Disney Cruise Tips!

Hey everybody! I can’t believe it’s been a month since our first Disney cruise. It was such a fantastic time and it was over way too soon. As always, I want to share some tips I learned. I hope you find this helpful if you are planning to cruise in the near future.

  • Consider a Park-n-Cruise package if you’re driving into the port. We sailed out of Port Canaveral and spent the night before the cruise at a nearby hotel offering a package. We simply left our car in the hotel parking lot, had our luggage at the pickup spot at the front desk and that was literally the last time we touched our luggage until it was in our room on the ship. The shuttle picked us up and dropped us at the port, where the porters whisked our bags away (you DO tip these guys.)
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The “Sail Away” party at Port Canaveral
  • It’s okay to get to the port early. We got to the port just before they opened, and had to wait a bit to get in. But being at the terminal when they opened meant no waiting to check in and a very short line (about 5 minutes) to meet Mickey in his captain’s attire (a hint for this is to get in line before he comes out. Most people don’t know what the line is for.) We did have to sit for about an hour waiting to board the ship, but there were TVs for the kiddo and I caught up on my social media. The port does get crowded and the line for Mickey was really crazy not too long after we met him.

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  • If it’s your first cruise, invest in a lanyard with a pouch. Your Key to the World card is your room key, and your way on and off the ship at port. It’s really important that you always know where it is. I lose things, often. Having the card snug in its pouch around my neck meant I always knew where it is.
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My husband on Pirate Night!
  • Another tip for first time cruisers is keep walking! When we first entered Cabanas, the cafeteria-style buffet restaurant, the dining room was packed and the buffet line was really long. We then discovered that the restaurant has two identical buffet lines. If you keep walking past the crowd a little further into the restaurant there is plenty of open seating and the line was not as crowded. This goes for elevators too. There are elevators in the mid, front and aft of the ship. Do a little walking if the elevators are packed and try a different set, or take the stairs.
  • Try to connect with your co-cruisers before you set sail. Search for a Facebook group for your cruise date. This is a great place to sign up for fish extender groups, (I’ll talk about fish extenders later) ask questions, and make friends. We found a penpal for my daughter (a shy only child) who we met up with on the ship, and they played together several times. We also joined a trick or treat group though our FB group that made the cruise a little extra fun!
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No, Stitch was not her penpal!
  • Miss the crowds by hitting Castaway Cay early. We had no wait to disembark or to catch the shuttle to the beach. And had our pick of chairs on the beach. This is a really important tip if you plan to snorkle, as that area of the water gets super duper crowded after about 10:30. Plan to snorkle early for clear, uncrowded water.
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The beach fills up quickly!
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No waiting for photos at Mount Rustmore
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We had an empty beach for a few minutes

These are a just a few things we learned on our cruise. We definitely did not know what we were doing for the first couple days, but the cruise staff are very friendly, helpful, and accommodating, so don’t hesitate to get help! Have you done a Disney cruise? Comment and let us know your thoughts! We fell in love and are ready to plan our next one.

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What We Learned from Our Last Disney Trip

Hello dear readers! Wow, autumn is starting to happen all around me and I realized that I haven’t written in some time. I wanted to write a blog post while our last trip was fresh in our minds, but back to school means back to work for me, so, here we are!

We got back from our last trip a little over a month ago and it was different for us in several ways. For starters, we had an extra person with us–we usually just travel with our little family of 3, but this time we brought a friend of my daughter’s. My 9 year old isn’t as entertained by her parents as she once was, nor is Disney as sparkly and magical as it was when she was 5, so we invited a travelling companion. It worked out really well, and I wish I could afford to bring this friend on all our future trips. We also went at a new time of year. We usually go to Disney in November or December, to avoid high crowds, and high temperatures. Now that I’m a teacher, we really can’t just travel any old time of year. When free dining opened up, we took advantage of the extra week offered to just Disney Visa cardholders and went the 3rd week of August. I actually enjoyed many things about going this time of year that I didn’t think I would. The longer park hours, no holiday parties to cut into our Magic Kingdom time, more pool time in the afternoons, and in general just a more laid-back vacation. But the heat was a huge factor. I remember standing in front of the stage at Hollywood Studios watching “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” and feeling like I was standing on the surface of the sun. In addition, it was our first trip with our newer nicer camera. Which meant that we got a lot of great shots, but some shots failed miserably due to its unskilled user. I still have a lot to learn about digital photography.

