Our most recent trip, in November 2021 was unlike anything we had ever done before. It was as close to a “spur of the moment” trip as we’ve ever done (we decided about 2 months prior to go). It was also the shortest visit we’ve ever gone on. Coming from NJ we usually try to spend at least a week when we make the trip if we’re going to pay for the airfare, but this one was just 3 days! As teachers we always have to try and fit our trips into the school calendar and much like the rest of NJ, this one took place during Teachers Convention (or as many call it “Jersey week”). If there is one word that best describes this trip, it’d have to be whirlwind.
When we go to Disney we make a list, even if it is just a mental note, of rides, shows, food, etc. that we want to experience. The goal of this trip was to experience the new Firework shows at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, Visit Creations and Club Cool, try one new restaurant, and find the 50th statues. But sometimes even the best plans don’t go according to plan, because life happens, and sometimes good things happen when it does.
(Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our 6 am flight)
We took the first flight available from Newark to Orlando (6 am). We flew Spirit for the first time as it was the only flight that didn’t cost an arm and a leg (just an arm), and while we were a little nervous after hearing horror stories of delays and lost luggage with the airline, the flight went off without a hitch! After landing we departed the plane and made it down to the carousel pretty quickly, however, waiting on our luggage to also make it to the carousel felt like an eternity. I don’t know if it was the fact that we knew we had so few hours in Orlando that made us feel impatient or what, but we were definitely ready to get to our car service and head to our resort. Even with the wait we were able to make it to the hotel by 10 am, this is one reason that we have switched to using a car service.
As this was a “last minute” trip that we squeezed in, we definitely tried to save as much money as possible. While we are DVC members, we didn’t have the points to use on a hotel for this trip and had to do a cash room. This trip was also my first time staying at a value resort and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised as typically we stay at deluxe or DVC resorts. However, our goal is to experience every resort on property and this was a great opportunity to go a little outside what we’re used to.
Our car pulled up to Art of Animation and we walked into a lobby decorated floor to ceiling with Disney art work. We had completed the online check-in but since we had arrived rather early we approached the front desk to see if they could take our luggage so that we could head to the parks. There were about 10 families in line in front of us so while we waited we used this time to change in the bathroom and play eye spy with Lincoln. (This is a great resort for Eye Spy because of all the artwork and colors.) When it was finally our turn, we met with the most wonderful cast member who sprinkled pixie dust on our stay by upgrading our room from a Little Mermaid Standard Room to a Cars Family Suite. I have to be honest when we initially booked I was less than excited to stay in the Little Mermaid Room. It was one of the only available rooms within our budget, but having a 4 year old son who wasn’t so much into Ariel and hearing that the rooms were so far away from the lobby, let's just say I was overjoyed by the upgrade. The Cars Family Suite was ready and waiting for us, which made this upgrade even better. If I can set up a room before heading to the park, I feel less anxious about returning to the room in the evening. This hotel is very Disney, and while I’m more used to a subtle approach to the Disney themes that you find at the moderate and deluxe level resorts, Lincoln absolutely loved seeing all of his favorite Cars characters scattered throughout the path as we walked from the lobby to our room. When we got to the room I was pleasantly surprised. I feared that I would feel drowned by the theming in the room, but with a 4 year old this room was perfect. Do I think I would enjoy staying here with a teenager, probably not, but for our current family age it seemed perfect. The room felt spacious and the Imagineers did a great job fitting a lot into the space. The main living room area has a seating area with a kitchenette in which the sofa converts to a double size bed, a dining table which is also a convertible bed, and a full bathroom (w/ tub). The room also has a closed off master bedroom with a queen sized bed and another full bath (w/ walk-in shower). I loved the size of the room, and at times I even felt like it was a little large for our family of three but the extra space is always welcomed. (be sure to check out our walk-through video of the room to get a better look).
(Lincoln LOVED the Cars theme in our room and the added murphy-bed was a bonus!)
After getting settled in our room we headed over to Epcot, by way of the Skyliner. It was a little after 11 and there wasn’t a large crowd waiting, so we were able to grab our own gondola! Upon entering Epcot we made our way to the front of the park and our first stop was the Creations Shop. My instant thought of Creations was I miss the layout and flow of the original Mouse Gears store, there was comfort and familiarity with it. I don’t have any complaints about the Creations shop and do look forward to seeing it again during our next trip. I felt that it had clean visual lines which allowed me to keep track of my family while enjoying all the new merch (of which we bought a lot lol). After leaving Creations we attempted to check out the new Club Cool but the line to enter was longer than the time we had planned so we headed to Lincoln's favorite rides Living with the Land and The Seas with Nemo instead. Lincoln honestly could spend all day at the aquarium. This is a calm quiet space for our sensory friends and it is a great place to escape the heat on a hot summer day as well. On our way, we were surprised to see Joy frolicking in the field. While I look forward to a day that Character Meet n Greets can return to pre-pandemic status, I hope that these “random” character sightings never end. Lincoln spent 10 minutes watching and interacting with Joy. We later saw Piglet in the same area as they do a great job rotating characters in that spot.
