Realistic Expectations Trip Report

We just got back from our trip (October 24 -31). We took our DS28, DS33, DDil 30 (and 17 weeks pregnant) and their kids/our 2 grandsons, 2 and 4. Overall we had a really great trip, but I wanted to write this report to make sure first-timers understand how important it is to have realistic expectations, especially if traveling with small children. I know this report won’t come close to the excellence of a missexcited report, but I will try!

This was my 11th or 12th trip to DW after a 5 year gap. As a Liner, I of course, over-planned like crazy, with the understanding that the plans might need to change - and they did! I got a little carried away with creating daily “brochures” for each day’s plans. The cover had the overall schedule for the day and the inside had the park map and that day’s specific TP from the TP website. The back had FPP and evening info. I had fun doing them, but it was super-time consuming. And since we did end up changing a lot of the plans, they were almost irrelevant later in the week.
brochures inside%20brochures

We flew out of Providence non-stop with Southwest on a noon flight. We didn’t want to make the boys wake up earlier than usual/didn’t want to arrive too late in the evening in order to avoid starting the trip off with overly tired kids (that would come later! :wink:). I strongly suggest flying non-stop with little kids - not just for the time savings, but to keep the take off and landings to a minimum to reduce potential issues with ear pressure/pain for the kids.

We bought 2 light weight, under $80 car seats (new and totally safe, but simple) to use on the plane and in our rental car. My husband and I wanted a set for our cars anyway so we didn’t mind the expense. They weren’t too bad to lug around (another reason for a non-stop flight!) but there were 5 adults to help with them, the carry-ons and the kids - would be impossible with only 2 parents. We think the kids did better on the plane sitting in the seats. Note that SW required them to be placed in the window seat so the boys were in rows across from each other and they couldn’t share the iPad to watch movies (for some reason I thought the car seats could be side by side in window and center, just not in the aisle or blocking a regularly seated passenger).

Both boys did fine on the flight to MCO - totally uneventful. Oh, and for the Southwest seats, we paid for Early Bird seating only for my younger son and my husband and me, but not for my older son and his family because we knew they could do family boarding between A and B. It worked out well - we went toward the back-center of the plane and were able to keep the two rows open for when they boarded shortly after (and flights were full).

Picking up the rental car was easy (I am President’s Club with Hertz) and we got the van I had reserved, installed the car seats and we were on our way. We got to AoA at about 5pm.

Our first two nights were in a Cars Suite - the boys are huge Cars fans so I hoped it would be a a big hit. When I first booked the trip, I planned on spending the whole week at AoA, but I became worried we would be too cramped for that length of time so I decided to look into renting a DVC villa. I was able to get a 2 bedroom at GF, but only for 5 nights, so I kept AoA for the first two nights of our trip. (I booked through David’s Rental, a great experience - highly recommend them, really responsive and the cost wasn’t as obscene as I thought.)

We really liked AoA and the Cars section. For a value resort, it is surprisingly nice. Our room/suite was super clean and looked like it had just been painted. Very quiet. All beds fairly comfortable. But I was right about it being too cramped. For 2 nights it was fine, but as you will see later in this trip report, we did end up spending a lot of time out of the parks so the extra space at GF was really appreciated. If we had remained at AoA, we would have gone nuts in that space. However, for 2 nights it was great - and boys LOVED the life sized characters and both the main pool and Cozy Cone pool. I didn’t get even close to the room I had requested (Building 1 by Food Court). We were in Building 2, 4th floor at far end. But honestly, the Cars section is fairly compact and it was a short walk to the main building and pool.

One of the biggest highlights of the trip for me was my DGS4’s reaction when he first saw Lightning McQueen, and then Mater. The look on his face alone was worth the price of the entire trip. He ran around between the characters - so excited. I had tears in my eyes - just what I had hoped for – my entire motivation for the trip! Our DGS2 loved it too, but he tends to follow his brother’s lead. These pictures don’t capture their excitement, but trust me, they were over the moon. They kept asking when we were going back to McQueen’s hotel after we checked out!

That first night, we did the big pool and ate at the food court. We were all a little underwhelmed by the food (especially the pizza :pensive:). I think our expectations were too high given the positive reviews it gets. It was okay, not great. My DDil had ordered a double stroller through Magical Strollers and it was waiting for us at the resort.