So, without further ado, here are some things I learned on our last trip:

Be flexible.  When I book a Disney trip, I enter planning mode pretty much from the moment I click “check out” on the confirmation page. I am a detail-oriented spreadsheet kinda gal and my family might possibly get tired of me asking if they would rather eat at Skipper Canteen at 5:15 or 5:25. Vacationing with kids, however. means that sometimes you just have to go with the flow. We had a Be Our Guest dinner reservation booked for our first night of our trip, when it gradually dawned on me that the girls probably would neither appreciate the food, nor want to sit down for a long meal on our first day. So, with much gritting of teeth, I canceled, promising myself a meal there on our next trip. Also, when the girls got worn out from the intense heat, and I could see in their eyes that ALL they wanted to do was go back to the resort and hang in the pool, it was time to go. No matter how much I wanted to do Space Mountain one more time.

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Sometimes you just need some pool time.
Being prepared for weather can make or break your trip. We knew what to expect of Florida in August, and we still were not prepared for the intense heat and humidity that greeted us each day. Luckily, I had purchased a number of items that saved us from fainting and kept us from getting too crabby and irritable. Cooling towels and personal fans really helped the girls get through the trip. The necklace fan proved to be the best purchase, as it was sturdy and we didn’t need to worry about forgetting it somewhere. We also bought a travel umbrella to shade us from sun and rain. I really prefer an umbrella to a poncho or rain jacket. It’s more versatile, and I have a hard time putting myself in a plastic sheet when it’s 90+ degrees and raining. Taking air conditioning breaks at any chance was also helpful. Cutting through a gift shop or ducking into Country Bears gave our bodies a chance to cool down.

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Beautiful but hot!
It’s not going to be possible to see and do everything. Okay, so I knew this already, but this trip really hammered it into me. I missed doing some of my favorite things on this trip. And…it’s…okay (taking a deep breath as I write this.) With young children, you have to make decisions about what to do and see, because they have a limited window of time when they’re going to be into it. We made some compromises with the girls. One day we missed rope drop (gasp!) at Hollywood Studios to let the kids sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast and play in the pool. They really needed a rest! In exchange, we went to late night extra magic hours at Animal Kingdom that night to spend more time in Pandora (because there is never enough time to spend in Pandora.) We still had a great day and had energy for that late night. It meant that we missed meeting BB-8, but I had to just…let it go (like my friend, Elsa.) It’s harder if you know you can’t come back to Disney for a year, or 2, or ever, but just go with the flow and you’ll have a much better time.

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Pandora at night. Photo credit: Athena Iluz via flickr
Well, these are my main takeaways from our last Disney trip. We had a fantastic time and I would definitely do a summer trip again. What do you think? Have you ever learned any valuable lessons while on vacation? I’d love to hear your comments. Stay tuned for some more from our trip, like a review of Pandora, and how free dining worked out for us this time.

Free Disney Dining 2017 Breakdown

Hey Disney fans! Spring has reached our corner of the world and I’ve been out in the garden and neglecting all other things in my life. So on this particularly cool, over-cast day, I’m getting back to the blog. This Monday, the long-awaited arrival of the free dining promotion was released on the Disney website. I wanted to quickly breakdown the details of this promotion and tell you how to still get in on the frenzy.

Disney offers several discounts throughout the year, from room discounts to specially priced packages. But the free dining promotion is by far the most talked about and anticipated. Here’s what it is: a free Disney dining plan for everyone staying in your room for the length of your stay. Free food! At Disney! Sounds pretty amazing, right? So, on to the details to see if you can take advantage of this great promotion.

The check-in dates are as follows: August 21st-September 30th, November 14th-20th, 25th-27th, December 8th-23rd. Your check-in date must fall on one of these dates to qualify. In addition to these dates, if you hold a Disney Chase Visa, you can check in from August 13th and still get free dining!  Book now through July 7th.

