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!

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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!

10 Disney World Non-character dining restaurants your kids will love

 

The first thing many people think about when dining for kids are character dining meals. These can get tiresome for adults as they are all character meals and are often quite noisy. This experience can also be a long one as you wait for characters to make their rounds (especially at larger locations). If you’re looking for a few non-character meals that your kids will enjoy, look no further! Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:

Rainforest Café. Locations in both Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Menus at both locations are essentially the same, it’s a matter of scheduling and convenience. During the winter months and off peak travel times, Animal Kingdom often closes around 5 pm (sometimes earlier), so a later dinner would be out of the question – transportation will be a bit more limited if you choose a later reservation time as well.

T-REX. This fun location in Downtown Disney is an alternative to Rainforest Café, but is also more popular! Kids marvel at the outside and the interior is just as fun. Dinner reservations go fast, so make sure it’s one near the top of your list.

Coral Reef. Wouldn’t you like to dine with one of the largest aquariums in the world? Located in Epcot Future World, this is more than just seafood. There are chicken and steak options as well. Your kids will really enjoy the aquarium while you enjoy a really tasty meal. This is not an extremely tough reservation to get and is open for lunch and dinner. A 2 or 3 pm reservation should fill your bellies for the rest of the night, especially in the summer sun of Florida!

Via Napoli. A quick trek over to Italy in World Showcase, Via Napoli has some delicious pizza and pasta options and one of the favorite menus of kids. Adults can enjoy some sangria and some of the friendliest wait staff in all of Disney (my opinion of course!) The food is made quickly, so you won’t be waiting long. There’s a reason that this location is consistently booked up 20-30 days before arrival!

Boma. Yes, Boma is a buffet, but it’s not your ordinary buffet meal! Disney imagineers did a great job styling this like an African Market. Breakfast is one of boma-flavors-of-africamy favorite meals in all of Disney. While it’s not the most convenient location if you are staying outside of the Animal Kingdom area and don’t have a car, it’s worth a trip during an off day or a day you are planning on touring Animal Kingdom. The food here is a little different, but has options for picky eaters as well.

50s Prime Time Café. Elbows off the table! This 50s diner in Hollywood Studios is well themed and cast members really play their part. Encourage your kids to play along! This is a cast member favorite to bring their family and friends when they’re not on duty. In addition to the fun atmosphere that your kids will love, enjoy some huge portion sizes (sharing is highly encouraged) and save room for dessert!

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Your booths are cars. Can it get any more fun than that? While you may share a space with another family depending on your party size, enjoy this fun and exciting themed restaurant. It’s a fairly inexpensive themed table service restaurant for those paying out of pocket for their meals. It’s a great first experience for those looking for one or two dining meals during their stay. Don’t worry, their “sci fi movies” are more goofy and not scary!

Whispering Canyon Café. Located in Wilderness Lodge and just a boat ride away from Magic Kingdom, this is another place to encourage your kids to play along. You’ll find pony races, literal interpretations of meal requests, and just try and ask for ketchup! While it’s a noisy restaurant, it’s a fun dining experience for all. Some teens may roll their eyes at some of the corny jokes, but it’s still a blast!

Be Our Guest. Yes this is the most difficult reservation in all of Disney World. Yes, there’s been some difficulty getting FastPass+ lunch reservations after June 28th, but yes it’s an amazing atmosphere as well. Located in New Fantasyland, it’s the first Disney restaurant that is quick service at lunch and table service at dinner. It’s also a great way to allow more people to visit the restaurant each day. We really enjoyed our lunch and I’d definitely go back again. If you can get it, definitely go! It’s a very enjoy able experience and beautifully thought out.

‘Ohana. Breakfast is a character meal, but dinner is not. Located at Disney’s Polynesian, it’s one of Disney’s most popular restaurants, so make your reservations as soon as possible to get a reasonable time (the closer to 5 pm, the better as later times may run late). ‘Ohana also underwent a menu change recently, but I’m sure it’s still a delicious family style meal with a Polynesian flair and atmosphere. It’s also a longer meal with multiple courses, but the food and the fun keep going and kids of all ages are entertained during the entire length of their meal.

