Our Family Trip to Disneyworld
In February of 2016 my husband and I planned a dream trip to LA for a 5-day trip exploring the city and neighboring cities. We were so excited – it was a trip we had been planning for, for years. The itinerary was set, reservations made ,PTO requested; however it quickly turned into a nightmare. My daughter contracted the Norovirus who promptly gave it to me and then to my husband. Almost every day of the trip – someone felt crappy. Our Airbnb was not what we expected and sprinted for a hotel and we quickly learned to absolutely hate LA traffic. To top it off, the trip ended with us being stuck on the runway at 10pm for an hour and then in the parking lot the gate didn’t go up properly and we blew out three tires.
In the weeks after, I swore our 2017 family trip would be much simpler than that. No getting in and out of the car, no sitting in traffic just good food and a good trip. It was then that I quickly decided – we were going to Disneyworld. In my normal obsessive fashion I started researching and reading everything I possibly could about a full trip to Disney. Early on, a number of things were easily decided: we would go in February a few weeks prior to my daughter’s 3rd birthday so she could get into the park for free, we would stay on the Disney grounds and we investigate the meal plan.
With planning this logistical of a trip, it is easy to quickly get overwhelmed as there are many sites out there that have tons of advice, packing lists, park plans, etc… but what is good is that you can comb through it and see what fits for your family. I consulted some very good friends, family and then ultimately just called the people at Disney reservations and spent an hour on the phone with them going over all of my options. Now I know there are cheaper options out there – you can go through AAA or 3rd party consultants but in my honest opinion (or as the kids say IMHO) I prefer to deal directly with the source because if something goes wrong, you can deal with Disney directly and not have to go through a middle man.
Finally when the reservations opened up last May I had all the information I needed to pull the trigger:
- We would stay at the Disney All-Star Movies (we later switched hotels, but I’ll get into that late
- Arrive on a Sunday afternoon, leave on a Saturday morning
- My husband and I would get the Deluxe Meal Plan (my daughter was free entry to the park and therefore did not get a meal plan)
- We got the 5-day park pass, we didn’t want to do a park hopper because she was so little
- We would not rent a car and would instead rely on the bus system inside the campus
And after an easily refundable $200 – it was all set.
But…that is just the tip of the iceberg. Deciding to go to Disney and making the hotel and flight reservations are seriously just the easiest part of the whole trip. Booking dining reservations and fast passes requires a level of research I definitely was not ready for.
First things first, keep an eye out on Disney’s special offers on the web site. I made a calendar event on my calendar for something on a bi-weekly basis simply because 25% off hotels and free meal plans are offers that occasionally pop up. It was through one of these offers that I was able to switch our hotel from All-Star Movies to the Art of Animation hotel – which had normally been about $900 more.
The first thing we tackled was what day we would go to what park. We decided we wanted to start/end the trip at Magic Kingdom and then chose the other 3 days using calendar function on the site and seeing our options for magic hours.
- Monday: Magic Kingdom
- Tuesday: Epcot
- Wednesday: Hollywood Studios
- Thursday: Animal Kingdom
- Friday: Magic Kingdom
The next and biggest task ahead of us was deciding the dining reservations. I had heard from a few friends it was an exhausting process and trust me when I say, they are 100% right. If you are staying on the Disney property you get to book your reservations starting 6am EST 180 days prior to check-in. Believe me when I say being prompt on and on-time is absolutely no joke if you want to go to places like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table. Now depending on your party size and budget you may chose not to do a dining plan or you may decide to do a cheaper one. While I have been to Disney multiple times with family and work – there have only been two instances where I could chose to do the dining plan. The first time, about 5 years ago, we opted not to and felt stressed the entire time when we ate about how much we were spending. This time we opted for the most expensive one (the Deluxe dining plan) for a number of reasons: 1) it comes with an appetizer, entree and dessert at every meal and since our daughter would not have a meal plan, we could make it up by utilizing our appetizers and entrees and 2) because it came with 2 meals a person per day and well…my husband eats a lot of food.
The first web site I used was MyDisneyObsession.com – this web site is a plethora of information. My favorite part was that there was an itinerary section for families with little kids. It was from this list that we created the way we wanted to see each park and thus, the food list.
Like I said previously, there is a lot of information out there about all plans – but I would recommend getting the approved list from the Disney site so you can see what restaurant is agreeable to which plan. We wanted to be able to sit down at each meal, we wanted to see the characters and we wanted to be sure we could get decent times. It took a lot of writing and re-writing to figure it out but eventually we had it all done on that August day. We planned to do the earliest breakfasts we could book, a lunch around 12-1p and then dinner around 5-6pm. Now I will say that we made adjustments to our lunch plans after the first day. Some kids can push through and some will nap in their stroller – my daughter was neither of those so after day 1 at Magic Kingdom we had to make adjustments to all the meals for lunch and dinner for the rest of the week so we could go back to the hotel for 2-3 hours for a family nap (yes, parents need nap as well).
|Cinderella's Royal Table @ Magic Kingdom|
All-in-all, here is where we netted out for restaurants and some of my thoughts:
Splitsville Dining Room in Disney Springs. While the meal itself was good, we waited over an hour for a round of burgers and some chicken which wasn’t exactly great. I think if the food had gotten there quicker I might have thought differently but by the time food showed up we housed it and then to the World of Disney store to buy ears and then left
Breakfast: Chef Mickey. This place was hands down the best breakfast of the entire trip. It is one of the more pricey character breakfasts so I was pleased it lived up to the cost. We got to see all of the characters and trust me starting your Disney trip off with Mickey Mouse is the absolute best way to do so. The food was fantastic.
