Best Breakfasts in Disney World

Best Breakfasts in Disney World

Best Breakfasts in Disney World

Need to know the best breakfasts in Disney World? We’ve got you covered. We rounded up all of our favorite Disney World breakfast options to help you choose where to dine.

Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno

This brand-new character breakfast is located on Disney’s Boardwalk. Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled, and Ariel and Price Eric from The Little Mermaid will welcome you into this rustic designed restaurant where the Exhibition Kitchen is the focal point and scores from each of the movies play in the background.

As you are seated, you will notice the Bon Voyage Adventure Journal propped in the center of the table and guests are encouraged to write about the Disney World adventures they’re anticipating for the rest of their trip. This is a keepsake item to take with you when you leave. You will also get an autograph card, but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean the characters won’t sign your autograph books personally – they will be happy to!

Once all guests have checked in, the characters are introduced one at a time. During the breakfast, each character will visit their guests at each table. This being a table served breakfast, there is no worry of missing a character visit while you are away from the table at the buffet. And as far as food options, there are seven spectacular courses for adults to choose from and three for kids, one being the famous mickey waffle, of course! This character breakfast is one that will create long lasting memories for years to come for your little ones!

Cinderella’s Royal Table

best breakfast disney world

This is considered a once in a lifetime experience for any Disney/Princess lover. You access Cinderella’s Royal Table via the passage that leads straight through Cinderella’s Castle. Check in is at the Fantasyland end of the passage, and you’ll enter the castle via Cinderella’s foyer.

Immediately, you’ll feel the grandeur of the castle, notice the ornate fireplace and royal shields, impressive chandeliers and flags hang high in the vaulted ceiling. The dining room is on the second floor via a winding staircase or elevator ride. The massive stained-glass windows provide early morning views of the carousel and Fantasy Land.

As you are seated you will find a plate of pastries, including a mickey shaped blue berry muffin and juice. There are about six entrees to choose from for the main course and will be served at your table. Your visiting princesses and princes will receive a wand or sword and a wishing star. These are souvenirs that little royals can take with them.

Throughout the meal, lights will flicker and an announcement will be made to allow everyone to make a wish. About mid-way through the meal you’ll hear a fanfare and the princesses will arrive one by one. Princesses visit each table and interact with their guests; they may even twirl and dance, pulling some of their royal visitors along.

Due to the popularity of this restaurant, reserving at least 180 days prior to your visit to Disney World is suggested.

Akershus


Akershus is located in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion and is modeled after the medieval Akershus Castle and Fortress in Oslo, Norway. It has many royal castle touches, tapestries and thrones line the stone walls, giant fireplaces, and archways that lead to several dining rooms. Banners fly near the chandeliers on the high beamed ceilings.

This option for a princess character breakfast is a good alternative to Cinderella’s Royal Table for both ease of reservations and food options, not to mention less cost or use of points. The hot food is served family style at the table, scrambled eggs, delicious cheesy potatoes, sausage and bacon. These are unlimited as well as the buffet that has cold items that includes pastries, fruit, yogurt, smoked fish and cheeses. If you have a picky eater, selections are more mainstream and everyone will find something to their liking.

Princesses appear on a rotating schedule. On your visit, you may encounter Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Mulan, Cinderella, and/or Mary Poppins.

Tusker House

This African influenced restaurant is located through the village of Harambe in Animal Kingdom’s Africa. The décor is over the top and has incredible attention to detail and fun touches. The windows are open and have ornate carvings around them, the rustic tables and chairs look hand carved. The authentic looking signs will keep you entertained and make it seem more realistic. It’s done so well; you could almost pass your photos as the real thing!

There is a wide selection of food served at the buffet here, which is themed to look like an African marketplace. More adventurous eaters will appreciate the African specialties, while less adventurous eaters will be happy to find typical American fare as well.

This is Donald’s Safari Breakfast, so Donald and other classic Disney characters, visit each table for pictures and autographs, dressed in safari attire. Don’t miss the parade, lead by Donald and his friends and be sure to thank him for this adventure on an African Safari.

Ohana

Ohana is located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House in the Polynesian Village Resort. This Polynesian inspired restaurant features lush green plants, colorful floor tiles, round warm beams, and tiki gods throughout. Outside you can see the palm trees in the garden and the pool, some window views you can see the castle in the distance. The fish and dolphins look as though they are jumping above you as you enjoy an “all you care to eat” menu of Hawaii inspired breakfast dishes. Don’t worry, they also serve the famous Mickey shaped waffles, a tradition you will find throughout the park.

When you get to your table the smell of freshly made Pineapple-Coconut breakfast bread will entice you to sample a taste of the islands. This experience is not a buffet; instead, your server will present family style dishes including scrambled eggs, Island-style fried potatoes, Hawaiian pork sausages, Hawaiian-style ham topped with pineapple compote and a variety of fresh fruits and assorted breads to your table, and will bring as much as you can eat.

Lilo and Stich are the main attraction but may also be joined by other Disney characters. Adorned in flower lei’s, they will greet you at your table to allow for pictures and autographs. The real fun begins when they encourage your keiki (children) to participate in coconut racing, hula hooping and dancing to island music, to name a few! Don’t miss the fun of experiencing the islands while on your stay at Walt Disney World!