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!

10 Beginner Mistakes to avoid when going to Disney World

 

It’s time to plan your Disney vacation! Whether your traveling in 2014, 2015 or beyond, it’s important to do a little bit of light reading and research before your arrive. Avoid these 10 mistakes often made by first timers to create your perfect Disney World Vacation:

1. Planning with short or no notice. Know the important milestone days for ANY Disney World Vacation. These include:

  • 180 days prior to arrival: Window for dining reservations opens up!
  • 60 days prior to arrival: Time to book FastPass+ reservations (if you are staying on site). You can also check in online
  • 45 days prior to arrival: Final payment is due for package reservations
  • 30 days prior to arrival: Time to book FastPass+ reservations for those staying off site; This is typically the last day you are able to customize your MagicBands prior to shipping

2. Not budgeting enough for your vacation. Think about the type of accommodations you’d like to have, how important location is on Disney property, the cost of park tickets, and the cost of food once your arrive! All of these things should be calculated into your overall budget. Transportation to and from the Orlando area should also be part of your mental budget. Don’t starve yourself once you arrive because you didn’t plan for the cost of food!

3. Not reading reviews or asking friends and family about restaurants. I think everyone should have at least one table service meal. It’s a fun way to enjoy a different side of Disney! Whether it’s a character meals for the kids, or a quiet table at one of the many restaurants in Epcot, there are very few bad meals in Disney World!

4. Traveling during peak times (especially when no discount is offered). I understand your kids are off during Christmas break, but so are everyone elses. There’s a reason that Disney doesn’t offer discounts at certain times of year. There are also reasons why big promotions like Free Dining are offered at other times. Don’t pay more than you have to!

5. Wasting FastPass+ reservations. Magic Kingdom has almost 30 options for FastPass+ so how to do you choose? First, start with the most popular attractions and then decide which ones are best for your family. Make sure that your kids are tall enough for attractions with height restrictions and that they won’t be too scared to ride them. Now that Disney resort guests can book additional FastPasses after the initial 3 that all guests are given each day, it’s more important to use your FastPasses and EARLY!

6. Not preparing your legs. I log an average of 9 miles each day when I’m at Disney World. While that’s over the course of 10-12 hours, it’s still a lot of steps every day. A busy day with park hopping is well over 11 miles. Get your legs, hips, knees, and feet ready for Disney several months before your arrive.

7. Wearing crummy shoes. Wear athletic shoes with good support. I don’t care if socks and shorts looks goofy, you’ll thank me when you don’t have blisters!

8. Sleeping in. This may be the biggest mistake I can think of! Wake up early. I know it’s vacation, but you can get more done in the first 3 hours of park opening than any other time of day. Be at the bus stop one hour prior to the park opening which should get you to the parks about 30 minutes prior to park opening (on earlier, depending on your start and end location)

9. Not taking breaks. Don’t try to be a superhero! It’s not possible to go all day every day from 9 am – 10 pm (or later). Yes there’s lots of things to do in Disney, but you need to relax and rest up for the next day.

10. Not researching anything. Disney is NOT a fly by the seat of your pants type of vacation. You’re not sitting on the beach. If you don’t have time to do research or just don’t want to, find a knowledgeable travel agent who knows Disney to help you (hint: you are reading a blog of one right now!)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

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!

101 Tips to make a magical Disney World vacation!

 

 

For 2015 and 2016 Disney World vacations, these are the best tips and tricks! While there’s a million different opinions out there, who knows what’s current and what’s outdated! Having just come back from another research expedition in Disney World, I’m confident these tips will help you on your Disney World vacation!

In no particular order…
1. Research, research, research! The more you know, the better your trip!

2. If cost is an issue, know when the best deals are. If crowd levels are an issue, know when the lowest crowd times are (hint, they are typically very similar times). Crowd calendar 2015, best times for 2015.

