Disney is expensive, and it's only natural that you want to find ways to cut your expenses. For some families, it's the only way that they can go, for others, they might not care about staying at a Disney resort, maybe they visit often, or they just want a place to rest, and some, there are just so many in the group, it makes more sense to rent a house. No matter which way you do it, there will be good things, and a few uhhhhhs. It's best to think carefully about what is best for YOU before you decide.
In order to help you decide which way is going to work best, we've outlined a few of the things to think about
On Property, you'll have a choice of either a restaurant/food court breakfast that you'll need to buy, or else a quick meal in your room, or on the way to the bus stop.
Off Property, if you've managed to find a place with free breakfast, that might just help out with the overall budget! No matter if you like a big meal, or just a snack, it's already included in the price of your room!
Rental: You'll have access to a few more kitchen tools and perhaps even a larger refrigerator to make meals, be it sit down or on the go.
Parking at your hotel/resort/rental
When you stay at a Disney Property, parking is always free. It's free to park at the resort, and it's free to park at the Parks if you take your own car. Of course, you can always use the free Disney transportation too.
Off property visitors are going to need to pay for parking, possibly at their off property resort, AND at the theme parks. When planning your trip, be sure to calculate that into the number of days you plan to stay. For an example, the BLAH LAG charges $ a night to park your car, .That's quite a huge chunk out of the vacation budget when you think about how you're going to have to pay to park at the theme parks as well!
It's definitely sneaky to charge these extra fees. The Orlando Sentinal did a report back in 2016, saying 129 hotels were charging “resort fees” to cover things like WiFi and parking.
Parking at the Disney Parks
If you stay On Property at a Disney Resort, you will not have to pay to park at any of their theme parks. If you are staying off property, you'll have to pay $20 for a standard parking spot, per day, or $40 for a preferred parking spot. Some other hotels do offer shuttles to the parks, but the time you wait can vary wildly, and there's not always the frequency of pick ups. If you rent a house, of course, it's likely you will need to take your own vehicle.
Meals don't have to be eaten at the parks, and honestly, there's nothing easier than heading back mid afternoon for a snack or a late meal. At a Disney property, it's pretty easy and convinient to grab something, but the same goes as you are leaving in your own vehicle and passing by numberous places. There's not really a savings one way of the other, it's just your personal preference. Meals inside of the parks really aren't as expensive as you would think, there's a wide variety of things to get in the $10 or less range.
While you can rest anywhere, with your own transportation you do have the luxury of driving yourself back whenever you want, without waiting for a shuttle to pick you up. I find though, that I like to rest a bit on the Disney bus, and that restores me enough it's an easier walk from the bus stop to my room, and even back again to the food court to fill my mug. We personally find it restful to let someone else do the driving in an unfamiliar area, but those of you with huge strollers, large families or not staying close by really might perfer to drive.
The pool will vary at Disney Properties depending on what level resort you are staying at. Value resports have no water slides, for example. If a deluxe pool is something that is important to your family, you might want to check out the pool at the place you are thinking of staying at first, to make sure it's going to fit your needs. We've found that the pools at the Value on property resorts are more than wonderful, with huge splash pads or splash pools, multiple pools per resort, (Pop Century has 3, and a splash pag, for example) and have poolside games and movies but some friends of ours refuse to stay anywhere that doesn't have a waterslide. That's important to them, so they make sure to check for it.
If you want your resort to scream I'M AT DISNEY!!! (at least on the outside) then you'll want to stay on property. If you just want a place to rest your head, or maybe a more spa like surrounding, well, you also might want to stay at Disney, in one of the moderate or deluxe resorts, or you might be fine staying off property. Off property, you are unlikly to get any Disney themeing, however, if you are renting a house, it's possible that you could get some thememing, to help you stay in The Bubble.
