Well, hello there everyone! In this post, we’ll review our 4th Disney Vacation Club vacation since becoming members in 2016. This starts a string of posts that we hope to make after each and every one of our Disney trips. There are so many awesome resources and tips out there to help out BEFORE you take your Disney trip. But, we’d like to share with you what we have done, what worked great for our family, what wasn’t so magical, and what new and exciting things we’ve discovered that we just have to share AFTER each of our trips! So, here goes…have fun….and happy holidays to you all!
NEW and Magical Fun
The “Minnie Van-” OH my Disney, this was fantastic! We decided to take an official “Minnie Van” on our way to Moonlight Magic at Hollywood Studios this trip. We had taken a lot of Lyft and Ubers to get across the property this trip as we had a double stroller this time as well as a 6 month old. So, needless to say it was our most challenging trip to date with two little ones. We hesitated to take the Minnie at first as it is more expensive than your typical ride share. But, on our Moonlight Magic night we thought it would be extra special for us as well as our 4 year old daughter to take a “Minnie Van”! The little kids definitely realize these bright red polka dot vans zooming all around Disney, and I bet a lot of parents just like us are asked “Mommy is that Minnie’s car?” or “Daddy, can we ride in that car?” Leave it to Disney to make a minivan cool to kids! The “Minnie Van” experience really was awesome. Our driver aka Cast Member was super fun and great with the kids. She took extra special time to install two car seats and make sure we were all safe on our way from the Polynesian Resort to Hollywood Studios. It really made you feel like you were on a Disney ride! The most magical thing about this 15 minute ride was the pre-programed music in the car on the way there! Just like on Disney buses, the van can play any theme park or Disney songs along the way. We had our own private Disney concert on the way there. That alone was worth it!
Brunch with a Chef– This trip, we decided to try an event offered at the Food and Wine Festival this year. I don’t know about you all, but it is hard to experience these with little kids, so my husband took one for the team and let mom enjoy one! When I saw that Kelly Kapowski from “Saved by the Bell” would be promoting her new book at the Brunch with a Chef event while we were there, I jumped at the chance. We booked the event ahead of time through the Disney Vacation Club, and this worked out great! The event was really well run. After registering, you were greeted by your first glass of champagne, shown to your seat, and seated as if you were a special guest at someone’s wedding. The event space, which is secretly located between the Canada and Great Britain pavilions at Epcot, was a little dark for a Sunday brunch, but that was my only complaint. After geeking out a bit over being in the same room as Tiffany Thiessen, this mommy relaxed for a whole hour drinking bottomless mimosas and enjoying an all you could eat buffet. I will say it was really fun to try this once. I had found out I was not the only mommy who was here by herself while the dads were back with the kids, so I enjoyed every minute of it! Thanks honey!
Senses Spa Tropical Immersion Treatment- So, I am a spa girl. I LOVE DISNEY SPAS! This trip, I made it over to the Disney Grand Floridian Senses spa, their flagship. It isn’t a far walk from where we were staying at the Polynesian Resort over to the spa. I also tried something new, which was a whole body treatment. This was a great pick and I highly recommend it. Disney is first rate when it comes to their spa services, and are always consistent. What was great about the service was a little extra DVC touch that came with a piece of chocolate and glass of sparkling wine. It was a perfect relaxing morning before a day at the pool!
Disney Vacation Club
“DVC Moonlight Magic” at Hollywood Studios- Since DVC has started offering these special events at various times of the year, our family has been so eager to be able to attend one. Since we are not year round FL residents, its hard to align our trips with these ever changing events. It was fortunate this year that we got lucky and the Moonlight Magic event was being held at the park with the newly opened Toy Story Land!
Let me tell you the morning of the first registration day offering was a bit stressful. We have tried to book events like this before, but haven’t been so lucky. My husband and I were on the phones, tablets, you name it for the entire first hour. Unfortunately, we understand there is limited space for these events, but it is super hard to get a spot. Luckily we did this time!
With a four year old and six month old, I think most thought we were nuts to do a Moonlight Magic event from 7 to midnight at a Disney park! But, we did it and we did it all! The entire night was literally spent in Toy Story Land. We were able to do all three rides (except the baby of course): Toy Story Midway Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, and Alien Swirling Saucers. When we took a break, there were plenty of locations to get all the Mickey ice cream bars you could eat as well as full free included meal offerings at Fairfax Fare and Rosie’s All American. My daughter and son were troopers through the whole night, staying up late in the dark! I don’t think we would have been able to enjoy Toy Story land in the day that trip as it was 150% humid and 90 degrees even at night. There isn’t a lot of shade in this new land, so plan accordingly if you need to wait in line during the hot FL days.
Garbage Service Everyday-Ok, this is kind of a lame one, but I just have to give a shout out to the new daily garbage service offered for DVC members. Although it is a small change, it does help tremendously and keeps you feeling like you are on vacation! After becoming DVC members, we do miss the daily room refresh and change of sheets. But, the daily trash service is something I am so glad is now included.
