Anyone with a young family will at some time be asked by their off spring ‘WHEN are WE going to Disney’?
So after adding up the various costs (gulp) we decided to take the plunge.
Our four children range in age from 6 – 13 so the timing was right in that the youngest could enjoy most of the rides and the oldest hadn’t become too ‘grown up’.
Our Virgin flights from Manchester got off to a good start with a quick and straightforward check in followed by the youngest kids each getting a Virgin holiday pack.
Disappointingly the on-board service wasn’t quite as good.
My boys all looking forward to using the in-flight screens were very unhappy to find out that there screens didn’t work properly and the cabin crew whilst sympathetic had obviously had this problem before.
It turned out that we were on-board one of the older planes in the Virgin fleet and they were all in the process of being refurbished and it’s only fair to say that the return flight was on an obviously refurbished model and was much better.
Soon we were checking in at the relatively new Disney Art of Animation Resort.
Checking in was quick and easy and it was interesting to look at the art works on the wall that were full of some of the original sketches for the films Cars, Finding Nemo etc.
It’s difficult to get on site properties at Disney where you can get 6 people in but the Family Suites were ideal as they have a separate bedroom for Mum and Dad, a large sofa bed for older children and a very neat pull down bed from the wall that also doubles as a table (honest).
The room also has a small kitchenette including a microwave and even with luggage the Suite was reasonably spacious, clean and fun to stay in.
A family of 4 or 5 who want the extra space would be happy here.
Art of Animation is classed as a ‘Value Resort’ hotel but our experience would give it a higher rating.
Art of Animation has a fantastic pool area that will keep all children (and adults) happy plus a busy and loud games arcade.
All the kids liked the various models dotted around the grounds from the four films the hotel is based on (namely Cars, Lion King, Finding Nemo & The Little Mermaid).
For food your onsite restaurant is called Landscape of Flavour although it’s really nothing more than a functional café.
This was fine for a quick breakfast (the fresh omelettes were okay) but it’s huge, loud and has food of variable quality so we never ate there in the evening although being able to buy drinks and snacks was useful.
It was also a bit of a shock to see numerous children starting there day with burgers, fries and cola…….’don’t even ask’ I said to mine!
If you don’t want to drive at Disney this hotel is excellent as the coach transfers to the various parks is well organised and the longest we had to wait was 15 minutes.
The coach transfers on average take between 15 – 20 minutes depending upon where you were going and I doubt if you would do this any quicker by driving yourself (car parks are huge and usually involve a long walk to the entrance).
The parks have something for everyone but as a family our recommendations are:-
Hollywood Studios – Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania.
Epcot – Mission Space, Soarin, Spaceship Earth and Test Track.
Animal Kingdom – Dinosaur, Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids.
Magic Kingdom – Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Monsters Inc Laugh floor, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway.
If you have the Fastpass tickets (strongly recommended) you can now pre-book your times on the main Disney Site prior to your arrival (once you have registered).This really does help to maximise your time at the parks and ensures you get onto the best rides with the minimum of fuss.
You also have two excellent (but very crowded) water parks called Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
As you would imagine there are numerous snack bars, cafes and restaurants dotted around all the parks and on site hotels and many of these can be used on the Disney Dining Plan.
The Dining Plan is sometimes given for free or a small supplement if you book early enough and represents great value if you get it for free.
We didn’t try any of the ‘higher end’ restaurants so the food we had would best be described as hearty American fare!
If you have younger children it’s worth booking one of the character breakfasts where they can meet (briefly) some Disney Characters.
Restaurants that the kids enjoyed included the Sci Fi Theatre, San Angel Inn Restaurant, 50’s Prime Time Café, Tusker House and Yak & Yeti.
Please note that it is a must to pre book these restaurants well in advance of your stay otherwise you may not be able to get in.
You can also order in pizzas to your room if you fancy an early night.
Excellent hotel and transfer links makes the Art of Animation a very good choice for families who want to experience Disney on a budget particularly if you choose a standard room (sleep up to 4).
Although the parks were busy the queues were never that bad particularly where you could use your fast pass.
All my children enjoyed the parades, water parks and rides despite the heat and humidity and of course the walking.
All left with some very happy memories.