Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our Disney Experience

When we started planning our Great Summer Road Trip, we knew that we had to make Disney World part of it. We felt that we couldn't drive all the way to Florida and not do the whole Disney thing. 

I went to Disneyland once when I was about 10 years old. We had taken Bug and Monkey to Disneyland when they were much littler (5 and 1 years old); neither of them really remembered it.

However, when I started planning the few days we planned to stay at Disney World, I also started having some mixed feelings.

First of all, it's expensive. Like really, really expensive. We calculated that our three nights, two and a half days at the Disney Resorts cost us more than the other 7 days of our trip combined.

Second, it was so overwhelming. Between park admissions with options for Hopper passes, and deciding which hotel to stay at, to deciding whether or not to purchase a meal plan, and scheduling FastPasses, it was absolutely the more stressful part of  planning our road trip.

Also, I worried about if my kids would actually like it. I worried that Bug was too old to be interested in any Disney related. I worried that Duck was too young to enjoy anything.

Initially, I had planned on staying at one of the more affordable Disney Resort hotels, such as the Pop Century or the All Star Movies Resort. But some friends who regularly visit Disney World recommended that we stay at a hotel along the Monorail course. They promised it would make transportation to the parks much easier, and would be worth the extra cost.

So I took a deep breath and made our reservation for the Polynesian Village Resort.

Let me just cut to the main point.  

We loved it. We loved everything about our time in Disney World. We would do it again. 

Here's what we loved (and Disney isn't paying me anything to say this - although I really wish they were):

We loved the Polynesian. Attention is paid to every detail so it felt like we were at a gorgeous hotel on a tropical island.  The hotel is just across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom, so we could get to the park either by Monorail or by boat, both of which only took a few minutes. The pool, with it's volcano waterslide, was perfect. There was a small beach where they did campfires with s'mores in the evening. At night, they set up an outdoor screen and showed movies.  

My favorite memory may be sitting on beach chairs with my boys, watching Lilo and Stich outside. They paused the movie so we would watch the firework show at the Magic Kingdom, which we could see perfectly from the beach.

There was some construction going on at the Polynesian. We knew this when we booked our hotel. There was some extra noise associated with this (all in the day time) and some paths were closed, making it a little inconvenient to get to the on site laundry facilities. But absolutely no other complaints.

We loved the restaurants. We did breakfast at the Ohana Buffet one day, complete with visits from Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Goofy. The next day, we breakfasted at the Kona Cafe. The Tonga Toast, the enormous creation of deep fried, cinnamon sugared coated French toast stuffed with bananas, was amazing. Also, they were amazing about Duck's need for gluten free food. Each place we ate, they asked about food allergies. When we mentioned being gluten free, the chef would come and talk to us about options. They provided Duck with gluten free waffles that were delicious.

We loved the Monorail; I couldn't believe how quickly we were able to get from our hotel to the park. The ease of transportation allowed one of us to take Duck back to the hotel for his afternoon nap and   Our first day was cut short by a torrential rainstorm that caused most the rides to close down. Even our ponchos were little use against the downpour. We took our dissappointed children back to the hotel and changed everyone out of their soaked clothes, putting on pajamas at 4 pm. The rain stopped late in the evening. So at 9 pm, we headed back to the park and stayed until almost closing, enjoying going on all the rides in our pajamas. If we had had a 30-40 minute bus ride from one of the other hotels, this wouldn't have been possible.

We loved the Magic Bands. This is something new that Disney has started doing. These personalized wrist bands act as park admission tickets, FassPass access, and hotel door keys. My boys absolutely loved holding their bands up to the scanners on our FassPass rides, watching the scanners turn green, and then running on. We were also able to set it up so that Hubster and I could use our Magic Bands for purchasing items. This allowed us to buy food and souveniers in the parks, while leaving our wallets safely behind in our hotel room. 

We loved all the people who worked at Disney (or the "cast members" as Disney calls them.) They are paid to be nice to you, and they are. From housekeeping to waiters to ride attendants, everyone was just lovely.

We loved the parks themselves. We decided to visit Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom has all the rides I remember as a child and was incredibly nostalgic. And all three of my boys loved the rides. Duck loved It's a Small World and Peter Pan and Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but mostly the Carousel. Bug loved the Buzz Lightyear ride. Monkey surprised us all with his adventurous side and loved all the roller coasters, especially Space Mountain. 

Animal Kingdom was completely new for us. We like that it was less crowded and smaller than the Magic Kingdom, allowing us to do everything in less time. We loved the train and the safari rides and all the animals. 

Things I would have done differently:

I probably would have bought a meal plan. We ended up spending almost the same amount of money on food anyways, and we would have got the endless refillable drinks in the parks. Because with the heat and the running around, my boys were constantly thirsty.

I would have booked earlier. We booked a few weeks out and trying to make meal reservations was difficult. At the Polynesia, the only dinner reservation times left were after 8 pm. So we ended up not doing any dinners at restaurants at our hotel.

I would try to go during a less popular time. Especially at the Magic Kingdom, it was packed. We anticipated this and dealt with it just fine. But it would be nice to go again when it wasn't peak visiting season.

Overall, I feel like I can't say it enough: We loved our time at Disney. All my concerns that it was too touristy, too cliched, just too much, all those concerns amounted to nothing, because those couple days were some of my boys' favorite days of our entire trip. 

Mostly, I love the memories we made. From movies on the beach to nighttime roller coaster rides in our pajamas to the expressions on my children's faces.  This may have been the most expensive portion of our summer road trip, but those memories are priceless.


  1. I'm so glad you had a great experience! I think it's almost impossible to have a bad experience at Disney unless you go in with a bad attitude.

    And I love that you went back in your pajamas! What a cool idea!

    1. I agree. Even with my hesitation, it was impossible to not love it there.

  2. Wow - it sounds like an amazing trip and experience! I, too, love the "pajamas at the park" ... how fun! And the movies on the beach sounds soooo fun! I remember being outside at night as a kid ... some of my favorite memories! This will be trip your boys will remember forever (well, maybe not Duck!).. :o)

    1. The pajamas at the park was the one of the best parts! And Duck might not remember, but that just gives me a good reason to go again!

    2. That is a fact! And now that you know the good and not-so-good things to do, your next trip to Disney will be that much easier and better! And no need to worry about Bug being "too old" the next time, everyone is a kid at Disney! :o)