Wednesday, February 12, 2014

So You're Going to Disney World!

I realize the past very post have been a negative light to Disney or a trip report, so how about a help you plan blog?

So after years of talking, your family decides that they want to take the trip down to Walt Disney World, but where do you start?

1. Look at the time of year you want to go. 

Are you comfortable with large crowds? Do you like hot weather? Is taking your children out of school an option? Is there a certain event you are wanting to do? These are some of the basic questions you need to as yourself. 

Some of the lowest crowd levels are in September and Feburary, because of school starting new semesters. The heavier crowds happen during the summer months, July 4th week the busiest in the summer, and the week after after Christmas. 

The many events that happen during the year are always popular. These events include Flower and Garden at Epcot in the spring, Star Wars Weekends in May and June at Disney's Hollywood Stuidos, Night Of Joy at Magic Kingdom in Septemeber, The Food and yWine festival in the Fall at Epcot, the Mickey's Nit So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom with select dates in September through early November, and the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party from mid November through late December also in the Magic Kingdom. There are also 5 runDisney weekends through out the year, and the non Disney sponsored Gay Days, that usually take place the first weekend of June. 

These events can cost extra to attend, and can also close the park that the event is in early. 

2. Where to stay?

There are many options around the Orlando area to stay, and while sometimes it can cost more to stay at a Disney Resort, or on property, it does come with it's perks. 

If you are flying in, you can take advantage of the Magical Express to take you to and from the Orlando International Airport. Once at the hotel you have the Disney Buses, Boats, and Monarail to take you to and from the parks and Downtown Disney. 

If you drive down, you will have the opportunity to take advantage of the same transportation, and if you choose to drive to the parks, you will get free parking (apposed to $14/day parking fee).  

Another benefit of staying on property is the Dining Plan. We will give our opinion of the Dining Plan in a later blog, but if you feel that having your food prepaid, or free during one promotion, then this would be a reason to stay on property. 

If you decided to go during the busy weeks, Disney offers Magic Hours for different parks through out the week for those staying on property. This is anything from opening up two hours early or closing two hours later for the resort guest. 

Staying off property has it's benifits also. You can stay in a nicer hotel for cheaper than you would on property. Most resorts have shuttles to all theme parks in the area, how ever there may be a fee. 

In some cases you can also get a rental house in the area for price of a Disney Resort per night. This would not only offer you the environment you want to be in, but some will even offer your own pool. Having a kitchen would be a plus to save on food also. 

For this article, we are going to assume you have decided to stay on property.

Which resort is best for me?
If you are looking for a kid friendly environment, then any Disney resort will do. All resorts have activities for the children through out the day. However, the Value Resorts, All Star Resorts, Pop Century, and Art of Animation, were all designed and built to focus on the children. As you go around these resorts, you will find larger than life charcters, colorfully themed rooms, large pools. Art of Animation is the newest Of these resorts, and also has a higher price due to the fact that 3 of the 4 themed areas, Lion King, Cars, and Funding Nemo, are family suited as apposed to the Little Mermaid area that only has regular guest rooms. 

Maybe you are a family with teens, and you want something more quiet, yet family friendly. The Moderate resorts is the place to look. You will be spending more money on these resorts, but they are meant to have a better feel to them. In this catagory you will find the Port Orleans Resorts, Cornado Springs, Carribean Beach, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.  Most moderate resorts offer a quick service and a table service dining option. 

If you have a princess, then look at the Royal Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside, this is where Princess Tiana lets her royal guest stay while they are visiting. Pictures of Tiana and her Princess friends adorn the wall and a fire work show will go off in your head board every night. I would also look for the little hidden objects left by the visiting princesses. 

Maybe you have a pirate among you. The you will want to look at the Pirates room at Carribean Beach. In these room you will sleep in your own Pirate ship, with barrels as your night stands. 

What if it's just you and the spouse, wanting to take a romantic weekend or week? Disney's deluxe resorts are the perfect place to make this happen.  The Deluxe resorts offer many more amenities that the other resorts, most notably spas in a few of the resorts. The Deluxe resorts are also home to the more homely Disney Vacation Club Villas  the newest just opening in October at the Grand Floridain.   While they are for the DVC members, you are still able to stay at any of them if they are available. All of these rooms are going to cost you much more that the other two levels, however, you can save some money if you stay away from a park. The Monorail hotels are among the highest priced resorts on property.

3. What type of ticket should I get?

With Disney have 4 major theme parks, 2 water parks, and Disney Quest as places that require a ticket to enter, its some times hard to decided what type of ticket you may need for your stay. 

First, look at the time of the year that you have decided to go. If it is a cooler part of the year, with lower crowd levels, you would look at getting the Park Hopper, and skip the water park and more package (are you really wanting to go to a water park in January even if it is Florida?). If you are going during the hot summer with a higher crowd, i would suggest to forgo the Park Hopper pass and add the Water Park Fun and more package. I will explain this a little later when we talk about dinner reservations. I would recommend skipping out on the Disney Quest Ticket, unless you plan on spending more than one day at Downtown Disney (the ticket is included in the Water Park fun and more package).

If you are on a short trip, go ahead and make the purchase of the park hopper, you want to do as much as you want while you are in the park.

If you are going to be going to an event that needs a ticket to enter, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween, Night of Joy, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, note that these tickets allow you to get in the park for 

4. 180 days tip Vacation, time for reservations!

When you start looking at you reservations for the trip, plan out the parks you want to be in and when. If you are going during the busy season, and decided not to get the park hopper, you will want to spend the day in the park that you are wanting to make your reservations at or around. Take for example that I want to eat at Ohana on my second day of the trip, and I am going to be going the week before Christmas, I don't have to worry about leaving the park two hours before the reservation to get the to the restaurant in time. I can stay in the Magic Kingdom for another hour before I hop on the monorail to get to the Poly for my reservation. After Dinner, I can once again hop on the Monorail and make it back to the Magic Kingdom for the last few hours of the night. 

When you are looking at the parks, in the heavy crowds time of the year, try to keep the reservations in the park that you are in. The example I just gave would be idle for a moderate crowd. But for the high crowds you don't want to going to a resort to eat, and get back to the park and it be closed due to capacity.  The reason I had said that you don't need to get the park hopper on the high capacity weeks, is so you stay in the parks, and know that you are getting the money worth.

5. Magic Bands and Fastpass Plus reservations 

From the day you officially book your Walt Disney World trip, you can costumize your Magicbands. You will have up until 30 days before your trip to get the color and name you want on the bands picked out. If you don't do this you will end up with the grey version of the bands. 

At 60 days before your trip, the Fastpass+ window opens and you can choose the attractions you want to go on. As of this writing, Disney is only allowing 3 attractions per day and one park per day.  This will also incorporate your dining plans, if you want to have dinner at Epcot on Thursday, get your fastpasses for Epcot that day. You don't want to have to leave one park for a reservation just to get to another park to ride the attraction. You can never know how the traffic will be when you leave a park. 

Do you have questions, comments or suggestions? Please feel free to leave them below!

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