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Old June 29, 2010, 10:26 AM   #1
walumb01
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Best Orlando/Disney for 4 and 6 yr old girls

We plan on taking our two granddaughters to disney world next year. I know the Disney Resorts are the most difficult but I wanted some opinions from experts which resorts are them most kid friendly. I also want to know how much weight should be given to staying onsite vs the many offsite marriotts, hiltons, wyndhams....
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Old June 29, 2010, 11:01 AM   #2
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Stay on Property

I am generally a big booster for staying at off-property resorts, as the value is much better. But my kids are older than your grand daughters, and they are at the perfect age to totally immerse in the magic of Disney. I think staying on-site for your first visit with pre-schoolers is perfect!

Others will weigh in on the best resort, and I don't know them that well. I would suggest that you center your vacation around Magic Kingdom, it is the best park for the younger set by far. I suggest you stay close to MK; at that age, the kids might need a mid-afternoon break and a quick escape to the room will be appreciated.

Be sure to catch a character breakfast; pancakes with Cinderella! Reservations apparently need to be made well in advance for this. Also, a visit to Bippidy Boppity Boutique is a must! Either at MK or Downtown Disney. I always smile when I see the little ones done up as fairy princesses. (Okay, maybe I'm suggesting you blow big $$ just to make ME smile). Warning - one parent and guide writer suggests that you save this 'til late in the trip, as she could not get her daughter to change or bathe for the rest of the trip.

Have a Magical trip!

M Ross
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Old June 29, 2010, 11:08 AM   #3
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Are you planning on spending much time in the room or at the resort? When we're at Disney, it's all about the parks and basically the room is just somewhere we crash at night. There are a few perks to staying on site, but it's not all that important. If you can trade into DVC, that's great. If not, you can find considerably better deals and great accommodations off site. I can't imagine ANYTHING in Orlando that isn't geared towards kids.

With girls that age, make sure to research all the "princess" things they can do (assuming they're interested in princesses). Cinderella's Royal Castle books up really quick (often within days of when the 180 day window opens up for booking reservations). 1900 Park Fare is one of our favorites. You can find princesses all around the parks.
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Old June 29, 2010, 03:31 PM   #4
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I am a huge fan of staying on site. Much of our vacation is spent enjoying the beautifully themed Disney resorts. If you opt to stay off site, it would be worth your while to visit a couple of the resorts. They really are spectacular.

As far as the tangible benefits, some put a higher value on them than others:

-- Free transportation to & from the airport.
-- No need to handle your luggage.
-- Free, constant transportation between parks and resort.
-- Free package delivery to your resort.
-- Extra Magic Hours.
-- Room charging privileges.
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Old June 29, 2010, 03:50 PM   #5
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We have a 6-year-old daughter, and visit Disney World about five to six times a year. In our past 5 visits, we have stayed on Disney property once (at Thanksgiving). I won't do it again - I honestly don't think it's worth the price difference you pay.

We generally stay at one of the Marriott timeshare resorts, using the Marriott Owner's Discount. The AAA discounts are also fairly reasonable. For example, at Grande Vista you can often get a 1-bedroom villa with a full kitchen for less than $200 a night. We paid considerably more than that for a simple hotel room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in November - it was nice, but we never did see any animals off of our balcony, and I missed not having a kitchen.

We also were disappointed with how long we waited for the Disney hotel shuttles - I grew up about an hour away from Disney World and I remember the shuttles used to run about every fifteen minutes, now it seems you wait more than half an hour for one. I think they have scaled back on the number of shuttles running. I would suggest renting a car if you're not going to drive your own down.

The other thing we were disappointed in was the Disney Dining program - we purchased it and then found out when we went to use it that you sometimes have to select from an alternate menu, particularly for the kids. So when we went to a pizza restaurant, they told me my daughter couldn't order pizza, she had to order chicken fingers.

Don't get me wrong - we love Disney or we wouldn't keep going back. But, we're there often enough and talk to other people enough to know that our experiences with the shuttles and the dining program are not unique.

