Trip Report | The 'Secret Bonus' Trip - Travel Day & Checking into Disney's Pop Century Resort

So I'm back with another trip report! If you want to read the whole report you can check out the Trip Report Index, which I'll be uploading as each post goes live, so be sure to bookmark it if you want to follow along! If you'd rather watch than read you can view our vlog playlist by clicking here, but I'll also be including the vlogs in these posts to tie everything together!


Pre-Trip Report

It's always good to start with a bit of background isn't it? Well our 2017 trip was one that we hadn't really planned. Since Harry and I got engaged at Walt Disney World in 2016 (catch up on that trip report here) we've been planning our Disney wedding (more on that to come) and we also bought our first flat. It was supposed to be a year where we just focussed on saving our pennies for the wedding and enjoying our new home however we were fortunate that not long after we'd moved Harry got a pay rise at work (I say fortunate, but it was well deserved) and of course that started to put ideas in our heads. I spent a day pricing up holidays for a short break to Disneyland Paris for October and sheepishly told Harry when he came home that I'd been thinking about Disney. He replied saying he'd been doing the same, except he'd been pricing up for Walt Disney World! 

It was an idea that was hard to let go of (isn't it always when it's Disney?) and Harry became a little obsessed with finding when it was cheapest to go. He found a great deal for 9 nights at Disney's Pop Century resort (which was almost Art of Animation but it was actually sold out) at the end of November. We agreed it was a bit reckless to book another trip to Florida when we'd only just moved into our flat BUT there was no real harm in putting down a deposit just in case. Months went by with us secretly saving money for this holiday that we'd not told anyone about, just to save ourselves the disappointment if we really couldn't afford to go. We refused to plan anything, our 180 days before window to book dining reservations came and went as we just didn't want to get too carried away. Eventually the time came when we had to pay off the balance - and (and you should've worked this out by the title) we did! I'm slightly sad that no-one that we told was that surprised either! Obviously we must have a reputation...

By the time the trip came around we were well underway with the wedding planning (I'll be starting a wedding diary soon!) and as much as we booked to go to Walt Disney World because we really wanted to be back, it also served the greater purpose as a research trip. Planning a wedding from abroad is hard, so being able to scout locations, visualise the day in person, and even meet our wedding photographer, was really going to put us at ease. 

Travelling to Gatwick



We found staying at Gatwick airport and using the Twilight check-in made everything so much easier on our last trip so it was a no-brainer to do the same again. We travelled down after work on Monday evening, both full of cold, through the miserable A12 traffic and weather. We'd planned to eat in one of the airport terminals but not really being in the mood for overpriced food we decided to stop at the McDonalds outside instead. It was a good call, it was quiet in there and we both got signature burgers and cheese bites that made us feel a whole lot better. Parking in Long Stay North was not quite as fun. Standing with our cases waiting for a bus in the freezing cold drizzle was miserable, luckily that bus was taking us to the airport terminal so that's a pretty good silver lining. We dropped our suitcases at the empty Virgin Atlantic desk (I asked for a luggage tag for my case as mine had our old address on but I was told they don't do those any more) and then caught the monorail over to the South Terminal to check into BLOC Hotel. 


If you haven't been to the South Terminal, BLOC is literally next to the security point, you can't stay any closer, which had we been flying from the South, like our last trip, would've been ideal. Fortunately the monorail is quick and easy to transfer between the two. Check-in was very quick and we were informed we'd been upgraded to a window room (we'd booked an inside room without a window). The rooms at BLOC are teeny tiny with the bed pushed up against the wall with a TV embedded in the wall at the foot of the bed. There's also a tiny bedside shelf with a tablet on the wall behind it that controls the lights and the window blind. Even the bathroom is small as it's a wet room with a rainfall shower, toilet and sink. Unfortunately the shower left the floor soaking wet all night which wasn't so pleasant but other than that the room was fine and the bed was really comfortable. 


We ventured downstairs to have a wander around the Boots, the newsagents and M&S where we picked up some snacks (Gingerbread Latte cookies for me, Salt & Vinegar twists for Harry) and then went to get some hot drinks from the Caffe Nero opposite the hotel where you can get a discount. I already mentioned that we both had colds but I also had a horrible cough and sore throat at this point so I really needed to nurse a large hot cup of tea! With not much else to do we went back up to the room to watch some Disney vlogs on my MacBook (what else?!) and try and get some sleep.

