Guest Post By Missy “Mouse Ears Missy” Tonkin, Disney Vacation & Disney Cruise Planner, Universal Studios Planner for www.magicalthemeparkvacations.com.
So you want to go to Disneyworld? Who doesn’t? There is nothing like stepping onto Main Street, and having all of your senses light up. The smells of cotton candy and fresh chocolate cookies wafting. The sight of Disney characters, Mickey balloons, and horse-drawn trolleys all with a beautiful castle in the background. The sounds of laughter and that amazingly nostalgic music you hear all around you.
Are you ready to go? Well, there are a few things to consider before you start tossing your flip-flops into your suitcase. You’ll discover when you start announcing that you plan to go to Walt Disneyworld (WDW), people will offer their opinions. They’ll tell you how expensive it is. They’ll tell you what you must do while you’re there. Really, the advice can just go on and on, and the opinions run deep. So here’s mine.
1. The Cost of a Disney Vacation
The first thing to consider when planning a trip to Walt Disney World is cost. The “bottom line” is the most important thing these days for most people. Disney can easily get expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Disney can be done on almost any size budget. You can stay in an off-site hotel, on a Disney property or even camp nearby in a tent or motorcoach. But remember, staying on-site at Disney allows for many advantages that you won’t find at other hotels.
Guests staying on site can take advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, Disney Magical Express, and the Disney Dining plans, which are all available to ONLY Disney Resort guests. To learn more about these advantages, please see www.magicalthemeparkvacations.com.
On our last big trip to WDW, we started out at 8am at one park with morning Extra Magic Hours, moved to another park when the crowds picked up, and then as it got close to closing time, we moved to the park with the EMH in the evening, which that night closed at 10pm, but didn’t close for Resort guests until 2am! We were tired, but having a nearly empty park to ourselves was so worth it.
Another thing to consider is ticket add-ons. Base tickets at Disney give you one park per day, but depending on the time of year you are going and what you want to do while you’re there, you may consider the options:
- Park Hopper, which allows you to visit any of thefour Disney Parks at Disneyworld during the duration of your ticket.
- There is the Water Parks & More option, which gives you access into the 2 Disney Water Parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, as well as access into DisneyQuest, Disney’s indoor, interactive theme park at Disney Marketplace.
- And let’s not forget about the No Expiration option – a great way to go for guests that visit Disney multiple times a year. Park tickets without this option expire 14 days after they are first used, and its a lot more economical to purchase 10 days with No Expiration versus purchasing 5 days for one trip and 5 days for the next.
There are so many things to do around the parks; some inexpensive and even free. Check out Mousesavers for even more great ideas for saving money on your WDW Vacation!
2. Time of Year
When you have a budget figured out for your vacation, you’ll need to consider the time of year. Disney Parks are always filled with people, but the crowd levels differ depending on the time of year, the weather, and if there are any special events going on around the World.
The basic rule of thumb at Disneyworld is that if kids are out of school, its going to be crowded. Disneyworld has an advantage over Disneyland here because it has four parks to spread the crowds out versus Disneyland’s two parks. Also, Disney has many events throughout the year, like Star-Wars weekend, Disney’s Food and Wine Festival, and Gay Days to name a few. If this is a concern to you, you can ask your travel agent to check with Disney to find out if there is anything happening during the dates you are considering. They should be happy to do it for you.
3. Ages of your Kids
Families of all ages love to visit Disney parks, but the vacation of a family with two young children is very different from a family vacation with two teenagers. If you have young kids, know that you will not be able to see everything. The best advice I can give those families is to take a break from the parks in the middle of the day, go back to your hotel and rest. Play in the pool. Take in a little TV. The parks can be exhaustive to young kids and they really need these breaks. Remember, too much of a good thing, can be bad.
On the flipside, teenagers might want to sleep late and stay out as late as they can at the parks. They also may want to visit Universal Orlando, which does not focus so much on characters as it does loud music and fast rides. Maybe consider a one day Park to Park ticket with transfers to the two Universal parks. Universal will pick you up at your Disney Resort (or off-site hotel) and deliver you to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for the day. And then at the end of the day, they will take you back.
4. Have a Plan
Its really important to have a plan of attack. Everyone has a checklist in their mind of the places they want to eat and the attractions they want to visit. Making an itinerary would be the best way to make sure you do it all. And its important to remember that if you plan to eat at any Table-Service restaurant within Disney, you have to have a reservation. You can try to walk in without one, but you may be turned away if you do.
Also, I tell people with kids that you have to have one Character Breakfast during your stay. These are great!! Characters circulate among guests, taking pictures and signing autographs in an orderly fashion while guest dine on yummy all-you-can-eat fare. My advice is to book a late breakfast so you are full enough to skip lunch, which makes for a less expensive day for your food budget.
Please, please, please, do not expect to see everything. WDW is huge and it truly is impossible to do it all. Disney World is not going anywhere, so just make a mental note of what you missed so that you can catch it the next time around.
I need to add this only because I just recently learned this myself. Sun block!! Take lots and lots of sun block!! Buying sun block or other sundries at the parks is expensive. I spent $17 for a 10 ounce can of sun block spray. Don’t forget sunglasses, and hats to protect you from the sun too!
More advice…Disney is not a fashion show; its miles and miles of walking in the bright sunshine. Please remember that when deciding what shoes to wear while you’re there or when you are packing nothing but princess dresses for your little princess to wear at the parks. Comfort is the way to go!! I can only shake my head when I see women walking around in high heels, nylons and a short dress, or when I see little girls dressed head to toe as princesses with makeup and glitter hairspray.
Finally, there are Disney Park Apps for iPhone and Android that you can temporarily subscribe to that can tell you where characters are doing meet-and-greets, wait times on rides, and little facts that you might not know. Definitely check them out.
5. Finally, It’s a Family Vacation, not a Kids Vacation
Remember that as adults, we need our fun too. Its great to see your kids have a good time, but to give up rides like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is just not fair. You have two choices here…drag your kids on kicking and screaming, which was our choice when it came to our 5-year-old daughter (like I said, mom and dad need to have their fun too) or take advantage of Rider Switch. How that works is mom waits with the kids at the front of the line while dad rides, and then when dad gets back, mom rides while dad waits with the kids. It’s a great system and you should not be afraid to take advantage of it. Its available on most of the more adult rides.
Well, my advice could fill a book, but this is enough to give any family a great Disney experience. Still filled with questions? Feel free to email me at email@example.com or see my site www.magicalthemeparkvacations.com. My advice will only cost you an email, telling me how much you loved your Disney Vacation. I will end with my best advice…remember to have fun!!