Of all the Orlando Marriott timeshares, Grande Vista is our daughter's favorite. They have a nice pool facility, nearly constant kids' activities, and a huge indoor play area (with big slides, nets to climb on, etc.) if the weather is bad.

As for activities, Magic Kingdom is a good choice for girls your granddaughters' age. Our little girl also really likes Animal Kingdom (although don't take them on the "Dinosaur" ride, it's terrifying). Everything else there is good, though.

There are a lot of options for character dining. We had dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table in the Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom in March for my daughter's birthday, and loved it. We've also had breakfast there - I think the food quality is about the same for both meals, and dinner reservations are easier to get.

There is also a princess dinner at the Akershus restaurant in Norway, at Epcot, that's quite good.

As a previous poster mentioned, the Boutique experience is great for little girls, if they're into the whole princess thing.

I was just talking to a friend this past weekend who took his kids (all five of them) to the Nickelodeon hotel in Orlando recently and he raved about it. All of the kids had a great time.
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Old June 30, 2010, 12:17 AM   #6
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So they're 4 and 6 now, next year when you plan to visit it will be 5 and 7? Doesn't make a huge difference, except maybe on the afternoon nap front

As CapriciousC mentioned, the Disney transport system can involve long waits. If you're going during summer, you will probably want to get back to where you are staying to avoid the heat in the middle of the day, sometimes having a car makes it much easier. If you stay on property, you get free parking at the parks anyway, if you stay off property, you need a car, but you only pay for parking once for the day, so you can come and go.

I think it easily takes MUCH longer to get to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge using the Disney transport system than it takes to get to Marriott's Grande Vista by car, even with the wating for the shuttle in the car park. Disney's Old Key West and any of the Epcot resorts are a lot easier to get to than the AK ones, but they're still only about the same as self driving and staying off property.

The Magic Kingdom at Christmas is lovely (a lot of the Christmas stuff comes out in early Nov at Disney, inc the Mickey's Christmas Party, but most of the rest of Orlando only goes into Christmas mode after Thanksgiving), and October has the Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Marriott has just done a big restructure on how it works, depending on how early you want to travel next year, there might not be as much Marriott availability as usual while the new system settles in.
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Old June 30, 2010, 12:53 AM   #7
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I think it easily takes MUCH longer to get to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge using the Disney transport system than it takes to get to Marriott's Grande Vista by car, even with the wating for the shuttle in the car park. Disney's Old Key West and any of the Epcot resorts are a lot easier to get to than the AK ones, but they're still only about the same as self driving and staying off property.
Maybe I'm confused, but wouldn't this depend on where you're coming from?
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Old June 30, 2010, 08:41 AM   #8
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It doesn't matter that much - Animal Kingdom Lodge is so far out of the way and with limited buses meaning unexpectedly long wait times, it more often than not takes a long time to get there even from Animal Kingdom, just as CapriciousC said. If you walk straight onto the Disney transport bus, yes it will beat getting a shuttle out to the car park and driving out of the parks, but for Animal Kingdom Lodge you usually have a long wait. The other resorts on bus routes tend to have buses that go to a few resorts on the same route, so have more frequent buses. Animal Kingdom Lodge has beautiful themeing, and great educational entertainment (the wildlife experts etc) but it's not fast to get to from any of the parks other than AK if you are lucky.
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Old June 30, 2010, 08:52 AM   #9
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It doesn't matter that much - Animal Kingdom Lodge is so far out of the way and with limited buses meaning unexpectedly long wait times, it more often than not takes a long time to get there even from Animal Kingdom, just as CapriciousC said. If you walk straight onto the Disney transport bus, yes it will beat getting a shuttle out to the car park and driving out of the parks, but for Animal Kingdom Lodge you usually have a long wait. The other resorts on bus routes tend to have buses that go to a few resorts on the same route, so have more frequent buses. Animal Kingdom Lodge has beautiful themeing, and great educational entertainment (the wildlife experts etc) but it's not fast to get to from any of the parks other than AK if you are lucky.
My point is that if you are coming from say, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, or maybe dinner at Coronado Springs, AKL is not far away. It really matters where you are coming from.