The Bubble is the experience of being at Disney and not leaving it once until your trip is over. Many people enjoy that, myself included. Even though the inside of our resort doesn't scream DISNEY WOOO the theming is still fun, and we really enjoy the touches of Disney everywhere we look, plus going to the gift shop or food court whenever we want. You might not like that though. Maybe you go so often you just don't care, or maybe you don't want to be staring at a giant mouse everywhere you turn, that's totally fine! I would suggest though, if you have NEVER stayed on property, AND if you have small kids, just try it, at least once. There really is something special to be said for staying in The Bubble.
So there's a few things to think about when you are choosing where to stay. Run the numbers, take into consideration your meal needs, but also parking and resort fees. There's nothing to ruin a vacation like the shock of added expenses on your first day. Do a little research ahead of time, and be prepared!
While there is no bad time at all to visit a Disney Park, without a doubt one of the most popular times to visit is a holiday. There’s something special about holiday decorations, whether it’s for a Patriotic holiday, Halloween of Christmas. It adds a little extra Pixie Dust to that already magical experience.
If you are one of those planning out your visit to the Magic Kingdom or any other park for an upcoming holiday, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.
Going to Disney during a holiday does mean more magic, but it also means higher crowds. In order to get the most magic, and the least frustration out of your trip, there’s a few things you’ll want to take into consideration!
If you are driving your own car, be prepared for a much longer walk to and from your parking space. Arrive as early as you can for the best parking space possible. There will also be longer lines or wait times to take the parking tram.
Because holidays, New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, are such popular times to visit, Magic Kingdom can reach capacity. What does this mean? A holiday at capacity happens in stages, so knowing those stages can make sure YOU get inside. Disney can change the way they do things at any time, but this is generally how it happens when it starts getting closer to capacity. Usually you’ll only need to worry about this a few days before, and after Christmas.
Guests with one day, single park tickets or those using cast member passes will not be allowed to park, they will be turned away at the toll plazas.
Any guest staying at a Disney Resort, even if they drive themselves, is allowed in. Also, anyone with a multi day ticket, or park hopper tickets, annual passholders, someone hopping in from another park, anyone arriving by Disney transportation or anyone with an existing in park reservation.
When the second stage occurs, the only ones allowed into the parking lots, or through the ticket turnstiles are:
Those staying at a Disney resort, annual passholders, those re-entering the park from earlier that day, those hopping from another park, those with in park reservations or those coming by Disney transportation.
Once it reaches the third stage (which isn’t too often, the second stage it the most common) the only ones allowed into the turnstiles, or the parking lot are:
Those staying at a Disney Resort, annual passholders, those with in park reservations.
The fourth stage, the park is entirely shut down, to all visitors. This has only happened once though, so it’s unlikely you will need to worry about it.
If you are visiting during a holiday, and NOT staying on property, you need to arrive at least an hour and a half early in order to make sure you get into the park. Remember, with the new opening procedure for the park, the hub is open an hour, sometimes earlier, than actual park opening. Once that is filled, and it will fill on a holiday, people will be stuck between the gates and the turnsiles, backing up to to the arrival areas and it will take much much longer to get inside of the park and get where you want to go. Holiday are NOT a time to get there late.
There will be crowds, but like any Disney crowd, common sense will see you through. If you’ve small children, keep them in the stroller or tightly hold their hands so they don’t get lost, or knocked over. It only takes the blink of an eye for your group to be separated when another group pushes past you, so something like matching hats or shirts can go a long way towards spotting each others.
First-timers- please note! You will NOT be able to hear your cell phone ringing, and the person you are trying to call will not be able to hear theirs! Even on a regular park day, it’s just too loud in the park to hear it, so plan to take frequent breaks to look to see if you’ve missed a call or text from another in your group.