Kona Cafe

photo credit via flickr: Jeff Christiansen

This restaurant is also located on the second floor of the lobby in the Polynesian Village Resort. This relaxed café combines an Asian flair with traditional American to make this a must stop on your trip through the Polynesian Village!

The rattan fans swirl above you in the high vaulted ceilings, the leaf lights give a modern flair to the tropical garden décor with potted palms. Be sure to look down at the brightly colored tropical-inspired carpet, you just might find a hidden Mickey. Shields and bamboo beams line the walls.

The breakfast delights and one not to be missed is the Tonga Toast! This item starts with a giant piece of bread stuffed with bananas, battered and fried then dusted with lots of cinnamon sugar and served with a strawberry compote. This is an amazing treat! Another specialty is the macadamia-pineapple pancakes, and to drink, Lilikoi Juice. A refreshing combination of passionfruit, orange, and guava juices, this is sweet with just the right amount of tart kick. Of course, you can order real Kona coffee at the Kona café and even take a bag home with you if you’d like.

Even though this restaurant may not look like much from the outside, and can get a bit noisy since it opens up to an atrium, you can’t bear to miss this menu of delights!

Need a little help planning all of the Disney World details? Our Disney experts are standing by, ready to help make the experience stress free? Click here to learn more.

What is the Best Age for Disney World?

What is the Best Age for Disney World?

What is the Best Age for Disney World?

Best Age for Disney World

 

You know that you want to take your kids to Disney World, you just don’t know when. Now? In 2 years? 5 years? Is there an ideal age for a first Disney World vacation?

There’s no one right answer for families. But we can take a look at what each age and stage brings to find your best fit!

 

Taking Preschoolers to Disney World

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like the way a little one’s eyes light up at the sites of Disney World. This is the age and stage in which they fully believe in the magic. In their mind, that is absolutely the real Mickey Mouse they are hugging and Cinderella has in fact joined them for dinner. It’s magic at it’s finest! Yes, kids this age may be too short for a handful of rides, but most of my clients are surprised at just how few those are. The vast majority of Disney rides are for all ages. With this age, staying at conveniently located resorts, such as on the monorail, is especially valuable for easy access to naps and breaks. Worried that a break means getting less done? A great plan lets you get far more done that you would otherwise AND let’s everyone rest during the heat of the day and peak crowds! Refreshed little ones usually can then make it to the fireworks and night time shows without being overtired.

 

Taking Elementary Kids to Disney World

This age is primed for Disney World fun. Typically, they’re tall enough for all the rides (though not all kids are up for thrills regardless of height) and usually they still have an affinity for meeting the characters. Sure, they may have caught on that it’s just actors playing them, but they’ll play along and enjoy the meets just the same. They usually have strong favorites that can be incorporated into the plans. Kids this age get a kick out of the themed meals and can really appreciate them. When traveling with kids in this age range, consider a resort with a truly fantastic pool area – many love to play in the water almost as much as being in the parks! Giving some time to cool off in the pools keeps everyone happy.

 

Taking Tweens to Disney World

Tweens are in an interesting space – not quite little kids, not quite teens. One excellent perk about traveling with kids this age is that they tend to be more open to trying a wide variety of attractions, and generally tire out less easily. This means longer days are possible, if you prefer that. The two Disney water parks are often a huge hit for tweens, so be sure to build in a couple days for those, if you can. Tweens can also fall into the category of needing to feel “cool” and may say they don’t want to meet characters or do character meals. But that simply opens up the door to some other really cool themed dining experiences.

 

Taking Teens to Disney World

Are you wondering if your teens are too old to enjoy Disney World? That’s a definite no! There’s a ton of rides for your teens to enjoy and their age means they’re allowed to ride without adults. It’s up to you if you feel ok with allowing them to venture off, but if you have more than one teen, this might mean you can take some time to enjoy adult time seeing the sites, riding other rides, taking in a show, or even having a couple’s dining experience. Teens love having some independence in the park and can even get around between resort and parks on the free Disney transportation. Teens are also at an excellent age to really appreciate some of the fantastic behind the scenes type of tours offered in the parks. Or, take an Ultimate Thrills tour that’s sure to impress them! If you think your family would benefit from separate sleeping areas once your kids are teenagers, there’s a variety of resort options that allow for separate bedrooms.

 

Bottom line? There’s no one best age for Disney World. Each age has its own magic and it’s own advantages. We’ve planned trips for clients with babies to trips for teen graduations and even adult kids – they’re all magical in their own way! The key is to put together a trip that matches the preferences of each family member, right at the stage they’re at.

 

 

The Enchanted Traveler specializes in planning customized, stress free Disney vacations.  For a free consultation, contact us today!

 

 

 

Do We Need a Stroller in Disney World?

Do We Need a Stroller in Disney World?

Do We Need a Stroller in Disney World?

Need stroller in Disney World

Wondering if you need a stroller in Disney World is a common question, especially if your children are not babies anymore. Most people assume they need a stroller for children 2 and under. But what about preschoolers?

