I am months behind on this, given our trip was in February. But as I continue to scroll through the Liner chats and read about the excitement of other people’s trips, I decided to relive the wonderful moments we had and write a trip report.
Here’s the logistics of our trip:
Size: group of 10 – grandparents (in-laws), sister-in-law’s family of 4 (kids aged 10 and 8), my family of 4 (kids aged 4 and 2)
Date: February 13th – February 22nd, 2018
Resort: Caribbean Beach Resort
A year before our trip occurred, my in-laws surprised us with a family trip and had chosen Disney World as the location. At first, I was a bit nervous that our kids would be too young to enjoy the experience or that a large group vacation was going to be frustrating.
Spoiler alert – this ended up being the best vacation we’ve ever been on. In fact, this entire vacation created the some of the best memories I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience…yes, even greater than my wedding, and I’m allowed to say that because my wife completely agrees!
Everything about this trip just worked – flights, accommodations, buses, food, pools, rides, fun…it all went so smoothly that I have a feeling we used up every ounce of good karma and our next family vacation is going to be wrought with disasters at every corner. But that’s ok. Given the memories we made, I’ll gladly take that risk.
On to the fun stuff.
February 13th – I have to get up at what time???
In the dead of winter in Canada, there is almost nothing worse than having to get up in the middle of the night when it’s cold and dark and drag your kids to the airport…
…unless you are going to Disney World! Or Hawaii. But that’s another trip for another time.
After my wife’s list after list after list of things to check, we got the kids up and ready. Groggy as they were, they always love flying on an airplane, so that got them out the door in record time. We got the airport, checked in, and were through security without any hassles. So far, so good. No delays with the flight and we are off to Minneapolis.
With 2 small kids, we debated just renting a double stroller in Orlando, as we had done a lot of reading (especially The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and the Color Companion that goes with it) and knew there would be options to get a good Bob stroller or something like that. But the thought of having to truck our kids through large airports was fear enough to make the decision to bring our own. Alas, that was the one hiccup of our trip (and it was actually very minor). We’ve never had issues with any of our strollers going through security, including this one. But for some reason, this time it set off numerous alarms when they scanned it and swabbed it. And since I was the one who gave it to the TSA agent, I ended up with a very thorough pat down. I mean…wow…could we exchange first names before we go that far? Once that was done and nothing was found, we were able to find our gate, relax for a bit, and get ready for the final flight.
The kids were great on the flight. Put on some shows, play some games, eat some snacks, and a few hours later, our party was landing in Orlando and getting in line for our Magic Express bus. Our kids still didn’t really understand the concept of what Disney was going to be. To them, the bus ride was fantastic so we knew the expectations bar was set pretty low. LOL.
We arrived at the Caribbean Beach Resort and were a little nervous about the property because of all the construction that was going on, but it was dark and we couldn’t see too much at the time. This accommodation had been one of the contentious points of the family group planning because our in-laws picked the place with the thought that the construction would be done. This wasn’t even remotely true. We knew the construction would still be in full swing when we arrived and had no concept of how disruptive it would become. So before we left, we had some discussions on whether we should be changing resorts but the in-laws didn’t want to go through that hassle so we bit our tongue and went with it.
The check-in process was…well…different for each of our parties and slightly confusing for each of us. None of us got the exact same information or details. But we figured out what we needed on our own. Then we waited for the internal bus to take us to our rooms.
And we waited.
My father-in-law has zero patience and dislikes poor customer service so this was extremely irritating to him that we would have to wait 30 minutes for a bus. Most of us were just happy to be in the warm air, trying on our Magic Bands.
The bus arrived and we were off to see our rooms. Nothing fancy but more than what we needed. We were in the Jamaica building #44 with a pool view and we had an adjoining room to our in-laws. We had also ordered from Garden Grocer and soon after we got to our room, the front desk called and said our groceries were about to be delivered. The kids were snacking in no time. Boy, were they ever hyper! New surroundings, fun beds to jump on, an adjoining room with Grandma and Papa, a small murphy bed for one of them…this was already the best vacation ever.
