Headed to Disney World – Time to Pack!

I’m a week away from our short trip to Disney World for the Dark Side Challenge.  It may be for only four days, but the same packing strategies I use for longer vacations still apply.

Headed to Disney World – Time to Pack!

I think about what I’ll be taking along in three categories:  Must-go items, things I’d like to have, and “if there’s room” extras.

Must-go Items

  • Magic Bands, IDs, money (gift cards, credit cards, small amount of cash), medical insurance card, DVC membership card, and Tables in Wonderland card. (Note:  I would never choose gray for a Magic Band color.)
  • Phone & chargers (both plug-in and on-the-go varieties)
  • Rain Poncho, cap and/or visor, and sunglasses
  • One outfit per day and as few pairs of shoes as possible (I’m a reformed vacation shoe over-packer).
  • Sweater or light jacket (I tend to get cold during sit-down meals)
  • Sunscreen, hair and makeup bare necessities
  • Running outfits for runDisney events & armband or waist carrier for my phone
  • Headphones
  • Mini first aid kit (Tylenol, antacid, Band-Aids)
  • Carry-on and park bag
  • Disney pins for tradingHeaded to Disney World - Time to Pack!

Things I’d Like to Have

  • 2-3 Extra shirts & an extra pair of shorts or pants – Sometimes it’s nice to have a fresh outfit to put on if we get back to our resort before going to dinner.  Especially if we’re eating someplace nice.
  • Swimsuit & Cover-up – We almost never swim, but it’s nice to be ready just in case.
  • Extra park bag(s) – I can make do with one, but having a couple of different sizes to choose from is better.
  • Snacks and/or Pre-race fuel – If I can bring Cliff bars or granola bars, I’m going to be much happier on race day(s) without the stress of trying to find something to eat that I’m sure won’t bother my stomach.  If I’m not going for a runDisney event, it’s nice to have snacks or breakfast items along to minimize the possibility of becoming “hangry”.
  • Flat iron – I don’t use one every day at home, but with the way my hair behaves in Florida, it’s certainly nice to have.

If There’s Room

  • Disney Exchange Podcast tees and pins to give away – I love meeting listeners and having something handy to give them.
  • Book and/or magazine – Nice at the airport and on the plane, but not a necessity.  I can always listen to music on my phone.
  • Extra cap(s) – I like choices and I like to color coordinate if I can.
  • My own hairdryer – Silly, but I’m used to it and get better results with my own versus the one supplied by the resort.
  • Laptop – I don’t have to have it, but it sure is nice if I want to whip up a blog post while I’m in the Disney Bubble.
  • Extra space for souvenirs – Yep, I’d like a little unused room.  There’s nothing worse than wanting to do some shopping and realizing you’ve got no way to carry anything home.  Sure, Disney will ship, but that adds a lot to the price.

That’s it.  On each and every Disney trip we take, I use this strategy and almost always come home with only one or two things I didn’t use or wear.  In the winter I pack a couple of extra layers and more pants, fewer shorts.  I refuse to pay for overweight luggage so I weigh my bag at home before we leave just to make sure.  Honestly, if I could get by with only a carry-on this trip, I’d be thrilled, but I doubt even the minimalist-packing me could pull it off.

What’s your Disney vacation packing strategy?





DVC Studio Review – Polynesian Villas

Polynesian-Check-In-Raymond-and-LisaJust back from our most recent visit to Walt Disney World and what a great time we had!  Everything from the weather to the festive holiday atmosphere to the great dining and surprisingly nice accommodations we enjoyed – all of it was magical.  We used our DVC points for a stay in the newly renovated Villas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  We booked later than we normally would and the only DVC room available on the monorail was at the Poly.  A studio was perfect since Raymond and I were taking a 5-night post-Christmas getaway alone.  Our home resorts are Bay Lake Tower and the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian – this was our first stay at the new Polynesian villas and our first stay at the Poly in about nine years.