Are my kids too big for a stroller?

Even though your kids may not use a stroller anymore for your everyday activities at home, you may find Disney World is a whole lot more manageable for them with a stroller to cruise in. Most guests end up walking well over 10,000 steps per day, and as you can imagine, that’s a lot for tiny legs to handle.

Having a stroller for kids up to age 6 can help reduce over-tiredness, tantrums and melt downs and allow everyone to have more fun.

Plus, when crowds get a bit tight, it can be a lot less stressful to have your kids contained in one spot as you navigate through.

And, while I often recommend a mid-day break at the resort to my clients, for a variety of reasons, for those families who won’t take a break, a stroller makes a convenient place for an afternoon nap.

Should I bring a stroller or rent a stroller?

Ok, so let’s say you’ve decided a stroller is the way to go. Should you bring one or rent one?

Certainly, if you have a stroller at home that suits your park needs, you can bring it along. It’s free to gate check at the airport, so if you don’t mind hauling it with you, it’s free to do.

However, many of my clients have two kids who could benefit from a stroller, and yet they don’t own a double stroller. Or perhaps they have just one child that they want a stroller for, but they already sold or gave away their stroller since it wasn’t getting used at home. In this case a stroller rental is the way to go. But Disney’s strollers aren’t usually the best option.

Why? Well, if you rent Disney’s strollers, you are limited to using them inside the park. If your child falls asleep, and you need to leave the park, you have to wake them up as you return the stroller. Plus, each day you’ll have to get in line to rent the stroller again.

Where to rent a Disney World stroller

An easier option is a third party stroller rental. Disney has a selection of preferred stroller rental companies, and the one I use most often for my clients is Orlando Stroller Rental. We can choose from a variety of sizes to make sure you have the right stroller for your needs, and then it gets delivered right to your resort. You return it at the resort as well. Super easy! And you can take it in and out of the parks and around the resorts as much as you’d like.

Generally speaking, when you can keep your little ones less tired, you’ll all have more fun! So when in doubt over whether you need a stroller in Disney World, I’d always err on the side of YES.

(P.S. Want someone to take all of the stress out of the planning, far beyond stroller tips? See our Disney vacation planning services!)

 

How to Beat the Heat in Disney World

How to Beat the Heat in Disney World

How to Beat the Heat in Disney World

Disney World Mickey Bar

For most of the year, hot weather and Disney World vacations go hand in hand. If you’re planning to visit during a hot time of year, you’ll want to have a good plan to manage the heat so you can fully enjoy your time in the parks! Even when avoiding the summer months, many of us are visiting from places with much lower humidity. That added humidity can even make temperatures in the 80s seem much higher than back home. A little planning ahead goes a long way.

Pack some cooling help. Taking along special cooling towels in your backpack goes a long way during higher temperatures. Just get the towel wet and place around your neck for an instant cooling effect! Portable misting fans provide a quick dose of cool as well.

 

Start your day early. While we always advise arriving before park opening, the heat is another reason to do so. By starting early in the morning, you’ll accomplish quite a bit before the heat of the day arrives. This allows you to slow down, rest, and cool off for the afternoon, rather than arriving right as the heat is ramping up.

 

Take a break. If you’ve started early, pop on back to your resort for an afternoon break. Getting out of the parks between 1pm – 4pm or so will allow you to avoid the highest temperatures and let you cool off with a nice dip in your resort pool.

 

Start really late. Got teens or no kids in tow? This method takes careful planning to pull off well, but can work well for those who simply refuse to be early risers. Stay onsite and take advantage of the evening Extra Magic Hours. Arrive around 4pm and stay late into the night to avoid the heat and, later, the crowds.

 

Use shows to your advantage. Not staying onsite or simply refuse to take a break? Line up some shows for your afternoons. Several of the parks offer indoor shows that you can plan to do back to back to get a couple of hours off of your feet and in the cool air conditioning.

 

Plan table service meals. Knowing in advance that you have somewhere nice and cool to eat your meals goes a long way to making it through a hot day. While quick service options are always available, there is not always air conditioned seating available. If you don’t like to sweat while dining, book those dining reservations in advance for guaranteed cool down period.

 

As always, having a good plan in place goes miles toward a more enjoyable vacation!

 

 

Don’t Crowdsource your Disney Vacation Planning

Don’t Crowdsource your Disney Vacation Planning

Don’t Crowdsource Your Disney Vacation Planning

I’m sure you’ve seen it.  Someone posts to Facebook asking for advice.  50 people chime in all with different answers.  Sometimes this is useful – say you are asking for a good Italian restaurant in your town.  Generally speaking, it works out fine to take a recommendation that a few people gave you for a Saturday night date.  But asking how to plan your vacation is something else entirely.  It usually goes something like this:

You: “Friends, I’m trying to plan a trip to Disney World.  I need your help!  Where should we stay and what do I need to know?”

