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.
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! ). 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 ). 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. 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.