Getting into the holiday spirit at Disney World

Getting into the holiday spirit at Disney World

Disney World does a great job on just about everything, and the holidays are no exception! I am so incredibly excited to take part in all of these very special events this November & December! From special holiday events to  a spectacular display of lights, there are no shortage of magic!

Many holiday events begin well before December so whether it’s school or work schedules or holiday time with family that won’t allow you to travel in December, you do have lots of great options!

Special Events

As Disney takes down the Halloween/Fall decorations, the Christmas/holiday décor goes up. All the theme parks turn into a magical wonderland. Most notably, Magic Kingdom begins its annual Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This begins around the second week of November and runs through the week of Christmas. Enjoy special parades, meet Santa, get free cocoa and cookies, snow, and a special holiday fireworks. This is separate from your regular theme park tickets but totally worth the additional cost.

Epcot has a nightly Candlelight Processional which begins shortly after Thanksgiving and runs through the new year. Accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra, a celebrity narrator tells the story of Christmas. While there is no cost to attend the event, it fills to capacity every night. To ensure your entry into one of the shows, it’s best to book one of the Candlelight Processional dining packages. If you’re looking to save a few dollars, book the lunch which is associated with the early show.

Around Epcot, feel the holiday spirit around World Showcase to see the holiday traditions from each country.

If free is more your style, you’re in luck! Hollywood Studios has the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. This is held nightly in November & December on Streets of Main Street. It’s absolutely free with theme park admission and an awesome display of holiday spirit.

Outside the parks

Resorts get in the holiday spirit as well with Christmas trees and decorations related to their themes. If you have days off from the parks, it’s worth a little tour. If you only go to one location, head to Grand Floridian to check out the giant gingerbread house. It’s a site to see and made out of edible ingredients! This goes up around mid November but check with your Disney cast member for full details!

Holidays also bring about some additional photo opportunities for those with Memory Maker. Some resorts provide some great Christmas backdrops available.

All and all, it’s always a magical time to visit Disney World but the greatest time is during the holidays for extra touches of magic around the theme parks and resorts. Disney is always adding more exciting things to the plan!

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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Why Fall is truly the best time to go to Disney World

 

While it’s always a good time to go to Disney World, fall truly is the best time to plan a vacation. Kids are back in school, the weather starts to cool, the prices start to drop, and the crowds begin to dwindle. Disney also entices guests with the biggest promotion of all: Free Dining. While dates are more limited this year than in years past, it’s still a popular options for families looking to save money.

2014 free dining runs from August 31-October 3, October 26-November 1, November 9-20, and December 12-20. As long as your check in day falls on one of these dates, your entire vacation will be covered.

If free food (and savings of over $1000 for most families) isn’t enough for you, outside of holidays and days off of school, fall brings some of the lowest crowd levels during the entire year. Many days in September have overall crowds in the 1-2/10 range each day and weekends still don’t get that high.

Still want more? How about special events! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and holiday events at Hollywood Studios are available throughout the seasons. While the 2 parties at Magic Kingdom are special ticketed events, they are only once a year and a really fun special opportunity to enjoy time in Magic Kingdom with even lower crowd levels than during the day.

Need a little bit more enticement? The weather throughout most of this time is still warm enough to swim and enjoy the Florida sun. Evenings are comfortable. You are likely to get away with a long sleeve shirt or light jacket in November and December.

And if that’s not enough, rack rates (or non-discounted rates) are some of the lowest all year. So even if you can’t find a free dining promotional rate, you are already saving money! I just priced out a 5 night vacation for my husband and me in September. With upgraded free dining and 4 days of park tickets, it was under $1300! That also included an evening at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Pretty impressive, since we paid more for a deluxe room and tickets without dining in April which is more toward peak season!

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!

Tips & Trick for Disney World Refillable Mugs

 

As you may know, all Disney resorts of Refillable Mugs which can be used at your resort any of the Disney World resorts. In 2014, Disney updated their machines and mugs for “Rapid Refill”. In addition, costs have changed as well and is more of a tiered system which looks a little like this:

$8.99 for 1 Day
$11.99 for 2 Days
$14.99 for 3 Days
$17.99 for Length of Stay

There is a hard coded “length of stay”, but keep your receipt if you exceed that date and a cast member can make adjustments.

Another change to this program is a wait time between refills. You must wait 2 minutes before you can refill your mug again. For most people that’s no problem and it saves people from filling cups that are not their mugs/cheating the system. Outside of water, all soft drinks, coffee, and tea will only be dispensed with an active mug placed on the tray (you cannot hold it and fill). Display screens provide appropriate directions.