Friend 1: “We stayed at All Star Movies, you should stay there!”
Friend 2: “Definitely check out the Marriott, it was nice when we stayed there.”
Friend 3: “You should buy the FastPass thing!”
Friend 4: “Do Harry Potter for sure!
Friend 5: “My kids didn’t like Epcot, so I recommend skipping that park.”
Friend 6: “The Little Mermaid rooms are really cute!!”

And so on.

Everyone is just trying to be helpful!  But here’s the problem.  None of these people asked you anything about your family, your preferences or your interests.  Instead, they just said what they liked.  Without knowing more, how do you know if any of their preferences will be true for you?

Let’s unpack some of the troubles here.

Friend 1: “We stayed at All Star Movies, you should stay there!”

Friend 1 didn’t ask you what kind of hotel you feel comfortable with.  She didn’t mention that All Star resorts have double beds, not queen beds, and maybe you and your husband are tall and double beds just won’t cut it.  Or you have two teens and sharing a double bed is just a big nope for them.  And we haven’t even gotten into differences in amenities yet.  If a friend likes a hotel they stayed in, does that mean everyone would like that hotel?

 

Friend 2: “Definitely check out the Marriot, it was nice when we stayed there.”

This friend hasn’t given any reason why they liked it, but perhaps more importantly, didn’t think to tell you that by staying here you are giving up some important perks.  It’s possible they had no idea they were lost out on some of these perks, or maybe in their case they didn’t care.  However, it’s just as likely that you would care a lot about these perks.  For example, do you want to have to pay for your transportation?  Do you want to miss out on FastPass+ options for the most popular rides?  These would be good things to know before picking this hotel.

 

Friend 3: “You should buy the Fast Pass thing!”

This statement represents the many things I’ve seen as advice that are actually just flat out wrong.  You cannot buy FastPass.  It’s free.  You can get an earlier start on it when staying at a Disney resort, but it’s free for everyone.  This friend is possibly thinking of Disneyland’s MaxPass, or they are thinking of Universal’s Express Pass, or maybe even the old term for Memory Maker which was PhotoPass, but in any case they are supplying you with wrong and confusing information.

 

Friend 4: “Do Harry Potter for sure!”

Harry Potter isn’t part of Disney’s parks.  It’s at Universal Studios, which is not right next door, requires separate tickets and sometimes is best done as an entire additional stay.  As such, this friend is not really helping with the Disney question asked and is assuming the family wants to visit an additional location for a theme that they may or may not know if the family even likes.

 

Friend 5: “My kids don’t like Epcot, so I recommend skipping that park.”

You could replace Epcot with another park and find people saying the same thing.  But again, the problem here is that the friend is not asking what your family likes- they are assuming you have the same tastes as their family.  Do you have kids who like Frozen and really want to meet Anna and Elsa?  They reside in Epcot, along with the only Frozen themed ride in the parks.  If you were to have skipped this park based on this advice, you’d have missed the chance to make that dream come true for your children.

 

Friend 6: “The Little Mermaid rooms are really cute!”

Yes, they are!  But if you are a family of 5, you’re out of luck.  These rooms sleep 4 people.  Friends tossing out advice on Facebook often aren’t thinking at this level of detail.  Wouldn’t it be better to know which rooms do hold your family of 5 before considering them?

 

Instead of weeding through other people’s preferences, why not work with someone whose goal is to match YOUR preferences?  Seeking out a Disney specialized travel agent is a good start.  But you’ll want to make sure the person you are working with is a true Disney expert that specializes in very customized vacations.  Look for a consultant that starts with a phone call rather than asking you to check off boxes for which options you want on a form – it’s so hard to know what to check off if you don’t know enough about the options!  When you work with a Disney expert that has a consultant and concierge style (like those of us here at The Enchanted Traveler), they will ask you detailed questions to help find the best matches for where to stay, how long you need, the right tickets, best parks for each day, dining recommendations, FastPass+ reservations and all of the detail down to customized ride by ride plans to keep you out of the long lines.

 

So when it comes to Facebook, just remember that as well meanings as our friends are, they usually aren’t asking questions to find the right fit.  They’re just recommending what they themselves did.  And chances are, you aren’t identical to your friends.

 

How Many Days Do I Need for Disney World?

How Many Days Do I Need for Disney World?

How Many Days Do I Need for Disney World?

Epcot at night

First trip to Disney World?  You might be feeling unsure about how long your trip should be.  It can be hard to get a good feel for how much is actually there and how long it takes to do it.  Let’s take a look at how much time you’ll ideally have for this vacation.

Disney World is huge!

Let’s just start there.  If you’ve been to Disneyland before and think you have a good sense of Disney World is like, you’re probably wrong.  There are four main theme parks in Walt Disney World, as well as two fully themed water parks, over 25 onsite resort options, well over 100 restaurants, a full transportation system, a giant shopping and entertainment district and more.  It stands to reason that a Disney World trip most often necessitates a longer stay than Disneyland.

Prepare For 4 Park Days

With the four main theme parks, you will want at least four park days.  And the Magic Kingdom, in particular, is difficult to complete in a day because it has more attractions than the other parks.  I love to help my clients plan two days at this park to allow them a comfortable pace and a chance to experience more of what is offered.

