Hey y’all! Happy Hump Day! Most of you that follow me on social media were probably well aware that our family took a Disney Vacation last week. We are seriously Disney Fans and we try to go once every couple of years. This was our first time going in the fall and also the first time getting to experience some attractions, so I want to break it all down for you! I will lay out how I paid for the majority of the trip, our resort, transportation, events and overall experience!
I do want to make it clear that I am NOT a Disney Vacation Planner. I typically do everything myself and make decisions after a ton of research. If you are more interested in letting a vacation planner do all the work for you, let me know! I can put you in touch with a couple of great ones!
Without further ado, lets gets into it!
PAYING FOR THE TRIP
I am blessed that my husband is able to support the family so that I can stay home with me kids full time. It gives me the opportunity to spend more time on passions (like blogging) and reduces the consistent stress I would have balancing sick days and extracurricular with my PTO. That being said, we are still a single income family and don’t have a TON leftover for massive vacations like Disney. Considering I am definitely the mega fan and the one who pushes it so often, I try to cover the trip as much as I can. I started saving for this trip in January and by the time it rolled around in October, I had already put $1450 towards the trip! My husband only had to pay the balance of $550 plus food while we were there. I saved all that using couponing and receipt scanning apps! I’m not even kidding. I go into a full explanation in THIS POST if you want to give this a shot for yourself. Its a great way to save for anything, not just Disney.
We decided to stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort this year ONLY because of the Pirate themed rooms they offer. I have two young boys who are all into pirates right now and we thought that would be a fun treat for them. The room was absolutely adorable and we loved the attention to detail. And yes, my guys LOVED it! They thought it was so cool to sleep in a pirate ship bed. Now do bear in mind, if you or someone in your party has mobility issues, the pirate themed rooms at CBR will not be the best fit for you. They are located at the very back of the resort, and the resort is MASSIVE. You are looking at a 10 minute walk to reach the main building and pool as well as a 3-5 minute walk to reach the nearest bus stop. The Skyliner (I will go more in depth on that next) is about an 8 minute walk. We upgraded to a waterview room, which was really nice. Not that we sat there looking out the window a lot, but we stepped right outside out room and the walkway to the main building and Skyliner followed the waterline, so it really amped up the vacation vibe. Also the pool at CBR is one of the best ones out of all of the Disney resorts. It has several fun slides, water “cannons” and the most fun and interactive kiddie pool I have ever seen! This is definitely a great family friendly resort.
The modes of transportation around Disney are as follows: Disney Bus, Monorail, Skyliner (new), Boat, Minnie Van, Uber/Lyft, and personal vehicle. I highly recommend what transportation options are available at your resort ahead of time. For Caribbean Beach it was bus and Skyliner. Each mode of transport has its own pros and cons. Here are my thoughts on the ones I have experienced:
Bus: Here is my unpopular opinion. I hate the buses. I’m sorry, but I do. They are the most widely used form of transportation at Disney, but they are unpredictable and can get way too crowded. You ALWAYS have to fold and hold on to your stroller and they often pack as many people on as possible that you may not be able to sit with your whole group or in my case, you are sitting with multiple kids in your lap while your husband is on the opposite side of the bus having to stand and hold the stroller. As far as timing goes, buses run every 20-30 minutes, meaning you can be sitting at that bus stop for a half hour waiting on yours to show. They do have digital boards now at most stops that let you know the ETA of your bus, so that does help. But during one bus ride the ETA increased by 15 minutes while we were waiting! That doesn’t typically fly with kids that are ready to get to the fun!
Monorail: The monorail is a Disney classic. Its typically a fun ride with a nice view. Depending on the time you are boarding, you could have a section all to yourself or you could be in a cabin with a few other families. It typically doesn’t get too crowded, but the ride times are low enough so that it doesn’t matter much. We always try to ride it at least once. Usually from Magic Kingdom to Epcot or vise-versa.