We also didn’t have to wait long for our luggage which was nice because we had read about people who didn’t get their stuff for hours after they had arrived. It came to our room shortly after we settled in.
I know most people venture out to one of the parks as soon as they get there, but after a long day of travel, we just wanted to relax in our room, calm the kids down, and get ready for our first day in the parks the next day.
February 14th – A Big Ball in the Sky
We had decided early on in our planning that we were going to make this trip about our kids. We knew about rider swap and all the ways that adults could go on rides that little kids couldn’t, but in all honesty, we didn’t care. We aren’t big ride people anyway, so we made sure we got all of our fastpasses for rides or experiences that our kids would want to do.
We chose Epcot first because we didn’t think our kids would find it as entertaining as we would if we were by ourselves, so we decided that it would be the one to check off on our first day and leave the amazement of the Magic Kingdom until later.
We never had an issue with the bus system. We rarely waited longer than 10 minutes and the buses were never full for us, and I was lugging around a dang double stroller! On any of our days, we never did early or late hours, nor did we strive to be there by some ridiculous time. We got to Epcot around 9:30 and made our way through the entrance and security lines before coming upon the big silver ball.
And to the right of us as we were walking in…a line to meet Daisy that was really short! So we instantly jumped into that and waited just a few minutes before getting to have the kids meet her. They were…stunned? In awe? Unsure? Lol. My daughter smiled but my son just stared at her the entire time and then gave her a hug.
My in-laws came with us for the morning so we next went to go check out The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Easily hopped on that ride with no wait and then toured the mini aquarium after. Once we were done with that, we wandered our way up to the section where they rope you off until it was time to go in and then we headed through the various pavilions until it was time for our princess lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. The kids were a bit rambunctious for the lunch. They were all over the place. We walked into the hall to have Belle greet us with hugs and smiles. And when the princesses came through, Snow White was first at our table. She was my favorite, by far. My daughter was all smiles and got her picture and then Snow White landed a huge kiss on my son’s forehead. It left a LARGE lipstick mark of her lips, which was hilarious and adorable. He smiled. And then we showed him his face on our phone and he instantly wanted the lipstick gone!
The other princesses came around and then there was the parade. We got to chat with all of them and have pictures taken. Ariel was kind of a dud, to be honest. Overall, while the experience was neat, the food was just ok and you’re definitely paying for the photo opportunities.
After lunch, my son spotted the little trains that run through part of one of the pavilions and we could have stayed there for hours just watching them. Eventually, the kids got tired of walking and wanted to sit in the stroller, and then fell asleep. The weather was hot, as it ended up being every single day we were there. No rain and consistently high 20s or low 30s (Celcius, that is!). Their nap gave us an opportunity to just take in the sites, walk through the pavilions, and enjoy the hustle and bustle. We even stopped for a couple’s photo in the Morocco pavilion and had a magic shot taken. It wasn’t overly busy that day, surprisingly. While they were still sleeping, we hit the gift shop and browsed the surplus of items available, only grabbing a Mickey-shaped pancake mold. There was still lots of shopping to be done.
We tired ourselves out and headed back to the resort for some pool time, supper, and relaxing. Our first full day was in the books and we had a great time.
February 15th – Pool Day
I know…day two and already a resort and rest day. But again, we knew if we pushed our kids every day we’d have a meltdown by day four. So we got up late, ate breakfast at the resort, and splashed in the main pool for hours. The kids loved it. The main pool at CBR is fantastic, especially for young kids. And they have activities throughout the day. While we were there, Donald, Minnie, and Goofy came out and interacted with the kids. My son bowled with him. It was pretty adorable.
When we weren’t in the pools, we took the kids on a walk around the resort. Yes, the construction was noticeable, but it certainly didn’t take away from our experience at all. And I think we lucked out with being in the Jamaica area because we couldn’t hear any of the noise.
One blip of the day was that my Magic Band wouldn’t work for purchases so I did need to have that sorted out. But the staff were great and it was fixed very quickly, which allowed me to spend many hundreds of dollars with just a tap throughout the rest of the vacation. So…thanks, I guess?!
