Tuesday, December 4, 2018

DISNEY WORLD | PART 1: THE PREP WORK

Oh, friends!!  I don't even know where to start with this recap!  Saying we had the BEST time at Disney World over Thanksgiving just doesn't seem to even cover it.  It was everything and more than I was hoping it would be and I now fully understand why people start jonesin' to go back the second they leave.  #gottagetthatDisneyfix


Before we get started I'm adding this disclaimer that these recaps will come in a multi-part series because I am going to include as much detail as I can.  By the end of the week, you are either going to be dying to go to Disney too or no longer reading my blog.  hahaha

THE PREP WORK

Last year, I decided that it was time for us to take our first trip to Disney World.   Matthew and Mason are 10 and 8 now so they are old enough to do it all but still young enough to get excited by seeing toy soldiers marching through the street with their drums.  Basically, the perfect age to really get your money's worth if you ask me.

Craig was the only one of us who had ever been to Disney but he barely remembers it.  And my parents have always wanted to go so it was a no-brainer to ask them and my in-laws if they wanted to come along.  It took them no time at all to say yes, so once we were all in, I started making plans!

And of course, I used the Mix & Match Travel Agency to help me!  Shay & Erika are two of my favorite girlfriends and it was so nice to have their help.  They made it all SO EASY for me and my crew.
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I'm going to try to break down my prep work into categories but just know that I'll talk more about all of these when I get to our Day in the Life recaps throughout the rest of the week.

First up.

ACCOMMODATIONS 

Before I started looking at resorts, I had a chat with Erika about our budget and what I was wanting in terms of space.  We didn't want a crazy expensive resort (although that would have been amazing!) because we knew we'd be coming home to all that Christmas spending.  And money doesn't grow on trees, y'all.  At least not at our house!  Erika was so easy to work with when it came to keeping things within our budget.

But we did want a FUN resort soI browsed through some of the value and mid-priced resort options to see if anything jumped out at me.  I love researching accommodations so I spent a couple of days going over all the different resorts, checking out reviews, watching videos of each one on YouTube and I finally decided to go with The Art of Animation resort.  (For the record, if you aren't into all that research, your planner can point you in the right direction.  I have minor control issues PLUS I think it's fun so I wanted to check them all out myself.)

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I chose the Art of Animation because I'd read in multiple places that it was the best of the Value Resorts.  But what I loved most was that there were standard rooms which were perfect for our parents (who just needed something basic) as well as family suites which worked great for us.  It was like getting a value and deluxe resort combined into one.

My biggest concern when I was room hunting was that I did not want to be crammed into a tiny room with my giant husband and 2 rowdy boys for 6 days.  BUT the Art of Animation has family suites so I was all over it.  The family suites offered two bathrooms (yyeeessssss!!!), a bedroom with a queen bed, a sofa bed and a table that transformed into a double bed.  Plenty of room for our crew.  Plus it was CARS THEMED!  And my boys lived for Cars anything for years.  It was perfect.  (They also have Lion King and Finding Nemo Family Suites as well.)

We love love love loved this resort!!


I tried to snap some pics of our room as soon as we got to it so you'd get to see it looking neat and tidy as opposed to the Nall tornado that would soon be unleashed. ;)

The boys thought the table bed was just the coolest thing ever.  They took turns sleeping in it every night.  (More on our sleeping arrangements later.)

Here is what it looked like when we walked into the room.


The bedroom had a queen bed and an en-suite bathroom and a beautiful view.


We also had a small living area with a couch that pulled out into a double bed, a TV and kitchenette.  Everything was so clean, well taken care of and perfect for us.



We had everything we needed!  Mini fridge, microwave, sink, and coffee maker plus they even had a tray full of plasticware, bowls, plates, cups and paper towels which was so helpful!


We pushed the table out of the way and had the sofa bed pulled out all week so it didn't look like this for long!

See that tan backpack in the pic below?  That bench seat it is on raised up and was the PERFECT place for dirty clothes and everyone's stinky socks.


The boys had their own bathroom which was so nice.


So cute!


And here's the table bed pulled out.  It had lights at the top which you could turn on and off or dim without leaving the bed.  It was really comfortable too.  Seriously, if they sold this on Amazon... ;)


I loved our bathroom too!  Everything was so clean and shiny!  Plus, that lighting was totally working for me when it came time to put on my makeup.  Although looking cute was the farthest thing from my mind during this trip.


