Have you ever been at a function where prizes are given away and you think, I have never won before and I will not win this? Well, I’m here to tell you, I used to think the same thing…not anymore…anything is possible!
While attending a Travel Leaders meeting in August 2008 my name was drawn from hundreds of other names for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, compliments of the Walt Disney Travel Company.
What exactly did I win you ask? The trip of a lifetime! 2008 was the “Year of A Million Dreams” celebration at Walt Disney World and the trip I won is a dream come true. Not only are we heading to Disney World but we would have an experience that only a select few others will ever experience, the opportunity to spend the night in Cinderella’s Castle!
The details of what I won….a 5 day/4 night package, staying at Disney’s Saratoga Springs in a 2-bedroom, 2-bath Villa. The Magic Your Way Park Hopper Tickets with the Water Park inclusion, the Magical Express airport-hotel roundtrip transfers, the Disney Dining Plan (1 quick meal service, 1 snack, and 1 table service per person per night), and the ultimate experience, a 1 night stay in Cinderella’s Royal Suite in the Castle!
I find it interesting to read about people’s vacations – so I thought it would be fun to keep a “blog” of our trip…..enjoy!
November 6th, Only 6 more days until our trip!
Last weekend we watched the 2008 Disney planning video and talked about our upcoming trip – what we will see, do, and everyone’s wish list. We are fired up and ready to go!
So, with our wish list in hand I started planning. It has been a great experience working with all our Disney Vacation Experts. The consumer Web site was overwhelming and a bit frustrating. With the help of my knowledgeable co-workers I have been busy planning and creating an itinerary for our upcoming vacation.
I’ve made a few dining reservations and learned one thing – make your reservations early! Since our trip was just planned in September we didn’t have the 180 days to make dining reservations so we have to be flexible (especially since we’re a family of 6). I will say we are very excited about having the dining plan, knowing that 2 meals and 1 snack per night will be covered, what a great way to not worry about how much money we have to bring along for meals.
Day 1 / Wednesday November 12, 2008
Well, last night was interesting, last minute packing and 4 kids that were eager to go to Florida it was hard to get them to bed, a very late night. But, this morning at 6:00am we were all up and out the door. Dennis’ sister Jessie was kind enough to drive us out to the airport for our 8:00am flight.
Airport check-in was easy as we already had all our seats assigned. Since we didn’t feel like paying a bunch for checked bags the kids carried their small rolling bags on with them and Dennis and I checked our 1 bag each, our cost was only $30 for baggage, well worth it to drag less on the airplane. We spoke with the kids about security before we arrived so things went well, they were prepared to take off shoes and put all their things in the bins. Since we made sure to arrive in plenty of time at the airport we were not rushed at all and had time to sit and relax a few minutes before we boarded the plane.
The kids did well on the plane. For their first flight, Brandon and Maggi thought it was “fun” – they even liked the turbulence, go figure. After arriving in Florida we made our way to the Disney Welcome Center – what an ordeal. Maggi insisted on carrying her backpack and pulling her rolling suitcase so it took us twice as long to get from the gate to pick up our bags and check in for our bus. The Magical Express was a long line, but it went quickly (only 1 person per party needs to check in for the bus) and we were soon on a bus headed to Saratoga Springs.
Check in at Saratoga Springs went well. It did seem to take a while for them to get our room opened up for us. Apparently it was “blocked” for some reason (we found out later that was because they had reserved the room for us and that was the hold up). Our room was close to the main buildings, only a short walk to the Springs area of the resort (the resort is so large that the areas are all named differently – this also helps with the “station stops” for the bus transportation – so you know which station to go get off at).
Our room was absolutely perfect. We had a 2-bedroom, 2-bath villa on the 4th floor. When we walked in the kids eyes lit up. Disney had sent us A Year of a Million Dreams Mickey Mouse Ears that had lights in the ears – very neat. Also on the table we found Cinderella’s Castle confetti and a nice scroll about our stay in the castle. In addition as a special treat, Renae from Disney sent us tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, what a lovely surprise and huge treat! Just after we explored the room there was a knock at the door and we were greeted with balloons and a bag of wonderful goodies from Wendy’s friend Frank from Disney – the kids were so excited, especially Maggi who thought the balloons were heaven sent.
