FREE Things available around Disney World

You spend money on your Disney World Resort, Park Tickets, Water Park Tickets, and Dining Package. Now you have to shell out more money on gifts and souvenirs. So what can you do for free?

Magic Kingdom

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom: A game that allows you to obtain trading cards from Magic Kingdom to help Merlin defeat Disney Villains. Stop at the Firehouse on Main Street for a brief lesson and to pick up your trading cards

Insider tip: You are allowed one set of cards per day, per person in your party. If you have a park hopper pass, you can grab an extra set of cards each day to increase your collection!

Electric Water Pageant: Nightly water pageant on Seven Seas Lagoon. This can be seen from any of the “monorail” resorts as well as Magic Kingdom.

Insider tip: Check the daily schedule at Magic Kingdom or one of the monorail resorts for times. Subject to cancellation for inclement weather.

EPCOT

Club Cool: Try Coca Cola products from around the world. Typically there are 8 flavors available to try and the flavors rotate periodically. Located in Future World near Innoventions West.

Insider tip: This is a great place to stop on a hot day for a free beverage or to wait out a brief Florida shower.

Downtown Disney

Legoland: Free play area for kids and amazing lego creations in the surrounding area!Woody

Raglan Road: Often has live music in the bar (especially on weekends)

Disney’s Boardwalk

At times there are street performers in the evening. Walk around and enjoy!

Other

Transportation: Transportation throughout Walt Disney World is free for Disney Resort Guests! This includes the monorail, bus system, and boats

Insider tip: Try and ride all the modes of transportation during your trip! Monorail service is available around Magic Kingdom, the front entrance of EPCOT, and from the Ticket and Transportation Center. Boat service is available along the Magic Kingdom Resorts and the Ticket and Transportation Center as well as Friendship Boats which have service from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the rear entrance of EPCOT with stops at Swan/Dolphin, Boardwalk, and Beach/Yacht Club. A wonderfully relaxing ride! Bus service is available from all resorts (limited based on other modes of transportation).

Photographers: Disney’s load of PhotoPass photographers are available at all the best locations at Walt Disney World.

Insider Tip: Activate your PhotoPass Card before your departure and bring it with on your trip. Also bring a digital camera or smart phone. When you hand off your photo pass, ask the photographer if they would mind taking a photo with your camera as well. Most are happy to oblige.

What are your favorite freebies at Disney?

5 steps to planning an all inclusive Disney World vacation

5 Steps to Planning an All Inclusive Disney World Vacation!

So you want an all inclusive vacation, how about Disney World? Most people don’t think about Disney destinations as an all inclusive type trip, but they can be. Have everything paid for up front, reservations made for your favorite restaurants and attractions and even skip a few lines with these 5 easy steps:

1. Make your Disney World package reservation a resort that’s most convenient to your family’s wants and needs. Want to spend more time in Magic Kingdom and less time traveling? Think about Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or even Wilderness Lodge. Love Epcot? Think about Beach or Yacht Club. Parks not so important? How about club level service at any of the deluxe resorts to enjoy some down time in their lounge with a few snacks and drinks? With well over 20 resort options, there’s surely something for everyone!

Enjoy some of the finer resorts on Disney property: Contemporary

Enjoy some of the finer resorts on Disney property: Contemporary

2. Choosing your dining plan. Of course, the most important part of an all inclusive vacation is the FOOD! Disney offers several different dining plan options that fits your needs. Have a toddler who’s on the go? Try the quick service plan which gives you the flexibility and maximizes your park time. Like sitting down for a meal and trying new things but still want an option to grab and go? Disney’s PLUS dining is for you! Love to be adventurous and try new things? Are vacations all about the food? Deluxe dining might be the best choice for you! While it involves a lot of planning, it’s an amazing experience to try some of the finer things Disney has to offer! How about some recreational activities as well as live shows and adventures? Check out the premium dining plan! This has the same entitlements as the deluxe dining plan, but allows you to use your credits differently as well as unlimited recreational sports for the ULTIMATE in all inclusive vacations. Above that is the platinum dining plan which includes everything the premium plan has to offer plus a fireworks cruise and spa treatment. This also includes pre-arriving planning service by a Disney cast member (because you’ll need it to pack everything into your trip!)

3. Make your reservation more than 180 days in advance. This will allow you to get your choice of dining reservations when they become available for your travel dates. Do your research, take a look at menus, talk to friends and family and carefully pick your top choice dining experiences during your stay. This is only for table service restaurants, no need for reservations at any quick service dining locations.

4. Make your FastPass+ reservations. 60 days prior to your arrival, you can book all of your FastPass+ reservations! Check out popular attractions like the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Soarin’, Toy Story Mania, or meet your child’s favorite Disney characters: Anna & Elsa, Cinderella, or even Mickey Mouse himself! Remember, 3 FastPass choices per park day per person and they don’t all have to be the same!

5. Buy a few gift cards. Since Disney does require gratuity on all table service meals, to make it a true all inclusive vacation, you’ll need to stash some cash for that extra cost. Grab some gift cards whether they be the Disney or Visa variety. Either way, you won’t go home spending a dime! Maybe even grab a few more for some sounveirs!

There you have! 5 easy steps to making your Disney World vacation, all inclusive! To save you some work on the process, try out a travel agent that specializes in Disney. It’s free, it’s easy, and you don’t have to do any of the work!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Planning a Disney World vacation with Toddlers

 

It’s a brave adventure for parents, taking a toddler to Disney World. While it makes perfect financial sense due to Disney’s “free until 3 policy”, the change in routine can be nerve wracking! If this is your first Disney World vacation EVER the new experience will be exciting for your entire family. If you’ve been to Disney World without kids, you’ll definitely notice a difference in pace and touring style. Please use this guide to help you master Disney World with a little one!

