April 2018 Trip Report (for real this time) - No ragrets just lessons learned

Hey all,

So I’m about a month removed from my family’s first WDW trip and ready to try and tackle my first TR. We had a fabulous time but even with obsessive researching and extensive pre-planning, there are several things I will do different next time. I’ve included lessons I learned to hopefully help others who may be in the planning stage. Of course, this is all my opinion, so I know not everyone will agree but hopefully it will help some.


Where We Stayed: Art of Animation Resort - Lion King Family Suite

Dates Traveled: 4/14/18 - 4/21/18

Traveled from: Southwest USA

Who: 3 different families (my family plus my 2 SILs and their families). There were 13 people… 4 in my immediate family. In total, there were six adults, two tweens, two 5-year olds, one 4-year old, and two 2-year olds.

My immediate family had a great time but unfortunately, SIL #1 left WDW feeling disgruntled and vowing to never return. We enjoyed our time together, but I feel bad that this trip didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations. The reality is with a group of that size, with so many different ages, interests, personalities, etc, it’s pretty much impossible to do everything together all the time and please everyone.

Lesson #1: Large group trip to WDW = never again! I’d maybe meet up for a few days/dinners/events but trying to do the whole trip together was too much.

With that said, I think the biggest issue was unrealistic expectations. This was the first WDW trip for 2/3 families in our party. SIL #1 has been to WDW a few times, but her last trip was 7 years ago. That trip also consisted of several adults and one 4-year old. The dynamics of that trip were much different than a trip consisting of six adults, and 7 children of varied ages. Additionally, the majority of our party went into the trip expecting it to be like a WDW planning video - no people, no lines, everyone happy all the time, everyone wanting to do all the same things, etc. It just didn’t work that way.

Lesson #2: Realistic expectations are key. It will be crowded. People will be grumpy. Kids (and adults) will have melt-downs. It will be a ton of work. You will be exhausted. Prepare yourself to take the bad things in stride and focus on the good. Also, I think it helped my kids immensely that I actively involved them in the planning process. We watched countless WDW videos on YouTube so that they also had an idea of what to expect. This included some ride “spoilers” but knowing my kids, I knew they needed these spoilers so they wouldn’t freak out on some of the rides.

Planning Process:
I think the other thing that put a cloud over part of the experience for SIL #1 was that she had a hard time adjusting to the new way of things where people start making reservations 180 days in advance and reserve Fast Passes to experience the “best” stuff. It was difficult to convince her that all 13 of us weren’t going to be able to just show up at WDW, ride all the popular rides without 3 hour waits and get into all the popular restaurants together without ADRs. I knew from experience at Disneyland and my obsessive pre-trip research, that this was not going to happen. Quite honestly, I think the need for extended pre-planning is kind of annoying but it is what is it. You either do it or you don’t and miss out on stuff. This may sound harsh, but there was no way I was going to travel cross country with two young kids and spend several thousand dollars to stand around the parks trying to decide what to do, stand in long stand-by lines and hope we could find restaurants that would allow all 13 of us to eat together. Had I not extensively pre-planned, I’m fairly certain we ALL would have left feeling, jaded and disgruntled. Though everything didn’t go exactly as planned, we were able to hit most of the highlights and had some amazing “magic moments” thanks to pre-planning.

Lesson #3: Pre-planning really does pay off!

Anyway, now that I’ve established some (probably too much) background, I’ll get on with it. All accounts are from my memory, so hopefully I’ll remember all relevant details. For some reason, I didn’t get as many food pictures as I wanted so this TR will be a little short on those. There will be pictures however!


You can edit the header or your post ( use the pencil). Just saying…coming soon or leaving what you’ve written works!

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Thank you!

Without further ado (rambling)…

Day 1: A Long Travel Day Becomes Even Longer

Due to flight schedules from our city, my immediate family was set to arrive at WDW a day before the rest of our party. Originally, the flight was schedule to leave at 9:30am PST and arrive in Orlando around 5 pm EST.

When the alarm clock rings at 5 am, I can’t even be mad. We’re finally going to Disney World! Some other family must have possessed us because everyone wakes up happy and cooperative and we get on the road to the airport EARLIER than originally planned. We travel often and I believe this is the only time we have left the house early. The early theme continues as we make it to the gate an hour and a half early, despite DH getting pulled aside for a bag search and some playful ribbing from the TSA agent about his large appetite (I packed one whole carry on with shelf-stable breakfast foods and WDW snacks that DH got stuck with). Everyone’s mood remains high as we settle in at the gate, eager to board our 5-hour flight to Orlando.

