I'm *** years old (I reserve the right to that number) and I've never been to Disney. My hubby has been there a few times as a kid, but it's been my dream since childhood to, one day, say hi to Mickey in person.
My daughter is now 7, and we both agreed she's old enough, tall enough, and mature enough to grant a trip to Disney. Well... he didn't have to convince me. I said yes before he even finished the word "Disney".
The one thing I didn't know is how much preparation it takes to make this trip, not only affordable, but also hassle free. Just to start, we've been planning for months!
The trick is to do a little at a time. If you try to book everything, and try to figure out the fast-passes, the dinner reservations, the accommodations all at once, you will go insane. So, take a deep breath and know that you can take your time so that everything is not rushed at the last minute... Let me explain:
1. DECIDE WHICH PARKS TO VISIT
You can pick and choose which parks to go and accommodate your budget accordingly. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios. Additionally, Universal Studios and literally hundreds of other attractions (not part of Disney but in the vicinity).
This is your first step. Do you want to visit all parks? Or just Magic Kingdom? Do you want to spend one or two days in one park? This will determine your length of stay, which will determine your hotel accommodation as well.
2. STAYING INSIDE DISNEY OR A NEARBY HOTEL?
Now that you know which parks you want to see, you can calculate how many days you need to spend, and where to stay, another important decision when it comes to budgeting. If you decide to stay in one of the many Disney Resorts, you will get a MagicBand with your stay. This option is awesome, because these waterproof bracelets will allow you to link everything together. You can open your hotel room, access the parks, make purchases, link your pictures to your photopass (if you get one) and much more. You can also use a hotel shuttle, monorail or boat to get to the parks (depending on where you stay), complimentary with your booking. That will definitely save you the hassle of parking.
Staying outside Disney, in the vicinity, is also a good, cheaper option. You won't get a MagicBand, just an access card to the parks, but the prices are considerably lower. You do have to, however, find your own transportation to the parks. Using AllTheRooms, Airbnb or HomeAway to find a home or condo nearby might be a great alternative for large groups or families.
3. GETTING THERE.
Unless you live in Florida, traveling to Orlando can be a bit of a long road trip. So, the next thing you need to determine is if you want to drive or fly. Many budget airlines like Allegiant Air, Spirit, or Southwestern Airlines offer round trips to Orlando for very low prices. But here's the catch: usually, these flights don't depart everyday. There are only certain dates and days that these low-cost air tickets are offered.
You also must consider that if you are traveling with lots of luggage, you might want to chose a regular airline instead. Just remember, low-cost airlines charge for every, single, anything. They charge for carry-on, for printing your boarding pass, for any drinks or food, etc. in the end, you'll end up paying the same price as in a regular flight IF you are not careful.
The alternative? Road trip!
4. MEAL PLAN and MEMORY MAKER PHOTOPASS
When you stay at a Disney Resort, you can also purchase a Disney Dining Plan or the Dining Plan Deluxe. This includes two meals (3 with the deluxe) -counter or table restaurants- per day, a snack, and drink. If you do this, make sure to make restaurant reservations at least 60 days in advance so you don't lose the opportunity to dine with your favorite characters. Even if you don't purchase the dining plan, you should go ahead and make reservations in advance.
Another great feature I came across is the Memory Maker photopass. Now, I still think you should take candid pictures and maybe a selfie or two while you are there, but with the memory maker pass, you don't have to worry about asking people to take a picture of you and your family, because one of the hundreds of professional photographers at the park will do so, and will link your picture to your Disney online account by using your Magicband or card. it's that easy. This is particularly great for a mom that is ALWAYS taking pictures of every family member having fun, and there are NO pictures of mom. Yeah. That's me. If it's not a selfie, there's not a picture of me posing in cool places. I'm actually excited about this feature!
Want to skip the line? Get a fastpass! Everyone is eligible to get a fastpass to the most popular attractions. You get 3 fastpasses a day, and once you used them, you can obtain more fastpasses using your Disney Experience app or by logging on into your account (use the app...it's way easier). So, you schedule a time for a specific attraction, and you have up to 1 hour to show up for your ride and skip the line. Trust me, you want to go ahead and schedule your fastpass+ times at least 30 days ahead of your visit (60 days ahead if you stay at Disney Resorts). Times fill out rather quickly, so don't forget to do this for each park!
Go online or on the app and explore each park and learn about each attraction to determine which ones to get the fastpass to. (I will tell you about my experience with this later this year!)
Planning can be exhausting but, in my opinion, it's well worth it. We are leaving soon, so expect a recount of my experience and other tips! I feel much more comfortable once I know where, how, why, and what we are doing. Visiting a new place is always exciting, but it can be stressful if you don't know anything about it. So, get familiar with it, look it up online, read other's experiences and advice, and enjoy!
Do you have any suggestions for me before I go meet Mickey???? Let me know! Please comment below.
See you guys later!