Staying at the Grand Floridian has been on my list of to-do's for quite some time, but due to it's extra-deluxe price tag, I've never been able to convince my husband to stay there. My mom, however, is much easier to convince, and so she agreed to split the cost with me on our trip in May 2018. To say that it was worth it is probably an understatement. We loved everything about the Grand, all the way down to the gorgeous smell that follows you throughout the resort (my mom swears it's gardenias. I don't know what it is, but it's heavenly). If you're considering staying at the Grand, here are some things to consider about Disney's flagship resort.
If you're not staying club-level, then your room will be in an outer building. This is similar to the Polynesian Resort, but most other deluxes have rooms that can be accessed from the main lobby, so this is a small downside. However, the grounds are gorgeous, so it really wasn't a problem for us. Our room was in the Boca Chica building.
I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of bags--tote bags, suitcases, purses, I don't discriminate. I just love finding the perfect way to carry around the things I need. I do quite a bit of traveling each year at this time in my life, including to Europe with my students, so I've had the opportunity to really hone my bag repertoire. These are some of my favorite bags for travel of all kind, including trips to Florida or California for some Disney magic!
I have several bags from Lo & Sons, but the Catalina Deluxe is my favorite. The rigid insert for the bottom compartment helps it to not droop, a malady many tote bags suffer from. It has plenty of pockets inside and out, including a slip-through for your luggage handle. I refuse to buy a carry-on bag without this component, now.
It's roomy enough to pack for a 1-2 day trip, but I like to use it as my carry-on for trips to Walt Disney World. It is more than big enough for my plane-essentials, but it also gives me some spare room for souvenirs on the way home!
There's a lot of preparation that goes in to a trip to Walt Disney World. After you've finished all the booking and itinerary planning (which we can help you with!), then comes some of my favorite parts of the pre-trip activities! When your trip is coming up and you're itching to prepare, here are some things you need to do.
Attach your Magical Express tags
The Magical Express service itself operates from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) and can be found on Level 1 of the B-side baggage claim. This service will take you to your Disney resort hotel with just a tap of your magic band!
When booking your resort, your agent can add your flight information to you reservation, and you will receive yellow luggage tags in the mail for Disney's Magical Express. If you do not want to have to retrieve any checked luggage from the carousel after de-boarding, these yellow tags will allow Disney to get your bags for you and deliver them to your resort room later that day. If you would rather handle your bags yourself, or if you need access to your luggage quickly upon arrival to your resort (it usually takes about 3 hours for your bags to magically appear in your room), you can pick your bags up yourself and bring them with you as you board the Magical Express.
Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios will opened on June 30th, 2018, and it's added quite a bit of excitement to a park hurting for attractions while we wait for Galaxy's Edge. If you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World after June 30th, here's our recommendation for what fastpasses to book and how to ride everything in Toy Story Land without spending your whole day in line!
There are three rides in Toy Story Land: Toy Story Midway Mania, which has been open since 2008 and is just getting a re-positioned entrance inside the land, Slinky Dog Dash, and Alien Swirling Saucers. Slinky Dog Dash is a family-friendly roller coaster (38" height requirement), and Alien Swirling Saucers is a spinning cars ride, kind of similar to the teacups at Magic Kingdom (32" height requirement).
The two new rides are in high demand, especially Slinky Dog Dash, so it's important to have a good strategy in mind if you hope to experience them. Starting June 30th, Hollywood Studios has changed their fastpass tiers to match how Animal Kingdom adjusted when Pandora opened: all Toy Story Land rides are tier 1, and everything else is tier 2:
On our trip with my family at the end of September last year, we enjoyed a pre-park opening breakfast at Garden Grill. If you're looking for a way to ride both Soarin' and Test Track or Frozen with little wait (all three are tier 1 attractions at Epcot, and so only one can be booked), snagging an 8 AM breakfast at Garden Grill when Epcot opens at 9 AM is the best way to do it. Besides giving you access to Soarin' before the rest of the crowds make it in to The Land Pavilion, you'll also enjoy one of our favorite breakfasts on property, and one of the few dining experiences we think is worth the cost for the characters, food, and ease of ride access you're paying for. Let's look at what you can expect with an early breakfast reservation at Epcot on a 9 AM opening day:
We arrived to the bag check at Epcot at 7:36 AM for our reservation. When I made the reservations 180 days out, there wasn't any availability for 10 people whatsoever, so I split us up (this is a great trick for finding large party reservations!). We had Garden Grill reservations for 6 people at 8:05 and 4 people at 8:10.
As you can see, there were very few people in line at bag check when we arrived. They did not begin checking bags until 7:42, and we were through bag check by 7:45.
We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge with my family in October for two nights (we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside for two nights as well). This resort is a deluxe resort but has one of the lower rates of that category, especially for a standard view room. There are many who consider AKL one of the best resorts at WDW, but we were not on board with that assessment. Although we enjoyed our stay, we have found other resorts, like Port Orleans Riverside, to better suit us. For some, however, AKL could be a great choice. Check out our review of each aspect of the hotel to help guide your decision:
The lobby at AKL is definitely as grand as pictures make it seem--The tall ceilings and large windows are striking as soon as you walk through the doors. Like any Disney property, there are plenty of details that bring the theme together; my favorite is the chandeliers, which I think look like wings...or flowers?
Thanks to the wide range of temperatures that can occur November - February at Walt Disney World, it can be hard to know what to pack when your list for any other time of the year would be a simple as some shorts, sandals, and a whole lot of sun screen. Although it's always important to double check the weather before you leave in case the temperatures will be out of the norm for your trip, here's what we suggest you bring in your suitcase; this list is tailored for women, but it can be easily adjusted for men. If you're looking for a packing list for your park bag, you can find ours here!
This post contains affiliate links
There are endless possibilities of for fun when spending the day at the Magic Kingdom; some of the best rides, stage shows, and fireworks can be found at Walt Disney World's first park. But after several hours of hitting that ride itinerary hard, you may find yourself wanting to just sit back in some air conditioning and relax for a bit, maybe with a delicious snack in hand?
If you're wanting to plan some downtime into your Magic Kingdom itinerary, here are our favorite places to just hang out and actually take the time to enjoy all the magic the park has to offer!
This slow-moving ride that takes you on a tour of Tomorrowland is often overlooked; we think this has a lot to do with the fact that it is not given a wait time, so it is not listed on the My Disney Experience app. But if you're looking to take it slow for a little while and just take in the sights, there's no better place to go! You'll enjoy 10 minutes of continuous people-watching and will even get a glimpse inside Space Mountain. We especially love the Peoplemover at night, when Space Mountain and Cinderella castle are lit up in all their glory.