The Villa’s amenities included a master bedroom it was nicely furnished with a king size bed, desk and armoire. The master bath was huge with a whirlpool tub and sink area with a large closet, iron & ironing board, and small safe. Then there was a separate area with a large shower and sink and then another separate toilet room. Just outside the master bath we had a full-size stacked washer and dryer (which came in handy). The main living area was very nice with a couch and TV area, full-size kitchen, breakfast bar and nice table area. The patio off this area had a great view of the fountain and could see some of Downtown Disney from our patio. The kid’s area was great – they had a separate bedroom with 2 queen size beds, a nice table with 2 chairs, and armoire. They had a great dressing and bath area with a double sink, large closet, and separate tub/shower and toilet area. We had plenty of towels, pillows, and even a supply of dish soap, laundry detergent, soaps, etc.
After we had time to get settled we headed off to Animal Kingdom about 3:00pm (we promised Brandon this would be our first park). We also had the advantage that we were guests of the Disney resorts so we were able to utilize Extra Magic Hours and tonight Animal Kingdom is open 3 extra hours (until 8:00pm). We had lunch at Restaurantsauras (quick service meal) and then headed over to Dinosaur. Maggi was too small to ride so I hung out with her while Dennis took Brandon, Alex and Michael on their first Disney adventure, the Dinosaur ride. Brandon was thrilled and scared all at the same time and being the Dinosaur fan this was a great opening to his trip. When it was my turn to ride Alex accompanied me so I wouldn’t be scared – what a nice guy. After Dinosaur Michael and Dennis headed to Expedition Everest as it looked like rain and we didn’t want them to miss it. While they did their thing I took the other kids over to the play area – they had a blast until it started to rain, then that area closed. So we headed to shelter and met up with Dennis and Michael (who by the way said Expedition Everest was the “best ride ever”). We then headed over to It’s Tough To Be A Bug – everyone, except Maggi, had fun. Being a 3-D show Maggi was not real thrilled with the bugs coming at her. Plus, it is loud and being an “interactive” show she wasn’t real thrilled with the puffs of air and water being sprayed at her.
Being such a long day, and the fact that we had an 8:30 dinner reservation, we decided to let the rain get the best of us and we headed back to Saratoga Springs (and what do you know the rain stopped as we got back to the hotel, imagine that). We made the mistake of getting off at the wrong bus stop within Saratoga. Even with tired kids and in the dark we figured things out and it only added about 5 minutes to our walk to our room. When we got back to the room Dennis, Brandon, Alex, and little Maggi warmed up in a hot bath before we headed down to our dinner reservation at the Turf Club Bar and Grill. The food was excellent and the setting was very nice. The staff was helpful in explaining the dining plan and what we received for table services (adults, anyone over 10 years, get 1 entree, 1 non-alcoholic beverage, and 1 dessert while kids on the meal plan, ages 3-9, get 2 sides, 1 dessert, 1 entree, and 1 drink from the kids menu). On the way back to the room the kids asked about going swimming but we knew everyone was tired so even with objections we decided to just turn in for the night – and what do you know, everyone fell right to sleep!
Day 2 / Thursday November 13, 2008
We were up early today and headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We were told to make sure to get there as soon as the park opens at 9:00am and head over to Toy Story Mania 4-D, which we did. It was amazing – it was like a heard of cattle all heading in one direction when the park opened. Tip – head over to the furthest fast-pass lane, the one’s closest to where you walk in are really busy. We got our fast-pass for 10:45 time so we headed over to ABC Commentary for breakfast. We used our quick service and everyone received a bagel sandwich (either with bacon or sausage). Since they didn’t have “sides” we all received 2 drinks – we had juice and bottled water – which worked out well for carrying around during the day for drinks. We explored Hollywood studios and enjoyed the attractions. Toy Story Mania 4-D was great, so was the great movie ride. The back-lot tour went a bit fast but was fun to see. Maggi loves Little Mermaid so we saw that show but she was a bit frightened by the loud noises. The only 2 things we missed included the new stunt show (our lunch took too long) and the Tower of Terror (which Michael wanted to go on but he had to choose between that and the Aerosmith roller coaster – he took Aerosmith). Of course we saw Fantasmic, one of my favorite Disney night shows, and we had front-row seats – they were great but you do get wet from the wind blowing the water. Oh well, the kids loved it – it’s always been a great show – a “must see”.