What  if my child is too small to see the screen?

My experience is that they yell for mom because they think the machine is broken. (I got a little chuckle out of it several time!)

Is water still free?

Yes. You won’t have trouble getting ice or water in your own container if you so choose.

Disney’s Dining Plan

Everyone with Disney’s dining plan will also receive a mug as part of your package. To pick yours up, head to the quick service location of your choice and have the cashier scan your MagicBands. He or she will likely ask if you are on the Dining Plan, but it never hurts to make mention of it.

What if I’m part of a split stay?

If you are part of a split stay and your mug purchase or dining plan is on the first half of your stay, see a cast member to add additional days to your mug. Keep your receipt from your original purchase. You’ll rarely be second guessed, but it’s good to have.

If your dining plan credits don’t activate until the second half of your stay, you’re out of luck unless you’d like to purchase a separate mug. If it’s only a day or two, just wait it out. No need to purchase something you’ll soon get for free.

I’m not on the dining plan, is this worth the money?

It depends on how much time you’ll be staying at your resort and the convenience of the refill stations to your room. Even if you average $1.99 per drink refill, you’d have to use your mug 4 times in 24 hours. If you divide the charge over 6 nights (a pretty average length of stay for many families), you’d only have to use your mug twice each day to make it worth the money. If we’re not staying club level, I really enjoy having a mug, even more so at a value resort!

Can I use my mugs in the theme parks?

No, sorry! We often fill our mugs  with coffee in the morning, hop on the bus and head to our park of the day. We also grab a few napkins to toss inside the mugs after we’re done with them so coffee doesn’t get all of our small bag/tote for the day. After we get through our main attractions early in the day, we rinse them out in a bathroom or water fountain and refill. Yes, Orlando water does taste kind of yucky, but with a packet of Crystal Light, problem solved!

If you are eating a quick service lunch, the mugs are a great thing to have to split those giant drinks (or take the rest of your table service drink to go).

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: Disney with a car

I know you’ve heard me constantly say that Disney transportation is great, but what if you have a car? Is it faster to drive and park than to take Disney’s bus service? Is travel around Disney property easy? As you probably know, parking is free at all the theme parks for resort guests, saving you a whopping $20 per day! (updated for 2016)

Driving vs. Disney Transportation

In most cases it is faster to drive than to use Disney transportation, especially if you are traveling for park opening/rope drop. Your park spot will be closer to the main entrance. If you are arriving later in the morning, you may have to use up some extra steps or wait for the trams that will bring you to the park entrance. Buses drop you off right at the entrance. The major exception to this rule is Magic Kingdom. Parking is at the Ticket & Transportation center which requires you to then take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom gates adding at least another 10 minutes to your travel time. If you plan on park hopping between Epcot and Magic Kingdom, this may be a viable option, but in any other situation, I’d advise against it.

Parking at any park besides Magic Kingdom is probably a 5-10 minute walk from the lot to the entrance gates. If you want to save some foot power, take the tram, it runs on a constant basis and just makes 2 stops.

Navigating Disney World in your own Car

Disney has great signage both in and out of the park. The bright purple signs provide great direction. You can also put addresses into your GPS, but be sure that you are putting in the address or coordinates of the parking lot! If you’re driving, be aware that you may need some cash for tolls to get to the Disney area.You cannot just rely on signage to get you from here to there. You’ll need some GPS or written directions to get you to one of the main roads.

Pros and cons of using your own car

If you’re traveling with little ones, it might actually be easier to take Disney transportation. No worrying about bringing a car seat if you’re renting a car, buckling a kiddo into a car seat, or trying to shove a double stroller into the trunk of your car. If you are taking Disney transportation and have a stroller, please be considerate to other guests and have your stroller folded up before the bus arrives. This saves a lot of time as people wait for you to board the bus.  Typically, driving will be faster thank taking Disney transportation, but it all depends on your location on property. If you are driving to Disney, enjoy the convenience of a car. If you are thinking about renting a car, ask yourself why you really want it. I might consider it if you are traveling off property for a period of time or if you have many dining reservations at resorts and it’s difficult to use Disney transport to get to them.

What are your thoughts on traveling through Disney?

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

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

Ready to get started planning your next 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!

Tips and Tricks for Free Dining at Disney World

freediningdisney

It’s that time of year again, the whispers begin about free dining for fall travel dates. The latest rumor is that free dining for September will be coming out before the end of April due to low DVC (Disney Vacation Club) bookings for that time of year. Great news for those that want to save a few bucks at Disney World this year! Free dining sounds like a great deal, and for most families it really is, but you really need to do the math to see what the best option is; typically Disney also offers a room only discount at the same time.


