We departed paradise at the early hour of 6am and set off for the Happiest Place on Earth. It takes about 3 hours to drive from Sanibel to Disney World, depending on if you can get yourself up to 80mph. Routes I-75N and I-4E both have speed limits of 70mph, so that helps.
Since our flight left at 7pm on Monday, we had to make the most of our 3 park days at Disney. We set ourselves up well by purchasing 3-day Park Hopper passes ahead of our check-in. These would allow us to move between the four parks (although not the water parks) as many times as we would like throughout any given day. Buying these ahead of time is key because they will cost you more money at the gate. We also had checked in online ahead of time for our hotel: All Star Music Resort. This is a great option because it allows you to go to a separate online check-in only counter when you arrive. In our case, we wanted to get to the park immediately because it was already 9am, so we were thrilled to go to this express check-in counter. The reservation informed me that they would take our luggage at this time and then, once the room was available, they would deliver it there themselves. They would also call or text me the room number so that we wouldn't have to make a trip back to the hotel in the middle of the day to drop off our bags. As it turned out, our family suite ended up already being ready at the early hour of 9am. Thus, we were able to go drop our stuff off and do a quick refresh before we headed out to the parks.
The All Star Music Resort is a Disney resort. It is considered a value resort, with rooms starting at $82 per night. In the same area, there is also the All Star Sports and All Star Movies resorts. All three have basic, clean rooms, central heated-pool areas and cafeterias. I remember also spotting a poolside bar at Music, as well as an arcade. One should note that if you prefer to have a family suite that sleeps 6 rather than separate rooms, out of the three All Star resorts, only Music is equipped with these rooms.
The Polynesian and Contemporary.When I was checking out prices, I noted that they were both over $300 per night.
No matter what Disney resort you choose to stay, being a resort guest comes with a few nice benefits:
Benefit 1: You can take advantage of "Extra Magic Hours". In other words, you can enjoy extra hours at the park (either opening early at 8am or staying open late) all by only showing your room key. These extra hours can prove invaluable, especially when it's busy, because it can significantly cut down on your wait time at certain attractions. In our case, the parks were not that busy to begin with so it felt like we had the park to ourselves at certain Extra Magic times. Visit Disney's website to check the Extra Magic hours by park. They usually have them posted at least a month in advance.
Benefit 2: If you don't want to have a car, you can utilize Disney's bus system. The All Star Music Resort has buses that go to each park, as well as Downtown Disney every 20 minutes or so. Please note though that you cannot take buses from resort to resort. It's more of a hub and spoke system.
Benefit 3: You don't have to pay for parking at each park. For instance, we happened to notice that it cost $14 to park at Magic Kingdom for non resort guests.
Next up...summaries of our Disney park experiences!