Choosing AccommodationsArt-Of-Animation2

There are two schools of thought when booking your accommodations: convenience and price. Convenience would be within close proximity to Magic Kingdom. Keeping cost in mind, your best bet is Wilderness Lodge, although I could make an argument to upgrade to one of the resorts along the monorail to just “roll on” to the monorail allowing you to get to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot without worrying about taking your prince or princess out, folding the stroller up and repeating multiple times each day as you would to get on and off the buses. The resorts nearest to Epcot: Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk Inn are also 3 great choices as you can walk or take a boat to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. (The walk to Hollywood Studios is long – I suggest the boat unless you literally just missed it).

In between the convenience and price category is Art of Animation. The family suites provide the best character presence in all of Disney World and it’s perfect for kids of all ages! A bonus of the family suites is that adults have a separate bedroom from the living space allowing your little one to get a full night’s sleep without you in sight! It will also avoid “lights out” earlier than you’d like or hiding under the covers watching a movie on the iPad! Another little bonus is that the family suites have a microwave!

Middle of the road money wise in the moderate category, I think Coronado Springs is the best. There are sliding doors between the bathroom area and the sleeping quarters that could block off light and noise while your toddler gets her beauty sleep (assuming a pack and play is still in the cards). Coronado Springs also has the best moderate resort pool experience.

If you’re really looking to save money, your best priced resort as well as winner for best use of characters in Disney resort is All Star Movies. Buyer beware though – you don’t get anything for free. This resort is rather large, so it’s worth upgrading to the preferred location rooms. During off peak travel hours, this resort shares bus service with the other two All Star resorts and Movies is the LAST stop. Not ideal with a toddler in tow.

All Disney World resorts have a mini fridge and you can request a pack n play or crib (based on availability) at no cost. The mini fridge is large enough to fit a half gallon of milk and some other cold snacks. Think the size of a college dorm fridge. For moms like me that are still doing whole milk for their growing babies, each resort has their own “general store” that you can buy milk, juice, and other supplies at Disney inflated prices. It’s better than buying cartons of milk one by one!

How many nights to stay?

This is your decision! If you’re taking a plane ride, I think 5 nights is your minimum. If you’re changing time zones whether flying or driving, you need at least that amount of time as well. An ideal Disney vacation (especially for a first time) is 7 days, 6 nights (or more) with a break every 2-3 nights to enjoy the other things your resort has to offer or to go exploring.

Park tickets

Theme park tickets, the most expensive part of any Disney vacation. First timers will definitely have some sticker shock at the overall cost of their vacation package when park tickets get added to the mix. Starting with “how many days”. My preference with or without kids is at least 5. There’s a big price break at 4, so the upgrade to that 5th day is really minimal. This gives you 2 Magic Kingdom days, 1 Epcot Day, 1 Hollywood Studios day, and 1 Animal Kingdom day.

If you’re on a shorter trip or a tight budget, use this guide to choose your parks. I understand you want to see it all but for the age of your little ones, Magic Kingdom just makes the most sense. There are well over 30 attractions plus live shows to enjoy. While some of them are for “big kids”, it’s important to know what each park has to offer.

3 Days: 2 Magic Kingdom, 1 park of your choice

4 Days: 2 Magic Kingdom, 2 parks of your choice (or 1 in each park, but you may feel like you’re missing out on Magic Kingdom!)

Choosing your “other” park, is based on what you and your child/children like. Hollywood Studios has a heavy Disney Junior presence, Epcot has lots of princesses, and Animal Kingdom has some great dining, a few lesser seen Disney characters and it’s great for little ones who enjoy the zoo back home!

Don’t be afraid to skip a park. You can always return to Disney another time to enjoy more when the kids get bigger!

What about park hoppers? Is that too much for young kids? My argument for park hoppers is that you’re little one is taking it all the sights and sounds of Disney. They won’t notice a difference of going to Magic Kingdom in the morning and heading to Epcot after nap time. Lights and noise are lights and noise!

Big Kids Can Have Fun Too!

For many of the attractions that have height requirements, the rider switch option is available. Alert a cast member that you’d like to take advantage of this service and they will walk you through the process. This allows one guest to ride while the other one waits with your too small or too scared rider and the “switch” with the other adult. If you have an older child who can ride, he or she can ride twice (once with each adult).

Characters

I’m sure traveling with little ones bring the thought of character meets to mind. If your kids do recognize some Disney characters (which I think happens around age 2), you can one or more of your FastPass+ allotments to meet their favorite characters or use the standby lines to do so.

Taking a break

Whether you choose base tickets or park hoppers, you can leave a park and return later in the day. Try and keep nap time consistent each day. If your little one is a good stroller napper, feel free to roll around the parks while she takes a snooze. If you need a quiet space, head back to your hotel BEFORE nap time to get some time to wind down and to prevent a complete meltdown.

Each of Disney’s 4 theme parks have a baby center. It’s an air conditioned area with rocking chairs, changing tables, bottle warmers, high chairs, and more. It’s also a great escape from the noise of Disney parks. Check the park maps for locations!

FastPass+

The addition of FastPass+ is the biggest asset to parents of young children. This allows you to schedule those top 3 choice attractions prior to your arrival. Avoiding being in line during nap time/when you’d like to leave the park for the morning.

Best FastPass+ attractions for each theme park for the toddler population:

Magic Kingdom

  • Jungle CruiseDisney-World-First-Visit-Button
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Dumbo
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Haunted Mansion (+/- on the “scare” factor)
  • Meet Anna & Elsa
  • Meet Mickey at Town Square
  • Meet Tinkerbell at Town Square
  • Meet Ariel in her Grotto
  • Meet Cinderella & Rapunzel

There are many more attractions and live shows available in Magic Kingdom to bring enjoyment to your toddler!

