Top Ten Tuesday: Disney Tips!


As our trip gets closer, I have Disney on the brain! So today I bring you my top ten Disney tips. Without further ado…

1. Find a good guide book. My standard is The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2009 . I bought this book when we went in 2007 and bought the updated version when we started planning this year’s trip. It has great advice on where to eat, where to stay (even down to the preferred rooms at each resort), and what to do. It contains an entire section on traveling with young children, and has height requirements and level of potential scariness listed for each ride. The touring plans are the most valuable part of this book to me, though… for example, we can’t wait to use the “Dumbo-or-Die in a Day Touring Plan for Young Children” again. The plans detail exactly in what order to explore the park to make the most out of the day, and really do save a lot of time and hassle.

2. Read message boards. I can’t stress this enough. Whatever your Disney question is, you can find the answer on the various message boards. My stand-by is DIS Boards, but I know several Disney fanatics who swear by both PassPorter and AllEars.Net. Something to point out about AllEars.Net is the dining information – they have menus for each and every restaurant in all of Disney World, and I’ve found them to be very useful when planning our trips. Another amazing resource is the Disney Moms Panel. The 20 moms on the panel were chosen by Disney from a pool of 20,000 applicants, and they know everything there is to know about Disney. I’m friends with two of them, and believe me, they cannot be stumped. I’ve tried. The search feature on that site is something I’ve found particularly helpful, and is something that is lacking in the other message boards that I’ve mentioned. The Panel is a wonderful resources for planning any Disney trip, but especially one in which children are involved!

3. Consider staying on-site. I’ve done it both ways and I know there are pros and cons to both, but I am really a proponent of staying on Disney property. Disney does a great job of providing resorts of varying themes (there really is something for everyone!) and that span from the very luxurious to the very affordable. I’ve stayed at the Polynesian and the Beach Club resorts, which are deluxe, and they are absolutely amazing. The pools, the grounds, the rooms – amazing. When we went as a family in 2007, we stayed at Pop Century, a value resort, and we couldn’t have been happier. The value resorts start at $79 a night – really that is just hard to beat. They’re fun and a wonderful place for the family to stay. As I found out in May, All-Star Sports, another value resort, has family suites that sleep up to six people, so larger families can make their stay more affordable as well. In any case, staying on-site has so many benefits. First of all, since they’re Disney property you know they’ll be done right – they’re clean, well-decorated, and the service is great. Secondly, staying on-site means you can take advantage of a number of Disney programs that I think are wonderful, including the Disney Dining Plan (see tip #4), the Magical Express (Disney’s transportation service – not only do they bring you and your family to the resort, they handle all your luggage so you don’t have to!) and Extra Magic Hours – each day, one park is open an hour before opening or up to four hours after closing just for resort guests. This can be a huge advantage in terms of crowds and wait times!

4. Also consider the Disney Dining Plan. As I pointed out above, this program is one of the benefits of staying on Disney property. The dining plan has two options – one that includes one table service meal, one counter service meal and one snack per person per night of your stay, and one that includes three table service meals per day (that seems a bit much to me!). We did the first option the last time we went and we are doing it again this year, and I love it. To me, the best part is that we know exactly how much our trip is going to cost and we have it paid for in advance, which takes away the worry about how much we’re spending while we’re there. We can order whatever entree and dessert we want without being concerned about the price. I also think the plan is a good value – I did the math the last time and we saved a significant amount of money.

5. Watch for specials. We actually weren’t planning to go to Disney this year – we thought we’d wait until Sammy is older – but this spring they had a deal that we just couldn’t pass up. They ran a buy-four-nights/days-get-three-free special. So for our seven-night/eight-day trip, we’re only paying for four nights and five days of accommodations and park tickets. Right now they’re running another amazing special – free dining. Yes, you read that right – the Disney Dining Plan is free! You can find all the details about this plan on the Disney website here, and also keep an eye on MouseSavers to find about saving money on everything Disney.

6. Buy some peace of mind from Tottoos.org. I wrote a whole post about them here, but basically they’re high-quality, temporary tattoos that have messages that will keep your kids safe. I just ordered another set that say “To reach my parents, call {my cell phone number}”. The last time we went, I can’t tell you how many moms stopped and asked me where I found such a thing!

