May 7, 2018

Mickey Mouse Dreams? How To Save Money While Experiencing the Magic of Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom

Disney Dreaming?  A few weeks ago my family and I visited Walt Disney World and we had the best trip ever!

I mean, who doesn’t love Disney? From the magic, rides, sweet treats, delicious food, character experiences and shows, my kids have been begging to visit the Disney Parks in Orlando.

I am definitely one of those people who gets really into it the whole Disney experience, I feel so happy whenever I’m there!

Sometimes I wonder if I’m more excited than the kids.  Anyone else feel me on that?

Walt Disney World Hotels

There are currently 25 Walt Disney World Resort hotel locations ranging in price from budget-conscious value Resort hotels to our luxurious deluxe Resort hotels.  I am normally a pretty high-end traveler, but when it comes to traveling to Disney World, staying at a “Value” Hotel (the least expensive range of hotels) is a great way to save money.

The thing is, when visiting Walt Disney World you will likely spend VERY little time in your room.  We are busy from early morning until night time.  Even if your kids still nap, they will likely do so in strollers or baby carriers.

So choosing a value hotel is a great way to save money!

On this trip we stayed at the Art of Animation Resort which is an absolutely stunning hotel and a value resort! Every aspect of the hotel is bright, bold and colorful, inspired by Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid and Cars.

The rooms are decked out in bright colors and characters, and you can choose from different themes- we stayed in the Cars family suite.

Getting to Orlando from the West Coast

Flying to Orlando from the West Coast involves a choice of leaving in the morning and flying all day, or taking a redeye.  Flying all day is tough with young kids as they have tons of energy, and sitting in a chair for 5-6 hours on a flight is not usually their favorite activity.

That’s why I love redeyes for cross country trips.  Your bed for the night is an airline seat, and kids usually fall asleep the moment the plane takes off.  I always take a benedryl an hour before we board the plane so I can easily fall asleep.

The key to making redeyes work with kids is ENSURING you have access to your room as soon as you get to the resort.  We check in, and everyone goes right to sleep.  No passing go, no collecting $100, no snacks, nothing.  Since I travel blog, I do snap a few quick pictures of our room before it’s littered with kid’s toys, but that’s it.

Call your hotel and see if it’s possible to check in when you land.  You may need to pay for the room for the night before but it is SO WORTH IT!  After a few hours, everyone wakes up rested.  Then you get half a day to explore and can go to bed early that night.

This way you adjust to being 3 hours ahead and don’t have that restless kid on a plane experience only to land at 6 pm, just in time to eat dinner and go to sleep!

We took a red eye on Tuesday night and we arrived early in the morning on Wednesday, checked in to our room and went to sleep.  It was heavenly.

Dining at Walt Disney World / Food Allergies

Once we woke up we unpacked and headed to lunch.  I loved the dining at the Art of Animation Resort.  It’s cafe-style with tons of options and short lines with less than 10 minute waits for any type of food.  Once everyone selects their food you check out and sit in the gorgeous dining room.

The advantage to cafe-style dining is huge at Walt Disney World.  No reservations are required (I often don’t know when we will be hungry on trips, so planning far in advance is hard).  Everyone gets the exact food they want with almost no waiting.  Because cranky kids on trips is the worst!

And remember, that all Disney Parks feature allergy-friendly dining.  You can always ask for the allergy-friendly menu and they will send a chef out to speak with you.  I let them know my food allergies (casein) and preference (no gluten) and they whip me up food in less than 10 minutes.

The Animal Kingdom

After lunch we headed to the Animal Kingdom, which is my favorite park! It’s basically a gorgeous Disney Park meets a Zoo plus incredible music, a safari ride and Lion King musical all in one.

The kids were obsessed with the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is a 5 minute safari tour with a ton of real exotic African wildlife.  This is one of my favorite experiences at Disney World because every single ride is different since the animals are always moving throughout the safari.

It’s so much fun spotting the animals and riding around not knowing what will be around the next corner.

Harper and Grayson had so much fun going on rides, I was surprised with how brave they were.  We also watched the Lion King musical and Harper was chosen to dance as part of the show, which she absolutely loved.

After a fun filled day in the Animal Kingdom, the Rivers of Light show started.  It’s a beautiful and captivating show celebrating the magic of nature with special effects and animal folklore. The kids were mesmerized by all the lights and sound, Disney’s show’s are always a true spectacle to take in.

Afterwards we headed back to the Art of Animation resort to get a good night’s sleep for our next adventure.

Disney Hollywood Studios

In the morning we got ready and hopped right on the shuttle to Disney Hollywood Studios to have a character dining experience.

Disney’s Junior Play N’ Dine at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant was so fun! And it’s so awesome to see the kids freak out over seeing their favorite characters. Grayson is sometimes is a little to shy to say hi to them, which is cute.

The breakfast buffet had our favorite Mickey shaped waffles, delicious made-to-order omelettes, pastries, frittatas, and fresh fruit. So yummy.   (I was hoping the kids wouldn’t notice the Ice-cream Sundae station!)

