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Under The Sea Bento

I put this one together last night, I made dinner and her bento at the same time. Nothing too crazy here, sautéed shrimp, boiled mini sausages, corn, rice, and fruits. I added organic, no chemicals (or anything weird) added food dye to the rice to make it blue. I found that all the stirring required to spread out evenly the blue made the rice extra sticky (even though I took care not to smash the rice). I don’t know how I feel about that, I might try just adding it to the water when cooking the rice next time.

No real recipe this time. Just sharing the cute little fishies and showing off baby A.’s new bento box (a yumbox).

Our First Disney Vacation — Day Three

Day three was once again a park day. We decided to visit Magic Kingdom again in the morning, just to hit any of the attractions we missed the day before (not to mention that with a three year old princess we felt that Magic Kingdom would be her favorite park). Then in the afternoon and night we hit Epcot to see the new Frozen ride and  IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth which is a family favorite (lots of good memories of watching this show when we were kids).

We had a good time at Magic Kingdom. We started with an early breakfast at Crystal Palace. As many Disney savvy moms know if you want any of those “alone in the park” pictures with the beautiful castle in the background and no crowds then the answer used to be to make an early morning reservation at one of the restaurants in the park. Restaurants open at 8 AM, while the park used to open at 9 AM. So if you had a reservation for 8 AM you would be allowed in the park by 7:50 Am in order to make your reservation. Which guaranteed you a crowd free view of the park where you could take all of those magical pictures…

Well this is not the case anymore as of the beginning of 2017 (might have started earlier) the park is “open” up to Cinderella’s Castle since that is where the new rope drop show takes place. This translates to a very full park from a very early time in the morning. While the stores are still closed along Main Street, you will find that there is an immense crowd all in there from very early in the morning. So gone are the opportunities of pictures with no crowds. The best chance for those would be to make a breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest (which is in the closed off section of the park) and get some pictures from the sides or back of the castle. Be warned that as of 2018 there are some early morning ticketed events in the park that allows groups of people to be in those areas enjoying early morning rides (exclusively for the people that have those especial tickets), which has almost gotten rid of that opportunity as well.

But back to our day. When we booked breakfast at the Crystal Palace the new rope drop show was brand new so people did not know how it affected the early morning crowds yet. So we were a little bit disappointed that we were unable to get that empty park picture. Regardless of, the crowd at that time was much more manageable than it gets closer to nine.

The Crystal Palace was a nice breakfast buffet. We had just had dinner there the night before, but this time around since our party was smaller (just the three of us) we were able to snatch a table with a Cinderella Castle view. So while we said hi again to all of our Hundred Acre Wood friends we got to enjoy a beautiful view of the castle. The food itself was ok, a good assortment of breakfast meats, fruits, and breads. Like I mentioned, the food here is not extraordinary but it is good.

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We had no FastPass+ planned for this park since we decided to spend them on the Frozen Ride (only way to not do a 3 hour line) so we just went around going on anything that caught our attention. Since we were smart and were at the park very early we did not encounter a line that lasted longer than 15 minutes. We rode Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Ariel’s Grotto, Prince Charming Regal Carousel, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. All in all a very busy morning!

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We had lunch at Pecos Bill before we had to head out for the second half of our day which we were going to do at Epcot. Pecos Bill was just OK, what makes this restaurant so popular is the huge toppings bar, which is a great bang for your buck

We took the metro-rail to Epcot and met up with family at the park. We had used our FastPass on the Frozen ride (which was brand new at the time) since that was the only thing we knew we HAD to do with our then 3 year old daughter. Before heading to the ride we walked around and got to see some of the art on display (at the time the Epcot Festival of the Arts was on full swing) then we went and met Ana and Elsa, this was a bit of a wait (about 35 minutes), but totally worth it for my baby.

Anna and Elsa

Then we finally got to go on the Frozen ride. We walked right on to the front and waited less than 15 minutes, however the line for people who did not have a FastPass was ridiculously long (3 or more hours). While we thought the ride was cute and worth it for little ones, it was certainly not worth such a long wait. I don’t know how waits are at this point, but back then we would not have done this without a FastPass.

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After the ride we had reservations for Akershus, since I did my booking months in advance I was able to get all the highly sought after character dinner reservations. Akershus was great, my little one got to meet several princesses, starting with Belle at the receiving room (the same Belle we had met the day before and who remembered my little one) and then many more who came to our table.