Epcot

  • Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Epcot Character Spot
  • Maelstrom
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Living with the Land

The two headlining attractions in Epcot: Test Track and Soarin’ both have 40” height minimums. Adults will have fun with these. Check out details of Rider Switch.

Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Mania
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid (live show)
  • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (live show)
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage (live show)
  • Studio Backlot Tour
  • Great Movie Ride (+/- for a few small scare factors)
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Lights, Motors, Action (live show)
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Show (live show)

Enjoy some adventure time at Honey I Shrunk the Audience play area!

Animal Kingdom

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Festival of the Lion King (live show)
  • Finding Nemo the Musical (live show)
  • Triceratops Spin
  • DINOSAUR (height requirement and decent scare factor involved – beware before you choose this option)
  • Meet Disney Pals

Play in the Boneyard! If you have time, enjoy some of the trails and treks – Flights of Wonder, Wild Africa Trek, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, etc. They’re worth the time exploring if you have a full day to dedicate to Animal Kingdom.

Dining

If you’re planning a character meal, book it later in your trip to see how your little one reacts to characters earlier in the trip. Stop by one of the character meet and greets and try face characters (those that can speak) vs. non-face characters like Mickey and friends who don’t speak. They may be a bit scarier at first. If you do make your reservation earlier in your trip, you can always wave characters past your table if the scare factor is too high! Remember, Disney allows cancellation at no cost 24+ hours from time of reservation so you can always do something else.

Don’t worry about a few tears or whiny moments, kids are everywhere in Disney and most parents feel your pain and are hoping their kid doesn’t do the same thing until AFTER they leave!

Non-character dining options that have great ambiance for kids and good food for adults:

  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (Hollywood Studios)
  • 50s Prime Time Café (Hollywood Studios)
  • Beaches & Cream (Beach Club)
  • Whispering Canyon Café (Wilderness Lodge)
  • ‘Ohana Dinner (Polynesian)
  • T-REX (Downtown Disney)
  • Coral Reef (Epcot)
  • San Angel Inn (Epcot
  • Rainforest Café (Downtown Disney or Animal Kingdom)
  • Live theater shows are sometimes a good option depending on your child’s attention span – Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are my top choices.

Dining Plan or No Dining Plan?

Can you get your little one to sit down each night for a meal? Is he a wiggle worm and makes everyone’s dinner more difficult when he’s “all done”? Perhaps plus dining is not for you! If he wants food on the table NOW and you do want dining, select mostly buffet locations. The added benefit being that he can have his own plate of food at each buffet location without any additional cost. At other sit down restaurants, he can share with mom, dad, or big sister at no additional cost.

If you’re beyond meltdowns or have a toddler who will patiently sit and eat (I’m jealous), enjoy and explore all of your options. You still may want to stay away from signature dining as that can be a long meal!

Adults only time

Looking for some time away from your little one for a romantic dinner or outing? Disney has thought of EVERYTHING! Kids nite out offers 1:1 babysitting services in your hotel room. This must be set up in advance, but it’s a great way for adults to escape for a little bit. If you’re little ones are over age 3, you have the opportunity to enjoy some of the kids activity centers around Disney World deluxe resorts while you enjoy a meal as well!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Tips for planning your First Disney World vacation!

 

It was a slow day for me today, so what else would I do but dream of our next Disney World vacation. My husband hates when I’m left to my own devices because he knows I’ll find a deal and sweet talk him into something, and of course, I did! 🙂 Back to Disney in December for some more “research” of course! This will be my daughter’s very first trip and while she won’t remember it, the vacation will be a very memorable one for us!

The first Disney trip is a big deal. Whether it’s the first time going as an adult and planning yourself or the first time for your kids, each experience is different and deserves specialized care! While many of my general tips apply to all Disney guests, here are some that are especially for those first time travelers!

  • Travel off peak when possible. September – early November is really the best time to go to Disney! The weather is still warm, crowds are low, and prices are low as well. Disney often offers free dining or discounted dining promotions during this time so you get more for less. Free dining continues to be the most popular promotion Disney offers and there’s a reason they choose specific seasons to offer this great promotion.
  • If summer or spring break is your only option, don’t sweat it. You can still enjoy Disney while when crowds levels are higher. You can enjoy FastPass+ to the fullest by staying on Disney property which will allow you to skip the line for even more of your soon to be favorite attractions!
  • Plan ahead. Once you have your dates, get them secured. Discounts can ALWAYS be applied at the time a new promotion is released. It’s just a phone call away. Packages require a $200 deposit to book and is 100% refundable 46+ days in advance, so if things change, no problem.
  • Work with someone that knows Disney. You will save time, money, frustration, and stress by working with a travel agent. I’m always here to help if you have general questions or are looking to get your Magical experience started! I’ve found that once a person starts with a good travel agent, they continue to use him/her for future trips or refer friends. That’s a really good marker of a great person! You should not be another page in their book!
  • Try at least one sit down restaurant. Your feet will thank you and it’s fun to get a different experience and a break from the go, go, go atmosphere of Disney.Disney-MagicBand
  • Use FastPass+ to your advantage. Whether you have base tickets or park hoppers, make sure take advantage to all the free things Disney offers as part of their package. Each ticketed guest will receive 3 FastPasses each day. Disney resort guests have the opportunity to earn more once inside the park. Check out the complete details of FastPass+ and learn strategy.
  • Customize those MagicBands. I always feel bad when I see a family with all gray bands walking around the parks or playing in the pool. Learn how to get to your customization page and get creative!
  • Children under 3 are free! If are thinking about Disney travel in the near future and your son or daughter is under 3, think about travel sooner rather than later. Children under 3 years of age are free. Free park tickets, free dining at buffets, and are able to eat off your plate at other restaurants. They also don’t count toward the total guests in your room . For a family of 5, this is huge. Once you hit 5+ in a room, you lose many hotel options.
  • Children under 10 cost less! Once again, if you are going to travel in the near future, 9 years old and 10 years old make a huge difference. At 10, kids are considered Disney “adults” and pay adult prices for food and park tickets. You will save quite a bit of money by traveling before (or near) the age your child turns 10.
  • Tell Disney (or your travel agent) about any celebrations. This includes everything from first visit to birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc. Anything you can think of.  Even if travel doesn’t fall specific on a birthday or anniversary, you can still celebrate at Disney! You’ll get a little something extra. While it’s typically just a button, you never know what kind of fuss Disney will make over your special celebration.
  • Do your research! Know what resorts have to offer and know where each one is. Typically there’s a reason that one hotel is cheaper than another in each resort category. Make sure you know the details before you make your final decision!
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Historical Discounts + Planning a 2015 Disney World Vacation

