Monday, August 15, 2011

Walt Disney World Tips: Part 1

In celebration of our upcoming trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida, I thought I would put together a few posts to show how we do Disney! Today, part one of my Walt Disney World Tips is about planning. In my opinion, the most important part of any vacation is the planning. The more work you do before you leave, the more smoothly your trip is likely to go.

The first step in planning your Disney vacation is research. There are a ton of travel books out there with all kinds of information about Walt Disney World. I would suggest checking your library first....no need to buy a book when you can borrow it! You could also head over to your local bookstore and browse the travel section to get some great information. If you want to buy a travel guide for Disney, one great reason to go ahead and buy it is that you can take it with you while at Walt Disney World to have as a resource. Another great place to do a little research in on the internet. The two websites I've used most during my research are the official Disney website and allears.net. Both sites have great information about planning your trip including information about hotels, restaurants, the parks, and everything in between. Doing a little bit of research will help you customize your vacation for your family and make sure you have the most magical time possible!

There are alot of things to consider when planning your WDW vacation, but one of the first thing you have to decide on is the timing of your trip. After working around work and school schedules, you have to decide if you want to go during peak or off peak season at Disney. Their peak seasons are during most holidays and during the summer. During peak season, everything is just a little more expensive than it is during off peak season. The crowds are also usually a lot smaller during off peak times. If at all possible I would recommend going during an off peak season just to save time and money. {You can click here to see more information about past attendance}. But there are also other things to consider like the specials that Disney may be running. We are actually going during peak season on this trip, but Disney was offering the meal plan for free which made peak season more affordable for us. Another really big thing to consider when traveling with kids is their age. Most of the time Disney trips are planned for months if not years in advance, and if you time it right you can save a ton of money. Did you know that children under 3 are FREE at Disney. That means no tickets, no meal plan, and they don't factor into your hotel count either. One of the main reason we are going in August is because Eli will not be 3 until September so he is free, and we {a family of 5} can still stay in a room for a family of 4 until he turns 3. You also should consider your older kids' ages when they move from being able to buy a child's ticket {ages 3-9} to being considered a guest {anyone age 10+}. You can save lot of money by going before you kids turn 10, not only on tickets but also on meals! Disney's policy is that the age you are on your arrival is the age you are the whole trip. So if you are celebrating a 3rd or 10th birthday, go to Disney a day or two before the birthday so your child is still considered the younger age for your trip! 

After you decide when to go, you have to decide where to stay. As a child we stayed at off Disney hotels, and I remember nothing but magic from those vacations. But with that said, I would always recommend staying on Disney property if possible. I haven't done much research on off Disney hotels, mainly because I think that even though Disney properties may be a little more expensive, the benefits of staying at Disney are well worth the extra money. Disney has three categories of hotels: value, moderate, and deluxe. Within those three categories there are many resorts to chose from. Click here to check out all the options at Walt Disney World and see what would fit your family best! On our first trip to Disney we stayed at a value resort. It was very nice, though small for the money...but really who spends much time in the room when there is so much to do at the parks! This time we decided to upgrade to a deluxe resort, mostly because this is the last chance we will get to stay and be considered a family of 4 and deluxe is out of our price range once we are considered a family of 5. There are three other things that are major factors in making staying on Disney property a great choice: Extra Magic Hours, Disney Transportation, and the Disney Dining Plan. Click on the link to see more information about all three great features of Disney properties.

The last thing you will consider when planning your vacation is where to eat. Disney has anything from fine dining restaurants to carts that sell turkey legs! From my experience, I would highly recommend the Disney Dining Plan. Disney has a few different plans to chose from: Quick Service Dining, Dining, and Deluxe Dining. For our family, the Dining Plan was totally worth the money and seems to make our vacation less stressful because it is paid for ahead of time. It means no worrying about spend $50 on burgers or rationing our money to afford a nice sit down meal. On a normal day at Disney, we eat breakfast in our room before heading to the park, we eat a quick service meal for lunch, and then we have dinner at a character meal or other table service restaurant. One other great thing about the Disney Dining Plan is that sometimes Disney offers if for free!  My biggest recommendation about dining at Disney would be that if you are planning to go any character meals {they are included in the dining and deluxe dining plan as a table service meal}, you MUST make reservation as soon as possible {180 days from the day of your vacation}. My boys really enjoyed all the character meals, plus you get photos and autographs without waiting in a line for hours:) Disney also has some great Dinner Shows including a luau, a backyard bbq, and a princess tea party!