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We did have to wait for a bit before our table was ready, which at that point was a bit annoying since we were cranky and hungry, but the food totally made up for it. We really liked the cheese board and charcuterie bar, the food itself was also good, this one was a big hit with my family.

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We ended the night by walking to the French Pavilion, getting dessert at the bakery and then securing a spot to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth while we had our desserts. This will turn out to be our final viewing of Illuminations since it will be closing this September.

I have to say I have very fond memories of Illuminations. My parents took us when we were young and I remember feeling in awe of such a beautiful spectacle, all of us watched it together and remember that night as a beautiful family moment. We watched it again together and it was a bittersweet moment. The magnificent spectacle I remembered was no more, now it looked a bit dated, and not as impressive. However I got to see it one last time with the same people I saw it for the first time, now with my own children and husband included in the mix, we decided to look pass the dated bit of it and just remembered our sweet memory and were grateful to be there again.

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This was the end of our trip, by the end of it we were exhausted and ready to get home. The main lesson we learned was to make sure to include rest days in between park days, otherwise you end up too tired. But all in all this was a wonderful experience we had with all of our family.

Friday Easy Bento

After yesterday’s very labor intensive bento, I just wanted a very easy lunch that I could throw together in the morning with minimal fuss.

Therefore today baby A. got an easy sandwich bento. The sandwich is made of brioche bread, home made hummus, ham and lettuce. I used a cutter to turn into a cute little piggie. As a side I made mini sausage “octopi” and just threw some berries in the container and called it a day.

The hummus is what took the longest out of everything, and I threw that together fairly quickly the night before. I found these cute little cans of chickpeas that are perfect for making a smaller portion of hummus. I also made a very simple recipe since it was for a five year old, here it is:

– 1 8oz can of garbanzo beans

– 2 Tbsp of tahini

– 2 garlic cloves

– The juice of half a lemon

– 1 green onion

– salt and pepper

Blend all of the above in a food processor, add water until you reach the consistency you like. Store in the fridge and it will last you quite a few days.

Here is what her lunch looked like all packed up:

That was all I did for this one. Honestly I am just ready for the weekend, this whole waking with the sun thing is not for me (I might be allergic O_o).

Sunflower Bento

The things we do for our children!! So yesterday, after a full day of work and a workout I headed to the kitchen to cook dinner. I knew today baby A. was heading back to class and I had sort of planned a bento in my head. After cooking the components, which were fairly easy, all I had to do was assemble it. I debated whether or not to wait until very early this morning to put it all together like I did last time, but decided I would just go ahead and leave it ready.

After we finished dinner I went back into the kitchen and what proceeded was a two hour bento assembly. I had to cut each little petal by hand, then set it all so it would look like a sunflower. Then I had the great idea of making a cherry tomato stuffed with a creamy cheese filling which I had dyed blue, just to have baby A. try it and say she didn’t like it -_- so that got scrapped (win some, lose some). By the time I finished all I wanted was a bed, but of course baby B. wanted to breastfeed (we are almost done breastfeeding, but she still gets a night feeding). Needless to say I ended up TIRED, so I don’t think I will be making sunflowers very often (or ever again). By the way this is what the adult version of her bento looks like:

How to make the bento:

In essence this is a soboro bento. I made it with ground turkey to which I added half a ground bell pepper (gotta sneak those veggies in for picky kids and husbands), half an onion, garlic, soy sauce, and sake. The egg on ours is the cutouts of baby A’s bento which I finely chopped. I finished the whole thing with veggies and fruits, and that is all she wrote!

Vegan Oatmeal

We actually like oatmeal in my house. We find it to be the perfect base for so many toppings, it is extremely versatile, and can be made to anyone’s taste.

This one is a very simple vegan recipe. I like to boil my oats in milk, I find it makes them creamy and gives them more flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1-2 cups almond milk (depends how thick you want the consistency to be)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Mix all of these in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until oats are the texture and consistency you prefer.

