Early 2017 Disney World promos are here!

It’s baaaaaaack! Play, stay, and dine, the little sister of free dining is back and Disney is also offering a room discount which saves guests money on their resort stay (percentages are based on your travel dates and resort, but it’s just another way to save yourself a few dollars on your next Disney World adventure! So let’s break down the details…

play-stay-and-dine

If it’s difficult to read the fine print – excluded from this offer are Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, all 3 bedroom villas, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas, campsites at Ft. Wilderness (but Cabins are included), and Port Orleans French Quarter (which is not listed on this document but). Guests are required to have a minimum 3 night stay and minimum 2 days of park tickets to qualify for this offer!

room-offer

This offer is a bit more general. Similar exclusions with Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, all 3 bedroom villas, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas, and campsites at Ft. Wilderness (but Cabins are included. The percentage of savings varies by travel date and resort. How does it break down?

Resort Category Resort Savings

Select Disney Deluxe Villas

Save up to 25%
Stays most nights
1/1/17 – 4/8/17
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas 25%
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows — Studios only
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House 10%
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Select Disney Deluxe Resorts

Save up to 25%
Stays most nights
1/1/17 – 4/8/17
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 25%
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa 15%
Disney’s Beach Club Resort 10%
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Select Disney Moderate Resorts

Save up to 20%
Stays most Sunday through Thursday nights
1/1/17 – 2/18/17
Stays most nights
2/19/17-4/8/17
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort 20%
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter 10%
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside

Select Disney Value Resorts

Save up to 15%
  Stays most Sunday through Thursday nights
1/1/17 – 2/18/17
Stays most nights
2/19/17-4/8/17
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort 15%
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort — Family Suites Only
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort 10%

As you can see, you can save a lot if you are flexible in your resort destination! If you’re looking for a new favorite Disney resort, now is a great time to explore a fun new option!

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 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an agent that is part of 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 vacation 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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FREE Things available around Disney World

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

Magic Kingdom

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

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

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

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

EPCOT

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

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

Downtown Disney

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

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

Disney’s Boardwalk

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

Other

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite freebies at Disney?

Disney World Historical Discounts + Planning a 2015 Disney World Vacation

 

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

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

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

Predicting a discount

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

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

10/10/12

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

10/7/13

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

10/7/13

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

1/3/13

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

1/6/14

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

4/2/13

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

3/17/14

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

5/9/13

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

5/7/14

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

5/9/13

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

5/7/14

 

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

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

When should I book my vacation?

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

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

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

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

Saving time AND money

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

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

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

 

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!

Disney World PIN Codes: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

 

Having never actually received a Disney PIN code in my life, I always thought they were a myth, however I know this is false now that two of my very lucky clients have received codes in the last few weeks. They are real folks and they can save you lots of money or truly enhance your vacation! The most recent codes I’ve seen are for a free park hopper upgrade plus a room discount. For a family of 4, park hoppers can run well over $200 and coupled with a room discount, it can make for a really fun and exciting vacation!

What is a Disney PIN code?

Disney PIN codes are special discount codes that are sent at via mail or email that are specific to your name and address. These are said to be random and discounts can vary from a very small percentage off discount to as big as free dining.

How do I get a PIN code?

Pin offers are said to be completely randomly generated.  In order to receive a code you have to be “registered” with the Disney system. Some suggestions are to request a DVD, order customized maps, sign up for a Disney.com or MyDisneyExperience.com account and update your contact information, or play around with quotes or costs on DisneyWorld.com. While none of these are guarantees, if you’re thinking about a trip, it’s worth a shot! Be sure to check your junk mail just in case it gets filtered to your spam folder.

I think I got a PIN code!

First check to see if it’s a 3 letter/number combination code or if it’s longer. The 3 character long codes are promotional offers that often provide either a small or no discount from current pricing. A PIN code is longer (often 12-14 characters) long and is specific to your name and address.

Ok, now I know it’s a pin, now what?Disney-World-First-Visit-Button

If you have a trip booked, you can call and have the discount applied to your current trip. You may need to upgrade your current room view to take part in the promotion. In select situations, you may need to switch resorts to be included in the discounts as each different exclusions based on the available offer. Unfortunately you are not able to apply the discount online after you have a trip booked. If you booked through a travel agent, he or she would call on your behalf (another benefit to working with a travel agent instead of calling yourself!)

If you don’t have a trip booked, you can use the website provided with the PIN to look at cost comparisons or call Disney and work with one of their cast members. Similarly, you could send it over to your travel agent and they can do all the hard work for you! Easy as that.