Time at the gate passes uneventfully and boarding starts at the posted time. Unfortunately, this is where the “early” theme ends. In fact, as we’ll soon find out, “on time” won’t be really in the forecast either. The gate agent gets through Zone 1 before announcing that he has to make a quick run down to the airplane before Zone 2 will be called. After about 10 minutes, he comes back up and announces that it’s “nothing to worry about, but someone noticed a small scratch in the side of the airplane.” He assures us it should just be a matter of paperwork and boarding will resume soon. “Soon” turns into an 45 minutes…which turns into Zone 1 passengers being let off the airplane…which turns into angry passengers sitting around not knowing what is going on because the airline hasn’t released any official status updates. Finally, possibly sensing an impending uprising, the airline sends out an official flight delay message. The gate agent advises us that we’re looking at another 2-3 hour delay but that the airline is going to issue a $100 flight voucher for each ticketed passenger for the inconvenience. The only caveat is that it takes another 45 minutes to get ours before we can go venture off to the kids play area to let the kids burn off some energy.

Camped out while waiting. Yes, they’re on the nasty airport floor. By this point, I didn’t care. No way was I going to confine them to a chair for 3 hours prior to a 5 hr flight.

By the time we get our flight vouchers, we’ve been at the gate almost three and a half hours. Finally, we’re able to take the kids to the play area in the other terminal to kill some time. They get to ride a moving side-walk, escalator and a “train” to get to the playground, which is almost as cool as WDW to a transportation obsessed toddler. Throughout this time, DH and I are really focusing on leading by example and using it as a teachable moment. Patience is a virtue and life doesn’t always go as planned. I don’t know if was the Disney Magic or what, but the kids really seemed to get it and were absolute troopers the whole day (which turned out to be VERY long by the end of it). Humble brag moment…I always knew my kids were good travelers but I was honestly blown away by their resilience throughout the entire trip. It was definitely a proud parent moment.

Anyway, back to the story. After some time at the play area, we start back to our terminal as it’s been about 2 hours and we don’t want to risk missing our plane. We get back to the original gate only to find that our gate has been moved. Okay, that’s fine, but an update would’ve been nice. At this point, “Patience is a virtue” is sort of mantra as DH and I struggle not to get visibly frustrated with the situation. We finally find our gate and learn (as we assumed would happen), they decided to take our original plane out of service. Now, we’re just waiting for the new plane to arrive and deplane before we start boarding. We grab some lunch, kill some more time (at this point we’ve busted out the tablets) and FIIIINNNALLY at around 2pm we board. Almost 5 hours later, but hey, at least they didn’t cancel us!
After being further held up by a large, inconsiderate group who takes forever to sit down despite being yelled at by multiple flight attendants and the pilot, we’re off.

Amen for portable electronic devices & cozy head phones! The kids were so thrilled that they were allowed to watch 4+ hrs straight of TV I don’t think they made a peep once we were on the airplane.

The new flight takes quicker flight path, less than 4hrs and 30 minutes in air, with an estimated arrival time 9:57pm. This creates a dilemma since we’re using Magical Express and tagged the luggage for it to be taken directly to the resort. I informed ME of our flight changes earlier in the day but at that time our ETA was around 8pm. Since luggage service stops at 10 pm, we weren’t sure if they’d take our bags for us if our flight ended up arriving after 10 pm. After some debate and frantic internet searching (thanks free in flight wi-fi), we decided to just head straight to the ME and hope our luggage arrived later that night. We knew it could take several hours for it to get to our room but figured by the time we rode to the resort and got settled, it’d be about time for our luggage to arrive. We finally landed and headed to the ME check in area, catching our first glimpses of Disney World along the way. The kids were enamored with this vaguely creepy Snow White. Speaking of creepy, sorry for the weird photo edits…I’ve tried to block out my kids faces for privacy purposes.