Toppings:

The list of toppings is endless, so many possibilities, in the above picture I used:

  • Sliced strawberries
  • Walnuts
  • Agave syrup

Other options that would make a great vegan oatmeal are:

  • Mango
  • Coconut flakes
  • Almonds
  • Agave syrup
  • Add 1 tsp of cocoa when cooking oats
  • Toasted hazelnuts
  • Chopped dates
  • Brown sugar
  • Add 2 Tbsp pumpkin purée and 1/2 tsp nutmeg when cooking oats
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Pecans
  • Brown sugar

The possibilities go on and on. Try one of these combinations or create your own, just give oatmeal a chance 😉

First Day of School Character Bento

Today our eldest goes to school for the first time ever. We are excited but also a little  nervous, since a whole new stage of our life just started today.

To commemorate such an occasion I decided to get back to writing in this blog, even more since I made this cute little character bento (kyaraben) for her first lunch at school. While it required a little assembly, it was a very easy lunch to put together and can be prepared the night before, so the next day is just the assembly.

Components:

  • Hard-boiled egg turned into a hatching chick (I followed this tutorial from HGTV).
  • Sliced strawberries.
  • Cherry tomato.
  • Ham flower (bend ham slice in half, make several cuts around folded edge, and roll until it looks like a flower. I thought this was a great explanation on how to do it, but my husband says that after reading it he still does not know how to make it -_-, so here is a great tutorial from Just One Cook Book).
  • Soy sauce noodles:
    • Boil preferred noodles (here I use udon).
    • Mix 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, and 1 green onion chopped very small.
    • Add noodles to mix while still warm. Make sure noodles get thoroughly coated.
    • Let cool. Can put on bento once they are at room temperature. Can also put in the fridge overnight and put in bento next day.

Super simple and yet so cute, my baby loved it and was very excited for it. Just a side note, for the chick, it did take a few tries before I got the perfect result, so try to make it the night before!

Our First Disney Vacation — Day Two

Day Two of our vacation was a park day. The golden rules for park days is WAKE UP EARLY. Like 6 AM early and also to take breaks in between all the excitement. This is how our second day went down.

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We woke up at 7 AM (see statement above) and got ready really quick. My little one got all dressed up in her Elsa dress and accessories. We all put on our Mickey Ears and headed down to grab a quick breakfast. We just used one of our snack credits to grab a muffin and the coffee was free (you get the refillable tumbler with the dining plan).

Then we did something wonderful, and one of the reasons we stayed at the Contemporary… We WALKED to the park. It is a 10 minute walk from the lobby to the gate. After going through security you are in the park.

Things have changed a little bit now with the new opening show. A burning question I had before our trip was how the opening being at Cinderella’s Castle affect early access to the park. For those of you that don’t know, you can make a very early breakfast reservation at a restaurant in the park and they will let you in early, which means getting the park practically to yourself and getting lots of pictures “alone” in the park. Well now with the opening ceremony being at the castle things have changed a bit. I will discuss early morning reservations on the Day 3 post.

You are allowed to go all the way up to the castle where you will be treated to a welcoming ceremony by favorite characters and Mickey himself. Note that all of the stores and attractions along Main Street are closed until the end of the opening ceremony.

The ceremony is beautiful and our little one was entranced by the castle and her first view of all the princesses and all the fireworks and effect. From there we rushed back to the Main Street Theater so that we could see Mickey before it would get really crowded. We waited about 20 minutes in line which ended up being one of our longest wait that whole entire day.

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Meeting Mickey was MAGICAL. This was the most amazing moment we had. Our daughter was transfixed, she loved Mickey, she believed he was real, and for a moment we were all able to witness the Disney magic; a child seeing the beloved characters come to life. She kissed mickey, she hugged him, danced with him, and called him her prince. We were not rushed at all, everyone was super nice and very understanding of the magic that was taking place. This one experience by itself made all the work, effort, and money that went into planing this vacation worth it.

I had a very tight schedule planned for that day. Even though it was early in the morning I made sure to get FastPasses for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. Even though it was early the wait was already in the 40+ mins. So we got to breeze by and get on right away. This was my daughter’s first roller-coaster ever. She loved it, we have a little daredevil. She was just tall enough to be able to get in and she though it was great fun, we all did.

From there we went to Gaston’s Tavern for a treat and saw the man himself standing outside. There was a very short line, so we decided to meet him. My husband happens to like Gaston, and I think he got the biggest kick out of meeting him.

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My husband and Gaston twinning

Before we had to go to our next fast pass we noticed that Mickey’s PhilharMagic had no wait. So we went right in and watched the show. While it is a bit dated, it was still fun and entertaining, plus a quick break from the Florida heat.

