My family are Disney Fanatics. It started when I was 6, and my parents took us for the first time. Now my grandparents, parents, sister and my family all own the Disney Vacation Club timeshare. But before we bought the timeshare, we have stayed at just about every resort in the community, making me somewhat of an expert on Walt Disney World. Disney World is pretty expensive, but I will give you some great tips on how to have the best vacation ever!!!
DO stay at a Walt Disney World hotel. They have hotels in EVERY price range, and the quality and service is amazing. Once you get there, you park your car and don’t touch it again until you leave. They provide transportation around all of their property for free!!! Buses, monorails and boats…traveling on their transportation is an attraction in itself. This includes roundtrip free transportation from the airport!!
My Recommendations for Hotels:
Disney All-Star Movies Resort
Medium Price Range:
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Deluxe Villas (Home away from home, with KITCHENS and multiple bedrooms!):
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Meal plan vs. “winging it”:
If you stay on the property, you can choose to take part in their meal plan or deluxe meal plan. The only downside is that everyone in your party has to do the same thing, so if you are staying with friends or family, be aware that everyone has to be on the same page.
If you want to be more budget-conscious, DO choose against the meal plan. Eat breakfast in the room, poptarts, donuts or Nutragrain bars. Take your own bottles of water. Every water fountain in the Disney property goes through a water purification system. IT’s ALL CLEAN, cold and delicious. So refill your bottles as you walk around instead of paying $4 a bottle. Another tip is to eat your big dinner at lunch time. Lunchtime prices are much better for big meals, and usually portions are the same, PLUS it’s easier to get reservations and gives you a break from the hot sun! That way you save dinner time for something easier and less filling, like sandwiches or salads, and you can be out on the rides while everyone else waits for dinner.
Also, take note when ordering burgers or “quick service” meals where you order at the counter:
The kids meals are the SAME SIZE as the adult meals, but half the price!!!! We figured this out when we were still kids, and we still order kids meals for ourselves.
The meal plans are a good value ONLY if your kids are under the age of 11. (See Disney’s Options for Dining Plans and pricing:
Now that my kids are too old, we will not be doing the dining plan anymore, unless Andy and I go alone. It’s a TON of food anyway, and you end up gaining weight even though you are walking around so much.
DO make reservations for a character meal. Cinderella’s Royal Table is on the second floor of the castle in the Magic Kingdom. It’s a beautiful way to share a special meal with your kids.
One key thing is that you DON’T need to bring your strollers and then lug them everywhere. For a reasonable charge, you can rent a stroller at one park in the morning, turn it in, hop a bus to another park, and show your receipt and get another one without getting charged again. Plus then you don’t have to worry about someone stealing it when you go on rides. They also rent double strollers, which is great if you have a baby and a toddler. Even 4/5 year olds get pretty tired of walking around and welcome the chance to ride.
DO get to the parks EARLY. Go on the most popular rides first, grabbing a FASTPASS that will allow you to skip lines and ride again. After lunch, it is super hot in Florida, so use this time to go back to the hotel and take a nap and a cool dip in the pool. Then you’re able to return to the park around dinnertime and play for the rest of the evening.
DO Go to the Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning. It’s jungle-like and humid, so the heat of the afternoon sun makes it unbearable. Go right to the Safari Expedition when you get there and the morning is cool. This is your best chance to see the animals. They tend to vanish as the day gets warmer.
DON’T miss the shows! Disney goes out of their way to put on some spectacular shows and parades. You might think they are stupid, but your kids will remember them for their entire lives, because there is nothing else like it. It all helps to make the Disney experience unlike any normal vacation. You really are in a magical kingdom!