This years trip to Disney was quite an adventure with our largest group yet! Since it was 8 adults and 3 kiddos we decided to do a couple of things different which took a little more planning but Rob did a fantastic
Although we love taking the Auto Train since we didn’t have quite as much time off this year we decided to fly. It was the kiddos first time on an airplane and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. We drove to NJ to meet up with my parents and sisters family and all flew together on a nonstop out of Allentown. It’s a small airport which made things easy and really stress free.
Since we didn’t have a car Rob had to do some research to find the best way to get from the airport to Disney. We had a tall order because we needed it to fit 6 adults, 3 kiddos, and a lot of suitcases. It also had to have a car seat and booster for Parker and Caity. He ended up finding Sunstate Transport who were able to meet all of our needs at an extremely reasonable price.
During our stay we also used Uber a few times to visit the near by Walmart for supplies and cheaper Disney gear.
Shades of Green
We finally decided to give Shades of Green a try which I am kicking myself for not doing sooner. The price is comparable to moderate Disney hotels but in my opinion the amenities were nicer than Caribbean Beach and Animal Kingdom Lodge, which are previous places we have stayed.
Here is just a few things that stood out to me and why I would recommend Shades of Green to anyone who is eligible to stay there.
- The rooms are extremely spacious and while they may not be Disney themed some window clings changed that pretty easily.
- We ate breakfast and dinner at The Garden Gallery a few times which was a great way to step away from the repetitive Disney food. Their dinners are themed so the food was always changing.
- They have an AAFES Exchange which was the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, snacks, and adult beverages.
- After our half marathon Time, Tara, and I visited The Magnolia Spa for massages. It’s a really nice retreat away from the typical Disney hustle and bustle. What’s even nicer is you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the spa, as long as you are eligible.
Since Shades of Green isn’t a recognized Disney resort there are a few things we weren’t entitled to that I wanted to note.
- They don’t have the Magic Band technology yet so you use traditional room keys. You can still purchase your own Magic Band before you arrive or in most of Disney’s souvenir shops for fast passes and Disney Memory Maker.
- SOG guests are not eligible for the meal plan, I talk more about this below.
- Fast Pass reservations can only be made 60 days prior to arrival.
- While there is bus transportation to the parks they are less frequent so it does take a little more planning if you are trying to get to the parks by a certain time.
No Disney Dinning Plan
In the past we have always gotten the meal plan because of it’s convenience, especially when the kids were free. Last time though we found it was just too much. We were always full before dessert and at the end of our trip we had tons of snack credits to use. In the early stages of this trip planning we decided to try a trip without the meal plan which worked out well since it isn’t available if you stay at SOG.
I have to say this worked out perfectly. We still got to eat at some of our favorite places like Boma and tried a few new ones; The Beer Garden, Spice Table, and Kona Cafe. We never felt pressured to eat and didn’t have to use up remaining snack credits on prepackaged food. I didn’t crunch any numbers but quick glance we spent the same or less than we would have with the Disney Dinning Plan.
I’ve talked about Kid’s Night Out before but I think it is absolutely worth another mention since we have used it during our last 4 trips to Disney. It’s the perfect way for the adults to have a nice meal and experience the parks kid free. Their website has all the information you need but make sure to make your reservation early, they do tend to fill up during peek days.
This year we also found out about Lilo’s Playhouse at the Poly. It’s basically a play center filled with activities, toys, and even some character special appearances for kids ages 3-12. For a flat fee of $55 you can drop them off anytime between 4:30 and 11:59. They even provide dinner! Lindsay over at Redhead Baby Mama wrote up an amazing review of Lilo’s Playhouse if you are looking for more information.
September 2018 Update: Apparently they closed all Disney Care Centers this past July which is a huge bummer.
Princess Race Weekend
Tara, Tim, and I participated in the Princess Race Weekend and completed the 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon. It was so much different this year having gone into it prepared. We took it slow for the 5k and 10k, stopping at almost every photo opportunity. The 1/2 was still a challenge for me but I increased my interval to 1:00 walk 1:00 run which was perfect. I remember getting to mile 3 and thinking wow, this is nice. By mile 6 I was at the castle and still feeling pretty good. Mile 7-9 was rough but Tara and I met up at that point and she walked it with me. Mile 10 was a big deal, that was the mile marker the balloon ladies has passed me last year. That was the last sweep and I was the last person to make it through. This year as I rounded the bridge I saw hundreds of people behind me. It was a feeling I will never forget. I finished strong with my intervals until the end.