If you missed my first post about Disney World, here’s a quick recap: We visited the “Happiest Place on Earth” last November thanks to the help of Casey from Road Less Traveled Vacations. Myself, my husband, and our two young daughters (both under the age of 3), enjoyed Disney World for 4 nights/5 days, and for under $2,500. Now you’re all caught up, so read on to see where to stay at Disney World!
Picking Where We Wanted to Stay at Disney World
I really debated whether or not we should stay on Disney property, or if it would be better to stay off property. Yes, we probably could’ve saved some extra bucks if we stayed off, but since I didn’t know when we’d be back to DW, I really wanted my daughter to get the whole Disney World experience.
But when it came time to actually pick a hotel/resort in Disney World I started getting overwhelmed again. They have a few different resort categories available (value, moderate, deluxe, and they even have a campground available*), but one quick look at the prices for the moderate and deluxe places was enough to make my stomach do flip flops and throw in the towel for the whole shebang. Yes, the places looked amazing (seriously, my dream one day may be to stay in a villa at Disney World), but since we wanted to keep the price down, a value resort was calling our name.
*If you’re in the military you also have the option of staying at Shades of Green, on Disney World property. It books up REALLY fast, though, and it was booked solid when we started planning our trip six months out.
Here was my next problem: I know some families do just fine cramming everyone into one room, but we’ve traveled enough with both girls to know that we really need a suite, preferably with a door that closes and separates the living area from the bedroom, for any of us to actually sleep at night. Since I decided against the moderate and deluxe rooms, I was sad since I figured “value” meant a cheap hotel room.
Discovering the Art of Animation
The “value” category at Disney World includes the “All Star” resorts featuring different themed hotels based on movies, music, and sports. There’s also the Pop Century Resort, the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, and their newest resort: Art of Animation.
I really wanted the magic of Disney to “wow” us at every turn, and with an almost three year old who is in love with all things Disney, there was only one place that fit the bill: Art of Animation. I think I heard angels sing when I discovered this, because it was exactly what I wanted. The most fantastic thing about this resort (actually, there are two great things) is that they offer family suites. Even better is that within Art of Animation they have four different themes: The Little Mermaid (only theme that doesn’t offer a suite at AoA), Cars, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo.
You guys, I think I did a happy dance when I found out about this place, because on paper (or online, rather), it was absolutely perfect. Sure, the other resorts would’ve been nice, but this? My daughter would FREAK OUT with having her favorite movie characters surrounding her. Not only that, but the family suite actually includes two full bathrooms (AMAZING for families with little kids!!), and a little kitchenette (also AMAZING for families with little kids!!). I also love that it’s still considered a “value” resort on Disney property, because you get the charm of DW without paying the price tag of some of the fancier places.
Art of Animation: The Resort
Everything at AoA, in true Disney fashion, is larger than life. I was just as giddy as my daughter was when we all got out of our car and saw the giant sketches of our favorite characters. It was so much fun. Everything was themed and decorated with pictures and drawings from the movies; it surrounded you everywhere you went, and made you feel like you were actually behind the scenes in the movie.
They also had a couple of areas right near the check-in desks to help entertain kids/adults while someone is checking in. One area had some movies playing, and at certain times during the day there’s an artist there drawing pictures of/for the kids; the other place was outside they had a couple easels standing so your little one could put her inner artist to work!
I also liked that everything was pretty centralized and easy to get to. Some of the resorts are huge, but all you had to do at AoA to get around was locate The Big Blue Pool (the largest pool at a Disney resort, by the way), and then you’re near Landscape of Flavors (the quick-service dining area, much like a giant cafeteria), the gift shop, the transportation station, the lobby, and the parking lot.
Speaking of parking: if you stay at Disney World you can park at any other resort or any park for free. Take your parking pass with you, and you’re all set!
The pool, by the way, is awesome. It has a beach-like slope (at the far end of this picture by the purple “jelly fish,” so the little “big” kids (toddlers) can play there without immediately being in deeper waters. There were always at least two lifeguards on duty even though the water wasn’t very deep, and they had life jackets available! I LOVED that they offered life jackets since Julia still hasn’t been in water very much and because she really wanted to play; it provided an extra piece of mind. And if you look in the very center of the picture you’ll see a yellow piece of sea life…that was a splash pad for little kids! Maddie wasn’t walking yet, but she hung out there, and Julia loved going in between The Big Blue Pool and the splash pad. I would’ve taken more pictures from the pool area…but water and my phone don’t get along too well.
The water was fairly chilly when we were there, so I can’t attest to this, because I didn’t get in very deep, but I heard that they have music playing under the water. Pretty neat if you ask me. There’s also a bar just to the right of this picture. If we stayed there for longer we definitely would’ve made it a point to check it out.
A LOT of people in different forums I joined before our trip were freaking out about having to take a bus to the parks (as opposed to the monorail if you stay in some of the more expensive resorts). They said you’d have to wait forever to get a bus, and that the length of time to each park was really long. I’m here to call them all liars. At least when we were there we never had to wait more than 20 minutes for a bus, and it got us everywhere relatively fast. Now, I fully realize that a 20-minute wait in the middle of the summer on a ridiculously hot day would be miserable, but while we were there in November, it was perfectly fine.
If you’re staying at Disney World for longer than just a few nights (in other words: if you have time to actually stop and relax), they have different activities at the pool during the day, and they have movies under the stars at night.
The Finding Nemo Family Suite at Art of Animation
Truth be told: I really wanted a Little Mermaid room since Julia is obsessed with Ariel, but they don’t offer family suites for that theme. Finding Nemo was the next best option—she watches that movie all the time— and it ended up being perfect.
Our room was steps away from The Big Blue Pool, which was nice since that meant we were close to everything. Our room actually overlooked the pool, and I loved it since my husband and I could take turns staying with the baby while she slept, and the other could hang out in the pool with our toddler.
I love rooms that have little kitchenettes in them. There wasn’t a range top in this room, but there was a microwave, fridge, coffeemaker, and a sink. There were also plates and some utensils. We brought snacks like string cheese and hard-boiled eggs with us, so it was great having a fridge in the room.
We requested a pack ‘n play for Maddie, and I asked for some bed rails for Julia so she could sleep on a “big girl bed” (aka, the pull-out couch). She sleeps in her own bed at home, so I loved that they offered bed rails as an option for her at the hotel. And besides the couch turning into a bed, there’s a Murphy bed as well (part of the table in the room).
One of my favorite selling points to picking AoA is that there are two full bathrooms in the suites! If you have kids then you know how beneficial this is, especially since “their” bathroom has a tub in it. The bathroom off the bedroom was also pretty nice—the shower was clean and sophisticated.
I wish all of those photos of the room were my own, but they aren’t. I started taking pictures, but then I realized that the room seriously looked exactly like it did in the pictures online. And since I only had about four minutes before my toddler (and all of our stuff) would come barreling in the door, I decided to make a quick video tour of our room instead.
Two quick things about the video: the next time I make a video I promise it’ll be landscape (I clearly wasn’t thinking), and I apologize for my daughter picking her butt towards the end. I like to keep things real. #RealLife
Long review not so short, I would definitely stay there again. I think it’s perfect for families on a budget with young kids.
Okay, spill it: Where did you stay at Disney World? If you stayed at Art of Animation, did you love it? If you stayed somewhere else, I’d love to hear about it!
For my next Disney World posts I’ll chat about where we ate, the Fast Passes we picked, and how we traveled with a toddler and a baby!