Next we headed to the Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, which was a total hit with Harper and Gray. Frozen came to life on stage before their eyes with stories, songs, and sing-alongs.

After that we had another amazing sing-along specifically for younger kids, Disney Junior – Live on Stage! It features enchanting puppets, whimsical scenery, and catchy songs that make preschoolers wanna dance, sing, and play.

As you know, Grayson is obsessed with all things Star Wars so we signed him up for Jedi Training Academy. He was trained on how to be a true Jedi (even though he has done this once before at Disneyland and now claims he is a Jedi Master) and then put his skills to the test against the Dark Side. OMG it was awesome!!

We also took advantage of the Disney

By the way, did I mention we used the Minnie Van Service to get around? It’s a LIFE CHANGER!

Basically Disney teamed up with Lyft, so you can request a ride on the app if you’re staying in one of the participating Disney Resort Hotel.

It made getting around WDW so easy and stylish because the car was reminiscent of Minnie Mouse herself! love it.

The drivers are friendly cast members who are trained to whisk you off to where you need to be, safely and with a smile.

After relaxing and freshening up at the hotel, we took a shuttle to Epcot for the night.

Epcot is obviously one of the coolest parks at Disney World, for many obvious reasons.

It’s such a fun and easy way to “travel” around the world in 90 minutes, introducing your kids to new cultures, architecture, food,  and music.

We went to The Seas with Nemo & Friends which is a walk through aquarium based on Finding Nemo.

The kids and I love aquariums, our favorite are always the jelly fish!

Then we went to Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, which if you remember is an old Donald Duck movie where he travels to South America.

It was a fun little boat ride through the Mexican Pavilion, and super cool seeing something so vintage represented in the park!

Then we went to the IllumiNations Dessert Party for some sugary sweets before heading to see the IllumiNations: Reflections on Earth show!

The show utilizes stunning fireworks, water fountains, fire effects, and lasers on the park’s World Showcase Lagoon.

I can never get enough of seeing these shows at nights in the parks. They’re just absolutely breathtaking.

The kids always cover their ears for the fireworks, which is something I totally did as a kid too!

The next morning is a day that Harper was really super looking forward to- Magic Kingdom!! Princesses galore.

We went to the Be Our Guest Restaurant for a magical breakfast from Beauty and the Beast.

Harper and Grayson had the yummiest French toast and fruit to fuel them for their day.

After that we went to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which puts you in the middle of a thrilling space battle to aide in Buzz Lightyear’s efforts to stop the evil Emperor Zurg.

We also went to the Under The Sea Journey which is a gentle ride that recreates the scenes from The Little Mermaid.

All of these simulation rides I keep mentioning are soo amazing because you truly feel fully immersed in the magical world from the films, there’s no feeling like it!

We ate lunch at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe which is super quick and easy American cuisine for picky eaters, burgers and hot dogs! Perfect for the kids.

We thought the rest of the day would be the perfect chance to get some pool time in before dinner.

Sometimes when I go to Disney I’m conflicted with experiencing everything the parks have to offer, but still soaking up the sun and gorgeous pools.

We thought for this trip, only one pool day was best.

There are three pools at the Art of Animation Resort, yes three!

You won’t believe this, but the main pool has underwater speakers to listen to your favorite Disney songs while you swim- no other Disney Resort hotels have that!

The Cozy Cone pool had cone shaped cabanas to relax while the little ones play.

All of these pools are visually striking, with plenty of popular Disney characters from your favorite films.

For dinner we decided on comfort food, Homecomin’ at Disney Springs.

The menu offers a ton of Southern goodness like fried chicken, mac & cheese, shrimp & grits, cornbread, mashed potatoes… some serious feel-good food. Oh my gosh it was soo tasty.

The whole trip I was so excited for today because I was keeping it a secret from Harper and Gray that they’d be going to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

If you know Disney, you know this is any little kid’s fairytale dream come true.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is an enchanted beauty salon that offers magical makeovers for young princesses and knights.

Harper got a sparkly Belle dress and light up shoes, while Gray became Sir Grayson the Knight.

It’s my favorite thing ever seeing my children’s eyes light up wth joy, and Disney offers so many of those moments for me.

This one was definitely a memory they won’t forget, and the perfect end to a fabulous trip.

The next day we decided to get breakfast in the hotel at Landscape of Flavors.

It had our favorite Mickey waffles and all the usual delicious breakfast items like eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, sausage, and biscuits.

We took our time enjoy our meal and soaking up every last bit of vacation.

Disney is truly such a magical place that makes you feel so special, I feel like I’m in the clouds whenever I visit.

The Art of Animation Resort was such a fun and bubbly hotel to experience and I’m so glad we stayed there.

All the rides we went on were an absolute blast and the kids are finally old enough to get excited about them.

Heading to the airport is always so sad when your trip is coming to an end but we’ll have these memories for the rest of our lives to look back on.

Until next time, Walt Disney World.

*This post is sponsored by Disney and Walt Disney World.  All thoughts, views and opinions are my own.




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