If there was a sit down place you wanted to eat, or if your little princess wanted a makeover, I hope you’ve already got reservations. You can start booking your preferred restaurant 6 months in advance. Didn’t do that yet? It’s okay, and you might still be able to get a reservation, but the sooner you start checking, the better. As time draws closer to your trip, if you haven't been able to score a table, don’t give up. Things happen sometimes with the others who hold those reservations, and it’s not unlikely, or impossible to get the restaurant you’ve been longing for, a few days before your trip. The trick is to keep trying, and not stop. Check the odd times too. It doesn’t matter if it’s quick service or not, tables are filled more from 11:30am-1pm.
This really goes along with the crowds, but you know there will already be some longer crowds. While it’s a little harder to beat the crowds on a holiday, it’s not impossible to minimize your wait time if you have a plan. If you don’t know what you want to do, where you want to go and where you want to eat, the lines are going to get longer and longer and you are going to start feeling frustrated. Disney is such a great place to visit, don’t let your magical trip be ruined by something so small like an hour per park that you’ve made at least a general outline of what order you are going to do things.
Take advantage of the great service Disney offers that’s totally free! Have the shop send your purchases to the front of the park for pickup on your way out, or even better, back to your resort! Keep in mind though, if you are sending back to your resort, don’t send anything back in the last 24 hours of your trip because it might not get to you in time.
Holidays at Disney have some extra special photo opportunities, so be sure to take advantage! You’ll find Mickey and his friends in seasonal costumes, as well as characters you might not get to see during the rest of the year. There will be special parades, music, shows and of course, lot sof special treats to sample that you can only get during these special occasions.
Disney also offers special seasonal events, such as the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These have special things like trick or treating, or cookie and cocoa stations throughout the park as well as other fun surprises.
Keep in mind that if you are visiting the park on a day where one of these parties is held, the park does close early to those who do not have tickets for these events. Tickets can sell out quickly, so it’s best to get yours the moment you know you will be there during a holiday. It is very unlikely that you will be able to buy a ticket the day of the event.
Patience, patience, patience
While this is a top tip, other than planning, for any Disney vacation, it’s needed more than ever during a Disney holiday. Have patience. Patience with the family who just cut in front of you, patience with that REALLY annoying family remember who keeps slowing you down, patience with your kid who had to stop for the 11th bathroom/pretzel/pin trading moment in the last hour and a half. Don’t forget to have patience with yourself, too. You might not get to do everything you want. That’s okay. Enjoy what you can!
Remember, a little prep, a little planning will go a long way towards making the most out of your vacation. It can be a little overwhelming to plan a Disney trip, but it’s far worse to be standing there in a panic as the lines get longer and longer and you’ve no idea what anyone wants to ride! Like the old adage, an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.
Stay sane, and have fun during your Disney holiday!
Want some more ideas?
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Dressing for Disney is just like dressing for any other event. You need to have the right clothes. Just because Flordia is usually warm, doesn't mean that it always is, and if you bring shorts in December, changes are you're going to get cold!
So what should you wear to Disney? Let's start with the basics...on a budget of course!
The first step is to look at the long range forecast. It's going to give you a ballpark so you'll know if you'll need a sweatshirt or light jacket, or if you are going to be wanting your shorts and tshirts.
While there is no need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe for your trip, sometimes part of the fun is getting something new to wear. If you already know that you want to dress Disney while you are there, then scour your closet now! Whether you want to go Disney Bounding, or just wear shirt with a characther, or color inspiration from one, it's always easiest to find what you want in both terms of size and price when you've got lots of time to look. Some of my favorite Disney shirts have actually ben from the $3 clearance rack at Walmart, yet you'd not only never know, but you aren't walking around wearing the same shirt from your Resort gift shop that everyone else, wnating to be Disney, is wearing.
That said, there are some one of a kind shirts only available at Disney so if you want to get one, get one! Just think for a second to make sure it's something that you would want to wear at home too! While almost everyone at Disney is walking around wearing shirts with the House of Mouse in some form on the front, is that something that you'd want to wear back home on a grocery run? If so, get it! If you aren't sure, look for something that inspires Disney, but can go with your day to day, like Minnie's famous polka dots, or a Victorian style Haunted Mansion blouse.
