12/16/16 – 12/24/16 Trip Report – Better Late Than Never!

I love reading trip reports and was planning on writing one for our December 2016 trip, but of course life gets in the way and that never happened … until now! I noticed that a lot of people are planning their December vacations now, so I thought a Christmas trip report might still be interesting, even if it is coming a little late.

Here are the basics:
Who: My husband and I and our three kiddos DS6, DS4, and DD2
What: A Disney Christmas! My husband and I have been to WDW various times over the years, but our first visit to WDW with the kids prior to this was in September-October 2015; we stayed offsite with another family and had a blast but wanted the onsite experience this time around
When: 12/16/16 – 12/24/16
Where: Walt Disney World, of course! More specifically, we stayed at the Grand Floridian with free dining

Since this trip report is rather belated, I probably won’t be able to come up with the minute details of everything, so it will be more overall impressions and suggestions for traveling with kids (and husbands that are maybe a little less Disney-enthused … haha!).

Here is the day-by-day breakdown of our itinerary including where we ate (in case you want to skip ahead to what is most interesting to you):
Day 1 – 12/16/16: travel day, arrival to St. Petersburg
Day 2 – 12/17/16: Clearwater Beach and arrival to the GF, dinner at ‘Ohana
Day 3 – 12/18/16: Brunch at 1900 Park Fare, MVMCP
Day 4 – HS, lunch at Mama Melrose’s
Day 5 – AK, breakfast at Tusker House and dinner at Victoria and Albert’s
Day 6 – MK, breakfast at Crystal Palace
Day 7 – Epcot, lunch at Coral Reef and dinner at Biergarten
Day 8 – MK and HS, breakfast at CRT and dinner at BOG

I loooove planning trips … and I think all the intense planning is probably a big reason I love Disney trips so much. :slight_smile: Here is a quick list of sites/blogs that I used and referenced while getting prepared for this trip:
touringplans.com (definitely the best – and I’m not just saying this because this is the touringplans forum. It just is.) I need to give a special shout out to the touringplans reservation finder – Best. Thing. Ever.
mydisneyexperience.com (duh)

DAY 1 – 12/16/16
Travel day! Not much to report here – just happy to be leaving snowy, sleety Iowa for lovely Florida! Because of said sleet our flight out of Cedar Rapids was delayed, but the kids took it in stride and did great with the delay. We opted for a direct flight even though that meant arriving in St. Petersburg rather than Orlando and had no regrets – we thought we might want to have a car anyway and are really glad we went this route (I’ll talk more about renting a car vs. Disney transportation later). As a side note, these are the booster seats we use while traveling for our two oldest, and they’re great – compressible and easy to inflate when we need them. https://www.amazon.com/BubbleBum-Travel-Booster-Seat-Black/dp/B00AQYZCXK/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1501766221&sr=8-2&keywords=bubble%2Bbum&th=1 This way, we only had to transport the carseat for DD2. And for those of you traveling with young kids – there is nothing better than a direct flight. Nothing. Do it. :slight_smile:
Because of the delay, we got into St. Pete pretty late but were able to get our rental car and get to our hotel without any problems. Early in the planning process, we decided we were going to stay overnight in St. Pete rather than driving to Orlando right away to save some $$ and allow for a travel buffer – which was a good idea, as it turns out, given the flight delay. We stayed at the Residence Inn Clearwater Downtown, which was perfect as it had breakfast and easy travel to the beach - see Day 2!


Definitely better late than never! Looking forward to reading more.

DAY 2 – 12/17/16
We woke up early-ish (because, kids), ate breakfast at our hotel, and headed to Clearwater Beach for the rest of the morning. It was so gorgeous … being land-locked Midwesterners, we do love a good beach outing. The water was a little cold for the boring grown-ups, but the kids loved splashing around and playing in the sand. Clearwater Beach was lovely … the sand was soft, the water was beautiful, and we really enjoyed the beach walk. I think we would return just to visit the beach some day!