7. Surprise your kids. One of the things I look forward to most about our trip is surprising Kate with little presents. When we went two years ago, “Tinkerbell” left her presents while we were gone at the parks, and she still talks about that part of our trip! I bought little things before we left like sunglasses and light-up toys and necklaces, and each day left them on her bed as we were heading out to the park. I can’t wait to do it again this year! When I was at Disney in May, I learned that they now have in-room celebrations, where they’ll do this for you. “Mickey” visited my room while I was out during that trip, and I truly can’t describe what a wonderful surprise it was! Dawn from Mom to My Six Pack posted pictures of what our rooms looked like after Mickey’s visit here.

8. Find an extensive packing list. It’s hard to think of all the things you just might need. Fortunately, someone out there has already done thinking for you. I use this list, but if you google “Disney packing lists” or something like that, you’ll find many more. Obviously they have to be modified to suit your family, but these are a great start.

9. Pack in Zip Lock bags. I know that sounds weird, but this is a tip I picked up from one of the message boards, and it really works! Pack each complete outfit for your kids in a gallon bag – shorts, shirt, underwear, socks, hair bows, everything. That way when you’re getting ready in the morning, all you have to do is grab a bag and your kid is good to go. This also helps when Dad is helping the kids get dressed! It makes it so you don’t have to remember what goes with what, etc. It’s really a time saver, and the bags come in handy for wet swimsuits, snacks, or whatever during your trip.

10. Order food from Garden Grocer. We’ve used this service twice now and I just placed our order for our upcoming trip. It’s fantastic. I’ve ordered cereal, fruit, pop, bottled water, snacks, and even diapers and wipes – all of which will be waiting for us at our resort when we arrive! Here’s a tip inside this tip – you can take food and drinks into the park with you. You don’t even have to hide them under the diapers, you’re allowed to – Disney doesn’t care. Erin from the Moms Panel said it, so it must be true. The prices are pretty reasonable and there’s a $12 delivery fee, but the money saved from buying everything in the park more than makes up for that. There are other companies who provide this service as well so you might search around, but Garden Grocer is the only one I’ve personally used, and I have had great experiences every time.

So there you have it! My top ten Disney tips.

But now I must know… what are yours??

*****
For more Top Ten Tuesday fun, visit my fellow Magical Mom OH Amanda!

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Comments

  1. Margaret says:

    Yahoo Emily! Great job on the tips. Bet you are so excited!!! Thanks for the shout out -altho I am sure I, for one, can be stumped every once in a while LOL. Hope to see you there!

  2. Oh girl! You are giving me that Disney itch! Such great great tips! Next time I go I am *so* doing the Garden Grocer. I LOVE that!

    And yes yes yes to the DisBoards and MomsPanel! If you don’t check this stuff out, you’re walking in BLIND! :)

    (and now? missing my magical moms!)

  3. Thanks for the great tips! We are going in October and we’ve never taken the kids before.

  4. We just went in March (for my birthday) with our two boys, ages 1 and 2. My best tips are:

    1. If possible, bring along the grandparents! Clearly, this depends somewhat on whether you like the grandparents and if they are at all helpful, but my parents were great! It even allowed my husband and I to go on adult rides while my parents watched the kids play.

    2. Bring your own stroller, and mark it with something obvious. Stroller parking rocks but it eats up time if you have to try and find your stroller amongst the rest. If you have one of the Disney strollers, you’ll never find it! Plus, they looked SUPER uncomfortable!!! We actually brought two strollers (borrowed one from a friend) instead of our double so we could split up and not get stuck in crowds with the giant double! More benefits: better sun protection and reclining seats for naps!!!

    3. Keep your expectations low so you can be pleasantly surprised. We had no idea what taking a 1 and 2 year old to Disneyworld would be like but we suspected it might be a nightmare. Thus, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the kids held up and how good a time we had!

  5. BTW, totally agree about the MOMS Panel. Invaluable. I spent hours reading that thing and even submitted some questions. They were super great and fast about answering them. Awesome resource!!!

  6. GREAT tips. I hope you have an awesome trip!!

  7. we went in may and took our 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son…It was an awesome vacation!!

    My number one tip get to the parks early…we went from 9-1′sh every day and then came back to our rental home and swam and napped and then went back to the parks at night..

    also be flexible…there is no way you will get everything done in a day:)

  8. Thanks for these tips! We’re flying to Orlando tomorrow, and I’m super excited. Now I’m off to our local bookstore where (thanks to your tip) they are holding a copy of the Disney Guide book for me. Yay!

  9. Wow! These tips are amazing. I know we have a Disney trip in the sometime-future, so I’m bookmarking this page right now.

    I love when people do all this research and make it so readily available. Rock ON with your badselves. (And have a great time!)