(We absolutely LOVED hunting for the 50th statues and Figment was of course our favorite!)
The day continued like a usual Epcot day, we enjoyed all that the Food and Wine Festival had to offer us and even met up with our favorite Travel Agent Sue from MEI Mouse Fan Travel! Sue was actually our Travel Agent for this trip and unplanned, met us in Epcot for a bite to eat, it was a great surprise. We wish we could have spent more time with her but we were tired and she was on a schedule. We are just happy that she was able to take some time for us. Lincoln loved playing eye-spy around the showcase with his buddy.
(Our meet up with our travel agent Sue was a highlight of the trip! MEI has easily become our preferred travel agent and we use Sue as often as we can. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)
We had planned on staying for the new fireworks show Harmonious, but we were all exhausted from our early morning flight so instead we headed back to the hotel around 7, to make sure we’d be able to function for Magic Kingdom the next day. We did make a pit stop at the Beach Club before getting back on the Skyliner though because at this time Beach Club had completed the Gingerbread Carousel for the holidays and we HAD to stop in! I mentioned earlier that we did not bring a stroller, we had rented a Disney one which served its purpose, while in Epcot but at this time I would realize how important having a stroller is especially at night. A perk of staying at a Skyline resort is that the skyline is continuous. Because of the time we left the park, we would not have to wait in line to ride the Skyliner. We would make it back to our resort by 9 pm at which time Lincoln had fallen asleep in my arms. Let me tell you a 4-year-old feels like a million pounds after walking all day in the park. (Momma’s if you want to lull your baby to sleep this is the place.)
(The gingerbread houses - or carousel in this case - are not to be missed!)
We slept well and the beds were comfortable, but we woke to a forecast filled with rain. Not the typical Orlando afternoon t-storm in the middle summer, but rather it was the type of rain you couldn’t escape. I guess if you're planning a park in the rain though, Magic Kingdom is the park to go to, as it has the most rides and shops. Luckily, I had packed raincoats and ponchos. We went from ride to ride and shop to shop trying to stay dry but by 6 pm Lincoln was soaked through his clothes even with a raincoat on. We again decided to head back to the hotel early since Lincoln was recovering from a cold and on medicine. I was disappointed because another night would end without fireworks and we had assumed (along with many of the other guests and cast members) that due to the weather the fireworks would be canceled. After riding one last ride and taking some rainy castle pictures, we would stop at the Emporium for a little shopping. To our surprise, we would hear a beautiful tune which was the start of the new nighttime show, Enchanted. Lincoln and I rushed to the street, leaving Matt to checkout. We liked that Main Street was involved in the show but if you are not on Main Street I’m not sure how we would feel about the show. We would not watch the entire show on Main Street, as we would head out hopeful to beat the crowds to the bus, which we would. What we were able to see was fun and we look forward to seeing the show in its entirety on our next trip.
(Even in the rain, there is nowhere better to be than Main St. USA!)
We awoke the next morning at 6:30am with plans to rush to Animal Kingdom for breakfast at Tusker House and a ride on the safari before meeting the car to leave for the airport. However, this day would not go according to plan. Lincoln woke up covered head to toe in a rash! We called the front desk and asked them to help us cancel our breakfast reservations and informed them of what had happened. I can’t comment enough on how amazing the staff was at Art of Animation. They had an EMT sent to the room, the on-call Dr phone us, and a hotel rep report to the room. After talking to the on-call dr, our pediatrician, and the EMT it was decided that Lincoln most likely had an allergic reaction to the medicine he was on for his cold. The hotel rep sent for Benadryl, which oddly enough I didn’t pack. All of this would happen before 8 am. Our car was not set to pick us up until 1 pm and although Lincoln felt fine, we didn’t want to take Lincoln out to a park, we didn’t know what to do… Again, the wonderful staff came to the rescue and granted us a late checkout, which was more than we could have asked for. With a few hours now left before we headed home we decided to take a quick ride on the Skyliner to the Rivera and back, and then let Lincoln rest and watch some tv back in the room. This might have actually been my favorite “last” day, minus the rash. It was an enjoyable way to spend the day in a more relaxing way. When it was time to finally head to the lobby to await our car we grabbed our bags, said goodbye to our room and began walking toward the main building. This was one moment that I noticed the difference between value and deluxe resorts. As we neared the main building we noticed a long line of at least 20-30 families all waiting for the same purpose…to drop off their bags with Bell Services! With a car on its way, we were lucky enough to not need to join that line and instead headed to the resort's gift shop and cafeteria. We bought a few last minute souvenirs and grabbed a quick bite to eat in the cafeteria before our car finally arrived to bring us back to MCO and head home.
(The SkyLiner has quickly become one of our favorite ways to travel around WDW)
While our trip was short and there are definitely things I could have done and changed but it always feels great to be “home”. We recommend staying at Art of Animation especially with little ones. There is so much that the resort does have to offer that we were not able to see and do because of our limited time, but we love the accessibility and what we did get to experience.
Until the next time, keep it magical - Krystle
(Part of the "magic" for the 50th celebration are these random character pop ups at the resorts! We just so happened to run into Goofy and Pluto on our way to checking out!)