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 Tips & Tricks: 20 do’s and don’ts from Disney veterans

 

  1. DO get to the parks early. At least 20 minutes before park opening. You’ll get to experience 2-3 attractions before your breakfast digests. Sometimes you get lucky and the park opens before the post time giving you even more opportunities before the rest of the crowds get there.
  2. DON’T go to the park with early morning magic hours, unless you are arriving before park open and you have park hopper passes. These parks tend to be more crowded than the others.
  3. DO go to the park that had extra evening magic hours the night before. Historically, crowds are lower.
  4. DO plan out your dining. Know where the best quick service restaurants are and make advanced dining reservations for table service restaurants. Make your reservations as far out in advance as possible to guarantee the best locations and times.
  5. DO work with a travel agent your first 2-3 times. They know the ins and outs of Disney, are able to give you specific hints and time savers.
  6. DO know when discounts are available. A travel agent can give you a good idea of historical data and the type of discounts offered. Free dining is usually available September – early December; room discounts are almost always available the remainder of the year with varying percentages. Use the discounts to your advantage and play with the numbers to save yourself the most money!
  7. DO NOT travel to Disney World over Christmas and New Years. Parks are extremely crowded with the longest wait times (sometimes up to 4 hours!). In 2013, Magic Kingdom parking lot was totally full and only allowing select guests to enter.
  8. DO travel at off peak times. Weather is cooler, parkers are quieter, and prices are lower. You are also offered better incentives.
  9. DO plan ahead! Discounts are typically available around 3-4 months before travel dates. At the beginning of the year, lesser discounts are available 2-3 months in advance. The sooner you can book your trip, the better. You are always able to change the discount if you get a better deal closer to your trip.
  10. DO check for PIN codes. These are personalized, exclusive discounts and include % off rooms or free dining. To check if you have one available, call Disney and select your dates and then ask if you have a PIN attached to your account. The worst the cast member can tell you is no!
  11. DO set a budget and DO factor in travel costs with your budget. You are always able to modify your Disney reservations (46+ days out from your trip) at no cost if you’d like to upgrade or remove options from your trip.
  12. DO NOT stay in the parks all day. Even adults need a little break. Enjoy your resort’s pool, take a nap, have a long lunch. You’ll burn yourself out in no time if you try and stay from park open to park close.
  13. DO look into the dining plan. Know what each plan includes and if it would be cost effective for how your family eats. Ask your travel agent to do the math for you based on your favorite types of restaurants or Disney restaurants you want to try. I don’t try to upgrade people to the dining plan if they will save money paying out of pocket. Sometimes the sticker shock is hard up front, but showing them the math makes the most sense!
  14. DO know that you have to pay tips for Table Service meals are not included in the dining plan. You will likely pay an addition $75- $150 out of pocket depending on your length of stay.
  15. DO NOT waste your money. Purchase the right number of days of park tickets, know how to use your dining plan credits, and know what the park hopper option vs. the water park option will get you. If you only want one day of water park passes, it may be in your best interest to just purchase a day pass at your arrival at the park.
  16. DO look at more expensive resort hotels. While the cost is greater, your travel time is greatly decreased! Locations like Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary give you monorail access to Magic Kingdom and one quick transfer over to Epcot. Resorts such as Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk are all within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Wilderness Lodge is also a short boat ride away from several resorts and Magic Kingdom.
  17. DO NOT take the ferry to the Ticket & Transportation Center or to get to your car. It’s a huge bottle neck and REALLY slow!
  18. DO know when parades are scheduled in each park if you are trying to get in or out of a park, to a reservation, or to when to ride some more popular attractions.
  19. DO wear comfortable shoes. It doesn’t matter if you wear flip flops at home. 8-10 miles a day for 5-7 days (or more) will kill your feet. Between blisters and sore feet, you’ll wish you brought something different! DO bring flip flops in case there is rain. DO bring an extra pair of shoes in case your first pair gets wet or you get a blister. The change may help save your feet.
  20. DO enjoy yourself. DON’T stress out if plans don’t go as you hoped.


