A Few TidBits of My Walt Disney World Obsession
- My Top Tips for having the best vacation in the happiest place on earth.
So, yeah, most of you know that because of my rather expensive surgery and extensive recovery time, we cannot afford a vacation this year. I used up all my sick and vacation time off from work in one fell swoop. I was secretly hoping to persuade my husband to take another WDW vacation. Yes, we went last year. So what?
I have been on thirteen full length (9-14 day long) Walt Disney World vacations. I made a shirt to wear there on our last trip so that I could brag about it silently. I don't live in Florida, mind you - I'm from Texas and it is worth every minute in the car, on the plane and being frisked by TSA. I know a lot of ins and outs. None of them are secret. I think most are common sense but I see tons of people doing just the wrong thing and I can see that they are ruining or wasting their own vacation. Here you go. These are in no particular order, mostly because I have trouble prioritizing the features of my vacation. There is a way things have to be - they are all equally important.
1. Stay on Disney property. I suggest the Caribbean Beach Resort. It is considered Moderate, not Value but for just a bit more you get a LOT more. I would avoid the All-Star resorts. They all share the same bus and they are often packed past capacity and the walk to the stops both at the parks and at the resorts are the longest. My parents swear by Pop Century. If money is no object, go for Polynesian if you need a themed resort, or the Grand Floridian if you just want straight luxury. Yes, you could save a few hundred bucks staying in a Days Inn but the package means your magic starts months before the trip. They send you your travel packets. Disney gets your luggage to your door. That's right. You check your luggage with adorable Mickey tags on them and you don't have to see (or worry about) them again until you get to your room! You ride the buses: stress free. No fighting with the hubbs about getting lost or forgetting which parking lot has your car. You also get bonus magic hours in the parks each day that Holiday Inn's guests won't.
2. Get the meal plan. This kind of goes hand in hand with #1. Go 100% Disney. Getting the meal plan means that it looks pricey upfront but you don't have to spend another dime while on vacation. No stressing over that $15 hamburger. It's paid for in advance and you can have the most expensive item on every menu if you like and it's all the same. Get the Dining Plan, not the Quick Service, not the Deluxe Dining. The middle plan gets each person (over the age of 2) one snack, one counter service meal and one table service meal for every day of your vacation. That may not sound like much but it is MORE than enough. I will explain below.
3. Don't get every person a meal every time you sit down. The counter service portions are huge and every meal comes with a dessert. There are 3 in my family so most lunches were made of two meals split between us. I can't tell you how many times I've seen families of 5 throwing out enough food to feed an army. Just don't do it. Your kids can share that pizza and then have plenty of room for the chocolate cake. Don't worry about it. It's vacation. Some of the really nice restaurants take 2 table service meals PER person. So, our family of 3 would use 4 adult table service meals and 2 child table service meals to go to Ohana's (a Hawaiian buffet that is worth it!). It just means that we share some other meals. The snacks can fill in the gaps too. You can use it on almost anything: ice cream in the park, a giant muffin at your resort, an extra side of fries to let your kid have 'their own'.
4. Plan your trip in advance. I have mine down to 10 minute intervals and I suggest that for everyone BUT if your family isn't into forced march vacations at least plan where you will be for each day, each meal. You can make reservations up to 6 months in advance and I wouldn't advise waiting any later than 4 months in advance. The best places fill up. Know when which park is open late on what day. Know what day which park has fireworks, laser light show, and parades.
5. Don't let your kids run the show. Yes, this is Disney World but darn it, it's your holiday too and WDW has something for everyone. Make a plan and stick to it. Don't agree to run from one side of Magic Kingdom to the other just to ride the rides in the order your six year old wants to. You'll wear yourself out and miss a ton of stuff.
6. Go in September or October. It is starting to cool off. Most kids are back in school so the crowds are more manageable. The parks are still open super late. The hours start to shrink down in the off season. Most years Disney offers packages at a big discount to get people to come in September and October. We got our Dining Plan for FREE last year because we picked the sweet spot to attend. In fact, I know for a fact they are offering that same deal RIGHT NOW if you book by September 15th. Here is the direct link.
7. Park Hopper and Water Park Fun Options - get 'em. If you are going to be there for 10 days (which I suggest as the perfect length), buy 7 day tickets. With the Water Park Fun Option you get not just one but two great water parks. You can also spend a partial day (after spending the am at the water park) at Downtown Disney or the Boardwalk. It's fun and it's free. Get the Park Hopper so that you can be in Animal Kingdom in the am when the animals are most active and visible but you're not stuck with that as your only park that day when they close at 5 pm. In the afternoon/evening go to the park that is open the latest. It really helps you get the most for your money.
8. Make dinner reservations (at restaurants inside the parks) for right when the park is closing. That way you get to stay in the park even later. You will have the whole thing to yourself practically. No, the rides and shows won't be going but they will let you walk as slowly as you want and shop until the wee hours of the morn. For example: we made our dinner reservations at the Coral Reef Restaurant (seafood with a view of the Living Seas Pavilion, basically you are inside a giant aquarium) for 9:30 PM because the park closed at 10. We got to see the big IllumiNations at the lagoon inside Epcot and then enjoyed our late dinner. When we got out, there were only a few people left and we took a leisurely stroll and bought souvenirs without fighting the crowd for THE mouse ears my 5 year old daughter had to have.
You may be thinking (and rightly so), "How did you have dinner at 10 at night with a 5 year old that didn't end in tears and a fit?" #9 is the answer.
9. Take a nap EVERYDAY, all of you. I don't care if you're 2, 12, 19, 34, 55 or 83. TAKE A NAP. Break your day up into two pieces: from 7am to 1pm and then from 5 to midnight. Sleep for 2 to 3 hours in the middle and wake up refreshed and ready to go. The kids might resist it at first but when they see how late they get to stay up if they acquiesce. Plus it starts to feel like you get two days for every one because you got the park hopper and are at Magic Kingdom in the AM and Epcot in the PM. Napping keeps you out of the park during the hottest and most crowded part of the day. You can nap in the cool of your magical Disney resort or you can stand in line for that one ride for two hours with all the other schmucks. Seriously, you'll get nothing done in those hours except wearing yourself out.
There you go. And those are just off the top of my head.
WDW Luva 4 LIFE!
Author Natalie Gibson
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