We have been getting a lot of DM’s lately regarding our Disney trip, if we used a planner, and where we stayed, & so many more. My guess is that a lot of families are buying tickets for Christmas presents, and I could not be more excited for them. We made so many memories we could not capture the amount of smiles, laughs, and just straight star-struck awe that Copey had every day. This was our first time as parents to Walt Disney World, as a whole, and still very new to the entire Disney trip and planning, it may be helpful to get our perspective and take aways from a fellow newbie. We are not experts, but we used an expert so learn from us…
As newbie Disney parents, and neither Jose or myself have visited the parks since we were both pre-teens, we needed help. We were both overwhelmed by the thought of all the planning & making the trip actually feel magical to all of us without being stressful or poorly planned. One day I saw that one of my favorite accounts we follow, @CreekGrown owns her own travel agency, TravelGrown.com, and Disney planning being one of the wonderful services they provide, we reached out, and after a few chats she had us booked and ready to head down to the park. We will chat more about her and all of the things she took off our plate to make our trip as enjoyable as possible, and the best news, her services are entirely complimentary…. I know shocking, but before we talk about that let’s give you the full run down of our trip from leaving the farm, to coming back.
Our Trip outline:
We traveled Direct with Allegiant from Grand Rapids to Sanford-Orlando.
Hindsight this was about a 50 minute drive, Sanford-Orlando was the only airport we could get direct from our local airport (with Allegiant) and it’s more north than MCO, being further away from Disney and the Disney resorts. which wasn’t bad, but it ended up being an uber of 80 bucks or so, plus tip.
Because we planned on using Uber we did bring a travel car seat, if we were to have traveled to MCO (the closer to Disney Orlando airport) we may have decided to not bring the car seat and take one of the two third-party bus companies.
I will say, we did not feel like the further drive, uber cost, and car seat wasn’t an inconvenience, and would do it the same way again, depending on plane ticket prices and route options.
We stayed at Old Key West Resort, a Disney resort.
Our first day in Florida, we took the complimentary ferry from Old Key West Resort to Disney Springs, a fun shopping center with cool stores for both adults and kids, as well as some really good eating.
The second day, our big day, we visited Magic Kingdom, a.k.a. Mickey’s house (according to Cope), it was big because by day, we were enjoying the Magic Kingdom, by night, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Wednesday, day three, we visited Animal Kingdom, to us there are only a few must do’s there so were able to sleep in little bit, to get a full recovery before heading over to the park.
Our fourth day was a “rest day,” and I put that in quotes for a reason, and we’ll talk about that later.
Friday we visited Hollywood Studios, our very first time to this park.
Our last day, Saturday, we spent at Epcot, the perfect park to end the trip.
How our Disney Planner made our trip awesome!
For newbies like us, as soon as you even think about planning a trip to Disney, body sweats ensue. There is a lot of decisions, options, timing, ever changing Disney tips and tricks, it’s a lot, I’m sure even for professional Disney goers. Travel Grown took over all our stressors and questions about making this trip as magical as the Disney experience. We were so excited to be one of the first clients for Elizabeth’s own travel agency, Travel Grown. Elizabeth worked for a larger agency for many years, but this year she is planning future memories at the helm of her own agency. We reached out to Elizabeth, and let her know we wanted to plan a trip to Disney. A few short questions, back and forth, and she practically had our entire trip planned, with the exception of some choices that we needed to make. Disney does a good job with providing information on their resort, but there are still questions you have, and a Disney planner is awesome to have, talking with a human on the other side, who can speak from experience. She narrowed down all of the options there were when it came to hotels, and provided a very in-depth review of potential stay, we landed on Old Key West Resort, because of the size of the room and we were traveling with my parents and wanted to stay in the same room. We loved that it had a ferry to Disney Springs, had a sizeable two room villa, a cool pool for Copey, and a little removed from the Disney atmosphere, as it’s much more Key West vibes than it is Disney Vacation Club.
Disney opens its dining reservations 60 days prior to the visit. Elizabeth communicated with us prior to the 60 day window to allow for us to take a look at restaurants we may want to work into our trip. We only selected one restaurant to sit down at, and that was “Be Our Guest” eating at Beast’s Castle. We told her what we wanted, and she took it from there, there was no stumbling through the app to try to remember how to make a reservation, or getting up early in the morning to book, she did it all. This was so fun, and something we told Copey well in-advance of our trip. It was so fun hearing him bring it up randomly ahead of our trip, and when we walked up he was just so over joyed with the castle and seeing the Beast. The food was great, but the Gray stuff was truly delicious.
