Have a magical summer!

We have a super busy summer planned, so I won’t be updating the blog much. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment here, or reach me on Facebook or Twitter. Enjoy your summer, my Disney friends!

Happy summer from The Disney Five!

Happy summer from The Disney Five!

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MDE finally gets it right!

Big news! After struggling with the My Disney Experience (MDE) app on several previous Disney trips, it finally worked perfectly throughout an entire 4-day visit to the World. Yay! I even received notification when a ride that I had a FastPass+ for went down. Here’s what it looked like on my phone:

FP+ change email

 

Have you had any recent MDE glitches? I’d like to think they’re finally getting it all sorted out, but time will tell. Once everything is working properly (and reliably), I’d love to see what new enhancements come our way!

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The shenanigans continue on The Disney Exchange!

480x270_58279Stop on by The Disney Exchange podcast for part two of our discussion about Disney World recommendations for young families. This week, co-host Lisa Green is back from her world travels to keep us all in line :) You don’t want to miss it!

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Art of Animation – the suites

Wow, I had such great feedback on my recent Art of Animation post, I decided to do a follow-up. As I mentioned before, I haven’t stayed at AoA, but felt this resort deserved a mention here on Disney For Five+ due to the fact that it’s a great place for big families. My writer friend Paul D. Smith offered up these lovely photos of his family’s stay in a Lion King suite:

Lion King dining room - the table converts to a bed!

Lion King dining room – the table converts to a bed!

Lion King living room - note the small kitchenette in the corner.

Lion King living room with sofa bed. The little kitchenette on the right also has a small sink.

Lion King bedroom.

Lion King bedroom. Grand total per suite: 3 sleeping spaces for 6 people.

Many thanks to Paul! Check out his debut novel here.

Another thank you goes out to my Disney friend Nicholas Maglio for sending me a link to his excellent, comprehensive review of Art of Animation. This article (which includes lots of great pictures of Nick and his wife Barbie’s stay in a Cars-themed suite) can be found here on The Disney Exchange, one of Nick’s many Disney endeavors. While you’re there, check out the fantastic podcast!

Thanks to all for your comments here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Disney fans are the best!

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Art of Animation

This blog is meant to be a resource for big families, so I can’t leave out one of the best resort options on Disney property: Art of Animation. Why is this such a good choice for bigger families? It’s one of only two Value resorts that feature family suites which sleep up to six people. I’ve yet to stay at this lovely resort, though I’d like to. I did, however, take time out of a Disney trip for a walking tour around the grounds.

The Nemo section

The Finding Nemo section

more Nemo

more Nemo

AoA lion king 2

The Lion King section

AoA lion king 1

The Little Mermaid section

The Little Mermaid section

AoA ariel 2

The Cars section

The Cars section

AoA cars 1

The Little Mermaid section features standard rooms that sleep up to four, while the other three sections feature family suites that sleep up to six. Unfortunately, since I haven’t actually stayed here, I don’t have any room photos. My go-to resource for information on Disney World resort rooms is yourfirstvisit.net. Check out this excellent site for specifics on the rooms (as well as all kinds of fantastic Disney World information).

Inside Animation Hall, you’ll find the Ink & Paint Shop and the Landscape of Flavors food court, which gets rave reviews.

AoA animation hall

AoA store and food court

While we frequently stay at All-Star Music’s family suites, we’ve yet to stay in an Art of Animation family suite. You may wonder why, since the AoA suites are newer, nicer, and a bit bigger. It all has to do with sleeping spaces. At All-Star Music, there is a bedroom with a queen bed and a living room with a sleeper sofa, a sleeper chair, and a sleeper ottoman. At Art of Animation, there is a bedroom with a queen bed, a living room with a sleeper sofa, and a dining room with a murphy-type bed. With three boys in our family, they prefer to each have their own bed. Thus, All-Star Music works better for us.

Have you stayed at Art of Animation? What do you think of it?

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Join me for some fun and shenanigans on The Disney Exchange!

I recently had the opportunity to fill in for Lisa Green, one of the hosts of The Disney Exchange podcast. Her co-hosts, Dave and Nick, were very welcoming. We had a great time as we discussed Disney World recommendations for young families (yes, a topic I’ve touched on here). There was so much to discuss, we only made it through two parks… and they’ve asked me back to record part 2! While we work on finishing up the series, take a listen to Part 1. Enjoy!

480x270_58279

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Let’s do a little FastPass+ strategizing, shall we?

