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Need Advice on Planning Disney World Vacation

I have never been to Disney World and we are planning a trip in Oct. There is my husband, me, 5 year old daughter, and 2 1/2 year old son. My biggest problem is figuring out which Disney property to stay at. With the age of our kids, we decided we didn't want the hassle of staying off property. I'd really like to stay somewhere that isn't just one room. A suite would be nice, but maybe a sitting area and kitchenette? Don't want to go to bed at 8:00 with the kids! I was looking at the cabins and at the Music resort. There's just so much to look at! I also want to take into account how long it will take us to get to the Magic Kingdom.
We'll be there for 5 days (a day of travel on each end). I'm thinking 3 days in the Magic Kingdom, one at epcot, one at Animal. But I also would love to go to Sea World. Should we leave Disney to go do that? I've actually been debating with hubby that our kids aren't old enough for Epcot.
My daughter will turn 6 while we're there, so we're definitely going to eat with the princesses. Are there any other special meals we should do? We are going to get a meal plan - thoughts on which one? We'll do breakfast probably in our room if we have a fridge.
Any other thoughts are welcome. Thank you!

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

We just got back on Monday. We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort and loved it! We did 2 days at Magic Kingdom, 2 at Animal, half days at Epcot and Hollywood. We ate with many different characters and for my daughter's birthday dinner we ate at the Grand Floridian in the 1900 Park Fare restaurant with Cinderella, Prince Charming and the steps. It was awesome! Thanks for all the suggestions!

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A couple great resources are the boards at disboards.com. There are many sections, including a family section. Most of the sections cover planning. There's also the Mom's Panel through Disney's main site, but they take a long time to answer questions, but you can read up on good ideas.

I recently stayed a week at Disney (in March), plus I'm a former Cast Member.

Do you know about the birthday promotion? Since you're already going to have tickets, you can have other options to the free admission perk. I chose the gift card that is equivilent to a day's admission. I'm not sure how much a 1-day ticket would be for your daughter, but that's how much the gift card would be for! There are other options, too, if you didn't want that.

Where to stay on property depends a lot on your budget. There are family suites, so that is more than 1 room. My husband, 3 yo son & I stayed in a regular room at the value resorts & had plenty of room, plus we were hardly in the rooms anyway! It was tight in the mornings, but we made it work. I understand you have 1 more little body in there than we did, though!

I see you didn't mention going to Hollywood Studios. If I had to pick between Epcot & HS, I'd pick HS with the ages of your kids. They have the Playhouse Disney area with a show & meet and greet with various characters. I could give you great ideas on meals, too! We did a character lunch at HS with the Playhouse Disney folks & also a character meal at Chef Mickeys. We were on the meal plan, too. We also really enjoyed Whispering Cayon cafe.

At the DIS main page (not the boards) they have menus from all the Disney restaurants so you can look over them to see what you'd like.

If you stay in a value resort, you need to rent a fridge, or get involved in a fridge swap that is free. They have those listed on the DIS board I mentioned.

If you have any other questions or want further help, I'd be SO HAPPY to help! I LOVE discussing Disney & we're actually going back for a 2nd trip this December for a long weekend!! Just send me a message through here & I'll help you out or give suggestions.

Happy Planning!!! :o)

2 moms found this helpful

Hi C.,

We went to Disney with our daughter (4 years) last October, it is a fabulous time to go, no crowds! We did stay on the property at the All-Star Music Resort. It was only one room but it met our needs. We got home late each night (no we did not adhere to our normal bedtimes). We did the princess dinner at the Grand Floridian-couldn't get reservations at the castle. You ca make reservations 180 days out so if you haven't done so already start trying.

I would recommend a hopper pass, it allows you to hop from one park to the next in the same day. This was the first time we actually used it, as there was only 2 things we ended up doing at the Animal Kingdom (it was a neat park, but most of the rides were for older age kids-10 or so) then we hopped over to Epcot and did the things I new my dd would enjoy (the living seas-great aquarium and Nemo ride, make sure you catch Turtle talk with Crush, imagination, etc) then we hopped back over to the Magic Kingdom to catch the night parade. I would also highly recommend the Hollywood studios park, it has lots of things for the younger ages-Voyage of the Little mermaid, playhouse disney, a fairly new toy story ride-lots of fun (try to get the Fast Pass for this one if you can, it was brand new last year and it was the only ride we really had to wait for-60+ minutes), muppet 3d show, plus more, the night show is very neat)
If you guys are going to be there one of the nights that has Mickey's not so scary halloween party I HIGHLY recommend it. You do have to buy extra tickets for this, but it was worth it. We all dressed up, went trick or treating in the park, saw a great parade and rode lots of rides with NO wait (they limit the number of people in the park so if you don't have braclet they shoo you out of the park).
Also HIGHLY recommend the Bibbidi bobbidi boutique (there is one locate outside of the park at the World of Disney and one located in Cinderella's castle. It was a highlight for my 4 year old. We just did hair, make-up and nails, but they also have a package that includes a costume. This was my daughter's B-day gift and she still talks about it almost a year later.
We didn't do the dining plan, but probably will when we go back (we have been too often to count, even before kids).
Since your daughter is turning six make sure you tell a cast member it is her b-day. My daughter got lots of special attention from the cast members because of her b-day pin, including a free autograph book and pen, as well as a collectable pin that could not be ought anywhere, a cast member even arranged to have Goofy call her while we were in one of the souvenir shops to wish her a happy birthday.
I can honestly say it was one of the best times we have had at Disney. I can't wait until my second daughter turns 4, we'll take her for her B-day as well. If your son was younger I would recommend leaving him with Grandma, we did for our youngest, she would have been 6 months at the time. I felt terribly guilty at first, but it wa a good choice.
Another thing we did to increase our time in the parks was we flew. That allowed us to leave late the night before we planned to leave and leave late the day of our departure, which gave us most of the day in the park on our departure day.
Have fun and if you have any other questions please feel free to email me.