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From there we went to Princess Fairytale Hall to meet Cinderella and Elena of Avalor. We had fast passes for this as well. While it was still in the morning (11 AM) the wait was about 30 minutes for no fast passes. We waited less than ten and then my little girl was saying hello to Cinderella, which was nice, but my daughter loves Elena of Avalor, so she was a little start-struck. There were lots of hugs, and talks about adventures, and they even spoke in Spanish (yes the Elena cast member can speak Spanish fluently which adds to the authenticity of the character).

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Then it was time to run to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for her appointment. I called to make a reservation 5 months before our vacation date. By that time the only appointment they had left was a noon spot. I would recommend calling 6 months ahead if you are trying to get the highly sought after morning appointments. Most parents want their money’s worth so they all try to get in there early so that their children can have their hairdo last all day. So if you want early you need to call early.

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We had to wait over half an hour before it was her turn, thankfully they have a sitting area inside, but it is constantly full (lots of kids and parents waiting) so be super grateful if you get a sit. My little one came dressed up already with her Elsa dress, but you can also get a dress and purchase it right there. They will take you to their sister store where you can choose and put on your gown and then they will bring you back to do your hair, nails, and makeup.

Day Two (1)

After the boutique it was time for our last FastPass of the day (we could have reserved more after we used our three, but honestly our schedule was pretty packed as it was, so we did not feel the need); Enchanted Tales With Belle. This was what I would consider an “enhanced meet and greet”. Children get to participate in a mini play before getting that picture with Belle. It was short, but my daughter got a kick for being plate #3, lol.

 

Lunch was a skip and a hop away at Be Our Guest. Once again we had our ADR booked for this and the best part, besides the beautiful theming, or good food, is that breakfast or lunch here counts as a “Fast Service” credit. So skip the burger joints in cafeteria stile eateries, and come sit at this wonderful restaurant where you can have something a bit more classy for lunch. Only thing is that you need to make your reservation early since it is a very popular spot.

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After such a busy morning, we went back to the hotel for naps. It is so important to do this if you have a young child in your party. They get to recharge and not be cranky for the second part of your day. But just as important YOU get to rest and recharge. Get out of the horrible Florida heat and humidity, take a quick nap and a shower, so that YOUR night is also more enjoyable. If you are able to take this break at your hotel then you do not need a stroller. We brought a stroller thinking our almost 3 years old was going to be using it a lot. It turned out she did not use it much, save for a few minutes here and there. Since we went back to the hotel for her nap (which is honestly the main reason you might want a stroller) we did not need a stroller at all for this trip.

We walked back to the park around 5:30 PM so we made it with plenty of time for our dinner reservations at Crystal Palace. A jolly time was had by all as we met the friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. The food was ok, not the best Disney buffet we have been to but it was not bad. After all the pictures were taken we just came out and found a great spot to watch the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. We waited less than half an hour before it started. The show was absolutely beautiful.

At this point, half of our party decided to retire for the night. The rest of us headed for Tomorrowland, where we got to ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, with no wait at all. Then we took a turn on the People Mover, just to rest for a bit. From there we ended our night by having a dance party with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible! My little one dance for over half an hour with Mrs. Incredible, it was a great one on one activity that we were lucky to participate in simply because we decided to stay after the show ended, unlike most of the other families. So short lines and more interactions with characters can be had at this time.

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After such a full day we went to our hotel, and as we walked to our room we heard the same loud music we had heard the night before. It was a floating parade! The Electrical Water Pageant to be exact. It was beautiful, we had a front row seat, and absolutely loved it. It was just a nice additional bonus that we did not even know we would get. So we went to bed that night extremely tired, but extremely happy and satisfied with our choice of hotel.

Our First Disney Vacation — Day One

I find that the times right after a vacation are the times when life gets the busiest. Which is the main reason why it always takes me so long to write a blog about our adventures.

Our Disney vacation was, in one word, MAGICAL. Months of planing really paid off, guaranteeing that our experience was wonderful in every way. I will recount day by day what we did and what it cost us.  So let us jump in!