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Most resorts are included in this deal. The only exclusions are the campsites at Fort Wilderness, 3-bedroom villas, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Little Mermaid Standard Rooms and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. Specific resorts excluded are All-Star Movies and Port Orleans-French Quarter. The way the offer works is this: stay at a value or moderate resort and receive the quick-serve dining plan or stay at a deluxe resort and receive the standard dining plan. With the quick-serve, you get 2 counter service meals per day, a snack, and a refillable cup. With the standard plan, you get a table service meal, a counter service meal, a snack each day and a refillable cup. You do have the option of upgrading from quick-serve to standard for about $20 a day per adult.

Ariel's "Part of Your World" at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Matt Stroshane, photographer

You must purchase a minimum of a 2 day park hopper park ticket for everyone in your party. The number of meals you receive corresponds to the nights of your hotel stay, not your ticket. So, if you have 6 nights booked, but don’t want to go to the parks everyday, you could buy, say a 4 day park hopper ticket and still get 6 days of free meals. In my humble opinion, if you are looking to do a trip on a budget, it is most prudent to book a value resort and upgrade your dining plan. Let’s look at some numbers! We’ll look at a 5 night stay in September for 2 adults and 1 child for all the following scenarios.

Scenario 1: Staying a Pop Century and upgrading the dining plan: standard room and 6 day park hopper ticket with free quick-serve dining= $1931, with the upgrade=$2116

Scenario 2: Staying at Coronado Springs and upgrading the dining plan: standard room and 6 day park hopper ticket with free quick-serve dining= $2264, with the upgrade= $2449

Scenario 3: Staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge with standard dining included: standard room with 6 day park hopper ticket= $3302 (no upgrade needed.)

So, unless you are dead set on staying at a deluxe resort or moderate resort (which offer better amenities, bigger rooms, etc,) the best choice financially is to plan your stay at one of the awesome value resorts. We have heard that Pop Century is the one to book for this promo folks (so, of course, we did!) Another option, if you are not big eaters and are willing to brown bag it everyday, is to take the room discount. This is a great deal for people who would like to stay at a moderate or deluxe resort, are willing to eat cheap and don’t like park hopping. Prices for the same dates with one park a day 6 day ticket and standard room are: Pop Century $1755/ Coronado Springs $2056/ Animal Kingdom Lodge $2513. So, as you see, free dining is not actually free, as you are paying full price for your room, but eating at Disney is expensive. The value you get with this promotion is great if you understand how to get the most value from the dining plan.

As you see, it is possible to do Disney cheap(er). Being flexible in your travel dates obviously helps, as most of these dates are when school is in session. The rooms for this promo go quick so start planning. We are taking advantage of the Disney visa dates and going before school starts in August. And yes, we are fully planning to sweat, wear our ponchos through the storms, and take afternoon pool breaks. We are just so excited about all the new attractions and shows Disney is unveiling this year and can’t wait to go (and eat) again!

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Are you planning on taking advantage of free dining this year? Let us know in the comments!

6 Questions to Ask When Planning A Disney Budget: Part 3

We’re back with the next part of our Disney vacation planning series. The oh-so-important question this time is, “When should we go to Disney?” There are several factors to consider when deciding on the time of year to schedule your trip. Hopefully you have some flexibility in planning and can take advantage of our tips!

Weather: As I’m sure you are aware, central Florida can have some pretty extreme weather. The time of year you choose to go can make or break your trip. We have a zero tolerance policy for humidity and daily rainstorms, so we know to miss June-September. We always strive to visit from early November to December, and have been very fortunate to have wonderful weather.  Highs most days were in the 70’s and low 80’s on our recent trips, and lows were in the 60’s.  On our last two trips there were only 2 days when we needed to wear long pants to the parks during the day. Prices are lower during these times, due to school being in session.

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Photo credit: Benjamen Benson via flickr

School Holidays: I’m assuming that there are a few of you out there that are interested in sharing Disney magic with your children. If your children are school-age you may immediately think of visiting during major breaks such as Christmas, summer or spring breaks.  You have to remember that the rest of the nation has the same breaks more or less, meaning the crowd levels are insane and since those periods are in high demand, prices are sky-high. Only you can decide if you want to battle crowds and pay more, or take your kids out of school to visit during a slower time of year.We have taken our daughter out of school in 2nd and 3rd grades, and got her homework for the week before she left. We enjoy special discounts since we are traveling at slower times of the year, and to us that’s worth it. As our daughter gets older, we will have to re-think when we go, since taking her out won’t be an option. Long weekends with teacher work days are an option for shorter trips.

