10 More Steps to Winning at Disney World

October 16, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

I was hanging out with my mom yesterday and we are now 80 days away from our 5th trip to Disney with our kids. (We go about every 3 years which is a great rhythm for us.)  So, she and I spent a lot of time looking over plans for our trip and it’s on my brain, and once a week I like to put something on my blog that I love that is fun and not so serious.  (Sorry, I take that back.  Winning at Disney World is quite serious)  If you missed the first 10, check them out here.  If you are planning a trip you definitely need to read that one first.

My Girls and the First Lady of Disney World

My Girls and the First Lady of Disney World

1) Stay on-site at a Disney Hotel if at all possible. I know that you can save some money staying off-site, but there are other money factors to consider.  You don’t have to pay for parking, and you won’t use any gas.  Their buses take you wherever you need to go.  You also will save a lot of time if you are trying to get there by rope drop (If you don’t know what that means, seriously read the other post).  You can walk out of your room, to the bus stop and the bus takes you close to the entrance.   You bypass paying for parking, and having to take the shuttle or monorail to the front gate.

Also, staying on-site immerses you in the Disney experience, which is part of the fun.  It feels like you are in a completely different world rather than at a tourist attraction in the middle of Orlando.  It enhances the magical experience for the kids (not me, the kids.  I’m a grown man.)

2) Eat at some character meals. A character meal is a meal at a Disney restaurant where some of the Disney characters walk around the restaurant and take pictures with you.  Not only is that just a super-fun concept in and of itself, but it also allows you to get your character pictures and autographs done while you are eating.  For every picture and autograph you get in a restaurant, that is one less line that you have to stand in at a park or one less FastPass+ that you have to get.  Meeting with characters in one of the prime attractions at Disney.  Now we get to walk past people standing in line for that and think about how much we are winning.

Some of our favorites:

Chef Mickey’s–buffet, decent food, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.  Those are the main characters and they all come to your table while you eat.

Cinderella’s Royal Table–WARNING! Super-expensive.  Good food, you are eating at Cinderella’s castle the icon of the park, it’s Cinderella’s castle! You get to meet multiple princesses.  (A cheaper alternative is Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot.  Food not as good, different princesses. Cheaper)

Crystal Palace–has the characters from Pooh, buffet, ok food for lunch, we’ve heard great things about the breakfast, will let you know in 90 days.

3) Go when kids are traditionally in school if at all possible. Teachers, don’t rebuke me please, but pull your kids out of school if you can.  Look at your school calendar and see if there are any weeks where your kids are out of school for a few days that are non-traditional times (not Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Spring Break, etc.), pull them out the rest of the week.  You will find that the parks are much less crowded and the prices much lower.  Less people + Less money = More winning.

4) Get good advice about what park to go to on what day. There is a lot of great advice out there.  Touring Plans, EasyWDW, WDWPrepSchool.  They all have crowd calendars and rate which park to go to on each day.  They know the natural patterns and this way you can go to the least crowded park each day of your vacation.  Your lines are much shorter and you are much happier. You need a great coach to win.

5) Wait to book your vacation.  Disney offers discounts for almost every season, unless you are trying to go spring break, Thanksgiving, Christmas–the times where the parks are packed.  If you wait, you can get one of the discounts.  The downside is that you will be late at making dining reservations.  You can book dining reservations 6 months in advance, but you will be booking your trip 90-120 days in advance.  Some premium time slots for best restaurants will be gone, but you will be able to find some good ones still.  It’s a good trade off to save hundreds of dollars.  There’s that less money = winning formula again.

6) Consider the Disney Dining Plan (But only if they are offering it for “free” or discounted. Nothing is free. If they offer it for free, you are paying a little more for your hotel room.)  If you are staying onsite, it is a way to prepay for meals.  This is not always a value.  Here is a website to help you check.  What we have found when we have used it  is that it allows us to eat at nicer restaurants and order more expensive food than we would normally because you are paying for meal credits, regardless of the price of the meal.  It’s a little more complicated than that, but when you check into it there’s a lot of good explanation.  It saves the potential stress of having to say know to your kids (or you) getting a drink or a dessert at every meal to save money, because stuff like that is included.  Again, it’s not always a good financial deal.  Sometimes it would be better to pay out of pocket on-site.  Check the calculator.  It’s also a great way to consume a lot of calories in a week, another winning formula.

7) Amazon is your friend. We are shipping some snacks to the hotel via Amazon.  Unless, you are flying Southwest, you probably have noticed that paying for bags on airlines can add up.  We are using Allegiant and they charge for carry ons.  So, we are figuring out what snacks we want/need and ordering them off Amazon and having them shipped.  We are Prime members so the shipping is free.  Cheap way to get stuff there.  Cheap + more calories = X (solve for X)

8) Consider the pace of your day and your week. If you have read the first post or talked to me about this, you know that we get there early and go fast all morning.  We cover a lot of ground quickly.  However, you have to consider the pace of your day and week.  This will vary a lot depending on who all is in your party.  We will have a 4 year old and a pair of grandparents.  So, we are planning slower days after our busier days and late nights.  We try not to have 2 late nights in a row.  We also plan times, when those who need more rest or need to go slower can break from the pack.  If this sounds like a lot of planning, it is.  Disney World is way too crowded and complicated and overwhelming to just wing it.  Winging it = losing. Obsessively planning = winning.

9) Embrace the Value Hotels. These are the cheapest hotels on-site.  Some people might be put off by the word value and in your mind you get a Motel 6 vibe.  It’s not that.  It’s a nice hotel.  Probably as nice as the offsite hotel you are considering.  The pools are incredible, the amenities are good.  We are there to tour Disney parks not be at a hotel.  What we need at the hotel is a clean bed and clean bathroom.  The value resorts have both. Great way to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  We are so exhausted after a full day of winning, it doesn’t matter what the room likes like.  We only see our eyelids.

10) Figure out the technology of MyDisneyExperience and FastPass+ These are tools that Disney offers to help you with your touring and to get you on some rides at the front of the line.  (I may dedicate a whole post to this at some point, but probably after the trip)  It will help you stay out of lines and help tremendously in your planning for meals, characters, wait times, everything.  Don’t let technology intimidate you.  Don’t let that it just seems to be one more thing to complicate the trip hold you back.  Other people will be utilizing this and we just can’t let them win.

There’s a reason why there are countless blogs about how to tour Disney World–to do it well without waiting in a lot of lines is not simple.  You can’t just walk in there.  You can, but you will regret mid-afternoon day 1.  To make it work, will require work.  It’s a trade-off for sure, work hard in planning your trip pays off in a better more relaxing experience on the trip.  Do what we do, we turn the obsessive planning into fun anticipation for a great trip.  We rewatch the video that Disney will send you, we look at the websites, we brainstorm about restaurants.  The trip is much more than the week that we are gone, it is also weeks of excited shared planning and preparation.

Prepare to win. Enjoy the win. Celebrate the win.


One Response to “10 More Steps to Winning at Disney World”
  1. Carolyn Loften says:

    What a rush of excitement! I can hardly wait. I couldn’t be more excited than if I was a 10 year old. I would love to say like the author did – He is an adult. Therefore he is low-key. DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT ON ANY LEVEL……

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