By late morning we were leaving the beach behind and heading to Orlando! We made a quick stop at a Publix to stock up before heading to the GF. We had never done the dining plan before, so I wasn’t entirely sure how much to get in terms of groceries … kids like to snack (and mouths that are occupied with food cannot whine), so I definitely wanted a good variety of yogurt and cheese sticks and fruit in addition to all the unhealthy things we would be eating. I also picked up some easy on-the-go stuff for breakfast for our rope-drop mornings. All in all, I think we did pretty well and did not have to leave too much behind in our resort room at the end of the trip … but that dining plan is A LOT of food. I know we would not get the dining plan again if we had to pay for it (and if it was free dining vs. room discount, I think we would go for the room discount. Our kids just don’t eat that much, and even though we used all our table service credits and then some, we definitely had QS and snack credits left over at the end – maybe poor planning on my part, but there are only so many items from Karamell-Kuche you can cram into your suitcase, amiright?). I found the small refrigerator in our room at the GF to be perfect for what we needed for milk, coffee creamer, cheese and yogurt, and fruits and veggies with some room for bottled water, too.
After our Publix stop, we headed to the happiest place on earth – love passing under that sign!

We rolled into the Grand Floridian mid-afternoon … and, guys. The Grand Floridian. Beautiful. So beautiful. And everyone is so helpful and kind and wonderful … and even though it’s the “fancy” resort, I never felt like our kids were out of place there or unwelcome. It’s just great, and I highly recommend. Sigh. I want to go back. And the Christmas decorations! The tree! The gingerbread house! I admittedly love Christmas, and going to WDW at Christmastime is wonderful.
We had a lagoon view room at the GF – room 8211 in Boca Chica for those of you interested. We got pretty close to want we wanted with the room request we sent in … down a floor and on the other side of the lobby, but we were happy with it. It was a great location – easy access to the stairs, nice view out the balcony (we could see the Contemporary and on the very edge of our balcony, Space Mountain).

(See? It’s practically a Theme Park View:wink:)

Mousekeeping was wonderful - we had chocolates on our pillows every night (and one night the turn-down service came while we in the room and the mousekeeper loaded my children up with chocolates … um, thanks?). :laughing: And the smell … how do they make places smell so good? I don’t know what it is, but there is a science behind it, I’m sure.
We had time to settle into our room and head over the pools before our reservation at ‘Ohana that night. If anyone is worried about swimming in December in Florida … don’t be. First of all, it was HOT a few of the days we were there (more on that later), and second, the pools always feel great no matter the outside temperature. So take advantage of it (but remember that we’re from Iowa, so 60 degrees is totally pool weather). :wink:

After swimming we got ready to head over to the Polynesian for our dinner at ‘Ohana. Now, the CM at check-in at the GF told us that it would be a five-minute walk from the GF to the Poly. Apparently she looked at our crowd and thought we were Olympic track stars or something. Not five minutes. With our stragglers, probably more like 15-20. Just be warned. So we were a little bit late to our ‘Ohana reservation … but hey, it’s ‘Ohana, and you have to wait forever for your reservation anyway. So no big deal. Check-in for ‘Ohana was a little confusing … there is actually a podium out in the lobby, so don’t try to go to the actual restaurant. And we did have to wait around 45 minutes after our reservation time, which I don’t think is too unusual there. Good news: that is the only time that we had to wait past our ADR time for the entire trip. Good job, Disney. ‘Ohana was good – bring your appetite! I had to get over the guilt over how much food I thought we were wasting. My husband and I both had the Lapu Lapu … mmm, yum. And there’s just something about drinking out of a pineapple. Bliss. Oh, and since mommy and daddy got fun drinks, we let the kiddos get those special kids drinks with the light-up Buzz/Tinkerbell … they loved those things. Played with them the entire trip, totally worth it. Our servers were awesome, and they brought out mac&cheese and chicken nuggets for our 2 year old without even asking when they saw that she was not eating anything other than the pineapple bread (I’m more of a “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” type of person, but it’s Disney and she’s our diva/princess, so she get chicken nuggets when the nice server brings them to her. Enjoy it now, kid.). Overall ‘Ohana was fun - a ton of yummy food, and the live music was nice. I’m not sure if the chaos in the lobby and delay in reservation time made it totally worth it for us, however. So a maybe do-again?