Considering Your Preferences

From there, we need to consider your own preferences and favorites.  For example, some families really love to explore more of Epcot and dine in more of the restaurants there, making 2 Epcot days a lot of fun.  Others are very into the many shows offered at Hollywood Studios and find that two days there allows more room for those, plus a chance to see both nighttime shows there that are otherwise very difficult to see on the same night.

If you’re following along, right now we’ve added up to 6 park days assuming you’d like that extra day to repeat one of these other parks.

Do You Want A Relaxation Day?

The next question will be whether you’d like a day or two off for relaxation.  For my west coast clients, the time change can take its toll, especially on children.  Having a day to adjust can make the rest of the trip a lot easier.  Other families really enjoy a day or two off between park days.  These days might just be pool and resort days, or they might be used for the water parks, visiting Disney Springs or any of the other fun activities that can be planned.  Having this slower paced, laid back day here and there allows for a more relaxed vacation feel.

A Week At Walt Disney World

Best bet?  Plan for at least one full week at Walt Disney World!  If you’ve got more time available, adding in a couple more days makes everything feel even better.  There’s never a worry that you’ll get bored!  There is so much offered that you could easily spend two weeks here and not run out of things to do.

When you work with us, this is just the tip of the iceberg in our planning.  Not only will we help you figure out the perfect amount of time for YOUR family, but we’ll make sure you’ve got the perfect match for resort, tickets, and dining, activities, customized plans to keep you out of the long lines, personalized advice, and we’ll take care of every reservation detail so that you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Ready to plan?  Contact us today for your free consultation!

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Outsourcing Your Disney Vacation Planning

Outsourcing Your Disney Vacation Planning

Outsourcing Your Disney Vacation Planning

disney vacation

Outsourcing in business is a smart way to save time and money, and it’s catching on in personal life as well.  Busy people are outsourcing all kinds of tasks:  housecleaning, grocery shopping, picking up take out (UberEats, anyone?)… more and more all the time, it seems.  But vacation planning?  Yes!  Planning a vacation takes up many hours to do well, and Disney vacations in particular have many pieces that have to be planned out in advance.  Busy moms and dads are turning to professionals to make sure everything is done the right way and when it needs to be, so they can have an amazing vacation without stressing out about it beforehand.

So when it’s time to plan your Disney vacation, have you asked yourself:

  • Do I have time to do all the research needed?
  • Do I know what needs to be done in advance in order to have the best experience?
  • Do I have the time to work on all of the reservation pieces and stay on top of deadlines?
  • Is the time I would invest in the planning process better spent elsewhere in my life?
  • Do I get enjoyment from the many details or would I enjoy another activity more?
  • Do I have the information I need to get the most out of my vacation once I’m there?

 

We all have only so much time in our day and many things are vying for our time: work, school, sports, family time, groceries, chores, errands.  The last thing you want your vacation to be is another added stressor in your life; just another to do on an endless to do list.

And when we are trying to decide what tasks are better given to a professional to handle, we are asking ourselves, which things am I very good at and which things are better left to an expert?  Will I get the end result I am hoping for if I DIY this task, or will a professional expert be a better bet?

Professional vacation planners exist to take on this large, overwhelming task for you!  Disney experts can help you put together every detail of your Disney vacation including everything from the initial phase of deciding on where to stay to a final, custom travel guide complete with dining reservations, daily plans to keep you out long lines and much more.  Outsourcing your vacation planning means arriving at your destination stress free, ready to maximize your vacation, all without having to spend hours on end trying to figure out in the beginning.

Ready to have an amazing Disney vacation planned for you, customized for your family and without the stress of trying to figure it out yourself?  Just contact us to get started.

 

 

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wing It on a Trip to Disney World

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wing It on a Trip to Disney World

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Wing It on a Trip to Disney World

castle

 

Headed to Disney World and thinking you’ll just wing it on this trip?  Stop right there!  Before you just assume you can show up and figure it out on the spot, read these 7 reasons why Disney World is NOT the place you want to just wing it.

1. Dining

On many vacations, should you find yourself hungry, you can waltz up to a restaurant and reasonably be expect to be seated in short time. Not in Disney World. Restaurants are extremely popular, and for good reason, so reservations are a must. In fact, many of the most popular restaurants book up far in advance. Dining reservations first open 180 days before your trip, and people absolutely take advantage of that.

2. Park Crowds

Disney World is no hidden secret, so you can bet there will be plenty of other people joining you each day. But how many, and when they’ll be there, is not always the same. If you know the crowd patterns, you can enjoy your time more with less people all around you. A good Disney planner can help you with this.

3. Lines

Who loves lines? No one. Despite what many think, long lines are not simply inevitable with Disney World, though many a person ends up standing in tons of them by not knowing better. With a good plan, you can avoid as many of these lines as possible and get WAY more out of your day, in a much more enjoyable fashion. Fast Pass+ reservations are just one aspect of this, but they are definitely important. Winging it on these instead of reserving them as soon as your window opens means often not getting any of the most popular rides.