2nd Day/First Full Day - Liner fail right off the start. I didn’t prep everyone the night prior in any detail and our older son thought I was waking them up and didn’t set an alarm. We were late getting out the door and I was the last one out. I had totally forgotten to figure out what I was bringing/carrying into the park and had to wing it last minute. All that freakin’ planning and I forgot to do this. I also forgot all the brochures and had to send my son back to the room to get them. I was ticked at myself but was able to shake it off.

We drove to HS and got there actually on time since I had overestimated how long it would take to park and get through Security. Note that I had played around with the personalized TPs and discovered we would actually have shorter waits if we arrived at the park at 6:45AM instead of at RD (but we weren’t doing GE that morning).

We had a glitch right away - my DDil had grabbed the wrong MB. We each had two because of the split stay and she mistakenly took my son’s extra one. Fortunately, Guest Services quickly looked up her info based on my email and MDE info and she was given a card to use for entry and FPPs. That was the start of EVERY SINGLE CM we encountered being FANTASTIC. We didn’t have a single negative or even neutral experience. Our waiters and waitresses were incredible too.

Here comes the “Realistic Expectations” part - we go directly to TSL and my GS4 refuses to go on any rides or even get out of the stroller. We are all stunned. We end up doing SDD first (with DDil watching both kids) and we love it. We are surprised at how zippy it is. The wait was only about ~10 minutes. Then we walked on ASS with GS2 who loved it.(GS4 still grumpy in stroller.) Then we pried GS4 out of the stroller and carried him onto TSM - he actually really enjoyed it but was still grumpy. When we see Woody and Bo Peep, he refuses to even look at them. (Woody is his favorite.) SIGH. Finally, my son and his wife take the kids into a short line to meet Buzz. At first both boys want nothing to do with him, but when each parent picks up a kid, they were more comfortable. GS4 actually smiled!
We then headed to RnR and ToT and the Cars show. Our GS4 is in a little better mood, but still isn’t displaying anything close to the enjoyment we had all hoped for. We had FPP for RnR and ToT (strategic use of my GS and Dil MBs) and those lines moved quickly. The pregnant DDiL stayed with the boys so no need for a RS. One of my son’s lost his phone on RnR and went right back. He remembered what number car he was in and sure enough, the CM found it there - unharmed. Lucky!

Next we headed to our ADR at Hollywood and Vine for Minnie’s Halloween Dine.Just in time because torrential rain came just as we were entering. I promise that most of this trip report will be positive, but this experience was crappy. We paid $440 with tip for 5 adults and one child. Our GS4 had one spoonful of mac and cheese and a cupcake and it costs ~$34. The food was mediocre and the atmosphere was sterile, cafeteria-style. From pics I had seen on TripAdvisor, I thought the restaurant would be decorated for Halloween. Only the place where you got your picture taken with Minnie was really decorated. And of course, neither boy would even look at the characters when they came to the table. A very costly, disappointing experience. GS4 still not happy. :frowning: I do need to note that the service was excellent.

We then did Frozen and Muppets which the boys enjoyed but it was so SO HOT by this time that we decided to head back to AoA and the pool. I tried really hard not to be too upset by my GS’ lack of interest and enjoyment and instead be thankful that we hadn’t waited in any real lines and that most of the day was fun.

After swimming, we went to DS and used my Landry’s card for T Rex. GET A LANDRY’S CARD! It was awesome. We were seated immediately even though it was really busy. And I got the $25 credit on the bill, plus an extra $5 promo discount. It was so nice to have such flexibility in our schedule too. The boys loved the restaurant and even DGS4 was smiling. Food was pretty good. Excellent service again. Back to AoA, big boys went to pool bar for a drink, but we were all in bed by 9pm!

More to come.


We are making a trip next month with our 2 yo, 3 yo, and one set of grandparents, so I’m looking forward to your report! Realistic expectations are so key to a good trip, too :raised_hands:t2:


Those daily brochures look terrific! A lot of the joy comes from the planning and even if you didn’t use them, it’s your planning that enables you to change plans without too much pain. Looking forward to the rest of the trip report.


Love the brochures!!! Can’t wait to read more of your trip!


Those day to day Daily’s are really cool! I’m going to send you my touring plans!


I think you are giving me too much credit and yourself not enough! I can’t wait to read more!

I’m sorry your grandson was grumpy! That’s never the way you expect it to go but I don’t think it’s uncommon. When we went with my sister and her kids (7, 4, 2) they never stopped complaining! Hopefully things improved.