3. Start walking before you go. You can easily log 8-10 miles a day at Disney and while you take breaks, you’ll need to build some endurance. Take some family walks and start to get your legs ready!

4. STAY ON PROPERTY! While it may seem more expensive on the surface, you won’t need to rent a car, get transportation to/from the airport, or pay for parking.

5. Think about using a travel agent. We know how to get the best discounts, when discounts come out, and are actively looking to save you time and money! Plus, we are FREE to work with!!!

6. If you book your Disney vacation before a discount comes out, you will have to call Disney to apply the new discount. It doesn’t get changed automatically. During a big discount, you may be on hold for a very long time!

7. Think about your budget. Now think about adding about 20% more to it to make it a more reasonable number for Disney. You can definitely do Disney on the cheap, but if you’re thinking about cost the whole time, it makes it less fun for the adults!

8. Look into the dining plan and what it includes. See if it’s for you (or how you can get it for free!)

9. Make sure Disney knows about any celebrations during your stay! You’ll get a few freebies and some recognition as well.

10. Children under 3 are free in Disney. If you’re thinking about a vacation before or after your child turns 3, you’ll likely save at least $300 if you go when they’re 2!

11. Similarly, Disney considers 10 year olds Disney adults. That means there’s a price break between 9 and 10. Park tickets don’t make a huge difference, but dining does!

12. Park tickets become cheaper the more days you add (sometimes adding a day of park tickets can be as low as $30 for a family of 3-4). Disney does the math for you when you are booking your package, so check it out!

13. Plan for a day off. Disney can get exhausting. Make sure you take a break during your trip, whether it’s a planned pool day, downtown Disney, or just a day without parks. You won’t get bored!

14. Ask questions! If you’re in Disney and are confused, lost, or need help, cast members (Disney employees) are here to help!

15. Plan at least one table service dinner. Even if you’re not on the dining plan, it’s a good experience!

16. Try new food! You’re on vacation. Don’t be afraid to book a unique restaurant or menu item (especially on the dining plan!)

17. Ask your server for suggestions. They’ll give you a good opinion or at least tell you the most popular menu items.

18. Save room for dessert! There’s some awesome options on all the menus.

19. Explore other resorts. It’s fun to just look around another resort if you’re in the area (think Magic Kingdom and Epcot areas). You don’t need any sort of ticket or pass to walk around in the common areas. It’s fun to look around!

20. Bring sunscreen and wear it! Bring more than you think you need. Nothing like feeling miserable and uncomfortable after one day of vacation! Reapply after pool or water rides.

21. Bring snacks to the park. You can also bring your own water bottles. Anything except glass and alcohol is allowed into the parks! If you have a place to store it or are fine carrying it, you’ll save a ton of money!

22. Bring your own stroller. Sure it’s a pain to lug it through the airport and check it at the gate, but it’s better than $18/day for a single stroller or $31/day for a double stroller!

23. Decorate your stroller so you know it’s yours. Colored ribbon, a sign, etc. will all be helpful. Yes you left it in a certain place, but cast members rearrange strollers for the most capacity. This is especially helpful if you are renting a stroller.

24. Share meals. Share meals! Seriously. For quick service/counter service meals, start with one meal for every 2 people. You can always go back and get another or one or get a snack to share. Don’t throw away the expensive food!!! Look at appetizers and meals to share for table service meals. If you made a reservation and you’re not that hungry, don’t be afraid to share a meal. The only place you can’t share are buffet meals. Via Napoli does not allow sharing on the dining plan, but you can share if paying out of pocket.

25. Bring your refillable mugs to the parks! While you can’t officially refill them, it’s a great way to share one of the large fountain drinks from counter service meals. You can also fill them with water from the water fountains or ask for some free ice water at any counter service (a word of warning that Orlando water doesn’t taste the greatest!)

26. Use Disney transportation. It’s FREE! It adds to the experience of Disney.

27. Know how to get from here to there BEFORE you leave! If you need to make a cheat sheet on your phone or index cards, do it! You’ll save headaches later.