4. Park Opening

Figure you’ll just get up whenever and show up at the parks? That’s probably not the best idea. Know when the park opens, plan to be there quite a bit earlier than that, and know how long it will take you to get to that park in the morning. Arriving before “rope drop,” as fans call it, gives you a distinct advantage for the rest of the day, if you use it wisely.

5. Meeting Characters

If meeting characters is important to your children, some pre-planning may be necessary. If your children are dying to meet Anna and Elsa, for example, the last thing you want to do is stand in line with hundreds of other people for two hours. Planning to allocate a Fast Pass+ reservation for this, or knowing when to visit if you can’t get one, helps keep this wait time manageable. Other popular characters may be best visited in character meals, which will need advanced reservations. There are, of course, characters throughout the parks, too, but prioritizing the ones that have the longest lines ahead of time just makes sense.

6. Seeing Shows

It’s so easy to miss out on great shows if you don’t have a good plan ahead of time. Why? Shows have set times each day and don’t wait for you to finish getting out of line at other rides. If you are trying to see a stage show, a parade, fireworks and more, all while experience a bunch of rides, then advanced planning is the only way to know you’ll be able to accomplish it. Otherwise, you’ll spend far too much time trying to look back and forth between your times guide for show times, your Fast Pass+ reservations and the lines you are in between all of that and get too stressed out trying to figure out if you can fit in that stage show your daughter wants to see before you need to find a spot for the parade.

Speaking of parades, these and the fireworks shows are best thought about in advance, too. Waiting til the last minute to find a spot where everyone else already found all the spots 30 minutes ago doesn’t usually lead to a happy ending.

7. Burn Out

Disney vacations should be fun!! But sadly too often I hear complaints that families were stressed out the entire time, trying to figure out what to do when they got to the parks, where they could go that didn’t have an hour line, how they could get back to that show they missed, too much time criss crossing miles back and forth across the park in search of the rides they want and so on. Don’t let this be your vacation! Winging on a trip to Disney World might sound less stressful and more enjoyable at first… but in reality it leads to far less enjoyment once you arrive.

Get a good Disney World plan together and see the difference it can make!

 

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25 Disney World Planning Tips

25 Disney World Planning Tips

25 Disney World Planning Tips

Disney World planning tips

Need a little help planning your Disney World vacation? These 25 Disney World planning tips will get you ready in no time.

1. Pick Your Dates Carefully

There are low, moderate, and high crowd times in Disney World, so you need to plan accordingly. If you are willing to have your kids miss a few school days, or don’t have school aged kids, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of the lowest crowds in the parks if you’d like to. These are also lower cost times to visit. If you have school aged kids who can’t miss school, be prepared for higher crowds and higher costs. If possible, avoid Christmas break at all costs – absolutely the busiest and most expensive time of year. Also keep an eye out for special events that can draw bigger crowds. For example, Star Wars weekends have historically brought large crowds to Hollywood Studios in May and June. Run Disney events also bump up park attendance on the weekends they run.

2. Plan The Length

How long should you visit Disney World for? Is this your first visit? Do you plan to come back after this? For most people visiting for a first time, I recommend no less than 5 full park days, not including a day for travel on either side. If you have the time and the means, add extra days from there, which gives you more time to work your way through attractions, plus time to visit areas like Disney Springs, Disney’s Boardwalk, the water parks and more.

3. Choose The Right Resort

One size does not fit all here. Let me start by assuming that you know that staying on property is the best bet. Once that’s true, you have a vast amount of choices ranging from value resorts to deluxe resorts and even villas. Each resort has a very different feel and different pros and cons. Don’t choose one blindly – take the time to study each resort, or find a resource that can guide you in choosing the best match for your family. For example, if you have a larger family of 6, you’ll have the option to choose between a family suite at the value resorts, two connecting rooms at moderate or deluxe, Fort Wilderness Cabins or a villa. These are not all equal and it’s not only because the pricing is different! Picking a resort that is a good match for your family is the start of a well planned trip.

4. Choose The Right Tickets

Start by figuring out how many park days you want. Will you want to visit the parks on the day you fly in and fly out? Each additional park day costs less than the day before, so this may be a good value for you, but consider whether you will actually use them or if you’d rather have a little down time.
Park Hoppers are a good value for those who plan ahead for how to use them. If you think you just want to add them on “in case” you might decide to hop parks later in the day, you might not get as much use out of them as you think. But if you plot out a plan for what you want to see when you can get a good idea of a Park Hopper makes sense for your family. You can also add the water parks as an option to the tickets. Be sure to build in at least full day for water park fun if you want to make good use of this.

5. Consider A Dining Plan

There are several dining plan options. Realistically, for most families, if you are going to get one, the Plus Dining is your best bet. Most families don’t want to eat enough fast food to make the Quick Service plan worth it, and many don’t want to devote enough time to sit down meals to make the Deluxe Plan worth it. If, however, you plan to eat at several Signature Restaurants, the Deluxe Plan can be a good way to go.
The dining plans can be a savings over paying out of pocket if you plan your restaurants in advance. But more than that, they tend to be an excellent stress reliever when you know your dining is paid for and no one has to grimace at the prices on the menu at every meal!