We did have a table service today at Sci-Fi Dine inside of Hollywood studios and it was a fun experience. You sit in the back of cars, it’s set in the 50’s, and you dine. The food was great and while you eat you watch old movie clips and short films. Brandon and Maggi fell asleep before their food came so the waitress was kind enough to put their food in to-go bags (which worked out well as they ate everything later that night while we waited for Fantasmic to start).
After Sci-Fi Dine I decided to take sleeping Maggi over to the Muppet show (the boys were not interested) so they headed over to the Indiana Jones show. After the Muppet show I headed towards Indiana Jones only to be greeted by an excited bunch of boys – it just so happens while waiting for the show Alex and Brandon were asked to be the Junior Directors for the show! We had VIP seating for the show and the boys were called onto the stunt show stage to introduce themselves and start the show by saying “Lights, Camera, Action.” They were thrilled, what an experience for them!
After Hollywood Studios we headed back to our hotel – we organized ourselves and headed down to the hotel’s pool. The water was warm and the kids had a blast swimming. It was a great ending to the day.
Day 3 / Friday November 14, 2008
Today we were up early and out the door to head over to Old Key West resort for breakfast at Olivia’s. We ended up taking the bus over to Epcot and then taking the bus from Epcot to Old Key West. The bus driver was very nice and dropped us off right in front of the area where Olivia’s is. From what we saw of Old Key West the resort looked huge and beautifully kept. We arrived at Olivia’s about 30 minutes before our scheduled dining time but they had no problem getting us right in. The food was wonderful and filling and we were all set to head to the water park – Disney’s Blizzard Beach.
We didn’t bring any towels to Blizzard beach so we ended up renting 3 of them, I believe they were about $3-$5 each, I honestly do not remember. We rented 1 locker as we were told it was “large”, well with 6 of us it was not large at all so we went back and rented another. When you leave, if you turn in your locker key, you receive $5 back – so we ended up only paying $14 for the 2 lockers for the day. The locker area is just outside the main bathroom/changing area and everything was very clean and organized. Dennis, Michael and Alex enjoyed the “big” water slides and attractions while Maggi, Brandon, and I hung out in the Wave pool, Lazy River Ride, and the kids area (lots of fun things for the little kids including small water slides). I was told the lazy river takes 20-minutes to go around without “traffic” so I’m guessing 1 time around was about 30+ minutes for us. Maggi fell asleep on the ride after about 1 ½ times around so she slept the other 3 times around, nice nap for her but a challenge for mom! Afterwards we found the boys and we all headed to a large raft ride. We had to take the ski-lift to get to the ride and Maggi didn’t care much for that, but she was big enough to ride so we decided to try it out. The ride was fast, and it scared Maggi and Brandon at first, but we assured them it was okay and they would not fall out so they sat back and enjoyed and at the end it was “can we do it again?” We decided to hit the lazy river ride as a family and then headed back to our resort to get ready for our Christmas party at the Magic Kingdom. We left about 2:30pm, 4 ½ hours in the water park was more than enough, we were all water logged. I was told by the boys that this was “the best” water park they had ever been to and we had a sunny warm 89 degree day to enjoy it.
We showered and ordered a Pizza from a flyer we got in our room. It was a good value, 2 large 3-topping pizza’s and a 6-pack of coke for only $25. Dennis had to meet the pizza guy at the front of the resort (they are not allowed into the guest area’s) but it worked out fine. We had time to eat and then head over to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.
