Roam the Savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids in Walt Disney World

Spend time at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy a safari vacation at Walt Disney World when your family stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Waking up to a view of an African game preserve tops many people’s bucket lists. I certainly thought I would never see such a place…until I checked into Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids in January of 2017.

Imagine exploring the African savanna, surrounded by blooming landscapes brimming with countless animals. The chance to take a wildlife safari sounds a bit out of reach, especially for Central Florida. But, I found this and so much more during our latest visit to Walt Disney World.

Enjoy the flowers at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Walk around the grounds of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids and enjoy the flowers. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Traveling to Walt Disney World many times as a child and seven times as a parent did not prepare me and my kids, ages 11 and 12, for the awesome African adventure in the middle of our most recent Disney trip. The remote site gave us a feeling of a true escape away from the chaos of lines and theme park crowds.

When visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, I found myself transported to a faraway continent. The soaring ceiling and authentic African artwork are unique. The beautiful tribal prints, ornate carvings and large glass windows kept my eyes constantly darting around the lobby area. In fact, the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers one of the most beautiful properties at Walt Disney World.

Watch the zebra while staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Watching the animals from your room tops my list of must-dos at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Fully themed in African culture, this resorts provides the feeling of a serene escape. The décor, food, and cultural representatives give this resort an authentic vibe. In addition, the educational opportunities and theming makes this resort unique and original.

What I loved at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort 

  • Unique theming
  • Several ethnic dining options with lots of vegetarian items
  • Many educational programs
  • Authentic African art and cultural pieces
  • Two large swimming pools with waterslides
  • Night vision binoculars for animal viewing

What I wanted at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

  • More buses to theme parks
  • Less music (or quieter) poolside
  • A larger, wider hall leading to the elevator

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort overlooks the savanna.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort buildings overlook the savanna and its animals. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort opened in 2001 and consists of two main buildings–Jambo House and Kidani Village. Separated by a flora-lined half-mile walking trail, the two buildings provide dining and entertainment options for all visitors. Guests can also choose to ride a van that travels between the two buildings every 15 minutes.

Also, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers approximately 43 acres of African savanna-themed, natural looking landforms. The resort provides a home to 200 animals and 130 birds.

Watch animal gaze on the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Gaze on the grazing animals of the savanna, like this Oryx, at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The deluxe resort features four main restaurants, a lounge, and two large pools with waterslides. In addition, Animal Kingdom Lodge features a playground, fitness center, free learning opportunities, unique views and safari-themed excursions.

My room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Jambo House offers 972 rooms and 324 units in Kidani Village, part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Resort rooms, designed in a semi-circle, resemble a Kraal African village.

The room at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
My standard room with a savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

During my stay, I reserved a standard room with a savanna view featuring two queen beds on the third floor of Jambo House. The beds were comfortable, linens plentiful and the room was decorated with African carvings and fabric prints. The balcony features a small table with two chairs that overlooks an active savanna. The savanna provides scenes full of wildlife, including ostriches, zebras, cranes, wildebeests, gazelles and ducks.

The amenities include free Wi-Fi, room service, mini-fridge, and a flat-panel TV. Rooms also feature a desk, two chairs, ceiling fan, coffee maker, and almost all rooms have full balconies. Standard rooms sleep four guests + one child under 3 in a crib.

The bathroom at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.
Our bathroom featured a granite vanity with two separate sinks. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The bathroom features a granite vanity outfitted with two sinks though it’s missing the doors that I find in moderate resorts that provide an additional dressing area. I found a iron and board and a hair dryer.

In a separate room, I found a standard tub with a shower head and toilet. The bathroom continues the African savanna theming.

The bathroom at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with kids.
The bathroom at the Animal Kingdom Lodge features a standard tub. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Surprisingly,  rooms provide about 344 sq. ft. which is the smallest of the deluxe resorts. Compared with the larger, yet more expensive Grand Floridian Resort and Spa that features 440 sq. ft.

Table Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features several restaurants with African and Indian-based cuisines, as well as traditional offerings. In Jambo House, Jiko-The Cooking Place, offers a fine dining experience with a limited menu and romantic ambiance.

Though beautifully decorated, the service was mediocre and the beef short ribs and lamb loin (considered the restaurant’s specialties) were both not available on the night we had reservations. Because Jiko-The Cooking Place is categorized as signature dining, we expected more. Consequently, it was our least favorite restaurant at this resort.

Enjoy the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
I enjoyed several of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

A bustling and popular buffet restaurant, Boma-Flavors of Africa serves breakfast and dinner. My daughters and I ate both breakfast and dinner at Boma and greatly enjoyed the experience. The buffet offers unique African dishes as well as familiar dishes for those less adventurous. We thoroughly enjoyed Simba waffles and jungle juice for breakfast and delicious vegetarian options for dinner.  Click here for a full review of Boma-Flavors of Africa.

Sanaa, which is Swahili for “art” or “work of beauty”, is found in the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village building. It showcases the most beautiful views of Sunset Savanna. We enjoyed two table service meals at Sanaa and plan to return to try more items.

Presently, the food features unique, flavorful and fresh offerings. Menu items include butter chicken, lentil dhal, seafood curry and African-inspired Biryani with seasonal vegetables. Check out the Indian-style bread service, which comes with five flavors of naan and nine accompaniments. Click here for a full review of Sanaa.

Animal lovers will love this resort at Walt Disney World where guests wake up to gazing animals on the savanna and kids activities at every bend.

Quick Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Also, a large, quick service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is called Mara. It opens to a patio that overlooks the Uzima Springs Pool and has outdoor and indoor tables.

The menu includes familiar breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, waffles, eggs and bacon. Lunch and dinner menus offer soups, flatbreads, burgers, and falafel pitas. Mara features salads, fruit cups, and grab-and-go items, too.

Pools at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Animal Kingdom Lodge features two main pool areas. Uzima Springs Pool is an 11,000 square foot oasis that faces Uzima Savanna and closest to the guest rooms in Jambo House. With a zero-entry point, a 67-foot waterslide and a lounge and bar connecting to the pool’s deck, this pool gives guests a wonderful place to relax after a long day inside the Disney theme parks. Other features include a children’s wading pool, coupled with two whirlpool spas.

The pools of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy an afternoon at the pools of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Near the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village, Samawati Springs Pool surprisingly holds 118,138 gallons of water. It features an 128-foot waterslide and zero entry. Uwanja Camp features a children’s water playground with three zones for varying ages.

Poolside huts provide complimentary towels.  Both pools feature lifeguard stations, but check the posted signs near each pool for hours of operation.

Activities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids

The Hakuna Matata Playground, located between Jambo House and savanna viewing areas, gives children a chance to climb and play.

The most exciting activity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids is watching the African savanna wildlife in a large habitat. I found many public viewing areas, some with benches and fire pits. Once the sun goes down, night vision binoculars provide a chance to view animals on the dark landscape.

I found lots of kids activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy table tennis at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids during your stay. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Also, my daughters and I met eager African cast members that shared their knowledge and answered questions about their homeland. We found cultural lectures, storytelling and native games available for free, among other things. My daughters chose to decorate cookies and small cakes.

Beyond typical expectations, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features an exciting dining experience with an animal specialist for as many as 12 guests. Click here for a review of this exclusive experience.

In fact, to enjoy every event at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, ask for a calendar of resort activities at the front desk of Jambo House and Kidani Village.

Getting to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is located at 2901 Osceola Parkway, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

About one mile from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a short drive southwest from the theme park. Disney transportation provides guests with shuttle buses approximately every 30 minutes.

Twenty-four miles from the Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a 30 minute drive from the airport. Click here for driving directions.

Disney provides complimentary buses for resort guests to and from the Orlando International Airport via Disney’s Magical Express motor-coach vehicles. Reserve Magical Express transportation when booking online through the Disney website or by calling (407) 939-1936.

If traveling to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge from another Disney resort, take Disney buses to the Animal Kingdom theme park and board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

From a Disney theme park, just board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge provides valet parking for $20-$25 a night. Complimentary self-park lots provide spaces for Jambo House guests. Kidani Village features a self-parking garage. Presently, vehicle parking is for resort guests and those with dining reservations.

Looking for More Resorts and Information?

The writers at Carful of Kids have stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, see what we have to say about the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

Click here to learn how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation like a pro.