28. Driving to Disney? Parking is free at your resort and all the theme parks if you stay in a Disney resort! Bring a GPS or some directions to get you to the main roads. Once there, Disney signage is great to get you to your destination.

29. Download the My Disney Experience app to your smart phone. You can update reservations on the fly and check for various show times and character meets in the park.

30. Arrive at the parks 30-45 minutes prior to park open. At times the parks open before the posted time. You can get through more of the park in the first 2-3 hours of the day than any other time!

31. Even if you’re tired, wake up for “rope drop” (park opening). You can always take a break later.

32. Take breaks! Whether it’s for lunch inside the park or a nap or some pool time outside of the park. You can’t make it 12-14 hours in the park without a break.

33. Be aware of Extra Magic Hours. Late hours are great to get some more popular attractions out of the way. If you are willing to get up early for morning Magic Hours, make sure you arrive before the park opens, otherwise it’s not worth it.

34. Fall brings some early park closures to the general public. Check the park hours on Disney’s website for days that close early due to special events. You may want to avoid that park. Animal Kingdom also closes earlier during lower crowd levels. Make sure you plan ahead if you have park hopper tickets.

35. Make your FastPass+ reservations at your 60 day window – this is for your entire vacation. This opens at midnight EST. If you want to meet Anna & Elsa, this needs to be done the second the window opens! Make sure your reservations are made at least 30 days in advance as that’s when day guests can make reservations.

36. Take advantage of all your FastPass+ allotments. Even if you aren’t sure, book it!

37. Make your dining reservations as soon as possible. This has become extremely competitive in the last 2-3 years. Resort guests can make reservations 180 days in advance (this is for your entire vacation, not just one day). If you don’t have a resort reservation, you can make reservations 180 days in advance (but you’ll have to do it each day).

38. Check out the FastPass+ bypass for Be Our Guest for lunch.

39. Package reservations must be paid in full at 45 days prior to your arrival. Room only reservations are paid upon arrival.

40. Think about online check in. If you are arriving earlier in the day, make sure Disney knows about it. While it’s no guarantee, the more they know, the better.

41. If you don’t like your room assignment on check in, you can always ask the front desk if there is another available room you can switch to (in a different location on the grounds). The worst they can say is no!

42. Wear good walking shoes! Flip flops are not good walking shoes.

43. Bring an extra pair of shoes in case one gets wet from rain or if you get a blister.

44. Bring first aid supplies. Disney does have first aid at each of their theme parks, however bring some good band aids, blister band aids, and moleskin with you. It’ll save you walking time to get there and making your injuries worse.

45. On days with a threat of rain, pack a pair of sandals or crocs. This is the only time I’ll ever suggest sandals in Disney. EVER. More suggestions on what to do on rainy days.

46. Pack your own ponchos. You’ll save money. Don’t forget a poncho or tarp for your stroller!

47. Pack a ziplock bag or two for cameras and cell phones on rides where you can get wet.

48. Take a photo of where you parked. After a long, hot day, you may not remember. Also take a photo of your rental car’s license plate!

49. Bring an extension cord. There aren’t always enough plugs available or in a nice place.

50. Think about staying closer to the park you’ll be at the most. You’ll save time traveling to and from your resort each day.

51. If pool time is important to you, choose a location with a great pool. You may want to spend a little more money on a moderate or deluxe resort to have a water slide. My favorite pools are at Beach & Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Coronado Springs. Of the value resorts, Art of Animation and Pop Century have fun pools (but no water slides).

52. Decide if you want to park hop. I think park hopping is beneficial, but it may be too much for young children or your first trip. You will get to see more in less time. Add a park hopper to your tickets and cut down on the number of days of tickets giving you time to take a day off!

53. Explore Downtown Disney. The World of Disney store has everything you could ever want to buy!

54. Stay cool. Drink water, don’t get dehydrated. If you’re feeling ill find a cool indoor show to watch or take a little break in one of the bathrooms.

