I had no idea how big Disney Word is till I mapped out the route of our US trip and started Googling ‘things to do in Orlando’.
Disney right on our path? I thought. Awesome! That might be a lot of fun for the kids, I thought and began to research it like crazy. I had no clue that I would love it so much myself. It’s just a theme park after all, right.
Ummm, no. Well, it CAN be just a theme park. But if you do your research it can be far more than that.
So in this, my first Disney post I am sharing 5 things that helped me get the most out of our Disney World experience for a fraction of the advertised price. I hope you find them helpful too!
1) Learn from others who have done it all before.
There is no need to start from scratch when planning a cheap yet memorable Disney experience. I browsed many a blog post written by families who vacationed at Disney World and I enjoyed learning what worked for them. One of the most informative sites I stumbled upon was one penned by former Disney cast member Beth Haworth.
This site promotes Beth’s ebook of money-saving tips: The Ultimate Disney World Savings Guide. I purchased the book, read it cover to cover and benefitted from many of its tips. My favourite section was where it detailed how to get Disney accomodation for a huge discount. (more on that in another post soon)
Even if you do not purchase the ebook, visit the site. It has helpful topics that you can copy and paste into Google if you want to do independant research. The e-book is $29 but I found it available at Amazon for $11.
(Researching the little details at Disney helps you pick up some fun ideas like Disney trading pins. I got a basic starter pack off eBay and there were plenty of cast members around who traded him some awesome pins for his measly ones. He enjoyed the trading part so much!)
2) PLAN your visit well and skip the queues!
One of my friends nearly scared me off Disney for good when she grumbled to me about her one and only day at Disney. She lamented ‘I was there all day but the queues were so long, I only managed 2 rides!.’
I was absolutely determined not to be walking out Disney’s gates at the end of our holiday feeling like that.
I found that it actually doesn’t take too much research and planning to avoid suffering through long queues and ensure sure you get to do every awesome ride or experience on your list. (So if you are a research freak like me, you can have a WOW of a time!)
After a quick scour of the net, I found that some statiticians have done all the hard mathematical work (yes, it is mathematical!) for us and compiled the information into a website and book.
Touring Plans was a bit of a spin out for me as I was hearing terms like ‘touring plans’ and ‘fast passes’ for the first time. But I soon embraced the new knowledge when I realized that this was the way to see and do the most possible in our short visit to an overwhelmingly big park. By the time I familiarized myself with the website, bought the book (which is big but simple to navigate) and downloaded the app, I felt I knew the layout of Disney World and its parks well.
I had a plan in place. Each day at the parks, we followed our chosen touring plan to the letter and our longest line was no longer than 5 minutes. We managed to see everything we wanted. I cannot recommend Touring Plans enough.
(one of the Touring Plans)
3) Stay at a Disney Hotel!
At first glance I scoffed at the idea of staying on location at Disney World. No WAY could we afford it.
I decided we would stay somewhere cheap in the city of Orlando and just commute each morning.
That option is probably possible, but is VERY time consuming if you are just visiting Orlando and not a resident. It really undoes all the hard work you have already put in researching how to skip the queues!
Beth Haworth’s ebook had talked about how to stay on site in a Disney Hotel for huge discounts and benefit from the extra magic and extra hours in the park that Disney hotel patrons get. There is Disney time-share called Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Non-club members can rent DVC points from members who are wanting to sell their extra points. One of the best and most secure places to do this is on the forum Disboards .
You have to join (free) and cannot post until you have contributed to a couple of conversations but this is a good thing. Take that time to get to know the process of time share points and observe at how much points are selling for so you work out when the deals are good.
Once you know the hotel you want to stay at, you can post a message that you are looking for points to buy to stay at a particular resort. That is how I got our deal. I was very hesitant when I had a reply to my query, so scared I was being conned. I contacted people who had used that person’s points previously to ascertain I wasn’t being scammed. The deal went off smoothly and we had the best time at our resort at such a great deal. I will detail our stay at Kidani Lodge in Animal Kingdom in a separate blog post soon.
(In the dead of a Florida winter, I took the kids to the resort pool every afternoon. Below, you can see the 9 year old in the blue swim shirt participating in a game at the daily beach party)
(Yes there were prizes!)
4) Dine at Disney restaurants!
Ok- this will cost a bit, but research, yet again, is the key. Dining at Disney restaurants, even just one or two is a another great way to get a feel of being part of the celebration that is Disney.
(The 9 year old looking pretty hip next to the massive aquarium at the Rainforest Café)
First, read Disboards dining reviews (type ‘dining review’ into their search engine) to see which restaurants will work best for your family as far as theme, characters and entertainment-wise etc.
(The youngest 2 posing outside T-Rex, an exciting, themed restaurant)
(The food we chose was certainly not diet-y but it was fun and delicious. The service was incredible.)
(Ohana restaurant would have to be one of the best family restaurants at Disney. A post on it coming soon. Here are 2 of the kids meeting Mickey Mouse at our Ohana breakfast.)
Save waiting in the long queues by booking ahead of time. The Disney restaurants are in high demand and as you are able to book up to 6 months in advance sometimes you need to do that to actually get in. It is worth it. Calling Disney is a lot of fun and once you have booked, you go straight in, show your reservation, receive a buzzer and within about 5 minutes it will go off. I used the website AllEars.net to not only work out which character dining experiences to do but also to check out the restaurant menus to see which ones to REALLY go to.
(my research taught me that booking an early Character breakfast sitting here at Crystal Palace…..)
(…would get us in to the entrance of Magic Kingdom for a much-sought-after crowd-free photo op in front of Cinderella Castle. Smile, kids!!!!)
5) Buy your Disney World tickets.
After all that research, when you know where you are staying and where you are eating, you are ready to buy the Disney World tickets that are going to suit your needs. There are many options with purchasing Disney World ticket, but let me summaraize the 3 main types. You have your basic ticket which allows entry into 1 theme park per day; with no crossover into another park in that day. Then there is your Park Hopper ticket, which as the name suggests, allows you to go back and forth into the 4 main parks as often as you like in a day. The third main option the Water Fun Park and More ticket. It allows daily crossover access into not only the 4 main parks but also the 2 Water parks.
I went for the Park Hopper option as I knew we were going to shows and restaurants that were in parks that were different to the park we would be visiting on that particular day. That worked great for us. At Undercover Tourist I saved over $100 for the combined tickets. They are safe and honest. I compared tickets from the Disney site first to ensure I was saving. That $100 saving can buy you a dining experience at a Disney restaurant, so very worthwhile.0