Disney Tips - Disney World Tips - Disney World Vacation Tips

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Disney VacationTips

by Laurel Smith (Road Trip Mom)

A few tips to make your Disney experience a little easier and less expensive, without sacrificing fun!

If you're heading to Orlando this year, I strongly recommend the book, "Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" by Bob Sehlinger.  I was a WDW newbie when we took our family in November. The last time I went to Disney World, I was 11 years old, and had a completely different perspective.  The Unofficial Guide was invaluable to me in our planning.  (UPDATE: The latest edition of this book now includes in depth information about Universal Theme Parks including the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  See my article regarding my family's visit to Universal Studios Parks for more tips!)

Our trip was actually a sort of a last minute one since I hadn't really thought about taking the family to Disney World for a couple more years. But as luck would have it, my husband had a business trip to Orlando, so we decided to tag along. We had to get back home for school that week, so we could only stay for the weekend. Despite our time shortage, it was worth every minute. We spent one day at the Magic Kingdom and one at the Animal Kingdom. (Hubby managed to sneak away for one day and go to the Magic Kingdom with us). It was a quick trip, so time was of the essence. The Unofficial Guide helped us prioritize so we didn't waste a minute.

Several things we did helped us to save money and time, so we could maximize our fun at Disney World. Here's what we recommend -- 

Pack It In!
The best thing we did was to bring a backpack full of snacks, water, and our lunch. We packed sandwiches, pretzels and portable yogurt. We had cold juice bags and water bottles. My backpack had a built in cooler on the bottom of it to keep things cool --  very similar to this cooler/backpack found at Amazon. I love it!  I have also gotten a LOT of great feedback about this line of Dads Gear diaper packpacks for traveling with kids. TIP: Don't put ice loose in the bottom unless you like it to leak all over your back when you bend over. Put ice in ziplock baggies, or use those blue igloo cooler packs. (Don't ask me how I learned this!)

Bringing our own saved a lot of time and money. We had more time for rides because we didn't waste time standing in line for food.  In fact, so as not to waste a single precious minute, we ate our lunch while we were in line for the Haunted Mansion (my personal favorite ride). And just so we wouldn't feel totally deprived of good vacation food, we did buy yummy Mickey Mouse ice cream bars each afternoon. That held everyone over until dinner at the hotel that night. I cannot stress how delicious those ice cream bars were. Of all our attempts to stick to our budget, bringing in our own food was the biggest help of all.

Bring Your Own Staples
Plan ahead with the regular staples that cost a lot more at the park, especially your own sunscreen, hats, film and batteries! Be extra sure that you don't forget those extra camera batteries.  Also - wear comfortable shoes and bring a change of clothes (at least a tshirt) for everyone.

Plan Ahead for Souvenirs
We budgeted for souvenirs and discussed ahead of time what we would be allowed to buy. Everything else was off limits, so they didn't even ask for other stuff. For us, it was one t-shirt and Mouseketeer hat each (names were embroidered on for free).  We stressed that we were there to have fun DOING things, not to buy things. Our best souvenir was our photos -- we had triple copies made of our prints so we could put together a special album of our trip for each child when we got home. This was the best souvenir ever. 

Or, you can have your photos put right into a book! The best souvenier we've ever had is a photo memory book filled with all the pictures from our trip. It's not expensive and it's really easy. Upload all your pics and order a hard-bound copy for yourself, and extra copies for each of your children to keep forever. The best place I have found to do this online is at walmart.

Choose a Hotel that has Conveniences You Want
We did not stay on site since we were accompanying my husband on his business trip, but we made sure the hotel choice had a free shuttle to the parks. This we saved us money on a taxi and parking, and we didn't need a rental car either. We also picked a hotel that had free breakfast. It was only a mile away from the park, so it was still very convenient. 

If you do stay at a Disney hotel, shop around online and on the phone, and figure out what you will need. Don't forget to check out character breakfasts. Also, on-site guests have opportunities for early entry into the park. Entering an hour earlier than the rest of the public gives you a chance to hit those favorite rides before the crowds get there, and it also gives you more time in the park. This is especially important in the Winter when the park closes earlier at night.  Staying at a Disney hotel is an option we will explore on our next trip.

Purchase tickets in advance.
Don't waste time standing in the line when you get there!  Also, rumor has it that park entrance fees are increased every year in May, so buy before that if you are planning a trip for later that summer. Unused tickets used to never expire, however, once a ticket has been used in the parks, it expires 14 days after the first day of use.  If you have unused days left at the end of your vacation you can purchase the no expiration option.  Finding discounted tickets is difficult, but your local auto club may save you 5% and there are sometimes discounts for military families. You can also purchase "hopper" tickets to allow you entrance to several parks over several days at a discount. 

Use the "Fast Pass" arrangement and the Child Swap
We loved the "Fast Pass" arrangement that Disney offers, so that we never had to wait long for the most popular rides. You can go ride one line and come back later to a long one to use your fast pass. Read up on how they work since there are a few rules involved. It's definitely worth using.

Stroll Around and Wear ID's
Even children who have outgrown the regular use of a stroller get tired of walking at a big park. We made it easier on my tiny crew by renting one of the double strollers they have available right at the park, and all three of my children piled into it happily.  They were reasonably priced and worth every penny.  There are parking areas for the strollers outside each ride. They provide an ID tag to identify your stroller when you come out. 

Child ID BraceletWhen traveling with three small children and touring Disney World, one of the things I worried about was losing track of one of my children in the crowds. Using the stroller to move around eliminated a lot of that worry, but even still, I recommend outfitting each child with an ID bracelet that has your cell phone number on it, just in case. 

Added Adventure
Next time we go, we're bringing our copy of Hidden Mickeys with us just to add a little extra adventure. I plan to let the kids peruse this on our journey there as a distraction for the road. I can already imagine the anticipation of the "hunt" for hidden Mickeys everywhere we go. I imagine they will come up with their own little competition of sorts to see who can find the most. 

Next Time
Now that we've had a taste, we can't wait to go back and explore some more. And of course, with the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World we'll be even more prepared next time we go.  ALSO: See my article regarding my family's visit to Universal Studios Parks for more tips!

UPDATE:  I recently discovered this helpful book that you can download: Disney Vacation & Savings Travel Guide -- written by an  Ex-Disney Employee who reveals Insider Secrets!  This book is updated every year, and buyers who download it get a lifetime of free updated tips.

Happy Travels everyone! 

--Laurel (Road Trip Mom)

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      ((¸¸.·´  ..·´   Road Trip Mom -:¦:- 
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P.S.  Don't miss all the FREE Printable Car Games at Momsminivan.com!

Laurel Smith is a former schoolteacher and currently a stay-at-home-mom who has logged thousands of road trip miles both as a kid and a mom.  Visit her website for more than 101 travel games and activities for kids at MomsMinivan.com

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