55. Stop and enjoy your surroundings. Running from one thing to the next isn’t very much fun! Enjoy your surroundings.

56. Don’t try and do too much. Don’t plan every second of every day. Go in with a general plan and be open to change.

57. Know height restrictions for different Disney attractions before you go. They are strict.

58. Don’t make your kids go on something they are afraid of. There’s always another trip another time.

59. Find free stuff in Disney! Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom gives you free cards. Play the game or just take the cards. It’s a great distraction.

60. Really enjoy each country of World Showcase in Epcot. They are really interesting and intricate.

61. Take family photos with the Disney photographers. Your MagicBands will upload the photos to your account. Even if you don’t purchase them, it’s still fun!

62. If you see a Disney photographer hovering around, it’s likely because a pop up character meet will be on the way. If you want to know, ask! They’ll tell you the information they have.

63. Check out all the evening fireworks/shows. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios each have one and they are all amazing, whether it’s the first or 100th time you’ve seen them.

64. Watch Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from different vantage points: Main Street, Tommorowland Bridge, Polynesian Beach, California Grill (reservations required).

65. Get your spot for parades early. The shady spots go first, so if that’s important, stake your claim!

66. Think about Memory Maker. You’ll be able to put your camera away and have tons of pictures for your return!

67. Customize your MagicBands. It’s so much fun to see the rainbow of colors arrive at your doorstep instead of plain gray ones.

68. Use your MagicBands to their fullest extent. They’re more than just a key to open your door. Pay for anything and everything in Disney World, gain entry to the parks, use your FastPasses, etc. It’s actually really fun!

69. Call Disney if you need more than one room. It’s easier to properly link the reservations and they can book it faster than you could online. While you’re on the phone, ask if there are any PIN codes attached to your account.

70. Start your vacation on Sunday. Friday night and Saturday night stays are the most expensive. Crowds are also highest on a Saturday.

71. Arrive early in the day and leave late in the day. This will allow you the most time. Even if you’re not going to the parks.

72. Magical Express service TO your resort can take up to 90 minutes from your arrival. You’ll likely stop at other resorts on the way to your own. Be patient!

73. Magical Express service FROM your resort typically leaves 3 hours before your flight. Plan your flight accordingly.

74. Be cautious before booking a dining reservation the night you arrive. Flights get delayed, things happen.

75. Try a character meal! Even if you are dining as adults, it’s fun to watch kids faces light up.

76. Don’t yell at your kids. You’re in public and people can hear you!

77. Eat at off peak times. You’ll definitely be able to tell peak lunch and dinner times by the amount the crowds dwindle. If you can take advantage of that, you’ll get more for your time.

78. Did you know the average number of attractions done in a day is 8.5? While it’s definitely possible to do more, don’t have extreme expectations for your visit.

79. Stop and enjoy the cupcakes.

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80. Study park maps before your arrive to know where you’re going on day one!

81. Grab a daily schedule for the parks on your way in. You’ll know about special events, live shows, and character meets.

82. If you are in line for an attraction before the park closes, you’ll be able to ride or meet a character. A cast member will turn you away if the park is already closed, but you won’t have to leave the line.

83. Disney buses run until the last guest is out of the parks. You won’t get left behind!

84. There’s a place for nursing mothers if you’re taking a very young child to Disney. Ask a cast member for more information.

85. Enjoy attractions more than once. Just because you already did them on this trip, doesn’t mean you can’t do it again, especially if the line is short!

86. Head straight for the headlining attractions/rides first thing in the morning when lines are shortest.

87. Eat a decent breakfast. Even if you plan on enjoying some food at the parks, don’t go on an empty stomach and then get lost in running from ride to ride.

88. Pack some simple breakfast foods in your luggage. Pop Tarts and granola bars are easy grab and go things to get you to the parks early!

