Real Mom Tips for Taking the Family to Disney World
For many families, the idea of a Disney World vacation is either dreamy or dreaded. The planning alone can be overwhelming and the budgeting is almost a joke. In fact, the Huffington Post released an article on exactly how much it costs to visit the “Happiest Place on Earth” and found that a family of four will typically spend nearly $4,000 on travel, accommodations and park admission to visit the house of mouse. The article also found that the average family spent almost nine months planning their Disney vacation.
So everyone clearly thought I was crazy this winter when my little family of four decided to plan a trip to Disney with one month to spare. The timing was brought about by a work conference my husband was attending in Orlando, and since I had never been to Disney before, I couldn’t help myself. Granted we have two young children, 4-years and 20-months, whom people felt constantly obligated to tell me were too young for Disney. But I wasn’t hearing it. I was determined to make this trip the exciting and magical adventure I had always dreamed about as a child. Honestly, I was way more excited than my children, and I’m completely okay admitting that.
With very little time to spare, I hit the web for tips and tricks geared toward the perfect Disney vacation. Pinterest is full of ways to save money, where to stay and the best restaurants at each park. I made notes and then got busy booking. Surprisingly, I found that planning was quite easy thanks to Disney’s online system. So if you’re thinking of taking a trip to visit Disney’s Orlando parks in the near future, here’s a page out of my newbie planning guide.
Stay on site:
Yes, it can sometimes be a bit more pricy…but it’s totally worth it. I know from pure experience. We stayed at the Art of Animation for three nights and then moved to my husband’s conference hotel for three more nights. Since the Art of Animation Resort is a value resort, it was actually cheaper than the off-Disney hotel and much nicer. Staying at a Disney hotel also means free transportation to and from all the parks and super nice staff or “cast members” as they are called. The other hotel we stayed at was a well-known chain and while they did offer a free shuttle to the parks, they only offered it once per day and you had to leave on their schedule and couldn’t stay to watch the fireworks or parades. So be careful if another hotel offers free transportation. I can’t say it enough, stay at a Disney property.
Go in the off season:
We went at the end of January and beginning of February. The lines were short, the weather was perfect and we had a great time. I highly recommend checking Disney’s online crowd calendar before planning your trip if you can. If not, just prepare yourself for extra wait times.
We’ve heard mixed reviews on the Disney dining plan. Some people love it and others don’t. We didn’t do the dining plan. We decided to book big character breakfasts first thing in the mornings and then packed snacks in a backpack for the rest of the day. It’s just too difficult to stop in the middle of the day to sit down for an hour and eat, so quick snacks like apples, PB&Js and carrot sticks were perfect for my crew.
Do these! Yes, they are expensive so plan them well. Try to book a character breakfast before the park opens. These breakfasts are buffet style and you’ll get to go into the park before anyone else. We got great pictures of the castle and the kids without hundreds of strangers in the background this way. The character meals are also great because you can meet all the big characters and princesses without having to wait in line forever to see them. The kids can get autographs and you can snap photos and then chow down on delicious Mickey waffles! They are worth it.
Bring items from home:
I knew the prices at Disney would be high, so I did a little research before we left and ordered several things to take with us. I bought the kids light-up toys for the nighttime electric parade and fireworks shows from Amazon for $5 each. I also bought an autograph book at Target for $2 before the trip. My daughter did the princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbdi Boutique and we brought her princess dress from home instead of buying one there. The kids didn’t know the difference and were just as excited about everything.
Read up on rides:
Make sure you do a little research on the rides before you go. There’s nothing as sad as seeing a child wait in line for a ride to find out they’re too short or worse – it’s super scary. So take the time to know before you go.
You’re going to Disney, not the Bahamas. This is not going to be a relaxing, sitting by the beach kind of trip. This is a high-energy, busy all day vacation. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. Just take your time. Know that you’re not going to see everything and be okay with that. And when you’re exhausted and tired of hearing screaming kids all around you, just take a look at the pure, innocent joy streaming out of your little one. Because there is nothing that beats the fuzzy feeling you get while watching your little boy rub noses with Piglet or your daughter gasp in amazement at Cinderella’s castle. So smile and make sure you try Disney’s famous Dole Whip…with rum!