by Kendall Foreman

After a long year of work, hectic schedules, and out-of-home demands, perhaps you (or someone in your traveling party) are convinced that a nice vacation can and should only involve enjoying all the comforts of home.  Are peace, quiet and solitude non-negotiable?  Is the word “practice” redefined as anything that improves one’s relaxation skills?  Does the comfort seeker look forward to surfing the net as opposed to evaluating internet research? Do home-cooked meals top the “must have” list? While family fun-time is looked forward to by all, does it go without saying that the kids will—for everyone’s sake—spend some time with the favorite babysitter?  In other words, is what will soothe and rejuvenate the body and mind a “staycation” rather than a vacation?  Not for everyone!  Home or nearby is not where the majority of the group wants to be.  They want to go to Walt Disney World, which is miles (and miles) away from where the comfort seeker longs to stay—home.  The task before me is to convince the comfort seeking skeptic that Walt Disney World offers all the comforts of home and then some… challenge accepted!

Included with Admission

If you, or someone in your group, prefers to the comforts and conveniences of home (or at least a home-like atmosphere) to the stress of a “gocation”, motivation to step into the Florida heat, humidity, and crowds might be a problem.  There are many ways to lessen or eliminate the “inconveniences”.  All shopping and most attractions take place in air-conditioned environments.  Several shows such as Mickey’s Philharmagic, The Hall of Presidents, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Impressions de France, The American Adventure Show, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, The American Idol Experience, and Muppet Vision 3-D take place in air-conditioned theaters with cinema-style seating.

Fast passWhile Imagineers are busy building comfort into their designs, ease-of-use is a Disney Company focus that is ever-evolving for the benefit of all patrons.  It is up to guests to take advantage of such offerings.  The Fastpass system is an excellent example of how Disney makes things easier for park visitors.  It is a must for those hoping to avoid heat, crowds, and lengthy wait times.  These passes are offered, free-of-charge, to all ticket-holders and are available at kiosks located near the desired attraction.  Small paper tickets are printed showing an hour window during which the ticket-holder can return and be ushered to the front of the line with a minimal to no wait.  Also available to all resort guests, free-of-charge, are bonus Extra Magic Hours (EMH).  EMH are offered at one park each morning before park opening and at one park each night after closing.  This is where a comfort seeker can really maximize his or her Disney vacation.  EMH grants resort guests the opportunity to spend time at their resort relaxing during peak park hours and ample time to enjoy the most popular park attractions without the hottest Florida heat and largest crowds.

Where to Stay

There is one resort on property that is referred to as “home” by more guests than any other—Disney’s Old Key West Resort.  This Florida Keys themed resort opened in 1991 as the original Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property.  Many inaugural DVC families have owned a piece of and returned to this resort for 22 years.  As a result, people have come to personally know one another and the cast members who work there, too.  This OKWcamaraderie has developed into a neighborhood-like feel that even has newcomers saying Old Key West “feels like home”.  Aside from the general atmosphere, Old Key West offers villas with space and amenities that will have guests wondering if they are at home.  If room to spread out ranks at the top of your list, this resort has villas with square footage that will dwarf some reader’s homes:  studios are 390 square feet; one-bedroom villas are 942 square feet; two-bedroom villas are 1,395 square feet; and three-bedroom villas are 2,375 square feet.  Similar to that of a many hotel suites, Studios offer amenities including a kitchenette, small table with chairs, closet, etc.  Villas offer all the comforts of home including: a large living room with sofa, loveseat, chair, ottoman, full-size dining table, and flat screen television; a full kitchen with refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, oven, microwave, double sink, small appliances, pots, pans, and table service; and a laundry complete with a washer, dryer, ironing board and vacuum.  Bedroom layouts and occupancy vary based upon villa selection.

The similarities to home are not limited to the villa’s interior.  Scattered throughout the resort, guests can find grills and picnic tables for barbequing and outdoor dining.  Bikes, peddle boats, pontoons and sea racers can be rented from Hank’s.  Three tennis courts, a basketball court, and shuffleboard are available, and five swimming pools dot this resort’s property.  Old Key West is as good as or better than home to its guests.

