*My last post in this series will include lots of planning resources, websites, etc. that I used to help plan our vacation* There were 11 of us on this trip: my immediate family which includes me, my husband, 11 year old daughter, 7 year old twin boys and 2 year old daughter. My sister's family which included her, her husband and their 2 year old. Last, but not least, my parents: JuJu and Papa Eddie.
Our trip to Disney World in FL started on a Tuesday morning. We had decided to fly Southwest airlines simply because we wanted a direct flight since we were flying with 2 toddlers and we didn't want to have to pay for our checked baggage since we had a total of 11 bags between the 11 of us. It just so happened that the rates for the time we wanted to go were VERY high, especially for our return flight, so I would definitely recommend you try to plan your vacation further out than we did (6 weeks) and I would set yourself up to receive dings from Southwest if your travel dates are flexible. I have heard that you can get flights pretty cheap if you just continue to watch.
Since our flight was at 8am, we got to the airport around 6:30am. Southwest in Nashville is great in that they have seperate check in lanes for families with small children, so we were able to walk right up to the counter, get our bags checked, and get through security with no issues at all. *I will also take this pause to tell you to read through all your Disney paperwork that they send you beforehand. They provide special tags for you to not only identify your luggage, but it also tells them what hotel you will be staying in* They do this so that you literally don't touch your luggage again until it arrives in your room a few hours after you land. You should keep this in mind and not pack anything you will need right away because if you plan to go straight to the parks like we did, you won't have access to your luggage before you go. Here we are on the plane:
Sorry you won't find a picture of Papa Eddie and the boys, it didn't turn out good.
The flight is pretty quick, I think about 1 1/2 hours so we really didn't have an issue with the kids getting bored. Matter of fact, Mary Elizabeth curled up in my lap and took a nap which was perfect.
We arrived at the airport and headed straight for B1 where Disney's free transportation check in is. If you have already registered for all of this in your reservations, you literally have your info book stamped and walk straight to the bus for your hotel. You load onto a nice motorcoach that takes you to your resort. This typically takes about 45 minutes but because my children were fascinated that the bus had a restroom, this kept them occupied for most of the trip. That, and the fact that they show a video about Disney on the buses.
Disney has three levels of resorts: basic, moderate and deluxe. Because our flights were more expensive than we had originally planned, we ended up staying in a moderate resort. This basically means that it has no direct access to any of the theme parks, but does have a pretty amazing pool and bus transport to the parks. We chose Coronado Springs based on a friend's recommendation and I have to tell you, it was NICE! Matter of fact, we had previously stayed at Polynesian and Beach Club, and the only thing this resort lacked was monorail access. The food court was amazing and the pool was REALLY nice. We got to the resort around 11am (remember, they are an hour ahead of Nashville) and were pleasantly surprised to hear that my room was ready. It was great to be able to go and dump our carry on bags, etc. before heading to the parks. If you plan to stay at Coronado, I would highly suggest you stay at the Cabanas. The resort is HUGE with multiple areas, but the Cabanas area not only puts you close to the bus stop, but also to a fabulous pool with an amazing waterslide, play ground, arcade and snack bar.
After we dropped our items off, we immediately headed for the bus stop. Here's a pic of everyone (minus Mary and I) at the bus stop waiting for our bus to Animal Kingdom:
We immediately headed to Animal Kingdom. This was our favorite park last time so we decided to start there since we only had a few hours prior to our dinner reservation. We got there and realized it was HOT! Like 95 degrees with it feeling like over 100. Thank goodness we had checked the weather long before we came and had planned our wardrobe accordingly. I will also take a minute to tell you that my kids love pin trading, so we immediately found a cast member with a lanyard as we entered and the kids were so excited to start trading pins. Here's some pics of the kids as we entered the park:
We immediately searched out lunch, as by this point, we were all starving. We had gotten FREE dining because of the time of year we had booked and it was an incentive. Basically we received one snack, one counter service meal and one sit down dining meal per night we had a room. Disney does a great job with their maps so we were able to quickly find a counter service meal that everyone agreed on. A counter service meal allows you to pick a main course, a drink and a dessert so it's actually quite a bit of food. While we ate, the kids loved that all the animals roamed around our feet. We had ducks and various other birds that were very anxious to see if they kids would drop any food.
We then headed to Dinoland where you will find the most little kid friendly rides, although their isn't much in this particular park for small children. Pair that with the heat and our little ones were pretty miserable pretty quickly. We did ride a few rides, including Dinosaur. My parents kept the 2 little ones while the rest of us rode. It is an awesome, scary ride but my older children are thrill junkies like me so we all enjoyed it. By the time we were finished with that ride, my sister's family and JuJu and Papa Eddie were ready to head back and get checked in to their room. They took Mary Elizabeth with them but my older three and I stayed at Animal Kingdom for the parade, which we had never seen. It. was. amazing. The detail that goes into these parades is amazing and we really enjoyed it even though it was so hot. I literally took about 40 pics of this parade so here's just a sampling:
From there, we had to book it to make our dinner reservation at 5pm. We had dinner booked at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge, another resort on Disney property. We had heard about Boma from the same person who told us about Coronado so we were really excited to try the food. My older three and I were able to hop on a bus from Animal Kingdom over to the lodge, but everyone else who had gone back to the hotel quickly found out that you can't go from resort to resort via the bus system. You must take the bus to a park and then catch the other bus over to the new resort. Needless to say, we finally started dinner about 45 minutes late because of how long transportation takes. The food at Boma was WONDERFUL. It is buffet style with lots of African themed dishes, but they still had a great selection of "normal" food as my kids call it. The dessert section was wonderful.
After dinner, we headed back to Coronado Springs to take a look at the pool area and then it was time to turn in for the night. One of the great things about Coronado is that it is the only moderate resort that features two queen beds, so it was very comfortable for me and the girls to sleep peacefully. Isaac and Luke stayed in Papa Eddie and Juju's room. Mickey (aka mommy) also brought special gifts to the room for Isaac and Luke. You see, we had special outfits made for Mary Elizabeth, Maggie and Anna that had Minnie Mouse on them (THANKS Melissa!) so Mickey felt bad for the boys and bought them Wall-E shirts. It's little things like that help spread the Disney magic, so I always try to plan souvenirs long before we go because it saves us so much money and my kids never beg to buy anything while in the parks.
That's it for our first day, next post will be on Day 2: Magic Kingdom!