We were on the third floor at the very end of the hallway which meant we had a little walk to get to our room but it wasn't obnoxious.  I loved being at the end of the hall because it was much quieter since people weren't constantly walking by our room and we were far away from the elevators.  I'd definitely suggest asking for a room at the end of the hall.

We also had a gorgeous view of the lake and the Pop Century Resort across the way from our bedroom and living areas.


The rest of the resort was amazing as well.  More info and pics to come as I start the "Day in the Life" parts of the recap.

Things to note.  The Little Mermaid standard rooms (where my parents and in-laws stayed) are the farthest from the food court, transportation, and gift shop.  They are also a tight squeeze if you've got more than 3 people staying there unless they are littles.  The rooms were ADORABLE though!!

Our family would have been MISERABLE in one room...mostly because I have a king-sized hubby and he takes up a lot of space when he stretches out.  haha  So we definitely made the right call by going with a suite and it was well worth the extra money.

The standard rooms are also built like motels rooms where you enter your room from the outside while the Family Suites are designed more like hotels where you enter from the inside hallway.



The Cars themed rooms are a short walk from the main area but you get to travel through a very legit looking Radiator Springs to get there.  I think the Little Mermaid and Lion King Family Suites were even closer though.

THINGS TO TAKE AWAY:  Go for the suites if you can!!

More on the resort later.  :)

So backing up.  Once Erika had booked my room, it was time to talk Fast Passes and dining.  We discussed a ton of different options when it came to where we may want to eat and they were so helpful figuring all of that out.  Same goes for when it was time for those all-important Fast Pass decisions.  Plus, they are the ones who jump online at the crack of dawn the first day you are allowed to book these things and furiously try to get you what you need.

DINING RESERVATIONS

You can start booking dining 180 days in advance and trust me, you want to take advantage of having a planner here because reservations go quick!  Your planner will get online early in the morning the first day you are able to book and try to grab your top choices.  I am SO glad I didn't have to bother with that!


Since we'd never been to Disney and I had no idea how our days would really go, I decided we'd try to grab one sit-down meal a day (either lunch or dinner) at whatever park we were at and then just do counter-service meals for the rest of the day.  So I went back to the Disney website and checked out all the options for each park, looked at menus, prices and then gave them my top picks.  You'll see how our choices worked out later in the recap.

(Again, you can totally just ask your planner what they suggest and go from there.  I just loved seeing all the options.  Another reason I'm glad I had one?  I totally picked restaurants that were nowhere near the park we'd be at that day.  Oops. They mentioned that when I gave them my ideas and then helped me choose places that were much more convenient and would maximize our time at the park.)


We communicated 100% by email because I wanted to be able to have all this info in writing so I could go back and look at it when I needed to.  Otherwise, I would have been forgetting everything she said on the phone left and right.  So I definitely recommend email correspondence over phone calls if you want to be able to keep track of everything.  Otherwise, take notes while you're on the phone!

DINING PLANS

Ok.  We decided not to use a Dining Plan so I'm not much help on this.  Since it was our first time, we technically had three families in our group and we didn't really know how our days were going to play out once we were there, we decided to wing it and this worked out really well for us because of how big our group was.  But if it had been just my family, we probably would have opted for some type of meal plan.

Talk to your planner about Dining Plans to find one that will fit you and your family best!

FAST PASSES

Fast Pass decisions were my favorite part of planning this trip!  You get 3 Fast Passes (for free!) per day and when you use them all, you can jump back on the Disney app and try to scoop up more, one at a time.  (This never worked for our large group but I wanted you to know it was an option.)

My planners needed to know our top choices by a certain date and gave us lots of help, especially when I had questions about certain rides and which had the longest lines, etc. We are ALL ABOUT THE RIDES.  Character meet & greets?  Nope.  Princesses?  Couldn't care less. But rides that will make you scream??  Now that's what we're all about.  #boymom


Everyone in my family loves a thrill ride so there wasn't anything off limits when it came time choosing.  Narrowing our choices down was the hardest part but the girls totally got us hooked up with some awesome Fast Passes.

Here's my advice when it comes to deciding what you'd like to choose or if you aren't sure if a ride is really going to work for your crew.  Two words.  YOU. TUBE.  (Or is that one word?  YouTube?)

Anyway.

If you go to YouTube (it's one word...I just checked), you can search for every single ride at Disney and you can see them all from the rider's point of view.  This was SO STINKIN' HELPFUL.  I've heard about so many of these rides before but getting to actually see them helped me narrow down my choices.  And now that I've been on almost all of them, I love going back to try to re-live them.