Disney world dining plan

Seriously, the food options are amazing. Plan ahead to enjoy them.

6. Figure Out Which Park To Be In On Which Day

Not all days are equal. There are in fact very distinct crowd patterns. Often, a park with Extra Magic Hours tends to be busier than other parks. When the Magic Kingdom has special parties going on, party days are far less crowded than non-party days. Enjoy a little digging to find how it works, or have a Disney planner do it for you.

7. Consider A Rest Day

The parks are a blast but a LOT of work. If you want a little more balance in your vacation, consider a rest day during your trip with no park planned. Enjoy your resort, play in the pool, do a little shopping and some nice dining. Your feet and body will thank you for it!

8. Decide On Dining Options

Under NO circumstance should you wait until you arrive to see where you’d like to eat! Many restaurants book out completely far in advance and others have very limited availability at odd times if you wait until the day of. Look over the many dining choices and plot out where you’d like to eat when.

9. Use Dining Credits Wisely

A credit is a credit no matter how much your meal costs. If you want to get the most out of your meal plan, maximize the amount your credits can be worth. Buffets and character meals for dinner tend to be excellent values with credits. Breakfasts tend to be worthless. Plan accordingly.

10. Make Dining Reservations 180 Days In Advance

Remember when I said that dining books up in advance? Yeah, like waaaayyyyy in advance. The reservation window opens at 6am EST online, 180 days before your arrival date. Have your list ready and hop to it!

11. Carefully Choose Your Flights

Several factors go into selecting your flights. If you plan to use Magical Express for free transportation to you resort, know that after 10pm arrivals, they don’t offer luggage service. Also consider your departure flight. While the 8am flight might be a good deal, that is a VERY early Magical Express ride before your flight, as they generally pick up three hours before your departure time!

Magical Express for Disney

Your free transportation awaits – just make sure you plan for how to best use it. (Photo credit: Michael Gray via Flickr)

12. Learn About The Rides And Attractions In Each Park

Before you get into the next phase of planning, you’ll want to review the rides and attractions to see what your kids are tall enough for, which thrill levels are acceptable, and what’s most important to you. Knowing this will help you when it comes time to make Fast Pass+ reservations.

13. Have A Plan Of Attack For The Rides And Attractions

Once you know what you want to ride and see, try organizing it into your days. If you have two days to spend in one park, see how you might split up the rides and shows in a way that makes it easy to get around and not feel too rushed. With this, you are creating a basic touring plan. (You can get even more advanced, strategically avoiding lines, with a professional plan).

14. Book Fast Pass+ 60 Days In Advance

Fast Pass+ opens up at midnight EST on the 60th day before your trip. If you are hoping for some of the harder to get attractions, like meeting Anna and Elsa or the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, do not wait until the next morning when it feels more convenient – these may well be completely gone. Choose your Fast Pass+ options carefully by looking over your plan of attack so that you can make your choices work most to your advantage.

15. Think about a stroller.

Little feet get tired long before adult feet. And I promise, adult feet get tired often in Disney World. If you have kids 6 or younger, consider a stroller for your vacation. You can bring one from home, or, if you’d rather not haul it along, you can rent one there. I very much prefer off site stroller rentals to in park stroller rentals, partially for cost reasons but also for convenience and comfort. Offsite rentals offer much more comfortable options and you can take them outside the park to stroll napping kids back to their resort or to have when visiting non-park places in Disney World.

16. Plan to Arrive Before The Gates Open

If you could follow only one piece of advice in this list, this one should be it. Please just trust me on this. This will make the most difference in your days. DO NOT arrive right when the parks open and definitely don’t arrive after the parks open!

17. Consider An Afternoon Break

When you get going bright and early in the morning, it’s nice to have a mid-day break. The middle of the day is the most crowded anyway, and the hottest, and it’s a great time for a nap and to enjoy your resort pool. This takes a little more strategic planning, as mentioned in #13, to do well, such that you can really make it through a good portion of rides in the morning hours. When you do so, you’re able to feel great leaving the parks after lunch for a little while. Your resort is awesome – why not actually enjoy it a little each day?
Plus, when kids get a chance to rest in the afternoon, they can make it much farther into the evening. Rested kids are the happy kids at firework time… un-rested kids tend to be the ones having meltdowns right about then.

Grand Floridian Pool

Use your downtime to really enjoy the gorgeous pools! (Photo credit: Christian Lambert https://goo.gl/5iLYUQ)

18. Plan Ahead For Firework And Parade Show Times

Speaking of fireworks… Know when the show times are so you can plan for them. The shows and parades are great, but you need to know when to go find a place to stand to view them. You’ll miss out on the shows if you aren’t paying attention to the times in advance and just happen to be in line for a ride when they start!

19. Practice Long Walks

No, really, I’m serious. Park days add up to miles of walking, and a lot of us aren’t used to that. Before your trip, go on some longer walks to get your body ready for the trip. It’ll thank you! Take your kids along, too, if they’re not stroller aged, to build up their endurance. I started doing this way back as a little girl, when my dad would take me on long walks to prep me for Disney World! It works!