I will add that I usually have a car because I'm not a fan of the busses. That said, I have Stayed at AKL/AKV many times and have ridden the busses from AKL and never had an unusually long wait.

It's funny how people say AKL is out in the middle of nowhere. It's really only an extra 3 minute drive.
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Old June 30, 2010, 09:06 AM   #10
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My point is that if you are coming from say, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, or maybe dinner at Coronado Springs, AKL is not far away. It really matters where you are coming from.
But busses don't run from resort to resort, so you would need to take a bus from Coronado Springs to Downtown Disney (or Hollywood Studios would probably be closer) and then a second bus from there to AKL. Or take a taxi.

Another factor is the amount of stuff you're taking to the park and how many kids. If you're bringing a stroller (or two), bag, and young kids, it's much easier to load up in a car rather than piling into the bus. Often the busses are standing room only and it can be awkward holding on, holding all your stuff, and holding the kids.

A car is definitely more convenient, even if you stay on site.
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Old June 30, 2010, 09:45 AM   #11
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But busses don't run from resort to resort, so you would need to take a bus from Coronado Springs to Downtown Disney (or Hollywood Studios would probably be closer) and then a second bus from there to AKL. Or take a taxi.
That's true. I rarely take the busses so I forget some of the details. I guess my larger point is that AKL is not that far from things, it just depends upon *what* things.
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Old June 30, 2010, 06:21 PM   #12
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In addition to sometimes having to stand on the bus while carrying a ton of stuff, holding up a tired, whiny, sweaty kid is no fun. At least if you have your own car there's a chance they'll fall asleep and get a quick nap in

While I was disappointed in our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge (darned giraffes just weren't cooperating and coming by the room - they must have missed the staff meeting), the hotel itself is amazing and worth a visit, even if just for dinner. We had dinner at Jiko one night, and it was phenomenal. One thing that I think Disney really does well is they've figured out how to take a high-end dining experience and make it kid friendly.
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Old June 30, 2010, 07:24 PM   #13
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I adore staying at any of the DVC resorts because of the fun theming and being on property. But having said that, here are my favorite non Disney resorts in Orlando for the little ones:

Marriott's Harbour lake (pirate themed slides/pools and interactive mini water park)

Sheraton Vistana Villages - fun pool slides.

Wyndham Bonnet Creek - pool slide and lazy river pools. Free Disney shuttles to the parks, too.

Hilton Parc Soleil - Gorgeous new Hilton property with large zero entry area and pool slide.
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Old June 30, 2010, 08:55 PM   #14
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We just came back from a stay on-site at WDW and we are also Disney Vacation Club owners. We did a split stay Bay Lake Towers/ Animal Kingdom Lodge. My sister stayed at the Vistana in one of the renovated 2 bedroom rooms. Here is our experience! We were picked up from the airport by the Magical Express-we did not have to wait, nor was it crowded. We would use it again!

We love staying at BLT with the Monorail access to Magic Kingdom and Transportation Center. We never had to wait long for the Monorail. We never waited more than 5 minutes for the Monorail, and always boarded. The convenience of the Monorail was key for us. If for some reason you do not want to take the Monorail to the MK, it is a ten minute walk to the MK. I would think with young children Magic Kingdom will be a big priority for you.

We liked having early morning entry or late evening entry perk for on-site guests. We utilized Disney Transportation and it worked well for us from BLT. My sister commuted from Vistana to WDW and she has done this for years. I put her on my reservation, with keys so she had access to our room and perks. She did not want to go back to the Vistana and she now wants to buy DVC, because she loved staying on-site.

On our second half of our trip we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We took the buses everywhere from that location. Obviously AKL/AKV is closest to Animal Kingdom, but our experience was not like others that described it as taking a long time. AKL/AKV has it's own designated bus and we never waited more than 10 minutes except once we wait for 20 minutes. My DD timed the busses by the schedule and it seemed to work, because we waited 10 minutes before a bus arrived. We were able to secure seats on every bus except once we had to stand. We preferred the Monorail transportation, but AKL has it own wonderful perks too. It is well themed and we saw all sorts of animals from our balcony. We were on the 6th floor in Jambo House, which is not suppose to be the best view of the Savannah, but we saw lots of animals.

