Last Updated on September 6, 2021 by Happily Ever Park Hoppers
So for those of you who are still looking for guidance on planning a trip, I was thinking that offering my personal preferences for trips might be a helpful example. Or give you a little food for thought if you were still on the fence about a few details.
- Please know that in no way am I saying this is the only way to plan a Disney trip. Just that these are the things I take in to consideration and why I chose to go about it this way.
Staying on Disney property
Like I said in my Step 1 blog about hotels, there are many options for resorts/accommodations. I prefer to stay on property for the close proximity to the parks. Unlike Disneyland where you can stay across the street at a Good Neighbor Hotel and walk to the entrance of the parks. At Walt Disney World you have to take some form of transportation in to any of the 4 Disney parks. Because of this, I prefer to stay at a Disney resort.
Walt Disney World is it’s own little city. The entire property sits on roughly 25,000 acres (or 40 square miles). Depending on where you are on Disney property, some of the bus routes can take up to 30 minutes…and that doesn’t count the time spent waiting for the bus to arrive or if there are multiple bus stops for your resort. Staying off property can take you significantly longer to get to/from the parks and some resorts only have shuttles that run once an hour.
Head back to the resort
My family likes to rope drop and get to the parks right as they open (or a little before if we can help it). Why? This is when the parks have the smallest crowds. We are able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
Then around lunchtime we head back to the resort. Why? Because the parks start to get busy. Those staying off property are finally making their way in to the parks. It’s also hot in Florida. As the day goes on and the parks get busier, my family doesn’t care to be walking through crowds of people in the heat of the day; especially if we woke up early.
This is important for families traveling with little ones. Most little kids need an afternoon nap. Disney is a LOT of stimulation and can be very exhausting for little ones. Keeping them on their schedule and allowing them to get their naps has always been my family’s go-to. Otherwise you’ve got an exhausted toddler, frustrated parents and lot of wasted time…..= money down the drain. Plus this allows for older kids to swim, mom and dad to put their feet up and cool down. Remember, you ARE paying for the resort. Might as well take advantage of it’s ammenities. Then you can return to the parks refreshed and ready to close it down!
**This is when where you are staying really comes in to play. If you are staying off property and it takes you an hour to get to your resort, that’s 2 hours roundtrip… include wind down time and the actual nap, that could be 4 hours NOT spent in a park. And, there’s nothing more frustrating than holding a cranky baby on a crowded bus full of people.
Utilize park hopping!
If it hasn’t become apparent yet, it’s about to. My family doesn’t care to wait in long lines or crowds of people. After our mid-day break, we like to check the My Disney Experience app and see which park has the lowest wait times and head there.
As you can see, there is a big chunk of each day where we don’t have any plans. This is because we know around Noon, we are headed back to the resort. (This was when you could still make Fast Pass reservations and there were Extra Magic Hours -EMH. But it is still a good representation of how we like to plan our days) On an average morning, we would easily hit 8-10 rides depending on what time the park opened and then head back to the resort.
Budget for food
I know cost is a huge factor for just about everyone. And my family is no exception. But we do love to splurge on some of the amazing dining options at WDW. Budgeting for at least 1-2 table service restaurants is usually how we do it, which can add up fast! Quick service restaurants can also get costly if you have a large family or big eaters.
But how to stay on budget?
Many people don’t realize you can share meals. At quick service restaurants, you can order as many or as little meals as you want. If you have 2 little kids, instead of buying 2 kids chicken strips meals at $7.19 each (2 tenders/fries) you can get an adult chicken strip meal at $9.99 (4 tenders/fries)…saving you roughly $5 after tax.
Most first time guests often ask if Disney allows you to bring your own food in to the parks. And the answer is YES!! What a lot of people have done is to mail themselves basic food items from Amazon, Instacart, Shipit, Walmart Delivery etc. Having a case of water is basically “Buy 1 Get 23 Free” compared to paying for water in the parks. Also, having your child’s favorite snacks or grab ‘n go breakfast items is a good way to hold your family over between meals and avoid paying for overpriced items in the parks.
- Disney also offers free cups of ice water and does have a few refillable water dispensers
My family tries to maximize our time at Disney. We know that we don’t want to fight the crowds on a hot day but we still want to accomplish as much as we can while the wait times are short. Park hopping is your friend! Don’t feel like you have to stay in one park. If your morning park sold out all it’s park reservations, it’s a good indication that park is going to be busy. Long wait times will limit the number of things you will be able to do and how productive you’re going to be.
Staying on Disney property helps cut down on our transit time and depending on what resort we stay at, we might have multiple transportation options. We also heavily consider a resort’s pool. Scheduling resort days and mid-day breaks, the pool is an equally important factor. This may be just my family; but if this were going to be my one and only WDW trip, I would budget just a little more for at least a moderate resort so the pool has a little more to offer for you and your kiddos.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out all the dining options at WDW. Even just browsing the quick service options in each park or at your resort can give you a good idea of what a typical meal would cost your family. Do this long before your ADR window opens so you know if there are any table service restaurants you want to make reservations for, so you can budget accordingly.
- ALSO! If the park is full, this is going to impact quick service options. Keep in mind that normal meal times are going to fill up first. Since you currently have to pre-order your meals through mobile order, you must reserve a time slot. Don’t wait until Noon to order your food thinking you’ll be able to eat immediately.
Well I could go on forever. So I will close this post out for now. But if you have a specific question about planning, please comment below! I would love to help!
Spreading magic one post at a timeKristin