In the past month, Walt Disney World has made a lot of announcements that have us giving the Mouse some serious side eye. As a Florida resident, who’s also a Silver Passholder, the price increases didn’t affect me as much it did those in the top two tiers and the rest of the country who doesn’t have Florida resident options. I won’t go on an internet rant about the cost of passes, because like most of you who have openly voiced your concern, we’re still going to visit Disney. Walt Disney World continues to reimagination its theme parks, resorts, and attractions and I’m totally here for it (so are the 52 million other people who visited the resort in 2018).
After the announcement of price increases for annual passes, Disney also announced a special package, the “My First Getaway Package.” For $999, a family of three (2 adults + 1 child age 3-9) can share the magic of Disney and take their little one for the first time. The offer includes: A 2-night stay in a standard room at a select Disney’s All-Star Resort, a 2-Park Magic Ticket (with one-day-only admission to Magic Kingdom Park and one-day-only admission to Disney’s Animal Kingdom), 1 stroller rental per day and
1 merchandise bag (includes a plush, autograph book, pen, “My 1st Visit “ Mickey ears and a reusable bag. The offer is most Sunday to Wednesday arrivals from August 11 through September 25, 2019.
Albeit magical, the “My First Getaway” applies to only a select number of families. I don’t see many families jumping to spend money on airfare for a two night vacation. For those driving, the parking fees certainly add up. What about the families who have more than 1 child who hasn’t been to Disney World? If the “My First Getaway” package works for your family, I strongly recommend taking advantage of the offer. It’s a great way to introduce your little one to Disney World.
Even with the package, most American families are still wondering how they can bring their children to the happiest place on Earth. Many online websites, forums, and groups have claim Disney is so overpriced that the middle-class family can no longer enjoy it. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. Although it’s a little pricier than most vacations, I know that the memories you make on a Disney family vacation are priceless. Below are some of my magical tips and tricks that will assist you in making your dream of a Walt Disney World vacation for your family, a reality.
1. Stay On Property
By staying on property, you get much more than a room. With a Disney Resort reservation, you have access to Disney’s Magical Express. The Magical Express is a complimentary motorcoach that will pick you and up at Orlando Airport and bring you to your resort. It will also pick you up and bring you back to the airport when you check out. Disney offers several modes of transportation from all of its resorts, to get to its theme parks. Between the onsite transportation and Magical Express, you won’t need to spend money on a rental car.
As a Disney Resort guest, your entire family will be given Magic Bands. These convenient electronic bracelets also serve as your ticket to parks, rides, and even your hotel room. Although you can purchase them separately if you’re staying off property, they’re going to cost you. I know that the Disney All Star Resorts aren’t the most glamorous, but if you’re traveling with little ones, chances are you’re not looking to stay in the lap of luxury. Children of all ages love the themes and decor of Disney’s value resorts. Don’t let the word “value” throw you for either. Disney “value” resorts are still held to the high standards its most expensive resorts are held to.
2. Bring your Food & Drinks
Disney is one of the few places that let you bring in your own food and beverages. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t walk up to security checkpoints without an insulated bookbag full of juice boxes, water, fruit, sandwiches, and other snacks for my kids. Immediately you are cutting down on the cost of food and drinks in the park. If you are traveling by airplane and don’t have room to pack all these extras, several grocery delivery services will deliver right to your hotel room! Don’t forget to take advantage of coupon codes from their sites or even free delivery on your first order.
Your child, or you, will still want the occasional Dole Whip or Mickey Pretzel. Make it special by telling them they still get to pick 1 treat a day. I’ve seen my kids take an entire day to decide on their 1 special treat, it’s great! Speaking of snacks, Disney Popcorn buckets are one of my favorite “deals.” A basic popcorn is $5 at Disney. If you purchase a bucket for $10, you are given $2 refills on that bucket during the length of your stay! It’s a no brainer. Most snacks in Disney are so big, as a family of 4 we either share one or get two for all of us to share.