Throughout the build up to the trip, she would send reminders, tips and tricks to think of, and right before the trip she sent over an itinerary with notes to ensure we had the very best time. Notes consisted of what rides were very popular, what rides and attractions we should prioritize our lightning lane and other genie + tricks.
One thing I have learned during our Disney trip is that there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to all things Disney, and to have a team in your corner that is on the inside track to new information and upcoming changes is invaluable in opinion.
If you are reading this going… “oh great another added cost to my Disney trip,” here’s the greatest part, their services are commissioned from Disney, you do not pay anything extra at all! Yes, essentially their services are free to you, and if you opted not to use their services, your still paying the same prices, maybe more if you’re not keen to the discount options and other tips and tricks. So why not have someone that knows what’s going on, to the very latest news and updates, and have them give you a hand to make the most of your time and money.
Our Thoughts of the trip.
So here are our thoughts on the entire trip and what we are going to do again & what we are going to opt out off (at least for our next trip).
We did enjoy the spacious room of Old Key West Resort villa, we are going to put this on the checklist of “stayed there” but we are going to try another resort for our next trip.
The Pro’s of Old Key West Resort
- It’s a Disney Resort so you get the perks of getting into the park earlier that general opening.
- You can use your magic bands to get in and out of the room, and pay for things around the resort.
- We didn’t do this, but were told that while at a park you can have things sent to Disney resorts, so if you are a heavy shopper that is a perk.
- There is ferry that would take you to Disney Springs every ½ hour or so.
- It’s very Key West themed, and the theatrics of Disney isn’t really felt… So if you need a break from all the in your face Disney, during your Disney trip this is a great vibe.
- The pool area was fun with a fun slide that Copey loved.
- Olivia’s Restaurant was really good.
- Biggest Pro, reason why we stayed, it has the biggest rooms across all resorts.
- Washer and Dryer in our 2 Room Villa
- Full Kitchen if you want to cook anything before or after your park visit.
The Con’s of Old Key West Resort
- It’s a large resort and there is a lot of walking needed just to get from your room to the common areas (i.e. pool, store, lobby, and restaurant). They have internal busses that are on 15-20 minutes rotations, based on room location, walking can be faster but still a little hike.
- Buses to the parks were reliable, but still took a while because of where the resort is located. It’s closes to Epcot so that trip is quite quick, but Magic Kingdom was a little ways away.
- Only one restaurant onsite, and one quick service that does not offer room-service. We opted to walk to the restaurant one night, and Uber Eats the other nights. Would have loved a few more options.
To sum up this pro/con list, it all came down to how spread out the resort was, with minimal onsite options. Our fastest way to the main pool area, restaurant, store, was to walk from our room. The walk was a good 10-15 minutes, which wasn’t too bad, but we did get stuck in the pool area/lobby during a Florida downpour and would have loved to get back to our room undercover. The one restaurant, Olivia’s, which was really good but a small menu and required a reservation, & one quick service restaurant with pool-side food options, left us wishing there were more options onsite & room-service. Otherwise, the rooms were fantastic and massive. Our 2 room villa even had a washer and dryer inside, which was really nice, because we able to not only do laundry, but got caught in a few rain storms and would have left us with some very-very wet clothes.
This resort is perfect for larger groups of friends and family and that all want to stay in one room. I would even say a group with all adult age friends and family, because of the added walking (outside the walking while at the parks), and some of the villas being on the third floor, hauling strollers up and down can be a little bit of a hassle. We would love to come back to this resort with a larger group, but for our little family we are going to opt for something that have a little more amenities on-site, a fun pool, and maybe even one of the monorail resorts.
All The Parks Short Review, What we Love and what we’ll do different.
So we loved all of the parks in their own way. Disney definitely knows how to keep just the right amount of interest in each park so you’ll want to visit them all for whatever reason. One week and hitting all the parks was way too much for this little family. So we are going to try a different approach to our next trip. Planning only a few parks and more rest days.
