I am back home from my once-in-a-lifetime magical two week land and sea vacation (celebrating a few different milestones) Should be getting back to work today but re-entry after such a fantastic trip is very hard, so I thought I would share a few thoughts in case it helps anyone else with their trip:
First, background we had two days at Universal, a four day Bahamas cruise, and split stay between Bay Lake Towers and Beach Club. Traveling party was me, DH, DS12 and DS9 (almost 10). Weather was unseasonably hot (low to mid 90s) for most of our Orlando stay, but thankfully cooler the last day at AK.
* We stayed at Hard Rock for 2 nights, and I was disappointed in the hotel. Pool was very nice. proximity to the park was great. But the room was awful. It was probably the loudest hotel I have ever stayed in – no soundproofing as far as I could tell. No nightstand by the bed. No shelves or drawers of any kind in the bathroom so everything had to go on the floor. Layout was so weird I asked if we had been put in a handicapped room and I was told it was the standard layout. 2 nights was my limit. Will not stay there again.
* Express pass at Uni was amazing perk.
* Too many motion simulators, but Bonine and Sea bands got me through it. Gringotts was worth the sickness. I skipped Forbidden Journey and it almost did my DH in (who never gets sick).
*Was blown away by the Harry Potter lands at Uni. I have high expectations for Star Wars land now – the bar for Disney is very, very high after what we saw and experienced at Uni.
• We did a 4 night cruise since none of us had ever cruised before and we weren’t sure we would like it. And I am prone to motion sickness, which made me very nervous. We loved it. It was too short. Can’t wait to go back. We felt the motion a bit on our first night, but otherwise didn’t notice it.
• The food and service were consistently exceptional. I can’t say enough good things about everyone we met. They handled my son’s peanut allergy very well at the main dinner service and the meals we had at Cabanas.
• My kids loved the kids clubs and wanted to be there as much as possible. DS9 was in the Oceaneers’ lab and DS12 was at the edge.
• Nassau/Atlantis was a disappointing excursion. The Dolphin shallow water excursion was amazing but the rest of Atlantis was a zoo and poorly run. My kids love water parks and never want to go back there again. If we cruise that itinerary again, we will likely stay on the ship in Nassau.
• Everything you have heard about Castaway Cay is true. It is beyond amazing. We got lucky and had amazing perfect weather (apparently had not been the case in the days before). We lined up early and my kids were the first ones on the water slide, but it doesn’t open right away which was a surprise to us. I think it opened about 9/915. We did the stingray interaction and that was really fun – good for tween-agers and fun for the adults too.
• We own DVC, but I really really wanted a BLT theme park view so rented points through David’s to ensure I got what I wanted and saved some money. That process was very smooth. And this was my view.
• I didn’t have high aspirations for BLT since the theming isn’t my first choice, but we loved it. Had a 1BR. Very well laid out and sleeps five. Multiple details done correctly to make it very functional (which I can’t say about Beach club, see below). Loved walking to MK. We would stay there again without hesitation. Only downside is fireworks are very loud if you are trying to get littles to sleep early.
• We let bell services handle our transfer to Beach Club. Followed advice I read here and called for them to handle bags. Worked seamlessly (except that I didn’t label the eggs packed in a grocery bag in the fridge, so a few got broken. But I blame myself for that). We went to the park in the AM, drove to our new hotel in the evening, and everything showed up. Frozen and refrigerated goods all ok. Big thumbs up, so makes us consider a split stay again in the future.
• The Beach club pool is amazing. Definitely my kids favorite from the trip. (The also liked the BLT pool, but this one was better). But I’m glad we weren’t there when kids were younger. Would be very hard to keep track of them. For this age, it was perfect.
• I was disappointed in the BC refurb. It’s a pretty room, but no real character. Much smaller than the BLT room, and very difficult to get a sleeper bed in to sleep 5 if needed (we needed one as my kids fight and don’t sleep in the same bed). And they missed all the functional details that I know Disney can do, since I’ve seen them on the cruise ship, at BLT, and at Aulani. Things that don’t cost much money: The shower shot out onto the floor when heating up (no way to turn it so it didn’t); no clothesline to hang wet clothes, no hooks on walls for hanging (as we had at BLT); the fridge and freezer doors were on backwards so very hard to use in the kitchen, and the kitchen garbage cans were too big/tall so you had to take them out of the cabinet to use them. Minor details that would (and should) be easily fixed and made for a somewhat frustrating stay at BC.
MK – pre RD BOG
• We had an 825 BOG res and were let in the park at 745. Had pre-ordered and were seated immediately. But, the restaurant made a mistake with our order. I told the mgt we were trying to make it to 7DMT and asked for speed to rectify (and tried to be very nice about it), but they gave us a FP to use for 7DMT anytime that day since she said she didn’t want us to have to rush. Score! They still got us our food quickly and we exited and were near the front of the line by about 830/835. Were held until 850. Line built significantly behind us. But were in the 2d train to ride, and then hustled to beat RD crowd to PP. Both big rides done by 910. Major success (and still had a FP to ride again later that day!)
