Top Tips for Disney from the Pro- A Quick Survival Guide
Recently there has been a TON of Disney news, and there is no doubt that this destination will remain a top vacation spot for families with kids for many years to come.
Disney has announced the opening of Galaxy’s Edge; a Star Wars themed land located within Hollywood Studios for 2019. In 2018, they opened Toy Story Land and before that it was Pandora in Animal Kingdom. They have announced plans to add to the Magic Kingdom and reinvent many EPCOT attractions. Certainly the growth of the parks is going to impact both crowd levels and pricing.
A Disney Vacation is a one-time rite of passage for many families and happens to be an annual tradition for many other families. I deal with planning Disney Vacations every single day, and I want to share with you my top tips for bringing your kids to Disney World in 2019 and beyond!
Book as early as possible. There are no last minute deals with Disney. Walt Disney World releases pricing in the summer for the following year. Usually, in June or July of 2019, we will see 2020 pricing come out. This is a great time to book your trip. You will secure your 2020 reservation with lower ticket and dining plan prices, as they have not yet adjusted for the new fiscal year. You can book your trip with a totally refundable and low $200 deposit. The best part is you can move your dates or adjust your package as needed. Because of the no-risk booking, it pays in more ways than one to book early. If you want to plan a vacation within the same calendar year, I suggest booking at least 7 months in advance. This will ensure you have the best chance to snag coveted dining and Fastpass reservations that release 180 and 60 days before travel respectively.
Use a travel agent that specializes in Disney. Agents like myself are experts on the parks and know exactly where, when and how to book your trip. They will also monitor for discounts. When discounts are released agents go right to work applying them to clients reservations. This often occurs before the general public even realizes a discount has been dropped! Agents will also walk you through the dining and Fastpass process and ensure you are saving time and using dining credits wisely. They act as your virtual VIP guide from start to finish. It is not unusual to receive texts from clients in the parks with questions that I can easily answer on the spot. Many agents do not charge fees (I do not) and are paid directly by Disney. The cost of using an agent is built into your price whether you choose to use the service or not. You may as well stretch that vacation dollar and get all you are entitled to!
When it comes to strollers there is no age limit. The parks are huge, the sun is HOT. Kids get tired and then they get cranky. If you are not sure your child can handle a lot of walking in the heat, please rent a stroller. I suggest using an offsite company such as Kingdom Strollers. Companies like this will deliver the stroller to your resort and pick it up at the end of your stay. You get a much nicer stroller (City Mini and similar) for less money and you can keep it to get around your resort as well. I just suggest you purchase the insurance to cover yourself from theft and damage.
Do not do character meals every day. The character meals are a great way to show your littlest ones the characters in a less rushed environment. However, many of the character meals are buffets and the food is only ok. Plus, children are rather star struck and seem to focus more on seeing the characters than they do on eating. Since the price point of the meals is high, I suggest picking the top characters you want to meet and picking the two best meals to do this. There are plenty of other wonderful family friendly dining experiences to fill in the gaps. For example; at Coral Reef in Epcot you will dine amongst beautiful salt water tanks and at 50’s Prime Time Café in Hollywood Studios you will go back to a bygone era where manners are enforced at the table and everyone is in on the fun!
You can not wing it. The ever growing crowds and the demand for attractions has made it necessary to do some planning. The more you plan in advance the less you have to worry about while you are there. You don’t have to plan every minute, but I suggest planning 6-8 rides and attractions that are must do’s each day. You will be able to secure Fastpasses in advance for 3 of these rides meaning half your day will be set. Take the time to learn the Fastpass system so you can take full advantage of it in the parks!
Slow down! With all the pre-planning it is important to also let the magic happen in the parks. You may encounter a performer, decide to side track to see a show or an attraction that doesn’t have a wait, or you may spy a favorite character out and about you didn’t plan on seeing. Go ahead and enjoy these less planned moments as that is where the magic happens! It is also important to take breaks by leaving the park mid day to enjoy your resort pool or even scheduling an entire day off mid trip for variety and relaxation.
Stay on site. Trust me when I tell you that the ease of transportation, the perks of getting extra park hours, early Fastpass booking ability, and the ability to book all your dining 180 days before travel is a pretty big advantage these days. Plus, there is simply something magical about staying “in the bubble” and not having to worry about the outside world for a while. Disney has a resort to fit every budget and need so you can always find the right resort and room configuration for your family. For a first visit I suggest staying at the Polynesian if you can or at Art of Animation if you want to save a bit. Both of these are extremely kid friendly and offer an assortment of room configurations.
You can save money! First of all, if your kids are under 8 years old you can skip the park hopper. Focus on one park per day and take your time getting through it. The chances a child under age 8 will go from “rope drop to fire works” is slim. The park hopper can cost up to almost $80 per guest, so cutting this off your trip will help your bottom line. Dining is an area you can cut costs as well. Split meals, especially at quick service locations where portions are large. If you can, avoid renting a car as Disney does impose a parking fee at the resorts which is new as of last year. Disney will transport you for free from Orlando International Airport, so you will have no cost associated with getting to your resort from the airport. There are lots of other cost saving tips and tricks, and I encourage you to discuss these with your travel agent.
Buy Memory Maker! For $169 you can get all the digital downloads from your trip. This includes ride photos and many amazing photo locations where staff photographers will help you pose. Sometimes you will be in a “magic shot” where a character will appear in your photo making a hilarious or unique memento. Some of my clients have been able to download HUNDREDS of photos. This is an amazing value. Don’t forget staff photographers will also be happy to take a photo with your phone or camera; just ask.
Technology is a necessity. You will download the My Disney Experience App which will house all your reservations and plans. Be sure to screen-shot these plans so you have them in case the app crashes (not unusual!). Also, since you will be using your phone for your plans throughout the day, I suggest buying a fuel rod. These rods will provide 1 full charge on your phone. You can purchase 1 for $30. Every time your rod runs out of fuel, simply find another machine (located in almost every area of the parks) and exchange it free of charge. The rods come with charging cables for most devices. This is a great value. I have had mine for about 3 years now and I exchange it every time I pass a machine!
Jess is an avid traveler and travel planner. She has been making dreams come true for clients traveling to Disney Parks, Caribbean resorts, and on Cruises of all kinds. She is also a Hawaii Master Specialist; a unique and hard earned title. After many years as an agent, Jess has taken the plunge to open her very own agency. Please reach out to her for your next trip or to inquire about becoming a travel agent. You can also visit her on social media! Facebook Instagram