Tips from a Disney Mom:

  • The four main Animal Kingdom Lodge dining options accept some Disney Dining Plans.
  • Advanced dining reservations are best for all table service restaurants.
  • Because this resort is slightly remote, buses are the only forms of transportation to Disney theme parks.  Consequently, consider driving your own vehicle.
  • Check this resort out, even if you don’t plan to book a room.
  • The Disney planning book I use can be purchased here.

 

35 Places for Family Fun in Disney Springs

Visit Disney Springs with kids for shopping, dining and entertainment.
Walk over the bridge near Morimoto Asia to enjoy this view. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Over the last year, Disney Springs blossomed into a family fun destination. Disney Springs is my first stop after landing at the airport since I build in a transportation day in case of airport delays. Disney Springs with kids is the place to build Disney excitement while providing lots of options in dining, entertainment and shopping.

Table Service at Disney Springs

It’s a vacation, so take a break and treat yourself. After several visits to Disney Springs, I’ve sampled several different table service restaurants.

Eat at the Boathouse when visiting Disney Springs with kids.
The Boathouse serves up seafood along with steaks and burgers in a laid-back restaurant. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The BOATHOUSE wowed me with its views of Lake Buena Vista and extensive menu of seafood and steaks. I loved the nautical theme and the service was attentive. Be sure and catch the vintage amphi-cars drive into the water, located close by.

STK specializes in grilled meats, like the filet, along with inventive sides with an upscale environment. The views from the second-story terrace offer sweeping views.

Enjoy STK when you visit Disney Springs with kids.
The Truffle Fries at STK are gush worthy. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I gushed over the parmesan truffle fries so I ate a week’s worth of carbs. The lil’ burgers, featuring wagyu beef, are tender tidbits of burger perfection.

Another favorite, The House of Blue Blues Gospel Brunch, tops my list for comfort food. Served as an extensive buffet, I gorged myself on BBQ and southern favorites before the gospel choir lit up the stage with uplifting spirituals.

Dining at Disney Springs with Kids 

Enjoy pizza at Wolfgang's Express in Disney Springs with kids.
I found a pizza kids will eat that appeals to adults at Wolfgang Puck Express. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my latest visit, my boys, 9 and 12, wanted pizza so we stopped at Wolfgang Puck Express where I walked away with a pepperoni pizza for under $15 for us to share.

If kids want sandwiches, I suggest the Earl of Sandwich for lunch. Another solid option for kids in a quick service format.

Stop by Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs with kids.
Kids love sandwiches? The Earl of Sandwich has them covered. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Rainforest Café offers another option for families with their familiar menu and décor.

Desserts and Coffee in Disney Springs

Did someone say dessert? I found my go-to treat at Sprinkles, for cupcakes. With a wide range of flavors, everyone satisfied their sweet-tooth.

Enjoy cupcakes at Sprinkles in Disney Springs with kids.
Cupcakes your addiction? Then Sprinkles is your destination. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lucky for me, I found two Starbucks locations in Disney Springs so I refueled.

A new addition is the ultimate ice cream shop topped in chocolate. Stop by Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop for decadent indulges, since it’s a vacation.

I found a patisserie and crepe shop in Disney Springs too.

Adulting Disney Springs Style

As soon as the sun sets, Disney Springs transforms from a family destination to the scene for dinner and cocktails.

Enjoy Disney Springs after dark.
Disney Springs transforms after dark with upscale dining and cocktails. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If looking for a casual evening, then I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. With my favorite tunes overhead and a pair of bowling shoes on my feet, this is the place to hang out with friends.

And the food, their sushi is tops in Disney Springs. Between games, I grabbed a slice of pizza, like my favorite, BBQ chicken. Don’t forget the sliders or the nachos, both actually helped my game.

Enjoy Splitsville in Disney Springs with kids.
Not just bowling, I enjoyed sushi and pizza along with sliders at Splitsville. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Bowling begs for beer and Splitsville features an extensive selection of beer and wine. If that doesn’t satisfy, I found lots of signature cocktails.

If bowling isn’t your game, then stop by Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar for drinks after dinner. The atmosphere reminds me of an Indian Jones hangout and if the inside tables are full, head outside to watch the lights glitter off Lake Buena Vista.

Entertainment for the Family at Disney Springs

With its own free-standing theater, catch Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba. I did and wow this show bypasses the traveling shows in a big way. I found the theater features a more intimate seating arrangement that allows for better views.

Disney Springs also features an AMC theater with 24 theaters so I can’t imagine not finding your favorite movie on the big screen.

Enjoy the House of Blues in Disney Springs with kids.
The House of Blue features a gospel brunch along with a concert venue. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Though I ate at the House of Blues for brunch, it’s also a concert venue booking a variety of acts.

Kids love seeing the giant tethered balloon assent 400 feet into the air next to Lake Buena Vista. For the brave-hearted, seeing all the parks at once might be a bucket list experience.

Top Things to do in Disney Springs with Kids 

Find the splash pad. With a park bench perfect for resting adults, I found the splash pad at the entrance of Disney Springs near the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

If the kids loved the splash pad, then check out spitting Stitch located outside of the World of Disney.

Enjoy the carousel in Disney Springs with kids.
A ride on the hand-painted Venetian carousel is a must for kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I can’t pass up the hand-painted Venetian carousel. It’s a work of art and an amazing site at night.

The marketplace train express offers littles another way to ride in Disney style. Even the Disney Springs Water Taxi is fun for families.

Stop by all the kid-oriented outdoor sculptures. With LEGOS topping the list here, don’t miss Mr. Potato Head either.

Shopping at Disney Springs

Do all your shopping at Disney Springs. My kids loved the LEGO Store and this store offers free activities. Even if you have a million pieces at home you have to check out the sculptures in and around the store. Really. The Hulk, a dragon, Buzz Lightyear and the list goes on.

Stop by the LEGO Store in Disney Springs with kids.
LEGO Store, your destination for cool kid art. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Star Wars fans in the house? Then visit the Star Wars Galactic Outpost for gifts for the kids and the first-generation fans too. The make-your-own light saber bar is a must.

The dino-loving kids will find the Dino-Store at the T-REX.

For Moms, I start at the sprawling World of Disney for unique Disney gifts. Another destination for distinct Disney gifts, Disney Days of Christmas features ornaments for your tree. I suggest D-Living too.

Add a day to explore Disney Springs with your kids for your next Walt Disney World trip. With a ginormous selection of dining, shopping and activities open nearly around the clock, it's deserve a day for itself.

If you forgot something at home, fear not. Disney Springs offers all the brands you love. I found Anthropologie, Columbia Sportswear, Free People, Kate Spade, Levis, Lilly Pulitzer and Zara.

Need shoes or luggage? Not a problem. I found those too.

Getting to and around Disney Springs

Disney Springs is located at 1480 Buena Vista Dr. I found lots of free parking and the lots are labeled. Valet parking is available.

I always use the Disney Springs Water Taxi to get around. My kids love it and it saves a few steps. With three stops, one at each end and one in the center, I was never far from a dock.

If you staying in the Buena Vista area, a complimentary bus runs frequently or take the bridge back to the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels. For guests of Saratoga Springs Resort, Disney Springs is right across Lake Buena Vista and I found a bridge.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Disclosure:

This site uses affiliate links in which I get a small commission if the book is purchased. Some of the resorts stays were hosted for review purposes.

4 Ways to a Perfect Spring Day at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Fest

Enjoy the topiaries at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
Enjoy a perfect day strolling among the flowers while watching the butterflies dance about. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Since 1994, every spring the International Flower and Garden Festival opens like a field of flowers across Epcot. From the first week of March until the last week of May, plant lovers drool and daydream as they wander through the eye-popping displays. But what about the kids? I’ve pulled together a list of must dos at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids to keep Mom happy.

With over 70 topiary displays with Disney characters from every generation, I love meandering through Epcot discovering the displays. Each character is a piece of plant art and I take a few minutes to discover the details in each. I am amazed how the gardeners use plants and plant products to create characters with amazing detail.

Enjoy the topiaries with kids at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.
Stop and look at the topiaries of favorite characters at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

And think it’s the same every year, not so. Each year I find my favorite topiaries in a different spot. Even the blooms radiate different colors. As a plant lover, I study the way the gardeners group the plants in eye-popping arrangements. I seriously covet the container groupings. It’s everything I want on my patio.