Crowds: Spring break, summer, Christmas, Independence Day. I strongly advise you to avoid these times when planning your trip. The prices will be crazy. The crowds will be crazy. The wait times for rides will be crazy. Get the picture? Besides bad weather, nothing ruins the magic more than large crowds. Yes, I understand the allure of wanting to spend holidays at Disney, but it’s just…not…worth…it. Our top recommendations for low crowds are January-February (excluding holidays), October-November (not Thanksgiving!) and early December. (You can still experience all Disney’s Christmas entertainment in early December.) If you choose to go on the busy times, proceed at your own risk!

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photo credit: Brett Kiger via flickr

Special Offers: If you are looking for discounts for your Disney trip, there are some that become available throughout the year. Disney usually releases their specials 4 to 6 months ahead of time. This means if you want to travel in May, start looking for offers in December and January. The most common discounts are room only and package deals, and the free dining offer. Disney Tourist Blog has a  great post that talks in-depth about each discount offered. Do the math on any special offer to make sure it works for your situation. We prefer free dining to a room discount, because we stay at moderate or value resorts (which only get a 10-15% room discount) and it saves us more money to get 3 free dining plans for the length of our stay. If you are traveling as a couple and plan to stay in a deluxe resort, the room discount would be a better deal.

As you can see, the timing of your vacation has a big impact on how much you will shell out for your big trip, and how much enjoyment you will get out of your time in the parks. It will be one of the most important decisions to make about your trip so plan wisely. Use our pointers to help you plan for a trip that makes the most sense for you and your budget.

6 Questions to Ask When Making A Budget for Your Disney Trip: Part 1

When planning a Disney vacation there are so many questions that need to be answered when deciding on your budget. We feel that these questions are some of the most important factors in planning your vacation. We often talk about how nice it would be to be able to go at the drop of a hat, and stay at the Contemporary or Polynesian Resort. Unfortunately that is not in our budget! So how do you decide on what you can afford?

These questions will help you figure out what the majority of your budget will be spent on. By spending a little time planning at the beginning you will be able to figure out what works best for your party. You may save a substantial amount of money by looking at the trip this way. Over the next couple of posts we will go into detail about each of these questions.

The first one is “How will we get to Disney?” Your two choices, obviously, are flying or driving. If you don’t live within a day’s drive of Orlando, you will probably be flying. We don’t have much experience first-hand with air travel to Disney, but MouseSavers.com has an entire post dedicated to helping you find a cheap flight. So start looking at your options even before you book your exact travel dates. Many airline sites will give you the cost on a particular day and allow you to search the calendar around your chosen departure date for cheaper fares, so you may discover substantial savings if your travel dates are flexible. Florida does have quite a few airports, so flying to Tampa or Sanford may be more economical. If you do fly to another airport, you have to factor in the cost and hassle of a rental car. If you are staying at a Disney resort and you fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO), Disney provides a free shuttle known as Magical Express, which, in addition to whisking you away to your resort in comfort, lets you bypass baggage claim and have your bags magically brought to your room!

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If there are many people traveling with you, it may be more cost effective to drive to Disney. We are nine hours away, which is manageable as a day trip.  We have found that if we drive several hours and get a hotel room in Jacksonville, where we can find really cheap rates, we can get up early and get a full day in the park. Same thing when we leave. We left after a full day at the park after seeing Fantasmic! and drove 2 hours to St. Augustine beach, which made the drive the next day a little more enjoyable. And we got some much needed beach time after a crazy and fun-packed week.

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Either way you slice it, you’re going to have travel-related expenses (unless you live in Orlando, lucky ducks!) but deciding what mode of transport works best for your family, while keeping an eye out for deals, will be your first decision of many in your Disney trip planning!

Stay tuned for Part 2, as we talk about the next important question, “Where will we stay?”

Countdown to Disney!

Todd here. As our trip to Disney sneaks up on us,we can’t believe we are less than a week out from leaving! What follows are five things that may be overlooked in your excitement, and cause you excess running around and stress right before your trip.

