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One of the biggest perks from being an active member in the frequent flyer community has been the friendships I have made along the way. As luck would have it, many of those friendships are with other traveling families. After having hung out (sans kids) at various MegaDos and similar events with a core group of people, a few of us decided it was time to plan a joint family trip. As the lack of luck would have it, a wedding that many were attending got planned over the weekend the trip was scheduled for, so in the end it was just my family and one other that were able to hang out this time. However, we decided that two families was a party, and we were going to continue on with our planned trip to Disney World for the weekend.
Disney in a weekend with young kids may sound crazy to some, but to us it sounded perfect. We decided to stay at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando since I had won a couple free nights there via a charity auction a while back, and the nights were about to expire. It also would give me a chance to put my Hyatt Diamond benefits to good use. I am a huge fan of staying on Disney property with young children who still need naps in the afternoon, but I’m also not opposed to taking advantage of a good deal to stay close, but not too close, to all the Disney action.
Hyatt Grand Cypress location and overview:
The Hyatt Grand Cypress is very close to the Disney parks – not walking distance, but very reasonable driving distance. Depending on the park you are heading to, I would say it is an average of about a ten minute drive to get there, most of which is spent driving on Disney property. Of course traffic and/or parking delays could add to that a bit, but it did not take much time at all to drive to the parks in the morning. However, driving does mean that you now have a parking fee at Disney each day, and naturally you need a rental car as well.
The hotel is quite large and feels more secluded than it is. It has 800+ rooms, a kind of hybrid atrium style design, a lake, a golf course, several pools, a water slide, a Regency Club, Camp Hyatt, and more. It does charge a $12 per day self-parking fee and a resort fee of about $25 per day. Those are relatively substantial costs that need to be factored into the overall value. We had two of our three nights covered via the charity auction certificate, but the additional night that we paid out of pocket was about $225 + taxes/fees. The hotel did tell us when we checked in that they were waiving the resort fee “since it was our first time at the property”. I’m not sure if that was the real reason, if it was related to our Diamond status, the substantial renovations going on, or something else, but that was our experience. Our friends there the same weekend did not have the fee waived, but they did get some other fairly generous compensation in the end for some issues they had with their stay (more on that later).
Disney transportation options:
Other than driving yourself, you can take a complimentary shuttle from the hotel to Disney. While I think it is great that the hotel offers a shuttle, it is far from flawless. We didn’t use it as we had a car, but our friends did use it some when their schedule didn’t line up with ours. The shuttle to the Magic Kingdom Ticket and Transportation Center departs at 8:50AM and 10:00AM. It picks up at the same location at 6:00PM, 8:00PM, 9:45PM, and certain days at 11:15PM. This means you can’t get there for when the parks open, and you can’t use them to return to the hotel after lunch for a nap. This service would be much more useful it it were continuously running every 60 or 90 minutes in both directions throughout the day. However, with such a limited schedule it isn’t really practical for families with young children who can’t stay at the park all day.
We didn’t use a cab, but our friends looked into it and said to estimate about $25 – $30 for each trip, again not a great option either. I think most families with young kids who stay here will want their own car to go to and from the parks.
When we added a paid third night (which we actually used as the first night of our stay) to our two night certificate, I used a confirmed Diamond suite upgrade with that first night. The hotel graciously allowed us to keep the suite all three nights. By looking at the website, our suite appears to have been the Executive Suite. Call us spoiled, but we do much better when we have ample space for us and our kiddo. What we lost by not being on Disney property, we made up for with additional space in the room. As you likely know, when you travel with a young kid you do actually spend a fair amount of time in the room with naps, downtime, etc. so the room matters more than when you are on an “adults only” trip that allows you to spend the bulk of your time out and about.
The suite had a full sized king bedroom, full bathroom, and balcony on one side, and then had another full sized room and bathroom devoted to the living area on the other side. The sofa did convert to a bed.
We had two issues with the suite. The first was that both bathrooms only had showers. It is clear to me that this was designed more of a conference hotel than a family hotel, but given the proximity to so many theme parks (and presumably families with children), it would be super helpful to have a bath tub instead of a shower. Update: the hotel reports having tub/baths in rooms with double beds, so take that into consideration when booking your room.
The other issue was that the rooms of the suite were connected with two doors that only opened from one side. At one point our daughter shut the door to the living portion of the room with no one in it, and the keys for the rooms were all in the living room. This meant we couldn’t get in there without calling security. Had she shut herself in a different room than us with the keys it could have been a very scary situation. Since these rooms are not true connecting rooms, but instead one suite, I would much prefer if it were not possible for that situation to transpire. A normal door between the rooms that opens from both sides would be a better option in my view.
Despite that issue, the suite was perfect for hosting an impromptu “kids party”, complete with an explosion of toys!
We did enjoy the balcony, both to overlook the beautiful resort, and to see the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom at night. That said, balconies and young kids do make me nervous so we did not use it very much.
As is often the case for us on trips with our kiddo, we ended up just having dinner in the room most nights. By that point in the day we were totally pooped, and even staying awake to eat room service was a bit of a challenge. This hotel, like most/all Hyatts, has put an emphasis on healthy dining options for kiddos. This is a fantastic thing in my book, but can make it a little harder to order for a kid that is already wiped out and fussy. Sometimes a chicken finger will get consumed whereas a healthy veggie and noodle dish or salad might be passed on by a cranky kiddo. So, I love the healthy options, but they can be a double edged sword if your kiddo is not in the best of moods to begin with. I think they will be even better for us as C gets a bit older, but again I really do like the effort Hyatt has put into this initiative.
The first night she fell asleep before her sunflower-butter and jelly sandwich with edamame could get delivered (though she ate it for breakfast happily the next day), and the second night she ate some of her noodle dish, but I may have eaten more of it than she did.
According to the hotel’s website, there are tons of restaurant and dining options within the hotel, but many of them were not operational during our visit due to the renovations. This didn’t impact us very much, but the other family we traveled with had this to say, “the lunch solution was to use what would charitably be described as a 1980s cafeteria with terrible food and service.” Eek – glad we didn’t eat lunch there! Do note though that this is a primarily a temporary issue that should be much better now that renovations are complete.
In part two of this review I cover the Regency Club, the awesome pools, getting Disney tickets from the hotel, and other pretty cool amenities they offer. Have you stayed here before? If so, what did you think of your stay?