Overall, we liked staying at both resorts for different reasons. We love staying on-site for the convenience and perks. I went to the Vistana with my sister and although it was nearby, personally I would not want to go back and forth off-site. Many people do so and are perfectly fine with it. I would not be. I have heard horror stories of Disney's transportation, and in ten days we did not experience it. Some people feel more comfortable renting a car, and that is always a option. You just need to decide what is important to you!

What ever you decide whether on-site or off-site I would suggest is doing your homework for planing a WDW vacation. www.mouseowners.com is a good place to start and my favorite. The Disboards is another one. I used http://www.tourguidemike.com/index.asp which was incredible. It is a paid subscription, but I felt it was worth it. I began to plan with TGM 1 1/2 years before our trip and when it was time for our trip I was well prepared. Dining reservations need to be made 180 days out, and there are many other things that also have critical time windows. We had a fantastic vacation! I took the time to plan and it was fun but once we were there all my hard work paid off, and we reaped the benefits!

Resorts on the Monorail hotel route are Polynesian, Grand Floridan, Contemporary/BLT, and Wilderness Lodge. Good Luck!

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Old July 1, 2010, 06:10 PM   #15
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We plan on taking our two granddaughters to disney world next year. I know the Disney Resorts are the most difficult but I wanted some opinions from experts which resorts are them most kid friendly. I also want to know how much weight should be given to staying onsite vs the many offsite marriotts, hiltons, wyndhams....
From your post, it appears to me that you're looking at exchanging into a timeshare for this vacation. Do you trade through RCI or II or either? The Disney timeshares only trade through RCI and you need a very strong trader or RCI points to get the trade. Hilton and Wyndham are also exclusively RCI. Marriott resorts are primarily traded through II although a handful of their older resorts may occasionally be found in RCI.

How old are your DGD's? If they're very young, zero-entry pools and kiddie-water-play zones are terrific. Some Disneys, Marriotts, Wyndhams and other resorts have them and some do not. Older children and better swimmers who love waterslides and floating rivers may prefer resorts that offer these features. And if they're teens who tend to want to spend most of their time at either the theme parks or water parks, convenience to the parks is key. So the best answer for YOUR situation may vary.

Quote:
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We did a split stay Bay Lake Towers/ Animal Kingdom Lodge. ... We love staying at BLT with the Monorail access to Magic Kingdom and Transportation Center. ... Resorts on the Monorail hotel route are Polynesian, Grand Floridan, Contemporary/BLT, and Wilderness Lodge. Good Luck!
BLT has not been available to exchangers yet. AKLV is a rare sighting, expecially for 2BRs. WL is not on the monorail and it does not offer a zero-entry pool. The two largest Disney timeshare resorts, in regular RCI inventory, are Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resorts. I personally think that the pools at SSR are more kiddie-friendly, of these two. Both of them utilize buses for all park shuttling. We prefer to use the Disney buses ONLY to visit MK and we use our own car to visit all the other Disney parks and resorts - regardless of whether we're staying onsite or offsite at the time. Boats and monorail are fun and worth the ride/time.

Marriott's Harbour Lake is wonderful for little ones and grade-schoolers. Wyndham Bonnet Creek is convenient as a close-by offsite option, especially if you'll have a car and only use the shuttle bus on occasion - the resort is very kid-friendly for all ages. OP, please share the ages and interests of your DGD's so we can make more specific suggestions for offsite options.
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Old July 1, 2010, 07:20 PM   #16
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From your post, it appears to me that you're looking at exchanging into a timeshare for this vacation. Do you trade through RCI or II or either? The Disney timeshares only trade through RCI and you need a very strong trader or RCI points to get the trade. Hilton and Wyndham are also exclusively RCI. Marriott resorts are primarily traded through II although a handful of their older resorts may occasionally be found in RCI.

