We took our first family trip to Disney World this year between Christmas and New Years day (12/26-12/31).
If you know anything about Disney trips you’ll know that this is the busiest time of the year for Disney World.
This December marks my fifteenth wedding anniversary and my son’s thirteenth birthday. Let’s go to Disney.
My daughter turned ten in June and we wanted to go before the kids were too old but also at a time that they would remember the experience. This anniversary and birthday acted as the catalyst for the trip.
True to our family trip planning style we didn’t decide to commit on going until November.
Jamie and I thought about other trips without the kids, but we never could settle on anything. Then on November 10th I reached out to Cheryl Daniel on recommendation from a fellow church member (Tracy). Cheryl helps plan Disney vacations.
Now I knew it was a long shot to get a good hotel at this late date, but I didn’t want a low budget hotel. I had looked on the Disney website and didn’t see any good rooms.
I wanted this experience to be a great memory for my family. It would possibly be the only trip to Disney for us before our kids are grown.
So, I contacted Cheryl with my request and started praying for our trip to be safe and joyously memorable. Well, ask and you shall receive.
Cheryl started planning and found us a room at the Swan hotel! She was amazed it was available for four nights. All other high end rooms on the Disney resort were booked for those dates and she was surprised anything was left with it only being forty five days before Christmas.
The Walt Disney World Swan Hotel was a fantastic hotel. The hotel had all the amenities you can think of. The beds were awesome and the showers were hot. An in-room safe and refrigerator were convenient, and it provided two sinks in the standard two queen bed room.
Since the Swan hotel is on Disney, it had a free shuttle or boat to each park and we could use the extra magic hours and FastPass+. This proved to be instrumental in getting on all the rides we wanted to do at the parks since only three FastPass attractions could be planned in advance, and the parks were packed after about 9:00 a.m.
Cheryl booked the room and helped to quickly plan out the best day of the week to visit each park and get FastPass for the best rides that were available. She set everything up for us in the MyDisneyExperience app.
This app helped us stick to our plans and add to our park plans including rides, shows and character experiences.
The app had a map of everything on the Disney World property in great detail. It will even navigate you to attractions and rides within each park on foot. (This MyDisneyExperience app was very handy to help find the fastest route from one ride to the other during the extra magic hour.)
Some rides didn’t have FastPass remaining since we started planning late. So we would need to hit those rides during the extra magic hour from 7:00 – 8:00 a.m. that only Disney park hotel guests could use.
My wife talked to our church friend (Tracy) the next day and she was amazed that we found a room too. She had previously thought we were going to be planning for December 2018.
Now the plan was set. Except it wasn’t fully. The week before we left for our trip I decided to add another night to the trip so that we could rest before our drive back. I called Cheryl. We couldn’t add another night at Swan. But since it was just going to be a one night stay and arriving after 10 p.m. we picked a value resort room at the Disney Pop Century Resort. (This Pop Century room in the 60s section was not as nice, but they are remodeling. The resort itself did have many amenities but not quite as luxurious as the Swan.)
Time to roll. We left from my parent’s house near Mobile, AL. We arrived at Walt Disney World in the late afternoon due to traffic issues on I75 in central Florida. We also unexpectedly hit toll roads along the way.
We unpacked the car and headed to a 7:15 p.m. character dinner that we had scheduled at the Garden Grove Restaurant at the Swan.
After dinner we went to Wal-Mart to grab a couple of last minute necessities for our first park trip the next day.
We each brought a draw string pack in the parks each day with a bottle of water, a snack, and extra phone batteries. Disney does not mind you bringing in food or drinks, and you keep your bag with you on each ride.
When we got back to the room I set up our Magic Bands.
We each had our own Disney Magic Band which we linked to the MyDisneyExperience app. The App links your tickets, Disney hotel rooms and FastPass+ reservations to the Disney Magic Bands.
The bands use RFID to allow you into the park and onto the FastPass+ rides. You can even pay for your food with them if using a Disney dining plan. Another cool feature is that you can scan the bands under your pictures on the monitors taken on some rides and the pictures then show up in the app.