Even though I am a foodie, I love Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival a tad more than the International Food and Wine Festival in the Fall. Read on and to see why.

Enjoy some pastries at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
I walk through the flowers while I nibble on French pastries. If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A Topiary for Every Movie

Well, almost. My girly faves are Elsa and Anna in Norway and France’s Beauty and the Beast topiaries. For my boys, Phineas and Ferb top the charts.

Stop by Elsa and Anna in Norway at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
A couple of my favorites, Elsa and Anna, enchant guests in Norway. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Along with the themed topiaries, some of the countries have themed gardens too. In Japan we find a display of Bonsai. In the United Kingdom, I’m enchanted by the Shakespeare Garden and the pots of tea plants.

Over 200 floating gardens catch us by surprise. They float and turn in the wind under the monorail near the Odyssey Bridge and the International Gateway.  

Enjoy the Beauty and the Beast topiaries in France when visiting Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
Can’t miss these characters in France, they’re a couple of my favorites too. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Weekend Entertainment

On the weekends, Epcot comes alive with music at the Garden Rocks Concert. A free concert located in the America Gardens Theatre bringing national acts to the World Showcase.

Of course, special tours and tastings tantalize me. Though additional tickets might be required.

Enjoy delightful birdhouse at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
I love the topiaries yet this birdhouse delighted me as well. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with Kids

Kids and gardens can be a hard sell. So stop by the Music Garden Melodies Playground. My favorite feature is sitting in the Adirondack chairs watching my kids play.

Stop and take a photo with Lightening McQueen at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
My youngest needed a photo with Cruz Ramirez. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Another must-do for kids, the Road to Florida 500 features Lightening McQueen and Cruz Ramirez.

We explore the butterfly garden, sponsored by Go-Go Squeez next. After chasing butterflies, my boys slurp down an applesauce pouch in one gulp.

Thumper and Bambi are all-time favorites at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with Kids.
Who can’t pass up Thumper and Bambi on a perfect Spring afternoon at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Kidcot activities, a free educational booklet in selected countries in the World Showcase, get a fresh makeover for Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids. Just grab a booklet head to a special desk in each pavilion. For 2017, kids learn about fruit from across the world.

Always running on-time, the miniature outdoor train in Germany excites my boys. I spend a few moments studying the tiny details with real trees to scale.

Take a hint from Snow White on how to get your kids whistling along as you lead the way to Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival.

Dining during International Flower and Garden

One of my favorite parts of International Flower and Garden Festival is the food. Just for the festival, the Epcot chefs roll out farm-to-table offerings while mixologists concoct delicate spring inspired cocktails.

Sip a cocktail while strolling among the flowers at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.
I really can’t say no to a champagne cocktail. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

At the outdoor kitchens sprinkled in the countries, I find farm-to-table items offering fresh alternatives for families. The small plates entice me to sample in every country. And the signature cocktails are hard to pass up, especially the champagne cocktails.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Disclosure:

My visit to Walt Disney World was hosted for review purposes. Some of my resort stays were hosted.

This post contains affiliate link in which I get a small commission if you purchase a book.

 

 

 

 

 

Make the Most of Your Disney Dollars at Coronado Springs Resort

Enjoy the Spanish Colonial styling while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The Coronado Springs Resort offers Colonial Spanish styling along with a convention center and fantastic pool for the kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Coronado Springs Resort in Walt Disney World transports guests to Spanish Colonial Mexico with a sweeping lobby and restaurants bursting with Mexican flavors. Watch the sunset over the 22-acre Lago Dorado and nibble off a plate of nachos while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.

The moderately-priced Disney resort features a Mayan pyramid replica at its resort pool with a crazy water slide for the young at heart. With expansive grounds and large lake in the center of the property, the Coronado Springs Resort never felt crowded.

What I loved about the Coronado Springs Resort

  • The pool, it features a water slide that wowed my boys.
  • The grand lobby reminded me of old train stations across the Southwest.

What I wanted at the Coronado Springs Resort

  • A more manageable size, I walked for 10 minutes to get to my room.
  • Something to eat near the rooms. I had to walk back to the lobby area.
  • More transportation options to the parks, Coronado uses bus transportation only.

Staying at the Coronado Springs Resort

The Coronado Springs Resort ($$-$$$) is a moderate resort divided into three different areas with Mexican beach resort themed Cabanas, southwestern cattle ranch themed Ranchos and Casitas modeled after the grand architecture in Mexico City.

 

Enjoy the lobby while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The Coronado Springs Resort features a lobby with details that transport me to San Diego’s train station. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Coronado Springs Resort provides 1,915 rooms that measured 314 square feet, the same size as the Caribbean Beach Resort, another moderate resort. Though the Coronado Springs Resort is the only moderate resort to offer a convention center.

Because of the convention center, the rooms boast features for business travelers. The rooms feature large desk areas with task lighting and lots of plugs for charging.

Enjoy the art while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
I found artistic details around every corner at the Coronado Springs Resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where the Caribbean Beach Resort provides a trundle for a total of five people per room, the Coronado Springs Resort does not. My room featured a walk-in shower instead of a tub with a showerhead. A consideration when planning a trip with kids that refuse to take a shower.

The Wi-Fi at the Coronado Springs Resort is better than most of the other resorts, including the deluxe resorts. It also features an ATM, resort airline check-in, three guest laundries, Disney merchandise delivery, a business center, a heath club with spa and salon services, and childcare services.

I visited Coronado Springs Resort in April.

My Room at Coronado Springs Resort

I reserved for a second floor room in building 7A in the Ranchos section. The farthest building from the lobby and we hiked for 10 minutes to get there.

Enjoy more space while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
My room at the Coronado Springs Resort featured two queen beds and a ceiling fan. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My room featured 314 square-feet with a semi-private vanity area along with a glass-enclosed shower outfitted with a rain shower head and separate toilet. The room features two queen beds dressed with white linens. I found a spot for a pack-n-play and luggage though it might be tight.

My room featured a large desk and console unit that housed the Keurig coffee maker with coffee and tea, a hair dryer, an in-room safe, iron and board, a flat-screen television, a mini-refrigerator and ice bucket with real glassware.

Enjoy a working vacation while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Since the Coronado Springs Resort features a convention center, I found a work desk in my room. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I didn’t find an alarm clock. The charging station located on the bed side table with two outlets and two plugs for USB cords was a nice feature.

I visited Coronado Springs Resort in April.

My Bathroom at Coronado Springs Resort

The bathroom area featured sliding doors that provided a separate changing area. A convenient feature for a Mom who wants to dress before the kids wake up.

The bathroom's sliding doors is convenient while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Closing the doors to let the kids sleep in while I got dressed is a nice feature. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The vanity area features two separate sinks with granite counter tops, decorative lighting and mirror. I found a lighted make-up mirror mounted next to the sink and the shelf above the sinks was convenient to put toiletries.

The bathroom offers lots of space while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The double sinks and spacious vanity allows families to spread out in the bathroom. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found standard toiletries, including a facial bar, a bath bar, shampoo and conditioner. The hair dryer and iron were stashed in the door of the vanity, next to the wardrobe where I found a limited amount of handing space and the ironing board.

My bathroom at the Coronado Springs Resort featured a glass enclosed shower stall with a rain shower head. I loved it but my kids don’t need a tub bath anymore. This room included the toilet.

Enjoy the luxurious shower while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
My bathroom didn’t feature a tub though my older kids enjoyed the glass-enclosed shower. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Coronado Springs Resort Activities

The go-to activity at the Coronado Springs is the Lost City of Cibola pool. With a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid, a two-story water slide named the Jaguar Slide and the largest hot tub in Walt Disney World, this pool is a destination.

The Lost City of Cibola pool is a destination for most while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The Lost City of Cibola pool features a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid along with the jaguar slide. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Lost City of Cibola Pool is part of a larger complex of activities called the Dig Site. I found a playground in the area, movies under the stars, a white sand volleyball court, the Iguana arcade and the poolside bar and grill, Siestas Cantina.

Play in the playground at the pool while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Kids can play in the sand at the City of Cibola Pool site as well. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Coronado Springs Resort offers La Vida Health Club for massages, salon services along with a full range of gym equipment. During my stay I walked along the .9-mile jogging trail that rings the 22-acre lake.

If kids want to ride bikes while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort rent standard bikes at La Marina. I also found fun four-person surrey bikes.

