Hey guys! Happy November! Hope you guys all had a great halloween! The dust has finally settled after our trip and I thought I'd write a little post on hitting up Disney with two little ones.
Staying at Disney hotels vs off site:
Whenever we travel now with the boys it is a must to find a hotel with a kitchen and ideally separate bedroom from ours. Seb still wakes up most nights so we don't want him disturbing his older brother so we usually put Max in with us and Seb in a room on his own. I think by next year the boys can be in their own room on their own. We like to have some space to ourselves and not feel forced to go to bed at 8 pm :)
Last year we stayed at Disney's Old Key West which had two bedroom and a kitchen when my mother in law came with us. I loved it. We ended up getting it around $350 per night which is actually a great deal for the hotel. I've stayed on disney properties before so I wasn't surprised by how nice it was and this time was no different. There are several positives to staying at Disney: Transportation to/from the parks, luggage transportation from the airport, ability to buy tickets and book park events at concierge, and the all around "ambience" of Mickey mouse :)
So naturally, when we first booked the trip to Florida, Disney hotels was my first stop to look for hotel prices.. but it was OUTRAGEOUS. It was over $600 a night. So, I started looking around and found a really nice Marriott 2 bedroom/full kitchen about 15 mins from Disney for $175/night. Yes, $175 a night. 1/3 of the price of the Disney Old Key West or any other of their villa hotels. so, needless to say we booked!
All in all, we had a great experience at Marriott Harbour Lake. They had numerous pools (with tons of slides, kiddie pool, and numerous spas), a craft room for the kids, a playground, a soccer field, basketball courts, and a very good gym. Rooms were really spacious and service was awesome. We were a short 12-15 mins from Disney parks. It was also 1 mile from Sea World.
Would I stay at Disney again? After this experience I'm not sure I would until the boys are older. Yes, the atmosphere is second to none and service is fantastic. I think if you have older kids and don't mind sleeping all in one room and eat out (we prefer to cook a majority of the time for the kids with how old they are-eating out is a mission at the moment.) it could work. Also, with older kids 8 or 9 years and up, the buses make more sense (and you don't have a bunch of stuff (stroller, etc.) that you're lugging on the bus with 439820 other people). Keep in mind IMO the transportation from the Disney park took about the SAME amount of time as it did from our off site hotel just due to waiting for the buses and all of the stops the shuttle/bus had to make. So jury is out how beneficial the transport from disney hotels to parks really is...
Disney has decent priced 1 room hotel rooms to stay in but if you're going the route where you want a kitchen, etc. and you have babies/pre schoolers finding off site is the way to go!
Stay all day or go back to your hotel for a siesta?
We've done both. We've powered through the day and skipped naps, and we've also gone home for a nap and come back. I would 100% recommend getting up early, hitting the park for a few hours and then coming back for a nap. Disney allows you to leave and come back so that is a non issue, and your parking rate is for the day.
I think the kids are always super fresh in the morning making it easy for everyone to enjoy themselves. Also, the heat of the day is between 1-4 pm which you miss if you head back for a nap. The nap allows everyone time to recharge, regroup (including mom and dad) and gives you another 3-4 hours (or more) at the park at night. It is completely worth the 45 min treck (by the time you leave the park, take the ferry, etc. get to the parking lot and get home) to get back both ways.
Disclaimer: If you have angel children that sleep in their strollers with no issues...I say power through!!
Park Hopper vs Single Park?
I feel like I come from the days where there wasn't as much of a difference between the single park and the park hopper pass in terms of price so I actually love this feature and remember hopping on the monorail from MK to Epcot when I was a kid..
While its super nice to be able to hop from park to park, I woulden't recommend spending the extra $50 pp unless you are going with adults or older kids who can really utilize both parks.
Other Tips on surviving Disney with Toddlers:
1. Lower Your standards. Did you lower them? Now lower them again. lol. Have one thing on your list, and accomplish it. Anything above and beyond that is #winning. Examples: meeting mickey/any other character, or another big ride that they enjoy. The smaller your kids are, the less ground you're going to be able to cover. Thats just the reality of it!
2.. Download the App: The My Disney Experience App allows you to view information about the parks, see wait times for rides, make reservations for meals, or order food ahead of time. You can also update and select your fast passes on the app (see #3 for fast pass.).
3. Fast pass that shit: Log on and fast pass the important things you want to do. Fast pass means you basically don't have to wait in line, and now that Disney seems to be busy all year long (read: 45 min waits *everywhere* ) it is the way to go.
Some popular ones for Pre-K would be Meeting Mickey, Its small world, the old fashioned cars, Dumbo, Nemo (at epcot), to name a few. I'm sure girls love the princess meet and greet so if you have girls I would fast pass that also. You can only do three for each person so choose wisely. Once you use them up you can select different ones (this is another reason why coming back at night is better, a lot of times the fast pass windows will be between 5-8 pm which I am not sure you would make unless you have a nap).
If you know what day you're hitting each park, try and fast pass it in advance. Also: sometimes it will say one of the rides is "no longer available for fast pass". KEEP REFRESHING!!!! This happened to me twice now with Meet Mickey and I refreshed about 8 times and then it popped up.
4. Snacks, Snacks, and more snacks: Snacks are like the holy grail of surviving Disney. Pack enough snacks for a 3 day trip. Trust me. Bars, crackers, fruit, raisins, PB & J, and tons of water. Disney lets you bring in everything so use that to your advantage!
5. Get there early: Beat the heat and the crowds by getting there when the park opens or shortly after, It'll be worth it. Everyone is fresh in the morning and do your "prep" work the night before (packing snacks, laying clothes out, etc.) to make your morning less chaotic.