Top Disney Questions…Answered!

Hello out there! It’s another snow day in the south (at least we have actual snow for this one) so what better time to throw a movie on Netflix and do some blogging? I have joined a few Disney trip planning groups on Facebook, because I like to share my views, help newbies, and learn from others who have been to Disney a lot more that me! I’ve noticed that there are many of the same questions asked on these groups, so I figured I’d do my best to answer some of these questions here. Read on to see if I answer some of your Disney-related queries!

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When should I go to Walt Disney World? If you can go at any time during the year, the best months for crowds and weather is early to mid-November, and early December, as well as most of January to early February. September crowds tend to be low, but the weather is more unpredictable. There really is no “low’ season anymore due to all the new stuff happening at the parks, so plan to visit when good weather is more likely and crowds won’t be at their peaks. These peak times to avoid if at all possible are spring break, early to mid-summer, and holidays.

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Where should I stay? I always recommend that people stay at a Disney resort hotel if it’s at all in their budget. The perks are just too awesome, and there is a Disney hotel for every budget. There are certain times of year you can get a room on property for under $100! If you have a larger family, you might look at Art of Animation suites or the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. There are so many great resorts on property that you should strongly consider it. If you’re looking for an upscale, amenities-rich experience, look into the deluxe resorts. I have enjoyed both moderate and value resorts, since we are focused on enjoying the parks, and just need a bed, decent pools, and some food.

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How far ahead should I start planning? I always say, the sooner the better with Disney. Decide on your travel dates, then start researching to decide what tickets you’ll need, where you want to eat and where you’ll stay. Dining reservations can be made 6 months out and Fastpass+ can be made 60 days out for guests staying on property (see? Perks!) Can you plan a trip in a month? Yes, but be prepared to not get the restaurants and Fastpasses you want (character meals book up fast as do FP for popular rides.)

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Should I get the Dining Plan? The Disney Dining Plan has its pros and cons. The prices have gone up for 2018 and now include alcoholic or specialty beverages, so if you don’t imbibe the strong stuff, it might not make financial sense. We love the Dining Plan when it’s free. We get it included with a package at certain times of the year and do our research to get the most out of it. Paying out of pocket for food is going to make the most sense for most families, but do the math and see if it works for you.

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Where/ What do we eat? The Disney parks and resort hotels have every kind of food imaginable, from chicken strips to Kobe beef with bordelaise sauce (seriously, check out the menu for Victoria and Albert at the Grand Floridian here.) Check the Disney website under dining for every menu for every restaurant on property. If you have special dietary needs, alert the staff when you arrive at the restaurant and every effort will be made to accommodate your request.

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Where is Harry Potter Land? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is at Universal Studios Orlando. This is a different park from Walt Disney World Resort. ‘Nuff said.

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So, there you have it! The most common questions about travel to Walt Disney World answered. Still have questions? Post a comment here!

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6 Questions to Ask When Planning a Disney Budget: Part 2

Hello again. We’re back to discuss the second question we think is crucial to planning your Disney budget. The focus of this post is “Where to Stay?” Lodging will be one of your biggest expenses, along with food and park tickets. This post aims to help you look at your choices and decide what the best fit might be for your situation.

Orlando Florida is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. In 2015 alone, 66 million people visited this mouse mecca! There are over 150,000 hotel rooms to choose from. That means lots of options, but it can get overwhelming to try to find the perfect room that fits your budget and your travel plans. Some things to consider are: will this be a Disney only trip or will you be visiting Universal Studios, Seaworld, and the other myriad attractions in central Florida? Are you okay with eating out for most of your meals or would you like to make your meals in your room? Do you have a car or will you be depending on public transportation to get you to the parks? These are all important questions to ask while searching for that perfect room.

There are several reasons we like to stay on property at Disney. We are a small family, so we can make a modest room in a value resort work pretty well. We spend most of our vacation time at the Disney parks, so we don’t need a lot of amenities or a kitchen in our room to cook food. Disney provides excellent free transportation, and when we feel like driving to the parks, staying on property means parking is free (staying off-property means adding $20 a day to your budget if you will be driving to the parks.) We like the perk of having access to Extra Magic Hours (a time period before the parks open or after they close, that is only open to resort guests.) We also love being in the “Disney bubble.” This is the feeling that you have left the real world behind and all your worries drift away. The omnipresent theming envelops you in a world of magic from the moment you pass under the arch that proclaims you are entering a land “where dreams come true.”

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That being said, there are situations where it would make more sense to stay off-property. If that’s the case for you, here are a few choices to consider.

  • Airbnb: Choose your size and style of housing. We found a room to rent, a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom for $60 per night. The total for a Sunday to Friday stay was only $373 with cleaning fee and taxes! Or you could rent a whole condo for $192 a night. The great thing about Airbnb is that it is a trusted source of vacation rentals, and you can find something to match your budget and needs in almost every neighborhood of Orlando and the Disney-area. Airbnb is ideal if you are willing to take an Uber to the parks, want to be able to cook your own food, and are on a super-tight budget.
  • Resorts: There are tons of non-Disney owned resorts to choose from in the Orlando area to fit all budgets. If you are not planning to go to the parks every day and want a more relaxing trip, with some outlet shopping thrown in, you may want consider an off-property resort. Just be sure to look at the extra charges that most resorts tack on. Many hotels I’ve looked at sound great, until you find that they charge a daily resort fee of $12 to $30! And as stated above, you will have to pay for parking at the parks unless you Uber, or the resort offers a shuttle. Our favorite website to search for hotels is tripadvisor.com and you can always check out the Priceline  site, which guarantees that their rates are the lowest prices you can book.
  • Vacation Home Rentals: If you have a large family, or are doing a trip with a few families, it probably makes more sense to go in on a house. Having a kitchen will save you a lot of money and you can have food delivered through Amazon prime pantry. We searched online and found houses that sleep up to 8 people for a weekly rental of $850. Check out vacation home rentals by tripadvisor or VRBO.

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  • Camping: For the more adventurous among you, Orlando also offers some large campgrounds in the area. You can still experience the Disney bubble while you camp, by reserving a site at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campsites. Rates vary throughout the year from about $53 in January and the summer months, to over $100 during the spring and holiday season. If you’d like to explore the wild part of Florida on your trip, floridarambler.com has a list of campsites within a hour of the parks.
  • DVC rental: There are a few reputable sites that allow Disney Vacation Club members to sell their points to you. What does this mean exactly? DVC members who can’t or don’t want to use their points on a Disney vacation every year, use the web to rent them out. If you thought staying at Animal Kingdom lodge was outside your budget, think again! Depending on the time of year you’re planning to go, staying at one of the studios (or villas if you need more space) at Disney’s deluxe resorts may be within reach. For example, staying at a standard studio at Bay Lake Tower in value season would run you $840 for 5 nights through David’s Vacation Club Rentals (a reliable site for renting points.) Compare that to Disney’s official price for that same room of $458 a night! You can still use the Disney website to check in online just as if you booked through Disney, and use magic bands for Fastpasses, etc. You can’t however, take advantage of special offers like free dining or any other discount where it is necessary to book a package through Disney. And maid service is not provided daily, but will happen once or twice throughout your stay.

Hopefully this post has helped guide you in deciding on the best accommodations for your family’s vacation. Although there are many things to consider such as size, amenities, price, and proximity to the parks, Orlando has, quite literally, something for everyone! So have fun researching and dreaming of your sunny vacation!

Photo credit title photo: Joe Penniston via flickr