 

For all of you advanced planners, coupon clippers, and deal watchers, this post is for you! It’s historical Disney World discounts. This post will also tell you how much you can plan to save and coming in a future post, an overview of traveling to Disney each month and what you can expect to pay each month as a family of 4. This will be the ultimate guide planning your Disney World vacation.

To start, let’s talk about “rack rates”.

Rack rates are the non-discounted rates you can book at any time. The last two years, rack rates have been released for the next calendar year the 2nd week in July. In 2013, rates were released in June. I would expect rates to be released again in July of 2014 for 2015 vacations. Disney allows reservations up to 365 days in advance after rates are released. Check out the crowd calendar to see when crowd levels and prices are lowest.

Predicting a discount

Rates are released, now playing with numbers, how do you choose your travel dates? Below are the general public and Disney Visa cardholder discounts that were available in both 2013 and 2014 and the date they became available in each year respectively.

Travel Dates Discount Available Date available
January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2013 15-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/12

10/10/12

January – Beginning of Spring Break Season 2014 Stay, Play Dine – discounted package-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

January – week before Easter 2014 5%-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 10/3/13

10/7/13

Mid February – early June 2013 (excludes week of Easter) 15-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 12/27/13

1/3/13

Late February – mid June 2014 (excludes week of Easter) 5%-30% off room rates + free day of park tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 1/2/14

1/6/14

Late April – mid June 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid June – mid August  2013 5-30% off room rates + discounted tickets-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/28/13

4/2/13

Mid June – late August 2014 10-35% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 3/13/14

3/17/14

Mid August – September 2014 10-25% off room + Free Memory Maker-General public 2/6/14
Mid August – September 2013 5-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

Mid August – early October 2014 20-30% off room rates-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

September 2013 Free Dining-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/6/13

5/9/13

October – December 2013 Free Dining (ended 12/22)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2013 15-30% off room rates (ended 12/23)-General public 8/1/13
October – December 2014 Free Dining (blacked out 10/4-10/25; 11/2-11/8; 11/21-12/11)-Disney Visa Cardholder-General public 5/2/14

5/7/14

 

So now you know what discount is available, you can make your decision on what saves you the most. A few important notes:

  • If more than one discount is available, make sure you choose the best one for your family. A great example is free dining and room discount. If you are traveling with less than 2 adults, planning on staying at deluxe resort, and/or have a short stay, the room discount may be greater than dining savings.
  • With ticket discounts or a free day of park tickets, just do a quick check to see how much one more day would cost, sometimes it’s under $10!
  • For free dining discounts, as long as your arrival day is within the travel window, your entire vacation will be covered. If you are booking a room rate discount, your entire vacation will need to be within available travel dates.
  • Be willing to do a split stay if your travel dates are set in stone. This way you can take advantage of some great discounts. Just make sure you book the same room type if you are planning on staying at the same resort.
  • Don’t count on a certain discount even if historical information points towards it. Free dining in 2014 is the perfect example – previous years had very few blacked out dates and 2014 blacked out almost the entire month of October.

When should I book my vacation?

If high demand dining experiences like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Table, pre-park opening character meals, evening meals at California Grill, etc. are on your list, I highly recommend booking before your 180 days window opens (this means 180 days prior to your arrival). For those looking to budget for your vacation, book early and start paying things off on a monthly or quarterly basis.

If you are looking for high demand reservations like free dining, it may be in your best interest to book a low cost room only reservation to get your dining choices and then book your free dining reservation online as the deal comes out. 2014 Free dining brought phone wait times of 5-6 hours and phone is the ONLY way to update an existing reservation or to book a Disney Visa cardholder discount. While Disney’s web site is very slow on the first day of a free dining discount, you can at least hold your reservation t no cost if the payment system is causing issues (as it tends to when website volume is extremely high)  Get a sure thing! The best part about room only reservations is that you are required to pay 1 night’s room plus tax (at a value resort this can be about $100). It’s kind of cheating the system, but your room does go back into the pool after you cancel. If you wait at least 2 weeks after a major discount has been released, wait times can be less than 5 minutes to nothing. Your dining reservations are not tied to your reservation number, so you can cancel without losing your other reservations!

Room rate discounts are not as competitive as major discounts like free dining. Wait times are typically less than an hour and most important for locations like Port Orleans Riverside which have rooms that sleep up to 5 guests.

