Art of Animation: Value resort? Really? We had a suite, complete with 2 bathrooms. And the boy was stoked that his bed was actually the table. The pool was HUGE. And the lifeguard staff was awesome. On day 1, I managed to lose my kid in the pool. As my face contorted into, "Holy smokes, I lost my kid and this pool is huge!" a lifeguard saw me and asked if I needed help finding my boy. Without me even asking for help. Her concern was a welcome relief. Thankfully, we found the boy and everything was fine. The pool was salt water, which meant you could go under with your eyes open and it didn't hurt. We went swimming mostly at night, and always they were playing Disney movies. Most of the time we hung out in the shallow end, so we didn't really get to watch the movies. We left the pool around 9ish each night so the boy could get some sleep. Once I realized that all the kids in the pool were up way past their bedtime, I didn't feel so bad about letting him stay late. We took our showers at night so we could go to sleep without being covered in sweat. I think value resort may mean your bus is at the end of the bus stop, perhaps? If Art of Animation is a value resort, I can only imagine what the other resorts look like.
Oh, and the food at said value resort. Fantastic. The one night we went there, I watched them make my pasta from scratch. OK, so I had to wait in line. So what? I got a fresh pasta dish with everything I asked for. Same thing with the omelet I had in the morning of the last day.
I'd absolutely stay there again.
Dining plan: DO IT. Yes, it was pricey, but totally worth it. Kind of nice to get at $16 platter of BBQ and not have to worry about the fact that it was so expensive. Same thing with a $30 meal at Be Our Guest. OK, so we had to pay for booze, but I can tell you that $15 margarita at La Hacienda de San Angel was totally worth it.
My only problem with it is that the kids meals were the same no matter where you went: Grilled chicken or fish, chicken nuggets or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a choice of grapes, or carrots, or French fries if you ask. Cookie for dessert at lunch, cookie or ice cream for dessert at dinner. At le Chefs de France, we all got fancy French food. On the child's menu? Chicken nuggets, with ice cream for dessert. Even if the boy wouldn't have eaten the ethnic food, I would have love to have seen something like that on the menu for him, and some BBQ at the Flame Tree in Animal Kingdom. Something other than a cookie or ice cream for dessert would have been nice, too.
At the end, we had 6 snacks left over. So we got dessert with breakfast on the last day, and then bough 4 bananas to take home with us, so I didn't have to go shopping right away when I got home.
Garden Grocer: No issues there. Even got a discount for ordering our stuff two weeks earlier than our arrival date. Even got a text from them when the food arrived, I bought too much food. We took home as much as we could, and security didn't seem to mind boxes of Goldfish and a bag of chips. We didn't bring any of our snacks into the park, but again, with the dining plan, there really wasn't reason too. Besides, we got stuffed from the meals themselves.
Orlandostrollers.com: Hells. yes. Even for a 7 year old. It takes an hour to get back to the hotel, between walking to the bus and then waiting for one to appear, and then walking to our hotel. We did make Anthony do a fair amount of walking, but when it got really, really hot out, or he was truly exhausted, we let him sit in the shade. Or when we needed to walk quickly to our destination, we put him in the stroller so we could go at grown-up speed. At the end of a long, long day, the boy would fall asleep on the way to the buses, Which meant we didn't have to carry a sleeping child. The other benefit of the stroller was that when there were 10,000 people trying to leave the park all at once, I knew exactly where my kid was, and that made me a much less anxious person. I hate being crowded like a sardine, and it's even worse now when my boy is with me.
Dealing with the stroller company was butt easy. Pick up stroller at luggage, then drop it off there at the end of the trip. One less thing to carry on the plane, and it was a really nice stroller. We made it more visible by putting my bright yellow luggage strap and some pom poms on it. We took your advice and parked in the middle of the stroller packs, so it didn't get moved around that much. I think t was $90 to rent for 9 days, and worth every penny. Yes, it weighed 22 lbs, but it folded up nicely so we could get it off and on the bus with relative ease. Or carry it over our heads so we can get from Frontier Land in Disney over to the start of Tomorrow Land near the rose garden so we could watch Wishes without squishing literally hundreds of people sitting in our way to our destination,
Magic Express: Nice to board without worrying about luggage. Except we didn't get it for hours because they delivered it to the wrong room. Took me two phone calls to fix it. By the second one, I said, "So you're going to deliver our luggage to our room NOW, right?" And they did. But I'm glad we packed carry-ons with our bathing suits and extra change of clothing. Also glad we packed Sedgwick (Anthony's stuffed cat that he sleeps with every night) in his backpack so he didn't get lost. On the way back, checking in for the airline at the hotel was nice. Much shorter line with much friendlier people. We had time to play in the arcade between checking our luggage and boarding the bus, too.
Photo pass: My brother and SIL got this for us as a Chanukah gift. Boy, was it nice to actually be in the photos for once! And I can download the high-res images onto the computer. If Anthony was in a foul mood, we just skipped out on the photos since I really don't need photos of him scowling. They took an amazing series of shots from Jedi training, and a great photo shoot from when Anthony met Woody and Jessie at Magic Kingdom. All the photos from the rides are on there, too, although I don't think any of them are particularly flattering for any of us.
Fast pass: Glad I made those reservations two months ago. By the time it came to get that 4th fast pass, most of the "good stuff" was gone. So when we do this again, I won't count on getting a 4th fast pass to some high value ride. For example, we had Space Mountain as a later fast pass. Since it was day 3 of our vacation, we went on that first thing before the 9:20 fast pass for whatever it was kicked in. We made good use of those hour windows, since we were perpetually running behind schedule.