For guests desiring a quiet pool environment, I found pools in each of the villages, the Casitas, the Ranchos and the Cabanas.

Dining at Coronado Springs Resort

As a moderate resort, Coronado Springs Resort offers several restaurants, unlike the Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.

Got a meeting or convention at Walt Disney World, then the Coronado Springs Resort needs to be your work trip home. With its convention center, pool complex, restaurants with Mexican favorites along with rooms with work desks, Coronado Springs Resort makes it easy to bring the family along on the Orlando work trip.

For traditional Mexican cuisine and American favorites, I found Maya Grill. For families wanting more casual fare, try Las Ventanas, both restaurants accept reservations.

Since the weather was perfect, we wanted to dine al fresco. I headed to the Dig Site pool for Siesta Cantina, where my boys, 9 and 12, ordered off the kids menu.

Other quick service options include Café Rix and Pepper Market.

Where’s Coronado Springs Resort

The Coronado Springs Resort is located at 1000 West Lake Buena Vista Drive near Animal Kingdom. It is located 22 miles from the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Since this was the last resort of my three-resort tour during my Walt Disney World trip, I used the complimentary Magical Express to return to the Orlando airport. I found plenty of complimentary self-parking at the resort.

To get to the parks, I used the Walt Disney World bus transportation. The service was efficient though we waited at peak times.

Note about transferring resorts during your stay:

I changed resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World will transfer your bags free of cost. I packed up our bags and rolled them down to luggage services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient and brought them to luggage services myself, located next to the main entrance.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information.

Disclosure: 

This room was provided for review purposes. This post contains affliate links in which I get a commission if you purchase a book.

Know before you go:

  • Towels are available at the Lost City of Cibola pool only.
  • Lifeguards are on-duty at some pools, check in at the front desk for more information.
  • Must be 14-years-old to use the health club and 17 to enter without an adult.

How to Stretch Disney Dollars at the Art of Animation

Staying at the Art of Animation at Disney is fun for kids.
The pops of color attract kids of all ages to the Art of Animation Value Resort at Walt Disney World. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Art of Animation, the newest value resort, located across the Hourglass Lake from Pop Century Resort, wowed my kids. It offers lots of value for families and several pools with punches of color along with my kids’ favorite characters. When your family is all about the park time, this resort might be the right choice for you.

What I loved about the Art of Animation:

  • The theming of the Art of Animation is super cute with giant statues and playgrounds.
  • The pools are kid magnets.
  • The Art of Animation’s size is manageable to walk while pulling luggage.

What I wanted from the Art of Animation:

  • A coffee maker, none of the value resorts have them in standard rooms.
  • More pillows, I found two per bed.
  • More transportation options to the parks, this resort uses buses only.

Staying at the Art of Animation Resort

Built in 2012, the Art of Animation offers the nicest property of the value resorts ($-$$). It features 10 four-story buildings with three resort-style pools and a playground.

Play grounds make it fun and one of the reasons for staying at the Art of Animation.
A playground adds fun in the courtyard for kids at the Art of Animation Value Resort at Walt Disney World. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Art of Animation Resort features more family suites than regular rooms with 1,120 suites. Each suite offers 565 square feet with amenities like a master bedroom, two full bathrooms and a kitchenette with a coffee maker, a microwave and a mini-refrigerator.

The Art of Animation features 864 standard rooms, all decorated with The Little Mermaid theming. Each room offers 277 square feet, a little bigger than the Pop Century. Outfitted with a king or a pair of queen beds, the Art of Animation standard rooms met my expectations for value rooms. 

Kids love the Art of Animation, it's like walking through all the movies.

With complimentary Wi-Fi, staying connected comes easy. The Art of Animation also features an ATM, resort airline check-in, a guest laundry, Disney merchandise delivery and childcare services.

The self-parking is complimentary. I used the Walt Disney World bus transportation and the Magical Express (complimentary Orlando airport transportation). Both are efficient though we waited at peak times.

I visited the Art of Animation Resort in April.

My Standard Room at the Art of Animation

I reserved a standard room with two doubles beds on the third floor of Building 7. I entered my room from an outside corridor and used the elevator to reach the third floor.

Staying at the Art of Animation offers lots of value.
My standard Little Mermaid room at the Art of Animation gave me the basics. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The buildings are well-maintained and vibrate with color. The rooms overlook the courtyard and don’t feature private balconies or patios.

I reserved The Little Mermaid themed room and my boys grunted at the theming. The downside to the standard room option is The Little Mermaid is the only theme. Cars themed standard rooms aren’t available which annoys most boys. Though I loved it, it’s super cute.

Staying at the Art of Animation Value Resort in Walt Disney World offers basic rooms.
A nice feature is the bathroom curtain so I could get ready before getting my boys up. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Our room featured 277 square feet, a bit bigger than the Pop Century Resort. Though still a little tight for a pack-n-play. This room provides sleeping for four with just two pillows per bed. I needed a pillow fairy to visit me and grant me another set of pillows.

Our room featured a small table with two chairs, a small refrigerator, a flat-screen television, a phone and an in-room safe. I didn’t find a coffee maker, a charging station, real glassware, a ceiling fan or separate closet. I missed some of those items, especially the coffee maker.

Cute details pop while staying at the Art of Animation.
The sheet music on the table in my room at the Art of Animation added to the theming. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My Bathroom Art of Animation

The bathroom area was small though it provided a curtain in the vanity area so I could dress while my boys, 9 and 12, slept in. I found the tub and toilet separated by a door. The tub area features treasures under the sea tiles and the Ariel shower curtain is super cute.

I liked the bathroom when staying at the Art of Animation.
The Ariel shower curtain and the under the sea tiles make the bathroom pop. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The vanity area at the Art of Animation features a swirly blue countertop with one sink. The mirror above the sink continues The Little Mermaid theming, complete with a shell light fixture.

On the countertop, I found a plastic ice bucket and disposable cups. Basic toiletries included: bath soap, facial bar, shampoo and conditioner. I didn’t find lotion.

Enjoy a cute bathroom while staying at the Art of Animation.
The bathroom at the Art of Animation offers a cute details with basic amenities. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found an iron and ironing board, hair dryer and luggage rack. Though I don’t like that the closet rod is next to the vanity. I prefer a real closet with a door. The room gets messy with the kids when I can’t hide the clutter behind a door.

I found four towels with a couple of hand towels. The linens seemed of nicer quality than our room at the Pop Century Resort.

Activities at The Art of Animation

The Art of Animation Resort boasts the largest resort pool at Walt Disney World, The Finding Nemo themed pool. Sporting underwater speakers and a splashing area, this pool is the center of kid fun.

Kids enjoy the pool while staying at the Art of Animation.
The Art of Animation pool is the largest of all the Walt Disney World pools and provides underwater music. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Cozy Cone Pool and the Flippin’ Fins pool are also kid magnets. The Schoolyard Spray ground and the Squirts Righteous Reef attract the littles from across the resort.

I found a playground in the Lion King area. A 1.38-mile jogging trail runs by the lake. I found bike rentals and surrey bike rentals along the jogging trail too.

Enjoy the bikes while staying at the Art of Animation.
Rent a bike with the kids and ride along the jogging trail next to Hourglass Lake. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Like most Walt Disney World Resorts, watch movies under the stars between The Loin King building and Finding Nemo building.

Inside the Art of Animation Hall, I found the Pixel Play Arcade.

Thinking about a stay at the Art of Animation Value Resort in Walt Disney World? I've got all the cute details plus a couple of things you might miss during your stay.

 

Dining at the Art of Animation

The Art of Animation Resort features the Landscape of Flavors, quick-service food court with American and international favorites. Open from 6 a.m. to midnight, it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Outside at the Finding Nemo pool, I found tables that you could enjoy a snack or cocktail from the nearby Drop Off Pool Bar.

In-room pizza delivery is available at the Art of Animation Resort.

Where’s the Art of Animation?

The Art of Animation Resort is located at 1850 Animation Way. The Art of Animation provides the complimentary Magical Express to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

If driving the Art of Animation is 21 miles from the Orlando airport. During my stay, I stayed at several area resorts and rented a car from the airport and returned it to the drop off in Disney Springs. An option if you are spending a day exploring the area before your park days.

