By Cammie Jones
Disney World! Just the sound of that word is magical. From experience, I think it really is. However, the task of planning such a trip can be a little daunting. What is a must — see? Where should we stay? Is it worth the extra cash to stay in a Disney World property? I checked out some recent websites and talked to a local “Disney World Professional” to get some advice.
1. Before you Book It, Do you Research!
Research is necessary for a trip like this. Start with a Google search on tips for traveling to Disney, ask your friends who have been there before and ask your own children (if they are old enough) to tell you what they most want to see on your visit. Are they into the rides (make sure they are tall enough — hint: wear boots with low heels) or more into seeing the princesses or other characters who frequent the parks.
If you are not pigeon holed into a specific week or weekend to visit Disney, find out which times are the best to go. The best way to do this is to search “Crowd Calendar – Walt Disney World.” From here , there are many websites listed that will tell you down to the day and sometimes the hour of what the crowd level will be. These sites can also help you plan your trip if you are on a budget — the off season is always cheaper. Off season at Disney is usually late January, February (except Presidents’ Day), May and September. These sites also have information about the status of the attractions including whether they closed due to refurbishment, weather, or other reasons.
2. Book Your Stay.
There are basically three categories of hotels at Disney in which you and your family can stay: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. These options are all about convenience and allow you to cost compare. If you decide on the least expensive choice, the Value Resort, make sure you ask for the “preferred” room or you may have to walk all day for your morning coffee!
3. Meal Plan or Not?
This is another decision that must be made by knowing your own family and their eating habits. Meal plans at Disney vary in price and number of meals per day. You can select a meal plan when booking your vacation package or as an add on to your existing reservation. There are quick service plans, table dining plans and a deluxe plan for those foodies out there. Each of these include snacks and just recently added, is a plan that includes alcohol for those 21 and over. Check out the Disney website to learn more about these meal plan choices.
4. Make Meal/Show Reservations Early
Once you determine when you are going and where you are staying, create an account on My Disney Experience. This allows you to link your reservations and start building your trip. Emails will be sent to you explaining when to make restaurant reservations and FastPass requests. Look back at your crowd calendar to decide which day to visit each park so that you can avoid the crowds.
If your main goal is eating at Cinderella’s castle, go ahead and make reservations. You can always change them once you have your agenda set, but many of the major attractions book up quickly. There are many activities and attractions that you may want to see so pick the ones that are most important. Make plans but leave a little down time for leisurely exploring. Remember, this is a vacation!
5. The Disney FastPass
Disney’s FastPasses are the best. When securing these, the FastPass allows you get into the fast lane when waiting for your turn to ride. This is especially crucial for the most popular rides and if you have small children who tend to be impatient. With a purchase of your ticket, you can make Fast Pass reservations up to 30 days in advance. If you stay at any property on the resort, you can reserved up to 60 days before your visit. You are allowed three per day and these can be reserved online, via a mobile app or the same day at a kiosk in the park.
6. Trade Disney Pins.
When my kids were young and we made the trip to Disney, one thing that kept them occupied was collecting and trading Disney pins. You can purchase a lanyard and pins (most start at around $8) at most kiosks at the park. When you see a Disney Cast Member (employee) with a pin that you don’t have and would like, you can ask to trade a pin with them. This is a fun activity for the younger kids and also helps to keep them entertained when waiting to go on a ride or for the start of a show.
There is some “pin trading etiquette” that must be adhered to. For example, you can ask any Disney cast member to trade a pin with you but you are not to touch their pins. They cannot trade for a pin they already have on their own lanyard. You can only trade one pin at a time and you cannot go back more than twice to one cast member. No money can exchange hands when trading.
7. Chill, Mom!
When you arrive at Disney, the service is wonderful. You will feel like everyone there wants to make sure that you have the most magical time ever. This will build some excitement so you will be ready to hit the park full throttle. Even though you may have a full day planned, make sure that your state of mind is relaxed. Long lines and a mass of people can trigger a bad mood for most sane people. Know what to expect before you go so you can keep the mood light and fun.
If you are a first timer, calling Disney directly or going through a travel agent may be a good option. Neither of these will cost you any more or any less and will provide expertise when planning.
One more tip: Always remember to take short snack or rest breaks as needed and try not to push yourself or your children into doing too much. You are making memories and you want those to be positive ones. Here’s hoping you and your family have a magical experience at Disney!
This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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