 

  1. Pet/ House-sitting. Have you confirmed with your neighbor that they are going to come and feed your fish or hamster? Fortunately, we have family that lives very close, but if you don’t, make sure your neighbor or trusted pet-sitter has a way to get in your house. If you are boarding pets, confirm that you are still on the books and all shots and vet visits are up to date.

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    photo credit: Sara Spildener via flickr
  2. Snacks. We make sure to have snacks for the car and for the hotel and to bring into the parks. We live within a day’s drive so we try to plan ahead for when we are on Disney property and bring a plastic tote of snacks in the car. We bring along many snacks like cheese crackers, fruit, and granola bars to name a few. They are easy enough to throw in your park bag when you don’t want to spend a snack credit or buy a $1.69 banana. We bring protein bars, cereal and toaster pastries for a little breakfast in the morning before hitting the parks. Also we pack drink mixes. They are easy to carry and since you can get free water at any Disney restaurant they are a fun way to surprise the kids with lemonade or fruit punch, or try a Starbucks iced coffee mix for the adults.

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    Snacks at Animal Kingdom
  3. Electronics. Even though our phones are great and we can do so much on them, I like to have a laptop back at the room. Try typing that email on your phone or trying to transfer money to your checking account when you realize that you did not pay your power bill before you left!  You also can upload pictures and videos from your camera and phone to the laptop so you can free up space on the memory cards. I also like to bring a power strip to make sure that we have plenty of plugs and everyone can charge their phones in the same place, so you aren’t running around in the morning looking for a phone. Finally, a way to save money is to make sure you have portable chargers. Disney does have a good program that allows you to exchange chargers but it costs $30 to start and do unlimited exchanges in the park. Or you could buy a charger at Best Buy for $7.99 and charge it overnight so it’s ready to go each day.

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    Make sure your camera is always ready to go!
  4. Itinerary. We have a spread sheet with a plan of how we are going to spend our days, including park hours, fast passes, and ADR’s. You can double check your reservation times in your “My Disney Experience” section of the website, or on the app. Check the Disney site to confirm hours closer to your arrival date as hours commonly change. This is a good time to check for any restaurant reservations that you haven’t been able to get. If you are diligent enough you may be able to snag a better time or a restaurant that was sold out months before. Many people will drop ADR’s as their trip gets closer. Finally I like to make sure everyone has an idea of timing for the trip. We are going to leave late in the afternoon and drive to Jacksonville, FL I have downloaded the directions to the hotel in my phone since at that time of night traveling on the interstate all the exits start to look the same. Click here for a look at our Disney Itinerary spreadsheet.
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    It helps to know where you’re going and how to get there

     

  5. Weather. If you are traveling between May and September, I can guarantee two things. It will be really HOT, and it will probably rain every day. But other times of the year Florida weather can be a little more unpredictable. So make your clothing choices wisely before you leave on your trip and before you leave for your day once you get to the Sunshine State. Granted, if you get rained on or really cold you will have a nice unplanned souvenir and getting a  $45 sweatshirt with Grumpy on it just because you are freezing is not the best idea. Also be aware of the night time temperatures. Once the sun goes down, there is a chance you will get cold and no one wants to call it a night before “Wishes” starts. Remember, if in doubt, layer!sky-beach-vacation-summer

So by just doing a little planning ahead and using your brain you can save money, time, and plenty of complaining by doing a few last minute things to make sure your trip can go off without a hitch.

 

 

Which Disney Resort is Right for You?

One of the most important steps of trip planning is determining where to rest your weary bones after a long day (and night) at the parks. There are many factors to consider when you’re deciding on one of the 34 unique resort hotels on Disney property. Here we look at the 3 resort categories and what the major differences are at each level.

Ariel's "Part of Your World" at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Matt Stroshane, photographer

Value: The resorts included in this category are Art of Animation, The All-Star resorts, Pop Century, and the Campsites at Fort Wilderness. One of the most awesome things about the value resorts is the kid-friendly theming. Giant characters decorate the grounds, immersing everyone in the magical world of Disney before even stepping foot in the Magic Kingdom.