Note about transferring resorts during your stay:

I changed resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World will transfer your bags free of cost. I packed up our bags and rolled them down to luggage services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient and brought them to luggage services myself, located next to the main entrance.

Need Travel Insurance?

You just never know. I know I’ve been there when my SUV was stolen on a road trip.

Add peace of mind to your trip when you purchase travel insurance from Allianz Travel Insurance Company.

Travel insurance protects in two ways: covering pre-paid, non-refundable expenses, like flights, hotels and event tickets along with the following coverage.

  • Trip Cancellation
  • Trip Interruption
  • Emergency Medical and Dental Coverage
  • Medical Transportation
  • Baggage Delay
  • Baggage Insurance
  • Collision Loss and Damage
  • Travel Accident and Delay
  • 24-hour Emergency Assistance
  • Concierge Services

Choose from several levels of annual coverage and coverage lasts for the entire year.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa .

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

Disclosure:

This post was sponsored by Allianz.

The Ultimate Day of Adulting – Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

 

Epcot, International Food and Wine Festival,
Need a break? Love food, wine and chocolate? I know I do so I headed over to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival to sample my way across the World Showcase recently.

The International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World offers a day of sampling culinary treats from around the world while walking from one country to the next in Epcot’s World Showcase. Since the first festival in 1995, each year brings more sampling. Though one question persists, what to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival?

The International Food and Wine Festival features special events like cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings and bottle signings. Along with the culinary world tour, savory and sweet curated samplings are expertly paired with wine and spirits. With smaller portions, I found it easy to sample lots of dishes to find a new favorite and the cocktail prices were reasonable.

What to Eat at the International Food and Wine Festival

I spent a couple of hours riding my favorite rides, like Soarin’ Around the World that reopened this summer, before heading over to the World Showcase. I’m not the most adventurous morning eater, in fact I usually skip breakfast, though the International Food and Wine Festival opens at 9 a.m.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival is your vegan.
I sampled the vegan offerings like the Loaded Greek Nachos at the Greece kiosk.

After a quick stop at Epcot’s Guest Relations Booth for the Times Guide, a Festival passport and a map, I’m ready and hungry. The International Food and Wine Festival passport is your go-to guide for information, like the regional-inspired offerings from each country. The pocket-sized passport includes stickers that let you mark off your culinary adventures.

In addition to the regular countries that reside in Epcot’s World Showcase, the International Food and Wine Festival includes pop-up kiosks with additional countries like Greece and Australia. I found booths dedicated to desserts and champagne along with farm fresh offerings in the Showcase Plaza, the area across the bridge.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival, like a classic cheese plate paired with wine.
The artist’s palette loaded with wine and cheese pairings pleases a crowd at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival with vegans isn’t an issue. I found the Loaded Greek Nachos with meatless sausage and vegan Tzatziki (Greece).

And not so vegan options like Bavarian Bratwurst with a hard roll (Germany) and the Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (Canada), satisfied my meatier appetite.

For my sweet side, the Chocolate Studio offered a red wine chocolate truffle that paired with Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port. The Wine and Dine Studio offered an artist’s palette of wine and cheese, a pairing of La Bonne Vie goat cheese with dried cranberry bread, karst cave-aged cheddar cheese paired with a fig compote and a Statesboro blue cheese served with candied walnuts. The palette included Conundrum White Blend, Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay and Robert Mondavi Winery Maestro Red Blend.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival, have some port and chocolate.
A glass of port paired with a red wine truffle. You just have to sit down to enjoy this treat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit, it was hot, like highs over 90F with humidity to match. So I sampled bubbles, like the St-Germain Sparkling Kir in France. The Mimosa Royale with sparkling wine, orange juice and orange liqueur offered a refreshing afternoon break in Morocco. The Wyder’s Dry Pear Hard Cider located near the entrance of the World Showcase was light on the palette too.

Events at the International Food and Wine Festival

All items can be purchased separately at the kiosks but if you want to order, eat and repeat then purchase an International Food and Wine Festival Tasting Sampler. For eight food and beverage entitlements across the World Showcase, it’s $59 plus tax. For 16 food and beverage entitlements, it’s $109 plus tax. The card comes on a bracelet for easy swipe-and-go; no fiddling with a wallet.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival. I love a champagne cocktail.
On a hot day I find a champagne cocktail refreshing like the Mimosa I got in Morocco. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Want to celebrate in high style at Epcot? The Ultimate Day at the International Food and Wine Festival helps you accomplish your mission. And it offers everything imaginable so you don’t have to answer the question, what to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival.

The 7-hour day begins with brunch at the Wonders Retreat then head to the VIP lounge for beverage demonstrations. A guided craft beer sampling comes after a ride on Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World. Finish the day up with champagne and reserved seats at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. The day costs $399 a person and doesn’t include admission to the park.

 

Looking to get away this fall, Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival offers sips and nibbles from across the world.

Don’t forget the Eat to the Beat Concert Series at the American Gardens Theatre with a different band every few days hitting the stage at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Hour-long cooking classes teach budding gourmands the insider tricks, daily at 4:00 p.m. for $49 per person.

As always, the day caps off with fireworks with the Illuminations Reflections of Earth. A spectacular show that’s packed with power and fire.

Kids at the International Food and Wine Festival 

I want to leisurely walk around and sample the culinary offerings while enjoying all the details of each country in Epcot. That’s why I didn’t take my kids, 8, 12 and 13, to this year’s International Food and Wine Festival.

The World Showcase in Epcot has activities for kids but my kids don’t like them. Sorry, it’s the truth. They want to head to the rides and stay there for the whole day. And kids get whiney if they don’t get their way. So Mom left them at home for this quick trip.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival,
What to do at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival with your kids? Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit, I rode a few of my favorite rides, like Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land. Then I headed to the World Showcase for the rest of the day to eat, drink and enjoy being an adult. As a Mom, I don’t get to do this often and we all know a kid can kill a wine buzz.

If you bring your kids, the Kidcot Fun Stops offer kids the opportunity to create arts and crafts at 11 different World Showcase stops. Just for the International Food and Wine Festival, kids can play hike-and-squeak with Remy from Ratatouille. After purchasing a map with stickers from the official festival merchandise location, kids search for Remy hidden across the World Showcase and turn in the booklet for a special treat when they’re done.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa. One of my friends recently stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort too.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

 

Need more hints? I wrote a newbie guide to planning a last minute Walt Disney World trip.

Disclosure:

Consideration for brands mentioned. This post uses affiliate links in which I get a commission if you purchase a book.

Know before you go:

  • The International Food and Wine Festival is free with a one-day park admission ($) though that doesn’t include any food or wine. This festival doesn’t offer free samples.
  • While the rest of the country is cooling off, September is hot and humid in Central Florida. I suggest visiting Walt Disney World in October unless you are used to heat and humidity.
  • Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is popular, expect large crowds over the weekends.
  • Remember the water bottle to stay hydrated, sunscreen, a hat, comfy shoes, a mister and face wipes all packed in your backpack.

Choosing the Right Disney Springs Resort for Your Family

 

Best Western Lake Buena Vista, Disney Springs hotels, Walt Disney World hotels for families,
The hotel pool seems to entice all the kids while on vacation.

Over the last year, I’ve stayed at numerous Walt Disney World properties and they’re not all the same. From the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the flagship property at Walt Disney World, to the Pop Century Resort, a value option, I found the Walt Disney World properties came at a premium. Though the Magical Express, the complimentary Orlando airport transfer, and the option of reserving Fast Passes 60 days before your trip are nice perks.

This trip I wanted to explore the Disney Springs area since it offers numerous dining and shopping options that don’t exist when staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. I spent one night at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, steps away from Disney Springs. I am a member of the Best Western loyalty program that rewards its members with free rooms and I redeemed some points for a room for my last Walt Disney World trip.

What I Loved at Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

  • The location is convenient. You can walk or take the complimentary bus to Disney Springs.
  • Getting to the Walt Disney World parks couldn’t be easier either, the complimentary bus dropped me off at the Transportation and Ticketing Center.
  • The trip back to the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort from Magic Kingdom took about an hour after the Magic Kingdom Electrical Parade–gate to my door.