Bottoms are super important, you've got to make sure that you have something that's not too tight (You don't want to be miserable when you sit!) Not too baggy (No one likes walking around, hitching up their waistband every 30 seconds) and the right material!
While jeans or khaki's work well in the fall and winter months, come spring and summer heavy fabrics are just plain uncomfortable. It doesn't matter how cute your denim capris look on you...they are going to cling, and feel heavy and icky in June. Trust me on this. Go for the poplin, anything light, and with a little bit of moment to keep you feeling cooler, and make it easier to move around. Lighter fabrics also dry faster, whether it's from a water ride, a misting fan or a spilled drink incident.
In a previous post that you can read here we went over how the right kinds of shoes can make, or break your trip, as well as all of our other tips for keeping your feet happy on your next trip.
It's important to wear shoes that you've worn before, and you know won't give you blisters. At Disney you do a LOT of walking, and if your feet are miserable, the rest of you is going to be too. Sometimes it pays to be more practical during the day and wear your sneakers, and save the dresses and sandals for in the evening at dinner, than to suffer all day long, and have sore, blistered feet that don't want to move the next morning.
Don't forget to wear socks, not ones with holes, but good, well cushioning socks to shield your feet a little bit from all of the hard work they are doing. Moistue wicking socks are a lot more common than they used to be, and really are useful for those who tend to have sweaty feet, or for helping your feet to stay blister free after an absolute soaking on Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids!
Don't forget to dress one of the most important parts of your body! Your head! While it's mostly important in the warmer months, consider bringing a hat to shield you some from the sun, and chances are, no matter what time of year you are going to want some sunglasses.
Fun accessories, especially Disney ones, are great to have, but be practical with what you wear. A long day at the parks can really have you rethinking those bracelets you love but seem to catch on everything you walk past, or the belt that keeps coming loose. Try on your outfits ahead of time, make sure you can bend, twist, sit and be comfortable! That's really all you need!
One last piece of advice... be considerate. If you want to wear a bit hat, please take it off during an indoor show, or on a ride so everyone can see. And if you DO choose to wear big pieces of jewelry, like say, a huge ring that's really spiky and finger armor, then please keep your hands in your area. Because Lady who kept poking me on the Three Caballeros ride, I still remember you, and when I think about it, my shoulder hurts from getting stabbed half a dozen times and you just shrugging at me when I turned around. Don't be rude, friends. Even though we might have to get a little cozy at times, everyone still deserves to have a teeny bit of personal space on a ride to enjoy themselves!
What about you? Have a favorite thing to wear at the park to make your day a little more Magical?
The night before the solar eclipse I was bombarded. Everywhere I looked, email, texts, any sort of social media, even to my own front door people were coming asking about solar glasses to watch the eclipse.
“Where can I buy glasses?” “I meant to buy them, then I forgot.” “I wasn't able to get glasses.” “Who has glasses? Can my kids and I come over to watch the eclipse with you?”
It was crazy. That's what got me thinking how a Disney vacation is just like the 2017 Solar Eclipse. You know it's coming. You know what you need to do, and then that's where you fall into one of two groups. The Ants and the Grasshoppers.
Remember that old story? The Ant worked hard all summer while the weather was nice to be prepared for the winter. The Grasshopper played and put it all off til the last minute, then when winter came, had nothing to keep him warm or feed himself.