Magic Kingdom Day
Hands down we will always visit Magic Kingdom on every trip, its too iconic, and has something for all of us, and it just warms all of our hearts just thinking of it. This trip we combined a regular day of Magic Kingdom and added the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which is a very long day. This gave us enough time to ride every ride we wanted and see everything we wanted to see. No stone was left unturned on our Magic Kingdom Day.
What we are going to do different on our next trip, if we are going to do an evening party like the Halloween Party, we would make this a two day park during our visit… I may even argue that we make this a standard to visit park on each of our week-long trips. Although we hit everything, we felt like we couldn’t make one miss step. Everything fell into place, but to take some of the edge off, we are going to slow down a lot and make this a two day park.
We enjoyed our visit to Hollywood Studios, Toy Story land was all the craze for Copey, the Slinky Dog Dash Rollercoaster was his favorite. Mickey’s Runaway Railroad & Rock n’ Roller Coaster were really fun too.
The only big draw for us at our current stage was Toy Story Land, and even within the land, Toy Story Mania and Slinky Dog were the rides we were excited about. Jose is the only Star Wars fan currently, so that isn’t a big need right for us as a family. All the other rides are really fun, but the park as a whole is going to get bumped to an every other trip rotation.
We have a deep love for Animal Kingdom. This is our second visit in the last two years. Hands down the Safari Ride is the top ride at this park currently. We do enjoy the Avatar boat ride, but not a must do for us. There are rumors of some big changes coming to this park, taking down Dino land, and until those updates are done, we are going to put Animal Kingdom on a pause before our next visit.
We loved Epot. We felt like it had something for everyone as well here. There are currently a lot of updates being done, so we cannot wait to see those come to life. We had to cut our Epcot time short due to weather, so we are going to put this on the schedule for our next visit.
Our next Plan
We are going to stay at a monorail resort, we are thinking of staying at the Grand Floridan or the Polynesian, both look really fun and to fill those voids we were feeling with Old Key West Resort. We are going to go a little later into the year, sometime in November. September was slower and fun to see the Halloween décor, but we were in 100 degree days, and would have enjoyed ourselves a lot more if it was just a little bit cooler. We are going to do Two Magic Kingdom days to be able to slow down and enjoy the atmosphere a little bit more, maybe do a character dining or some of the slower things. We are going to also put Epcot on our next visit, to see the park a little more, and hopefully have some of the construction completed next visit. We plan on keeping the same 5 day visit, three park days, and two rest days. We did get a little overwhelmed, and I think we all would appreciate two pool days rather than two full park days.
The Random Lessons Learned
- Genie+ was worth it for every park, even Animal Kingdom. It’s was 15 dollar added fee for every guest for every park visit, so that adds up, but being able to bounce around the park, while holding a ride reservation was amazing. In fact, we hit every single ride in Magic Kingdom… every ride.***Little cheat we learned, there were a few rides cope couldn’t ride due to height, & my dad and I don’t like too many of the crazy rides (motion sickness). So Jose and my mom would swap magic bands and jump right back on the ride for a second go. (don’t know if this illegal—don’t tell Disney if it is haha).
- Last minute we bought a fitted rain cover for our stroller. And that saved not only Copey but our bags while we were riding. We got caught in one unexpected rainstorm. Went into a ride came out to torrential downpour. Thankfully we had our Stroller rain cover on with our backpacks in the seat so nothing go wet, but goodness was there a lot of rain.
- Bring a fully waterproof backpack. If you get hit with the crazy Florida rain everyone talks about, you’ll want a fully waterproof backpack and even water friendly shoes/sandals.
- Work in a few rest days in there. We too were like, were going to be in Disney… a rest day is nonsense. Everyone needs it, and you won’t regret it!
- We will continue to add as we think of more, and if you have questions please DM us on Instagram, and we’ll be sure to add those to this list too.
All in all we are so thankful for our trip, memories, and experience with this trip and look forward to the next one. In my mom heart, I think we will visit a lot more often, especially with a lot of the upcoming changes Disney has in the works. We will continue to use a TravelGrown to make those trips happen, nothing like sending an email, letting them know dates you want to visit and any special events or things you’d like to do on that trip, and all you have to do is show up… that’s my kind of vacation. Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today and every other day it truly means the world to us. Keep up with us daily on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Stay Cozy!