Skyliner: This is a brand new transport system that opened up only about 2 weeks before our trip. And it is already my favorite mode of transport at Disney. The Skyliner is a continuous motion gondola system (meaning you get on and off while it is moving). The cabins are glass or encompassed in a wrap, but both offer stunning views. They are not air conditioned, but multiple vents and the top of the gondolas offer great air flow, keeping the cabin cool. The line was never long to get a gondola, and my favorite part is that each group got their own ride! No being crammed in with multiple families. We didn’t even have to fold up our stroller! It got us to our destination quickly and the kids loved it too. It was like another ride for them! I really hope Disney will get more of these! Caribbean Beach Resort is the main hub and from there you can take the Skyliner to Epcot and Hollywood Studios as well as 2 other resorts.
Boat: This is another mode of transport that we try to do just once on our trip. We typically take it from the Transportation Hub to Magic Kingdom (after hopping off the Monorail from Epcot. Its a pleasant ride and you get a pretty view of the Magic Kingdom upon entry. Some resorts also offer boat transport. When my husband and I honeymooned in 2014, we stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter and there was a little boat that went from the resort to Disney Springs. That was perfect for our first night, because our park tickets did not start until the next day.
Personal Vehicle: This is the first time we used our personal vehicle to travel in the parks and I am so happy we did. We used it to go to Animal Kingdom and to Epcot one morning when they were running maintenance on the Skyliner. As long as you have a GPS, you can quickly head to whichever park you want. And if you are staying on property, the guard at the park gate will scan your Magic Band and you DO NOT have to pay that $25 parking fee. SO NICE. There is typically about a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot to the main gate. Not bad at all and we loved the time saved not having to wait on a bus.
Minnie Van: We did not actually use a Minnie Van this trip, but I have heard such great things about the program, I wanted to fill y’all in. The Minnie Vans are either classic vans or small SUVs. You can order a ride directly from your Disney app (which is an absolute MUST to have on your phone anyways), and they will come pick you up from the park or resort or wherever on property you are. They also have car seats when you request it, so they are a safe choice for your little ones. It is a $25 ride fee per trip and you can pay through the Lyft app. If you have tried it, definitely let me know what you think!
Lyft/Uber: This is again a mode of transportation I have not used at Disney, but I have used other places. It can be convenient if you don’t have your personal vehicle and don’t want to wait for the bus. It would also probably be a bit less than the Minnie Van service.
MICKEYS NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN PARTY
This event was what I was looking the most forward to the entire trip. I had heard so many great things about it! I had seen photos of the piles of candy kids received and heard magical things about smaller crowds and lower wait times. I was so excited about it all! In the end, I was a bit disappointed. The night we went, it was PACKED. We struggled to walk and navigate through the throngs of people and the wait times for all the rides were so long, which stunk because Disney does not offer Fast Passes during the event. In the 5 hours we were there, we rode 8 rides. That’s all we could manage. And the lines at the candy stations were so astronomically long that we didn’t want to waste a ton of time standing in them and skipped several all together. With 2 kids, we didn’t even fill up ONE of the small candy bags Disney gives you at the gate. The candy we did receive was good candy, though. Nothing cheap. We even received full sized candy bars.
We were stuck in a ride line as we neared the start of the Boo to You Parade, which starts at 9:15. We made it about 5 minutes before it started, but at that point we were already 6 rows back from the route and could only see the tops of the floats. From what we could tell, it was a fun parade and the music was really upbeat! The atmosphere of the night was really cool too. They used a lot of purple lighting effects and gave the river a nice misty effect. Overall, I think its a fun event and better for older kids who can hang for the full event (4pm-12pm) to get your full money’s worth. Our 2 and 4 year olds were done after the parade ended around 9:40pm.
This is an absolute must have for a productive Disney Trip. It gives you an interactive map of the parks, shows ride wait times, where bathrooms are located, Attractions and entertainment (like street shows and parades) and dining. You can even order food from the app and skip the line! This is also where you can book extra fast passes! I highly recommend booking your fast passes as soon as you can (90 days out is the earliest), especially the more popular rides. After you use up your first 3 (which are per park per day), you can add one at a time in the app.