Day 1:

Our Itinerary For Day One

We live in Florida, so we only had a 3 hour drive to get to Disney World, nonetheless we woke up early and were loaded up and on the road by 9 am. I had several little presents wrapped for our daughter which doubled as birthday presents and kept her entertained on the drive. Every half hour or so I gave her a “Tinkerbell Present” such as a Disney themed golden book, or a play set from the Disney store, or the wooden magnetic princess dress up. Since I planned in advance I was able to wait for all of these to go on sale and ended up paying less.

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We made it to the Contemporary Resort at noon. Check-in was a breeze and the cast member was extremely helpful and nice. She made sure we all had celebration buttons (which are free) and she made sure we understood the dining plan and everything else. If you have any questions at all that is the time to ask, they are more than happy to help you and will go out of their way to insure you are happy, Disney has some of the best customer service in the world, so make sure to use it!

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The Contemporary Resort – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Our room was great. Very spacious, elegant, and well appointed. We were in a corner unit and had a patio. The pool and volleyball area were right in front of us and the lake was to the right. I wanted to set up an in-room celebration for our birthday girl, but I didn’t want to shell out the $350+ it would cost to have Disney Floral and Gifts do it (I am not going to lie, I considered it, but in the end decided I would rather spend that money in the park). So that meant DIY time! While my husband took our daughter to check out the pool and the concourse my sister and I rushed to our room and set up our own celebration. We laid out all of her presents on the beds, and decorated the room with Disney princesses, streamers, and confetti. Brand new Mickey, Minnie, and Donald plushies sat next to the presents which included an Elsa dress, a Cinderella wand, a Frozen jewelry set, an Elsa doll, a Frozen play set castle, Minnie ears, and frozen comfy slippers. I bought all of these items from the Disney store, I waited for all of them to go on sale (read: I checked the Disney store’s sale page every day starting in October) which made me be able to get the Elsa dress for $26, which is an AMAZING price for such a good quality, authentic dress. Our little one was ecstatic, she was so happy she didn’t know what to open first.

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After all the presents were opened we headed to the Contempo Cafe for lunch. Lunch was yummy and fast, after which we headed to Fantasia, the gift shop, to buy lanyards for our pins. I bought 4 lanyards and 4 card holders which cost me around $100. Almost as much as all of my little one’s presents, but we wanted authentic and unique, so you gotta dish out the money for that -_-

We explored the grounds for a bit before heading to our room and changing into our swimsuits. The pools were great. They are heated, have a slide, a sprinkler area, and splash zones in the main pool. There is a bar which serves food and drinks, and lots of reclining chairs, and cabanas. No, the Contemporary’s pool is not as themed as other hotel’s but I felt like it had enough to be fun for the kids and relaxing for the adults, I though it was just perfect. Also there are SEVERAL lifeguards on duties and they all take their job VERY seriously, which adds another level of safety.

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Once pool time was over we took showers and got ready for our dinner at Chef Mickey’s. We had Advanced Reservations (ADR) for all the restaurants we ate at (you have to if you want to be able to get in) but this does not mean that you will be seated immediately, there will still be a wait. We waited about 15 minutes, time that we spent taking pictures and watching cartoons. Please note we purchased a Disney Dining Plan as part of our package, therefore we did not have to pay any extra for our dinner. The buffet itself was good, but the highlight of the evening was meeting Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald. Out of all of them I have to say that Goofy was the nicest and most energetic. He was not rushed and he wanted to play with everyone on the table. Seriously kudos to that cast member he went above and beyond.

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In my original plan for that evening we were going to go to the Polynesian resort after dinner to watch the fireworks from the beach. But dinner ran long (meeting all of those characters and taking pictures takes time) so we had to cancel. This is one of the most important things you can do when you go out on vacation, ADAPT. Adaptability is one of the main skills needed in order to have a happy vacation. So while I wanted to go to the beach, it actually worked out better not to go, between it being cold, we being late, and planing on waking up very early the next day it might have been stressful to haul our large party over there.

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Instead we watched the fireworks from right outside our room. Which was an added bonus, you have a good view of the fireworks from pretty much anywhere in the Contemporary since you are walking distance from the park. After the fireworks we were tucking in when we heard very loud music coming from the outside, but after a quick glance we could not determine the source (we figured it out the next night, purely by accident).

And that was it for our first vacation day!

