My family LOVES Disney World. We started taking the kids there in 2001 and have been going back just about every other year since then. So much so that the kids have caught on and pretty much expect that it will happen that way. Last trip was in January 2011 so, you guessed it, pressure was on to book our next trip for 2013. It wasn’t looking promising, when you have kids there never seems to be extra money lying around, but when we got some money back from refinancing we decided to put it towards a Disney trip. Of course, there are a hundred other things we could have spent it on but to us, Disney memories are priceless. I have had my father, grandfather and grandmother pass away and I would not trade anything for the memories I have of time spent with them there. Thankfully, my husband is on the same page as me with this.
That being said, I always try to get the most of our money when we go and that involves a bit of research and planning. To me that is almost as fun as the actual vacation though so I’ve gotten quite good at it. In fact, since my husband & I decided to go ahead with the trip I haven’t stopped
planning obsessing. Here are some tips I compiled to help get you started on planning your own visit to Disney World.
- Don’t wait for the “ideal” age to take your children. Our kids have gone as young as 3 months & nursing to diapered, toddler, preschool, and now school age. They have all got something out of it. I guarantee you that the look of a 2-year-old seeing Pluto for the first time will be just as memorable as your 7-year-old meeting her favorite Princess. And besides, as I am learning now, kids only get more expensive as they get older. Did you know that according to Disney, 10 year olds are considered “Adults” and get charged the same price for tickets and dining as you or I?
- Go during the “off-season” and avoid any holiday weekends if you can. Unless of course you enjoy battling crowds, 90° weather and paying more money. Late January/mid-February is my favorite time to go. Prices are cheaper, weather is usually in the 70’s and crowds are generally not a problem. Besides that, I love having something to look forward to during those dark winter months.
- Many times I’ll hear that parents don’t want to take their kids out of school for vacation. That’s a total judgement call… you know your kids and what they can handle. Mine are pretty adaptable and can bounce right back into their school work so we always pull them out for Disney. Others, not so much. Generally I have found if you are okay with it, the school should be okay with it as well. A simple note ahead of time to ask for make-up work is all it takes. And it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a small gift for the teacher’s trouble while you are there either
- Consider making your reservations for Sunday through Friday which tend to be the less expensive nights. Many Disney packages run on a 5 night, 6 day stay so this could work if you are doing a package as well.
- Don’t get discouraged when you go onto the Disney website to get a quote. Many times they include park tickets & dining which could be added separately for less money. You can uncheck these options to get a better idea of room-only pricing. Also check for any promotions by going to “Packages” and selecting “Special Offers”.
- A great & reliable place to buy discounted Disney Park tickets is Undercover Tourist. They are cheaper than Disney’s gate price & if you sign up for Mousesavers.com newsletter they will send links to get even greater discounts.
- If your family is composed of mostly members who generally aren’t big eaters (especially kids 10 or older) you might want to avoid the dining plan. For example, to add a dining plan to our vacation it would cost $2,066 or about $295 per day. For my family, I’m pretty sure we can manage to eat for less money without it. For other families it may be well worth it. Just another thing to consider.
- Don’t assume that the “Value” resorts are always the best value. I consider the hotel stay a significant part of the overall experience at WDW. Staying at a hotel in the Moderate, Deluxe or Villas category generally gives you more room to spread out, bigger & better pools, better location & transportation and overall more accommodations. These resorts typically can hold more people so if you have a family of 4 or more they are a great option. The BeachClub & Boardwalk Villas are both family favorites. We have stayed there several times by renting Disney Vacation Club points from DVC members. You’ll find more info on that here in one of my older posts. Basically, you get what you pay for. If you look at a hotel as just a place to sleep then go ahead & book your Value resort. If you want some bang for your buck, check out all the awesomeness that the higher-end resorts offer.
- Another great way to get the most out of your money is to familiarize yourself with the park layout & rides before you go. Invest (or borrow) a current guide book or visit one of the many Disney planning websites and read up on which rides will suit your family and which parks you want to spend the most time. Disney World can be very overwhelming so it helps to be as prepared as possible.
Of course, these tips are just the starting point to kicking off an awesome family vacation. I’ll be sure to add some more tips & ideas as I move along in my own planning process.