Now you aren’t giving yourself enough credit! :wink:


3rd Day/2nd Full Day: AK for the day and the highest Crowd Level for the week - 5. It really wasn’t that crowded and we were able to do everything with minimal to no waits. We arrived about 6:45AM and were actually pretty close to the front. I was pleased we made it at that time considering we had to pack up and jam everything into the van since we were changing resorts that day.

I had FPPs for FOP later in the week so we were not doing Pandora and instead were doing EE and Dinoland before our 8:30am FPP for KS. The plan was for our pregnant DiL to wait with the kids while the rest of us rode EE (one of my favorite rides and it was even better than I remembered!) and for her to find something for them to eat while we rode. I should note that we hadn’t gotten any grocery items yet, the plan was to do so once we had checked into GF later that day. Well, parents of young children please note - nothing is open in most of the park that early. When we asked later, we were told Starbucks on the way to Africa opens at 7:30 and there was a Joffrey’s right at the park entrance, but at 7am in Asia, then in Dinoland - nothing was open. The kids were starved and again - grumpy. Liner fail AGAIN. I just couldn’t believe Disney wouldn’t have places open to take our money! After this, my DiL had tons of food and snacks packed for the boys each morning and we saw a marked improvement in their moods. Please be better prepared than I was!

On our way to KS, we found the Starbucks (Creature Comforts) and the kids perked up. We had a great safari and saw a lot of animals. And the LK show was a huge hit. My GS4 was mesmerized. I had originally booked an ADR for Tusker House Character breakfast but after the experience at Hollywood and Vine, I had cancelled it (bumped and dumped). It also was messing up my TP.

Now another plug for the Landry’s card. We were going to do quick service for an early lunch but decided it would be good to get out of the heat and went instead to Rain Forest Cafe. Yes, similar to dinner the night before at T Rex, but we thought it would entertain the kids and it did. And food was better than we we expected ('tho our expectations were low :slight_smile: ). It was so nice again to have the flexibility to head there when we wanted/when it fit our schedule instead of the ADR time. And we were seated immediately.

I had purchased the dining plan for the GF stay and it was already active when we sat down at RF even though we hadn’t physically checked into GF yet. I mention that since I had read that you might need to formally check in before the plan would kick in (another reason why I cancelled Tusker House). I did do on-line check in so maybe that was why? We actually headed to GF after lunch, with a stop for Mickey Bars.

Grand Floridian! I was so pleasantly surprised at how nice it was! I know that sounds ignorant, but I had been in the main hotel lobby several times in the past and found it to be a little on the stuffy, grandma side. I had seen all the on line pics of the villas and they did seem to look nice but I wasn’t really sure/was worried they might be dated or worn. Honestly, my 1st choice for a villa had been Beach Club but I took GF since they had availability and it was on the monorail. It was so lovely. Just like in the pics - big beautiful (and clean) kitchen, large living area and 2 big bedrooms and 2 huge baths, plus washer dryer. Large, long balcony (but too hot to sit on it!). Again, nothing close to my room request, but it was fine. Everyone was so attentive and pleasant. Example: while my family went to the pool, I went to the grocery store. I made a joke to the CMs out front that I forgot to ask my husband where he parked the van and next thing I know they had pulled up the golf cart thingy and drove me around the lot to find it! it was easy - the lot is small and very close to the villa building but it was still nice in all that heat. When I returned with the groceries, I pulled up to the front and they helped me unload them onto a luggage trolley. I then went to park and when I got out of the car, there was one of the CMs with the golf cart. He had followed me and was now waiting to give me a ride back to the lobby. So sweet.

One thing I should have mentioned in my first post was the weather. I purposely chose the end of October to avoid high temps. I really struggle in high heat and humidity. When I read summer trip reports I get physically uncomfortable reading about their experiences with the heat and knew there was NO WAY I could handle that. Well…guess what? Although the temps are usually in the high 70’s or low 80’s this time of year, for our week a few records were broken. I think every day was over 90 and real temp was over 100. We were in the parks most days before sunrise and although the temp was only in the 70’s that early, the humidity was over 90%. We were soaked with sweat at 7am! And then the sun came out and oh boy was it sweltering. We still had a great time, but I KNOW we would have done and enjoyed more if it were not so hot.

