Saturday, January 17, 2009
Strolling down Main Street USA during Mardi Gras... practically empty...
I've had several friends asking me for Disney advice lately. And as an admitted Disney-Nut, I thought I would share some tips with you guys! I should also say that I feel confident in sharing my opinion because this will be our 10th trip in 7 years. Like I said, Disney-Nuts. We have gone as a couple and with the kids, we've stayed off-site and on, we've stayed Value, we've stayed Deluxe, we've done the dining plan, and we haven't. We've also STILL not seen everything. Disney is ever-evolving and brings new experiences each and every time. Is it worth it? Totally. Will your pre-schooler remember it? Absolutely. Will you need a vacation after your vacation? Probably.
Because this is a topic near and dear to my heart, you can be safe in assuming that this will be a frequent post for me. So we'll start with the basics, and then in later posts, I'll get more into the "nitty-gritty".
Spring time in EPCOT... GORGEOUS!
What's that? I have no idea. We have a money tree in the backyard and a goose laying golden eggs in the garage. Seriously folks. The very first thing to do after you decide to go visit The Mouse is to determine how much of your children's college fund you'll be willing to part with. And believe me, Walt is MORE than happy to help you part with your money. However, you don't have to mortgage your house to have a great Disney trip.
Tip 1 - If you can, go off-season. Or in Disney speak, Value season. We love October and November in Orlando. And yes, we've taken our kids out of school to do it. Now, when they start to get older and their classes get harder, we'll probably re-think this, but when your kids are young this is the easiest way to hit the Magic Kingdom on the cheap. Look at your school calendars, find that day in the Fall when the kids don't go because of teacher workshops or whatever. Use the long weekend for the bulk of your trip and then the kids don't have to miss too many days. As an added bonus, the weather is spectacular in October/November (and January/February).
You will be eternally grateful to me when you check and double check the holiday and special events calendars. DO NOT EXPECT THE PARKS TO BE EMPTY!!! We've been during Mardi Gras, we thought we'd be all alone... People... Brazil celebrates Carnival. Now, of course, it wasn't as insane as Easter week was, but still busy. Rides and walking through the parks aren't when you feel the population crunch. It's when you've decided to stay late for the fireworks or parade and the ENTIRE rest of the park tries to catch your boat/bus/monorail with you. And you've exhausted your children to the point of a coma and you're having to pack them. THAT's when the Value season will become your best friend. For some SERIOUS holiday magic, the week after Thanksgiving is fabulous.
Tip 2 - Be realistic about your time. Some of our best vacations have come in 4 to 5 day trips as opposed to week long extravaganzas. Especially for the pre-school crowd. In 10 trips we have YET to see and do everything. And that's OK. You will NEVER see it all in one trip, so don't try. You'll miss so much of the Magic by rushing through and pushing yourselves. Make a promise to yourself that this isn't going to be your only trip, and manage how you spend your time. You'll love me for this later. Yes, plan your days, but allow your kids (and yourself) to really enjoy your time there. We have the greatest memory of Abby feeding the ducks (not allowed) in front of the castle. Had we been rushing through to get to Buzz Lightyear, we would have missed this quiet moment and those giggles that we will remember forever.
Behind the Seeds tour in The Land at EPCOT... SUCH FUN!
Tip 3 - Choose your hotel wisely. There are TONS of options here, so do your research.
Off Property: There are some FANTASTIC deals outside of the resort area and they are a great way to save some serious bank. If you will have your own car to get between the parks, this is a viable option. There are several hotels (which you will only need for sleep...) just outside of the Downtown Disney area that make staying off-property easy.
On Property: For a small family the Disney Value resorts are just as great of a deal with the added bonus of easy transportation and access to the Meal Plan (to be discussed later). We used to stay at All-Star Movies or Music when the girls were very young. My biggest issue with the value and moderate levels is the bed size. They have 2 double beds. Which is fine when your kids are small, or you only have one. But now that the girls are bigger we like to stick to the queen bed resorts. We really like Wilderness Lodge. Queen for us, bunk beds for the girls, and a boat directly to the Magic Kingdom. Animal Kingdom Lodge has the bunk beds too, but you just can't beat that boat. We tend to spend most of our time at M.K., so this makes the decision super easy for us. For our trip in March, we'll be staying at the Contemporary. It's our first time on the Monorail so we're pretty excited. We tried for the "Poly" but the standard rooms were filled.
Which leads me to this point... As a way to stay at the nicer resorts for less, go for the cheapest room there. With the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge, the views really don't mean anything. Unless you like spending your vacation at Disney staring out of your window instead of playing in the parks. Now, with Animal Kingdom Lodge, get the Savannah view. It's amazing to sit and have your morning coffee/evening glass of wine and watch the giraffes being fed.
There are also ways to "rent" from Disney Vacation Club owners. Lately I've seen some folks practically giving away their points.
I hope my readers feel comfortable enough to ask questions. PLEASE feel free. I'll try to help you the best I can or lead you to a place that can give you some insite into planning the best trip you can have. As with any trip, information and planning is the key to keeping things running smoothly and preparing you for the times when it doesn't.
Totem Pole in the lobby of Wilderness Lodge... crazy kids...