The Basics

Free Dining is offered at most Disney World resort hotels. Value resorts come with the quick service dining plan. Moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas come with the full dining plan. At any of the four resort classes, you are able to upgrade your plan (quick service to full dining plan or full dining plan to deluxe) at minimal cost. The cost of upgrade is based on the number of guests in each room, their ages, and how many nights you are staying

The Dining Plans

Quick Service dining plan: This plan provides 2 quick service credit and one snack per person for each night stayed.

Disney Dining Plan (the “full” dining plan): This plan provides 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and one snack credit per person for each night stayed.

Deluxe Dining Plan: This plan provides 3 credits (which can be quick service or table service) and 2 snacks per person for each night stayed. This is A LOT of food!

Each plan also includes a refillable mug for each member of your party. This can be used at any resort, but not refillable at the parks. A great suggestion is to bring them with to use them in the parks and make it easier to split a drink at quick service locations.

Quick service meals (also called counter service meals) are those that do not accept reservations. You order of a menu board in front of cashier and then wait for your food to be prepared. Think of McDonalds, Burger King, or Hardee’s but with better food and better variety! Quick service credits cannot be combined to convert to a table service credit (nice try though!) Feel free to share meals at any time!

Table Service meals are sit down restaurants in which you order off a menu with a server. This also could be a buffet meal. Some table service meals are 2 credits (signature meals, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and dinner shows). Most meals can be shared with the exception of buffets for obvious reasons.

Snacks are everything from an apple, bottle of water, all the way up to a giant filled soft pretzel or cupcake. During the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, there are countless options considered snack credits that can make a meal.

You receive all of your credits upon check in to your resort. Children ages 3-9 will receive child credits for quick service and table service meals. If there happens to be no children’s menu, they are able to choose items off the full menu.There is no difference in snack credits for children or adults.

Comparing Discounts

A favorite argument of Disney fans is that “free dining isn’t free”. I will always disagree with them. Yes the dining plan is FREE, however you pay full price for your hotel room stay. In order to accurately compare the two discounts, you will need to price out free dining and then the room only discount PLUS tickets and the dining plan added. Free dining is a better deal at value and moderate resorts 99 out of 100 times (the exception is a family of two staying for a short period of time).

That math really becomes important at deluxe resorts and deluxe villas where discounts are typically 30% or more in the fall. Typically a 5-6 night stay makes for a $500 discount with room only. This deal would be greater for a family of 1 adult and 1 child or 2 adults during a short stay. For a group larger than two or three, the discount typically comes close or free dining is a better deal. Remember, if it saves you more money on a room discount, you can always pay for the dining plan and still save a few bucks along the way.

Making the dining plan work for you!

Even though the dining plan is free, it’s still good to know general dining plan strategy: choosing characters meals when available (these are all buffet but great if you’ve got kids), planning your table service meals ahead of time. You are able to book dining reservations up to 180 days in advance whether you have a resort reservation or not. Make sure you make enough reservations to use up all of your table service credits. These reservations are best made for lunch or dinner as these are typically the most expensive meals. A late lunch or early are my favorites – you can likely get away with meals each day plus a snack.

Depending on your arrival and departure times, you may need to plan carefully to use all of your credits. If you have an early departure on your last day, don’t be afraid to use all but one of your credits for a filling breakfast on your way back home. On the contrary, if you have a late departure, save at least one table service credit for a great lunch before you head home.

The Fine Print

Not all resorts are included in free dining. Typically Disney chooses resorts based on how many guests are booked in that resort at the time of the promotion (as a way to entice guests to fill specific resorts). Excluded for almost every promotion are all 3-bedroom villas, the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, the campsites at Fort Wilderness, and the Villas at Grand Floridian. No specific information on what will be included this time around. The more flexible you are able to be, the better your chances of getting the dining plan for free!

Free dining requires a package stay (Disney resort stay PLUS park tickets). You are required to to have a 2 day base ticket if you are interested in adding free dining. This includes those that are Annual Passholders. You are able to put the cost of your 2 day base ticket toward next year’s annual pass if you wish to take part in free dining. You are also required a minimum of 2 night’s stay (while Disney’s promotional materials say 6 days, 5 nights, it’s not a requirement!)

Children under 3 are free at Disney World and therefore do not need park tickets or the dining plan. If you choose to eat at buffet locations, they are able to have their own plate of food. At table service and quick service restaurants, they can share with an adult or another child.

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Need help?

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!