. Each time his timescale gets closer too…. I think October might have been mentioned! Disney was just all consuming, there was no thought of the things going on back home. No thought of hubby’s work. Our only use of our phones was to take photos and check the Disney app. That’s a holiday right there. A holiday from everything.

I’ve put off writing about our Disney holiday because I’ve not known where to start. We had 2.5 weeks of Disney World, and I must say we didn’t do a good job of having any days off. We were far too eager to experience more, experience it all, and just be in that magical place. Before, we start getting bogged down with all the starting school malarkey, settling in days, meetings, last days of preschool, making the most of the school holidays, I want to get something down as a starting place. I have a pile of blogs in draft, but just need to finish them. There just isn’t enough time in the day, and B is just non-stop at the moment.

Disney World: a new happy place

Disney World is immense. A huge area of land with hotels, theme parks, and water parks. We visited Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Hollywood Studios. Typhoon Lagoon was shut at the time. We stayed in 4 different Disney Resort hotels as we booked last minute and couldn’t get one hotel for our entire stay. All Star Movies, All Star Music, Art of Animation and Pop Century. We also stayed briefly off site for 3 nights at the Ramada Gateway in Kissimmee – brilliant for experiencing ‘real America’ and great for visiting the usual American diners such as iHop and Wendys, but the hotel was very dated, and pool noisy. The shuttle also visited most hotels in the area and only departed twice in the morning, and twice to return. The departures were very late for us, given we’d been used to being at the parks before opening. That’s one tip I’d definitely give – be at the parks before opening if you can as they are much much quieter, and you can get so many rides done in that time.

Disney Resorts are easy for families

We’d chose to stay on site next time too and after our stay in Kissimmee we knew we wanted the rest of our stay to be in Disney Resorts so we could take advantage of the ‘Disney Transportation System’, the frequent Resort buses, the ability to had the concierge our luggage and for them to just magic it across to our next hotel while we played at the parks all day. We wanted the convenience of Disney’s shuttle buses to all parks every 15-20 minutes, and it was worth it one hundred times over. The Disney Transportation buses let you be at the parks before opening and also by staying in Disney Resorts you can take advantage of Early Morning Hours and get into the parks an hour early. – note this is only one park a day, not every park every day!

Our favourite hotel was Art of Animation. We were in a Little Mermaid themed room and the styling around the whole hotel was fantastic. Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, Cars…. you have to have a wander around in day time and at night to really see the details that have gone into it. That’s actually a tip for any Disney Resort hotel we stayed at – they all had different blocks and each was styled differently: Jazz, Broadway, 101 Dalmations, … and Pop Century had giant Rubix cubes, Play-doh…. the list goes on, I really can’t write them all, but I did take a lot of photos so I’ll upload them as a slide show for each hotel on YouTube.

The Art of Animation (AoA) Little Mermaid rooms are one room only, however all the rest of the Resort comprises suites. In European holidays we usually favour hotels where we have one or two bedrooms and a lounge, in America, we seriously were barely in the rooms, and often set alarms for earlier than our normal getting up time at home. Perhaps travelling with family or friends a suite would be better, but in our case we were all shattered and it was a job for any of us to stay awake until 9pm. Unless we were watching the fireworks, but even from AoA we could watch the fireworks from our door as the girls slept. Next time we’d potentially stay here or another hotel with a cable car stop, once it opens. On the note of transport the Disney buses were fantastic. Always quick to arrive, and usually you never waited more than 10 minutes. It might be different in summer or holiday time, however, we were there for Spring Break, so it actually was one of the busiest times to visit. I’d thoroughly recommend the Disney Resort buses, as we didn’t have to faff with a car, faff with parking or any parking charges.

