I first have to say that very few people can keep up with the way my wife and I do Disney. We usually are there for the Good Morning Song and leave after the fireworks. We have been going to Disney for over twenty years and we have learned a thing or two. I would like to share some of the great tips we have learned over the years. We aren’t independently wealthy either so I will share some cost-cutting tips as well.
Pro tip #1 Plan ahead
A Disney vacation is an expensive vacation. Try to purchase your tickets at least thirty days in advance so you can take advantage of My Disney Experience, a free account and app that allows you to book reservations for dining, attractions and shows. Guests staying on property have can make reservations sixty days in advance while guests staying off property can make reservations thirty days in advance. Trust me when I say it is much better and more relaxing if you have reserved at least some of what you want your family to see at Disney. More and more people are doing this so it is important to do this early. Even with this method, many popular attractions may already have been reserved (Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride in the Magic Kingdom, and Soaring at Epcot are often booked solid). Keep checking and sometimes they will free up. If you can’t get some of the rides you want, don’t despair we have a few more tricks you can try.
Pro tip #2 Walk briskly to your desired popular ride.
We have used this very effectively for years and have never been disappointed. Now you have to be prepared to push women, children and old ladies out of the way. No just kidding, be respectful but do walk as fast as you can to the popular ride you want to ride (i.e.Toy Story Mania , The Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride or Soaring at Epcot). Don’t be discouraged if at first it looks like the line is long. Keep in mind that the cue is filling up for the first time and, with everyone hitting it, may look longer than reality. Usually, you will have a twenty minute or less wait. These rides will often have wait times of eighty minutes throughout the day. If you really want to be a pro, combine tip #1 and #2 for maximum fun. We often will brisk walk to our favorite ride AND have a reservation for later. Double the pleasure!
Pro tip #3 Download and learn the MyDisneyExperience App
The MyDisneyExperience app is a free app that you an download to your iOS and Android devices. It has a lot of features that allow you to book FastPass+ experiences, check ride wait times, find your way around, check restaurant menus, book restaurant reservations, share plans with others so they know when to be at what attraction together, and check showtimes. This is a tremendous resource as you can fine tune your experience on the fly. While you are waiting in line, you can make changes and check on the where you are going next. This cuts down on standing around deciding where to go next so you can just get to it when the ride or show gets out.
Pro tip #4 Learn how Fastpass+ works.
Fastpass+ is Disney’s system of reserving attractions and shows. Using it is a must to be able to pack as much fun into your day as possible. You can reserve up to three experiences prior to entering the park. All reservations can only be for one park in advance. Each reservation is for a one hour window. (i.e. a 3:20 reservation is good from 3:20 to 4:20). After you you have used a Fastpass or the reservation time has past, you can go to a Fastpass+ kiosk and add a new reservation. Also, if you decide to go to a different park after one of you have used your Fastpass reservations, you can go to a kiosk and add reservations where you can’t do this within the MyDisneyExperience App.
Pro tip#5 Prepare for heat.
In Florida, we have seasons of varying degrees of hot. Our seasons are marked by variations in humidity. Unless you are traveling during the winter season, the chances are great that you will experience lots and lots of sweating. There is a lot of air conditioned attractions but you will find yourself waiting outside before the air conditioned goodness. It is very important to be as hydrated as possible. You may have to make children drink water periodically. A good way to do this is to call frequent water breaks where everyone drinks so kids see the adults drinking as well and it is important. It is also as good idea to intersperse Gatorade once or twice during the breaks to put back electrolytes (“it’s got what plants crave!“) and potassium. Also, do to the copious amounts of sweating, you will need to guard for blisters as well. Comfortable walking shoes trump cute little sandals in a Disney trip. You will walk a lot. I tracked our mileage on a recent trip and was surprised to learn I had clocked close to 7.5 miles! We recommend powdering your feet, and sock liners. Sock liners are very thin socks designed to wick the moisture away from your feet. You can’t pick these up in the sock section of most department stores.
Cheap trick #1 Bring your own food.
Disney food is expensive and, at least the quick meals, not that tasty either. We recommend packing one or two of your meals. We like to stay at hotels off-site like Fairfield Inn, or Springhill Suites where they serve a breakfast every morning. We fuel up on a big breakfast and hit the parks. We snack on Cliff bars or nuts during the day and maybe even a protein bar for lunch. We have seen families bring lunch meats and bread and make sandwiches. (Disney is fine with outside food and drinks-there are size limitations on coolers so check before you go). I like sodas so we pack a couple in our backpack. We then ask for a cup of ice and then just pour the soda over the ice. For an evening meal, you can then eat dinner in the park. Look at menus ahead of time to see what is available. There are a wide variety of options most being quick counter-service. Any of the buffet dinners including character dinners, will have to be reserved in advance. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting for a long time outside of the restaurants (i.e. Crystal Palace at dinner time).
Cheap trick #2 Buy Disney gift cards in advance at a discount.
You can pay for very nearly everything in the Walt Disney Resort with Disney gift cards. You can save some money by purchasing at Sam’s Club or using your Target Red Card to purchase them. You save 5% which doesn’t seem like a lot but Disney discounts are hard to come by. There are a variety of tricks that others have done to save even more using rewards credit cards. Every little bit helps.
Cheap trick #3 Buy Disney souvenirs prior to going to the park
You know you and your kids are going to want to buy souvenirs. Of course you are going to pay a premium in the parks. Buying souvenirs prior will save you a lot of money and will help quell some of the desire to buy everything in sight when Disney fever sets in. You can buy these souvenirs online or wait until you get to Orlando and shop at local stores. We like the Walmart on Vineland Road for the wide selection they have. You can get anything Disney there for as good or better quality at a much better price. We have noticed more and more families making their own shirts on their Crickets. This allows for a more personalized experience as well. It also serves to help identify children if they get lost. If you plan long enough in advance and have a Disney store near you, it would be a good idea to take advantage of their buy one get one plush sale they have. What is better than getting the exact same plush you get in the parks for a great price?
Cheap trick #4 Stay near Disney not in Disney
We have stayed at Disney resorts of every level from the Deluxe tier Contemporary Resort to the Value resort level hotels like the All-star Movies resorts. If you have the money, these can be very enjoyable. I will say that we find the value and moderate level resorts little above the Holiday Inn style hotel with doors opening to the parking lot. With Florida weather, this is a consideration. It isn’t all that fun to come home from a hard day at the parks to walk through the rain to get to your hotel. Our favorite locations are the family suite hotels like Marriott Fairfield Inn, Marriott Springhill Suite, or Country Inn and Suites. Rooms that you can spread out in comfortably, great location and a free breakfast make for a very nice location. If it is free shuttles to the parks you like, then look for hotels that offer free shuttles like the Springhill and the Fairfield Inn in the Marriott Village on Vineland Ave. Once you are in the park, you can use Disney transportation to where ever you want to go.
Cheap trick #5 Consider opening a Disney Credit Card.
If you open a Disney Rewards Visa or Disney Premier Visa card you get $50 or $100 dollars back after your first purchases. If you use this card on your vacation, it is like getting a $50 to $100 refund. Also, you earn points that can be redeemed for a variety of things including a Disney gift card you can use on your next vacation. Disney Visa cards members get a 10% discount at various Disney resort locations as well as Disney stores and DisneyStore.com. Card holders also get perks including a free picture at an exclusive meet and greet at Epcot.
A trip to Walt Disney World is an awesome family vacation that will create wonderful memories. With these tips, it can be remembered as the happiest place on Earth and not the time the family only got to ride two rides, hated the food, got heat stroke and came home flat broke.
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