Monday, May 6, 2013

Tips on Planning a Disney Vacation....

A while back, (especially when we returned from our second Disney trip in a year), multiple friends began asking my opinion on what we did, how we planned, what was easy, what was difficult and so on. I decided it would be a great blog post.

We begin Part 1 of "Disney World Vacation Series"

Apr 2012

Feb 2013
  For the record, these opinions are my own and are not being sponsored by Disney, HOWEVER if they find this series post and choose to reimburse me with a free vacation back there, I would gladly accept.

Don't forget this will be a 2 part series.

Series 1 – Tips on Planning a Disney Vacation

Series 2 – Tips for Enjoying your Disney Vacation

Lets get started!

How to plan your trip based on what you want to get out of it.

1.       Be reasonable with your time and decide what you want your trip to be. If you want the “Disney Experience”, stay on Disney. I could go on and on about this. Everyone thinks its so much cheaper to say off of Disney and I don’t agree. Its actually very close in price unless you are staying at a 1-2 star inn that may or may not have contracted bed bugs. Just saying, you do get what you pay for now a days. This doesn’t mean you can’t find a great deal, but if you consider all the extra gas you will use (if driving) and the extra time it takes to get from the parking lots to the actual park, (not to mention the headache) it adds up.

You can still drive your own car, but part of the convenience is Disney will take you everywhere you want to go, (within Disney property of course!) We just park our car and it doesn't move the rest of the week.

There are a Huge Selection of Resorts to choose from, all based around fun themes and prices. The Resorts are broke up into 3 categories. Value, Moderate, and Expensive, (I mean Deluxe).

We have stayed at both the Value and Moderate Resorts. We stayed at the Moderate Resorts before we had children and have stayed in the Value resorts since. There isn’t much of a difference at all other than price in my opinion. The Value resorts rooms are just as clean, and “spacious” as the Moderate resorts. It’s all a matter of what type of vacation you are planning. We love the Port Orleans Moderate Resort. It is just beautiful, but we had no kids at the time and it wasn’t loaded down with children. The Value Resorts on the other hand I think appear to be geared towards families. I mean we stayed in the “TOY STORY” section at All Stars Movie Resort. We were practically the size of a toy in Andy’s room. The kids loved it, and well we loved that they loved it. Also, Disney Transportation is SO much better than driving to a park, walking or riding a tram to the monorail, riding the monorail to the park…etc. And if you have strollers you have to fold up every time, it’s just difficult. Disney Transportation drops you off right near the entrance, so for our family it was a win-win!

I will say that if you are planning not a whole Disney vacation, but that you want to add a one day of Disney in, then yes it would be logical and probably cost effective to stay off of Disney. I think that if we were only going to do Disney for a day and then hit Universal, and Sea World and Holy Land Experience and….(you name it) then we would probably stay off of Disney property in a center location around these attractions. I don’t think you can really do “Disney” in one day, so we don’t usually attempt any other parks while we are there. We go for the “GOLD” and do it Disney all the way. Its just a choice you have to make. Also, with the ages of our children, Universal was out. We did go off Disney for the Holy Land Experience and the Beach in the past. Its not difficult to get out of Disney, but they do make it to where you really have no need to leave at all. Good work on their part.

2.       Order a Free Disney Travel Planning DVD. I mean it is completely free. It will give you a ton more information that I am giving you and it’s a little movie. Who doesn’t love that. It gives a brief explanation of the parks, resorts, cruise line, etc. And again, its free! Just sign up and it will arrive in a few weeks. (we still get one every time! Hey you don’t know if they have changed something in the last year…lol)

3. Visit Disney Moms Panel. It has 100s of different questions that are answered by the "official Disney moms" that have answered many of my own questions in the past. You can even ask a question as well. Again, totally free.

4. You can use a travel agent or book directly through Disney. It should NOT cost more to book through an agent though. They are getting a kickback from Disney to book it, and you should not have to pay them at all. We just book it ourselves. I like that Disney's Vacation planner is user friendly and easy to use. You can save up to 3 different vacations so you can compare prices.

5. Consider the dining plan. I mean really consider the dining plan. If you are going full force and staying on Disney, I feel like it is the ONLY way to go. Especially if you are wanting to do character meals. (More on this in part 2) There are a few choices of dining plans. We generally choose the middle plan which is reasonably priced and gives you one snack, one quick service meal, and one sit down meal per day. The next up package was alot more than what we needed and the lower package just didn't seem like it was enough. We were on a budget so it helped to add our food into our "total". Then when we got ready for our trip, all we needed was the "extra" spending money for souvenirs or just extra money.

6. Tickets, tickets, tickets. Park tickets aren't cheap. They will cost you roughly 100$ a person, per day. You can include these in your "package" and I don't think you get much if any of a price break. You have 2 options. Park Hopper tickets, - that let you hop from park to park with ease and no trouble, or you have single day tickets, which are cheaper that allow you into one park only. My suggestion is think about who you are traveling with. If its young kids and you have strollers, opt out of the park hopper tickets. You will save some money. I know especially in our case, it takes so much time and energy toting kids to one park, I can't imagine trying to "hop parks" the middle of the day. If you have older kids, then keep the park hopper and make it worth every penny. For us, we knew that saving the money and visiting one park each day was PLENTY. You definitely will not get board and most of the time, you will find that one day is hardly enough.  We usually figure out how many days we are going to be at Disney and then purchase or add to our package that amount of tickets. You can still choose which parks you want to go to on which day, but once you use a ticket for Magic Kingdom, its only good at MK that day. Do you save hundreds on not getting the park hopper? no. But is it enough that if you know you aren't going to want to hop around to just do without it? yes.

Once you figure out what you want, you can begin planning your trip. I hope I have began to get some of your questions answered with a real opinion of a mom of 2 (soon to be 3) kids. Who doesn't want to save some money while taking their children to the most magical place on earth?

Until Part two.....

Keep Calm......and start planning!

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