February 16th – THE Magical Day
Magic Kingdom day had arrived. I think my wife and I were more excited than our kids. We were out the door by 9:00AM and on Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train in no time. My son was just a bit too short for it so I took our daughter on. Needless to say, she was afraid the entire time. Now she talks about it fondly and laughs at how scared she was. But the attraction photo we got through our Memory Maker account is hilarious. Full out screaming.
It was so dang hot and crowded this day. We were really mindful of the space we were taking up with our double stroller (it’s a long stroller, not a wide one) and tried to keep out of people’s way, but wow – some people just have no clue on how to properly walk through a crowd.
After the ride, we wandered over into Tomorrowland just to check it out and get the kids smoothies (we had vanilla shakes). They were excited about the Mickey straws. It really makes you remember that it’s the small things they love. By the time we were done people watching, it was time for our Be Our Guest lunch. It took a bit to get through the line and get seated, but we were served very quickly and I loved my beef dip. The atmosphere was really awesome.
More rides and more walking. The kids loved the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. We didn’t know the camels spit water and I got shot right in the face which brought incredible laughter from my daughter. She still laughs about it now if I bring it up. The carrousel was a big hit, as was it’s a small world. We stopped and had our photos taken in front of Rapunzel’s castle and the employee put a little Pascal on my daughter’s head. Because we got the Memory Maker package, we stopped all the time when we saw them and I’m really glad we did. We got some great photos out of the trip with all of us in them.
The heat and the crowds were a bit too much for us that day and the kids were done by mid-afternoon, so we headed back to the resort for some well-earned swim time and movie watching. The kids loved the buffet because when they were done supper, there was an entire area of desserts that we would let them go pick something from. I don’t even want to know how many donut holes my son ate over 10 days!
As a big group of 10, we had spent almost no time together. We were all doing our own thing and that turned out to be great. My in-laws were ok to go with the flow and would join whatever family for part of the day and then usually end up at Epcot. As predicted, they tried numerous times to just walk up to a restaurant and get in, but it never worked. There was one they really wanted to try and because I have the Touring Plans subscription and was constantly reading the Liner chats, I knew about the reservation finder. So I set one up and waited. Almost instantly, one became available so I grabbed it without even asking them. I surprised them with it later that day and they were amazed. It was my secret on how I did it.
February 17th – Shopapalooza at Disney Springs
Disney Springs was a very quick bus ride from our resort. We swam in the morning and were able to be there just after lunch. Again, fantastic weather and the crowds were ok.
This was just a day of wandering and shopping for us, as well as a supper reservation. The kids loved the giant LEGO of Snow White and Woody/Buzz, as well as the crocodile that is outside of the Rainforest Café. I’m glad we decided not to do our reservation at that café, as the restaurant seemed extremely loud and packed!
We shopped until my Magic Band was smoking. We ventured into the Disney Store, but a good portion of it was blocked off because of renovations, which made it extremely crowded and frustrating to walk through. And then I stood in front of the wall of mugs for probably 10 minutes trying to make a decision (I always get a mug, magnet, and Christmas decoration on every trip, if possible). We let the kids pick out a few things and then got out of there as quickly as possible. And found the Christmas store! We grabbed numerous decorations with a bit of fear that they might not make it back in one piece from the flight (but we had no issues).
We also went into the Art of Disney store where I bought the Maps book that shows the progression of every Disney park in the world. I love it and it’s one of my favorite souvenirs. What I didn’t buy and I’m kicking myself a bit is a piece of wall art of all the Disney villains, but I just don’t know how I would have gotten it back to Canada and I didn’t think to ask about shipping at the time.
Our supper reservation was at Frontera Cocina which we were ecstatic about because we had eaten at another Rick Bayless Mexican restaurant in Chicago and it was fantastic. And this one didn’t let us down, either. A couple appetizers, some fantastic entrees, and some extremely boozy drinks later, we were ready to head back with all of our purchases.
