If you are thinking of traveling to Walt Disney World with a baby, you already realize that where you stay will make a huge impact on your trip. I am here to tell you… it makes more of an impact than you probably even think.
When we found out we were going to Disney for Kevin’s conference and his company would pay for our room, I was overjoyed. The conference was at the Marriott World Center and I knew that staying there would prove difficult for me and Lily to have a full-on Disney trip, going back and forth to the parks all day. So I looked for a comparable Disney hotel that would allow us to use Disney transportation all day so that Kevin could take the rental car to his meetings.
I should add that I am a resort snob. I can’t help it. It’s like an addiction to me, once we stayed in a deluxe resort, I could never go back. Especially in the summer when the buses are already crowded, I did not want to have to sardine onto the bus with a baby and a stroller and all the baby gear. Not so much fun. So when I found that Animal Kingdom Lodge was actually $10/night cheaper than the Marriott during Disney’s 30% off sale, we jumped and booked it right away.
If you have never been, AKL is amazing. It has animals that roam the three savannas, a gorgeous pool and an awesome lobby. We stayed there for our wedding trip but didn’t really get to enjoy it so I figured we would really get to love it on this trip.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Please don’t get me wrong, the resort was still amazing and we even got upgraded to a savanna-view room on the Sunset Savanna, where giraffes and zebras walked right by our balcony. The view was breathtaking and I loved seeing these animals every day. If this would have been an adults-only trip I would have loved having this room and staying at AKL. With a baby, though, it was not practical.
First thing, the transportation was horrible. Although the buses weren’t always insanely crowded, they were far apart and made for long waits to get anywhere. With a baby, this is annoying. Especially when it’s 95 degrees out and we are stuck at a bus stop for 25 minutes. The traveling was such a pain that it made us just want to stay at the pool all day.
Ahh the pool, my second not-so-exciting point of our stay. The pool itself is great, it was large, not overly crowded, had a separate baby pool and offered nice, shaded areas. What was not cool was to get to and from the pool, you had to walk through the lobby. I’m not a person who is overly self-conscious, but a sopping wet, haven’t-lost-the-baby-fat-yet mom strolling through the lobby with her screaming child is not how I want to be remembered at AKL. Like I said before, the lobby is beautiful so there are always people visiting and taking pictures. I just pray I didn’t make it into any of their pictures! The layout was just not great.
I have never stayed, and really have no desire to stay at, the Grand Floridian because I have always felt that it feels “stuffy” and not welcoming to children. I felt the same way at AKL. Please don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of kids running around, but it didn’t have that “Disney loves kids” feel that I always get at the Polynesian. I will always visit this resort for the awesome animals and views it offers, I just don’t have a desire to ever stay there again.
Looks like we are staying at the Boardwalk in January… I am excited to try something new and see how being there with a child is different.
What hotel do you prefer with kids?
I wanted to do a few reviews from our trip for anyone out there who is thinking of renting a stroller in the Orlando area.
I seriously cannot say enough good things about the stroller rental! It was by far the best decision we made on our trip and I am so very happy I happened to read about renting them about a week before our trip. Because of reviews, I originally called Orlando Strollers, but they had a much smaller selection and they didn’t have availability for our whole trip. They referred me to Kingdom Strollers who did have availability and were extremely easy to work with… in fact, I did it all online, which is my absolute preference to do everything to save myself a phone call and without worrying about business hours.
I was nervous about the price point, especially since we were driving. Our stroller is massive and only fits in our SUV. For our little car we just keep a small umbrella stroller in the trunk in case we are somewhere a stroller is necessary. We were renting a full size sedan for our trip (thanks to hubby’s company for providing that and saving us the wear and tear on our cars!) and although I think our beast would have fit, we most likely could not have fit our luggage. I’m extremely budget-conscious so it was hard for me to spend money on something we already had and could have made work, even if it meant taking apart the whole stroller and rebuilding it once we got there. For seven days, the rental stroller cost me $50. Can’t beat that! Not to mention the ease of folding it with one hand and carrying it by the handle onto the buses. That right there is worth the $50 alone.
In addition to the part that my child sat in, it came with a parent console, a rain cover (extra important if you go during the rainy season like we did) and a cooler that hooks on the bottom all at no extra charge. The parent console must be a nice feature because many of the reviews I read were unhappy with the fact that they didn’t offer this. It is now standard on every rental. The only thing they do not offer is the child console on the front of the stroller. Although it would have been nice to have, we didn’t really miss it.
Upon check in, we picked the stroller up at our resort’s bell service counter and we left it there when we checked out. It was super easy. I will rent from them every time we go! They also had a sign with our name on it so we could spot it in the park when we had to park it to go on a ride. I can’t tell you how many people we saw with strollers from Kingdom Strollers. So, next time you travel to Orlando with a little one, rent your stroller!
Well we are back from our first family vacation at Disney! We had a great time and we definitely learned quite a few things about traveling with a baby! I plan on doing a full trip report, but for now I leave you with a small recap of some of our great and not-so-great findings!
1. Rent a stroller. Best decision I ever made! Seriously it was so nice to not have to worry about trying to fit a huge stroller in the car on top of all of the other crap I piled in there.
2. If you live far away from Disney World — fly! We made the 17 hour trip from Pittsburgh to Orlando by car, and although we didn’t have any issues on the way down (the way home is a whole other story!), it was a long drive and it would have been much easier to be there in 2 hours via plane. Having a car was nice, but we mainly used Disney transportation anyway.
3. Getting, and expecting to use, four day hopper passes was just too ambitious. I planned a trip like we are used to taking and got the hoppers. We would have been fine with two day tickets and really could have just run on a one day ticket.
4. If you are spending more than one day at the park, do it slowly. We had great success on our longest day by going back to our resort and letting Lily take a nap on the bed.
5. Don’t expect your kid to have the same sleeping patterns as they do at home. Lily would not, under no circumstances, sleep in her pack and play. Since we drove I thought it would be best if we brought our own pack and play so she had something familiar, not to mention I have a thing about germs. Turns out that, despite the fact that she loves the PnP at home, she hated it on vacation and insisted on sleeping with me every night.
6. Don’t project other people’s horror stories on your own child/trip. I heard terrible things about babies hating and/or being terrified of characters so I was very leery of introducing them to Lily. Turns out the kid is a character ham and loved the attention she got from them. She could not get enough of giving them kisses and holding their hands.
That is a quick overview of the things I learned while traveling with an eight-month old. Stay turned for our trip report!