We just returned from a trip to Disney and a few people have asked me for some tips. So I thought I would share them here. My kids are ages 13, 11 and 8.
I book months in advance and pay the $200 deposit that can be refunded if you don’t go. That allows you to get the cheapest room in a higher-end hotel while openings exist, and then you can apply the promotional deals that come up to get a lower price as you get closer to your trip. You don’t have to pay in full until one month before you plan to arrive.
We always get our rain ponchos, pens and autograph books at the Dollar Store before we leave to save money.
The Disney Dining Plan is great if you plan ahead. I booked our dinners about three months in advance and tried to choose locations near the parks we would be visiting each day. We had a few meals at double swipe fine dining restaurants which are worth two meal points each. In those cases I had our boys share an adult meal which saved us two meals for another night. (Adults are anyone aged 10 and older for the meal plan.) You can also use two counter service points for a full pizza, two side salads, two drinks and two desserts which is a meal for our family of five and saves us three points for another lunch. And we discovered that snack points can be for a banana or an ice cream but can also be for a Venti Vanilla Bean Frappuccino at Starbucks which is a big treat for our kids.
Our favourite restaurants are Narcoossee’s at The Grand Floridian (if you book a 9pm meal you can watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from your table or by the dock), California Grill on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Hotel which gives you an amazing view of Magic Kingdom, ‘Ohana at the Polynesian which is family-style endless skewers of chicken, steak and shrimp along with some luau training, and Teppan Edo at Epcot where Japanese food is prepared table-side.
We do visit the park that has Magic Hours each day so that we can get into the park one hour earlier since we are staying onsite. For Magic Kingdom we ran straight to The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. For Epcot we ran to Soarin’. For Hollywood we ran to Toy Story. And for Animal Kingdom we ran to Mount Everest. Those attractions were well over an hour wait if you didn’t ride them first thing or didn’t have a Fast Pass.
We booked Fast Passes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom, and Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal. Some other things we enjoyed as a family were Peter Pan’s Flight, Mickey’s PhilharMagic and It’s a Small World at Magic Kingdom, Kali River Rapids and Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom, Living with the Land at Epcot, and Star Wars and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood. The boys and my husband enjoyed the Tower of Terror at Hollywood and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom.
The phone app is amazing as you can book your Fast Passes in advance or onsite because there is free Wi-Fi everywhere. This allows you to view your pictures, check your reservations, see your Fast Passes and follow ride wait times during your adventure.
The fireworks at Magic Kingdom and the Fantasmic light show at Hollywood are a must.
We love the Boardwalk Hotel as it’s a 15-minute boat ride to Epcot or Hollywood, a 15-minute walk to Hollywood, and buses out front take you to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Lovely rooms with lots of space for a family of five.
As an adult I am always so inspired that Walt was fired from his first job for having no imagination, lost everything right before he dreamed up a mouse cartoon, and never gave up on his dream to build a special place that would bring families together. May we all find magic in our own everyday lives and remember what Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Dream on!