Regardless of your discount and your resort choice, be prepared to be flexible. This may mean upgrading your room view/category to receive the available discount or changing resorts completely (often in the case of free dining). It’s best to have a backup plan and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices and if working with a travel professional, be available via email or text message as things are changed.

Saving time AND money

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Top 10 Disney World Table Service Restaurants when paying out of pocket

 

It’s no secret that Disney World is expensive and if you don’t choose Disney’s dining plan, you may get sticker shock at the cost of food. While you can survive on quick service meals, snacks, and purchasing food from a nearby grocery store, I always suggest at least one table service meal to enjoy the full magic of Disney World!

If you’re looking to save money, here are the top X Table service restaurants when paying out of pocket. This takes into account portion size, the ability to share a meal, and overall cost.

  1. 50s Prime Time Café. Located in Hollywood Studios, it boasts some of the largest portion sizes in all of Disney World and is one of my top two choices for meal sharing. At least two entrees on their menu can be shared between 2 adults with no problem!
  2. Via Napoli. In my husband’s top 5 Disney restaurants overall (and probably up there in mine as well), Via Napoli can be found in the Italy Pavilion in World Showcase. An individual pizza can be shared between two adults, however that’s not allowed on Disney’s dining plan. Their pasta dishes are also large enough to share if you augment it with an appetizer or dessert, but they’re so yummy you may not want to! This is my other top choice for shareable meals at Disney restaurants. Lunch and dinner menus here are the same, so go anytime although my favorite time is around 3:30 (last lunch seating and it’s a perfect way to start our evening at Epcot).
  3. Rainforest Café. Located in both Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney, this location has decently priced entrees and a fun atmosphere for kids and kids at heart!
  4. Beaches & Cream. A lesser known option in Beach Club resort (between Epcot and Hollywood Studios). It’s a nice little break from the theme parks. This small diner only seats about 30 people, but the food is good, better than average burgers. Stay for some ice cream or make ice cream your main meal.
  5. Liberty Tree Tavern. This is only for lunch as their menus are drastically different. This is one of the lowest price table service meals in Magic Kingdom and the food is good. Many families have Liberty Tree Tavern as a must do for every vacation. Save room for the Ooey Gooey Toffee Café for dessert. It’s amazing!
  6. Boma. This amazing buffet meal is better than your standard buffet food. You can find this bustling restaurant in Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s definitely a bit of a hike for anyone not staying in that vicinity, but it’s a great and filling option on a day off from the parks or on a day you are at Animal boma-flavors-of-africaKingdom. Reservations are rarely hard to come by and both breakfast and dinner provide some interesting and different food from the standard buffet style meals. It’s a must try at least once! We can’t wait to go back from breakfast and dinner next time!
  7. Tusker House. Another great option in Animal Kingdom. Breakfast and lunch are character meals, but not as expensive as many others on property. Lunch and dinner food is very similar, so you’ll get the most value out of lunch!
  8. San Angel Inn. A beautiful table service restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion on Epcot. A family of 4 can share an appetizer or two and then 1-2 entrees at lunch. Lunch and dinner menus are different, so be aware of your options!
  9. Trails End. A little bit off the beaten path at Fort Wilderness, it’s easily the cheapest buffet meal on Disney property. Breakfast is a delicious option and it’s usually not that busy! You’ll likely be able to get in without a reservation.
  10. Kona Café. Breakfast and lunch menus are fairly inexpensive. As 2 adults, we can get breakfast for around $30 and be full until late lunch or early dinnertime. Dinner becomes a bit more pricy, so check the menus before you book.

A few other things to think about:

  • Don’t be afraid to share a few appetizers or share an entrée. At some locations it’s encouraged!
  • Check the menus. Some restaurants have different lunch and dinner menus, but that often means a price break at lunch as well. As long as your preferred meal is there, book a late lunch and be full the rest of the night!
  • Do character meals for breakfast. While this can cut into some of your park time, you’ll save more money (many of them run until 11 am, so it’s more like brunch!)

Interested in a restaurant not on this list? Book it! Enjoy yourself and eat what you really want! When you get to the restaurant of your choice and you’re not very hungry, you can just order an appetizer or dessert and head out.

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Arriving at your Walt Disney World Resort

 

Whether you arrive at your Disney World resort via Magical Express or car, the check is process remains the same. In order to get the full picture, you’ll need to know about the online check in process as well.

Online check in

Up to 60 days prior to your arrival, you have the ability to check in online. By logging into your My Disney Experience account, you can designate a credit card, set a personal PIN to use for purchases while on site, set your estimated arrival time for check in and make some room requests. Each resort has a specific list of room requests available and you are able to choose up to 2. Typical requests include choosing a floor, requesting to be near transportation, or in some cases a view within the resort. If near transportation is an option during your online check in process, I’d choose it! Remember, you can always make additional requests via phone (like a side of the resort you’d prefer to be in or in value or deluxe resorts – a king size bed), but the more requests you make, the more difficult it will be to fulfill those. It’s best your request to a maximum of 2-3 and prioritize your request. During the process you are also able to submit a cell phone number to receive a text alert to notify you that your room is ready.

If you are arriving early in the day, I highly recommend choosing online check in. If you are arriving later in the afternoon or in the evening, the process is not as important as your room will already likely be ready, although it will save you some time in setting a personal PIN and providing credit card information.

Check in desk

Upon your arrival, you’ll likely be distracted by the magic of Disney as you walk into your resort. It’s a common happening even for us who are veterans! Thankfully, the check in desk isn’t very hard to find! Make sure you choose the appropriate line: Check in or online check in. If you checked in online, you can use this separate line.

