I had no idea where to start with writing about the most magical place on earth – Walt Disney World.
Should I do a post about planning? Best rides for kids? Perks of staying on Disney property? Best shows to see? Best snacks? Disney dining plan? I had no idea where to begin. So here’s an overview of our holiday just for starters. We went to Walt Disney World Florida for 11 nights in October 2019. We are a family of four and our children are aged 9 and 3.
Flights to Orlando
We booked with Tui and flew premium with them from Gatwick. We stayed overnight at Marriott Courtyard which is Marriott’s like budget sibling and I wouldn’t recommend it. While the main communal areas are very lovely the rooms are really dated, the beds well used (and ours was dusty which sounds really snotty but it is a bit off putting).
Tui fly to Sanford Orlando and not to Orlando International like other airlines (Virgin, Norwegian are some you can use for International). Tui now fly from Bristol to Sanford Orlando so if we went again we would definitely go from Bristol.
Sanford Orlando is about a 50 minute transfer to the Disney area whereas International is only about 30 minutes. Sanford is a much smaller airport so there’s less queuing. However, Sanford was looking really outdated on this trip and I think they are in the process of upgrading some of the areas.
The kids were awesome on the plane. We spent a bit extra to go premium and it was so worth it. I thought it would be like economy extra with a bit more legroom but it was much better. The seats were really spacious and comfortable, the food was lush and we got a little night pack each with a mini toiletries kit. Very posh service with prosecco and orange juice served before take off and alcohol included (though I’m T-total now after my last trip to Dublin but that’s another story). It was lovely and nice to not feel so cramped for the 9.5hrs. Another added perk of Premium is you can use the No1 lounge in Gatwick which has free papers and buffet breakfast included.
Choosing a Disney Resort
We stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort which is a moderate resort. They have value resorts (pop century, art of animation etc.) moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans etc.) and deluxe resorts (Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge etc.). Disney are really good at taking care of their guests so you won’t be disappointed if you choose to spend the extra to go deluxe. We visited the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian and they are jaw dropping resorts. Equally, as the Disney customer experience is at the centre of everything Disney do the moderate resorts are lush too.
Staying at a Disney hotel means you get perks such as free Disney transport between resorts and parks, and you can book your dining reservations and fast passes for the rides a bit further in advance.
We’ve stayed at the Caribbean Beach before so we knew we would love it. It was lush to see it again but this time with an upgraded lobby and brand new restaurant Sebastian’s which we enjoyed so much we ate at twice.
Our first day was straight to Animal Kingdom which was our favourite park on our last visit but also to meet up with Rich’s cousin and her family who had gone out a few days before us from Manchester.
All of us love Animal Kingdom. It’s African themed and it’s very leafy which means shade (which is something you’re in constant pursuit of in the Florida heat) and gorgeous to walk through. My little boy is 3 and animal obsessed so it was his favourite place and he kept asking throughout the rest of our holiday if we could go back to ‘the zoo’. Pandora world of Avatar is also at Animal Kingdom. The floating mountains are eye-popping and the theming there is something else.
Florida is 5 hours behind the U.K. (it was when we travelled but Florida does change the clocks in October too so check your dates) for the first few days we found we were all awake super early. We’d visit the parks in the morning and be back to the hotel (and A/C) by about 3pm. So we mixed busy park days with hanging out at the hotel pool. Caribbean beach is a big resort divided up into villages. Each village has it’s own pool along with the big main pool which has slides and a toddler splash pool. Everyone is allowed to use any pool but we find the village pools are usually really quiet and easy to get to from your room.
Our holiday was 11 nights so we got to go to most parks twice. So you can kind of split the big rides between 2 days rather than trying to get everything done at once.
Personal Disney Highlights
Some highlights for me were Soarin’ which I’d never been on before. I loved that, that’s at Epcot. I really enjoyed the food at breakfast at O’Hana but my favourite character meal was Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary which was just far and away the best one we did. Ooh there’s so much I loved! The Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot was amazing and we also all loved the Na’vii river journey ride at Animal Kingdom but I had seen that on so many vlogs before I went I felt like I’d been on it already!
Rides for little ones
My 9yr/o daughter really enjoyed going on some of the faster rides this time and she loved 7 Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom. My little 3yr/o son also loved the rollercoaster he went on called the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom and he’s still talking about it. I didn’t rate The Haunted Mansion (sorry to all the die hard fans of that ride) which was a shame as it was one I was looking forward to. It did break while we were waiting though and we were crammed into this hallway which wasn’t much fun. I just thought it needed a bit of an upgrade into 2019.
Disney Magic is Real
There is so much to say about a Disney holiday. It’s like no other holiday I’ve ever been on. It’s jam-packed busy but jam-packed with magic. You bound from one experience to the next like an excited puppy with the help of the lovely cast members in anticipation of what’s next. What amazing thing can top the look on my child’s face on that last ride? And there’s always something that does. Then just when you’re beginning to believe that Disney magic is actually real suddenly BLAM you’re on the plane home and it’s all over. No sooner have you touched down than you’re on airport wifi looking up deals for your next visit. Then your 3 year old looks up at you with hazy eyes and says “Are we back in the real world now?”
Main Disney Takeaways:
- Don’t fret about the ages of your children there’s really so much to see and do for all ages.
- The Disneylife app is essential, showing maps, wait times, plans, reservations and your photo passes.
- The Skyliner is awesome! Make sure you try it.
- Cast members make Disney. They all know their stuff and have degrees in how to speak to children.
- Don’t worry about queues. We didn’t queue for longer than 15mins for anything. Use your fast passes and away to go!
- If you can get a Disney dining plan definitely do it. The food is very pricey and it’s great to have it all pre-paid. It just takes away the stress of trying to get the best value for your money at each place.
All of these photos were taken by the very talented photo pass photographers working across the parks and experiences. If you are not sure about buying memory maker I would say to do it 100% . It’s so easy, just tap your magic band and lovely family pics (with you all in) go straight to your app. Keep an eye out because you might catch a deal where you can get memory maker for free with your park tickets like we did.
I will be doing other posts all about Disney soon. I know I read blog posts and watched vlogs like it was my job before we went. Partly for planning but mostly just for the excitement of the build up.
If you would like to see more of our trip you can watch our vlogs here.
If there is anything specific about going to Walt Disney World you would like to know about tell me in the comments below and I’ll include it in a post.
Watch our vlogs of our Disney trip here: YouTube
Here is a previous post I’ve written about Disney planning: 3 Essential Disney Planning Tips.
AJ over at Disney Food Blog is such a great resource for all things Disney.
Enjoy your Disney planning! It’s half the fun!