Note, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is only held on certain nights and you have to have a special ticket to get in (it is not included in your park pass). When you arrive with your ticket you are given a wrist band that allows you access to the park and special treats until the end of the party at midnight. We were told by some people earlier to be sure to be at the park before 6:30pm so we could see the lighting of the castle, we made sure to be there in plenty of time and it was well worth it! The lighting of the castle and show was great, Cinderella’s Castle was turning into a winter ice palace – it was beautiful. After the show we headed into Tomorrow land where we took turns seeing the Stitch show (Maggi was too small) and then did the Monster’s Inc. laugh factory show. This was great fun and Alex was a star again as he was one of the audience members selected to interact with the show. When we left the show it was raining hard, oh well, it wasn’t snowing, so we made our way to a few rides in Tomorrow land. Can you believe it, we walked on to Space Mountain with no lines, I have never been so lucky! Alex and Michael escorted both Dennis and I on Space Mountain, as we had to take turns, they loved the ride. We were able to spend time interacting with the characters at the park tonight and really everything was open. Just a few things closed due to the rain or because it was at night. We even did the haunted house and Brandon and Maggi were not scared at all. As a special treat you get all the free hot-chocolate, cookies, and juice we wanted as a special part of the Christmas party. And what could be better than Disney fireworks. Brandon, Maggi, and I were on the Dumbo ride, behind the castle, when the fireworks started. We got to watch them from the “middle” of the show, lots of turning our head back and forth but that’s okay, it was worth it. Red-and-green fireworks (of course) that seemed to last forever to beautiful holiday music, it was a spectacular show. We also had the opportunity to watch the Christmas parade, even though it was raining, it was still fun. The crowd was thin so we had a decent view, Alex was able to go to the front while Dennis had Maggi on his shoulders and Michael had Brandon on his shoulders. We hit as many rides as we could before midnight and made sure to close down the park. We did use some of our snacks tonight from our meal plan for for soft drinks, ice-cream, and frozen drinks, it was so nice not having to dig out cash. We were all beat when we got back to our room and the younger kids all fell asleep on the bus ride back to the resort. Another perfect day at Disney.
Day 4 / Saturday November 15, 2008
Today will be a day we will never forget, tonight we stay in the castle.
Everyone was very excited this morning. Up early to make sure we had everything ready for our night in the castle and then off to Polynesian Village for our Ohana character breakfast. To get to the Polynesian we took the bus to Magic Kingdom then took the monorail to Polynesian Village (changing trains at the transportation center). This was my first time on the monorail system and it was very easy to use. The monorail stop at the Polynesian Village is ideally located right outside the doors where you will be eating. For all the people standing around we had no problem being seated right away. Everyone is greeted after check-in with a flower lei greeting and then they take your photo. Breakfast is served family style and the characters (Mickey, Pluto, Stich, and Lilo) come around to your table so you do not have to worry about autographs and photo’s, you’ll have lots of opportunities. I would highly recommend this breakfast which will use 1 table service per person from the meal plan.
After breakfast we took the monorail over to Epcot. We headed directly for Spaceship Earth, the wait time was only about 20 minutes. We then headed to get a fast pass for Test Track, yikes 2:45pm, we would really be pushing it to get back to our resort in time for our 4:00pm ride to the Castle, but Test Track was a “must do” for the boys. In the meantime we did Nemo’s sea adventure (Alex again got to interact with the show), Energy, and Mission Space. I like how they had Mission Space set up. Dennis took Michael, Alex, and Brandon and I received a pass to wait with Maggi. In the waiting area Maggi was able to play on a play-gym area and older kids could do video games. The boys did the “green mission” on the first try so on the second adventure we (Michael, Alex and I) did the “orange mission”. Of the two the boys thought orange was the best. We all had fun at Mission Space; it’s an experience and quite the thrill ride without being a roller coaster. After Mission Space the boys headed over to Test Track and Maggi and I went shopping – we were good, only bought one thing – a new headband for Maggi (pink with purple Mickey’s on it of course). We didn’t have time to explore the rest of Epcot, including the Lands of the World, so I guess that’s a “next time” trip. We all met up at the bus and headed back to our resort for our Castle Stay!
Cinderella’s Royal Castle Guest transportation met us out front of Saratoga Springs (of course everyone was watching us and asking how we won the stay). Our hostess gave us lots of great details about the castle and Disney on our ride that transported us behind the Magic Kingdom to an area where we were greeted by another Cinderella’s Castle staff member who then escorted us down Main Street. As we walked down the street our Castle Staff member made sure to always tell the other staff “This is our Royal Family tonight” and just loud enough for other guests to hear. It was a fun experience and everyone treated us, well, like Royalty! We had pictures taken on our photo cards and then we were escorted to the Castle. We were presented to Michael, our Castle Staff Member, who took us inside the Castle. The first room we entered was small but had a nice desk and lots of details, like the Cinderella’s mice friends in the carvings around the room, etc. Michael went over the story of Cinderella with the kids (of whom he already had everyone’s names memorized) and of course he gave us all our Royal Room Keys. We headed up the elevator to to our room. The floor in the small hall was beautiful with Cinderella’s Coach all done in mosaic and of course yellow and white gold. The last remaining glass slipper and Cinderella’s crown are featured in a display case along with other beautiful paintings and photo’s (the details are amazing). When we opened the door to our room it was simply breathtaking!
