Thanks for coming back for my second day of tips. Today I'm going to focus on some tips for after booking, but before arriving.
1 - Restaurant Reservations
One of the best tips I got from a friend was to book restaurant reservations as soon as possible. Once you are within 180 days of arriving, you can begin making reservations. We read online reviews, checked out the Disney website for menus, and read a few books about the restaurants. We then decided to pick restaurants based on which days we would visit each resort. We chose to only use our table service credits for dinner (with the exception of a character breakfast). Our travel agent made the reservations for us and got us confirmation numbers for each meal. We also decided not to use a table credit on our last day. We wanted to be able to go to whichever park the kids liked the best and not have to worry about being at a restaurant at a specific time on our last night there.
2 - Photo pass
At Disney World, there are lots of photographers who will gladly take photos of your family. You're given a card to 'load' the photos on so that you can access them online. If you choose to order photos once you return, they cost around $12-14 per photo. Or, you can purchase all the rights to your photos for around $150 (as of March, 2012). However, if you pay for the rights before your trip, you save $50 ($100 for all the photos). We opted to do this. All in all, I'm happy with the purchase.
3 - Busy items for traveling
Before we left, I purchased Disney stickers and activity books from the dollar section at my favorite retailer. I also made a free activity book for the kids. If you do an online search for "free Disney Coloring Pages" you can print pictures of your child's favorite characters to color. There were also some fun activity pages (dot-to-dots, word searches, counting pages, etc.) that I printed for the kids. These were life-savers during our flight.
4 - Shopping before the trip
We decided to buy a Disney shirt for each of our children for each day. We were able to get clothes on clearance on Disney's website and at different department stores. We saved quite a bit compared to buying clothes there.
We also bought some sort of light up toy or glowstick for each night. Your kids are going to want some light up toy while you're there, so why not buy them in advance for MUCH less? We bought glowsticks from the dollar store/craft store, and bought light up toys at our party store.
5 - Snacks and drinks
I recommend packing many snacks for your trip. One thing I would mention is not to pack dense items like chocolate or peanut butter - if these items are in your checked luggage, TSA may have to search your luggage as these items can look like explosives on the x-ray image. We packed baggies of cereal and pop-tarts for breakfast, bags of crackers, cookies, and chips, and single drink mix packets to add into water.
A few days before our trip, we also had bottled water delivered to our resort (via Costco). This was nice to have at the parks each day.
The next blog will be about packing for your trip. Thanks again for reading!