89. Think about club level service. Breakfast, snacks, hot and cold appetizers, happy hour drinks for adults, desserts, and after dinner cordials. It won’t be all of your meals, but we were able to keep full throughout our stay. Free bottled water too!

90. Meet at least one character during your trip. I don’t care if it’s kids or adults, it’s still fun!

91. Prepare your kids for the trip: waiting in line, being courteous, using manners, etc.

92. If there are two lines, choose left. 95% of the time that line is shorter!

93. The shops on Main Street in Magic Kingdom are open longer than the park. Shop on your way out after the fireworks show.

94. Get a set of “first ears”!Anna & Elsa - Frozen

95. Enjoy Club Cool in Epcot. Get a free beverage and try the different flavors of Coke around the world!

96. Take a night off and watch a movie at your resort. Don’t like the movie your resort has, check out the other resorts!

97. Try Dole Whip (I prefer the floats!)

98. Sit and enjoy some of the live shows. Don’t feel like it’s a waste of time. They are truly enjoyable and it’s a load off your feet.

99. Pay attention to the details! The different things on Cinderella’s Castle, all the animals in the Tree of Life, etc. It’s truly amazing!

100. Think about a dinner show! Disney has 3 on property and they’ll all really fun! Two credits on the dining plan or a decent out of pocket charge, but it’s a great way to take a nice long break!

101. Learn about Pin Trading and trade with cast members!

Whew! Did I forget anything important?

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

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!

15 things you need to know for a Disney World Vacation with kids or toddlers

 

My little girl turns one today! In honor of this proud mommy moment and thoughts of taking her to Disney World for the first time next year, I wanted to pass along things you need to know when traveling to Disney with little ones for the first time. I did post some tips and tricks for traveling with kids 5 and under which were very well received. These are some mom tested suggestions and ideas that I think will really help make your Disney World vacation great.

  1. Bring or rent a stroller. I know your kiddo is turning 4 or 5 and they’ve been walking on their own at the zoo for over a year. Disney World is a whole different animal. We easily log 10 miles a day as we saunter around for several hours. The last thing your tired feet will want to do is carry around a 35 pound kiddo. Plus, now you have a place to store snacks, ponchos, an extra pair of shoes, sunscreen, and more.
  2. Know your stroller rental options and the cost. Renting a stroller from Disney is EXPENSIVE. A double stroller is over $30. Airlines typically allow you to check a stroller at the gate for no additional cost so if you have one you can borrow or bring, DO IT! If you do rent a stroller through Disney and you park hop, keep your receipt. When you get to your 2nd park, they will issue you a new stroller at no cost (as long as it’s the same day). You can’t take them from one park to another though, so plan accordingly. Also know that it’s a mad rush to return strollers at the end of the night if you rent through Disney.
  3. Bring a diaper or two. Every mom has a few leftover diapers after potty training. Even if you are past the point of diapers, it’s nice to have in case of an emergency. When you’re 5 minutes away from seeing Cinderella after waiting for 30 minutes, the last  thing you want to  hear is “mom, I have to go potty!”
  4. Don’t try to see everything in one day. Even as adults, we don’t try and do every attraction in one day. Slow down a little bit and enjoy the sights and sounds of Disney!
  5. Use the baby care center. Each park has one and has changing tables, rocking chairs, bottle warmers, and a nursing area. There’s also a baby specific store with extra diapers, baby food, formula, etc. So if you run out or forget to put something in the diaper bag, Disney has you covered (for a bit of a premium cost of course!)
  6. Prepare your kids for lines. We know everyone wants to see Mickey Mouse NOW. Prepping your kids for lines will help the wait process less painful. The more you can tell your kids, the better! If you need to bring a book or something to keep them entertained, do it. Just try and keep the noisy toys at home.
  7. Don’t force them onto attractions! While you may not think something is scary, don’t under estimate the power of kid minds. I’ve seen full out meltdowns getting onto Pirates of the Caribbean (and throughout the entire ride).  Be mindful that other guests are trying to have a good time. There’s always an exit strategy if things aren’t going well and cast members are happy to help get you out of a sticky situation!
  8. Start your park day early. If you have a baby or toddler “alarm clock” like I do, you might has well start your day with early morning magic hours or for rope drop. I only suggest taking advantage of early morning magic hours if you have park hoppers to allow you to jump to another park the same day. This also gives you a great opportunity to get out of the park and take a break for lunch, a nap, or some pool time.
  9. Plan your FastPasses. Know where characters. Even though you still might wait 10 minutes to see Rapunzel, it beats the 30-60 minutes it normally is.
  10. Stay away from peak travel times. Traveling in October or early November is the most ideal (my opinion). Crowds are low, the weather isn’t as hot (but still nice enough for a swim), and you get the benefit of the Food & Wine Festival as well as special Magic Kingdom events (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party). You’ll also save money by traveling off peak. Spring Break, June, July, and most of August are pretty busy and HOT. Your little one will get more worn out in the hot sun and you’ll spend more on drinks while you’re there!
  11. BYOW. Bring your own water. There are no rules against bringing food or water into Disney parks. Word to the wise, no glass, no alcoholic beverages, and no hard sided coolers. Other than that, you’re free to bring what you please!
  12. Add on Memory Maker. While it doesn’t completely eliminate the need for a camera, it will allow you to have family photos, and enjoy some of the magical moments without being behind the lens. For more about Memory Maker, check out “What Memory Maker All About”
  13. If you want to dine with characters, make plans early. Seriously. 3 months out, don’t expect to get a breakfast reservation with Cinderella or dinner at Akershus before 8 pm. Plan ahead. Disney can be a 12 month planning adventure. Link up with a Disney travel agent to help make your plans easier!
  14. Consider spending a bit more for location! You’ll pay more for a prime Disney location, but when it’s naptime, you won’t want to wait for a bus! Also check out the deluxe villas. You can get a 1 bedroom suite to have separation between the adults and the kids who will likely go down to bed before you’re ready! Art of Animation (a value resort) also has this option at a bit lower cost!
  15. Let mom and dad have a break. Disney offers pay per service child care facilities. Take a night off from the kids and have a nice dinner or take a romantic carriage ride. Disney definitely thinks of everything!

