Saturday, November 1, 2014

Trip Report | Animal Kingdom Lodge, October 2014

Quick Stats:

Travel Party: 2 adults, 2 teens, 2 toddlers
Resort: Animal Kingdom Lodge
Room: 7435 One bedroom villa, Kidani Village
Dates: October 18-22, 2014
Tickets: Base Tickets
Meal Plan: Quick Service
Memory Maker: Yes
Parks Visited: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom
Overall Trip Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Base Tickets

We usually go with park hoppers but this trip, that seemed like overkill. We decided to try it this way and I am glad we did. Because we have two littles, who really need rest every afternoon, or at the very least some down time, we decided to skip the park hoppers. It was a good call. We went back to the room most afternoons and the littles did rest most days. (It took them a long time to relax after so much stimulation! But they did eventually sleep.) I missed the park hopping ability about twice in five days. I can live with that. As they get older, I can see us going back, but for this trip, with this touring plan, it was the right call.


We are touring with teens and toddlers this trip. I know the conventional wisdom is to get fastpasses for the middle of the day when things are crowded, and that would probably serve us well if we were actually in the parks at those times, but with the littles, we were doing things differently.

The Fastpass+ system makes it great for our kids not to have to wait too long for a ride or a show. Critical when you have two really wiggly toddlers. We used our fast passes for the littles as early in the day as we could. We were in the parks by 9:30 at the latest and they were melting down again by 1 p.m. This is our golden window. We crammed in as much as we could while they were in high spirits.

We either let the baby sleep in the stroller for nap time and pushed through with the 4 year old, or came back to the resort for naps for the littles (and mama), and pool time for the bigs. We mostly played it by ear, which was another reason to use all the fastpasses in the morning, or alternatively, save them for later in the evening when we were all rested and back at the parks.

A Note about Crowds

It seems like the parks are getting more and more crowded during fall breaks. I can only assume there are more schools going to a balanced calendar and more availability for fall trips. That being said, they are not unmanageable. Parkhopping to a park without magic hours or MNSSHP is a good way to avoid the crush of humanity. We felt it most in the Magic Kingdom, naturally.

Memory Maker and Photopass

I am SO glad we purchased this. We got tons of pictures and some really fun ride shots of the teens that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. I felt a little bit like I was missing their vacation, but with Memory Maker, I really got the chance to enjoy their experience, even without being right with them.

It was also FABULOUS to be able to just interact with the characters along with the littles and let the photographer do the photographing! I'm usually not in the shots or getting to interact and this time I was. It really enhanced my vacation experience. And sometimes as moms, we don't get a lot of that. This time I did. I'll definitely pre purchase the memory maker for our next trip.

A Word About Stroller Identification

If you are taking your own stroller to WDW, let me just say, stroller parking areas are a big sea of strollers that miraculously morph to all look just like yours! I highly recommend taking something to make your's readily identifiable. We have a couple things, the stroller allergy tag and the water bottle holder that made it infinitely easier to locate our stroller after it had been moved by the very attentive stroller attendants. Trust me, your stroller will get moved. You need a way to see yours readily. There are always balloons if you forgot to bring something with you.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

This was our first time at the AKL and it was awesome. Even without the savannah view, we got to experience the animals. We made a short day of it on our Hollywood Studios day and had dinner at the Lodge. That meant we got to spend some time out and about around Jambo house. It was great.

The Lion King theming was awesome! I loved all the details, the hidden mickeys, the kids discovering another samba or Zazu! It really felt magical and Jambo House is out of this world gorgeous.

I was glad we had our own vehicle; it made not having to wait for the busses (with cranky toddlers) a beautiful thing. The AKL is remote, with the exception of the Animal Kingdom, and travel time is what it is.

Our room was in Kidani Village, a one bedroom villa. We learned that there is a difference with the one-bedroom villas: in Jambo house, there is a full bath and a half bath, in Kidani, there are two full baths. With the teenagers, this was key. And our one-bedroom villa was very roomy with perhaps the best kitchen layouts I've seen (outside of OKW). The teens were also impressed with the number of outlets available to charge all their devices. We took the first available room, and not one with the view of the savannah. The room faced west and the afternoon sun made it impossible to blog from (be on) the balcony. It was just too hot and intense for this pale-skinned girl! I will definitely ask for a savannah room next time. I've heard so much about how amazing the view is, and now I know that's the way I'd want to go next time.

It's also a LARGE resort (aren't they all?) and we were not near the pool or the recreation area. Therefore, we didn't use it with the littles. Which is too bad, as the playground looked to be really fun! Parking, however, was very convenient. We were able to find a close spot every time and our car carrier was never a problem, even with the underground parking.

Although we've done grocery delivery in the past, we skipped it this time and just bought our perishables at the resort. I know it seems more expensive, but the beer was the same price we pay for it at home and our list was small enough that we didn't have much to buy. We have also found that the price for over the counter meds is quite reasonable at the resorts. We DID bring a large supply of non-perishable nut-free items from home!

Quick Service Meal Plan

I am often asked if the meal plan is a good choice. I think there are many things to take into consideration when discussing the meal plan, but for me, convenience is a big part of the equation. Because our family often splits up in the parks, having the quick service meal plan makes it easy for the teens to grab a bite when their fastpass times permit, and the rest of us to do the same. You could always do this with the ability to charge it to the room, but for some reason, having the meal plan makes it easier for our kids to use it. They often won't if they have to charge it to the room.

Also, we don't worry if there are meal credits left on our account unused. I know that bothers some people. For us, it's worth it to know that the kids will eat and we can simply stop, drop, & eat wherever we are (especially with toddlers!). We also make a point of stopping at the candy cauldron on the way out of town to use up our snack credits. We never have any of those that go unused!

We found delicious meals at the ABC Commissary in Hollywood Studios, and Tamu Tamu in Animal Kingdom. I think it goes without saying that there is amazing food to be had all over Epcot, although the cast members at Tangerine Cafe did NOT understand about our nut allergy, nor the nut allergy in the party next to us in line. We wound up at Pecos Bills at the Magic Kingdom, and this meal was just disappointing. We should have stuck with Mr. Photos from the Parks' suggestion to eat at Sleepy Hollow. But there is good and delicious food to be had on the quick service plan, no doubt.

Because we were in the villas, we knew we'd be eating breakfast in the room most mornings. This also made the quick service plan a good choice for this trip. Unfortunately, being on the quick service plan at the AKL was not the best. There is only one place to eat there with the quick service plan; the first two nights we found the food delicious. But we were burned out on it after two meals. We ended up heating frozen pizzas from the sundry shop on our last night. We were just too tired and spent to go anywhere else.

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