Thinking about taking your kids to Walt Disney World in Florida? Where do you start? Here are some great tips to get you heading in the right direction for an amazing family vacation.
Many people have the misconception that Disney World is a theme park. Instead it is the name of the entire area owned by Disney in Florida. For those of you who have never been there let me give you an idea of what that means. It is not merely a theme park but include 43 square miles of theme parks, water parks, resorts, restaurants, golf courses, and shopping. The four theme parks are: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The two water parks are Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. There are also over 15 resorts on the property that are Disney owned and a shopping area called Downtown Disney.
I will break down the planning of the trip into two major areas; before you go and while you’re there.
Before You Go to Florida’s Disney World Resort
Stay on or off the property?
Stay on the property for one major reason, the perks. By staying in one of the Disney owned hotels on the property you are entitled to a few advantages.
• Disney’s Magical Express – Free transportation to and from Orlando International airport in an air-conditioned coach bus. While on board for the 30 minute drive a video is played to get you up to date on the latest happenings at the parks. You luggage is also taken care of and delivered to your room. No carrying luggage around the airport!! You just get off the plane, get on the bus and go to your resort. Disney takes care of the rest.
• Disney World Transportation System – Once at your hotel you have no need for a rental car. Disney provides free transportation throughout the property using buses, boats, and a monorail system. Unlike neighboring hotels that boast some transportation, the Disney transportation runs continually. You don’t have to make the 7:30 bus to the parks. They just keep coming all day until about 2 hours after the parks close.
• Early Entry into the Parks – On certain days resort guests are allowed to enter the park early or stay late. Check for the schedule when you arrive.
• The Disney World Experience 24/7 – From the pools to the food courts you are surrounded by the Disney experience. You can even have anything you purchase anywhere on the property delivered to your resort for free. Just pick it up at the gift shop the next day.
There is a wide price range in hotels on the Disney property from value to deluxe. For 2010, hotels in the value range start at $82 per night and the moderate hotels start at $149. The price is also affected by the season you are traveling. If you have flexible travel dates you can save by traveling off-season. The cheapest rates are generally January to mid- February, August to September, and beginning of December. There are a few holiday weekends that fall during those times that are higher.
Tickets can be purchased with many options. The most important thing to decide is how many days of your trip you want to go into the park and if you want to go from one park to another on the same day. Sometimes we will get a 3-day pass for a 6 day trip. This will be explained further in the section “When you get there.” Tickets can include the four theme parks with options for the water parks, sports complex, or Disney Quest (an indoor gaming park). You can purchase tickets through the website, with your package, at the Disney Store, or when you get there.
When You Get There to Florida’s Disney World Resort
Once you get there you will realize there is so much to do there and plenty you would like to do again. Don’t try to get everything done in one trip. Whenever I am there I always see parents with a few kids in tow who are overtired, over stimulated, and not having fun anymore. After putting all the time and money into planning such a great family vacation you don’t want that to happen to you. Here are some tips we found helpful with my family.
• Don’t Do Something BIG Everyday – There are big and little things to do at Disney. Visiting the Magic Kingdom for the day is a big thing. There are tons of rides that keep everyone busy and it is very stimulating for the little ones. Playing at the pool, walking around the marketplace, or riding surreys at the Boardwalk Hotel are smaller things. They are more relaxing. At some resorts you can rent boats or bikes. Take some time to relax between busy days.
• Take Time to Rest – We all know what happens to our kids when they are exhausted. Make sure the kids take their naps in the room some of the time so they can get a good rest. Try to be back in the room at there regular bedtime. Vacations like this one can be very exhausting. Don’t try to be first one out the door and last one back.
• Take Advantage of Some Free Stuff – On a day you don’t go to the parks try some other things you can do on the property for free. Walk around the marketplace (free). There are shops everyone would like, including a Lego store. Take a bus to Fort Wilderness Campground and walk around the petting zoo (free). Go back at night for the campfire sing along and movie under the stars. Chip and Dale even come for the sing along time. Check with the front desk of your hotel to find out the time it starts and what movies are playing. Go to another hotel like the Boardwalk, Polynesian, or Wilderness Lodge. You can ride the monorails and use the boats. To get there take a bus from your hotel to the Magic Kingdom and transfer there to the boat or Monorail to get to that hotel.
• Great Restaurants with Kids – There are lots of fast food type places that have great food. Some of the sit down restaurants may be intimidating with kids, but here are some of the places that are great with kids. There is a lot of action to keep those little ones happy so you can enjoy your meal a bit. It is best to make priority-seating arrangements for theses places by calling 407-wdw-dine within 180 days of your vacation.
*Restaurants in parks require admission.
Magic Kingdom: *Crystal Palace – Winnie the Pooh Characters
Contemporary: Chef Mickey’s – Mickey and Friends
Polynesian: Ohana’s – Hula-hoop contest and coconut sweeping
Wilderness Lodge: Whispering Canyon Café – Pretend Pony rides
MGM Studios: *Primetime 50’s Café – Little TV’s at the table with old B&W classic TV and good old home cooking
*Sci-Fi Diner – Sit in a car in a drive in theater while old sci-fi clips play on the big screen.
• Traveling with a Nursing Baby – Disney has a baby station in every theme park. There is a private room with rockers for nursing. There are also high chairs and little tables. They sell diapers, baby food, or any other essentials there. There are diaper-changing facilities in all the bathrooms too. Also remember, if you need diapers or something for baby and you don’t see it in a gift shop just ask. They often have them behind the counter.
• Parents Swap – If you have children too little ride a ride you can swap out watching the children and only wait in line once. Ask when you get in line for info on how to do that. Each ride is a little different.