What I wanted at Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

  • It might be an official Walt Disney World Resort with easy access to the Walt Disney World parks but you can’t take the Magical Express, the complimentary Orlando airport shuttle.
  • I would like to see the airport transportation an easier process, made at the time of the hotel reservation.
  • I would like to see the $14 per night resort fee rolled into the nightly room rate.
  • The amenities and facilities are not as nice as some of the other hotel properties on the same street.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort:

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort ($-$$) offers 325 rooms, steps away from Disney Springs. Located at 2000 Hotel Plaza Boulevard along with seven other hotel properties, like the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, the best resort in Disney Springs for kids, Walt Disney Hotels for kids,
The view from my balcony can’t be beat, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort is the only hotel property that has balconies in Disney Springs.

Though the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort is consistent with other Best Western’s across the country. I felt it lacked the amenities and services that other hotel properties offer in the Disney Springs area, like a true resort pool, character breakfasts and kids activities. Guests have come to expect these in a hotel that caters to Walt Disney World vacationers.

The lobby was small though I found the staff helpful. I found a concierge desk where guests could buy last minute tickets. An official Disney souvenir shop along with a sundry shop are located in the lobby area.

Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World? Disney Springs offers lots of shopping and dining after a day in the parks. Is the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort right for your family?
The Best Western Lake Buena Vista is steps away for all the shopping and dining in Disney Springs.

The common area featured Marketplace, a grab-and-go section to pick up some snacks or drinks for your room. The restaurant, Trader’s Island Grill, featured a full breakfast with Mickey Waffles along with dinner in the evening.

The pool area was nice but lacked the resort pool experience that family vacationers have come to expect in Orlando. Kids will like the game room with a selection of arcade games.

For Moms, guest laundry is available if you need it. To self-park, it’s $8 a day and for valet it’s $12 a day.

My Room at Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

During my visit, I stayed in a double queen room on the eleventh floor. I entered my room from an interior corridor, a nice feature than my room at the Caribbean Beach Resort ($$) lacked.

Hotels for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort,
My room at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort offered standard hotel room amenities with a tad more space than I used get from a Walt Disney World hotel.

Inside my room, I found it compared to other Walt Disney World hotel properties and it featured a private balcony. The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort is the only Disney Springs property to offer balconies with chairs.

Best hotels for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Hotels near Walt Disney World,
My room featured a small table for games or late-night snacks and I found a mini-refrigerator in the credenza along with a balcony.

The beds featured updated white linens with pumpkin coverlets that matched the furnishings in the room. My room didn’t have a work station though had a small table with two chairs for games or late night snacks.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, best resort for families in Disney Springs,
The bathroom featured granite countertops and a shower and tub combination.

The credenza holds the flat-screen TV and the mini-refrigerator that’s a must-have for traveling families. I found a charging station on the credenza, my favorite feature in hotel rooms since my family charges a device or two per person.

Best resort for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort,
Outside of the bathroom, I found a vanity with a hairdryer and the in-room coffee–perfect for families.

Outside of the standard hotel bathroom, I found a vanity area outfitted with a hair dryer, mirror and in-room coffee. A nice feature when traveling with kids since I know this Mom never has time to put on make-up before one of my kids needs to use the bathroom.

Dining at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort offers several dining options to fit a family’s needs, like the Trader’s Island Grill, Pizza Hut Express and Marketplace for grab-and-go snacks and drinks.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort for families at Walt Disney World,
Need your Mickey Waffle fix? The breakfast buffet has them along with lots of fruit and an omelette station.

Trader’s Island Grill offers a hot breakfast including the must-have Disney breakfast item, Mickey Waffles. Though most Best Western’s include a complimentary breakfast, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista features an expanded breakfast buffet. For adults, it’s $15.99 and for kids 10 and under it’s $8.99. Kids can even make omelets as a junior omelet chef.

best resorts for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Walt Disney World Resort,
Disney Springs offers lots of dining options, like House of Blues that hosts a Gospel Brunch on the weekend.

During my stay, I opted to get to Magic Kingdom as early as possible and skipped a hot breakfast and bought some yogurt at the Marketplace to eat while I waited for the bus.

Activities at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort has an arcade for the kids. The pool is nice and features a kid pool for the littlest guests. I found a gazebo in the pool area as well.

best resorts for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Walt Disney World hotels,
The complimentary bus transportation to Disney Springs as well as the Walt Disney World parks is a nice perk at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort.

Walt Disney World tickets can be purchased in the lobby and complimentary transportation is right outside the lobby. The bus picks up every 30 minutes.

Disney Springs:

I visited Disney Springs last April. While it was promising, I still saw a lot of construction. I was floored by the transformation over the summer.

Sprinkles, Disney Springs, What to do in Disney Springs,
Looking for desert, I suggest Sprinkles, especially for the kids.

The kids loved the integrated splash pads, carousel and mini train. Even the boat transportation across the Lake Buena Vista gets the kids excited.

I found dining options galore, like Earl of Sandwich, Sprinkles for cupcakes, STK Steakhouse or The Boathouse. I tried all and all exceeded my expectations though be prepared for lines during their peak periods.

What to do in Disney Springs, Splitsville,
Want to bowl during your vacation to Walt Disney World? Splitsville is the place for you with sliders, pizza and sushi along with a full bar.

Looking for a place to hang out with friends, I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. The sushi is tops along with the several different sliders. I found signature cocktails, wine and brews on the menu.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Know before you go:

  • The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort has a $13.99 per night resort fee.
  • Parking is $8 a day for self-park and $12 a day for valet.
  • The complimentary bus is shared with several hotel properties and take a picture of the stop when you get to the park, just in case.
  • There’s a separate bus for Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Ask the bus driver for additional park stops.
  • Research airport shuttles before getting to Orlando. Cabs and Uber can cost $60 to $70.

 

Getting More for Less in Disney Springs at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista

Consideration for brands mentioned.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Resorts near Disney Springs, Walt Disney World Official Hotels for families,
Like most kids, the Carful of Kids love a resort-style pool that I found at Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the closest resort to Disney Springs, in Florida.

A trip to Disney is a splurge for most families. I know I have to squeeze every bit of value from my vacation dollars by researching and weighing all my options.

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I stayed at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort. It’s the closest resort to Disney Springs and an official Walt Disney World Resort. Offering amenities that families desire, like a resort pool, free bus transportation to the Disney parks, character breakfasts and a Fun Director for the kids.

I found a lot to love about this property, especially the recently renovated interiors that appeal to adults. That means no silly Disney-theming. Instead I found a beachy, contemporarily-styled property that I could relax and enjoy my stay without rolling my eyes.

What I loved about Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

  • The newly renovated property is bright and I love the Florida Getaway feel after the $10 million renovation completed in 2015.
  • Character breakfasts are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays that offer more individual time with the characters.
  • The Oasis pool playground with a zero entry grabs all the kids and the Oasis Poolside Bar and Grill is open for lunch, dinner and poolside drinks. This is the place to spend your afternoon.
  • Two budget options, the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Tower and the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista. Very similar in interior styling, except the Garden has an exterior corridor and Tower has an interior hallway to access your room. Both share the same lobby and facilities.

What I wanted at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

  • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista might be an official Walt Disney World Resort with easy access to the Walt Disney World parks but you can’t take the Magical Express, the complimentary Orlando Airport Shuttle.
  • I would like to see the airport transportation an easier process, made at the time of the hotel reservation.
  • I would like to see the $20 per night resort fee rolled into the nightly room rate.

The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Property:

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista ($-$$$) offers 626 rooms, steps away from Disney Springs. Located at 1850 Hotel Plaza Boulevard along with seven other hotel properties, like the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resorts for families in Walt Disney World,
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista opened in 1972 as the Americana Dutch Inn, the third property on the Walt Disney World property. Courtesy Photo

The property originally opened in 1972 as the Americana Dutch Inn and the third hotel to open on the Walt Disney World property. Over the years, the property has been managed by different brands and undergone several renovations.

My Room at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

During my visit, I stayed in a double queen room in the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower, a 19-story tower with 232 rooms with elevators right off the registration desk. My room had updated white bedding and contemporary white furnishings.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Closest Resort to Disney Springs, Hotels for families in Disney,
I love the casual, yet contemporary interior of my room. It’s also a Mickey-free environment which I appreciate and my kids didn’t miss.

