Planning a trip to Disney World, Take 2

Just about this time, four years ago, I was beginning to plan our family’s first trip to Disney World in Florida. We planned on whisking our three children, who would have been 9, 7 and 4 at travel time, away on the last day of school for the most magical experience of their lives.

I had everything all mapped out and saved on the Disney site. I had 30 days to put down a deposit on the trip, or my planning wouldn’t be saved anymore.

My 30 days were almost up. I looked at the calendar, ready to make the deposit. A little voice inside me said, “Maybe you should wait a couple days.” I waited. The voice said, “Why don’t you give it a week?” I waited. I waited another week.

OK, I was two weeks late.

Our first three children had all been conceived through the help of fertility drugs. We didn’t use any birth control, other than the we-have-three-children-and-we’re-exhausted method. Chances of me getting pregnant were very slim.

Turns out, slim is enough.

Well, instead of going to Disney in June 2007, we welcomed our “Bonus Baby” in July.

Now that baby is 3 and we’re trying again. For the vacation!! Yeah, fool me once–we both got fixed!

So here’s where you come in. Usually when I blog, it’s because I have something to say and I hope at least a few people out there will want to read it. If not, that’s ok because the blog is creating a nice little diary of our life. But this time, I want you to tell me something!

I want to know your money saving and sanity saving tips for making the trip a success without needing to take a second mortgage on the house!

You should know our kids will be 13, 10, 8 and 4 when we travel and we’re coming from extreme southeast Michigan.

Some of my questions are:

  1. How many days do you really need?
  2. Where’s the best place to stay?
  3. Should we drive or fly?
  4. Is park hopper worth it?
  5. Is the dining package worth it?
  6. What is the one thing you wouldn’t want us to miss?
  7. What is the one thing we could skip?
  8. What else do you know that only comes with experience?

I recently read DonMartelli’s Parent’s Guide to Surviving a Disney World Vacation. He gives down and dirty practical advice which is just the kind of stuff I want to hear.

So, whatcha got? Go ahead…comment!

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2 thoughts on “Planning a trip to Disney World, Take 2

  1. tcurth

    OK…this might be a long response…but here goes…

    1. How many days do you really need?
    Well this depends on how much you want to see. I have gone for as short as 2 days and as long as a week. Personally I think you need at least 5 days in the parks. Seven days is really great. You need at least 2 days for the Magic Kingdom (always see it on the first day and the last day of your trip), at least 2 days for Epcot, one day for the Animal Kingdom and one day for the Hollywood Studios. If you get the park hopper added to your ticket, you can hop between parks too (more on this later).

    2. Best place to stay?
    First and most important – stay ON property. Where to stay depends on how much $$ you want to spend. For a family of 6 I would recommend the family suites at All Star Music Resort (a value resort), a cabin at Fort Wilderness, one of the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs, a room at the Polynesian (deluxe resort = lots of $$) or a villa at one of the Disney Vacation Club resorts (you don’t have to be a DVC member to stay here, but call to check availability). Staying on property gives you more options for travel, dining and it’s much easier to head back to the resort in the afternoonfor naps!

    3. Drive or fly?
    Hmmm…this is a toss up. We do both. We drove in April and it was worth it because we were able to easily add a day to the start of the trip and just ‘relax’ – but it also took SO LONG to get to Florida. Flying is nice b/c you can get a direct flight out of Detroit Metro but you have to factor in the cost of checking bags, etc. However, if you do fly and you’re staying on Disney property, be sure to use the Magical Express – the bus service (FREE!) that picks you up at Orlando International Airport. You dont’ have to get your bags – Disney brings them to your hotel and then upon departure, you check your bags @ the resort and the Magical Express takes you to the airport. Easy peasy! And, it’s FREE!

    4. Park hopper?
    Yes. Yes. Yes. We didn’t get the PH on our last trip in April and it was missed. The PH makes it so easy to see everything you want to see. You can start your day at the Animal Kingdom and after lunch head back to the resort for nap/pool time and then hop over to the Magic Kingdom for dinner and The Main Street Electric Parade and the fireworks. Totally worth it.

    5. Dining package?
    Yes. I recommend this. Right now, you can get FREE dining for almost all of 2011 (go here: Trust me when I saw FREE dining is worth it if you can travel during the times listed for the discount. The dining plan IS a lot of food (a LOT of food) but you don’t have to worry about budgeting for food when you’re on the plan. You simply have to plan out where you’re going to eat and when. If you do the dining plan and you are planning on doing some character meals (ex: breakfast in the castle w/ Cinderella), you MUST make those reservations 180 days in advance. YOU MUST. There are several options for the dining plans – I have done both the ‘regular’ dining and the quick service and both are worth the $$. It can get confusing, so if you have questions, I’ll leave my email at the end of this novel.

    6. One thing NOT to miss?
    Wishes (fireworks at the MK), the Main Street Electric Parade (at MK), riding the Monorail, Soarin’ (at Epcot). Toy Story Midway Mania at the Studios. (Sorry, I can’t name just one). For your kids – make sure they have autograph books and make time to meet the characters.

    7. One thing to skip – Stitch’s Great Escape (at the MK).

    8. What do I know that only comes w/ experience?
    Make sure you go back to the hotel in early-to-mid afternoon for naps/pool time/downtime. You will ALL need it. Make ‘rope drop’ at least once during your trip and do it at Magic Kingdom. Rope drop is when the park opens – but get to the MK early one morning and see the “Welcome” show – it’s so worth it. When you go to the Hollywood Studios, head to Toy Story Midway Mania ride FIRST (just follow the crowd) – then get a Fastpass to ride the ride later in the morning AND then go stand in line and ride it RIGHT NOW (if it has a 20 minute or less wait). The Animal Kingdom is a hard park to tour – it’s always hot and the ‘roads’ aren’t smooth, but it’s fun. Best lunch spot at the AK – Flame Tree Barbecue. If you can’t get a meal at the castle w/ Cinderella, eat at Norwary in Epcot. The princesses are there, it’s less chaos and the food is good. Utilize the Photopass service. Use Fastpasses.

    You can do Disney and not break the bank. Look at the link for discounts

    Take advantage of these discounts! Use the dining plan. If you drive, pack snacks, water, etc. If you fly, ship a box of snacks, swim diapers, etc to your resort. It will save you space when you pack. If you stay at the family suites at All Star Music there is a fridge in the room and you can buy milk, juice, etc at the resort store. They also sell doughnuts, cereal, bread, etc.

    Use this planning site:
    A great book: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2011

    I have so many more tips, but I’ve already written a book. If you need any more tips, please email me at

    Have a magical day!

    1. Amy Post author

      Wow! Thank you for that response! I will check out all of these tips and links.

      How often do you go? You sound like you could actually write a book!


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