Travel Day

I got up in the morning feeling a little better, enough not to put off my fellow passengers anyway, and we made our way over to the North Terminal via the monorail. Security was fairly quick and easy and we were soon walking through the huge World Duty Free. Not really feeling breakfast (it was around 11am anyway) I suggested we go to Wagamama instead. They were actually still serving breakfast but it was no problem to order from the main menu which was great as I really wanted a warming ramen. It was topped with crispy duck and delicious, just what I needed. Harry tried a chicken katsu curry for the first time which he also enjoyed.



Following our breakfast/lunch we had a bit of time to kill before our gate number was released. I was desperate for some kind of face mask or moisturiser for the plane because my skin felt so sore and dry from my cold, so when one of the assistants at the Liz Earle counter in Boots offered me a free facial I almost said I might come back but after a split seconds thought I said 'Yes!'. I had decided to treat myself to the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish anyway as it's a bit of a cult product and I wanted to try and do right by cleansing my skin properly while I was away. She smothered me in all sorts of cleansers and toners while talking me though what each of them did, and even putting a few samples on my hand. My face felt so much better afterwards and I bought the Cleanse & Polish starter kit as I'd planned and even got a small discount for showing my boarding pass. Afterwards Harry bought himself some new sunglasses in Superdry and soon our gate was called so we left the departure lounge to go and board.

The Flight

I really don't mind flying that much these days. For all the anxieties I do have - flying isn't one of them. The nature of getting to the airport and being on time is much more stressful and we don't have to worry about that when we drive up the night before. I watched the new Spiderman: Homecoming film while being brought pretzels, drinks and lunch and then settled in to watch as many episodes of The Good Fight as I could seeing as I missed it on TV. I found watching a TV series helped pass the time much easier than watching a film and although the flight did drag a little it wasn't too long before we were touching down in Orlando. I'd been dreading the long lines at immigration but we whizzed through thanks to their new automated system. For the first time I can remember we actually had to wait for a luggage to come out rather than it be sitting there waiting for us! We caught the monorail to the main terminal where we were met with a huge Christmas tree and I remembered to take photos of the Walt Disney World mural for the first time (we each had a photo next to it but we were looking a bit worse for wear after the long flight!)



In my 6 previous trips to Florida we'd always hired a car, but being a budget trip we'd decided to forego the car and see how we got on with Disney transportation. That meant getting Disney's Magical Express for the first time ever! We weren't too sure where it was but we followed the signs in the terminal out toward the parking lot. The cast member asked to see the paperwork for our trip which I fished out of my hand luggage and then we were allowed to get in one of the numbered lines for the buses. Luckily we didn't have to wait long and we were soon lead out to our bus. It was a quiet journey, not quite the enthusiastic Disney bus driver that I'd heard about, but we didn't hit any traffic and just had a quick stop to let other passengers off at Art of Animation. As we got off the bus and 'Feliz Navidad' was playing on the speakers which was perfect because it reminded me of being at Walt Disney World for Christmas in 2013!

Pop Century

The wait to check-in was a little long but once we'd been given our new magic bands we were on our way to our refurbished room! I was so excited to get one of the new rooms at Pop Century, I'd even spotted it on the My Disney Experience App in the airport when our room assignment popped up because I'd requested the 80s or 90s section as I knew they'd already been refurbished. The new rooms are much more modern with a mid-century design, more spacious layout (with the second bed folded up and the dining table down) coffee maker, and bright bathroom suite with huge light up mirror. I quickly got changed into shorts as the nighttime air was still warm and humid but we didn't loiter in the room long as we really needed to eat some food! 


We walked back down to the lobby, which wasn't close but not too long a walk either, to Everything Pop! I (perhaps foolishly) decided against the Walt Disney World staple chicken nuggets and instead picked up a Chicken Parmigiana pasta with a breadstick. It was supposed to come with two sides which I didn't fancy but I was charged full price anyway (I'd read before that entrees without sides cost less, but I think that's just for combo type meals in the parks). Harry, however, did get the chicken nuggets which came with a mountain of fries ($22.48). The food was ok, just your standard quick service fare really but you can't go too wrong with nuggets. We also picked up a resort mug each ($37.98) but I was so disappointed not to see Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper on the Rapid Refill machines! Once we'd eaten we went back to the room to watch some resort tv and get some sleep ready for an early morning at Extra Magic Hours in Animal Kingdom.




Steps: 4,624
Total Cost  - $60.46 + tax


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