Cinderella’s Castle guest room was so spectacular, it’s more than you can imagine. It’s that old-world charm with modern day features. You walk into a room with 2 large queen size beds, nightstand, desk, “modern” fireplace, and of course a beautiful photo of Cinderella, which also is your TV. The small sitting room has a pull-out sleeper sofa with a great TV / DVD set up, a selection of Disney DVD’s and a stocked mini-fridge. The stained glass windows and all the “little touches” were elegant and simple and made the room spectacular. The bathroom was gorgeous. The square tub with mosaic tiles and “night sky” overhead was every bathers dream and the shower, double sinks, and vanities were full of lovely details. The toilet was one of the largest I’ve ever seen, and oh yes it’s Gold, a throne fit for a Royal Family. Of course Michael being a typical 13-year old found the best part to be the remote control that controlled the lights, TV/DVD player, fireplace, and surround sound! Castle Staff Member Michael made sure to point out to the kids that they could call anyone they wanted on the phone (which of course is not cordless so the kids were a bit thrown by the fact it was a phone). While we waited to go down for dinner we explored the room, took lots of photo’s of course, and we were able to reach Auntie Jessie, Grandma Schwartz, and Grandma Mix on the phone…yes, we made phone calls to family from Cinderella’s Castle, how cool is that.
Just before 6:00pm Michael took us down to Jackie, our Castle Staff member for the night, and we headed just out the door to Cinderella’s Royal Table for dinner. We did the meet-and-greet and photo opportunity with Cinderella (Maggi’s first time meeting Cinderella, she was so excited!). The little girls are given princess wands and the boys knight swords after the photo then we headed upstairs for dinner. The dining room is very elegant but quite small, I understand now why it’s so difficult to get reservations. The dinner was lovely and all the staff members welcomed us and spoke to us as “Our Royal Family,” we truly were treated like royalty. During dinner Fairy Godmother came out and wandered around the dining room for photographs and also to help people celebrate anniversary’s, birthdays, and other special occasions. She made sure to stop at our table and introduce us to the entire room “We would like to welcome our special guests this evening, Dennis and Wendy Mix and their children. The Mix family is our Royal Family tonight and will be staying with us here in Cinderella’s Castle”, it was quite a thrill. If you are on the dining plan you can certainly eat at Cinderella’s Royal table but it fills up fast so you would want to make your reservations as soon as possible (reservations open about 180-days prior).
After our wonderful dinner Jackie took us into the park and any ride that had a line she made sure to present us to the staff at the ride and we were able to walk onto all the rides. Although most of the rides were not busy, for those few that were it really made us feel special not to have to wait in line. We then had VIP seating for the parade, right by the bridge so we didn’t have anyone in-front or behind us, how neat. And, it just so happened that the floats would slow down right near us, funny how that happened, it was great for all of us to view the float and take pictures. After the parade we walked to the front of the Castle where Jackie found us a “prime” viewing area for the fireworks, different from the night before but again absolutely wonderful, and we saw them from a different advantage point this time. I think we have about 100+ fireworks photos, oh well, they were spectacular. We spent more time walking around the park and seeing things with Jackie. One thing we saw I never remember seeing before was a 3-D show called Mickey’s Phillharmagic, see this show, it’s well worth it, and the kids laughed so hard. We spent time going on ride after ride and enjoying the walk around the park. We had a great time and Jackie gave us so much information about Disney and how things work, a guided tour of the park, it was spectacular.
The park closed at 11:00pm and we were back to the Castle by this time. No, we could not wander the park after it closed but we were in the park for the night, a treat in itself. Jackie told the kids that maybe Fairy Godmother may have stopped by the room while we were out so the kids were excited to find out if she had or not (kind of like waiting for Santa). So, we went back to the Castle and Jackie presented us back to Michael who took us back up to our room. Fairy Godmother had been to our room while we were out and she had the room all ready for bedtime. The beds were turned down with little notes and chocolates. The TV’s had the Cinderella movie playing, slippers and bathrobes were waiting for us, the bathtub had Princess bubble bath and the Cars Movie bubble bath waiting to be used, a towel was made into Cinderella’s slipper on the vanity with fresh rose petals sprinkled around, the large tapestry drapes were pulled, the “candle” lights were glowing along with the fireplace, and of course Fairy Godmother left some special treats, 1 small Minnie Mouse and 2 small Mickey Mouse stuffy’s all dressed up special for the kids, and a beautiful tray of chocolate covered strawberry’s, chocolate candies, and a replica of Cinderella’s Coach and Horses done in white chocolate. Every detail was spectacular.