The ME check in was uneventful. We were the first in line and only waited about 10-15min for a bus. We were all EXHAUSTED after 12+ hours of airports/airplanes and were so thankful that our bus went straight to Art of Animation. We get to the resort around midnight and the luggage is delivered about one am. I did mobile check in so we were able to go straight to our room, which was a life saver at that point. We also got a room very similar to the one I requested, though it wasn’t exact. I believe it was 6825 – Lion King. It was a corner room on the top floor, very quiet with a quaint view of the lake (and Skyliner construction but they never worked on it during our stay). So much for being able to decompress by the pool after a long flight like I’d originally planned, but at least we made it.

Little Mermaid building view from our room.

Unfortunately, the only day I took pictures of the view was the one overcast day of our trip.

All things considered, we’re extremely grateful that the situation worked out the way it did. We flew with Southwest and it was only a few days later that the tragic in-flight accident occurred. It really reinforced my view that the inconvenience of a delay is well worth it if there are ANY questions about the safety of an airplane.

Up next….Day 2: Relaxation Day and The Rest of The Group Arrives.

Will we make it to our 12pm Sunday Brunch reservation at California Grill? Will the weather ruin our much-anticipated pool day? Will the rest of our group arrive on-time? And why is our in-room celebration MIA? Stay tuned to find out!


What a long travel day! Looking forward to reading more.

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Oh wow, I cannot even imagine travelling with 13 people, we were struggling with 7 lol. Thanks for the report, can’t wait to hear more!

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I hate to say I told you so, but if you ever posted that you were planning a trip for a group of 13 I probably told you so… :wink:

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Wow - I am riveted to your report! I am currently planning a trip (end of April beginning of May 2019) that will have at least 10. It could balloon up to 16.

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Only this far in but agree with most of the points you’ve already made. Side note, we’re west coast and going back to DL next year. But instead of just our Disney experience family of 5, with the youngest being 11, will also be with SIL new to Disney family, 2 nieces, oldest 8. Already prepared to go out separate ways and just meet up for highlights. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of your trip unfolds.

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Did I also mention we all live across the country from each other so we haven’t seen each other in a few years and couldn’t sit down and plan together…I was by default elected to do it all. We also had 2 double strollers and a single stroller to navigate through the crowds…yaaa. I knew going in it would be quite the trip.

Really though, it was nice to see everyone and it went about as well as it possibly could have. It just bums me out that not everyone had a great time. Next time, we’re having the mini reunion at a much different venue! And I’m not planning for everyone! LOL


I think it would be easier traveling in a big group if the group had less small children. Also, my SIL who didn’t want to do any pre-planning wanted us all to do everything together and expected everyone to be okay with spending all day in the parks everyday…that just wasn’t happening. If you all go into it realistically, everyone should have a good time!


Yes - the youngest on my trip will be 13. So yay for that. Plus everyone has been to WDW at least once before.

LOL … and I’m sitting here thinking, “Piker! I just took a group of 21 for a week at WDW!”

Three weeks later and the eye twitch has nearly subsided. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Day 2: “Relaxation” Day and The Rest of The Group Arrives

After traveling all day and a 2 am bedtime the night before, the 8 am alarm clock comes way too early (it would’ve been 5 am at home). We have a 12pm reservation for California Grill Sunday Brunch and the goal is to be out of the room by 10am. Not happening! I finally get myself out of bed at 8:30am and shake everyone else out of bed around 9:30am. We’re out the door around 11:00. We have perfect timing and walk right onto a bus that takes off as soon as we get on. (This will be one of very few good bus experiences, not necessarily Disney’s fault though.)

DS loved looking at all the construction during the bus rides. I think this is part of the Skyliner?

We get dropped off at the Magic Kingdom depot at about 11:20. At this point, my husband is panicking about being late even though we are literally across the street from the Contemporary (albeit a large street and there is no sidewalk from our side of the bus depot). I tell him we need to take the sidewalk up and around the bus depot to get to the sidewalk to the Contemporary. He insists we cut through the bus depot travel lanes. After a brief “debate”, of which I am the losing party, we cut through. I’m not sure what the hell he (or I) was thinking. If you are familiar with this set up, you know that the bus depot lanes are definitely not pedestrian friendly. Jet lag brain must’ve been strong here, because my husband is a medical professional and deals with auto vs. pedestrian incidents on a regular basis and is normally over cautious.