Back to the Eclipse. The first email asking who sold glasses still, (It was a group email, so I didn't feel the need to respond again after suggesting a few store to try). Then came the reply all from a mom with 6 kids to everyone in the email, “We weren’t able to find any, can we come over and watch with someone? It's not fair that my kids have to miss it.” That's when I got a little bit mad. Though she wasn't asking me specifically, I thought, how would it be fair that ANY kid would have to miss it, because YOU didn't plan? Because that's what “I wasn't able to find any,” usually means. It means you didn't look or think about it until the last minute. Then another email came, from another parent, “I know, it's not fair that some lucky people have them and others don't.” A third email, someone saying they were going to be making their own and had more than enough supplies if the others wanted to join in. The reply from those anxious to find glasses moms? No, that's OK. We'll just find them somewhere else. But it's not fair how lucky some people are. That's when the idea for this article came to me.
How is it not fair, and how are some people lucky for being prepared? The Eclipse has been in the news for months. Magazines, newspapers, TV news, radio news, in the stores, online, it's absolutely everywhere. Glasses were sold starting about 4 weeks in my area, and I didn't buy any the first two weeks because it just wasn't in the budget. I did get some the following week, so how is it not fair that those who got ready ahead of time have what they need?
The same thing goes for Disney. How often do you hear complaints about people who had to wait in long lines? Or maybe they just walked around and didn't do anything because the lines were so long? The lines were that long because they were full of people who either didn't plan, or didn't really mind waiting in lines. The “lucky” ones who got to use Fast passes or walk right onto lines aren't necessarily “Lucky”, they were people who planned.
On a Disney forum I like to visit, I see a lot of complaints. “I couldn't get fastpasses for Frozen,” one said recently, complaining about an Epcot trip where they had to wait in line and couldn't walk right into table service restaurants. No less than ten people replied immediately with varying versions of: “That's because you didn't plan out anything until the day of. Of COURSE you aren't going to get reservations or fastpasses for headliners.” The person tried to argue that they shouldn't have to do that, and sure, at some of the smaller parks there isn't such a long wait, but visiting Disney World is an experience, and it is a place where tens of thousands of people go every day. At Magic Kingdom alone, data suggests that the average daily attendance is 53,000. That's an average! Holidays can shut the place down where it reaches capacity and people are turned away. Of course you are going to be waiting in long lines if you don't have a general idea of what it is you are wanting to do!
Our first trip we were in line to meet Mickey at the Magic Kingdom. This family was behind us, griping the whole time about waiting. We finally get up to the Cast Member, about to enter, and the family asked what this line was for. Surprised, the Cast Member said, “To meet Mickey!” The family turned around and started to go. “We don't want to do that,” one said. “What a waste of time.” Baffled, the CM said, “But you've been in line so long. In just a few minute’s it's going to be your turn!” The family didn't care, and walked out, complaining they had wasted their time. And I guess they had, because they didn’t pay attention to what they were doing, and had waited in line for a half hour just to walk away.
If you aren't going to plan ahead your trip, that's totally fine! Some people like to be spontaneous, or maybe have to go last minute and don't have time to plan. Others don't like details and just cross their fingers and hope for the best. Whatever kind of person you are, that's fine! But a little bit of planning, even just a general list of the rides you want to go on will give you such an advantage over a large number of visitors, isn't that worth it?
It's not luck that some people (like the Disney Magic Family) don't wait in line for more than 15 minutes, even in peak season. It's not luck that some people get to eat at all the best restaurants that are hard to get into, and it IS fair that those who do a little bit of planning get rewarded.
This blog is full of great information on how to make the most of your trip, and if you don't see if here, Google will find it for you. Everything from how to make the most of your meal plan credits, to how to do Ten Attractions in 3 Hours at Magic Kingdom, or follow the links in that article to find similar plans for any of the Theme Parks, as well as other little tips and tricks to make your trip smoother.
Just an hour of reading could save you hours of frustration at Disney, and make your moments memorable, not miserable. Don't you deserve to be one of the “lucky” ones too?
When you think about getting ready for vacation, the first thing that pops into your head is usually packing the perfect clothes, the sunscreen and remembering your phone charger and camera. Did you know though, it's not just your suitcase you have to get ready for your getaway, it's your house too!