Each resort has one large pool and at least one other pool, although there are no slides at these pools. The only dining options at this level are quick-serve, cafeteria or food court-like dining. The room size is slightly smaller than the other categories of resorts, averaging 260 sq. ft. One disadvantage to the value resorts is the distance to the parks. They are the farthest away and the buses may take up to 20 minutes to make their way to and from the parks.That may not seem long, but when it’s standing room only after a long day of walking, you will be counting the minutes. Rack rates on average for a standard room at the values  start at around $100 and can go as high as $200 and more during peak season. If you have young children who would appreciate the theming, are on a tight budget and plan to be visiting the parks much of the time, a value resort might be the perfect match for your family.

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Moderate: The resorts in this category are Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans-Riverside, Port Orleans-French Quarter, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. The moderates have a slight increase in price over the values, with resorts in this category starting at just under $200 to almost $300 at popular times of year for a standard room. With that price hike, you get slides at the pools (the jaguar slide at Coronado Springs is a blast!) and more dining options. All of the moderates have table service restaurants and several bars and lounges.

Room size increases to  comfy 314 sq. ft. at the moderate level. The theming may not be as appealing to kids, but that doesn’t mean each resort is not immaculately themed and beautifully detailed. The moderates are closer to the parks, which means shorter bus rides. One thing you may not appreciate about the moderates is they tend to sprawl over a large area. This may mean walking several minutes to get from your room to the pool or dining. This is a disadvantage for some, but we always find it an enjoyable way to get familiar with the layout of the resort. If you’re traveling with older children or other adults, and plan to spend more time enjoying the pools and restaurants of your resort, a moderate could be a great choice.

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Deluxe: the deluxe resorts are Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk Inn, Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge. There’s not much bad to say about Disney’s deluxe resorts. The beautiful theming, various dining options, and close proximity to the parks make them all highly desirable.

Want to watch the evening fireworks at the Magic Kingdom from your room? Then a theme park view room at the Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian is a must. Of course, luxury comes at a price, and you will be spending anywhere from $380 for a standard room at Wilderness Lodge to $1000 or more for a park view room at the Poly. The room sizes vary at the deluxe resorts, but range from 340 sq. ft. to 422 sq. ft. for standard rooms. Needless to say, dining at this category is abundant and most resorts have a signature dining experience in addition to table service and quick service dining. The amenities are top-notch; from kids’ clubs to spa and concierge services, your every need is attended to. If you are truly looking to spoil yourself and your family, you can’t go wrong with a Disney deluxe resort.

Whatever you’re looking for in accommodations, Disney’s got it. No matter which resort category fits in your budget, you can expect complimentary transportation to all Disney theme and water parks, themed pools, restaurants, and access to Extra Magic Hours at the parks. Keep in mind that even if you don’t stay at a deluxe resort, you are free to tour the grounds, eat at the restaurants and enjoy the ambience. It’s a great compromise if your budget says value but your heart says deluxe.

 

Getting Excited for Your Disney Vacation

 

When it comes to planning a Disney vacation, the research and trip planning most likely will happen months and months before you actually travel to the Sunshine State. After you book your dining reservations, the next six months until vacation time tend to crawl by. It may be hard to stay motivated to fill the jar everyday and forego the Starbucks when you’re majorly craving a Frappuccino.

Fear not. We have a few tips for getting through the days and keeping the excitement going until the day you arrive at your resort.

  • Create a countdown calendar. It can be as simple as a dry erase board that the kids change every day or a little fancier like this if you’re handy, or feel like you deserve a splurge. Get creative. If you are online, you can also create a virtual vacation ticker on a site such as distickers.
  • Watch Youtube walkthroughs of the parks. Get the family together and queue up walkthrough videos of all the parks. This can be really helpful in becoming familiar with the layout of the parks and is one of our favorite ways to rekindle our enthusiasm. There are also videos of fireworks, shows, parades, you name it. If it happened at Walt Disney World, someone has filmed it.
  • Disney movie Night. Grab a couple of DVDs and some homemade popcorn and watch some Disney! Introduce the kids to some classics or find a new favorite together.  Do a Princess movie night, or watch films that feature animals (Robin Hood, Lion King and Bambi, perhaps?) It means so much more to the kids when they meet a character at the park that they have seen in action in a film. Talk about what questions they may have for that character when they finally meet.ak_upcountrylandingchar_7517218736
  • Purchase your warm weather clothing. It may be a perfect time to assess your wardrobe needs while waiting for that trip to begin. We plan a couple of trips to the thrift stores to look for comfortable light-weight clothing and hopefully a few Disney shirts.
  • Have a family meeting about what everyone is most looking forward to. Talk to your children about their favorite characters and what they want to say when they meet them. Ask each family member what ride or unique treat they are most excited about trying. Having these things in mind will help when it’s time to finalize your itinerary and get everyone in the family filled with anticipation for your upcoming adventure!