20. Buy And Break In Comfortable Shoes

This trip is NOT a time to wear those cute new sandals for the first time ever. By now you get the point that there is a lot of walking…so break your shoes in to be ready for that. Choose comfort over fashion. If you’re like me and still want cute shoes, just be sure you choose a type that has good support and cushion. There are several brands of sandals out there for women that look cute and feel good – Clarks is just one of them. Think of this for your kids, too – nothing worse than a kid who wants to be carried all day because their shoes hurt!

21. Personalize Your Magic Bands

If you want colorful magic bands, you have to customize them yourself inside of My Disney Experience. If you don’t do this, you will get gray magic bands for everyone at check in. That’s no fun! Be sure to order yours right after you book your trip so that you don’t forget to do this. You can also purchase fancier Magic Bands in advance at www.DisneyStore.com, if you prefer.

Disney World Magic Bands

Use your downtime to really enjoy the gorgeous pools!

22. Bring A Care Kit

Nobody wants to think about something negative happening on their trip, but being prepared with a few things makes it easier. Pack some bandaids, blister remedies, pain medication/fever reducer for adults and children, and maybe some itch relief cream in case of bug bites. Simple things on hand make quick treatment easy so you can get on your with your day – and it saves you money because these items cost more in the gift shops.

23. Make Breakfast Quicker

For most people, dining in a restaurant each morning before the parks is just plain hard to do if they want to make it to opening. Plan accordingly. One of the easiest ways to have a smooth morning for my family is to bring along really easy breakfast options to have in room. Breakfast bars, instant oatmeal, uncrustables, granola bars and juice boxes – lots of options that save lots of time. If you are staying in a resort with a mini-mart in the gift shop area, you can also get milk and cereal. Or, consider grocery delivery if you think you will want enough to make the delivery worth it. (Keep in mind in most resorts you only have a mini fridge, though!)

24. Pack Smartly

Be sure you put some thought into what should be in your suitcase vs your carry on. Your carry on should have your Magic Bands, which are needed to board the Magical Express, plus your bathing suits if you plan to arrive at your resort before check in time OR if you have Magical Express handle your luggage. If you are arriving before check in time and want to swim, you’ll hand off your luggage to bell services, and having your bathing suit easy to grab in your carry on makes it a lot easier than digging through suitcases on the floor. Likewise, Magical Express can take up to 3 hours to get your suitcases to you, so if you want to swim, you’ll need to have those swimsuits in your carryon with you.

25. Create A Countdown

With the planning behind you, the countdown begins – why not help build the excitement with a fun countdown? Mark your days off on a calendar or make this cute paper chain to countdown your days. Or try one of these fun chalk board options. A visual like this helps kids, too, and saves a little bit of your sanity when they don’t have to ask daily, “How many more days until Disney World!”

There you are! 25 Disney World planning tips to make your Disney World vacation better! Cross the items off the list as you go to have a much better Disney vacation experience

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When Should I Book My Disney Vacation?

When Should I Book My Disney Vacation?

When Should I Book My Disney Vacation?

 

Photo credit: Christian Lambert via Flickr

Many times, people talk about planning a vacation for “next year” like it’s something so far away they don’t need to think about it right now. But the reality is that your best Disney vacation is going to come from some earlier planning.

 

In the last few months in particular, I’ve had the experience of clients coming to me looking to book just 2 months or less before their trips. And in many cases, we’ve had very very few options to choose from for resorts. And really, most families would love to have the best match in terms of a place to stay, but the easiest way to get that is to be thinking ahead.  When I have clients come to me with more time before their preferred travel dates, I’m able to get to know them and their needs and recommend the best matches over all.  But the longer time goes by, the more likely those options are already booked…meaning we’re looking at second or third or even fourth best.

 

For Walt Disney World, it’s always best if you can be booked at least 7 months in advance. Planning, such as dining reservations, starts a full 180 days in advance for the best options.  When we have the ability to start planning about a month before that, it gives us time to set out the best strategy, before embarking on booking all of the time sensitive pieces at their due dates.

 

At Disneyland, a lot of people in past years were finding that they could book a month or two in advance with no problem. But the as the economy has improved, it seems more people are traveling again, and the best hotels (whether that means convenience or style to you) are booking up a lot earlier.  I’ve had it happen such that a month and a half before the desired travel dates, only two or three nearby options still had availability.  And none of those were options I’d normally recommend!

 

The great thing about planning a trip for either Disneyland or Disney World is we can book far in advance and Disney only asks us for a $200 deposit. So this makes it easy for us to make payments as you go, if you want to, and have plenty of time to get all of the details lined up, without requiring a large payment up front.  You can lock in the best choices easily, without having to lay out the full trip cost up front!

 

And Disney Cruise Line is always better booked further in advance. By it’s nature, the best priced staterooms tend to go quickest. A year in advance is easy to do and we can often book even farther out than that!

 

So if you’ve been saying “Next year is when we’ll go to Walt Disney World (or Disneyland or any other Disney vacation),” don’t put off planning. Get in touch with me as soon as you know you want to do it so we can get the best option for you all set before it’s all gone.

 

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