The bus system: With rare exception, we didn't have a problem with the buses at all. Most of the time it turned out we caught the bus right as it arrived, so we only had to wait a few times. Thank God for folding strollers. The boy had a great time chatting up whoever happened to be sitting next to him. Typical Anthony. Dennis was trying very hard to explain that back home, that's simply not done, but we were at Disney and everyone was friendly. It should be an interesting experience when Anthony experiences the Northeast Corridor or a NYC subway for the first time...
Telling Disney that your kid recently had a birthday: The boy got to wear his birthday pin all week, and all week, he was wished a happy birthday. At the 50's cafe, the waitress announced that it was his birthday and had everyone sitting in our section sign the card. He got big chocolate muffins at a bunch of the places, too. And during the Electrical parade, characters came over to ask how old he was.
Apparently, you could also get pins that said "First visit," or "I'm celebrating," or "It's our ** anniversary." We could have gotten a 1st visit pin for the boy, and technically an anniversary pin for us since Dennis and I had been together since 8/21/01, even if we weren't married til 2005.
On being prepared with a backpack full of stuff: I carried a first aid kit, sunblock, a towel, pens, a battery charger, a tablet, spare undies/socks/shoes for the boy, neon bracelets and a neon sword, liquid meds for the boy, assorted meds for the grownups, and some other stuff. Save the spare clothing for the child, the liquid benadryl, and the pepto tabs, I used it all. For every item my husband thought "excessive" (like the first aid kit), I said "You're welcome!" when I needed it. Yeah, that was mean but it felt good :) We put on sunblock every 2 hours, and called it a sunblock party. The towel meant for drying wet seats? Nope. We used it for drying sweaty bodies to the sunblock would stick. That battery charger was a godsend, considering how much I used my phone to keep track of the plan. When the glowing-things salespeople came around, I handed the boy the glow bracelets or his glow sword. It wasn't the same but it kept him quiet at least. As you'll read later (if you read this entire manifesto!), the first aid kit came in handy when Anthony scraped his elbow. While waiting for Fantasmic, the tablet made that hour wait much easier on the three of us. the boy was occupied, and Dennis didn't need to hear, "I'm borrred!" over and over again. At one point, Anthony said it hurt, and through the magic of an unneeded dose of Advil, he was magically better. I was fairly certain the Advil wouldn't hurt, The placebo effect was strong with that one. With my herniated disc, I relied on alleve with the occasionaly tylenol thrown in for good measure. Between the two of them, it kept the pain to a minimum.
Disability pass: Since I wasn't wheelchair bound, I didn't qualify. Maybe next time I'll bring a copy of my MRI. Anyway, since there was no way I was going to sit in a wheelchair all day, it turned out we really didn't need the pass after all. But hey, I did ask.
Magic Bands: Made it way too easy to buy stuff, but we kept it in check. More or less. Loved the idea of needing only one thing to get into the room, bus, parks, fast pass, dining plan, etc. Especially when I just wore it on my wrist 24/7 so I wouldn't forget it. They sell little doohickeys to personalize your bands. We got a pirate pack, so each of us had some pirate thing on our bands.
The plans: HUGE help! THANK YOU!!! We made a pact that when I got ferclempt that the plan wasn't being followed, Dennis would remind me that we were on vacation and that the world wouldn't end if the plan was not followed exactly. I only needed to hear that once, maybe twice. Sometimes we switched things around to make life more convenient for us, and sometimes the plan just fell to crap and we winged it. I noticed that the longer we were in Disney, the less concerned I became about keeping to the plan. I kept printed copies in my back pocket in case the internet went down. Only needed it once when I optimized the plan and it threw everything out of order.
The app: Wish I could move steps up and down like you can using the desktop program. Also wish one could unfastpass stuff, or update timing without optimizing. I found optimization threw everything upside down, so I didn't bother with that after doing it once. The computer decided that we wanted to stay til closing every night, and that wasn't the case most of the time. The app pooped on me a few times, but for the most part it behaved itself.
Disney's wifi: It sucked. Spotty might be a nicer way to put it. It mostly worked in our hotel room, and occasionally worked in the parks. I think at one point I just shut wifi off on my phone, since it was draining my already-insufficient battery and wasn't helping me any.
Shopping: I missed shopping, but I knew that Anthony wouldn't have enjoyed browsing through stuff. Or he would have wanted everything he saw and would have been disappointed when we said no over and over again. With the kidot stations, it made it easier for me to browse, because he was busy. . As much as I wanted to buy chocolate souvenirs, I knew that in the Florida heat they'd never last. Or we'd eat them all as a preventative measure. :) Being able to send things straight to our room was nice.
Fellow park-goers: Like my son, I'm pretty much able to strike up a conversation with anyone. Almost everyone I spoke to was friendly, and I loved meeting people from all over the world. I didn't think of Disney as a world destination, but apparently it is. Loved seeing all the married couples in the park, and all the princesses. I have no idea how anyone walked around in heels or little plastic shoes. I wore my cross-trainers, and I'm used to being on my feet a lot, and my feet were pretty tired from walking all day!
-By, Beth Adler-Bush
Mouse Dining https://www.facebook.com/groups/668099343257773/
Unofficial Guide To Disney World - http://touringplans.com/unofficial-guide
Touring Plans - Touringplans.com