Disney World Fall Trip Recap: Part 1

We’ll continue sharing experiences from our recent Walt Disney World trip with something we haven’t done in a while: a trip report. While our construction updates and our crowd post tell some of the story, it’s been a while since I sat down and posted stray thoughts and photos from Walt Disney World in trip report form.

Actually, this is not exactly a trip report. It’ll still have that same rambling, anecdotal style that “everyone” “loves” but instead of fully revisiting every single thing we did every single day, this will offer commentary that doesn’t fit in other posts, accompanied by random photos often unrelated to the topic at hand.

We did the first few days of this Walt Disney World trip at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (as we spent a lot of time at the resort, most photos in this installment are from the Poly), where we’d most recently stayed a couple summers ago in the over-the-water Bungalows with a visit to the new Villas, as well.

In the last couple of years, we’ve been trying to expand our coverage of third party and off-site hotels, which has meant that we’re falling a bit short of staying at every hotel at Walt Disney World every other year in order to refresh our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews.

It probably also doesn’t help that we’ve stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter three separate times this year–sometimes deals for certain resorts make them too good to resist. Speaking of which, both that resort and the Poly, as well as countless others, have been featured on Priceline Express Deals this year.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, we still have an article about how to score those Priceline deals in the works. Unfortunately, since I started writing it, the Priceline Express Deals have pretty much dried up for late October and November, and I don’t have any screenshots (except for the Swan & Dolphin), which has been the hold-up in publishing.

This is a common thing for October, and I figure since there aren’t any Priceline deals right now, there’s no harm in waiting to publish. I just mention this now in case you were awaiting that article and thought maybe we forgot about it.

Back to the Poly, not only was our room read when we checked arrived at ~9 a.m., but we had also been upgraded to the Hawaii building–King Kamehameha Club Level.

Timing wise, I think we got really lucky with this reservation, as the day we arrived the resort was a ghost town (a friend remarked that they’d never seen the parking lot so empty), whereas the day we checked out we were told the resort was at full occupancy for that night.

We’ve already covered the roller coaster of crowds in our A Tale of Two Seasons: Fall Crowds at Walt Disney World post, so I won’t rehash that here. On a tangentially related note, I’d love to hear feedback from those who have attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this year–good or bad.

I’m working on a post titled “Is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Still Worth It?” and would love to share reader accounts/quotes in that post. We’ve heard a lot of complaints about crowds, wait times, and character lines at the party, so we think this is a topic worth addressing. If you’d like to share your experience, please include the date you attended, your observations, and ultimate ‘conclusion’ about whether MNSSHP was worth it to you in the comments below.

Prior to this trip to Walt Disney World, we were debating whether to use Amazon Prime Now or just pack some snacks with us so we didn’t even have to mess with that.

We chose the latter, and arrived at the Poly with a suitcase half full of apples, bananas, pumpkin bars, and other assorted stuff. We joked that we were probably the first Club Level guests ever to BYOB (bring your own bananas).

As much as I love Trader Joe’s pumpkin cereal bars (seriously, they’re delicious), they don’t hold a candle to pork belly, poke, and the other appetizers prepared in the lounge.

Suffice to say, most of our snacks remained in the suitcase until we transferred over to Caribbean Beach.

During our stay, we heard a couple other guests in the Club Lounge indicate that they’d also been upgraded, so we weren’t alone in this. I was curious just how many people were upgraded, as our building didn’t seem nearly as ‘dead’ as the rest of the resort.

Then again, maybe people who book the King Kamehameha level are more likely to spend time hanging out at the resort? (We sure did!)

I’m not about to complain about free food, and we definitely got bang for our (zero) buck at the King Kamehameha Club Lounge. However, if we paid anything close to rack rate–or even the normal ~$200/night premium for Club Level–we would’ve been disappointed.

It’s one of those nice ways of ‘treating yourself’ if you totally divorce yourself from the cost, but it wasn’t that good. No matter much pork belly you eat or beers you drink, it’s tough to justify from a rational perspective.

The emotional side of us loved it. Convenient breakfast, “free” dinner & desserts, and excellent espresso on-demand throughout the day was really nice.

