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Let’s go…to Walt Disney World!
Summer vacation is here and the raucous melody of “I’m bored!” will soon be dazzling our ears! Maybe it’s time to start planning a vacation. Nothing shakes up the normal routine like getting away for a while and I wholeheartedly believe there is no better vacation destination in the USA for young families than Walt Disney World Resort. Have you been dreaming of Disney but finding yourself overwhelmed with planning and costs? Read on for some tips on how to get started making The Most Magical Place on Earth a reality for your family.
1) Meet FastPass+, Your New Best Friend on Vacation
The days of waiting an hour in the blazing Florida sun for a spin on Dumbo the Flying Elephant are over. First of all, the line for Dumbo the Flying Elephant is now in an air conditioned circus tent with a giant playground for kids, comfy seats for parents, and pagers that go off when it’s your turn to ride, but there’s a way to bypass many of the other lines. It’s called FastPass+ and it’s FREE for every Guest at Walt Disney World. Here’s how it works:
- Disney designates a certain number of FastPass+ reservations per attraction, per day, using an algorithm that allows the most people to skip the line while keeping the “line for people who are skipping the line” from backing up.
- Guests log on to My Disney Experience, Disney’s online vacation planning tool, and start reserving FastPass+ times for the attractions they want to experience each day they are at the parks. Every Guest is allowed 3 pre-reserved experiences per day.
- Guests can make additional selections at the parks. Once your 3 pre-reserved FastPasses have been used, you can continue to select one additional FastPass+ at a time from the remaining inventory. This can be done via the My Disney Experience mobile app, or at kiosks in the parks.
So, while Disney hasn’t completely eliminated lines just yet, they have found a way to make park touring more efficient with no additional costs required!
2) Stay On-Site, Feel Right!
One of the easiest ways to beat the crowds and de-stress at Disney is to stay at one of the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels. As parents, our minds can be at ease knowing that the resort we selected is going to meet Disney’s high standards of cleanliness, creative theming and excellent service. Even better, there are three levels of resort types, designed to meet all budgets: Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts, and Deluxe Resorts. Would you rather camp? Disney has a campground too, with both campsites and cabins. There are other benefits of staying on-site that will add tons of value to your trip:
- Extra Magic Hours: On-site Guests can enter specified parks an hour early, and remain in specified parks up to two hours after closing. This is perfect timing to enjoy the parks with fewer lines and crowds!
- Transportation: There’s no need to rent a car because Disney provides transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and between your resort and all the parks!
- Early Booking for FastPass+ Reservations: It’s important to reserve FastPass+ times early for the most popular attractions because only a limited number of passes are given out each day. If you stay on-site, you get to start making your selections 60 days prior to check-in. This is an extremely valuable perk, because Guests staying off-site can’t start booking until 30 days prior to check-in.
- Magic Bands: Each on-site Guest gets a FREE Magic Band in his or her choice of color, shipped to his or her home prior to arrival. These aren’t your everyday wristbands. They contain a computer chip loaded with your dining reservations, FastPass+ reservations, room key, park tickets, and even your credit card number if you decide to add it. No need to carry a purse, everything you need for the day is on your Magic Band!
- FREE Entertainment: Each resort has an entertainment schedule. Activities may include themed pool parties, poolside games, campfires and outdoor movies.
- Retail Delivery Service: Maybe the kids bought some toys in the park, or Mom treated herself to some retail therapy at Disney Springs. Either way, there’s no need to lug bags around. Disney will ship your purchases throughout the property to your hotel gift shop for you to pick up at the end of the night.
3) Foodies Rejoice!
I’ve often said that Disney food must be sprinkled with Pixie Dust, because it’s SO good and SO plentiful that I feel like I certainly gained 20 pounds by the end of every trip. I’ve never seen the scale go up, so calories must not exist at the most Magical Place on Earth, right? It could be from all the walking, but I like to tell myself it’s definitely magic! Seriously though, this is not your typical theme park fare. You can find ethnic food, gourmet selections, celebrity chefs, buffets that rival anything in Las Vegas, healthy food and even food customized for Guests with special dietary needs.