Top of the World Lounge- This was great! We decided to book a separate night at Bay Lake Tower to experience a new DVC resort for the first time and loved the Top of the World Lounge experience. We invited our cousins, who live nearby in Winter Garden, to bring their two girls as our guests. After arriving at about 6 pm downstairs at the elevator check in, we were escorted upstairs to the lounge and it was fairly empty at the time, so we got a good seat outside on the benches before the fireworks show at 8:30 pm. I do recommend getting there at least an hour early. It is about this time it fills up FAST! If you want to enjoy a drink or food ahead of time, you can order right at the bar inside, but make sure you do this before the crowds arrive. The vantage point of the fireworks was really awesome to see for the first time. The kids loved it and I think we are going to make this one a must do again!
Not So Magical Experiences
We truly had an amazing trip in 2018, but there were a few things to point out that weren’t super “magical” lol.
Double Stroller Transportation- We welcomed our son earlier this year, which now put us into the double stroller family category. Yikes! My husband can now start his own blog on picking the right stroller for the right occasion, and we put it to the test this trip! We really agonized on how to get our 4 yr old and 6 month old seamlessly across the Disney property in one stroller vs. two…..jogging vs. non jogging…..car seat adapter vs. umbrella stroller….it went on and on…. We finally decided on the double Thule jogging stroller as the joggers are just super easy to push ten miles a day, and our little one could recline and be secure at the same time. It is awesome if you have to use a double. IF you have to use a double, this is the one to get to do Disney easily. Make sure to get the swivel front wheel!!! However, we had to avoid the busses all together this trip, and we stressed for weeks ahead of time wondering if the double would make it into a monorail! Double strollers are not for everyone, and we can’t wait until our family outgrows this stage.
Lyft Bill- Along with the double stroller cost came with a new Disney expense….the ride share bill! We new going into the trip we would need to take a few of these to avoid the buses…such as to and from Animal Kingdom and to non-direct locations such as other hotels for dining reservations. But, we kind of lost track of the cost a bit here and ended up with over $100! It is a slippery slope my friends…
Changing Hotels during Trip– I mentioned above that we scheduled a separate night at Bay Lake Tower ahead of our scheduled vacation at the Poly…our Disney home. This was kind of a nightmare in the logistics department trying to transfer luggage, handle a toddler and tired baby, as well as receive groceries before your trip begins. It may have been more of an issue being the first day of our trip vs. switching mid trip. It isn’t Disney’s fault here, but the cons outweighed the pros.
The Coral Reef- The Coral Reef at the Living Seas pavilion at Epcot has gotten a bad rep for years and years. Disney just isn’t investing in renovating this restaurant and it seems like the food reviews just get worse and worse. However, it’s draw I think is still the ability to look at the awesome fish tank while you eat. I bet it costs a pretty penny for the maintenance on that tank alone. We have had to drag our daughter out of this pavilion for the last few years. She just can’t get enough of the fish. We decided to brave Coral Reef for dinner this year so we could dine with the fish. After not having been to this restaurant since I was a kid, I could see what everyone was talking about. It looked like it had gone through a good 90s reno, but is super outdated now. But, nothing can compare to that fish tank. Corey and Topanga’s table is still there the same as it was years and years ago! ur daughter wasn’t as impressed with the fish as we thought she’d be….probably because she couldn’t be nose to nose with them as she can inside the pavilion. She did flip out every time a sting ray or shark passed by!
Now, for the food. It was a really solid meal in the seafood department. Most of the bad reviews we had heard about Coral Reef ahead of time were about the non-seafood dishes, so we steered clear of those. But, from the starter dinner rolls to the lobster bisque….it turned out to be a great start. Our two main course selections were the lobster mac and cheese and the seared mahi mahi. My husband still talks about the lobster mac and cheese and the mahi mahi pictured above was one of the best seafood dishes I had on the trip. So, give Coral Reef a try….it’s an oldie but pretty goodie!
The Plaza- This restaurant is one of the least thought about and easily missed in the entire Disney property….and it shouldn’t be! With it’s Cinderella Castle views and bottomless milk shakes, how can you go wrong here? Why is it commonly overlooked? Disney has blended this restaurant into the Main Street USA theming a little too well and is easily walked past. You will miss it as you turn the corner to Tomorrow Land as the Plaza sign blends in with the ice cream parlor on the corner. It doesn’t have the fanciest of food, but the menu has got a lot of solid American classic items. Did I mention the bottomless milkshakes? If you are looking for a restaurant to indulge on fine food, this is not your place. This is a great place to get a table service lunch at just above quick service prices. It isn’t your most worthwhile use of dining plan points, but it is worth being a part of your dining plans. You can’t go wrong with sipping a bottomless milkshake looking at Cinderella’s castle.