Disney Vacation 101

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Our family is currently planning our VERY FIRST Disney vacation. I’m very excited, but a little overwhelmed with all the “helpful” advice that can be found after a Google search. There’s page upon page of articles and blog posts about “Making the Most of Your Disney Vacation” or “Planning Your Disney Dream Vacation” or “Making Lasting Memories at Disney” or some other stress-induced variation of that title.

“Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go.” -Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Disney is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” to be sure, but it ain’t cheap, and I could easily spend hours scouring discount sites, vacation books and veteran Disney bloggers to make sure I don’t miss a tip that will save us time and money.

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So as a Disney vacation newbie, I set a few ground rules for myself. I vowed that I would NOT follow the white rabbit down the hole of Google research. I would go with the first result that met my expectations and fit our budget.

I also checked in with my friends. Many had a lot of great advice… about Disneyland in California. But we’re headed to Walt Disney World in Florida, so our referral list got very small very quickly.

So with that said, here are some of the things that helped me plan our “Disney Dream Vacation.”

“I know every mile will be worth my while.” -Hercules

My husband and I decided from the start that we really wanted to stay at a Disney resort. We don’t know when we will get back to Disney World so we wanted to make the most of it. Disney World has a ton of resorts in the parks and every so often they offer great deals, but you have to be ready to snatch them up. For instance, back in May, Disney offered a Preschool Package that discounted certain rooms by as much as 500 bucks, but unfortunately for us, we weren’t ready to buy because of my husband’s work conflicts. So… lesson #1… start planning earlier.

“Just keep swimming!” -Finding Nemo

This slight hiccup won’t keep us from staying at a Disney World resort, but because of the higher price, it did lead me to break my rule and fall into the internet abyss of researching nearby hotels. That quickly became a time suck, and after running the numbers, I always came back to our original decision to stay at a Disney resort.

“Faster than fast, quicker than quick, I am Speed.” -Lightning McQueen

Park tickets can be bought through the main Disney World website along with your hotel as part of a package. There’s a small discount when you do that, but I also stumbled across Undercover Tourist, a website that offers discounted prices on tickets to theme parks not only in Orlando, but also San Diego and Los Angeles.

By going through this website, we save about $80 for a 3-Day Park Hopper, plus we got an extra day at the park for free. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but every little bit counts.

One more thing about the Park Hopper… My husband and I went back and forth about adding this option because it’s an additional $50 a ticket (and every little bit counts, right?) Also, our little guy wouldn’t care. He’ll just be happy he’s there. But in the end, we decided it was worth having the option in case we wanted to hit Epcot for a few hours. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this pays off.

“What could be more important than a little something to eat?” -Winnie the Pooh

So this is where I probably haven’t done enough homework, but I’m just going to go with my gut… pun intended. 😉

Disney World offers dining options where for a fixed price you can get a certain number of meals and snacks every day for everyone in your party. For three of us, the dining option adds more than $500 to our total. I can see the Disney dining option working for a bigger family, but considering there are just three of us and my son usually eats off the plates of my husband and I when we go to a restaurant, I think we can eat for a lot less than $500 over three days. Again… we will find out.

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A few other helpful things:

MouseSavers:

Like I said earlier, there’s tons of Disney discount websites. I made it easy for myself and clicked on the first non-affiliated Disney website that popped up when I googled “Disney discounts.” MouseSavers is the site that led me to Undercover Tourist and that was enough for me.

I also signed up for MouseSavers monthly newsletter and it’s been very helpful so far. They have recommendations for off-park hotels, so it’s way easier than just googling “best hotels near Disney World” (as I found out later). There’s also Disney shopping coupons, which I haven’t even explored yet.

Read Facebook Comments:

Since I’ve been planning my Disney vacation, Facebook has noticed (of course) and has been placing ads in my feed. Usually I’ll scroll by, but lately I’ve been reading the comments. You can learn a lot here because the posts are so recent.

Skip the Lines:

Everyone you talk to about Disney brings up the FASTPASS, but I never really understood how it worked until I read the explanation on Undercover Tourist. The step-by-step instructions are easy to read and cover everything.

Undercover Tourist also has a Crowd Control Calendar for each park and you can download an app for Wait Times for certain attractions. And if you really want to get serious about planning your day, it lays out Touring Plans for each park.

And they lived happily ever after…

 I know that none of this advice is necessarily groundbreaking when it comes to planning your Disney vacation. But for someone who is a newbie like me, maybe it will help you begin to navigate the vast Disney vacation universe. You could stop here like me or take your research even further.

Knowing our family, we’ll have a place to stay and tickets in hand and then wing the rest… all the while having a great time doing it together.

View More: http://dreamphotographystudio.pass.us/miles

Photos by: Dream Photography Studio

Watercolor Art by: CoconuTacha

In celebration of Disneyland’s 60th Birthday today, Tacha is offering 20% OFF all her artwork through Sunday, 7/19/15. Just type in the code ‘DISNEYLAND60’ at the checkout to redeem your discount.  Enjoy 🙂

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The last few years have brought big changes for Emily. After spending years in high-stress, deadline-driven TV jobs in East Coast metros, family circumstances brought her and her husband Joel to the Arizona desert. Now this former news junkie is a stay-at-home mom to Miles, a fast-talking toddler with energy to spare. She spends her days teaching him about faith, letters, numbers and manners. Whenever he’s asleep she boots up the laptop to write for North Phoenix Moms Blog and other freelance gigs. Whatever spare time she has left is spent on a hike with her family or a rare date night with Joel, at the gym, coffee and dinner with friends, or in her craft room creating simple, beautiful jewelry for her online boutique, Hazel & May, and giving too many treats to her pups, Pepper and Gizmo.

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