Since I'm pretty exhausted still and have a birthday party to plan for Sunday, I'll keep it brief. Here are a few things I learned about planning your trip for Disney and a few things that worked and didn't work for us.
FOOD (first because food is very important to me.)
- Book your reservations way in advance!! I don't know what I was thinking, but I had thought that since there were SO many places to eat in Disney and we weren't that picky, we would surely be able to find food when we were hungry. LIES. You need reservations for any time you want to sit down and enjoy a meal with a waiter/waitress.
- Our favorite meals:
- The Disney Jr. Character breakfast at Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios. We LUCKED out that we were able to get this reservation only two days early (the day I decided I may need to make some reservations). Don't expect great food, but Jacob had a BLAST. It was a perfect start to our vacation.
- Fulton's Crab House in Downtown Disney. AHHH, I've never been happier to have a well behaving child. The food was delish, the service was amazing and the ambiance was EXACTLY what Pete and I needed after being surrounded by screaming children and eating over priced buffet food themed for kids. I was SO proud of Jacob- he was an angel this night at dinner! We enjoyed every minute of it.
- Room Service. We wanted to go back to Magic Kingdom late night on our last night there, so we opted to order room service to be delivered to our room right after some pool time. This little break was just what we needed to gear up for the madness that was Magic Kingdom at 9pm! If we would've had a little more time, we would've eaten it by the pool. That would've been extra great! Make sure you have an easy dinner one night. I think it really saved our sanity.
- Restaurants to skip:
- T-Rex Cafe: DO NOT GO HERE. You pay about $30+ an entree for Applebee's quality food. It's kind of a rip off of Rainforest Cafe and Jacob was miserable. I'm sure that definitely affected our experience. I'm convinced kids respond to their environment (seeing that he was golden at Fulton's), and the loud, hectic ambiance of this restaurant, combined with how tired Jacob was from traveling, resulted in a very whiny, miserable little boy. And my food was gross. I hate spending $30 on a gross main course.
- We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Downtown Disney. The price was great, the staff was awesome and restaurant was really good too! The pool was perfect (and quiet!), transportation to/from the parks was reliable and super frequent, and the room was really spacious. I had heard a lot of negative comments on staying at a non-Disney hotel, but I was super happy with our pick (though I definitely wouldn't stay at a hotel NOT on Disney property; Holiday Inn Downtown Disney IS on Disney property). The shuttles run exactly like the shuttles to/from all of the resorts. They give you a little card with all the pick up/drop off times and locations for all the parks when you check in, along with some Disney guides. Our room key was even Monster's Inc.! It's located very close to Pop Century, so the only things you're missing out on are the overly priced, cheesy, outdated rooms and Disney brand overload (though there is a Disney store in the hotel, so it does still feel like you have access to the Disney stuff). It was perfect for us. We'll stay at a Disney resort when we can afford the Grand Floridian. If you want a step up from The Holiday Inn, but similar experience, I'd suggest the Hilton next door.
- You don't need to rent a car if you're staying at a non-Disney hotel on Disney property, but you will need to be prepared to spend about $50 on cab fares to and from the airport. We also had to get a cab to Hollywood Studios since we had an 8:15 breakfast reservation and the shuttle didn't start running until 8am. If I would've made reservations earlier and gotten a later breakfast time, this wouldn't have been a problem!
- I didn't know that Fast Passes would go so quickly. By the time we got out of the Disney Jr. breakfast and Disney Jr. Live show around 10am, the fast passes for the Toy Story Ride in Hollywood Studios were already distributed. We waited in a 70 minute line with a tired 3 year old. The other days, we planned out what we wanted to do as soon as we got there and went and got Fast Passes for the things we thought we'd need them for. Thank God we didn't have to wait in another line like that!! I couldn't have done it.
- Getting to Magic Kingdom was a pain. It took an hour- a shuttle ride and a monorail ride.
- There are 2 boys costumes in the ENTIRE Disney World empire (confirmed by several staff members!)- a pirate costume and a $50 Buzz Lightyear costume. Buy costumes before you go if your boy is anything like ours.
- Rent a stroller if you don't bring your own. We rented the last two days and wish we would've on the first. It really helped!!! Next time though, I think we'll just bring our own. Those rented strollers aren't very comfortable or conducive to napping!
- Bring a first aid kit. Jacob got stung by a bee while at the shuttle stop (pretty far away from the actual park) and we had nothing to help him since we had just finished our water and threw it out as we left.
- Speaking of water, refill your bottles. Looking back on it, we bought way too many. We should've just refilled at the water fountains.
- The Starbucks in Epcot- AMAZING. Super fast, efficient and they have everything you need for breakfast (as opposed to sitting down for a super expensive buffet breakfast). It was like seeing a lake in the middle of the desert.
- Jacob's favorite attraction was everything at Nemo & Friends in Epcot. He LOVED it! There's so much to do, it's all inside (YAY AC!!!), and you can spend an entire morning in one spot. We almost didn't go to Epcot since most said there wasn't a whole lot for kids, but this was definitely worth it.
Overall, we had a really great time. I wish we would've had one more day since he was tired and we decided to skip Animal Kingdom last minute in order to be able to go back to Magic Kingdom our last night there. Four days in the parks would've been perfect. I had NO idea how to plan this/what to expect since I had only been to Disney one time ten years ago, but with some research and some learn as you go, it's definitely doable. Jacob will be four next week and I think it was the perfect time to take him, but I'm not so sure it would've been as fun if he were younger. I'm sure it depends on the child, but for us, it was the perfect time and a really amazing experience!!
Here are a few (ok, a lot) shots...
....So much for brevity...