Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Disney Post Part 4 - Tips for the Trip

Well, this is the final installment of The Disney Post series. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it!

Today's post is all about the trip.

1 - What you need for the park
As I mentioned on the last post, I had a bag for the park (in addition to the hubby's bag of cameras) - as a reminder, this bag had:
  • A wristlet with money, debit card, ID, cash, room keys, park passes
  • A folder to contain itineraries, and park maps
  • A note book with notes about things we wanted to do, restaurants we wanted to try (for counter service restaurants), and a list of which rides we wanted to ride first at each park
  • My favorite planning book about Disney World.
  • A gallon size plastic bag with park essentials: hand sanitizer, sunblock, bandaids, triple-antibiotic ointment, stain remover wipes, hair brush, ponchos, tissues, pain medication, a small deodorant stick, wet wipes, a small flashlight, moleskin and blister bandages
  • I also left some room for jackets since we were there in January
  • If your child is frightened easily by the automatic toilets in the parks, you could also pack self adhesive notes to cover the sensor on the toilet
We also packed the kids small totes (we would just hang this on the stroller) - we took out the coloring pages so that there was only park-essential items in there:
  • Autograph book and pen
  • Sunglasses
  • Spillproof water bottle
Also, don't forget your strollers, snacks, and water bottles.

If it's first thing in the morning, bring a bag of cereal for breakfast. That way the kids can eat at the bus stop or in the park.

2 - Transportation
Since we stayed on-site, we had no use for a rental car. We took the Disney bus line to the parks each day (the drivers do not accept tips). We could also take a ferry to downtown Disney. I would arrive at your bus stop expecting to wait twenty minutes for arrival. Often it doesn't take that long, but sometimes it does.

3 - Photo Pass tip
If you're like us, one of the very first things you'll do at the park is get your photo taken. We (as mentioned earlier) paid in advance so we already had a Photo Pass card. Unfortunately, we forgot it at the hotel. Luckily, you can link as many Photo Pass cards as you would like under one account. So, my recommendation is to snap a picture of your Photo Pass card. That way, if it gets lost, you'll still have the card numbers to access the photos.

4 - First Visit
If it's your first visit (or if you're celebrating a special occasion), stop by Town Hall. They'll give you a special button to wear. You may even get special treatment (one of the cast members saw us with our first time buttons and let us walk right onto a ride).

5 - Rides and Attractions
We let the kids decide what we were doing and when. The only exception was when we first arrived. We found out (from books and friends) which rides tend to have the longest waits. We would head to that ride first. If the wait was over 30 minutes, we got a fast pass. If it was under 30 minutes, we rode.

Also, if there's a parade or firework show that you don't want to watch, go to the popular attractions then. The wait will be significantly shorter.

If you have small children, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the rider swap option. Our daughter was too short for some rides, so I would take our son on a ride and tell the cast member at the ride entrance that we wanted to do a rider swap. They would give me a rider swap pass, which is like a fast pass, except that you can bring three people back with you. After they were done riding, my son and hubby got to ride by going through the fast pass line. It was awesome.

6 - Meals
Since we had a meal plan, we got a sit down meal and quick service meal each day. The kids ate cereal for breakfast on the way to the park each morning. We would eat lunch around 11:00 each day, this helped us to avoid to lunch crowd and ensured that the kids would be hungry for dinner. The meals are pretty big, normally a drink, entree, side, and dessert.
We ate dinner around 5:00 most nights. The longest we waited was five minutes for a table. One night we ate at 6:00 and had to wait for 30 minutes for our table to be ready. So I would definitely recommend eating earlier if you can.

I would never use a snack credit on a soft drink or bottled water. You can bring your own bottles of water or get free cups of ice water (or hot water) during the day. If you bring instant drink mixes with you - it's easy to make some lemonade or hot tea/coffee for free. Instead, use your snack credits on something mouse shaped, or really, whatever you want (my favorite was a Dole Whip at Magic Kingdom). We would often share our snacks which meant we had PLENTY of snack credits for each day. In fact, on our last day, we had seven snack credits left, so we bought the kids Mickey Mouse gummies and Mouse shaped rice krispie treats for later. I personally would only use snack credits on something that costs around $3 or more.

7 - Extra hours
As a Disney resort guest, you are able to spend time at the parks when they are closed to the general public. We found a television channel at the resort which listed all the extra hours for each night. They don't advertise the extra hours very well, and had we not checked the channel, we wouldn't have known that for us, Epcot closed at 12:00 am instead of 9:00 pm! There were literally no lines.

8 - Journal
Each night we would write all about our day. We talked about what we did, where we ate, etc. My favorite part was asking the kids what their favorite part of the day was. It amazed me that sometimes in such a huge, magical place; their favorite part was something as simple as 'riding next to Daddy in the race car'.

Disney World is wonderful and magical, (and expensive) - hopefully some of these tips will save you some money, or help to make your trip a little more magical. If you want specific restaurant or activity recommendations, please let me know. Thank you so much for reading my posts. And please, let me know what special tips you have!

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