Disney is all about planning

When to visit is a minefield, however there are many many many resources online to help you – I’ve compiled a list of all we used a seven though we visited during Spring Break we did choose the weeks when it was predicted to be quieter. We also wanted to avoid UK holidays and therefore the high airfares, but also the hotter temperatures of May, when we weren’t sure how we’d all cope with the heat and walking 13+ miles a day. We did take advantage of Fastpass+, though not 60 days before like other Disney hotel guests, as we hadn’t booked 60 days before. Planning each day was essential, but only plan a few things first thing, early enough that you have lots of time eft to then book extra Fastpasses after you’ve used up your allowed three Fastpass+’s per day.

Rides for everyone, and everything thought of

Disney has this whole theme park malarkey figured right out. From Single rider queues, to Rider Swap, from waiting times on apps, to being able to order your food on your phone and just pick it up, not wait in a queue. Disney adds more and more convenience features all the time. We managed to do most rides without huge waits, and even when we did, there were things to do and see. Dumbo, although we also Fastpassed it, and it was easy to do so, is worth not Fastpassing as they have a whole play area inside, and just like a restaurant you get a bleeper which lights up when it’s your turn to go on Dumbo. The kids do not want to leave that play area!

Ride wise, there were only a few rides which H was too small for in the Magic Kingdom, and at exactly the height requirement for Splash Mountain I was thrilled she got to experience it. She might have cried at the time, but by the time we were getting off she was giggling and smiling desperate to get back on with daddy using Rider Swap. She went on it twice in a row, but next time we went on it was night time and she wasn’t so keen after just experiencing Thunder Mountain twice. The Mad Hatter Tea Party was an absolute favourite. Yes, it’s the teacups ride, but the girls’ faces and squeals were memories I’ll treasure. Hollywood Studios is more about the shows for kids, with Frozen being our absolute favourite – we saw it four times, and I could have seen it every day. I still smile at the thought.

Hubby and I really had a blast too, it wasn’t just about the girls and the tame rides. Rockin’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, Everest and Pandora at Animal Kingdom… we did them all multiple times using Fastpass+ and also Rider Swap. Everest was also a good one for Single Rider queues – often being around 10-15 minutes. Space Mountain, doesn’t have a single rider queue, but once you’re in the queue watch out for the signs and grab a Cast Member – let them know you’re a single rider and you’ll get to jump the queue – it even works in the Fastpass queue!

I know, I’ve just spouted a pile of gobbledegook to many of your reading, however, I’ll pop a post with all the info about these terms up in a day or two. Just take from it, that Disney World works amazingly for parents travelling with kids who are too small for some rides, or who want to ride it with both parents… H rode many a ride with me and then she was straight back down the Fastpass queue with hubby to experience it all again, even Epcot’s super fast Test Track, to my absolute and total utter amazement.

I’ve got a videos after videos to upload too…. and one on my first to do list is how to hack the Fastpass+ system so you can get on the best hardest to get rides, and my top tips for Disney Fastpass. We used these systems and perfected them over 2.5 weeks and the only ride we didn’t get on was the Severn Dwarfs Mine Train – we only booked a few Fastpasses a week before leaving the UK, partly as we discovered the major riders were full. Major fail, but it didn’t stop us, we did figure out how to Fastpass most of them!

I’ve hundreds of videos, I’ve not even watched them all yet, so I will gradually be uploading them to my YouTube, however, I’m also trying to upload our European family holidays and days out in the UK, so it will take me some time…. I don’t even have nap times to work with as they don’t happen often, and if they do, sods law is it’s not a preschool day and so I feel guilty if I don’t spend every second with H. She does put up with so much from B.

My final message – I’m sorry this turned into a ramble, but I hope you understand how much and how many drafts I have sat here on my computer.

My first Disney videos to be uploaded will be:

  • How to hack the Disney Fastpass system – get on any ride the same day
  • Splash Mountain ride at night – almost the whole ride
  • Tower of Terror – almost the whole ride
  • Slinky Dog – Toy Story Land
  • Art of Animation a tour and review -Disney Resort Hotels

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