How old are your DGD's? If they're very young, zero-entry pools and kiddie-water-play zones are terrific. Some Disney's, Marriotts, Wyndhams and other resorts have them and some do not. Older children and better swimmers who love waterslides and floating rivers may prefer resorts that offer these features. And if they're teens who tend to want to spend most of their time at either the theme parks or water parks, convenience to the parks is key. So the best answer for YOUR situation may vary.


BLT has not been available to exchangers yet. AKLV is a rare sighting, especially for 2BRs. WL is not on the monorail and it does not offer a zero-entry pool. The two largest Disney timeshare resorts, in regular RCI inventory, are Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resorts. I personally think that the pools at SSR are more kiddie-friendly, of these two. Both of them utilize buses for all park shuttling. We prefer to use the Disney buses ONLY to visit MK and we use our own car to visit all the other Disney parks and resorts - regardless of whether we're staying on-site or off-site at the time. Boats and monorail are fun and worth the ride/time.

Marriott's Harbour Lake is wonderful for little ones and grade-schoolers. Wyndham Bonnet Creek is convenient as a close-by off-site option, especially if you'll have a car and only use the shuttle bus on occasion - the resort is very kid-friendly for all ages. OP, please share the ages and interests of your DGD's so we can make more specific suggestions for offsite options.
I stand corrected WL is not on the Monorail loop but uses Bus/Boats/Ferries. BLT does have a zero entry pool and views of the Magic Kingdom and thus the fireworks at night ( if you get a MK view room.) Animal Kingdom Lodge/Villas is a very themed resort, and kids really like seeing giraffes outside their balcony. Many families love Wilderness Lodge, and enjoy it's central location. SSR is close to DTD, but many complain that it is most like a timeshare, no Disney theme. However, for exchange purposes it is easier to secure. There is just so much to choose from and think about when considering staying on Disney property.

Exchanging is not the only way to stay on Disney Property and either paying Disney directly or renting points from a existing owner who rents points. Just more things to think about! [/

Last edited by luvsvacation22; July 1, 2010 at 07:22 PM.
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Old July 1, 2010, 08:48 PM   #17
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We actually have all three ways of trading for a place in Orlando We have decent RCI traders, strong Interval traders (marriott) and RCI Points. We are just trying to figure out what we should attempt to get and formulate a strategy for several different timeshares. The other thing is picking the best time to go for themes, lines and the girls schedules I appreciate everyones feedback.
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Old July 2, 2010, 05:02 AM   #18
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I am a fairly regular WDW visitor. My son is now 27 so it has been awhile since I was there with a little one.

We made our first trip to WDW in 1987 and stayed on site at the Polynesian. The next trip we stayed off-site and it wasn't close to the same. I strongly prefer being on-site - it simply is a more magical experience.

I don't find waiting for the bus any more difficult than the walk to the car. We did both about equally - until Magical Express, now we almost never rent a car. I never waited until park closing to leave unless staying for the fireworks or a Illuminations. Then, I do not rush to the buses, but use that time for looking through the shops and getting a snack at Main Street Bakery if in Magic Kingdom. I try to give the parks at least 30 minutes to handle the rush before going to the bus.

If you are staying on property and you are trading in, the easiest trades are into Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. Old Key West is my favorite resort (except for Bay Lake Tower in a 1 bedroom or bigger - I really disliked the studio).

1 bedrooms will show up as often as studios on my searches. In Old Key West, even the studios have 2 beds. In all of the other DVC resorts, the studio has a bed and a sleeper sofa - which is messier and therefore less enjoyable (to me).

If your grandchildren are good students, or are in private school or are home schooled, I strongly recommend taking them out of school for the trip. You will get much better weather in October or April and it will be a much easier trade. It will still be warm enough to swim. It is the perfect time to go: great weather, smaller crowds, shorter lines. Just much better.

I also strongly recommend Tour Guide Mike for planning your trip if you have not been in a while. His recommendations for how to structure a trip as well as for how to optimize the number of attractions that you can do are spot-on. I continue to get the subscription even though I understand the structure now. It keeps me from having to do all of the analysis.

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