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!) 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 & Tricks: Help for Your First Visit

Disney-World-First-Visit-ButtonIt’s the time of year everyone starts thinking about summer and vacation. The weather is cold (at least by me), the days are short, and the next paid day off of work for most people isn’t until May. Planning a vacation is definitely a good way to get rid of those winter blues.

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 and tricks 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.
  • 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 the 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.
  • 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. Book all allotted FastPasses.
  • 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!

For all Disney Tips and Tricks, please see these previous helpful posts:

Disney lingo

Talking Disney World to someone is sometimes like a foreign language. And if you check message boards, there’s acronyms all over the place. Here’s your Disney Dictionary reference guide in one handy place! Even Disney veterans will find some of these useful with the MyMagic+ roll out!

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). These reservations can be made 180 days in advance to your travel dates. For best availability, book as soon as you know your dates.

Cast Member (CM). A Disney employee. They are available to answer questions and help you while on vacation.

Disney Magical Express (DME). The Disney transportation system that takes you to and from the Orlando airport. Reservations must be set up prior to your arrival. The Magical Express gang will even pick up your checked baggage and bring it right to your hotel room.

Downtown Disney (DTD). Located on Disney Property, Downtown Disney offers great shopping, dining and entertainment options. Bus and limited boat service is available from all Disney resort hotels. Downtown Disney buses do not have direct transfer to any Disney park!

Extra Magic Hours (EMH). Bonus park time for Disney resort guests. Extra Magic Hours come in early morning or evening varieties and allows 1-3 hours of extra park time per day. Evening magic hours are a great way to ride popular attractions with shorter lines. Not all attractions are available during this hours, so make sure you know before you go!

FastPass+ (FP+). FastPasses allow you to “skip the line” and see the hottest Disney attractions. Disney’s New FastPass+ system allow you to schedule arrival times up to 60 days before arrival at Disney. These reservations are dynamic and can be changed at any time! If you get stuck in another line or want a break, make changes in real time. You are allowed up to 3 FP+ reservations per day. These are 100% FREE and park of your admission in the parks. These reservations are limited to one park per day.

MagicBands. Part of MyMagic+. They are a literal Band (think LiveStrong bracelet) made of soft material. You are able to customize each member of your family’s bands by color and name or nickname. You are able to choose from: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, or gray. Names can be up to 9 characters including numbers, letters, and spaces. Bands are mailed to your home prior to your arrival at Disney. Uses include access to Disney Magical Express, hotel room key, park ticket access,

Memory Maker. An exciting new way to get all of your Disney photos taken on attractions and by PhotoPass photographers in one place. This is something that can be added to your package prior to your departure. You are able to view, print, and order photos online after your vacation.

Mickey Mail. Your Disney travel documents. If you are working with a travel agent, you will receive them from the travel company. If you are booking solo, they will be mailed to your home. If you do not have your documents 7 days prior to your departure, contact Disney or your travel agent.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP). A special ticketed event on selected days in September and October. This is held at Magic Kingdom. Special parades, events, plus shorter lines at Magic Kingdom attractions are all available. You also get to see Hallowishes, Disney’s themed fireworks show. You will need a ticket to Magic Kingdom AND a ticket to the party in order to gain entry to this event.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP). A special ticketed event on selected days in November and December. This is held at Magic Kingdom. Special parades, events, plus shorter lines at Magic Kingdom attractions are all available. You also get to see Holiday Wishes, Disney’s themed fireworks show. You will need a ticket to Magic Kingdom AND a ticket to the party in order to gain entry to this event.

My Disney Experience (MDE) A web and smart phone application that allows you to keep all your reservations in one place including resort, ticket, dining, and FastPass. This is also where you customize your MagicBands. You can also check in to your hotel online prior to your arrival.