Why do you have to get your house ready? Because it makes it so much nicer for when you get back! Here's a few tips for prepping your house before you leave!
Do the dishes
The night before we go somewhere, we usually use paper plates, but this last trip when everything was going wrong a few dishes got unwashed and left out on a table. Guess what we came back to? Lovely smelly mold in several of the kids cups, requiring lots and lots of scrubbing to clean. Not a great welcome home.
Make sure the washer is empty and any clothes in the dryer are dry
If you've ever been so busy that the load of clothes in your washer have taken a while to get to, you'll know the kind of smell it can leave, even after the clothes have been dried. Double check that all your clothes are dry, even the ones in the dryer so no funky smells or mildew form while you are gone.
Turn on some ceiling fans
By leaving on ceiling fans, not only will your AC not run as often while you are gone, when you get back there won't be a stale smell, or as much dust build up.
Set your AC/Heat
Don't forget to adjust your thermostat higher than you usually would in the summer, and lower in the winter. If you aren't going to be home, no need to keep paying for the heating and cooling at your usual comfort level!
Change your sheets
Isn't it nice to come back home and just fall into a bed made with clean sheets? You're already tired, so do something nice for yourself, and have your bed ready, and inviting and clean!
Put out fresh towels
The same goes for your bathroom towels! Toss them in with that last load of laundry and setout some fresh ones for your return.
Take out your trash
Don't forget to empty your kitchen trash, and set it out for collection, or take it yourself. That prevents the house getting smelly, or animals finding it outside and making a mess for you to clean up when you get back.
Let your neighbors know
Let the neighbors you are most friendly with know you are going to be gone, and see if they can keep an eye out that nothing strange happens.
Hold the mail
It takes about 2 minuites to get your mail held, you can request it online at USPS.com and select both the date you want it to be held, and the date you want to resume delivery. Don't take a chance on a bill going missing, or rain soaking your magazines! Let it all stay safe at the post office!
Feed fido and fluffy
Chances are, you've already made arrangements for your pets, but don't forget to follow through on those! There’s nothing worse than being distracted the morning of your trip, getting down the road and realizing you forgot to take the pets to their caretakers!
Mow your lawn
Depending on how long you are going to be gone, that grass is going to keep on growing! Give it a mow before you go, and that's not only going to make the neighborhood nosies happy, but also make it look like your home isn't vacant, to deter a theif.
Consider leaving on a radio or light
Some people leave on lights, others a radio, so that the house doesn't look empty. Whatever you choose, if you can do a timer so it looks more natural, great. Otherwise, I'm a firm beleiver something is better than nothing.
Unplug everything you don't need plugged in
this one is really important because if you get a strong electrical storm and it were to fry your modem, cable box or TV, that's going to really stink. We've had that happen, and it's not fun.
Make sure the kids turned off the water in sinks and hoses
My oldest went through a phase about a year or so ago where he thought he turned off the water every time he used the sink but it was still trickling. That was expensive, and very, very upsetting when we got back from a long summer trip and saw both the hose, and the bathroom sink running. Just double check, and save yourself the aggravation.
Locking all windows and doors
Really, this should go without saying, but you'd be surprised how many times people leave and don't double check their windows and doors, especially infrequently used ones, like a sliding door, or kitchen window. Many years ago, my mother in law called, saying they'd left for a trip and had forgotten to feed the cats. My husband and I drove over, and of course, he had forgotten the keys! He started looking though, and my mother in law, while the doors were locked, had left three windows unlocked! We made sure they were all locked after the cats were fed, the doors too.
It's so easy in a rush to forget to make sure your house is secure and won't be in bad shape when you get back, that's why if you start a day or two ahead of time and start prepping for what you need to do, you can spare yourself some worry when you get back.
Remember, your car needs some prechecking too! Click here to read some must do's, before you hit the road!
Did I miss some tips? What things do you do before you leave on a trip?