Make sure at least one of your MagicBands is available as you’ll need to scan it to access your reservation. If you are arriving via Disney’s Magical Express, you’ll probably already have them on! Rooms are assigned 3-4 days prior to your arrival, so you’ll already have a room assignment. If your room is not ready, you’ll be asked for your cell phone number and sent a text message notification. The great part about these notifications is that your room number is also included. You don’t have to go back to the check in desk to get keys or room assignments. Just grab your bags and head right to your room!

At any point during the check in process you realize you don’t like your room location or it doesn’t fit your room requests, you are welcome to ask if something else is available. The room assigning cast member does everything in his/her power to grant your requests, but sometimes it just can’t happen!

Dining Plan

If you elected to add any of Disney’s dining plan options, your cast member will go over the plan as well as the rules and regulations behind using them. If you’ve done your research already, it will just be a refresher. This is a great place to ask any questions you may have.

If your room isn’t ready

If your room isn’t ready, check your bags at bell services and do one of Disney’s many available activities. For a few suggestions, check out ideas of what to do on your arrival day.

Arriving early or late

Check in time rolls over at 6 am. You are welcome to check into your resort any time after that. On the other hand, if you have a red eye or really delayed flight, There is staff available 24/7 (also good information if you ever have a problem during your stay). Either way, make sure you have the appropriate reservations.

If you’re saying to yourself “wow that’s a really expensive hotel stay for a few hours” do you have any suggestions on another option? For those with a car, check the main gate hotels. You can get a room at a decent rate just to lay your head for the night. For those relying on Disney transportation I’d suggest either staying at the Hyatt at the Orlando airport. Find the earliest arrival the next morning to provide to Disney’s Magical Express. You can also book a room only reservation at a value resort. Hop the Magical Express and then have Disney transfer your baggage to your preferred resort for the remainder of your stay. It’s a common occurrence at Disney, so don’t worry!

As a reminder, if you arrive before 5 am or after 10 pm, you’ll have to grab your own checked luggage. While the Magical Express does run 24/7, you won’t have baggage handling available.

That’s the long and the short of it! Disney makes check in a snap and with MyMagic+ and MagicBands, it’s even easier!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Disney World Tips and Tricks for Military Families

 

As you may or may not know, Disney offers discounts to members of the military. This includes both discounts on tickets as well as Disney World resort rooms. While this discount cannot be combined with other Disney World offers, it is most definitely a better deal than most other Disney World room only deals.

Who qualifies for Disney’s Military discount?

  • Current military members including active, reserve, National Guard, and Coast Guard.
  • Retired military members including active, reserve, National Guard, and Coast Guard.
  • 100% Service Connected Disable with “DAVPRM” code on their military issued identification.
  • Some additional exceptions are also included and up to the discretion of Disney

Please note that the member who qualifies your family/party for this discount must be present at check in and MUST present their military identification. Failure to do so will change the rate to the current non-discounted pricing, so book with caution and don’t try and cheat the system. IT DOES NOT WORK!

I’m qualified! What are the details on park tickets?

Disney offers two kids of discount tickets:

  • Armed Forces Salute
  • Regular Military Discount tickets

There is a big difference in these two types of tickets and you must be very careful in selecting which option is best for your family.

Armed Forces Salute has a much greater discount (almost 50%) but is only available in as a 4 day ticket (park hopper, water park fun and more, or park hopper + water park fun and more). Additionally there are blackout dates for the use of these tickets including peak times like the week of Easter, the before Christmas through New Years Eve, and the 4th of July (excludes Magic Kingdom only – but you wouldn’t want to go there anyways as it’s excessively crowded!)

Armed Forces Salute tickets also have a maximum of 6 tickets available to you for each offer period (typically end of September – end of September the following year). Disney may make exceptions for families with immediate families larger than 6 persons. Tickets may also be purchased for extended family members with your allotted 6 tickets as long as the qualifying member is present to present identification to activate the tickets once on Disney property.

Regular Military Discount tickets provide a roughly 5% discount off the general public rates (sometimes up to 8%). This discount does offer you many more choices as park tickets go including 1-10 day tickets, base tickets, park hoppers, and water park fun and more. You may have to be flexible if choosing your tickets as your military ticket office may not have exactly what you are looking for. You also have the option to purchase tickets at Shades of Green once you arrive, but you will be unable to make FastPass+ selections until your tickets are linked. This option is also better if you are looking to travel during any of the ticket blackout periods.

Link your tickets as soon as you purchase them to take advantage of FastPass+ service as both ticket options qualify you. Remember these important dates:

  • On Site guests (Disney World Resorts) – 60 days prior to arrival
  • Off Site guests (including Shades of Green) – 30 days prior to arrival
  • Day Guests (or guests not making a hotel stay) – 30 days prior to arrival

If you have a little princess who is dying to meet Anna & Elsa, you will need to set an alarm when day 60 rolls around or you will be out of luck. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If you are traveling with extended family or plan on purchasing more than the maximum of 6 tickets, purchase as many adult tickets as possible under the military salute discount. Child tickets are a little less expensive, so you are saving more with on your adult tickets when comparing apples to apples.

Either option requires activation at the gate during first use which will require proper identification. If you are traveling with a larger group, please make sure you go to the same park the first day. After initial use, you may split up.

Disney World Resort Discounts

Disney typically offers an annual discount to members of the military and their families. Same inclusions as listed above apply for this room discount as well.  Typically, the discount looks a little like this:

  • Value Resorts – 30%
  • Moderate Resorts – 35%
  • Deluxe Resorts – 40%

The only exclusion I am aware of are the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation. This is of course subject to availability and black out dates which have historically included the week leading up to Easter through Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving day and Friday after Thanksgiving, and December 23 – 31. Be aware that if you arrival prior to one of these blackout dates, your length of stay will be included in this discount (which differs from many public room only offers).
You are also able to book up to 3 rooms with your military discount, although the qualifying member must be present, with proper identification, at check in for each room booked. They are not required to pay for every room.