Quick Service Meals. Also known as Counter Service meals. These are restaurants that allow you to look at a menu, order your food, and find a place for you to eat. These locations do not accept reservations and can be likened to a McDonalds or Burger King (often with better food though!) This can range anywhere from burgers and sandwiches to pizza to authentic dishes from Morocco, Mexico, or Germany!

Snacks. This is a Disney Dining Plan Term. Disney has a snack symbol for those utilization of snack credits. These can be used on anything from a bottle of water all the way up to a Venti (large) drink at Starbucks. Know what you can get and use the credits to your advantage! You can easily make a meal out of a snack credit.

Table Service Meals. Sit down meals that allow you order off a menu and a server will bring you food. These restaurants suggest advanced dining reservations and many will not be able to accommodate walk ups.

180+10. This term refers to dining reservations. It’s something that’s somewhat difficult to explain so try and follow! 180 days before your arrival, you can book your advanced dining reservations. The +10 refers to the number of days into your trip you can book your dining reservations when staying on Disney property. For example, you are traveling December 1-14. 180 days before December 1 comes around. You can book dining for December 1-10 at that time. This saves you time and gives you a leg up on others by booking hot ticket locations before it’s available to the general public.

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!) 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: More time savers

castlejpg

So you want to take a Disney World vacation in 2014. Now where to stay?

With 29 on property resorts to choose from, how do you decide? It’s the age old discussion of time vs. money. Typically resorts with multiple modes of transportation or those that are very close to the theme parks are more costly. It’s no surprise that the Deluxe resorts are located in close proximity to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. One of the major questions I ask my clients outside of budget constraints is what’s more important: time or money.

In Disney, you can save time and spend a little more money on your “home” location or you can save a little more money and spend a bit more time in transit. Depending on your resort and location of that resort, you can spend an additional 15-30 minutes either waiting for or riding the buses. Taking your own vehicle could knock off some of the waiting time), however you will still have to walk or wait for parking lot trams to take you to the front entrance of the park.

Melissa’s insider tip: If you have the funds and are willing to spend a little extra money, especially on a first trip or a trip with little ones, I would suggest staying at a resort close to Magic Kingdom or Epcot. This will help save you from additional lines and any travel confusion using your own vehicle.

New Discounts available to general public on Monday

That’s right, a new discount is available to the general public as of Monday, January 6th. A sneak preview was given to all Disney Visa card holders. For the details, check yesterday’s blog post. For those value hunters, a 5-night Disney World vacation for 2 adults and 2 children can be less than $500 per person. This includes 5 full days of park tickets (one free thanks to Disney!) While booking is available via the web, sometimes the system is difficult to navigate and can be confusing. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether you have a discount (or the best discount) applied for your vacation package. Your other options: call Disney or contact a travel agent to do all of your heavy lifting. Obviously I’m a little bias towards option #2!

Disney sent a reminder e-mail to all travel agents reminding them that January and February are the busiest times of year on their phone systems, especially with a new special offer. Those who already have their vacation packages booked must now call and have the offer applied to their account which leads to long wait times and bogged down web servers. It’s not uncommon for Disney’s servers to have intermittent outages which can be extremely frustrating to new and seasoned users alike.

Melissa’s insider tip: Let a travel agent (especially one who works specifically with Disney) help you book your dream vacation. We can often provide insider information and ensure that you are not only getting a discount, but the best discount that Disney has to offer. If additional discounts become available, we will continue to save you money.

When NOT to travel to Disney World

It’s common knowledge that the time between Christmas through New Year’s is a busy time at Disney World. For my knowledge, I commonly review my Disney apps which show current wait times in the Disney parks. On New Year’s Eve it was common to see wait times in both Magic Kingdom and Epcot in the 2-4 hour range. Yes, FOUR hours for Test Track! To me, that doesn’t sound much of a vacation or a fun experience.

Melissa’s insider tip: Be aware of peak travel windows. For the best times to travel, check an earlier blog post. If you have the ability to stay away from peak travel times such as Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving (and the week leading into Thanksgiving), and the majority of the summer months, you will save time AND money! And we all know time is money.


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!) 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!