Ok, first of all, gift shops are everywhere and they aren’t your friend. Try to avoid them at all costs. There are some you won’t be able to avoid, the ones you walk through to get off a ride. You would laugh if you saw me coming off every ride at Disney with my kids. My husband and I try to create several distractions that will make them look anywhere but at the toys, as we sprint through the shop. We look crazy, and we are- crazy about saving money!
The good news is, Disney merchandise is sold in almost every Walmart, Target, Dollar Store, basically any store that accepts American currency sells something Disney related. A few months ago in the parks, my kids wanted these bubble wands they saw on a cart (a cart that was purposely wheeled back and forth in front of them while waiting for a parade to start. Well played, Disney College Program cast member- we get it, and you definitly earned your ears). They were $25 each, naturally, my husband and I said no. We weren’t about to spend $50 on bubbles. Tantrums occurred and well, you know how the rest goes. A month later I found Toy Story bubble wands at Target. They also had Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and other characters. The Target bubble wands, which looked just like the park ones, were $10 each, I scooped them up and made sure to pack them on our next trip! Surprisingly, Walgreens and CVS always have Disney Halloween and Christmas merchandise. Last Halloween I got my kids Jack Skellington light spinners for $5 each! (see photo of my little Darth Vader, proudly spinning his Jack Skellington). Moral of the story, shop before your trip for all or most of your souvenirs and give them to your kids throughout the trip.
4. Make The Most of your Disney Vacation
In no way am I saying hop around to 3 or 4 parks a day. You will be wiped out and turn into one of those people who say, “I need a vacation from my Disney vacation.” It’s no fun for all parties involved, and it’s not the way Walt intended families to experience the parks. Although Park Hopper passes are great if you’re there for a limited time, or don’t go all the time, they’re an additional cost. If you’re looking to save a little money, save the park hopper option for your next trip. Our kids are 4 and 5, and we are just getting back into the park hopping routine. It’s certainly not what it was before we had kids and doing multiple parks a day. But for a while we didn’t park hop at all, when our kids were 3 and under. It got to be too much. The best thing to do is evaluate your family situation and if you prefer a more laid back trip or want to save some money, purchase a magic your way ticket.
I always pay attention to the theme park schedules. You’ll want to find out which park has extra magic hours (This goes back to staying on property. Magical Hours are available only for Disney Resort guests) during your stay. Utilize the extra magic hours when the parks are less crowded and you can accomplish more rides and attractions. I also plan which parks we’re going to on what days by looking at their open/close times. Don’t plan on doing Epcot on the night it closes at 7:00 pm, try another park and do Epcot on a night it’s open later. By taking advantage of extra magic hours and knowing the general park hours, you will be able to get a lot more accomplished and won’t be leaving your vacation with your head spinning. By can access all of this information on the My Disney Experience App. It’s free to download and is a true lifesaver!
5. Use a Disney Travel Agent
Disney is always releasing specials and packages. It’s wonderful, but also very hard to keep track of and sometimes you don’t end up taking advantage of them. A travel agent not only brings years of knowledge and experience to the table, they have access to every special and package Disney is offering. They will help you naviagte through all of them and find the best one for your family.
I always suggest using Academy Travel. Academy has been around for 25 years and has earned the highest designation that Disney can bestow upon a travel agency, EarMarked Diamond! You can visit them at https://www.mickeyvacations.com/, or complete the form below. Their services are entirely free!
I understand that most families will still have to save for a year, some for several years, to be able to bring their children to Disney. By no means am I saying to do all above and poof, you’re going to Disney. I hope that by utilizing some of the tips and tricks, it will become a little more attainable for your family. It might not seem like a lot, but the little extras add up during your vacation. I sincerely hope that every family will get to experience Walt Disney World or Disneyland, at least once in their lives. It truly is the most magical and happiest place on Earth.