Smart Packing for the Parks

This post is about what to bring in your bag for the parks. There are some items that really must be packed. You don’t want to have to buy sunscreen at Disney World, or run back to the resort halfway though the day, do you? A little smart packing will help you have your best day at the parks.

Ponchos or small umbrella. I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you it rains in Florida. If you go in the spring, summer or early fall it will rain almost daily. Don’t let that ruin the magic for your visit. Just be prepared. A dollar store will carry cheap plastic ponchos for, well, about a dollar. We invested in some IKEA ponchos that breathe a bit, but they are bulky and we don’t use them as much as we thought we would. Ponchos are also good if you don’t care to get wet on Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids. A small umbrella fits nicely and can shield you from rain or the unrelenting sun. Just be careful if you’re there on a crowded day or you could end up poking someone.

Snacks. Sure you could pay $2.79 for some apple slices at Prince Eric’s Village Market, or you could just bring an apple. Hopefully you will have brought a small arsenal of snacks on your vacation. Trying some of the signature snacks at the parks is great (yes, Dole Whip float,) but for avoiding crabby toddlers, tweens and adults, please bring a little something. Hummus and crackers, pretzels, grapes and jerky all make great eat-on-the-run snacks. You are allowed to bring food into the parks, so don’t fret that security will pat you down, confiscate your Sun Maid raisins and throw you into Disney jail.

Sunscreen. Not much to say on this. It’s Florida, when it’s not raining, the sun is scorching. Protect yourself and your loved ones from the horror that is sunburn while on vacation.

Baby wipes. No, it doesn’t matter if you have a baby, just trust me, you’ll be glad you have these. Comes in extremely handy for wiping all manner of stuff of hands, faces, and freshening up halfway through a long day.

Sunglasses and/or hats. Anything to protect your eyes. It’s bright down there, folks.

Smart phone and camera. Hopefully you have downloaded the “My Disney Experience” app on to your phone. Keep your phone in a handy outside pocket because you will be referring to that app often throughout your day. It has your Fastpass+ times, dining reservations, maps, and characters nearby. Keep the camera in an easily accessible pocket too, You really never know when something magical will happen and you will want to capture it. Cast Members will kindly use your camera to take your picture at character meet and greets, so have it out and ready to go. An extra charger is a good idea too.

A set of extra clothes (or at least undies) for the kids in a ziploc bag. Yep, it happens. You know what I mean by “it.” Kids get very excited. They don’t want to stop having fun. They wait too long to tell you they have to go. It’s good to be prepared and not have to stop your day just because of a little accident.IMAG0237

Autograph book and pen. Getting the characters’ autographs is fun. It’s a great souvenir of your trip and something to help kids interact with the characters if they’re feeling shy. My daughter wanted an official Disney autograph book, but any small notebook or sketchpad will do. Make sure the pen is easy to hold, like a sharpie. Imagine how tough it is for Pluto or Mickey to sign autographs with those giant hands. Help a mouse out.

Yes, this seems like a lot of stuff. Please make sure you have a bag that is comfortable to carry for hours on end. I recommend a day pack-style backpack with padded straps, or a cross-body bag. This is my personal favorite bag. Lots of pockets and very comfortable. We usually don’t bother with water bottles because they get very heavy and free cups of water are available at any Disney counter-service restaurant. Obviously add to this list any items-you-can’t-do-without. For me, it’s lip balm. Yes, I am an addict, but that’s for another blog. Anyway, for you it might be gum, or Pepsi (neither are available in any Disney parks.) This blog has a very detailed listing of every little thing you might want to bring with you. I like keeping it light so I can move around the parks quickly. See what works for you. Happy travels!