When my family and I drove through the gates to Disney, I don’t know who was more excited — the kids or my husband and me. Since having our first child, our son Will, seven years ago, our family vacations have been infrequent and always close to home. Money hasn’t been plentiful so we’ve been creative with vacationing, glamping in rustic cabins at campgrounds and heading to Cape Cod in the off season. Each trip has been better than the last, and the kids truly love them.
And really, my kids are lucky in that they have gotten to travel with me a little more — without my husband we’ve made trips around the northeast and even to Florida. But a trip as a family of four? That’s really special because it’s all of us together. And my husband and I have always wanted to go on bigger and better family trips.
A Magical Invitation
When I received an email inviting me to Food Blog Forum in Orlando last January, I quickly registered for my whole family to attend without another thought. The nominal registration fee paid for the hotel stay during the conference as well as Park Hopper tickets for four days — for both my family and myself. It was a dream come true. Not only could I take my kids on the Disney trip our family had been talking about for two years, but I could attend an amazing conference just for food bloggers.
But going on the trip wasn’t as simple as registering. There was a lot more that had to go into it.
It was a big stretch to go to Florida, even with the massive discount that the conference afforded us. We still had to pay for airfare (or gas, if we drove), food, a night or two of hotel stays elsewhere and a car rental … Almost as soon as I decided we were going, the reality of the expenses added up in my head. To save money on airfare, we decided to go for seven days, which also allowed us to visit family in Tampa and try out two additional hotels.
Of course some of my decisions about the trip did cost us more. For instance, because I wanted to visit family, we had to rent a car (to be fair, we also needed it since we didn’t purchase a meal plan while in Disney because it wasn’t cost effective with the conference). Also, because I wanted to write about the experience, we stayed in a total of three hotels while we were in Orlando to try them out.
Still, the savings on the Disney hotel and park tickets were huge. When an opportunity like this arises, sometimes you just have to jump.
As the trip neared, we all got more and more excited.
Staying at Disney
Our first night at Disney, we stayed in the All-Star Movies Resort, a value hotel. The small rooms and tiny bathrooms were cozy and cute. But outside the rooms was where the resort really shined. The courtyards of the buildings at the resort all had special movie-themed displays. We were near Herbie the Love Bug, which had that nostalgic charm that makes the experience even more special. And the Fantasia themed pool was a lot of fun too.If we wanted, we could have taken advantage of busing to the parks — but we didn’t need to since the next day we checked into our hotel for the conference: Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Now, the Polynesian is one of Disney’s Deluxe hotels and it shows in the amenities. The tropical themed hotel includes two pools, a white sand beach, cabanas, an arcade and more. Frankly, there was so much there we didn’t even begin to explore it all. The rooms were also worlds larger than at the All-Start Movies Resort. Ours had a balcony that the kids loved chilling on in the mornings while having breakfast. Disney’s Polynesian is centrally located so we had many options for getting from there to the parks including a ferry boat and the monorail. And the Magic Kingdom was so close that we could see Cinderella’s Castle from the hotel grounds.
One thing we really appreciated was how the Disney cast members really embraced the hotel theme, saying ‘aloha’ whenever we saw them. We even received flower leis at check in and check out. It took the experience beyond being just another hotel stay to truly being something magical — like Disney itself.
I could write volumes about the magical experience at Disney. It’s amazing. I can’t thank Walt Disney World enough for sponsoring Food Blog Forum and giving my family a chance to really experience Disney.
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing more about Disney — from a comparison of Value vs. Deluxe hotels at Walt Disney World to the best rides and parks for young kids. I hope you’ll tune in to check it all out, and that you get some great ideas for your Disney trip too.
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. As mentioned, Food Blog Forum was sponsored by Disney and thus the hotel stay at the Polynesian and our tickets to Walt Disney World were highly subsidized. However, I wasn’t asked to write this post nor was I paid to do so. I want to write about our Disney experience as a service to my readers. Also, I paid for our stay at the All-Star Movies Resort.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.