Although we’ve been to Disney quite a few times, I am far from a Disney expert. (But I did have fun playing tour guide for Amy and her family on their first day in Magic Kingdom!)
While I can’t give you the lowdown on every ride and attraction, and I happily turned over my tour guide status to Shannon’s husband on our final day in the park, I have learned a few tricks that make Disney a more affordable and more magical experience, especially with little ones!
So, in no particular order, here are my top tips for making the most of your time and budget at Disney World:
1. Go in the off-season.
I know…this one seems a little obvious, but truly, the crowd levels in a month like October are so much lower than May through August, so if you can take advantage of those off-season months, do.
2. Rest in the morning and enjoy the parks in the afternoons and evenings.
If off-season isn’t an option for you — or, really, even if it is — my favorite discovery this year was how much more fun the parks are in the late afternoon and evening. All of the people who showed up when the park opened have started to leave, the sun is going down and taking the heat and humidity with it, and there’s still a ton to do.
Use the black out curtains in the hotel room to your advantage, letting little ones sleep as late as possible, enjoy a nice and relaxed breakfast and swim in the hotel pool, and then head to the parks mid-afternoon and party the night away!
3. Take advantage of the budget resorts for the full Disney experience.
We’ve always stayed off-site during our Disney vacations, except for two nights in an RV at Fort Wilderness, but I’m pretty sold on the value of the budget resorts after our most recent trip. Not only does staying on-site allow you take advantage of special offers like Disney Dining Plans and Extra Magic Hours, but the resorts themselves have cool themes — from Art of Animation featuring your favorite characters to All-Star Sports with a huge football field right in the middle — and the rooms are pretty magical too.
My only complaint about our Ariel room at the Art of Animation (which is basically a classic motel room decked out in Little Mermaid decor) was that the mattresses were noisy, and I woke up whenever one of my kids rolled over. In fairness, though, I asked around and no one else had that issue, plus the room was clean, the pool areas were amazing, and the price was right at just $119/night.
4. Use your FastPasses!
Like I mentioned yesterday, this was my first time taking advantage of the FastPass system, and I’m now sold on the benefits. You’ll spend less time waiting in line and more time enjoying the magic of the parks with just a little more pre-planning and intentionality!
5. Bring your own glowsticks.
I know this sounds silly compared to some of the “big” tips in this post, but it’s one of our favorites. Grab a pack of glow sticks at your local dollar store or party outlet and light ’em all up for the fireworks! Not only will you save money over the more expensive glow items available in the park, but they’re also a great distraction for kids while you wait for the parades or fireworks.
6. Split meals among children.
My kids are not big eaters when they’re excited, so to cut down on wasted money and food, I often split a kids’ meal between two of them or an adult meal between three of them. It’s easy enough to order more food from a restaurant or counter service, and I’d rather do that than throw away a perfectly good meal because they weren’t interested!
7. Pack snacks and water.
Similarly, we pack lots of snacks and plenty of water for our girls so that when they do get hungry, we have something available for them. This time I picked up a huge box of GoGo Squeez applesauce from Amazon before our trip (on sale, of course), and those made the perfect snack between meals all weekend long.
We also brought our own water bottles and carted a gallon (or two) of water around in the bottom of our stroller so that we could refill them all day long!
8. Rent a stroller.
This is not exactly a money saver, but we rented a stroller for the first time this year, and it was so nice to just have a beautiful double stroller show up at our resort! It came with a small cooler for our snacks, plenty of storage underneath and a handy caddy for water bottles and miscellanea on the handle. Although it was an additional expense for our trip, the convenience of having a stroller for two kids plus all our stuff (as opposed to a single umbrella stroller) definitely outweighed the cost.
9. Hold your plans loosely.
My biggest piece of advice for Disney World? Make plans, scout out the attractions you’d like to see…and then hold it all very loosely so you can go with the flow!
Sometimes it feels like you’re in a time warp and everything is taking three times as long as you’d like. Sometimes you’ll come across a parade or street show that you want to stop and watch. And sometimes you’ll just need to find a bench and sit for a few minutes while the kids enjoy an ice cream cone to help everyone adjust their attitudes and prepare for more fun. Plans are good, but if you hold them too tightly, you will probably end up frustrated and disappointed, no matter how much magic you encounter around you.
We received discounted Disney World tickets and accommodations as part of our conference fee for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference, but as always, all opinions are 100% mine!
What’s your best Disney World tip? Do you disagree with any of my tips?