It has been a crazy week filled with doctor appointments, getting rear-ended, and having posting problems on the blog that seem to have been resolved, so I haven't been able to post my Daily Disney Planning Tips. So to make up for it, here is the TOP 10 DISNEY PLANNING TIPS!
1) When you are planning your days at the park, plan some time to relax and head back to the resort or hotel. We've all seen the kids, right around 3 o'clock, have the melt down! And you know what, the adults reach that point too! There is so much to do and so much to see that you need time to decompress from all the Mickey Madness. Also, its a great way to just freshen up and recharge the batteries to push through to the fireworks. Take a dip in the pool or a nap. And after a couple of hours, you will feel recharged for a fun filled evening at the Parks!
2) Check, double check and recheck the park hours and plan your days. I don't want you to feel like you are micro managing your days. Of course you need to have the 3 F's when you are at the parks - Fun! Flexibility! Freedom! But...it is advised that you have a general breakdown of how your day will be planned. This will make it easier for you to see everything you want to see. For example, are you staying for the parade? If so, what time is it? Do you have reservations to make for breakfast or dinner? How far away is it from your resort and can you use Disney transportation to get there? 180 days before your arrival, you will be able to see the park hours. These are just a general guideline though as the hours change. Usually, they do not lesson the hours, but actually extend them. But you still want to make sure what the hours are, when the fireworks are, and what time the parades will be going through the parks.
3) Make Advanced Dining Reservations! I can not stress this point enough! 180 day prior to arrival you are able to make your dining reservations. And I recommend that you make them! All the most popular restaurants book up this far in advance. Some people want to just see where they are and what they feel like eating when they arrive and how their days go. That is fine - but if you travel this way - be prepared that you will not be able to eat at that favorite restaurant or have that Character Dining Experience that you wanted you have.
4) Do your research! This is another huge point - learn and research as much as you can about dining and visiting Walt Disney World. There are so many hidden tips and ideas, plans and suggestions, things to do that are not necessarily posted in the Parks, and ideas to help your trip go smoothly. For example, if you want to eat at Akerhaus in Epcot and see the princesses and you plan on being there for dinner - look online at the menu. You will see that it is not your typical "American" fare. And if you have a picky eater traveling with you - they may be hungry when they leave this restaurant! Another example, if you are dying to get that one on one time with Mickey, see where in the parks he will be and at what times. For example, what are the age and height requirements for the rides. If you have a littler guest who wants nothing more then to ride Expedition Everest, you need to make sure that the little adventurer is able to! And finally - check the weather! This seems silly to mention this but if you are planning a trip in July, you need to be prepared for the weather - it is hot and it will rain! So take a look at the weather!! Again - Research, Plan! And Plan and Research!
5) Be prepared for costs. Disney is expensive. But it doesn't have to break the bank. Although there are tips and ways to save money. Face it, Disney is a magical experience and you are paying for that magic. But to help you avoid those massive credit card bills after the trip and to help ease the stress while you are at WDW, here are some tips.
- Stop stressing about the money. Don't let it dictate your experience at the World. You can work within your budget and have a great time so try not to think about how much each magical moment is costing you.
- Try a dining plan. To help those out of pocket expenses, the dining plan budgets your meals into your trip and you can pay for them ahead of time.
- Make sure everyone is aware of the budget. Everyone gets the "I-Want-See's" when you get to WDW. So make sure that everyone knows what the budget is. For example, set a limit ahead of time on how many treats/souvenirs each person can have each day. Another fun thing for kids - give them a Disney Gift Card so they know how much they have to spend. And when its gone - its gone!
- Bring in snacks that don't melt (it gets crazy HOT in the summer!!) and bottled water for you to munch on during the day. I am a person that can not live with a Diet Coke every day. So I toss in my back pack a bottle of Diet Coke and a reusable bottle filled with water. - A fun tip, I found a refillable water bottle that has a filter built into it. So you can use tap water and fill your water bottle and it filters it for you.
- Stay at a Disney Resort. This one might be surprising but it is true. You can maximize the hours you have to play in the Parks by using the Extra Magic Hours. When staying at a resort, there is free transportation to all of the parks and resorts either by bus, monorail or boat. If you are staying off property, be prepared to pay $14/day to park your vehicle at the parks. If you are flying to WDW, you can fly into the Orlando International Airport and take advantage of using the Disney Magical Express. This FREE service takes you and your family and all of your luggage and belongs to either the parks or resort! If you arrive early, and you want to go right to the parks, you can be dropped at the parks and your bags will be waiting in your room when you head back to the resort. And finally - although there are deluxe luxury resorts at WDW, there are also Value Resorts. They are well themed, clean, and fun for the kids. And in the end - you are not paying much more if not less then what you would be paying to stay off property.
6) Have a well stocked back pack.This is important. There is a lot of walking at WDW and you don't want to be bogged down by a huge back pack. So plan ahead and pack a back pack that you feel comfortable carrying but has everything you need. I always hit the "travel size" aisle at Target before I head to WDW. I get a zip lock bag - usually the quart size bag and I put the travel size items in there. I toss that in my bag, along with a travel Disney Guide (available at amazon.com or any book store), ponchos for everyone in the family (because it does rain in Florida!), and my bottle of water. In my zip lock bag is the following:
- tide stick
- dental floss
- Colgate wisp
- eye drops
- a small handi sack (bag for the wet ponchos!)
- contact solution
- allergy medication
- hand sanitizer
- chap stick
- bug spray towelettes
- shout wipes
- handi wipes
- and a small pouch filled with neosoprin and band-aids
7) Utilize the Disney Photo Pass. All through the parks, especially in front of the most popular photo places (i.e. Cinderella's Castle) you will see Disney Photo Pass photographers. They will take your photo and then give you a card. Using the number on that card, you log onto the Disney Photo Pass website and you can view and purchase your pictures. You can also view and purchase the picture at the Photo Shop in each Disney park. So every time you see this photographer - give him your card and all the images will be loaded for your viewing and purchase. One thing to understand though, the pictures are expensive when purchased this way. You do have the option of purchasing a CD of all the images and that costs about $99. I always factor this cost into our trip because I scrapbook and the pictures are a huge a part of our trip for my husband and I. BUT, and here's the tip. These photographers will also take the same picture with YOUR camera! So utilize them! Don't always be the one behind the camera! Get those family photos and fun shots!
8) Make an Advanced Dining Reservation for breakfast inside the parks, BEFORE the parks open. This is a great way to get in the park and get your photos with little to no crowds. Also, the shops open early and its a great way to get those souvenirs you want!!
9) Utilize the Package Delivery and Package Pick Up. This is a great service. If you are staying at a Disney Resort, when you buy a souvenir, you can have it sent back to resort - FOR FREE!! So you don't have to lug around the parks all of your souvenirs! If you are not staying at a Disney Resort, you can use the Package Pick Up service. This is a free service that will take your packages to the entrance of the park and keep them there at package pickup. Just don't forget to pick them up on your way out of the park!!
10) For parents - take advantage of the Ride Swap! If you are traveling with a toddler and an infant, but both mom and dad want to ride the ride, you can do so without having to stand in line again. For example, at Tower of Terror at the Disney Hollywood Studios, you tell the cast member before you enter the ride that you need a ride swap ticket. He will give you a ticket that allows you to all wait in line together, and then when it is time to ride, one parent goes on the ride with the toddler while the other parent waits with the infant. Then when the ride is over, you swap! You don't have to wait in line all over again! It is a great way that allows everyone a chance to experience their favorite rides!