 

Related posts:


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!

15 things to do non a non-park day at Disney World!


Disney World can be an exhausting and expensive experience. If you have a longer vacation or have young kids, you may want to take a day off from parks. But can you fill a whole day without parks? Definitely! Even better, a lot of these suggestions are inexpensive or even FREE!  Here are 15 great things to do that are not in parks:

1. Enjoy your resort hotel’s pool

2. Explore other nearby resorts. Just because you aren’t going to the parks, doesn’t mean you can’t use Disney transportation to visit other resorts. My favorites are the deluxe resorts on the monorail line and the Epcot area resorts.

3. Try some different restaurants. My favorites: Boma in Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sanaa in Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kona Cafe in Polynesian, and anything in the Boardwalk Area.

4. Shop in Downtown Disney. Tons of different shops and something for everyone in your family without tiring out your feet.

5. Look around at all the amazing Lego designs in Downtown Disney. Then play in their 3,000 square foot outdoor play area.

6. Go to a movie (theater located in Downtown Disney)

7. Go bowling (Splitsville in Downtown Disney)

8. Check out some of the awesome restaurants (and food trucks) in Downtown Disney

9. Enjoy the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Viewing around property is free and there are a TONS of different animals roaming free around the property.

10. Play a round of miniature golf. You should receive a coupon for one free game at one of Disney’s 2 courses in your Mickey Mail before your departure.

11. Find a resort that does marshmallow roasts  by the fire (you can buy the graham crackers and chocolate to go with it)

12. Watch a movie at your resort (or head over to one of the many that offer movies on the beach)

13. Watch the Electric Water Pageant around the monrail Resorts. Check the daily schedule for more details.

14. Enjoy the street performers at Disney’s Boardwalk

15. Watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach at Polynesian or from the monorail platform


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!