• We also had a GG 805 res with 9 am park opening. Entered through international gate. They let us in about 755? Not as early as I hoped. Walking through the empty park was fun. We walked relatively fast, but not too much so. And stopped for a pic. Were one of the first tables seated. Saw all characters. Paid bill right away. Left restaurant about 830. Went to BR etc and were still 1st in line for soarin. Ride started about 845. This made my entire trip. Wanted to ride twice, but the line by the time we got off was already huge, extending up the stairs.
• We finally got to ride FEA. It exceeded by expectations. Very cute and fun ride, but not worth the significant wait. And we had to check back multiple times because the ride was down a lot over the 2 days we tried to ride it.
• I Can’t believe I needed a FP for figment. But we got a 4th FP for it since I really wanted to ride (figment is my favorite) and I will not wait 30 minutes for that ride.
• We got a FP for the Lion King and for us it was worth it. Our FP was at noon. The 10 am show had been cancelled. It was a total zoo of people trying to get in. But we had a great seat and view. I love that show.
• Booked a 1230 TH res right after lion king, which was perfect timing given how close in proximity they are. But we also hustled to be one of the first out of the theater to check in for lunch. (more on TH below)
• Wait for the back seat for the safari. It was worth it. Got much better view of the animals being able to look out the back. I can’t believe I never thought of that before.
• The backwards part of EE made me a little ill, so be aware of that if you struggle with motion sickness.
• We finally did “its tough to be a bug” and glad we did. It was so cute.
• Rafiki’s planet watch was very good for kids this age. Although 12 is getting old for it (my 12 year old happens to love animals and wants to be a vet so he was still into it). It was a nice break from the very crowded park in the afternoon.
• Taking breaks and eating at TS restaurants is a big part of our trip. We had some new favorites this trip, and repeated some old favs too.
• I still love Sanna. Its worth it to show up a little early and wait for a window table. We were there about 615 and the animals were very active. It was very fun.
• Tusker House was a bit of a disappointment. Good food. Slow service. Check in is a nightmare. And only two of the characters made it to our table in the hour we were there. So not worth the price for us and not sure we would repeat.
• The Landry’s card worked like a charm at Yak & yeti. I had a 6pm res, but we were ready for dinner at 5. Showed up and was seated with 5 mins, when they were quoting 30 min waits. We had never eaten there before, but really enjoyed it and will make a point of returning to this rest in the future.
• We also tried skippers canteen for dinner. Theming is well done. The skipper jokes are not my thing (we didn’t even ride jungle cruise this trip). Food was good. Would go again.
• Morimotos is a spectacularly beautiful restaurant with excellent food. We would love to go there again too, schedule permitting.
• Dinner at Trattoria al Forno on the boardwalk was very good. The homemade mozzarella is excellent. And our server was outstanding.
• We’ve had dinner at BOG 3 times and this was my least favorite experience. Can’t put my finger on why though. Maybe because we had a very long day and were very tired that day. Maybe the menu has changed. But it wouldn’t be a high priority for me to return again.
General Travel tips
• We moved around a lot, but with ebags, it was a breeze to keep everything sorted and packed. I was nervous in advance of the trip but everything was smooth.
• Having a shoe organizer was a lifesaver in the bathroom. Thank you for that tip!
• I also brought clothes pins for the first time. So useful for hanging wet suits. Won’t travel without them again.
• I brought liquid hand soap as I think we all (esp the kids) wash their hands better with it than a bar. And we all stayed healthy through 2 weeks of travel so will bring again.
• Amazon Prime Now was a lifesaver. Couldn’t believe they had compression socks to ship in two hours to save DH from the Disney rash. Will definitely use again in the future for groceries and misc items.
• I ditched my khaki shorts and went for Athleta metro skorts and title nine tanks/t shirts this trip. Even in the very high temps I was much more comfortable than past trips. This will be my new go to part outfit.
• La Nouba was an amazing show. I highly recommend. I wish I could see it again before it closes.
The main thing I learned this trip is you have to decide what works for your family and stick with it. I thought I had a laid back travel plan, but it wasn’t laid back enough. My family needs a lot of breaks and down time to stay happy. More than I do. And I am the only one that cares about fireworks enough to see the night shows, so had to scrap all of my evening plans (we only saw Wishes from our room). I had to let it go and realize its ok. We didn’t do everything that was on my original plan, but we did all of the important things that we each really wanted, and some things I didn’t think we were going to do at all (like putting me on the tower of terror ) and it was awesome.
We’ve been several times before, but I thought my boys were the perfect age for this trip – old enough to walk and not get overly tired and gripe. Young enough to enjoy the magic, to still get in character and family photos, to enthusiastically wear their harry potter robes and cast spells in diagon alley (but also to try out big rides they never thought they would do), to give each other hugs, to hold my hand while we walked around the parks and thank me for taking them. We splurged on this trip but the memories were worth every penny. I will drive my mini-van into the ground and delay replacing it for as long as it takes to enjoy this kind of time with my family. It wasn’t perfect, but it was magical and amazing and I will remember it always. Thanks to everyone who answered my questions and posted tips that helped make it that way. We won’t be back for at least two years, and that seems a very long time, but I’m already mentally planning the next one.