Check back tomorrow to see a couple of fun Disney crafts to make before you head to Florida, and I will continue with my Walt Disney World Tips series on Wednesday with a post on what to pack!
{Click HERE to see Walt Disney World Tips: Part 2 }
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10 comments:

Kmama said...

Excellent tips.

We went to Disney in February of 2009. We hit up Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. I would pass on Animal Kingdom next time, and spend more time at Magic Kingdom and hit either Epcot or Hollywood Studios, or even Universal, and maybe a water park for a day.

The last time we went, Buster was only a year, so we didn't take him to Magic Kingdom. I want to go back so he can enjoy it.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Awesome post, Kelli! I'm going to Pin it b/c I want to take the girls to Disney soooo badly. The last time I went to the park, we stayed on Disney property (Saratoga Springs) and it made the trip so much easier. Just hopped on the buses and headed to the parks. Had NO idea you could get the Disney meal plan for free!!!

He & Me + 3 said...

So jealous. we have not been in about 9 years and before that I had never been. I hope to take the kids back before they get too old.

Liz @ Sugarplum Creations said...

Oh I love this! I want to go back to Disneyland so badly! We went in April of 2008 {Disneyland, not World}, when Sierra was 5 and Kenners just turned 3. Kam hasn't been yet, and I just know she'd be in awe the entire time :) Soooo envious of you!

Joanna said...

We go every year. We plan out probably 6 months in advance. We have gone in off peek and in peek times...we decided that we will never go in peek time again. Whew. The waits..the crowds...it was crazy! That is awesome to get the meal plan for free. I hear they offer it once a year. We have stayed in Deluxe and Value. I have to say I loved the Polynesian but Pop Century was just as great. It's just we missed riding the monorail for everything! We have only made reservations once for a meal and that was at LeCellier {sp?} Steak House in Canada at Epcot. It was fantastic! Will def make reservations there again AND more reservations. We struggled a lot at night to get dinner because every place was so booked up! I wrote several posts on WDW planning as well. :-) We aren't going back until September/October or 2012 we want to go to Mickeys Not So Scarey Halloween Party as soon as it starts. One of the lady's that work in Hollywood Studios said this was a great time to come..less crowds before mid October for the Halloween Party!

Kelli said...

Oh my Kelli....there is so much great information in this post. Thank u for taking the time to type all of this out. You guys are gonna have an amazing trip.

Nichol said...

Awesome post. I'll definitely be coming back to this when we go in 2 years. I am not loking forward to planning our trip but I know it needs to be done!

stacey said...

I am a Disney-aholic. I love to plan too. I think the planning is the most exciting part of the vacation. I always turn to "The Unofficial Guide to Disney". They have great touring plans- I have never waited in a line for more than 20 min! The other essential piece of advice- arrive early, just before the park opens. You can see so much before the crowd hits at 10 or 11 am!

Lyndee @ A Recovering Craft Hoarder said...

I've done Disneyland a couple times with the kids and because of the price difference, always stayed at a non-Disney place. I used hotels.com or getawaytoday.com to plan our trip. Our hotel last time had a shuttle that ran all day so made traveling stress-free. We also tried eating off park most days and while a little more stressful, a whole lot less money. I am so super cheap that some of the joy is killed for me when I pay more--but free meal plans. Well, that might have gotten me to stay at Disney for the kind of money that would save! Hope your trip is wonderful!

Nicole - Life in Progress said...

Oh, I love allears.net. I always use their menus when I'm planning our ADR's!

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