Lunch: Liberty Tree Tavern. Located in the heart of Libery Square this lunch did not disappoint. It was definitely the Liberty America experience you would want and the food was fantastic. You had the option of ordering a regular entree or ordering off the never ending meal where you could get turkey, mashed potatoes and excellent bread pudding
Dinner: cafeteria at the hotel
Breakfast: Princess Storybrook Dining Breakfast at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway, World Showcase. Here’s the thing – if we had only done this princess breakfast I would recommend it to all. You can get in as early as 8am, it is RIGHT next door to Elsa and Anna autographs (we only waited 20 minutes) and you’re in Epcot early…sometimes 30 minutes prior to the park opens; however, we also did Cinderella’s on Friday where my daughter also met all the princess but the food was 10x better (even though it cost us 2 tickets). The food wasn’t that great but it was still a nice experience. If we went back, I would probably do Cinderella’s but not this.
Lunch: The Garden Grill. I have eaten here a number of times and frankly always enjoy it. You again, get to meet the usual characters of Mickey, Minnie but also Chip and Dale. Plus the restaurant slow rotates within the Land.
Dinner: San Angel Inn (Mexico, World Showcase). First let me start off by saying we did not take my daughter to this dinner with us. We were lucky to have my parents with us for a few days of the trip so we were able to have a date night. The food was amazing (AH-MAZING) and they had an avocado margarita on the menu that was probably one of the best drinks I have ever had.
|Avocado Margarita's @ San Angel Inn, Mexico, World Showcase|
Breakfast: Hollywood & Vine. Disney Junior character breakfast – if your kids like these characters it would be a good breakfast.
Lunch: 50s Primetime Café. Definitely a fun and relaxing atmosphere – it was hot that day so it was nice to sit down and eat a good meal.
Dinner: SciFi Dine-In Theater. I didn’t realize they would be playing old movies – I think it would be interesting if they had switched it up and put some of the newer Disney movies in there but at least the food and service was good.
Breakfast: Tusker House. Character breakfast again – food was good and so was the atmosphere. Cool thing was it was right next to the safari so we were able to go get in line prior to the 9am park open
Lunch: (I don't remember)
Dinner: pizza from the hotel cafeteria
Breakfast: Cinderella’s Royal Palace. An absolute dream of a breakfast - you start off with a photo with Cinderella and then you get to upstairs inside the super awesome Cinderella’s castle and enjoy a delicious breakfast. They give the little girl’s wands and the boys swords and you once again meet all of the princess’s. I would absolutely do this again.
Dinner: Be Our Guest. This restaurant was the BEST way to end the trip. As a huge Beauty and the Beast fan I was absolutely transported to the ballroom of the Beast’s castle. There was no other way to describe than to just say that it was simply magical. The food was great and you could order the “Grey Stuff” on the menu. I also may have sang “Be Our Guest” the entire time as well.
|The Grey Stuff, Be Our Guest @ Magic Kingdom|
Next up was fast passes. You get to choose the Fast Passes about two months prior. For us, this fluctuated up until the week before we left and even while we were there. We were able to get on rides quicker once in the park so thanks to the Disney app, you can make adjustments on the fly. It ultimately comes down to what you want to do but here is what we did.
- Buzz Lightyear
- Meet Ariel at her Grotto
- Pooh’s Wild Ride
- Haunted Mansion
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Frozen Ever After (but the ride got closed)
- Frozen Sing-a-long
- Rock ‘N Roller-coaster
- Animal Safari
|Storm Trooper March @ Hollywood Studios|
Lastly, for hotel we wanted a suite and didn’t mind paying the extra money for it. The family suite gave us a one-bedroom suite with two bathrooms and it was perfect.
Packing and What to Wear:
Here’s the thing. It’s Disney, not a prom – you want to be comfortable. For me, I packed workout leggings with an side iPhone pocket and cute t-shirts and was comfortable all week. But everyone needs to decide on their own what is best for them and also, the time of year. For us during that week in February in hovered around mid-70s all week so we able to wear leggings and t-shirts and were comfortable and able to dress to the weather. There are LOTS of “ultimate packing lists” out there so I am not going to bore you with mine, but I will provide a link should you want to check it out. Simply click à here
Tips and Advice
- · Buy a good portable charger that can charge your device multiple times. We have this Anker one and it was 100% worth it
- · If you have young kids, be sure to have some type of mobile device that can entertain them while waiting in lines or for food
- · BUY GLOWSTICKS AHEAD OF TIME. We purchased a few packs at the dollar store so then at night when they were selling them, we just whipped out a 3-pack that cost me $1 and she was perfectly excited
- · Bring bubbles. Again, hit the dollar store but it’s totally worth it
- · Crayons and coloring book are an oldie but goodie and never fail for entertainment
- · These caffeine mints are good to keep on you instead of constantly reaching for a cup of coffee
- · Buy the autograph book and large pen ahead of time
- · Pack every type of medicine your family could possibly need. There isn’t a Walgreens on the Disney campus and even if you found meds, they will cost you a ton of money
- · Download the Disney app for on-the-go Fast Pass and dining reservation adjustments
- · In the days before, take screen shots of your reservations so that you don’t have to waste battery or data looking up your reservation
Special thanks to the amazing woman over at MyDisneyObsession.com – she is available also on Facebook and quick to answer any questions you may have.
Here is my Pinterest board that should help guide you the rest of the way.
If you have any questions feel free to comment below, send me an email or send me a message on Instagram