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Friday, November 8, 2013

Disney - Reviews of Places to Stay

I remember the first time we took the kids to Disney World.    Honey called me from work and said, "I just saw an ad for specials that they are running at Disney World.  I need to take a few days off and think we should take the kids to Disney World for a few days.  I want to leave next Thursday (11 days away) and am going to book this today." Even though Honey is a CPA, he is shockingly spontaneous.  Me?  I'm the planner but at that moment I was so tired from having two little ones that I really didn't care and was along for the ride.  At that time, C-man was 3 years old and the Princess was only 1 1/2.  When we started this great Disney adventure Honey had only been to Disney twice (once a kid & once with work).  I had never been.

A Pic from our 2nd trip.  So sad but I cannot find any files from our 1st trip.  :(

Now, Disney World is our family vacation spot.  We are very lucky that we are able to go at least once a year (this year more often because Honey sprang for annual passes).  I know it sounds frivolous, but  it is what the family looks forward to all year and we have made the most precious memories along the way.   I swear I think Honey loves Disney World more than the kids.  In order to make the annual trips a priority, we save on other things throughout the year and also try to be as frugal as you can be at Disney.

I am going to try to make it a priority to post at least one Disney related post each week because it is probably the thing I get asked for advice on the most.  Special thanks to good friend, A, for her quick and intense Disney orientation that night at Bunko 6 years ago.  Her laminated daily schedule cards totally freaked me out but thanks to her assistance we didn't just wander aimlessly around the parks that first trip.

Seriously - How cute is this?

C-man talked a big game about no princess stuff but check this out!
The first thing I would suggest is to pick up a current copy of The Unofficial Guide to Disney World.  The authors also have a great website Here and an app as well.  Honey and I have found that new My Disney Experience App by Disney is just as good as, if not better than, the Touring Plans app.   

There are several websites that have exhaustive reviews of the Disney Resort Properties, but here are our opinions of the places that we have stayed.  I am going to list them in the order with which we have stayed.  
The Princess was 2 1/2 in this pic and C-man was 4 1/2
Port Orleans - French Quarter

Sadly, I cannot find all of the jpg files for my pictures from our stay until the last two years so I have used images from Here at Easy WDW.  I guess that happens in the fog that is having 3 kids two years apart!

Pros & Cons - We love the theme at Port Orleans French Quarter.  We also liked that it was smaller moderate resort.  It shares amenities with Port Orleans Riverside which can be good and bad.  The good is that amenities are available.  The bad is that the walk is pretty far.  We found the rooms to be comfortable and stayed here twice.  We loved the food court and the beignets are amazing!

We didn't use the pool because we went in February and the children were too young to make it enjoyable for anyone.  

Caribbean Beach Resort

We moved over to Caribbean Beach because they had just renovated a few buildings with pirate themed rooms and C-man loves pirates.  I have to admit that the pirate rooms were very cool and C-man was over the moon.  It also made a nice trade-off for the Princess dinners for the girls.  (The baby had made her arrival by the time we moved over to Caribbean Beach.)

Kiddie Pool area with a cool pirate ship

Food Court Area
Pros & Cons  -
The theme was really great! Y'all know how much I love the beach! The rooms were such a treat for our little pirate man and he absolutely loved it.  The pool area was a lot of fun and the kids absolutely loved the ship area at the kiddie pool.

We didn't like that the beds were full sized instead of queen sized.  Sadly, our older two are kickers and C-man kicked the Princess right out of the bed one night.  After the incident, Honey and I each slept with one child and the baby in her pack n' play.  It's just not fun to sleep with a child who kicks in a full sized bed.  Sometimes that extra couple of inches makes a difference.

While the food court is very large, it is just not big enough for the size of the resort.  It was cramped most every time we went inside.  We also didn't like that this resort is extremely large.  Maybe it was the age of our children at the time, but we also couldn't walk most places within the resort.

We did stay here twice, but I am not sure we will return to this one.


We would normally never spend the money for the deluxe resorts, but after we had paid for our trip Disney offered free dining.  Having already paid for the dining plan, we could choose to have our money refunded or spend a small amount more to upgrade to a deluxe resort.  Honey and I had really wanted to try the Polynesian because it is a favorite of so many reviewers.  I am so glad we were able to try the Polynesian.

While we did like several things about this resort, it isn't our favorite.

One of the many room buildings called 'Long Houses'

The pool was a HUGE hit with our kids

The rooms were nice and spacious
The food court was TINY. What is shown here is basically all they have.  
Pros - We love the theme, the small touches like the fire show each night and the leis, the monorail system that is extremely convenient, and the amazing pool.  We also loved being able to see the fireworks from the magic kingdom and the night-time electrical water pageant from the beach.   The rooms are large and absolutely enough room for our family of 5.  

Cons - Even though the buildings have been renovated, the rooms are quite old and the walls are thin.  I  am a pretty sound sleeper, but a crying child will wake almost any mom I know and kept me up two-three nights while we were there.  The food court is pitiful and, well, just sad.  For such a large resort they need a bigger quick service area and the one they have needs to be set up better with more options and more staff.  It really became an ordeal for us and we tend to lean more toward sit down character meals and eating in the parks over dining at the resort. 

Overall, we loved the Polynesian, but we prefer to save money and stay the moderate resorts that we like just as much, if not more than, the Polynesian.  

Port Orleans - Riverside - New Princess Rooms

If you have girls and a family of four, this is the hotel for you!  Last September, we took Honey's parents, (aka 'Mimi' and 'Pappy') with us to Disney.  We had two of the new Princess themed rooms.  They are absolutely amazing!

C-man, The Baby & the Princess with Mimi & Pappy
The Food Court at Riverside

The pool area that has an "awesome" slide according to my kiddos
Southern Mansion Side of Riverside where the Princess Rooms are located
Pros - The princess rooms are the nicest that we have stayed in at Disney.  Our girls were over the moon excited and even C-man was impressed by the nighttime LED fireworks over the beds.  While the resort is large, the walk doesn't seem too far by any means.  The evening outdoor movies are a great touch over on the southern mansion side of the resort.  The food court is probably our favorite. The boats to Downtown Disney were fun and a our kids adore this pool area.  It was also easy for me to keep my eyes on all 3 kids swimming with the set-up.  The kids also enjoyed games run by the pool entertainment staff one afternoon.

Cons - I wish the princess rooms could fit five people.  The buses seem a bit slower than French Quarter and Caribbean.  

We love Port Orleans Riverside and other than stopping by the French Quarter Resort for benigets a couple of mornings, we prefer it over any other resort that we have tried.  

Port Orleans Riverside - Alligator Bayou Rooms

This past May we went with my brother, Lew, and his family and stayed on the Alligator Bayou side of the resort.  I was disappointed because I had fallen in love with the Princess rooms and how nice they were, but I was pleasantly surprised.   The Bayou side isn't 'girly' but it is very nice and will sleep five people which is a must for our family.  C-man LOVED his pull down bed that made both girls envious. The amenities are all the same as the Southern mansion side and we are happy to head back to Riverside for a Christmas trip this year.  

C-man's Pull down bed

In reading through my reviews, please keep in mind that we have driven to Disney all but two times and we have younger children.  Your needs might be different than ours depending on your family's preferences.  

Stay tuned for my next Disney post on Autograph books & the Road to Disney!


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