Like any Disney package, booking a room only reservation will require 1 night’s room cost and the remaining balance is due upon arrival at your resort.

An additional benefit of this discount is Disney’s Dining Plan! While all Disney World packages require park tickets to add the dining plan, the military room discount does not! You can add either Plus Dining (or the full dining plan) or the deluxe dining plan. There is no discount to adding the dining plan, but with the money you save on tickets and your room it’s likely worth it! (You cannot use a free dining promotion if it is available at the time you are booking).

I’m sold! How do find out costs and book a room?

Unfortunately, you are unable to book any military discounted room online. You must call Disney reservations to do so (or contact your travel agent – lucky for you, you’re reading a blog of a Disney travel professional!) 🙂 You can also get a rough estimate by searching a room only offer on Disney World’s web site and doing your own math. While this is definitely not 100% accurate, it will give you a good idea before you call. You may want to be aware of any newly released discounts before calling that may inflate your wait time. You can find information by checking the Special Offers section of the Disney World web site.

Just mention the military discount when you call. You do not need to provide any proof of qualification for the discount over the phone (just on arrival). You will receive an email confirmation when you book your vacation package and it will link to your My Disney Experience account just like any other resort reservation! You will receive MagicBands and all the other benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. You also qualify for Disney’s Magical Express Service saving you the cost and time of renting a car or booking alternate transportation.

What about Shades of Green?

Shades of Green is an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney World property. Be aware that this is NOT one of the Disney World resort hotels. While I cannot go into great detail about the resort or it’s amenities outside of what is available on the internet (as I’m a civilian), I can provide the following comparison between Disney World resorts and Shades of Green:

  • Cost: Cost of a Disney World Value room during peak season and Shades of Green are roughly the same cost depending on the booking category you qualify for at Shades of Green and your party size.  In a close race of cost after a comparison, choose a Disney resort as the benefits outweigh the difference of $100 or so!
  • Transportation: Shades of Green does have bus service to all Disney World theme parks. Once at the theme parks you are welcome to use any additional method of Disney Transportation to get around. Unfortunately this bus runs on a structured schedule which is often once an hour. Disney buses tend to run every 15-20 minutes continuously. If you miss a bus for a Disney resort, there is likely one right behind it! You must show proof of stay to board any Shades of Green bus. There are no requirements for Disney buses.
  • Airport Transportation: Shades of Green does not qualify for Disney Magical Express Service. You are able to book somewhat inexpensive shuttles, however you can’t beat the cost of free!
  • Parking at theme parks: Parking for Disney World resort guests is free at all of Disney’s theme parks. Unfortunately this benefit does not cover Shades of Green as it is not considered a Disney resort. The current cost of parking is now $17/day.
  • Dining Plan: Shades of Green guests unfortunately do not qualify for the dining plan as they are not resort guests. As noted above, you are able to add Disney’s Dining Plan to your room only package without the purchase of park tickets with the military discount.
  • Extra Magic Hours: Both Shades of Green and all Disney Resorts qualify you for Extra Magic Hours at Disney World theme parks. One of my favorite benefits!
  • FastPass+: FastPass+ service is available to add Disney World guests with valid park tickets. If you purchase tickets ahead of time, you are able to make reservations 60 days in advance at Disney World resorts and 30 days in advance at Shades of Green (as it is considered an “off site” hotel). Your tickets must be linked to your My Disney Experience account in either situation.
  • MagicBands: MagicBands are free to all Disney World resort guests. Any guest can purchase a MagicBand in the theme parks.

If cost is a major factor in your Disney World vacation, you may have a less expensive option (and a little bit more space) at Shades of Green over a Disney value resort. With such a great year round discount, you’ll save a great deal of money regardless of your resort category in a Disney World resort hotel.

A few other things to mention

  • If Free Dining is offered during your travel period, you may want to compare overall costs to see what will save you more money. At times it may be more advantageous for you to use a public offer over your military discount (but not often).
  • Once you arrive at Disney, check for discounts at stores (especially in Downtown Disney). You can save up to 20% on your purchases!
A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Top things to add on to your Disney World vacation package

 

When booking a Disney World vacation, you have many different options to customize your experience. The most basic vacation would be a room only reservation which is exactly what it sounds like. A room reservation with no tickets. Adding base park tickets to your reservation makes it a package reservation.

Not all “add-ons” are created equal. Some require a package reservation, while others are available with or without a Disney World resort hotel reservation. Here’s a breakdown of each item, cost, explanation, as well my opinion on the value of worth.


Park Hopper Passes. This cost is variable based on a number of factors including number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and any active promotions (including free or discounted days of park tickets). This add on allows you to visit any and all 4 Disney World theme parks in one day. This is a great option no matter what kind of trip you want to have! This may be too much for those with kids under 5 (although some families love to park hop no matter what the age!)

Water Park Fun & More. This cost is also variable based on number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and if you are also included park hoppers. Without park hoppers, the cost of adding this option vs. one day of water park tickets is more costly. If you add park hoppers plus water park fun & more, you may get more for your money with the ability to visit both water parks, Disney Quest, golf, and mini golf. Unlike theme park tickets, these tickets are per use, not per day meaning you can take a day off from the parks to golf in the morning and visit a water park in the afternoon.photo 2(2)

Disney Dining Plan. This is another option that requires park tickets to add this to your Disney World package. Disney offers 5 different dining plans, however the three most popular are: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Cost is variable based on the dining plan you choose, any available discounts at the time, number of nights stayed, and number of guests in your room. For more on the the Disney Dining Plan, review Flavorful Friday. The dining plan will be coming to you FREE this fall! Click for more tips and tricks regarding Free Dining at Disney World.