WHAT WE SPENT  — 

Vacation Package (Hotel, 2 Day Tickets with Park Hopper, and Disney Dining Plan): $2,241.18 

Tinkerbell Presents: $47  

In-room Celebration Decorations: $31

In-room Celebration Presents: $120

Fantasia Gift Shop: $100

Finding the Value in a Disney Resort — Guest Post

By Jennifer Cavagnaro

I wasn’t raised with a ton of money. My mom was single and she saved for years in order to bring my brother and I to Disney World at the age of 10. I remember every single minute. We stayed at the All-Star Sports Resort (a well-known value resort on the Walt Disney World property) and we only went to the Magic Kingdom. It was extremely hot out and after only a few hours of rides, my brother and I begged to go back to the hotel and play in the pool.

Fast forward 22 years… I’m a mom of 4 children and a true Disney lover! You might be thinking: “Four children? At Disney World? This woman is nuts!” Truthfully, I can’t argue with you there! I think my first trip to Disney as a mom was in 2009, when Brianna was 1. We stayed at the All Star Sports hotel, as it was the only one that I knew about and it brought back so many memories. Since then, I can’t even count the amount of times that we have been. (Hey… it’s only 3 hours away and very convenient!).

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We have always stayed at the value resorts. I may be somewhat of an expert.
There are currently 5:

  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

They are all basically the same, with different themes. They are extremely kid-friendly with bright, vibrant Disney Characters in front of each building and throughout the property. Each resort has a huge lobby which consists of an arcade, a gift shop and a cafeteria-style dining hall.

Since the resorts are on the Disney property, they provide free bus transportation to and from the theme parks, water parks and Disney Springs. Chase, my 3 year old, thinks the “Diddee Bus” is the highlight of the trip! Quick tip: The 3 All-Star resorts share a bus, so if you are taking the bus back from Animal Kingdom (for example), it makes 3 stops. Pop Century is stand-alone and only has the one stop.

Over the past 8 years, we have typically bounced around the value resorts, favoring Pop Century as it was the newest. Then came Mia… dun dun dunnnnnn! Mia is my 4th and last baby, and her presence at Disney demands a suite. Ah, shucks. This means we just had to stay at the brand-spanking new value resort: The Art of Imagination. It’s geared towards large families that need suites. The first time we stayed there, I was pregnant with Mia and we still qualified for a standard room. I picked the Little Mermaid building, of course. A little tip: It’s SUPER far from the lobby. My Fitbit loved it. My pregnant and swollen ankles? Not so much.

After I had Mia, I chose the Finding Nemo building which happens to be a “preferred” building. This means that it’s close to that fabulous lobby that I mentioned before. The suite was FANTASTIC. Two bathrooms, master bedroom, a little kitchen area, a table turns into a bed, a sleeper sofa… need I say more? This suite fit all 6 of us as well as my babysitter!

Pricing and Tips:

  • The value resorts offer specials throughout the year. Typically, the best and lowest prices are offered during non-peak season (in order to bring in guests).
  • I have seen regular rooms at the All-Star resorts for as low at $87 per night
  • The suites tend to be more expensive (considerably, in my opinion!)
  • Staying at the Art of Imagination for a family of 6 in March averages $435 a night ($470 per night for a preferred room)
  • Florida residents save more: $377/night for standard and $392 for a preferred room.
  • The average meal costs $10-$15 per person (give or take!)
  • The refillable cups are $17.99 for the length of your stay (I believe around $8.99 for 1 day if you choose to pay daily) and can be used as many times as you’d like. They are electronic now, you cannot bring your cup back from a previous stay.
  • The dining plan is HIGHLY recommended, especially if you are a foodie. This can only be booked with a package but saves a ton of money, especially if you do the Character Dining restaurants. There are various pricing tiers for this option.

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If you’re looking to stay on the Walt Disney Property, yet needing to save a few bucks, I highly recommend any of the 5 value resorts.

Planning a Vacation to Disney World — Where To Stay

*Please note that originally I was going to do a post for all five categories, but Accommodations got toooo long making it a monster of it’s own, so I had to break the original Basic’s post into two. First we discussed My Disney Experience, ADRs, FastPass+, and Magic Bands in Planning a Vacation to Disney World — The Basics. Now we will go over Accommodations (Disney resort categories. Staying on property v. off, etc.).

Deciding Where To Stay

The first question that you may have is: “Where do I stay?” To answer that, we need to look into what Disney has to offer. They have three main categories of resorts which are based on price point.