DVC Studio Review – Polynesian Villas

We arrived on December 26th around noon.  We hopped off the Magic Express and headed for the front desk (we’d tried online check-in, but hadn’t heard anything back).  Polynesian-LobbyWe were greeted by a cheerful Cast Member (their costumes at this resort are gorgeous!) and informed that our room was not yet ready, but this friendly young lady was determined to find a room that was ready now.  Polynesian-Village-Resort-MapThis is where we were pixie-dusted from a standard view original request to a lake-view studio in Moorea.  What a great surprise!  We followed the path from the Great Ceremonial House right to our building and up to the second floor (2023).Polynesian-Tiki-Light Polynesian-Villas-Art

Right away we loved the colors and the theming – those little Disney touches always make everything seem that much more special.  The room was spacious, warm and welcoming.  The slatted doors on the closets and bathrooms (yes, I meant to make that plural) add to the airy, tropical feel.  The dark wood and finishes make the rooms feel luxurious and well-appointed.Polynesian-Villa-Room-Decor Polynesian-Villa-StudioPolynesian-Villa-Living-Area

These studios sleep up to five with a queen bed, queen fold-out sofa, a bunk-sized bed that folds down from a cabinet under the TV.  The artwork inside that little bed is an adorable picture of Lelo and Stitch. Polynesian-Villa-Fold-Down-Bed-Art The small kitchenette offers a sink, fridge, microwave, coffee-maker and toaster.  We didn’t bring our own coffee since we easily found delicious ground coffee in a resort gift shop last time we were at Disney World – this was a huge mistake!  There was no ground coffee (only beans) to be found anywhere!  After we used up our resort-provided serving on the first morning, we were coffee-less each morning until we struck out for our daily adventures.  We will be sure to be better prepared in the future.Polynesian-Villa-Kitchenette

Now, back to the bathrooms.  Yes – there are two! This split-bath setup makes a huge difference when multiple people are trying to get ready at the same time – even the two of us.  One room has a toilet, traditional bathtub/shower and vanity.  Polynesian-Villa-Bathroom-Vanity Polynesian-Villa-BathThe other has a vanity and a large shower with two showerheads to choose from!  One is a traditional showerhead (detachable) and the other is straight overhead for a rain or waterfall effect -heavenly!  Polynesian-Vanity Polynesian-Villa-ShowerBoth bathrooms have motion-sensors that turn on the fan automatically when the room is occupied.

Our balcony overlooked the new DVC Bora Bora Bungalows and Seven Seas Lagoon.  In the distance we had a lovely view of Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain.Polynesian-Villa-Moorea-Lake-View Polynesian-Villa-Moorea-Lake-View2I’d heard that the boat horns were a huge problem for people staying in lake-view rooms and we did notice them on the first night – I think being in a new place had a lot to do with it.  After that, we were so exhausted by our full 15-hours of park touring each day, no sounds bothered us and we slept like babies in our super comfortable bed.  The pillows and linens were fabulous!

Pros of the Polynesian DVC studios:  Roomy with great theming, split bathroom with deluxe shower, easy walk to every building from the Great Ceremonial House, and gorgeous, lush surroundings.  Moorea is a very short walk away from the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC).

Cons:  Boat noise bothers some people, current resort renovations are underway which means quite a few construction walls mar the beauty of the landscaping and walkways.  There are not as many restaurant choices as at the other monorail/Magic Kingdom resorts.

Are you a fan of the Polynesian?  What would you recommend about it?


Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian – Studio

Happy Weekend!  Today’s installment of Saturdays With Nick is actually Saturday With Nick and Barbie!  Last year, this dynamic Disney duo took a fabulous Walt Disney World vacation that included a stay at the Grand Floridian’s Disney Vacation Club Villas.  This post offers some incredibly beautiful photos and a full description of Nick and Barbie’s studio and the entire Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  Enjoy!

Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian – Studio

by: Nick and Barbie

First off, we’re going to say that The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian (VGF), the latest Disney Vacation Club property to open at Walt Disney World, is now one of our favorite places to stay on Walt Disney World Property.