With FastPass+, you can make three attraction reservations in advance of your visit to Walt Disney World. If you’re staying on Disney property, you get to make these FP+ reservations 60 days in advance. If not, you get a 30-day window. Now, here’s the kicker for me: you can only make them in one park per day. If I purchase the Park Hopper add-on to my park tickets, thus allowing me to go to multiple parks in one day, I can still only make my three FP+ reservations in one park per day. This is kind of annoying. But if I MUST limit myself to one park for my FP+ selections, that park is going to be Magic Kingdom. That park has the most rides, by far. Plus, it doesn’t have a tiering system. (Epcot and Hollywood Studios have tiering systems in which you can only choose one ride from a certain list, then two rides from a secondary list.) It seems like you can get the most bang for your FP+ at the Magic Kingdom. Of course, you can always make FP+ reservations at different parks on different days. But what if it’s just a quick trip? A long weekend, for example? What’s the best strategy in that scenario? Over the past year-and-a-half or so, we’ve tested that out. Here’s what we came up with: you can, indeed, do Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom WITHOUT FastPass+. The thing is, you need to get there at (or, preferably, before) park opening to do so (called “rope dropping”). You can breeze through your must-do’s at one of those parks, hop to Magic Kingdom, and take advantage of your pre-arranged FP+ times there. Let’s break it down…

DSC00563-epcot american flag

1. Epcot: Rope drop this park and head straight to Soarin’. Afterwards, go to Test Track. If the stand-by line is too long for your taste, do the single rider line. Then go directly to Spaceship Earth. This line might be starting to build by now, but should still be reasonable. Do any other rides in this park that you wish (the other lines shouldn’t be bad), then take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom for your FastPass+ rides.

_DSC3440-HTH exterior

2. Hollywood Studios: Rope drop this park and head straight to Toy Story Midway Mania. Proceed to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. If the stand-by line is too long, single rider it. Next stop: Tower of Terror. You should be able to squeeze in anything else you want (such as Star Tours or the Great Movie Ride) before heading to the Magic Kingdom.

DSC00396-tree of life

3. Animal Kingdom: At rope drop, head for Kilimanjaro Safaris, then Expedition Everest (again, if the stand-by wait is too long, do the single rider line). We then head for Dinosaur, but some people would put Festival of the Lion King in the next slot. Either way, complete your must-do attractions, and then bus it to the Magic Kingdom.

Easy, right?

Note: Our visits were during mid-to-low crowd times (mid-January, late April, mid-to-late August, and November just before Thanksgiving week). This strategy may not work during high-crowd times.

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Gluten-free beignets at Port Orleans French Quarter

Do you like beignets? You know, those soft-yet-chewy pillows of doughy goodness coated in a plethora of powdered sugar? I’ve had them in the home of beignets, New Orleans, and I’m a fan for life. The only problem? Traditional beignets are full of gluten, so my son can’t eat them.

Enter Disney. They’re so awesome, their chefs developed a gluten-free beignet recipe for the New Orleans-themed resort Port Orleans French Quarter. Check out the article here (with the recipe!). On one of our trips to the World, we made a detour to POFQ just to try them out. The verdict from my celiac son? Thumbs up!

Port Orleans French Quarter

Port Orleans French Quarter

Sassagoula Floatworks at POFQ, home of the gluten-free beignet.

Sassagoula Floatworks at POFQ, home of the gluten-free beignet.

The gluten-free beignets in all their powdered sugar glory. Absolutely divine.

The gluten-free beignets in all their powdered sugar glory. Absolutely divine.

If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you simply must try these delicious little heavenly clouds.

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Hooray for Pop Century!

Pop Century’s rooms only sleep up to four people. So, why am I recommending it? Well, if you can get two connecting rooms, this is a great option for big families. The theming is fun, the food court has been updated since I was last there, and the bus service is better than some of the more expensive resorts I’ve stayed at. Here’s a quick photo tour:

pop sign

The '50s section

The ’50s section

more of the '50s

more of the ’50s

The '60s section

The ’60s section

The '70s section (where we stayed).

The ’70s section (where we stayed).

The '80s section

The ’80s section

more of the '80s

more of the ’80s

The '90s section

The ’90s section

The room itself was pretty basic, but clean and comfortable.

pop beds

pop dresser and fridge

pop vanity and bath

And here is the door that connects two rooms:

pop connecting door

The combination store/food court is pretty cool. We typically stop at our resort’s store before going to our room so that we can pick up milk and bottled water. Note that in this case, the refrigerated section wasn’t in the store itself, but way in the back corner of the food court area. It took a bit of looking, but we found it :)

pop - store and food court

Please note that, while Disney tries to accommodate requests for connecting rooms, they can’t guarantee it. This may dissuade some big families from choosing Pop Century. If you’re okay with taking a chance on that issue, I think Pop Century is a fantastic resort for big families!

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Voices of Liberty

Voices of Liberty, an a cappella group performing in the American Pavilion at Epcot, has long been on my Disney to-do list. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to catch one of their performances. Finally, I recently achieved this goal.

voices of liberty

From the Walt Disney World website: “Enter the halls of The American Adventure for a captivating performance, as sung by a group of a capella singers. Costumed in finery from the 1800s, this exceptionally talented choir of vocalists captures hearts with each stirring performances—all while the rotunda’s acoustically perfect dome amplifies and purifies the sound. You won’t believe your ears!”

Their beautiful voices gave me goosebumps. I highly recommend that you see them!

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