The work station offered a charging station and task light. Great for those trying to stay up-to-date with the work email. The credenza housed the mini-refrigerator for the kids drinks or left-over desert. When I entered my room the hutch with the cubbies and hooks caught my eye. A super-cute feature and I loved the use of bead board that gave my room a beachy feel.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, resorts for families at Walt Disney World,
In the credenza, I found a mini-refrigerator and a pair of pull out stools just the right-size for kids to watch TV. As a working Mom, I appreciated the work desk with a task light and a built-in charging station.

The bathroom featured a tub and shower combination that was a bit small for families. The granite countertops and lighted vanity mirror added to the luxury feel. I would have liked an additional vanity, though in a pinch, I found a mirror above the work desk.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resorts for families near Disney Springs,
My bathroom at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista featured granite countertops and vanity lighting along with a full line of toiletries.

The Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista, a value option, is located in the same area and has access to all the same amenities and using the same registration desk. The five-story building has two wings and 394 rooms with exterior entrances.

Family Fun at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista offers lots kids activities starting with the pool, an oasis with two pools and a hot tub. The Poolside Bar and Grill serves snacks and drinks for the whole family.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resorts for families near Walt Disney World,
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista has a Fun Director for the kids that organizes crafts and games for a small additional charge.

The game room is a hit with the older kids. And the on-site Fun Director can organize fun crafts just right for the younger kids at an additional cost.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort of families near Walt Disney World,
The grounds at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort offer lots of outdoor activities like tennis, basketball, swimming or just running around in the grass like kids.

I found a pair of lighted tennis courts along with a half-sized basketball court. If working out is part of your routine, the fitness center is open 24-hours a day.

All the Walt Disney World Parks are a quick bus ride away with complimentary transportation in front of the hotel. At the end of the night after the fireworks and the Magic Kingdom Electrical Parade, I was in my room in an hour—from park gate to my door.

Dining at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista offers several dining options to fit a family’s needs. The Sundial Café, open 24-hours a day, offers drinks, snacks and small meals ready to take back to your room or eat at the adjacent tables.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort for families at Walt Disney World
I love the convenience of Sundial, the 24-hour grab-and-go cafe with drinks and snacks.

The Eclipse Lounge offers a bar and snacks in the evening before heading out. The Poolside Bar and Grill is available by the pool.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort for families at Walt Disney World,
Need your Mickey Waffle fix? The breakfast buffet has them along with lots of fruit, quiche, an omelette station and all the traditional breakfast favorites.

The signature dining event at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the character breakfast from 7:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. At a lower price point than the other Disney Resorts and more time with the characters, I liked this feature the most and it’s open to guests from other properties.

Disney Springs:

When I visited Disney Springs last April, I saw a lot of construction. The transformation over the summer amazed me.

Looking for family fun away from the Walt Disney World? Disney Springs offers dining, shopping and kids activities day and night. Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the closest resort to all that Disney Springs has to offer.
Disney Springs offers lots of family-friendly options close to Walt Disney World. The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the closest resort, just right over the pedestrian bridge.

I found dining options galore, like Earl of Sandwich, Sprinkles for cupcakes, STK Steakhouse or The Boathouse. I tried all and all exceeded my expectations, though be prepared for lines during peak periods.

Need some shopping therapy? Disney Springs offers Mom her shopping while Dad hangs at the pool with the kids. All your mall favorites plus specialized Disney-themed stores are open late for convenient end-of-day shopping. I picked up souvenirs for the family instead at the parks.

Disney Springs for food, places to eat near Walt Disney World,
Lots of dining options at Disney Springs, like Sprinkles Cupcakes, STK Steakhouse and Splitsville.

Looking for entertainment? I enjoyed the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues on Sunday morning. A brunch buffet with southern favorites and live gospel music that lifted my spirits for hours.

Fans will enjoy Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba with aerobatic feats that define gravity. The dedicated venue showcases the performance better than the traveling shows.

Looking for a place to hang out with friends, I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. The sushi is tops along with the several different sliders. I found signature cocktails, wine and brews on the menu. Another choice for adults, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.

The kids loved the integrated splash pads, carousel and mini train. Even the complimentary boat transportation across the Lake Buena Vista is fun for kids.

Know before you go:

  • If you arrive before your room is ready, leave your luggage with the Bell Services and head to the park or Disney Springs.
  • Weight all your transportation options getting to-and-from the airport. It’s expensive.
  • Your souvenirs from the Walt Disney World Parks can be delivered to the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.

How to Plan a Last Minute Walt Disney World Trip

 

Walt Disney World, Epcot, Mickey Mouse,
The Carful of Kids explored Walt Disney World for four days during the International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.

What would you do if you had to plan a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World? A while back, I got the opportunity to explore Walt Disney World as a part of a work trip and had to plan a trip for four in a couple of weeks. Before this, we spent only one day in a whirlwind tour of Disneyland. So how does a national parks, road-tripping Mom plan a last-minute Walt Disney World vacation?

I lost my mind.

Taking a Disney trip requires planning. Really. For a moment I thought could wing it. Then my best friend, traveling companion and fellow Walt Disney World newbie talked some sense into me.

If we wing it, she said, we’ll be walking around, getting nowhere, wasting all our time in line. She was right. Her sister, a Walt Disney World veteran, had given her that advice.

Top 9 Tips

1. So I logged on to Amazon and bought the book. Which book? I bought the one with the most pages, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016.

2. Then I read it cover-to-cover, my friends. Is it boring? You bet, but I still read the book. I recommend this. Packed with lots of information that will save you time and money. Don’t skip the book!

Epcot, Walt Disney World, Epcot at Niight

3. Then I took the book with me. The thick, heavy book lived in my backpack. Hard to believe but I thumbed through the book A LOT in the parks. I checked to see how scary a ride was for my youngest who still takes about the scary ride from four years ago. I checked to see if a ride was worth the wait. The book was right.

4. I made a touring plan with the help of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 and I stuck to it. A plan helped to keep my group on schedule and to use our time wisely.

5. The Orlando International Airport is not next to Walt Disney World. I mean that would be great! Nope, It’s a $70 taxi ride away so I wanted to stay at a Walt Disney World resort because of the complimentary Magical Express transportation. That and this was my first trip, I didn’t know my way around and didn’t want to get too far from the parks.

Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Dole Whip,
Grab a Dole Whip to get the tired kids refreshed and ready for more riding.

6. I loaded up on snacks, like protein bars, nuts and fruit leather, and stashed them in my backpack. Each of us had a water bottle so we didn’t sip on soda in the parks. The food at Disney is expensive and so-so at best, except for a few signature items like the Dole Whip.

7. I also got myself kids meals. I’m not proud. Pro tip: Have the kids hold a table so no one asks how many kids you have.

8. I stopped by the Dollar Store and loaded up on glow sticks, autograph books and Disney tattoos. I threw this stuff in their cinch sacks with a couple of sharpies.

9. A note about dining reservations. I skipped this because my boys aren’t into food and the typical Disney characters. They would rather ride rides. Now when Walt Disney World opens a Star Wars themed restaurant, my boys will be all over it. So if you are planning a last minute trip, don’t sweat the dining reservations and eat at quick service instead.

What to do when Your Favorite Resort is Booked

I didn’t have a lot of time to plan my April trip, about a month. So the value-priced rooms disappeared before I could snag one for the Saturday night of our five-day, four-night trip to Walt Disney World.

To make it work, I ended up with reservations at three different resorts. No biggie, I’ll just transfer resorts. I’ll make it work. I’m a family travel writer, it’s just part of the job. That and I didn’t have a choice.

So I learned a lot from my three-resort tour of Walt Disney World. My trip was part of a work conference so a couple of rooms were booked at a Walt Disney World deluxe resort. Since I arrived early to explore the parks, I booked a room at a value resort. Then the least-expensive room I could find for a Saturday night was a moderate resort.

Have to plan a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World and you've never been? I know the feeling. I've got some hints and tricks for your trip.

I had my freak out moment when I couldn’t find a room for under $600 for a few weeks. And I wasn’t going to spend that on a family trip. If I’m spending that kind of money on a room, my lovely children will be at Grandma’s. But maybe, that’s just me.

By stalking the Walt Disney World website, sometimes more rooms come available about 4 weeks out. Don’t count on this feature but check daily for resort availability. If a room does come available, grab it and don’t wait. You can always cancel.

Walt Disney World will transfer your luggage for free from one Walt Disney World resort to another Walt Disney World resort. I found this out by asking my pals and Disney experts at TravelingMom.com.