Dennis, Brandon, and Alex headed for a hot bath while Michael, Maggi, and I all took turns getting ready for bed. Maggi was beat and it didn’t take her long to hit the pillow and fall asleep. Brandon was soon to follow (they were so cute cuddled up together in bed) and Michael and Alex watched a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean before we decided it was late enough and time for lights out. We all drifted off to sleep in Cinderella’s Castle – what a magical night.
Day 5 / Sunday November 16, 2008
This morning we had our 7:30am wake up call from the Castle Staff and got ready to head down to breakfast. We said farewell to our room and Scott from the Castle Staff took us over to the Crystal Palace for a character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the 100-Acre Wood. It was a chilly morning for Floridian’s in the 50’s but we thought it was nice, so while others were all dressed in long pants and sweatshirts we were “tough” in our shorts and short-sleeve shirts (again it’s not snowing!). The breakfast at Crystal Palace is buffet style and worked well for us. Like at Ohana, the characters come to you so there is no need to follow them around trying to get autographs and photos. This dining would take 1 table service per person but again we were very fortunate to have this included complimentary in our stay as the Royal Family. After breakfast Scott took us to one of the shops to help us pick up some Mickey Mouse ears and a couple of Stich hats and oh, of course, a set of Princess Mouse Ears for Maggi.
Then Scott took us back to Saratoga Springs, service right to our building, what a thrill. We bid goodbye to Scott and our amazing night in the Castle and it was back to reality and packing for our trip home. We managed to somehow get everything packed and headed down to the bell captain to hold our bags. Huge Tip….have the resort come and take your bags, dragging them was a pain and it would have been worth a tip to have them taken care of for us.
We then headed off to Animal Kingdom to finish up some of the things we had missed the first day. When we arrived at Animal Kingdom we headed right for the Safari Ride. The wait was less than 15 minutes so we didn’t have to worry about a fast pass. We made sure to take the walking tour after the Safari ride (tip from Castle Staff Member Scott) and saw lots of animals including Gorilla’s, Brandon’s favorite. We had lunch at Restaurantsauras again and wandered around a bit just looking and relaxing. We decided to give Tough To Be A Bug one more go before we left. Maggi was so funny, as we walked into the theatre she looked around, realized where she was and exclaimed, “Oh Darn!” Needless to say, as the show started, she put her head against me and closed her eyes (I guess we didn’t learn).
We headed back to Saratoga Springs to grab some snacks from Artist’s Pallet, we had not used all our snacks and also used the last of our quick-service meals (sandwiches for the airplane – we decided on bottles of soda and water for our drinks and just packed them in our checked bag to take home). After we retrieved our luggage we met the Magical Express transfer at 5:00pm for our trip back to the Airport. The trip took about 45-minutes and during the ride Disney shows you a video of all the things to do “next time” you come for a visit. Sun Country was at terminal A and it was easy to get our luggage all checked in. The wait for our plane was not bad and we had our quick-service sandwiches with us from Saratoga Springs, it made a good dinner before we boarded. The plane ride home was a long one. The plane was quite empty but Maggi did not want to cooperate. She was tired and ready to go home and the entire trip was spent trying to keep her entertained and not bugging everyone else on the plane. To those who were on the plane with us, sorry about the kids not sitting quietly, but hey, we made it home! Dennis’ sister Jessie picked us up at the airport and we were all home and ready for bed about 11:00pm – what a trip!
We had an amazing trip – we took hundreds of photographs and built a lifetime of memories. Disney’s Year of a Million Dreams giveaway of this trip and Cinderella’s Castle Stay was something we’ll never forget. Dennis and I have already started talking about how much we’ll have to save for our next trip…we’re already planning…someday!