Parks and Park Hoppers
This is the first time we did all 4 parks with the kids. The last time we went, it was Magic Kingdom only. No matter how long your stay, I always recommend getting park hoppers. You may want to start the day with a character breakfast in Magic Kingdom and end it with fireworks and drinks in Epcot. Park hoppers give you so much more flexibility and help you to get the most out of your trip. They are definitely worth the extra money when staying on property.
Now all 4 Parks have fun things for kids to do. Magic Kingdom definitely has the most kid friendly attractions though. That being said, we had a ton of fun in each park! This was our first time seeing Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land in Hollywood studios and they were both SO DANG COOL! My kids are both huge Toy Story lovers, so they got a bit kick out of the themed land. Plus all the main characters were out for meet and greets the entire time we were there! We saw Buzz, Woody, Jessie and Bo Peep, plus we even saw some green toy soldiers marching around. It was so fun! Star Wars was all encompassing and amazing. I highly recommend walking through, even if you aren’t a big fan. It is so immersive and fascinating. There were even storm troopers set up in guard positions around the park to add to the effect. My kids loved seeing all the “space ships”.
We had a character breakfast at The Garden Grill in Epcot, where we met Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale. Its a smaller restaurant, so the characters come by your table at least twice while you are there. The food was crazy good! Its served family style. First they bring you out a giant cinnamon roll and a big bowl of fruit, followed by a massive skillet of bacon, eggs, sausage and mickey waffles! They also bring you extras like melted Nutella, salsa and ketchup. We spent the rest of the morning doing the kid type rides Epcot had to offer. My guys loved the aquarium and the Frozen Ever After Ride.
We opted for the “extra magic hours” Animal Kingdom offered in the morning. Because we were staying on property, we could arrive at 7am instead of 8am. Our main goal of this was to be first on the Safari. We were disappointed to find the safari didn’t follow early magic hours and didn’t open until 8:15am. We didn’t want to leave though and walk to other areas of the park that were offering attractions, so we grabbed breakfast and waited it out. The sunrise over Mount Everest was pretty spectacular though. My kids loved the zoo area of the park and the Dinosaur area with the huge playground and dig site!
We caught the Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom the last afternoon of our trip. All their parades are spectacular and this was no different. Every area of the park has plenty of fun things to do as well as surprise attractions. Its definitely worth spending an extra day in or at least an extra afternoon if you have the time.
Its always important to pack a good park bag. ESPECIALLY if you have kids. The prices for things like water, rain ponchos, snacks, etc is very high in Disney, so its best to bring your own. We had a change of clothes for each child, diapers, wipes, booty rash ointment, hand sanitizer, gum, ponchos (we bought THIS 8 pack for less than the cost of 1 poncho in Disney), a water bottle (THIS one includes a filter to make the Florida water taste better), tissues, portable phone charger, kid snacks, chapstick, hairbrush (to calm the insanity after a crazy ride) and sunscreen.
If you are flying in or don’t have a stroller that meets Disney’s Requirements, then a stroller rental is your best option! I definitely recommend using an outside rental company, because the strollers Disney offers are bulky and uncomfortable (all plastic). We used Orlando Stroller Rentals and were incredibly happy with their service. They drop off and pick up for free anywhere in Orlando, and strollers come with a Rain cover (which must be returned) and a soft cooler (which is yours to keep). They also have two tags on the stroller, making it easier to find your own in a crowd. We opted for a City Mini GT double stroller for $20 a day and it was such a good one. Lots of storage compartments, fit through all standard doorways, was easy to fold and unfold and was comfy for the kids! I definitely recommend this company if you are looking to rent.
Comfort is key where Disney is concerned! Just remember you will be walking an average of 25000 steps per day and getting on and off rides. Comfy and supportive shoes are so important. So are good clothes that don’t wrinkle easily. I actually have a page just for Disney looks that you can check out HERE.
I hope this review helps you in planning your next Disney trip! If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask me! Best of luck on your next Magical Vacation!