Once we make it across the depot, we realize there is a line of bushes and security rope blocking sidewalk access. I briefly consider tossing the kids over and Indian Jones’ing it through the bushes as opposed to having to walk back through the depot lanes. Luckily, the security guard takes pity on us -or just doesn’t want to be responsible for us getting ran over- and he comes and takes us through an opening and back to the security check point without much grief (maybe our stupidity rendered him speechless). They check our bags and let us continue on our way. Luckily, we conquer our real-life Frogger stage and make it to the Contemporary in one piece.

Lesson #4: If you value life and limb, do not cut through the Magic Kingdom bus depot to get to the Contemporary Sidewalk! There is no access to the sidewalk there. Makes sense, since you know people aren’t supposed to be walking that direction….derp.

At least DH’s stupid shortcut was effective…we get to the CG check-in desk 20 minutes early. They take us right up and tell us we can wait in the seating area and have mimosas. Before the trip, I read about other people waiting outside on the balcony and ask if we can do that. The hosts act a little put off by the request but they escort us outside. After a few minutes, we go inside and are immediately escorted to our table. I’m not sure if there was a miscommunication and they were waiting for us or if it was just more perfect timing. I also don’t know if it is because of our request or because we are in a fancy restaurant with two young kids but the vibe is not super welcoming. DH and I are not fancy people, but we enjoy fine dining (including Michelin starred restaurants) once or twice a year. We felt more uncomfortable at CG than we have anywhere else. This was disappointment #1 with CG and also…

Lesson #5: I don’t advise taking children to the signature restaurants, or at least California Grill. I naively figured it’d be okay since I mean, it’s Disney World. There were a few tables with kids but the vast majority were without. There was also one chef who very clearly did not like children there and would shoot the death glare at any kid who approached the appetizer bar, no matter how the child behaved. This was at Sunday Brunch. I’ve heard dinner is even more formal…can anyone confirm?

Anyway, we are led to a booth right across from the kitchen where the chefs cook the main courses. It’s neat watching them but I am a little disappointed we don’t get a window table. I’m also a little annoyed whenever I notice the child hating chef glare at children (including mine who are not doing anything but sitting there like everyone else). The bubble mimosas and food from the appetizer bar are delicious but we’re all still kind of jet lagged so it’s a very blah meal. The kids, in true kid fashion, have no appetite, despite there being food they’d normally eat. $50 for a kids meal…straight down the drain (or 2 dining credits anyway). The sushi, deviled eggs and bacon and egg salads are my faves but DH likes the yogurt parfait best.

There’s that grumpy chef. And now that I review these pictures I realize the kids did eat some bread. So their favorite, by default, was the bread.

The picture could be better but the food was yummy!

The kids express zero interest in ordering off the menu, even refusing the offer of totally decadent pancakes. I know that the minute we walk out, we’ll hear “I’M HUUUUNNNGRRRY” so we order them carrot cake pancakes to split anyway. DH orders vanilla bean French toast, I get the U-10 shrimp. DH raves about his dish but mine….well… it has decent flavor but the shrimp are so overcooked that it’s a legitimate struggle to cut them with a knife (a gift from the grumpy chef perhaps?). We debate saying something but at this point I already feel like we’re not very welcomed and I don’t want to be that person so I just don’t eat the shrimp at all. An attentive server should have noticed this, but ours doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Oh well. The kids eat none of the pancakes but DH and I sample them. They’re decent enough to take to go, but I’ve honestly had better at IHOP.

This picture actually makes the shrimp look better than it was…

This was the closest DH would let me get to his food to take a food picture. Too delicious to wait!

Pretty but underwhelming pancakes.

At this point, DH and I are stuffed and the kids are still boycotting all food so we decide to ask for desert to go and our ticket. It takes forever for our waitress to finally come back but once she does, she quickly gets our desserts and ticket. We pay and leave a decent tip even though we’re less than impressed because again, we don’t want to be those people. In hindsight, I probably should’ve brought it to someone’s attention. Unfortunately, the dining survey I got after leaving WDW didn’t ask about this meal. Overall, it was really disappointing as this was the one thing I planned specifically for me. It wasn’t just the restaurant’s fault; it was also part jet lag and part unrealistic expectations about having a “relaxing” Sunday brunch with kids in tow the day after long travels.