General Thoughts and Info
Magical Express – went very well to the hotel after we found the Disney Welcome Center at the airport. On the return home things also went very well, they pick you up 3 hours prior to your flight departure and it took us about 45-minutes to get back to the airport.
I really liked using the Disney transportation. The buses ran every 10 to 20 minutes and we never waited more than 20-minutes for a bus. When we went between resorts things got a bit tricky but the Disney staff was very helpful in telling us how to get around.
Utilize the Fast Pass, especially for the very popular rides. Although we were lucky and the time of year was a “low season” we didn’t have to utilize Fast Pass often, but we did for a few things and I highly recommend it.
We did not bring or rent a stroller this time. Last time we were at Disney we found the stroller to be a pain so we opted for no-stroller. There were times it would have been nice to have, and Michael and Dennis both received good workout’s carrying the little kids, but overall I liked not having to worry about parking, retrieving, and maneuvering a stroller around the parks.
Disney Photo Pass
I love the disneyphotopass.com idea, no high pressure to buy photo’s while you’re at the resort – and you have 30-days to order your photo’s or buy a photo CD. Utilize this option – it’s wonderful! Of course it’s expensive to buy the photo CD, but I know we would have purchased a bunch of photo’s taken by Disney while we were down their so this option allows me time to figure out exactly what I want. I love this feature and highly recommend everyone use it.
Disney Dining Plan & Food
Overall I liked this feature – we actually had too much food, what a dilemma. I learned one valuable thing – the dining plan is per 24-hour period, so it goes by the number of nights you are at the resort not the number of days. Since we were at the resort Wednesday to Sunday we had a 4 night/5 day package. So, we received 4 snacks, 4 quick service, and 4 table service meals per person during our stay. For us this was more than enough as we also had the extra special meals at the Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table as part of our Castle Stay. Without these 2 extra meals we probably would have had to spend some extra $$ to buy a few more meals because our flight arrived early on Wednesday (by noon) and didn’t leave until late on Sunday (7:45pm). However, that being said, I figured out the cost of the plan for our family and the total was $611.76 – $152.94 per night (about $25 per person if you average it). I think this was a great value. I can tell you that 1 table service would have cost our family about $100+ (before tip – tips are not included in the dining plan). I can also tell you that 1 quick-service meal would have cost our family, on average $55.00+ per meal. The “snacks” averaged about $3.00+ per snack. So, I would say we certainly saved money, time, and worry. I would definitely use the dining plan again!
Food at Disney is expensive. I paid over $3 for a 2liter of Coke at the hotel. We did buy a few waters/soda’s but we really made use of refilling our water bottles and such. We did not take advantage of the refillable mug that each resort offers, although if we would have stayed longer we would have as I think for the $13 it costs it’s a good value if you will be at the resort enough (we were not). We also did buy 1 meal (Pizza) on our own at our resort from an outside source and it was delivered, it was less than what Disney offered and we had 2 huge 3-topping pizza’s and a 6-pack of coke for $25, a good value.
One last thing – table services – Reservations, Reservations, Reservations – oh my, they fill up so fast, and without reservations you may not get to eat where you want or you will have to wait for a cancellation or no-show.
Where we ate:
Quick Service / Counter Meals
- Restaurantsauras – in Animal Kingdom (2 meals)
- ABC Commentary – in Hollywood Studios
- Artist Pallet – at Saratoga Springs
- Turf Club Bar and Grill – at Saratoga Springs
- Sci-Fi Dine – in Hollywood Studios
- Olivia’s – at Old Key West Resort
- Ohana Character Breakfast – at Polynesian Village
We had 1 snack per person per night – for a total of 24 snacks. While at Animal Kingdom on the last day we had 2 Mickey Mouse Ice cream bars, 2 frozen fruit bars, and 1 popcorn. We also purchased several sodas, frozen drinks, and ice cream’s while we were at the other parks. For our final snack purchase we purchased 8 Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats to bring home (if you don’t use all your meal plan you loose it, and we don’t ever waste food!)
Complimentary as part of the Royal Family
- Cinderella’s Royal Table – (would be a special table-service) in Magic Kingdom
- Crystal Palace – (would be a table-service) in Magic Kingdom
If you have any questions about our trip?
Want help planning your own magical trip to Disney?
Give me a call (651) 731-9706 or send me an Email, I would love to talk to you!