We are just back from a fabulous trip! Our 3rd family trip, we skipped last year, but stayed at Wilderness Lodge Villas in 2010 and the Contemporary in 2011. Always the same last week of August. This trip, thanks to a great deal, I was able to stay at my dream resort. Ive been itching to stay in the Epcot Resort area since accidentally wandering out of the International Gateway on our Honeymoon 15 years ago and finding the Boardwalk. We really enjoyed this area! Room & Checkin We arrived about 12:45 after taking Happy Limo from the airport. I had done Online Checkin and were greeted outside by name and taken straight inside to a desk where Cindy helped us. We already had our Magic Bands and were ready to go. We had been upgraded from a Standard View to a Garden View and were assigned room 4100. I had asked for a higher floor and close to transportation. It was probably halfway across the resort, not in the farthest area, maybe the middle, not too bad. We had a view of the tennis courts directly in front of us and could see a sliver of the quiet pool and the roof tops of the Swalfin through the trees. It appeared to be a larger balcony too. It took a few extra minutes because apparently 2 of the Magic Bands, mine and DS10s were not linking up properly and its still kinda new to them, but they got them set and we were off to our room. Our room was ready. Mousekeeping was great all week too, towel animals everyday and they were done very early most days too so we were all set when we got back to change for the pool. Magic Bands: Yacht Club was a test resort for August for the Magic Bands and we were able to customize them before the trip and set up our Fastpass Plus. The bands were great, we really liked them. Other than a few minutes at checkin because the machine was being tempermental they always worked well. A few times we had to repeat the scan and finger scan at the parks, but it wasnt the bands in that case, it was the finger moving to not being on right. At Stormalong Bay we always just showed our bands and were let in, they never asked to see our KTTW cards even though we always brought them with us incase since we were told at checkin that we would need them since the WIFI was not working at the pool. We were told by the attendant at the pool that we did need to keep the bands on in the pool or they would ask us to show our keys. They are waterproof so we always kept them on. They do however, not float, we were told. They will sink if they come off. Kids both had them come off on the slide once, they must not have been in well, but they both were able to grab them quickly. The bands always opened the doors, we charged everything to the room at meals and at stores. Only twice was there an issue with the machine not working in which case I just pulled out my KTTW card to make it easier. That was once at the pool where we ordered drinks poolside and we knew the WIFI didnt work well there, it was fine at the bar. And once at Via Napoli, it was was being a pain so to make it faster I handed Gianluigi a card. They were great for the FP+ as well. Never had an issue. Also, with regards to wearing them all the time, it really was not an issue. It was August and HOT, but they really are pretty comfortable, they didnt bother us too much and none of us wear anything on our wrists usually. We kept them on all day and only took them off to sleep. Pool: Stormalong Bay was amazing! Its loud and busy for sure, but our kids loved it. They have already said when/if we come back to Disney we have to stay here again. They are completely spoiled by that pool now. Oops! Like I said, they never checked our keys to enter because we had the bands on. We did not see that many people with bands to be honest. The slide and lazy river with the tubes (which are free now, no renting) were big hits with the kids. They are old enough at 10 and 7 to be able to go to the slide and around the pool on their own. They both are strong swimmers too. We stuck near the lazy river and waterfall pool on those lovely seats built in for the most part and the kids would come tell us when they switched pools or went to the slide. It worked really well. Getting chairs wasnt too bad if we were there early enough, we always got chairs, just sometimes it was not in the shade, but we didnt sit in the chairs long anyways, we were mostly in the water. In the evening we were able to see a bit of the high Illuminations from the pool and beach and hear the music. That was nice too since my kids always opted for the pool rather than wait around at Epcot after dinner to see the show again. Food & Drink: We ate at the resort a little. Sadly we never made it to Beaches and Cream which was disappointing , but the few times it was an option, it was just too long a wait. Timing just didn't work. That place is crazy! We ate at Hurricane Hannah's a few times. Had the Shrimp Lobster roll which was okay, but having been to Cape Cod a few times, I concur that its a poor version. But I knew that going in. The last day I had the Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich and it was really good. I highly recommend that. We walked over to the Boardwalk and had lunch at ESPN the first day and another day got off the bus at Swan and walked over to Big River Grille for lunch before heading back to the pool. That was nice to have that option. I had the infamous Sunken Treasure more than once...so YUMMY!!!! (Thanks to the Beach and Yacht Club happy thread for that little nugget of information!) Its not on the menu, but Noel knows how to make it thankfully and he was around most days. The Pina Colava is yummy as well, and very refreshing as it's more smoothie like. They even had a non-alcoholic version the kids liked. We had breakfast twice at Captains Grille. We opted to order off the menu rather than do the buffet both times. The Lobster Omelette was really good! I also tried the Challah French Toast with Strawberry Compote and some kind of sauce lavender blah blah blah... the last morning and it was excellent as well. I just checked the menu online to get the whole name of it and it appears to have changed since just the other day already and both those options are gone or changed. Best of all was the Peanut Butter Cup cupcake at the Marketplace. OMG! So good. Had 2 of