But the food isn’t all that’s special about Disney dining. Disney restaurants are so well themed, many can double as attractions. You can dine with characters, eat a meal in the West Wing of the Beast’s castle, have a burger in a prehistoric jungle complete with animatronic dinosaurs, dine in The Castle with Cinderella and other princesses and even take a culinary tour around the world. In fact, Disney restaurants are so popular that some completely fill up six months in advance. If you plan ahead (ideally 180 days), you can arrange dining experiences that your family will never forget. And, if you are staying on-site, add a dining plan to your package to get more for your money and stay on budget without having to worry about adding up the cost of food every time you dine.
4) Something for Everyone
Arguably the most appealing thing about Disney is that there is enough variety to make your whole family happy. In addition to the rides, shows and character experiences at the four Disney Theme Parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot & Animal Kingdom), Disney guests can play at water parks, lounge at beaches, enjoy water sports, ride horses, play mini golf, shop at some amazing stores including Kate Spade, Lily Pulitzer and Anthropologie–just to name a few–in Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) and even dine at some of the finest establishments in Florida!
Babies and toddlers will enjoy a huge selection of rides with no height requirements, so they can have fun right along with parents and siblings. Older kids can meet their favorite characters and be immersed in music, joy and laughter. Do you have some kids who love roller coasters and others who don’t like them or aren’t tall enough to ride? Use free Rider Switch passes to ride in two groups without extra wait time.
Is a kid-free date night an important part of your dream vacation? Drop your kids off at one of the amazing Children’s Activity Centers, where they will be supervised as they make crafts, watch Disney movies and meet friends from all over the world while Mom and Dad have a quiet dinner. Top off your date-night with drinks at a dueling piano bar at Disney’s Boardwalk or themed margaritas at Disney Springs.
Traveling during football season and can’t miss the Packer game? Get cold beer and wings at ESPN Zone and own your Green Bay pride!
5) Magic on a Budget
When Walt Disney designed his theme parks in California and Florida, he envisioned destinations that were affordable for most Americans. Today’s Disney Parks haven’t deviated from that vision. Yes, a vacation is an investment, but there are some ways to keep costs in check:
- Select the resort category that is a good fit for your Budget. Disney Value Resorts are similar in price to most chain hotels, and still include all the valuable benefits of staying on-site!
- Watch for promotions: Disney offers some level of savings most days of the year. (And will even honor promotions if a better deal comes along after you have booked your vacation package up until 30 days before you arrive)
- Put your trip on layaway: Disney vacation packages can often be booked as far as one year in advance, with a $200 deposit due at booking and the remaining balance due 30 days prior to check-in. This is a good amount of time to make payments on your vacation without any interest.
- Add dining plans to your package: Pay one price and have your meals included. Order whatever you want off the menu, no sticker shock necessary.
6) Get Free Planning Help
It’s no secret that planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort can be time consuming and complex. This is where your Disney travel planner can really save the day! I am an agent of an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. The Disney College of Knowledge trained me to help plan the logistics of your trip. I have enough trips under my belt to provide insider tips and I even spent a college semester working at the Magic Kingdom. Best of all, my planning services are FREE! That’s right, I will monitor discounts, apply them to your booking whenever possible, book your dining, book your FastPass+ reservations, plan your itinerary, and give you as many tips as you’d like, for the exact same price you’d pay going it alone.
I can also help with any other Disney Destination (Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, Aulani, Adventures by Disney, etc.), Universal Studios, and even Sandals and Beaches. I am local to the Green Bay area, and would love to make your family’s vacation special. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation quote. Or follow me on Facebook and join my Disney Travel Tips Group for all the latest Disney news and promotions.
If you can dream it, you can do it!