We haven’t been to Walt Disney World in years! Six to be precise. But this time we are doing it SO MUCH BETTER!
The last trip, there was just the two of us and a bit strapped for cash so we stayed in a motel type place with the thought that ‘it didn’t matter about where we stayed as we were at the parks most of the days’. Oh boy were we wrong! The motel was situated in Kissimmee and we had a hire car to get there from Orlando International Airport.
It hadn’t looked that bad on the website but as we swung into the driveway you could see the disappointment on our faces. It was obviously a place where people stayed for one night (at a stretch) rather than the 2 week break we had booked. It was cheap as chips and what we paid for, we got! Two light fittings didn’t work and the hairdryer died a death after a few days, none replaced or repaired. The pool itself, grubby, was slap bang in the car park. Just horrid. It was a place where a good horror film, or twilight zone episode could be shot. To stay for a holiday, BAD IDEA. However we learn from our mistakes. Its only redeeming feature was free breakfast each morning.
With a stroke of luck it was attached to a larger resort which had a decent pool, pool bar and nightlife. We spent most of our spare time there rather than in the motel.
That was 6 years ago, now we have a toddler, life is very different so we decided to do things a bit differently….
Stay on site: This was really important for us, as a Disney guest, you are entitled to so much more than regular visitors
- Extra Magic hours: this allows Disney hotel guests to spend more time in parks on specific days, so there can be extra time in the morning or evenings.
- Magic bands: These bands which are collectible at the hotel on arrival (for UK guests) are your room keys, your charge card and your park tickets. if you have a Disney Dining plan the waiter will swipe your magic band to deduct your credits as you go.
- Magical Express: Disney guests can enter the magic at Orlando International Airport upon arrival, this Disney guest bus will take you to your resort. You can even get them to deliver your bags to your hotel room separately if you wish.
- FastPass+: 60 days before arrival you can book your Fast Passes (3 allowed at a time in each park), this allows you to enter the Fast Pass queue, beating the standard queue times significantly. Once the 3 Fast passes are used up then you can book more as you go along. A word of warning In Epcot and Hollywood Studios there is a Tiered scheme with Fast Passes, if you say book Soarin’, you wont be able to book Test Track as your next ride. You will need to complete your three reservations and then book Test Track.
- Dining: reservations can be made 180 days in advance for Disney guests and I would highly recommend this. Some restaurants book up so quickly that its very difficult to get reservations for restaurants such as Be our Guest and O’Hana.
- Disney theming: we felt the Disney theming at the hotel we are staying at, All Stars Movie Resort, would be perfect for our toddler. If you want the complete Disney experience, staying on resort is perfect!
- 14 day ultimate ticket: This is now on your Magic Band rather than a ticket, however this ticket is a park hopper ticket which allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day. Handy if you’re at a water park in the day and fancy popping to Magic Kingdom later in the evening for Illuminations fireworks.
- Memory Maker: This was included too in our package, this includes your photos taken by Disney staff and on certain rides.
Factors for consideration:
- Time of year: we are lucky enough to be able to take Mia who is pre-school age in November, so therefore the costs are a lot cheaper. The weather is also better than in summer, its cooler (25 degrees Celsius) with significantly less thunderstorms. As Mia is 2 years old we do not need to pay for a ticket for her, from 3 years old, we will have to pay for a ticket which is nearly the same cost as an adult one! (not cool Disney!). There is only one public holiday, Veterans day, that will occur during our stay and both the UK and US children will be in school. This also made us not book a car hire this time, as crowd levels will be low so we are hoping that crowd volumes on the buses will be low too (taking a gamble on that one).
- Park planning: My husband visited a brilliant site, Undercover Tourist, to access their crowd level calendar and work out which parks had the lowest crowds expected on certain days for that time of year. That along with the extra magic hours we put together a plan by which we knew which parks we would visit that day, what fast passes we needed to book and what dining reservations we would go for, and at what times. As we have a 2 year old we are planning many half days in the parks and scheduling in rest by the pool and water park days. If you download a map from the Walt Disney World site you can work out the best ways to work your way around the park you are visiting to maximise your time. Our plans are quite loose really, we want to be able to use our Disney park app and say pop over to an event nearby or character meet and greet. As with all well organised plans, this can go astray!
I will be vlogging and blogging the Disney holiday, please pop back and see how it went!