To put it in context, we’ve stayed at every resort with the exception of the Polynesian, Contemporary (including Bay Lake Tower), Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (we have stayed at Jambo House), and Caribbean Beach.

But before we tell you why it’s become a favorite, we’re going to tell you what we didn’t like about the Villas, because we had a bumpy start.

Things began well enough. We had stayed one evening at the All Star Movies, and took a cab over to the Grand Floridian, and checked in at about 8:15am.

As soon as we walked into this resort we felt like we were surrounded by luxury.

Our room was not ready, which was expected, as check in for DVC rooms is 4:00pm. We were asked if we would like to receive a text or to be called when our room was ready, and we left a number to get a text. We took our bags over to the Villas building via a covered walkway, and left them with Bell Services.

The Villas lobby is lovely.

The fountain features the penguins from Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins umbrella as elevator hands.

After checking our bags, we walked back to the GF main building and made our way to the second floor to catch the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

We had a great day at the MK, but as 3:30 approached, we wanted to get to the room and shower and rest before dinner. We still hadn’t been notified our room was ready. As we exited the park, we noticed a line for the monorail. We should have taken the boat, but, as we were on the monorail loop for the first time, Nick really wanted to take that mode of transportation.

Big mistake. There was a problem with the train ahead of ours, and each stop had us waiting for 10 minutes. We reached the Ticket and Transportation Center at 4:15, and decided to walk from the there to the Villas.

It was a very nice walk, and we had an opportunity to capture the VGF under perfect light conditions, but by the time we got the the resort, it was after 4:30 and well, Nick was getting a bit cranky.

When we walked in, Nick let the group of Cast Members gathered around the entrance know that we had never been notified that our room was ready. We didn’t receive an apology, just an explanation that they had been having a problem with their text system.
Nick was too tired to ask why they didn’t just call his cel if that was the case, and instead just asked if we could have our bags sent up to our room. We were told it would be about 15 or 20 minutes.

Nick said we would just take our bags up ourselves, we’d been out all day, and waiting that long for bags was unacceptable. At least the Cast Member who gave us our bags refused a tip due to the inconvenience, but, again, no apologies.

As we were lugging our bags to the room, Barbie said she couldn’t understand why Magical Express could pick up our bags at the airport and deliver them to our room at an All Star Resort, but bell services couldn’t have our bags waiting for us in our room here!

Okay, end of complaints! Well, almost. More on that in a bit.

We made our way to the second floor, room 1204. The hallways are very nice, with soothing colors, which is what we needed at that moment!

Upon entering the room, we were impressed with the wood floors, but really loved the bathrooms, which are immediately to the right.

Yes, we did say bathrooms. There are two separate rooms that can be closed off from one another, via sliding doors, one containing a shower and a sink with a granite counter top…

…the other, the toilet and a tub with a shower.

We loved the individual shower with the dual shower heads, mosaic marble tile floors, and all the amenities provided. And there is a TV in the mirror!

The kitchenette includes a small refrigerator and microwave.

The living space is beautifully decorated, a very calming color scheme, great after a long day at the park, crown molding, and furnishings that feel more sturdy than what is found at other DVC resorts. It was also much more quiet. We never heard our neighbors the entire stay.

Then there was our view of the Seven Seas Lagoon looking towards the Polynesian. Even the sight of construction vehicles building the soon to be DVC at the Poly couldn’t detract from the beauty. We spent every morning, afternoon break and evening with the sliding doors open, listening to the music, birds, sounds of boats going to and from the Magic Kingdom and even some Magic Kingdom sounds, including the train! It was amazing.

We really felt that this was the most well designed DVC room we’d ever been in.
Until we started to unpack and we discovered there is a rather odd design flaw.

“Where are the drawers?” Nick asked. Maybe here, under the television?

No. That’s right, we’d read about this feature, a pull down bed with a Dumbo theme. How cute.

Let’s see, ah, large drawers under the bed. Except, you can’t really use one whole drawer, as the nightstand is in the way!