The Pandora/Flight of Passage/Avatar ride (whatever you want to call it) was beyond words.  I can't even begin to describe it but if you've ridden it you know.  It's 3D and virtual reality and you 1 million percent feel like you are flying on the back of a banshee through this magical world.  You feel the water spray you, you smell the smells, you can even feel your banshee "breathing" underneath you.

 Here's the YouTube video for it from a rider's perspective but there's no way to do it justice unless you are there.  Gahhhhhh it was SO GOOD!!!  I would absolutely wait 3 hours to ride that ride, by myself, in the rain.


Here are what we ended up getting Fast Passes for:

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS:
Rockin' Roller Coaster (this ended up getting canceled though b/c the ride was temporarily down)
Tower of Terror
Toy Story Mania

ANIMAL KINGDOM:
Navi River Journey
Dinosaur
Everest

EPCOT:
Frozen
Living with the Land (didn't end up needing this since the line was so short)
Spaceship Earth

MAGIC KINGDOM:
Splash Mountain
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Big Thunder Mountain
(PS-for those of you who remember me asking about Space Mountain--YES we rode it and...I thought it was a disappointment! haha  Fun but definitely not as wild and crazy as I thought it was going to be. The boys loved it and we were able to ride it back-to-back.  More to come on that too!)

I am so glad I had my planners there to help me figure some of these out though because there were different tiers you had to choose from when it came to Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios so you couldn't get Fast Passes for both Frozen and Test Track for examples because they were both Tier 1s.  Boo.

Once dining and fast passes were booked though, we were good to go!  They made sure our Magic Bands and luggage tags arrived, gave us some final tips and said to call or text with any problems!

If you need help planning your next (or first!) Disney trip, be sure to email them at mixandmatchtravelagency@yahoo.com.  If you are the opposite of me and want to just hand over the reins to them completely they can totally do that for you.  I find planning really fun so I wanted to be involved in everything but you certainly don't have to do all the research that I did.

As for the rest of this series, I'm going to be doing it in a Day in the Life format, so by the end of it, you'll think you were there with us!  ;)

Here's what's to come!

Part 2:  Travel day (boys' first flight ever!), resort check-in & bowling at Splitsville in Disney Springs
Part 3:  Hollywood Studios
Part 4: Animal Kingdom
Part 5: Epcot
Part 6: Magic Kingdom

See you tomorrow!!


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15 comments

  1. Eek. We love Disney so much. I’m ready to go back but my gang is loving Universal right now.
    We have stayed in the Art of Animation before and love it.

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    1. I can't wait to try out Universal too! I was actually looking at the Transformers ride on YouTube last night! haha

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  2. I love how detailed this all is!! I'm so happy your family had FUN! Thank you for letting us be a part of it, Amanda!!

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  3. I can't wait to see all your Disney fun! We have gone to Disney both with and without the dining plan. When we had it, we got it through a "free dining plan" promotion. It was SO much food, but also nice to have the meals taken care of. For our last trip, I didn't even consider it. Kids over age 9 (I think) are considered adults, and the price is pretty high. I'm glad you had a good first trip to Disney!

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    1. I would probably do the dining plan next time if it were just the 4 of us! Especially if it was free! haha We just missed the dates for a free dining plan promotion! :(

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  4. The Flight of Passage ride....wasn't it so crazy that you could feel the "dragon" breathing??? So crazy!

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  5. Sounds like you all had the best time ever! Can't wait to read your other posts. :)

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  6. I am so excited for all of this! We just went to Disney in October and it was my first time. I loved loved loved it so I'm so excited to read about your time there! I'm so glad you had a great time!

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  7. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Love this! Was that considered a "moderate " hotel or do you know? Did you get the free transportation everywhere?!?! We are going next year!
    Melanie

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    1. Art of Animation is the most expensive of the Value Resorts. (It goes Value, Moderate and then Deluxe.) But the family suites are about the same price as a standard room at the Wilderness Lodge which is one of the Deluxe Resorts. And yes, we took the Disney buses to all the parks and to Disney Springs which is included if you stay at a Disney resort. I'll talk more about that in the posts to come for sure!

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  8. Love Disney World so much- and I 100% agree with you on the Flights of Passage! That ride blew my mind! When the ride ended it was like waking up from the most incredible dream! So fun!
    www.caligirlonthemove.com

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