  10. One of my life long dreams was to have an amusement park all to myself. I fell like I have lived that dream, when my daughter Faith and I went to magic kingdom after it was closed to the general public. The place was practically dead, and we went on so many rides in so little time. It was truly magical. So STAY ON-SITE!

    Another thing we did was to start our Disney pin collections. We bought a pack at a gift shop there, and the kids had such a fun time trading with cast members. We also got FREE pins along the way from generous cast members. It was a good way to pass the time in line with other pin collectors too.

  11. Although we’re holding off on the big Disney vacation until everyone is older….we’re talking about an overnighter on site. Just getting a nice room and heading over to Downtown Disney for the day. I haven’t been down there in sixteen years!!! But it’s so disgustingly hot right now I don’t know if even that would be worth it…

  12. Just got back from Disneyland today!!
    Take FULL advantage of Fast Pass, they do not care if you are late so always have one in hand (tip from cast member) While little ones nap in the stroller take turns riding the big rides as single riders or use the parent swap. We had no problem hitting everything.

    • In case anyone – like myself – is just coming across this post (thanks Pinterest!) I wanted to share that the fastpass policy has changed reciently! I was there in December 2012 and you MUST return within the hour printed on your pass. We got away a few times with being a few minutes late (less than 30) by smiling, begging, and flashing our “Just Engaged” buttons, but they have gotten pretty strict about it.

      Too many people were ‘abusing’ the system by showing up whenever, and it was no longer helping keep FP lines to a minimum.

  13. Definitely take a small cooler with you, like enough to hold a six pack, with water (or whatever you like to drink) and a wet washrag in a ziploc. We went in June and the wet washrag was heaven when it was so hot outside to wipe off your face and/or neck.

  14. Thanks for posting these tips, they couldn’t have come at a better time! Be sure to pick up the 2010 passporter- John and I are going to be features in the wedding section!!

  15. I’m a Florida girl so I’ve been going at least once a year since I was 6 months old.

    My tips!

    For Florida residents you can get a special rate three day pass. You pay for 2 days and you get the 3rd day free. We go up for the day and use the other two days on different days.

    The absolute best time to go is the weekend after Thanksgiving. There is no one there at this time so all the rides have about 5 minute wait times. Regis and Kelly film their annual Christmas special at this time so most people are there for that.

    To save money on souvenirs take a drive down to International Drive. They have most everything they sell at the Disney Parks for a quarter of the price at stores on International Drive. They also have great restaurants that will save some money if you get tired of eating in the parks. You can go from the parks for free if you take a shuttle to one of the hotels on International Drive.

    If someone in your group is having a birthday or their first visit to Disney, go to guest services at all of the parks. They’ll give you special pins to wear and if you do the autograph thing, the characters will personalize their message with, “Happy Birthday Jane” or whatever.

  16. Oh dear, I’m actually reading this list and thinking that Disney could be a doable thing for us next year.

    Planting seeds, baby.

  17. Cool! I hope you have a great time. My best advice is to try not to do too much — going slowly and savoring the moments makes for a more restful and relaxing vacation. Even with kids! I’ve been to Disney World almost every year, easy to do when you live in Florida.

    We’re going the first week of December. Do you really think the dining plan saves money? And how do you contact the Garden Grocer? That sounds interesting and I’ve never heard of it as many times as I’ve been! Thankis!

  18. Of course, you could always live next door, buy annual passes, and go whenever you want. And if you get tired, just head home and watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from there. ;)

    Oh, sorry. LOL. :)

    Here’s a tip…we just found it….a place called Character Premier. It’s a store in the outlet malls right there at 535 and I-4 (near DTD) Everything Disney (real Disney, not knock off) and it’s 50% off!!! COOL!

  19. I’m saving this for reference. My girls are driving us NUTS to go to Disney and I’m hoping we can go fall break 2010!

  20. This is amazing and your awesome ! We have never had a real family trip before and having 4 kids I need ask the help planning I can get. Thank so much!

  21. Melissa Nowak says:

    We have been going to disney every year. The 3 best tip i can offer is if you are going down during christmas season or halloween season spend the money for the not so scary halloween party or mickey’s magic christmas party. We had the best time at those…. Disney makes these holidays more magical. Also dont go when there is Cheer competitions or the maraton. Tons more people. Make your own Disney shirts. If you buy hanes 5 packs of tshirts and avery light iron on fabric paper you can have family shirts for less than $3.00 per shirt. Just google disney images.

  22. Teresa Hummel says:

    We went to WDW with our son, daughter in law and 4 year old grandson the week after Thanksgiving 2012. Being off season they were offering the dining plan for free. It was wonderful! I do recommend you keep track of how many counter and sit down meals you have used.