We like to unpack when we stay in a room, and not live out of a suitcase. As it’s just the 2 of us, we did find enough storage for the most part, using the nightstand drawers…

…and the spacious closet, after we moved the extra bedding out of the way. We can’t imagine where a family of 5 would store everything and think the only way to accommodate a party of that size would be to live out of their suitcases.

Reading back, it seems like we’ve done an awful lot of complaining and you may wonder, why then is this now a favorite resort?

Well, we loved the atmosphere, the location and ease of access to the Magic Kingdom via a Monorail or boat. The Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) is a relatively easy walk away, past the Poly which gives you access to Epcot by Monorail.

Nick loved the pool areas, one very close to the Villas.

There is an Alice in Wonderland themed play area next to this.

A little further away is a larger pool area with a hot tub.

And then, there is the Grand Floridian itself. We never got sick of looking at it at all times of the day.

We loved entering the lobby to see and hear, depending on time of day, a pianist, a harpist, or a band playing.

We enjoyed just sitting in the lobby listening to the music and relaxing between park visits.

Wishes at the Magic Kingdom can be seen from several spots around the resort. This is from in front of Gasparilla Island Grill, the counter service restaurant.

Speaking of restaurants, we’ve eaten at them all with the exception of Victoria and Albert’s, and enjoyed our meals at every one. We’ll have reviews of Narcoossee’s, Ctitricos, and the Gasparilla Grill in the future.

Even the bus stop is nicer than at other resorts. Instead of queues, or multiple stops, there is one with rows of benches, and a screen telling approximate arrival times. This last feature is new, and being tested at other resorts around WDW as well.

Finally, we’ll just leave you with a view of the Grand Floridian from a boat heading for the Magic Kingdom. Knowing that we would be returning to this picturesque resort at the end of the day made the trip all that much more enjoyable.

Follow Nick and Barbie on all their adventures!  You can find Disney Musings on all your favorite social media sites:  Disney Musings Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, On Instagram, On Pinterest.

Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge

RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Menu-SeatingMaybe you’ve heard of it, maybe not.  On the very top floor of Bay Lake Tower is a cozy little lounge with a heck of a view.  It’s a special little corner of the World, reserved for Disney Vacation Club members, and we recently stopped in to see what all the hubbub’s about.

The view from the “balcony”, which is actually more of an outdoor walled walkway, is absolutely grand – it’s what makes this an especially popular spot during the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.  From the 15th floor, Bay Lake Tower’s proximity to Magic Kingdom is breathtaking.  RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-ViewFor Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend, we found ourselves enjoying studio accommodations at Bay Lake Tower about four doors down from the Top of the World Lounge.  Note:  For guests not staying at Bay Lake Tower, a Cast Member will ask to see a DVC membership card before allowing visitors up to the Lounge.

We’d come straight from a big dinner and only wanted coffee and dessert.  We didn’t spend a lot of time pouring over the menu, but there are both sweet and savory snack offerings along with a variety of specialty cocktails, beer, and wine.  Lots of folks only come for the view and a cocktail.  The food is okay, but not the main draw here.  RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-CoffeeWe ordered specialty coffees and a gigantic slice of cake.  The coffees were tasty, but the cake was a little disappointing.  Not horrible, but lacking flavor – the dessert was mainly just very sweet.  (I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of it before we’d tried a couple of bites.)RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Cake

If you’re a DVC member and want to visit the Top of the World Lounge for the atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed.  You can expect a great view, super décor, mediocre food, decent service, and Disney World prices.  RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Chandelier RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Menu-Monorail-ArtThe Lounge has a cool, modern theme and the monorail wall art is amazing!  The Top of the World Lounge would make a fun stop on the Resort Loop Pub Crawl.

Tim Brooks at Dad for Disney wrote this great article about the Contemporary Resort’s original Top of the World Lounge.

Are you a DVC member who has visited the Top of the World Lounge?  I’d love to hear about your experience!