Thursday, February 23, 2012
We just got back from a wonderful week at Walt Disney World. It was our third trip with the kids, and we've learned quite a bit about getting the most out of our vacations at Disney. We always stay on property, meaning at one of the Disney resorts. We can use the bus transportation system to get from the resort to the parks and Downtown Disney, and we can take advantage of the dining plan or even free dining offers. I know it may be cheaper to stay off site, but the convenience of staying at a Disney resort is worth the extra cost to us.
Now on to some tips to make your Disney vacation more enjoyable and special.
1. If you're eating in the parks, plan to eat early. Since most people start looking for places to eat lunch around noon, try slipping into a counter service location around 11:00 or 11:15. Same idea for dinner. Try eating before 5:00. Your wait for service and food will be greatly reduced. When making reservations for table service meals, it's almost always easier to get early reservations than regular lunch or dinner hours. I know some people hate making reservations because they don't want their park experience to completely revolve around where they're eating, but would you rather spend time waiting to be seated for a meal or waiting in line to ride an attraction? Early dining is always the way to go.
2. Even though it's more expensive, get park hopper tickets. These allow you to move from park to park on the same day. If a park closes early, like Animal Kingdom almost always does, you can hop on a bus to another park for the rest of the evening. Or if you want to catch the Wishes fireworks show after you've spent the day at Hollywood Studios, you can head to the Magic Kingdom. Without the park hopper option, you can only go to one park per day. So when that park closes for the day, you're done.
3. Take your time. Most people hurry through the parks and never see the incredible detail that goes into each building and pathway. Take a less travelled path instead of the one everyone else is crowding into. You never know, you might find a character or two in out of the way places. We once found Peter Pan sitting in a window sill on a walkway between Adventureland and Frontierland, not another person in sight. We chatted and took pictures without having to wait or hurry to get done. Look for hidden Mickeys while you wait in queue lines. You'll be amazed at all the intricate details in the parks and even the resorts. Don't be in a hurry. Be observant and you'll see all kinds of wonderful things the average person misses.
4. Bring a poncho from home. We all know that it rains in Florida just about every day. Or so we've been told. It's good to be prepared by bringing a fold-up poncho to the parks. We purchase ours from Target or Walmart at the end of the camping season and have never paid more than a couple of dollars for them. At the parks, they sell them for $10 or more. If we bought one for everyone in the family, that would be forty bucks! So we'll stick to our cheap clearance ones.
5. Pack a first aid kit to take to the parks. I bring bandaids, antiseptic wipes, Advil, chewable Pepto-Bismol, and antibiotic cream to pack in a baggie. It's small enough to fit into my bag and is so much handier than trying to find a first aid station.
6. Try to go during the off season. Since we homeschool, it's easy for us to go during the school year. Prices on resorts are cheaper and often discounts are offered to entice people to come during the slow season. Crowd levels are lower, too, so you won't have to wait in line as long as during the summer. Weather is generally more pleasant, too. We had two cold days last week, but I'd rather deal with the cold than the heat of a Florida summer. It warmed up and we even got to swim in the resort pool later in the week. If you can, plan your trip for the slow season and hope for the best weather possible!
7. There are tons of penny press machines throughout the parks and resorts, so take some pennies and quarters with you. For $.51, you can get a cool souvenir, often with your favorite rides and attractions featured on them. This is one of our favorite things to do, look for the penny press machines.
8. I know this one will sound kind of weird, but buy some Monistat anti-chafing gel to avoid getting blisters. You'll find it in the feminine product section at Walmart. I use this on the backs of my heels and one the bottoms of my feet near the base of my toes. It prevents your socks and shoes from creating painful blisters as you walk throughout the parks. Did you know the average person walks 7-10 miles per day while at Disney? That's a lot of potential for blisters! I've never gotten one since I started using this product. It's similar to what runners use to prevent their thighs from chafing as they run long distances. Take my advice and don't take chances on getting blisters.
9. Make use of the Photopass photographers throughout the parks. You will find them in front of all the major "landmarks" - the castle at the Magic Kingdom, the "ball" at Epcot, etc. They also take photographs at most character meet and greets. They will give you a Photopass card that they swipe when they take your pictures. All of your Photopass pics are saved on that card you can use to order prints. The prints, however, are expensive. The good news is, the photographers will also use YOUR own camera and take the same shots. Meaning everyone in your party can be in a group shot! And you won't have to pay for the expensive prints.
10. My number one tip - pack a power strip. This doesn't just apply to Disney vacations, but anywhere you stay in a hotel. Inevitably hotels don't have enough outlets for all of our technological stuff - cell phone chargers, laptop chargers, tablet chargers, etc. Taking a power strip along adds several outlets so everything can charge up. Don't forget to bring your chargers, though! And since you're packing things to plug in, take along a simple night light. Hotel rooms are usually very dark, and without a nightlight, it would be nearly impossible to find the bathroom. So we plug in a nightlight, and the problem is solved.
These are just some simple things we do to make our vacation less stressful and more fun. Hope they help you, too!
This post is linked to We are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.