Can I combine a PIN discount with a Disney World Special Offer?

Unfortunately, no. You have to choose the discount that most benefits your family. In the case of free dining, this may not be as simple as looking at dollar value as the value of free dining for a family of 4 over a week’s vacation can be well over $1000. If you have questions, contact a cast member, or even easier, contact a Disney travel agent.

The PIN is in my name but my husband/wife is the lead traveler on our reservation, is that a problem?

Nope! As long as the person who has the code is a member of the traveling party, you are able to apply the code to your reservation. In fact, you can book multiple rooms under the same PIN code (typically up to 3 rooms)! But for that, you’ll have to call a cast member for 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!

 

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!

Two credit meals on the Disney Dining Plan are they worth it?: The ultimate debate!

 

Continuing the theme of Disney Dining with Free Dining on the horizon…Disney’s Dining Plan offers credits for table service meals. You receive one credit per person for each night you stay at your Disney World resort hotel. A handful of Disney restaurants and dinner shows require 2 dining credits based on the cost of their meals or the experience provided. These are categorized as either Signature Dining or Dinner Shows. While many Disney veterans will argue that you lose money by choosing 2 credit dining options, I argue that some are just too hard to pass up! Plus, all Disney dining locations provide you with so much food that it’s almost hard to use all of your credits during your visit.

The 2 credit dining restaurants are as follows:

  • Artist Point – Wilderness Lodge

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

  • California Grill – Contemporary
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – Magic Kingdom
  • Citircos – Grand Floridian
  • Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Café – Downtown Disney
  • Fulton’s Crab House – Downtown Disney
  • Flying Fish Café – Boardwalk
  • Hollywood Brown Derby – Hollywood Studios
  • Jiko – Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Le Cellier – Epcot
  • Monsieur Paul – Epcot
  • Narcoossee’s – Grand Floridian
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse – Yacht Club

Dinner Shows which are also 2 credits include (some alcoholic beverages are also included for adults at these locations):

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue – Fort Wilderness
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – Fort Wilderness
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show – Polynesian

While I haven’t dined at all of these locations, the food I have tried is definitely a cut above the rest. I’d absolutely go back to any of the signature restaurants again without hesitation.

Is it worth it?

Value of worth is really based on your definition of “worth it”. If you’re going purely based on dollar value and paying for the Dining Plan out of pocket, dining at a 2 credit location may not recoup the cost you paid for it.

A very quick math lesson on Disney’s dining plan for an adult assuming a very common vacation of 7 days, 6 nights.

Per night cost for an adult $64.58.

  • Subtract a per day cost of $3 for the cost of the refillable mug ($17.99 for length of stay if purchased out of pocket)
  • Subtract $4 for snack credit (any good snack will be around the $4 mark or above)
  • Subtract $9.79 + $2.99 + $3.29 = $16.07 (the average cost for a counter service meal with fountain drink and dessert included as part of your quick service credits).
  • This leaves $41.51 to make up for in cost for a table service meal each day.
  • Subtracting $3 for a drink and $8 for a dessert, that leaves the need for about a $30 entree for each counter service meal. While that sounds excessively expensive, that’s pretty easy to find in Disney.

Now for the argument of using a 2 credit table service meal. You’re not likely to recoup the cost of about $65 in an entree (assuming that a dessert costs a little bit more at a signature restaurant). Does that mean I don’t dine at signature restaurants, definitely not! It’s some of my favorite food and a totally different atmosphere and amazing service. If you choose a signature meal, you’ll likely be able to share a different 1 credit table service meal which will tilt the scale back to the green (1 and 1/2 times the cost of a table service credit is definitely feasible at a signature restaurant where some entrees are upwards of $50 – and worth every delicious morsel!)

I argue from the other side that any meal is “worth it” with free dining. While you are not getting a discount for your room, at a moderate resort, the discount over a 6 night vacation is only in the realm of $200-$300 while free dining can save you well over $1000. How’s that for math?

Confused yet?

Yeah, me too! It’s the continuous debate among Disney veterans, and those that just like to argue about things. There’s no right or wrong answer to Disney dining. The only right answer I have for you is check out the menus. If the food looks good, make a reservation. Don’t listen to one bad review online or one good review from a friend. Every experience is different and things change over the years. Enjoy yourself! You’re on vacation.  Try something new. And overall, HAVE FUN! It’s the only place you can be an adult but act like a kid again!

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!