My Stay at a Value Resort

The Pop Century Resort is a value resort ($-$$) 1.7 miles away from Hollywood Studios. It features four areas named after decades of the 20th century with a total of 2,880 rooms along the shores of Hour Glass Lake and cross from the Art of Animation Resort.

If your kids spend all day in the park, this might be the resort for you. Pop Century Resort Review, Walt Disney World,
If your kids spend all day in the park, this might be the resort for you.

The Pop Century Resort is fun. The buildings exude energy and draw me through the resort. From the four-story tall bowling pins and the ginormous 60s flowers pasted to the sides of the candy-colored buildings, this place is a hit with the young at heart.

Hits of the Pop Century Resort

  • Over the top theme that kids love
  • Nice pool
  • Great option if you plan on spending all your time in the parks.
The atmosphere at the Pop Century Resort is FUN. Resort Review Walt Disney World,
The Hippy-Dippy Pool has a fun atmosphere for the kids.

Misses of the Pop Century Resort

  • Farther away from parks but closer than off-property lodging
  • Limited activities for kids, no fishing or pirate cruises
  • Limited to quick-service dining
  • No character breakfasts
  • No in-room coffee maker
  • Small rooms and skimpy linens
This is a basic room at Walt Disney World. If your family just needs a place to sleep, this might be the resort for you. resort review, Pop Century Resort,
If your family just needs a place to sleep, this might be the resort for you.

My Stay at a Moderate Resort

The Caribbean Beach Resort is a moderate resort ($$-$$$) 4.1 miles from Epcot. An expansive property that includes seven villages with a total of 2,112 rooms along the shores of the 45-acre Barefoot Bay.

Along the shore of Barefoot Bay, the Caribbean Beach Resort blends a tranquil setting with plenty of activities for the kids. Walt Disney World
Caribbean Beach Resort offers its guests lots of activities and white-sand beaches

The Caribbean Beach Resort evokes the calm and serenity of a beach vacation yet includes a resort-style pool that’s sure to excite the kids. With its expansive grounds and lush, tropical landscaping, the Caribbean Beach Resort never felt crowded.

Hits of the Caribbean Beach Resort:

  • The Fuentes del Morro pool is one of the best of the Walt Disney World resorts.
  • Lots of activities for the kids, like fishing excursions and pirate cruises
  • Larger rooms with more amenities, nice if you’ll be spending more time in the room
  • More dining options, quick-service and casual dining
  • A pool in every village
  • White-sand beaches
The interior of the Caribbean Beach Resort with the TV, coffee maker and trundle-hiding credenza. Caribbean Beach Resort, Walt Disney Resort,
The interior of the Caribbean Beach Resort with the TV, coffee maker and trundle-hiding credenza.

Misses of the Caribbean Beach Resort:

  • Huge resort that requires its own bus to get around
  • No character breakfasts
  • No private patios or balconies
  • A motel feeling, I entered my room from an outside corridor.

My Stay at a Deluxe Resort 

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa ($$$$$+) is the Walt Disney World’s flagship resort located on 40-acres next to the Seven Seas Lagoon. Built to resemble a grand Victorian seaside resort of the late 19th Century, it features 867 guest rooms across the main building and five additional buildings. Next to the lagoon is a pool, a white sand beach, a marina and a view of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.

The Courtyard Pool is the place to rejuvenate the kids after a day in the parks. Walt Disney World, The Grand Floridian Resort, WDW,
The Courtyard Pool is the place to rejuvenate the kids after a day in the parks.

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa offers a grand experience for families who yearn for the convenience a Walt Disney World Resort and want a refined environment to decompress from the energy of the parks. Walking into the Grand Floridian lobby is sensory experience, the architecture is as impressive as the 3-foot tall flower arrangements that greet me. The service is refined yet welcoming.

Hits of the Grand Floridian Resort

  • Beautiful accommodations
  • Lots of dining options including quick service, casual dining and fine dining.
  • Character meals
  • Lobby entertainment
  • The most transportation options to get to the parks—bus, monorail or ferry
  • The highest level of service of the Walt Disney World resorts
  • One of the best spas in Orlando
The beds in our room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa make for a great night's sleep. Walt Disney World, Review of the Grand Floridian Resort,
The beds in our room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa make for a great night’s sleep.

Misses of the Grand Floridian Resort 

  • Nice pool but not my kid’s favorite
  • My kids were immune to their luxurious surroundings and wanted to spend all their time in the parks.
  • Beautiful property but off-site luxury resorts give you more for less
The Alice-in-Wonderland themed water play area for the littlest guests is a must-do. Walt Disney World, Review of the Grand Floridian Resort,
The Alice-in-Wonderland themed water play area for the littlest guests is a must-do.

Note about transferring resorts during your stay:

I had to change resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World and they will transfer your bags free-of-cost. I preferred to pack up our bags and roll them down to bell services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient since we wanted to get to the parks as early as possible.

The process was fairly easy and I had only one small incident. One of our bags had a tag on it stating it was left on the transportation bus. Nothing was missing.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Art of Animation Resort and the Coronado Springs Resort.

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information.

Disclosure: 

Some of the rooms were hosted.

This post contains affiliate links in which I get a small commission if you purchase a book.

Know before you go:

  • By checking frequently for cancellations, I found a room on a booked Saturday night about 3 to 4 weeks before my scheduled arrival.
  • Make reservations as soon as possible, even for slower months, if you’re visiting during a weekend.
  • If you are transferring resorts during your stay, pack light. One rolling bag per adult. One rolling bag for every couple of kids. Backpack for the adults and cinch sacks for the kids.
  • Missed all the dining reservations? Skip it. There’s plenty of quick-service places to eat. My kids don’t miss the experience and just wanted to ride the rides.
  • Pack refillable water bottles and skip the soda. Take protein or granola bars for snacks while in line or on the bus.
  • Bring running shoes for the park. No flip-flops, sandals or hiking sandals; they all killed my feet.

 

Raising Travelers, Not Tourists

East Coast Road trips with kids, Maine with kids
Blueberry Land in Maine is CLOSED. We drove all the way from Texas to visit it!

The carful of kids drove over 7,000 miles during our East Coast road trip to get to the eastern edge of North America from Texas. Along the way we lost a SUV and nearly all of our electronic devices but we didn’t lose our sense of adventure or our will to continue.

Why We Travel

Years ago, I vowed to drive my kids through the lower 48 to experience the vastness of our country in a way you can’t experience by popping into places. So far the carful of kids have driven to 43 states and four Canadian provinces.

I am a traveler and I have been a traveler for years; I have a packed bag sitting in the corner of our room just waiting for the next trip. Because I value the time I spend with my kids on the road exploring and seeing new things, I spend weeks planning and organizing our trips.

We spend the summer passively learning without any pressure and that’s fun–Really. The carful of kids spend less time bickering and complaining when we’re on the road and that’s music to a mother’s ears.

The traveling we do has been great for all my kids but especially for my struggling student. Reading and writing is a constant battle with him but now he’s coming into his own with social studies and science because I can relate those subjects to our travels.

What I Thought of Our Trip

This trip was our most ambitious to date and full of great moments. I especially liked stopping at the Maid of the Mist in Niagara, the Bay of Fundy, Acadia National Park and the Statue of Liberty–all epic moments for us.

If I had the trip to do over again, I would spend one less day in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, and visit Halifax, Nova Scotia, instead. I would have entered the Cape Breton Highlands National Park from the south entrance and explored that area and not driven the whole park.

Due to the hurricane, our whale watching trip on the tall ship got cancelled, which was disappointing. I wanted to see some puffins in the wild and we really tried to get to Newfoundland Island and Labrador–maybe another trip.

I would have skipped Montreal and visited Quebec City instead, the obvious reason is they stole my car. Besides that, Quebec City has more to offer in the way of history and it’s the North American city that feels most like a European city.

So as I wrap up my recap of the carful of kids’ travels, I’m looking forward to our next trip. It is in the final stages of planning and I getting that giddy feeling of excitement.

If you are looking for ideas for your own road trips, reach out, I love researching and exploring new places. I encourage all families to travel to places that excite them as well.

Note on replacing our stolen stuff– Thanks to our insurance and more importantly our replacement insurance, we have replaced all of our stolen items. We have even upgraded some of the technology. Of course, I think we might have a flag on our policy now.

Until next time, safe travels.