Memory Maker. This amazing new add on does not require any sort of package or even a reservation to a Disney World resort. This can be ordered through a travel agent or from Disney’s web site. Guests staying offsite can order Memory Maker. Rather than scanning your MagicBand, you are given an RFID enabled card to store all of your vacation photos. The great thing about Memory Maker is that for the $149 advanced price ($199 if purchased after your arrival), you receive an unlimited number of photos uploaded to your account. You are instantly able to share with family and friends and able to download them all to save forever after your trip. For more on Memory Maker, check out what it’s all about as well as all the must take photo locations around Disney World.

Travel Insurance. Another option that doesn’t require a package reservation, but understandably, this is for Disney resort hotel guests only. Disney offers travel insurance for all guests staying in their resorts to recoup the cost of their likely very expensive vacation in case of unforeseen issues. The details are spelled out clearly as well as the coverage. I suggest travel insurance to everyone I work with, and although I’d guess only half the people I work with elect to keep it, it’s a peace of mind I like to have on my trips. Kids get sick, adults lose jobs, life happens, luggage gets lost. It’s better to have the opportunity to reschedule your vacation than lose some of your hard earned money! Cost is $75.95 per adult (children are at no cost).


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
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While this isn’t technically part if any Disney World package, it’s something to consider in your budget when making your reservation. BBB has 2 locations in Disney World: Cinderella’s Castle, and Downtown Disney. Both locations have Fairy Godmothers transform your child into the princess (or prince) they’ve dreamed of. Cost varies but starts at $54.95 (and goes well over $200 for the top of the line package). It’s an experience that is not forgotten. Plus, add more photos to your Memory Maker package with this one of a kind experience. Sessions take 30-60 minutes depending on the package you choose and the time of day you are scheduled.

Overall each add on feature has its pros and cons. My favorites are definitely Memory Maker and Park Hopper Passes. It’s something that I plan on adding to all of my vacations going forward based on the way we enjoy traveling. While each family is different and sometimes budgets put a cap on what you can do, it’s always nice to know your options!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Pros and Cons of Disney Deluxe Villas

 


Finishing the comparison of each resort class, today’s in depth look is at deluxe villas. These resorts are typically located in close proximity to most of the deluxe resorts, but there are a select few that have their own location.  They are typically smaller than the moderate and value resorts. These locations have options of studios, 1-bedroom, 2-bedrooms, and some 3-bedroom with limited availability. The studios have queen beds and there are various bed sizes with the other bedrooms sizes. 1-bedroom and up have a full kitchen and all have washers and dryers available. All have multiple dining opportunities including quick service and table service options. Pools also have water slides and kiddie slides. Once again I’ll start with my opinion of “the best of”…

Best Pool: Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club Villas. This pool is more of an experience than a pool. There’s a whirlpool, deep end, “quick sand” a little mini beach with a zero depth entry and more. This is a shared pool with Beach Club & Yacht Club resorts so it’s often busy, but based on its size, I don’t think it’s overwhelming.

Best Grounds: Animal Kingdom Villas wins this race! With animals roaming the Savannah and the lush, green trees, it’s beautiful! Animal Kingdom Villas have 2 locations: Jambo House (the main building) and Kindai Village. Kindai Village is a little bit more quiet and serene but away from most dining.

Best Location on Disney property: Bay Lake Tower or the new Villas at Grand Floridian. Bay Lake Tower is in close proximity to Contemporary which is within walking distance  of Magic Kingdom. The only reason Villas at Grand Floridian might have the edge is that Bay Lake Tower has a skywalk to get to the monorail, while Grand Floridian Villas is a little less of a walk to the monorail platform.

Honorable mention goes to Beach Club Villas which is within walking distance to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Best Bus system: Each one has their pros and cons as at times bus service is shared (especially depending on the time of year). Some guests have complained that the bus to Magic Kingdom from Yacht/Beach Club is slow and monorail area resort guests have said that the buses are slow to Hollywood Studios. The only resort of the group that is ALL bus: Animal Kingdom Villas has good bus service and Kindai Village is the first stop!

Best Dining options: If we’re going based solely on dining locations in the villas, the winner is Animal Kingdom Villas with Sanaa at Kindai Village and all the same great dining locations – Jiko and Boma in Jambo House.

Best rooms for kids: Villas at Wilderness Lodge. The woodsy atmosphere and fun activities for kids are probably a big reason. Plus, this resort has boat access to Magic Kingdom which is a fun and different mode of transportation for kids.  For the animal lovers, Animal Kingdom Villas have great activities and a fun pool area. Kids can be entertained for hours at this location at no additional cost. The only downside is the travel time to three of the four parks.

Best rooms for adults: Any of these resorts are great for adults! If it’s just a small studio for two adults, or an extended family trip with a private bedroom for adults, you can’t lose! I think I would most enjoy the quiet of Villas at Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Villas for the quiet and cozy accommodations.

The good, the bad, and the ugly. Once again, it’s really about what is important to you for your vacation. If you’re thinking of staying deluxe, you really can’t go wrong with any location on property. With all the available dining, amenities, great service, and locations, close your eyes and pick one. You can either go based on theme or location.

There are current some minor renovations happening around the Villas including some intermittent construction on Villas at Wilderness Lodge and future plans for Beach Club Villas.

If I’m stretching to find something “ugly” in these resorts it would be that Saratoga Springs doesn’t really have a great Disney theme and it is quite large. Old Key West is also a large, sprawling resort, but the DVC owners that call this location home truly love their location.

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!