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!

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.

photo 2(2)

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!

Disney World Transportation: How to get from here to there

 

Disney World’s large property, there’s a lot of confusion on how to get form here to there. I recall many times sitting on the monorail overhearing a conversation from groups that have likely not been to Disney before. The conversation goes a little like this:

Him: “Do you know how many more stops until we get to Animal Kingdom”
Her: “Hmm, I’m not sure. I guess it won’t be too long”
Him: “I’ll keep my eyes open!”

Deep down, I want to stand up and intervene, but I don’t think it’s my place. Another part of me wonders how long those people have been going around in circles on the short monorail loop. This little guide, is meant to help get you around the World when you travel. This guide is BASIC! If you want more detailed information, feel free to send me an email! I’m happy to help get you around in the most efficient way possible. To break it down, it seems easiest to go by mode of transportation.

Monorail

Disney’s monorail is available in the Magic Kingdom area and has service to a handful of resorts in the area as well. From Magic Kingdom, the monorail stops at Contemporary, then the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC), then Polynesian and finally Grand Floridian before getting back to Magic Kingdom. The TTC is a transfer point from the Magic Kingdom parking lot as well as to Epcot. Typically this is the easiest way to get from Magic Kingdom and Epcot. This second monorail loop just goes from the TTC to Epcot and back.

Boats

There are 4 different sets of boats at Disney:

  1. Ferry Boat. This boat takes Disney guests to and from Magic Kingdom to the TTC. This is a bottleneck and a slow mode of transportation when trying to get to Magic Kingdom!
  2. Friendship Boats. These books make a loop between Epcot and Hollywood Studios with stops at Boardwalk, Beach & Yacht Club, and Swan & Dolphin
  3. Magic Kingdom Boats. These boats run across Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom to both Wilderness Lodge & Ft. Wilderness as well as the three monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian). Watch the color of the flags to see the boat’s destinations before you board. This is typically a faster way to get to Grand Floridian than the monorail as it’s the last stop.
  4. Downtown Disney Boats. These boats are available from Port Orleans Riverside & French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs to Downtown Disney. This is by far the fastest and most direct way to get to Downtown Disney via their transportation. The only faster ways are to pay for a cab or to drive yourself.

Bus

Disney buses go just about everywhere. The exception is when a different mode of transportation is available (for example, you can take the monorail from Polynesian, so no bus is available to Magic Kingdom. Similarly, Epcot is only accessible by boat (at the rear entrance) from Boardwalk.

For all value and moderate resorts, all of your service to Disney’s 4 theme parks is via bus. This is also true for Animal Kingdom Lodge.

What about walking?

Can you want to Disney theme parks from the resorts? For a select few, the answer is yes. First, there’s one resort you can walk to from Magic Kingdom: Contemporary. If you want to walk to Epcot, stay at Beach or Yacht Club or Boardwalk. While it’s a little farther walk, those same resorts are close enough to Hollywood Studios. There are currently no walking paths to Animal Kingdom from any Disney resort.

Getting from one resort to another

So you chose a dining option at one of the other Disney resorts, now how do you get there? It depends on where your resort is and your final destination is as well. It makes sense that if you are dining near Magic Kingdom, you’d take a bus there and then hop the monorail or a boat. But the same does not hold true for an ‘Epcot area resort’. While Epcot is the closest resort to these destinations, it’s far fewer steps to take a bus to Hollywood studios and then take the boat to your final destination (as you’d have to have valid park admission to get through Epcot to the boat dock and it’s a heck of a walk!) If you are heading to Animal Kingdom Lodge, hop the bus to Animal Kingdom and then transfer to the Lodge. Just make sure that Animal Kingdom is still open if you’re headed back. If not, you’ll have to go to another theme park.

Another school of thought is that you just hop the bus that comes first (less time waiting). The only problem with this plan is that Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are at the far ends of the World, so make sure you choose wisely! While you may save time getting on the first bus, you may take more time getting to your final destination.

A word of caution: Do not use Downtown Disney has a transfer point. These are the slowest buses in all of Disney and often make multiple stops on the way to their final destination.

Need help getting to a specific location in Disney World? Feel free to contact me at any time using the form below!