After brunch, the original plan was to ride around on the monorail. However, everyone really wanted some pool time and the clouds were starting to build. The forecast called for evening rain, so we headed straight back to the resort. I think it was about 2 pm at this point and the rest of our travel group wasn’t scheduled to get to the resort until around 6pm. The clouds weren’t looking that bad when we got back to our room but it took us a while to get ready. We had literally just stepped out of the room when the rain started. DD really wanted to see if the pools would still be open so we decided to give it a shot. There doesn’t appear to be any lightning and people are still in the main pool when we got there. Long story (sort of short) they close the pool right as we’re getting in but the lifeguards maintained it wasn’t weather related and would be open again soon. Some people asked the why it was closing but the lifeguards wouldn’t say. I guess it was top secret…maybe poop in the pool. Who knows?

Swimming attempt #1

Since swimming is a no go, we head back to the room to rest and unpack. I check our co-traveler’s group flight status and everything is still showing on time. I have doubts because of the rain and heavy wind it eventually brings with it, but hope all will be well. A few hours later, the rain stops so we decide to give it another try. We get to the main pool and guess what…it starts to rain again. Hello, Florida! Again, we just get our stuff settled when we get kicked out. We decide to tough out the rain and go look at the Cars themed area. We get over there and realize that the Cars pool is still open and several people are swimming.

Love the theming at Art of Animation…we loved everything about the resort actually!

DD and I are hardcore, and decide we’re not going to let a little rain ruin our swimming day. DH and DS seek higher ground in our hotel room. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but all of us who were swimming with sheets of rain coming down upon us were having a grand time. I mean, we’re at Disney World, and we’re already wet anyway. If Disney determined it was safe to swim, it had to be…right?!

DD talks regularly about swimming in the rain at WDW. It is one of mine and her favorite memories of the trip.

We wrap things up at about 7. When I get to my phone, I see I have a text message from SIL saying they just landed. Apparently, their flight was delayed leaving their home airport (with no status update either) and then had to circle the Orlando Airport for an hour before landing due to weather. Ouch. At least their flight was only 3ish hours total, but this is really bad timing as they have a late Chef Mickey’s dinner reservation to make at 9:25pm. DH, the kids and I just grab some dinner to go from Landscape of Flavors (the food here was actually really good). We’re settling into bed about 9:30 when SIL sends me character pics from Chef Mickey’s showing they made it just on time. Kudos to them, I don’t know if I could’ve survived all that…

I want to get some sleep because tomorrow will be our first (looong) park day, Magic Kingdom, woo hoo! Our first fast pass window of the day starts at 9 am and it’s a ride we’ve all been dying to go on so we can’t miss it. The idealist in me is also hoping to make it to rope drop so we can get a few things in (Winnie the Pooh, Barnstormer, Dumbo) before the lines build. My immediate family also has a reservation for the Happily Ever After Garden Terrace Desert Party, so it’s going to be a really long day.

Will my rope drop dreams become reality? Will the rest of our group be too tired to make it to our first fast past? Will the whole group make it the whole day? Stay tuned to find out in…

Day 2 – A MAGICAL day at Magic Kingdom and a Not-So-Magic Meltdown


I absolutely hate that vibe in restaurants. Sorry you had to endure it. I would have complained if we had experienced what you went through.

Our last trip, we went to HBD and had a pretty strong vibe like that. We weren’t even traveling with young children! Our youngest was 15. Our favorite signature was Tiffins. Not only because of the food and atmosphere, but because the staff, including the chef, were absolutely engaging and caring. (Due to DH’s diet restriction, we met very many chefs…)

Glad you finally got the swimming in without being thrown out. It’s weird that the quiet pool stayed open and the big pool didn’t.

Looking forward to reading the next installment.

Sorry CG was such a disappointment. That shrimp looks delicious in the photo. I have experienced the “child won’t eat” - so frustrating. Glad you had fun once you got back to the resort.

DD16 is like that. She eats like a bird and is very picky. She just recently broke the 100 pound barrier. Of course, she will eat things I wouldn’t go near, like shrimp and calamari. Buffets are not a good buy for her or DH.

Sorry to hear about CG. We debated bringing our family there for dinner, however, it ended up just being DS13 As we threw the youngest 2 in the Pixar kids club. We actually had an amazing time (best meal/ambience of the week) but it could also be due to the fact that we didn’t have the younger kids with us. There were definitely kids while we were there (even more around the 9:00 mark)
I hope that you give it another try without kids.

Wow you are at Disney right? I mean people bring kids there!! I work in a family restaurant and it drives me crazy when people come in and tell me they don’t want to sit near any children. Swimming in the rain sounds like so much fun!!