February 18th – A Second Day for Rest
Our second resort day and certainly needed. My feet and legs were already tired, so lounging around the pool with the kids was exactly the right remedy. It was extremely hot this day and took it easy on how much sun we got, so we were in and out of our rooms multiple times to just wander around the resort, snack, and swim. The Olaf popsicles sure melted quickly that day!
February 19th – Full Group Adventure
Animal Kingdom day. This was the one day we all had in common on our schedules so we decided to plan a couple activities together as a big group before we split off and did our own thing.
Out of all the days, if I had to choose, this was our least favorite. You could barely walk because there were so many people, the heat was ridiculous, and my in-laws bailed on us very early on because again, they tried to just walk into any restaurant for a sit down meal and couldn’t get anywhere.
As a group, we did the Kilamanjaro Safari which was amazing. We had so many animals come up very close to our jeep and our driver was hilarious. The kids loved the animals. Once that was done, we split off because we had a lunch reservation at Tusker House, while my sister-in-law’s family had fastpasses for another ride. While we were waiting for our table, we got a text that said my in-laws were going back to the resort. As expected, my wife was irritated but decided it was for the best anyway.
I loved this restaurant. I really enjoyed the food and the characters were awesome. We have such wonderful photos of my son meeting Daisy and daughter meeting Goofy that are just heart melting. When lunch was over, we met back up with my sister-in-law and then we all went our separate ways for the rest of the day. We did more walking and the kids enjoyed looking around, but we didn’t do much else there. We certainly didn’t care about any of the Pandora rides, although we walked around the area and it was really cool. We had a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie (I messed up our fastpass time on that and we had actually arrived late, but the employee was great and let us in – I was so embarrassed) and then we headed back to the resort for the rest of the day, and I was glad for that.
February 20th – No Kids Day
This was our one day out as a couple and we went to Universal Studios without the kids. I won’t mention much about it except to say that our sole focus was everything Harry Potter and our kids are way too young to have any idea what that is. We did the two main rides, drank some Butter Beer, got some wands and other souvenirs and just really enjoyed each other’s company without the chaos of our kids. And I certainly enjoyed the minimal crowds. It was also the first Lyft ride we had ever taken and after that, I don’t know why anyone would ever take a taxi. We walked around both parks but didn’t feel like doing too much else so we made our way back and enjoyed more pool time with the families.
February 21st & 22nd – Back to the Magic
Over our last two full days, we decided to go back to Magic Kingdom each day. It was the best park for us and the kids loved many of the rides.
We met Buzz Lightyear, Jasmine and Aladdin, Rapunzel and Tiana, and Ariel. I ate probably the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had at Gaston’s Tavern which I scarfed down with some delicious LeFou’s Brew. Of course, we also had another round of the Dole Whips. We rode on many rides and then let the kids pick their favorites and I tried to get additional fastpasses as often as I could. We hit five in one day which I thought was great!
We took in the parade, cooled off at Casey Jr’s Splash and Play, and my wife conquered the Mad Tea Party ride (apparently when she was at Disney as a little girl, she was riding it, fell, and hit her head – I laugh about it, which she does not find funny).
I managed to grab a last minute reservation at Skipper Canteen before the fireworks. Again, really enjoyed the food. We had a big bill but our waiter came over and told us that someone who had dining credits left paid for our entire meal. So that was a fantastic way to finish, considering our bill was about $200.
The kids had never seen fireworks before so their faces were amazing to watch as they went off. We made our way through the crowds at the end, caught a bus very quickly, and were back at the resort to pack up and get ready to leave the next day.
February 23rd – Home Time
Our adventure home was tiring but went well. We were all sad to be leaving but ready for our own beds. This had been the best vacation I had been on. We didn’t know how the kids would do, but they were fantastic. They may not remember all of the details, but the look on their faces when we were in the moment was priceless. And they still talk about things today and ask when we are going back so it definitely left an impression on them.
And we are already planning on when to go back. We have become a Disney family. We will be back many times and will also venture to Disneyland at some point. I look forward to making more memories. I am appreciative to the Liners and having the touring plans and all of that knowledge, as I believe our vacation was planned well because of those things and was almost stress free. You are all a wonderful community who care about the experiences of others and that’s magical.