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

 

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

 

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


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

Disney World Tips & Tricks: Help for Your First Visit

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

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

  • Travel off peak when possible. September – early November is really the best time to go to Disney! The weather is still warm, crowds are low, and prices are low as well. Disney often offers free dining or discounted dining promotions during this time so you get more for less. Free dining continues to be the most popular promotion Disney offers and there’s a reason they choose specific seasons to offer this great promotion.
  • If summer or spring break is your only option, don’t sweat it. You can still enjoy Disney while when crowds levels are higher.
  • Plan ahead. Once you have your dates, get them secured. Discounts can ALWAYS be applied at the time a new promotion is released. It’s just a phone call away. Packages require a $200 deposit to book and is 100% refundable 46+ days in advance, so if things change, no problem.
  • Work with someone that knows Disney. You will save time, money, frustration, and stress by working with a travel agent. I’m always here to help if you have general questions or are looking to get your Magical experience started! I’ve found that once a person starts with a good travel agent, they continue to use him/her for future trips or refer friends. That’s a really good marker of a great person! You should not be another page in the book!
  • Try at least one sit down restaurant. Your feet will thank you and it’s fun to get a different experience and a break from the go, go, go atmosphere of Disney.
  • Use FastPass+ to your advantage. Whether you have base tickets or park hoppers, make sure take advantage to all the free things Disney offers as part of their package. Book all allotted FastPasses.
  • Children under 3 are free! If are thinking about Disney travel in the near future and your son or daughter is under 3, think about travel sooner rather than later. Children under 3 years of age are free. Free park tickets, free dining at buffets, and are able to eat off your plate at other restaurants. They also don’t count toward the total guests in your room . For a family of 5, this is huge. Once you hit 5+ in a room, you lose many hotel options.
  • Children under 10 cost less! Once again, if you are going to travel in the near future, 9 years old and 10 years old make a huge difference. At 10, kids are considered Disney “adults” and pay adult prices for food and park tickets. You will save quite a bit of money by traveling before (or near) the age your child turns 10.
  • Tell Disney (or your travel agent) about any celebrations. This includes everything from first visit to birthday, graduation, anniversary, etc. Anything you can think of.  Even if travel doesn’t fall specific on a birthday or anniversary, you can still celebrate at Disney!

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

Disney lingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Walt Disney World Resort Hotels 101: Pros and Cons of every resort

 

Today’s spotlight on Disney resort looks at ALL OF THEM! With close to 30 resorts to choose from, making the decision can not only be confusing, but difficult. This handy guide is meant to help give you an overview of each resort, what the resort classes mean and how to choose the best resort for your family.

Resort Classes

Disney breaks down their resorts in to 4 different categories:

Deluxe Villas are the Disney Vacation Club Properties. When rooms are available after Vacation Club members make their selections, they are released to the general public. You will likely not see a room available until 6-7 months before your travel dates. Disney Deluxe Villas offer suites, most with full kitchens. One of the many benefits of the deluxe villas is the ability to have 1, 2, or even 3 bedrooms and is perfect for large parties or families with small children that go to bed early (but adults still want to stay up). Deluxe Villas also do not charge extra for additional adult guests beyond the first 2 (as all other resort classes do).

Deluxe Resorts are the top of the line hotels in Disney World. They offer the best amenities, best pools, and best location within Walt Disney World. They are also typically the most expensive resorts. These resorts also offer club level concierge service which gives guests many additional benefits on top of the great deluxe accommodations. Most deluxe resorts also offer more than one mode of transportation to get to and from each Disney theme park.

Moderate Resorts are a step down from the deluxe resorts in amenities and cost. These resorts still have excellent pools with water slides and sometimes have a less desirable location. Most moderate resorts are the largest among all the Disney World resort hotels. Additionally, most moderate resorts only offer bus transportation to and from all Disney theme parks and Downtown Disney, although their bus stops are covered from the elements. Most moderate resorts offer both quick service and table service dining options.

Value Resorts as you can tell by their name, are the least expensive of all Disney resorts. These resorts have both smaller beds (double vs. queen in all other resort classes), no water slides at pools, and uncovered bus stops. These resorts are moderate in size, but rooms farther away from the main building are a bit of a hike. Value resorts only offer a quick service dining option.

All Disney resorts offer exclusive benefits unavailable non-resort guests.

Disney World Resorts

For more specific information on each resort, click their name/link for an overview of the resort including specifics on rooms, location, transportation options, dining options, and relative cost. Resorts are listed in alphabetical order by class for an easy find!

Deluxe Villas

Deluxe Resorts

Moderate Resorts

Value Resorts

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

Disney World Tips and tricks: More time savers

castlejpg

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

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

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

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

New Discounts available to general public on Monday

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

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

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

When NOT to travel to Disney World

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

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


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