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The Art of Animation – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Value Resorts – 
Cost: The cheapest of the three categories at an average of $150 per night. Price varies depending on season and room type, can fluctuate from as low as $93 to $200. They do have suites at a higher price.
Accommodations: The rooms tend to be the smallest at about 260 sf. for the average room. Double beds or a King bed. Themes tend to be very bright. Can be quite a hike from room to main areas.
Amenities: Themed pools but no slides. A food court but no restaurants. Bus transportation to and from parks.
Resorts: Pop Century Resort, All-Star Movies Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, All-Star Music ResortArt of Animation Resort (Newest out of all of these, better accommodations at a slightly higher price).

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Port Orleans – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Moderate Resorts –
Cost: This is the mid category with prices ranging from $180 to $290 per night depending on season and room type. They do have suites at a higher price.
Accommodations: Room size is about 314 sf. Beds tend to be bigger, decor is themed but nice. Moderate resorts also have a very spread out layout, which means longer walks to main areas.
Amenities: Themed pools with at least one slide at main pool. A food court and at least one sit-down restaurant is present in most of them. Transportation is also by bus with Port Orleans also offering a boat.
Resorts: Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach Resort.

The Contemporary Resort - Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

The Contemporary Resort – Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

Deluxe Resorts –
Cost: This is the top category with prices ranging from $340 to $835 per night for standard rooms. Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge are the cheapest in this category.
Accommodations: Room size ranges from 344 sf. for a standard room to over 1000 sf. in some suites. Many standard rooms also include a daybed besides the usual two queens or one king, which means these standard rooms can sleep 5 people comfortably.
Amenities: Some rooms offer amazing views. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous with great gift shops and amazing lobbies. Includes several sit down restaurants with at least one fine dining option. Themes are more muted in an elegant way. Amazing pools with slides. The main attraction for a deluxe resort in my opinion is location, location, location… We chose the Contemporary Resort for our vacation because of it’s proximity to Magic Kingdom, as in walking distance, as in 10 minutes walk. Not only that but the fact that we were not limited to buses but also had the option of the monorail. In most deluxe resorts you will have more transportation options such as buses, monorail, and boat, plus they are walking distance of at least one park.
Resorts: Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club Resort, BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club Resort.

Staying Off Property –
This is another option available for your consideration. Orlando is a huge city with so many wonderful things to do and see, Disney World is not it’s only claim to fame. This is my opinion of what are the pros and cons of choosing an off property resort:
Pros: For a fraction of the cost you can stay at a very nice resort. There are many resorts and hotels all throughout Orlando that will offer you a much better deal. Many provide you with transportation to parks and other Orlando attractions. The amenities can be fantastic; themed pools, great spas, amazing restaurants, etc. It also gives you the chance to take a step away and relax in-between park days. Did I mention the cost? Really the main thing going for these resorts are their price, comparatively.
Cons: Disney offers you several perks for staying on their property which are not available at off-site resorts, these perks include:
– Free* transportation to and from the airport with included baggage claim and delivery to your room. (Magical Express).
– Free* delivery of any purchases you make in the park to your resort so that you don’t have to carry it around all day.
– Free* park transportation and parking.
– Access to the Dining Plan and Advanced Dining Reservations (only available if you are staying on property).
– Extra magic hours.
– Immersion, staying inside the “Disney Bubble.”
– Access to the convenience of Magic Bands, for payment or room access.
*Please note that by Free I mean included in the price of your room. You don’t pay extra for these services.

So while it might make more sense to stay off property if you are looking to save money or want a break from all things Disney on your stay, at the end of the day I feel that for a family with young children staying on property is the way to go. Having the convenience of being able to walk to the park and multiple transportation options will make it all the easier to deal with a tired infant. Because of our proximity we will be able to take a mid-day break for naps and recharge so that we can enjoy our night.

NOTE: If you book your vacation through Disney you will only have to pay a deposit towards your total trip cost at the time of booking. The full amount will be due about a month before your check-in date. You can make monthly, weekly, daily, (hourly?) payments, it is up to you to set up your own schedule as long as you have it all paid before that 31 days prior date.

I know that this was a lot of information! But once you have made the decision of where you will stay you will only need to focus on what applies to your individual experience.
Make sure to come back to check out the next post in this series which will be a guest post from Jennifer Cavagnaro, a seasoned Disney traveler with lots of experience and tips to share.