This year, my family spent the holidays at Disney World. My sister, who should write her own Disney advice column, planned the entire trip for the whole family (9 of us) – booked the hotel, figured out which parks to go to on which days, got us all on the FREE dining plan, made restaurant reservations and planned out the rides that need fast passes.
I couldn’t be more thankful for the time she put into making all the plans and listening to everyone’s input – one, because I just don’t put that kind of planning into my vacations typically and two, I’ve done DisneyLAND with no course of action and it was not a pretty experience.
If you’re at all interested in taking a trip to Disney World in the future, here’s some top advice I learned from our internal Disney expert:
1. One of the best times to go is the second week in December. It’s right after the national cheerleading competition and right before Christmas break. Seriously, the longest line we waited in was 20 minutes and that was just walking from the entrance to the actual ride.
2. Look for FREE dining plans during this period. Disney has provided free dining plans for this timeframe for the past couple years. I, personally, wouldn’t buy the dining plan with my own money, but who am I to turn down free meals, especially when sit down meals run anywhere from $28 – $50+ per person? Gratuity is not included and will be automatically added with parties of 5 or more. You must stay at a Disney property to qualify and there is a limited number of free meal plans per property. Mousesavers.com will give you a heads up on deals so you can book early.
3. We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter. It was a great hotel with direct bus access to all the parks. You can also take a boat ride to Downtown Disney and walk along the river to its sister property Port Orleans Riverside.
4. Avoid going to Magic Kingdom on a Monday. It’s the first park most people go to and Monday is when most people start their Disney vacation. We did the parks in the following order, which worked out well: Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. One day at each park was plenty for us. We didn’t see everything, but that was ok.
5. The restaurants where we made reservations for sit-down meals were:
Arrival Night – ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort – great food, if you like meat; awesome coconut bread!
Epcot - Via Napoli in Italy – great pizza!
Animal Kingdom – Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge – buffet-style; great variety of food and if you go during the day, you can see the animals outside the huge windows (we went at night so we missed them).
Magic Kingdom – Crystal Palace – nice character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and Friends.
Hollywood Studios – 50′s Prime Time Cafe – great down-home cookin’ and service that makes you set your own table, keep your elbows off the table, no tattling and requires you to eat all your vegetables before you get dessert.
6. We were selected to trial test the new Fast Pass+ system. It’s just like the trusty Fast Pass, but you get cards mailed/emailed to you so you can reserve the rides and times before you leave home – all online, genius! I’m not sure when this will make a full roll-out, but it was a great time-saver. We were able to use it at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios which came in handy with the new Toy Story Mania ride that has a 45 min wait the minute the gates open.
7. Before you leave home, stock up on disposable rain ponchos. It rained every day we were there and I’m so glad I took my sister’s advice to pack them. Like everything at Disney, they’ll cost you a pretty penny, so plan ahead. They also come in handy on the water rides! Same applies for glow necklaces, if you have kids – you can buy them at Disney for $14 or $1 at Target.
A great time was had by all! Thanks, Tina, for getting up early, making lists and emailing us regular updates. I think you’ve found your calling!