I should probably put air quotes around “dinner” above, as it’s definitely not the lounge’s intent to serve as a replacement for dinner, but that’s exactly what we made it, all those stupid single-serving plates be damned.

What we also really enjoyed was the space of the lounge. Every day after the breakfast rush, I could take my laptop to the Club Lounge and grab a table by the window with a view of Cinderella Castle.

I’m a huge sucker for having an “office” with a view, and this is right up there with the public library in Laguna that overlooks the ocean.

A big part of the reason this is a trip recap instead of a proper trip report is that so little of what we did is worthy of a play by play recap. It wasn’t our original intent, but due to the heat, we spent the middle of each day at the Poly, relaxing and working.

We’ve come to appreciate soaking up the ambiance of resorts and focusing less on attractions, but the other byproduct of this approach was that it was much easier to get up for sunrise photography every single morning of the trip and follow that with doing rope drop most mornings. We’d then take a midday break most days, returning a couple hours before sunset and staying until park close.

I distinctly remember the ‘Summer Nightastic’ celebration at Walt Disney World and during August visits even before that, when Magic Kingdom would open at 9 a.m. and had Extra Magic Hours until 3 a.m. We’d arrive for park opening, and stay all day until after park closing for photos, only to get up the next morning and do it all over again, rope drop until park close.

At the time, anything less felt like we weren’t getting enough value for our money. Given that we were paying like ~$69/night for Pop Century and carefully rationing 10-day no expiration tickets over the course of several trips, we most certainly were getting enough value for our money. We had to save up just to afford that though, so our perspective was different.

Now, we rarely do rope drop to park close uninterrupted, and spend way more time at the resort, and still have that same perspective that doing things differently would mean getting less bang for our buck. The resort stays (even discounted ones) are typically the most expensive aspect of a WDW trip, and taking advantage of their amenities midday is more enjoyable to us than trudging through the middle of the day in the parks when heat and crowds are at their worst.

(Now, we have an upcoming stay booked at All Star Movies, and I’m guessing we won’t take advantage of its amenities quite as much as we did the Poly’s!)

It has taken us a long time to break that ingrained “rides! rides! RIDES!” mentality at Walt Disney World, but I’m glad we’ve come around.

This is totally a ‘different strokes for different folks’ scenario, and I would never implore others to follow in our footsteps, especially since everyone’s circumstances and frequency of visits differ, but it’s at least something to consider. Walt Disney World’s resorts at the Moderate level and above offer so much, and a lot of that is often overlooked.

Another thing we did that I really enjoyed was took the water taxis to and from Magic Kingdom. Even in the hot weather, I love these peaceful cruises across Walt Disney World’s lakes.

For one, they are more reliable than the monorails, so there’s no worry of ‘holding for further traffic clearance’ for 10 minutes…or an hour.

More importantly, I love the approach. Seeing Cinderella Castle rise over the Train Station and getting glimpses of Main Street is really special.

One night we were arriving right as a monorail passed, and seeing Main Street’s popcorn lights reflected off its windows as the castle glowed orange and blue–this view was downright magical. It felt like glimpsing into a boundless utopian scene, like a Blade Runner aesthetic if only the future were written by optimists.

For some reason or another, this reminded me of riding Space Mountain years ago, before the queue ceiling was installed. Back then, one of my favorite things about the ride was craning my head around for the glimpses back into the queue, which felt like a distant space station to which we’d eventually return. It sounds hokey, but one thing I love about Walt Disney World is the elements that leave room for interpretation, evoking a certain atmosphere or feeling, and letting your imagination fill in the blanks.

Okay, this has already crossed 1,500 words and I don’t feel like I’ve really said much about the substance of our Walt Disney World trip. I’ll end this installment here, hit reset, and pick up with more anecdotes from our visit in Part 2.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Any feedback on your experience at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this year? What do you think about park time versus resort time, and the relative ‘value’ of each during a Walt Disney World trip? Think Club Level is ‘worth it’? Enjoy the water taxi rides, or prefer the air conditioned luxury of the highway in the sky? Other feedback on this Walt Disney World trip recap? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

90 Responses to “Disney World Fall Trip Recap: Part 1”
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