Speaking of not doing a lot, we did not go back to the parks that night. I had purposely left most nights open and we found with the heat and such productive mornings, we weren’t compelled to go back out. That’s another realistic expectation issue - don’t try to book too much into your days such that everyone is overtired and more prone to be miserable. The kids go to bed normally around 7pm and we kept them on that schedule as much as possible. Adults would then go back to pool or more accurately, the pool bar :slight_smile: but we were also beat so were in bed pretty early so we could get up early. Actually, one of the most pleasant aspects of the trip was the sweet, simple times with my sons in these evenings - all 4 of us together. A real treat. Loved it.

That night we had dinner at Gaspirilla Grill, the “quick service” place at GF. I was super impressed. It’s not really large and selection isn’t as broad, but the quality was outstanding. Great burgers, mac and cheese that was really good - not the orange Kraft kind - kids loved it. Surprisingly great pizza, salads and sandwiches. We had dinner there a few nights and always enjoyed it.

Next day -MK - report to follow!


So ridiculous that they don’t have food places open with the parks! Love the pics of the boys. Sounds like amazing service at GF!


So interested in this great trip report! Taking my 2 adult children with their spouses and a 5 yr old GS early December. GS is not really into rides so very unsure of what his mood will be. Looking forward to hearing how your MK day went.


We were there right before you, 20-25, and it was so hot! I’ve been a few times in October and expected cool mornings and evenings with hot days. I never found any cool, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so stinky!


thanks for taking us along on your trip so far! and, i feel for you, the temperatures in october can be brutal!


MK Day! We actually got out the door easily on this morning. (I used the trick of telling them we had to leave 30 minutes earlier than we really did!) This was my first time staying at a monorail resort - what a breeze it was to get to MK! Having the bag check at GF was super quick and easy and we were at the park well ahead of schedule. We got Starbucks while waiting for the park to officially open at 7.

I love this pic of me with the boys. They are actually munching on sour cream and onion goldfish at 6:45 in the morning - remember - realistic expectations!:face_with_hand_over_mouth:

On a less humorous realistic expectation note, when we get to Fantasyland, GS4 is totally apathetic. Doesn’t want to ride Winnie the Pooh. We more or less force him. But then something unexpected happens -my son takes him on the Barnstormer and BAM! - he is a different kid. He’s an adrenaline junkie! They ride it 3 times in a row (no lines) while his younger brother and mom ride Dumbo. Then when he rides 7DMT - wow! I have to post these 2 pics so you can appreciate his reaction. (Note they have the Disney watermark on them but I did purchase the Memory Maker, just haven’t downloaded them yet. I hope this is ok.)
The first is my husband and I with our younger son and the 2nd is our GS with his dad - same point in the ride!

More to come but I really have to get back to work right now!


Great to hear about GF and their QS. Staying in April and never hear it mentioned. Love the report!

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I’m glad you found something GS enjoyed!

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Those pictures are all so good!!

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Figment20 - it was a pleasant surprise. They even bring the food to your table after you order it rather than you waiting for it in line. They also have mobile ordering which we used twice quite easily. My grandson just yesterday when asked what he wanted for lunch said he wanted the mac and cheese from Disney!

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It’s so hard to predict how kids will react. Our last visit, DS(23 months old) was unhappy the first 2 days. He wouldn’t go near any characters and in the line for each ride he would say “I want to go home, I want to go home” … sometimes crying. Then the 3rd morning, he woke up and said “I want meet Mickey” … fortunately we were able to switch a FP around to get Meet Mickey at MK. DS ran up to Mickey, gave him a hug and high five, and smiled the whole time. After that, DS was happy for the rest of the trip and enjoyed the character meets and rides. It can be hard to get them over the initial hump.


We had breakfast there. I agree with you. The food and atmosphere were terrible. My kids barely ate anything and DW and I left hungry. That said, DD4 loved meeting the Disney Junior characters.

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For what it’s worth, a suggestion from my experience … for your first day, I would suggest trying to plan the first few rides/attractions to be things that will particularly appeal to your grandson. We did this the first time we took my daughter (first day was Meet Mickey, Dumbo and Meet Tink) … she is generally unsure about rides, but this gentle intro got her into Disney right away. With my son this past trip, I made a mistake … instead of catering the beginning of the trip to things I thought he would most like, we went right into attractions my now older daughter requested. I figured he would be fine going along, but instead he got scared, didn’t have fun, and it took until the 3rd day for him to “get into Disney”.

Obviously though, this is just my experience with my kids and all kids are different.