those. Fastpass Plus Experience: Since this is fairly new I will just say a bit about this even though its not resort related. We really enjoyed the ability to book FP in advance. It may not be for everyone, but it worked well for our style of touring. We are generally up early so we do Rope Drop for morning EMH most of the time. This means we don't generally need FPs during the morning at this time of year. We can ride everything we want without them usually, with little to very short waits. We take pool breaks around lunchtime and then head back to a different park in the afternoon generally for dinner and the evening. So I booked my FP+ for the evening park a ride or two before or after dinner. I took advantage of being able to book FP+ for the shows as well as with the kids and my DH, none of us are really stake out a spot and wait kinda people. And none of us like crowds. FP+ for Illuminations was great. It was a small area in front of one of the gift shops at the front of the WS Lagoon. There was maybe 50 people in there, all the kids had a front row seat by the fence and played with ducks. We walked in 10-15 minutes before the show. We stood in back of the kids like all the other adults were doing. In back of us, empty. It was really nice and calm. And then walking back home instead of rushing with everyone else to the monorail and buses was priceless! We booked FP+ for MSEP and Wishes as well, but because of rain and such, and not wanted to take a chance on waiting for it, it was only 8pm, and having it be delayed we ended up leaving and I cancelled them as we walked out. I don't know if there were any delays that night, but we ended up in the pool. The kids decided on the pool rather than wait. I had wanted to see how that worked, but it didn't work out. The other FP+ we did was for Fantasmic. This was great. We had never done F! because we just didn't want to deal with the chaos of it all. With the FP+ we were able to get a few walkon rides on RnR and ToT in while everyone else was already lining up and filing in. We rode them several times then made our way over about 8pm. We were directed to the Pochahontas section and there was maybe 20 people in the whole section. 20 minutes before the show I took these pictures, it got dark fast right after. about 10 minutes before the show they started letting people in to fill it in. The FP+ window says to be there by 8:15 for the 8:30 show, then they will start letting anyone in. It still did not fill up completely and we still had empty spaces around us. The rest of the theatre was packed in already when we walked in at 8pm including the dining package section. That was really nice. I was able to make changes on the go a few times when it was obvious we didnt need a FP for something I changed it to something else. I didn't rely on the park WIFI since I knew that was spotty. I have unlimited data so that was not an issue. I had a few bars pretty much everywhere in the parks except inside of Soarin and Splash a few times. A few places where there was no service, but only briefly. One confusing thing is when a ride is closed and you have a FP+ for it. It happened at MK twice because Splash and Thunder were closed due to rain. Once our FP window came, I would check my MDE app and the Splash disappeared and random things came up, difference rides for each of us. As it turns out, they send you an email, which I did not receive the first time and basically you can do on any of the FP+ rides listed that are operating at any time and use the FP+ or wait for your selected ride to open back up. In this case you can go at any time on any of the rides, not necessarily in the FP+ window of time you originally had, it basically becomes a universal FP. On our last MK day we were able to test this when again Splash was down and our window came and went, then we went back later after our window had passed and were able to get through no problem. I did get the email that time and figured out how it worked. Photopass Plus: We love getting ride photos so we were happy for the PP+ option and not having to buy them, we usually pick and choose and only get 2. While I liked this for the rides, I think the system needs a lot of work. The system in place now to get the photos is ridiculous. At Splash I waited 15 minutes, longer than the ride line itself, to get the photo added to my card. You have to go through the regular register for buying photos or photopass. A lot of people would get up there to buy the photo and then be like, oh I can but this card and get them all, and the CM would have to go into a 15 minute sales pitch explaining everything. With only 2-3 people working this tied up registers, it was ridiculous when most people just needed a quick scan. A self serve kiosks right by the photos would be good and/or a dedicated PP+ register or 2. Test Track was the only place to do it right, they had 2 PP+ only registers right where you see the pics. Anything else and you have to go to the other desk in the shop. Much better. I ended up skipping a few pictures because of it. Another issue with PP is we missed out on the first couple of ride photos. They only give you a voucher which you have to exchange for the card when you are at a park. Well, we arrived at Rope Drop and ran to the rides, no time to stop and do that. On the way out I stopped and got the card. I had the numbers from the rides and the CM said he would call them in and have them put on. They are not there. They expire after 48 hours so I was not able to get them. They really should just mail you the card with the CD, why they make you go in and exchange a voucher makes no sense to me. Even better would be if they link it to your Magic Bands. Maybe in the future. Transportation: We had no issues with the buses, which I was worried about with all the sharing. The buses were always just Yacht and Beach Club except for when we returned from AK and it was all 5 maybe? I know we stopped at Blizzard Beach then Swalfin. We got off there and walked to the Boardwalk for lunch, but YC would have been next. We never waited more than a few minutes for a bus anywhere and usually were running because the bus was already there. It was incredible. The boats were awesome too, never waited more than 5 minutes. Any questions, feel free to ask.