    There are two things we highly recommend. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a must and well worth the money! This is were we had much shorter lines for many of the popular rides and attractions.

    We rented a stroller from Orlando Stroller Rental and it was waiting at The Art of Animation when we checked in. It handled like a dream, was completely adjustable and could be controlled with one hand, easily. He could hop in when he was tired and we were able to stay in the parks all day.

  23. Elisa Gumbley says:

    Hi I have done the Disney trip 5 times with 4 kids. Buy a guide book and STUDY it. I highlighted the heck out of it. Some of the most important things I will continue to do is make a list of what rides and attractions are a must. Put them in order and follow a plan. Otherwise you’re just wandering. Of course things will go off track sometimes but having a list of what you want to accomplish really help. I would take a change of clothes for EVERY person in your family. It doesn’t have to be bulky something like knit roll up dresses and basketball shorts etc. a few times a clothing crisis really brought us down on our first trip. Make dining reservations with characters 90 days on advance. I won’t go into that anymore.. Why!? It’s in the guide book. Remember to do all the fun things like the passport books at Epcot and finding hidden Mickeys and I highly recommend mixing up parks. (Shhhhh) We loved universal studios and sea world. I offer one warming as far as dining! No lunch meat from buffets. My poor little son got food poisoning at 7yrs old! Kicked in at the same moment the fireworks started!! :( we have stayed on and off site. I really liked staying off site when the kids were smaller. I felt rushed and pressured on the Disney pArk buses and shuttles. Well I want to take a trip soon and see what’s changed! It really is the best family trip!’

  24. Missy Hargett says:

    I waited too late to order totooes for my little guy. BUT I found number beads at hobby lobby and put my cell phone and my husband’s on an elastic cord to put on his ankle. Just a suggestion for my fellow procrastinators out there…

  25. I agree with all your tips and have a few more: We were there with kids ages 4 & 6, then 6 & 8

    1. pack your kids clothes in a ziplock bag per day. So they can just open a bag and get dressed each day. We awoke each day with them fully dressed standing next to our bed saying “We’re ready” Yay!
    2. Buy a little, little, backpack for each child. Each day put the juice box/ water and snack inside. They carry their own!
    3. THIS IS PRICELESS: Each day, each park picks one or two kids to “open” the park. They get a certificate, a magic wand and they get to say the magic word that opens the turnstiles to let the morning crowd in. A lady we met on the bus that day told us about it because it was my daughter’s birthday. She pulled us up to the front, hailed one of the workers and said “It’s this little girl’s birthday, she should open the park” and in we went! He announced her name, and the whole crowd sang happy birthday before she waved her wand to start the day! PRICELESS
    4. We got groceries as well, and planned one sit down meal (lunch or brunch) with a reservation or destination plan. Breakfast was cereal / muffins / fruit in the room as we dressed, dinner was carry out to the room from the hotel eatery. You’ll save a lot of time having fun instead of sitting and eating.
    5. Character meals open for reservations a certain number of days in advance – circle these days – and be on the phone/ computer when reservations open to get the best times.
    Have fun!

  26. Another great tip is to utilize the PhotoPass option throughout the parks. It allows for a variety of great whole group shots and special moments.

    Character meals allow little ones to get up close and personal with their favorite characters! Book early to get the best times.

    Create a vacation planner to hold all of your confirmation numbers for reservations, extended hours in parks, and other information about the trip. Very helpful when traveling with a large group.

    Enjoy yourselves! Be flexible. Staying on site allows you to alter your plans at a moments notice. The Park hopper option is very helpful too.

  27. If you take advantage of the Disney dining plan…and I highly recommend this….do keep track of your “points” used. We couldn’t eat nearly the amount allotted to us during our stay…we stayed on-site….so we used our leftover “points” in our resort gift shop. We were able to buy the swirly lollipops, Mickey candy bars, goofy snacks, etc with these points. It was great as souvineirs for our friends back home and was not an added expense. :)

  28. My mother and I went when the granddaughter was almost 3. We are both on handicap scooters there wasn’t much of a problem with her tiring out she just took a nap in our laps. What was a concern to us was fact that she didn’t want to eat. She seemed to stay hydrated, but just wouldn’t eat. Even though we went in late October it was quite warm. She just wouldn’t eat. We tried all of her favorite foods and just gave up and kept her hydrated. I guess it was jut too warm for her. I guess my point is that if it is hot don’t be surprised if your young child won’t eat.

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