For those who cannot imagine relaxing without your media devices or daily dose of digital entertainment, fear not, all Disney resorts offer free in-room Wi-Fi.  Also, starting this month, Disney will begin rolling out expanded in-room television viewing selections including channels such as TNT, Bravo, Fox News, Discovery, Food Network, and several others.

Where to Eat

While what one considers to be comfort food typically varies from family to family and or geographic region to region, here in the States, it is often referred to as good home cookin’.  In light of that, a couple of restaurants on property become obvious choices.  With its authentic Early American décor, Liberty Tree Tavern— located in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom— offers guests a glimpse of colonial dining in historic Williamsburg style.  The portraits, curios, fireplaces, and overall ambience invite diners to settle in and enjoy menu offerings the likes of which will have them believing their grandma is in the back sharing family recipes with the cooks.  Dinner is served family-style and includes fare such as roasted turkey breast, carved beef, smoked pork loin, mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, and apple crisp… all of which are um, um good.

Grandma may also be found sharing recipes in the kitchen of Trail’s End Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Camp Grounds.  This log cabin style building is home to a buffet offering every type of comfort food in grandma’s recipe box, including: pork ribs, fried chicken, hand-carved meats, chili, homemade cobbler and more.

Perhaps your comfort seeker is like my husband who believes that no aroma says home more than a warm tray of freshly baked cookies.  The sweet scent of cookies, cakes, rolls, and pastries wafting from the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom, beckons passersby to come into this turn-of-the-century style bakery just like grandma’s baking calls us to the kitchen.

Something Extra

There are some additional comforts of home available to those willing to spend a little extra:

One of the advantages to a “staycation” is that a trusted babysitter is available if needed.  The lack of this convenience is a possible deterrent for some travelers.  Good news, Disney has a remedy.  There are six Children’s Activity Centers on property:  Simba’s Cubhouse at the Animal Kingdom Resort; Neverland neverland clubClub at the Polynesian Resort; Cub’s Den at the Wilderness Lodge; Sandcastle Club at the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts; Mouseketeer Club at the Grand Floridian Resort; and Camp Dolphin at the Dolphin Hotel.  At each of these clubs, potty-trained children ages 3 through tweens age 12 can stay from 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. for $11.50 per child per hour, with a two hour minimum.  Note: reservations are recommended at all the resorts and required at Camp Dolphin.  The activity centers are staffed with cast members ready to care for and entertain their young guests.  Everyone receives a kid-friendly meal and has the opportunity to participate in games, crafts, and Disney movie viewing together.  Many parents report that when they return for their child/children, the youngster(s) are saddened to leave.   Disney recommends that parents of a child or children under the age(s) of three make a reservation with Kid’s Nite Out, which is run by the independent/outside company, Super Sitters.  This service provides 24-hour in-room child care from a screened, trained, CPR certified care-giver for children ages six months and up for $16.00 per hour for one child or a slightly increased rate for multiples.  For information, you can visit www.kidsniteout.com.

For the comfort seeker who cannot imagine spending vacation without their pet, Disney has that covered, too.  While no pets are allowed in the theme parks or resorts, the Best Friends Pet Resort will have your furry Best Friends Pet resortfriend wishing they could stay forever.  The resort is not just a place to board your pet for the week.  Your pet is treated to various amenities depending on the selected package.  At the low end, for $34 your pet will receive indoor boarding and two walks per day.  On the high end, for $69 he/she will be treated to a VIP luxury suite, two walks, two playgroups, a TV, webcam, bedtime story, and with a 3-day minimum stay they will receive a “Go Home Fresh Bath”.  Guests are encouraged to visit their pet during regular hours, and they can rest easy knowing there are certified vet techs on staff and all associates have been trained in animal first aid.  For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.wdw.bestfriendspetcare.com.

Comfort Seekers, the Disney Company makes every effort to be sure each of its guests has the best possible experience… no exceptions.  I encourage the Comfort Seeking Skeptic to follow the lead of his/her fellow traveler(s) and head to Walt Disney World for an “all the comforts of home” getaway.

Challenge completed!

How do YOU find the comforts of home while on your Disney vacation?  Add your thoughts in the comments below!

Kendall began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband.  As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7)  Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)

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