Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Disney World Vacation Planning Part 1

Let me preface this blog post by saying I am not a Disney expert nor am I a vacation planner. I am just someone who has been to Disney many many times in her life and has learned a thing or two. Everything is my opinion and what works for me and my family.

My family loves Disney World! This will be the third trip for H.B.Nanna and trip number two for the Boy is just a couple of weeks away. Why so many trips at such a young age you ask?  Well for starters I think that traveling to Disney is actually quite easy with younger children. And children under 3 are free. {I know, I know..nothing in life is free!}

Some might argue otherwise but there is so much all in one place that it is just easy. Yes, folding up the stroller to take transportation to and from the hotel is a pain in the arse but really it isn't that big of a deal. You have to fold it up to put it in the trunk of the car. There are baby changing areas that are clean and make it easier than being somewhere like a dirty public restroom. There are strollers everywhere and though a cast member may move it to a different spot in the stroller staging area, it'll still be there waiting for you.

I think the first time we traveled to Disney with H.B.Nanna we were more nervous about it. She was almost three {so not a baby by any means} but there were still uncertainties.  She was potty trained but would she have lots of accidents? Would we ruin our vacation if she didn't nap? Would there be enough for her to eat? No we didn't have any potty accidents {we just asked her a lot more than normal if she had to go}. We went back for her and I {I was in my first trimester with the Boy}to nap most days but the days we didn't she snoozed in her stroller while we rested on a bench. She didn't starve. In fact, none of us did.

We have stayed at both value and moderate resorts. I like them both for different reasons. The value is well a value and when you are paying a good amount of money for a vacation that you intend on spending all your time in the parks, then in my opinion the value is the way to go. If it's just a place to sleep then that is the way to go. The pools are great and the food court {at the Pop Century} is wonderful but there will be larger tourist groups making the resort just a weeeeee bit noisy. The moderate resorts are really nice. You pay more to get more. Your rooms are nicer, the pools are better and your food choices are obviously better too. If you are planning on a down day or two to just chill poolside then moderate is a great choice.

I have been to Disney World in the Spring, in the Fall and in the Winter. Never the summer for a number of reasons but mainly because it is to darn crowded. I know that for some it is the only time of year they can go but I was always fortunate enough to be excused from school to go during the school year, which is what we are doing for H.B.Nanna.  I have seen it decorated for Christmas twice and it is so incredible. Osbourne Family of lights in Hollywood Studios {does anyone else still want to call it MGM??} is fabulous. I have been there in September before it is decorated for Halloween. I have been there in the April when flowers are in bloom everywhere. Is there a best time to go?  I think it is up to each individuals preference. I like different times for different reasons which may be different from everyone else. There are crowd calendars and planning tools that will help you to figure out when is the right time for you to go. It is also important to take into account special offers that the Disney has for different times of year.

We have done both park hopper and basic tickets. Park hopper is exactly that, a park hopper. You can spend the morning at the Animal Kingdom and the afternoon at Epcot. Or you can really exhaust yourself and try for three parks in one day. The basic ticket means that whatever park you enter in the that day is your park for the day. You can leave and come back but you can not leave to go to another park.  The park hopper was great when we didn't have kids with us. We could spend the day at the Magic Kingdom then go to Epcot for dinner and fireworks. But it was also good when we had just H.B.Nanna with us because when we went back to the hotel for a nap, we could then send the late afternoon/evening in a different park.  This coming trip we opted not to get the park hopper. We know which parks we'll be at on which day {thanks fast pass+} and neither of our kids will be up late enough for fireworks for us to worry about switching parks.

Dining Plan no Dining Plan, that is the question.  This can be a touchy subject because some argue it isn't worth the money and they don't like it because if one person in your party has it, everyone has to have it. I understand where they are coming from.  Here is my take on it. No I have never sat and calculated every receipt to see if we lose money or not. I do know that character meals can be expensive. They are either buffet or sit down depending on the restaurant. Cinderella's castle requires you to use two credits for one meal. I like the character meals because they come to my table and I don't need to wait an hour in line for them to sign an autograph book. I like the dining plan because it is stress free for us.  I know my meals are paid for before I get there.  If you have any plans of eating in a restaurant other than a quickserve, you need a reservation. Some get lucky just walking up but walking up and then having to wait an hour with a hangry child is not my idea of fun. My kids like to eat and aren't that picky {with the exception of their food allergies} so while they may not eat enough food to cover their cost of the dining plan, they do put a good hurting on it making it worth it to me. Here is some good information on the Disney Dining Plan.

I am OCD about a lot of things. That is no secret. That's why I book directly through Disney World and do all of the planning myself. I enjoy it! I research a lot and take notes. No I don't carry a clip board on our trip {my Mom did once if I remember correctly!} but I do keep the sheet of notes in my book bag that I can reference if need be. And I learn new things every trip. And we run out of time and don't get to do things every trip but there is always next time. Anyhoo....we compared pricing through AAA and Disney directly once and Disney had more to offer {the specific hotel and room type we wanted} at the price we were looking for. Growing up my parents used a travel agent when planning our Disney trips.

We order some groceries and have them waiting for us at the hotel. But why do you need them if you have the dining plan?  It is more cost effective for me to give the kids yogurt or fruit in the hotel room on the mornings we don't have breakfast reservations then to go to the food court and pay out of pocket. I use Garden Grocer to have milk {coconut and almond}, yogurt, fruit, granola bars, pretzels and wine {for Mommy and Daddy} waiting for us. This covers some mornings and some snacks through out the day if the kids want them. Whatever is left that is transportable is used for airplane snacks and comes home with us. I have ordered diapers and wipes before all at prices that are comparable to what I spend at home. There is a delivery fee but it is still easier then worrying that your luggage is too heavy or paying to ship a box to the hotel in hopes that it will be there in time. Garden Grocer offers discounts for ordering early.

I'll write another post about what I have learned to pack, my favorite places to see characters and anything else I can think of. I hope that this has been helpful to at least one person. If you are still there!!

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