LIFE + STYLE BLOG

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Christmastime at Disney World {Getting There & The Hotel}

Disney is magical. Christmastime is magical. Mix them together and it's almost too much magical-ness. Almost. I can't tell you how much I loved being at Disney World during this time and seeing all the Christmas trees, decorations, and hundreds of thousands of lights on Cinderella's Castle.

This was our 2nd time at Disney World, the first being in November 2012. Read about our first trip here:
Getting There & Hollywood Studios
Chef Mickeys
Magic Kingdom
Epcot & Heading Home

WHAT'S NEW?
On our first trip magic bands weren't a thing yet and fast passes still had to be physically retrieved from a kiosk right outside the ride by inserting your ticket and then a fast pass would print out. I was SO excited when I learned of the Magic Bands and the new way of reserving Fast Passes using Disney's My Experience website and app. Each person gets three fast passes per day that you can reserve 60 days before your trip if staying at a Disney property or 30 days before with regular park tickets. Once you use your fast passes you can reserve more in the park at kiosks located at various spots in each park.


WHEN TO GO:
Obviously Christmas is definitely a busy season for Disney. You'll pay more for hotels, tickets, and most likely flights.You'll also have to pay for extras within the park like Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. You can also expect more crowds and longer waits although we never thought any of our waits were unbearable, even with two small children. On this trip we went with J's mom, brother, and his daughter. We left on Friday December 18th and came back Tuesday December 22nd. Although we wanted to see Disney at Christmas, we also wanted to be in our home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We flew out of St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Frontier Airlines and our flight left at 7:00am. Because we live an hour and a half away from the airport, we had to be up super early to make sure we got through security and boarded on time. Although we were tired, the adrenaline kept us going and it ended up working out perfectly.

FLYING TO ORLANDO:
When flying I always try to fly direct, especially with kids. No worrying about layovers, making connecting flights, lost luggage, etc. Only two airlines fly direct from St. Louis to Orlando, Frontier and Southwest. We flew Southwest the first time we went to Disney and had a great experience, but Frontier was running a sale when we booked our tickets so we ultimately went with them. While they were okay, we definitely had a better experience with Southwest. Frontier ended up having lots of baggage fees and there were no complimentary snacks or drinks. Not usually a big deal, but when flying with kids those snacks and juice keep them occupied for a good twenty minutes. Also note that the Orlando airport does not sell gum. Anywhere. We found this out during our first trip and an employee said it's to cut down on gum on the seats and floors from all the children (returning from Disney). To get around this we just made sure to bring some with us from home. And that our kids threw their gum away in a trash can:)

This particular plane had rows with three seats on each side and with seven of us we knew we'd have to split up. We decided to do J, Jack, and me on one side, Ben across the aisle from me with his uncle and cousin, and then grandma got a solo sans kids seat behind me. The flight was pretty short at just two hours and I had zero concerns about the older kids making it since they're big enough to pretty much entertain themselves or watch a show on their iPads. Jack is such a good traveler that I honestly wasn't too worried about how he would do either, but I made sure to stock up at the dollar store before we left for all the kids. I bought small little color/craft projects, toys, and plenty of snacks. We also downloaded new movies and shows, but didn't really need them and before we knew it we were landing.

GETTING TO THE HOTEL
There are lots of opinions on whether staying on or off the Disney property is best but I love staying right in the heart of it all. I think part of the Disney experience is staying on one of their properties not to mention that perks that come with it including extra magic hours, free transportation, etc. Since we had such a large group I knew we would need two rooms or possibly a villa or suite with multiple bedrooms. After pricing out different options, booking two rooms still ended up being cheaper than renting a larger suite or villa that could sleep us all. We ended up staying at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and paid a tiny bit more for a water view. This hotel is classified by Disney as a moderate hotel. Once we arrived in Orlando we checked in at the Magical Express kiosk at the airport which is Disney's shuttle to and from the airport and hotels and free to guests staying at a WDW resort hotel. 

Check in this trip seemed much longer than our previous trip and we ended up waiting 45 minutes to bored the bus. And although we were up very early, none of the kids ended up taking a nap on the plane, but as soon as the bus started rolling Jack was out. With Olaf of course. The Magical Express bus drivers are so great and funny. During the ride to the hotel,  televisions play videos of the different parks, rides, and characters which get you even more excited for your stay.


CHECKING IN
Upon arrival we were immediately greeted in the lobby and only had to wait a few minutes to check in. Since we snagged a last minute cancellation reservation for Mickey's BBQ right before we left, we also had to pick up the tickets for the show that night. Long story short, there were some very confused cast members and it took forever to get our tickets but we were finally off to our room. Like most Disney resorts, Coronado Springs has a main building where the front desk, restaurants, gift shop, sports club, etc. are located and then different buildings throughout the resort property. Our building was a pretty good haul from the main building so we excited to arrive to the rooms only to notice a strong moldy smell. Our room also didn't have a lake/water (which we paid more for) and when I called the front desk to ask about it, they tried to tell me since we were close to the pool that was the water view?!? Wait, what? Needless to say they moved us to actual lake view rooms and ones that didn't smell. The new rooms were also much closer to the main building which was nice. For our trouble we were each given 3 extra fast passes for the following day which we could use in the park on any ride and didn't have to reserve it before hand! Now that's great costumer service. Not the best start to the Disney experience, but it all worked out in the end. And the grounds at Coronado Springs were beautiful despite it being mid December. 


Stay tuned for more from Disney! Up next, Mickey's Backyard BBQ.


Thinking up with Annie for Thoughts on Thursday.


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