(That Lapu Lapu was almost as good as the Tinkerbell drink … almost)

As an aside … I’ve always thought the Poly would be an awesome place to stay. I was not overly impressed with the atmosphere in the main building, however … please tell me the other parts are way better? Is it just the ‘Ohana craziness that makes it less appealing? There were people sprawled out all over the place and it was just chaotic … a big contrast to the GF, but probably an unfair comparison. I’d like to hear from those of you who love the Poly, because I just did not, but I don’t think I was seeing it at its finest.
After finishing our meal, we strolled out on the dock at the Poly and watched the electrical water pageant. Now, we didn’t tell the kids what we were waiting for, and the look on their faces when it started was pretty awesome. Like Disney put together a water parade just for them (it helped that we were the only ones on the dock – great place to watch it!).
After the water pageant, we strolled down to the beach at the Poly to watch the fireworks at MK. I had pictured this as a slightly more magical experience than it ended up being … the Spirit of Aloha dinner show was still going on during the fireworks, which was kind of loud. But it was still pretty cool and a nice way to finish the evening. We walked back to our room at the GF and settled in for our first sleep at Disney – we wanted to get good rest, since we were going to be up late the next night at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!


fragrances in the air conditioning system

Thank you for writing this! There isn’t an over abundance of information that relates solely to that crazy Christmas week out there… and what IS available differs so much from source to source!

It’s a relief to hear that you didn’t have to wait long for your other ADRs.

Thanks for the report! I’ll have to add Clearwater & GF to my list. I agree about Poly. I really love it and my daughter still talks about the bathroom that smells like pineapples :wink: but it felt chaotic in the lobby. My oldest wants to stay their when she graduates high school next year so we’ll see if the rooms outside the main area are more relaxed. For me I still love the Grand especially at Christmas!

We only stayed at the Poly once and that was pre-renovations with the new lobby and the DVC waterfront cabanas so I’m not 100% sure how relevant it is, but…

We really liked it - we had a pool view in Samoa 3rd floor that was great. The grounds were very peaceful to walk around. Being able to walk to the TTC was nice. We were seldom going to the busy hectic parts of the lobby really so chaos there wasn’t a big deal. Have great memories of the pool and chilling on the beach there. I’d like to get back there again, in part to see if its changed, but also because we really enjoyed it the first time…


We’ve only done 1 trip to Disney and added a 1 night at the Poly. We didn’t like the rooms. I don’t know exactly why, the colors, the carpet, the smell, we just didn’t love it like I thought we would. We had just stayed at The Beach Club, which we loved so maybe that is why? Idk

Nice to hear you loved BC, we’re only 114 days til our first stay there! So excited!

I noticed you said that the fireworks at MK weren’t as magical as you expected

Were you close enough to see the images on the castle

My own opinion is they are the show now plus when the character (Peter pan I think or tinkerbell) slides down the zipwire and the fireworks going on around that are incidental

I’m wondering if that’s why it didn’t work for you from from distance?

Closer up it’s truly magical IMO

Best show ive seen in any of the parks

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Thank you for this! We are going Dec 15-20 this year and I’ve had a hard time finding info for those dates specifically so this is a huge help!

She said she watched them from the beach at the poly, and this was last Dec so it was Wishes, not the new happily ever after. :slight_smile:


Can’t see how you can’t find MK show magical. And I’m not normally into that kind of thing.


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We have stayed at GF and Poly. I agree with you about the chaos of the Poly lobby, especially around meal times. The rest of the resort doesn’t feel like that. I will say we really enjoyed our stay at the Poly. The pools are great, the people are friendly, the food is good and the grounds are lovely. But it did not compare to the amazing experience we had at the GF. Maybe the staff at the GF is just extra helpful and friendly because it is the flagship resort, or maybe we just got lucky but our stay at GF was over the top amazing. I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

We are doing BC this Dec so fingers crossed we love it as much as GF!

Hmmm … I wonder if there is a way to make this work at home :wink: - fragrance in the air conditioning sounds kind of nice in my boys’ room, for example …

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Pineapple bathrooms! That might get me there.

I know right!
An organisation I am with looked into it recently… it might be different depending on where you’re located, but it’s SUPER expensive to do here!

I’m thinking BC for our next trip! , @cktba4him, let us know how it goes!

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Thanks for the comments, definitely let us know how BC compares to GF!

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Don’t worry, I found Wishes to be more than magical when we were actually viewing them in the park. :grin: I think I had read somewhere that they piped in the music to the beach at the Poly, so I was kind of expecting fireworks with accompanying music … and there were fireworks, but with very loud conflicting music from the Spirit of Aloha show right behind us, haha! So maybe not quite what I was expecting. And you definitely cannot see the castle projections from the Poly beach, just the fireworks. So nice but not quite as amazing as seeing them up close.