1 mom found this helpful

if you can get a world hopper pass that would be ideal that way you can visit any of the parks anyday you want I would at least try epcot if you go with that, it can be hit or miss, but 3 days in magic kingdom might be too much, I deff say do animal kingdom and even hollywood and dont forget the waterparks. Iv never been to seaworld so i cant help ya there, we always stay at the value resorts (all star b/c we are on a budget, it depends on your kids but heres what we do our 1 year old stayed in a pack &play that we put behind the curtain (where the sink vanity is just outside the bathroom) it made a nice little room, our kids are always soooo tired after a day at the parks going to bed is never an issue we've been able to have a light on and the tv on too. Dont forget to take advantage of the great pools at the hotels, our pool at the all star had great games for the kids during the day a dance party water baloon toss that she won a prize w/ her daddy. I think the day we spent by the pool was almost as fun, dont forget you can come back and let the kids nap during the day or at least the little 1, while 1 parent goes to the pool with the older1. we love crystal palace they meet the pooh characters, I suggest either a late breakfast that will hold them over for awhile or a late lunch it served as our dinner its a buffet the food is great for kids and adults and the characters come to your table and interact its nice. Pack snacks we even brought in PB&J's and lots of drinks for the kids that will save you lots of $$$. Have fun! I cant wait to go back.

1 mom found this helpful

C. - Our family (me, husband and 2 daughters 5 & 7) love WDW! We have been many times as a family. Your children will LOVE it! They are not too young for EPCOT. Track down the Kidcot stations in each country. They can color a mask, at each one and the cast member will attach a charm from the country, stamp their autograph books and even write their names or a message. Soarin' is one of our favorite rides. The princesses appear at Akershus in Norway. I recommend the Mom's Panel on the WDW website for research. Also, allearsnet.com. If you are going to spend a lot of time at Magic Kingdom, stay at Fort Wilderness cabins - MK is a short and fun boat ride away. This makes it easy to pop back and forth often. We also like to spend half days at parks, then swim at the resort and go back for more later. Good luck planning! It's all worth it!

1 mom found this helpful

I highly recommend www.disboards.com. It's a forum for everything disney and the members there have a wealth of information. I do think your children are a little young for epcot. Hollywood studios would be much more entertaining for them (they have a lot of kid shows and character greetings).
As far as restaurant recommendations - Chef Mickey's is my favorite (we do breakfast there the first day so we get to meet and take pictures with the mickey mouse clubhouse characters). I loved eating inside the castle with the princesses, but this is a hard meal to get. You will really have to call 90 days in advance for that one. There is the other princess meal in Epcot which is a little easier to get into, but I've never been to that one to give a personal recommendation.
If you do have breakfast in your room, you're going to want the most basic meal plan. The deluxe meal plan is A LOT of food.

1 mom found this helpful

We love Disney and do all the parks with our two years old. In fact we own at Disney Vacation Club so that we can stay in a villa when we go. The absolute cheapest way to do Disney with a kitchen is to rent DVC points from an owner. Mouseowners.com and Disboards.com have areas where you can find an owner that will rent points plus they have a ton of information on planning for the parks and your vacation, restaurant reviews, etc. They go for about $12 a point down to $9 and a one bedroom can be had for as little as 100 points for a week and a studio for probably about 50 points. You can walk to the parks from several of the resorts and then of course the buses will take you anywhere on Disney property as well. Disney also currently has a promotion where the basic dining plan is free with accommodations through Oct 2nd (If you could move your date up). Then you may find it cheaper to rent a suite at the All Music or a cabin at Fort Wilderness and eat free. I do not enjoy Fort Wilderness even though I do enjoy camping. Everything takes significantly longer to get to and you must use two buses to get to the parks and a bus to get to the pool, which stinks with little ones. The cabin themselves are nice but when we stayed we felt it took so much time (2hours or more) to transport to and from the parks for afternoon nap for the kids that it just wasn’t worth it to us. We talked to several other families staying there who felt the same way but some others love it. With older kids Fort Wilderness would be great. As far as food, we like the basic plan which allows a quick service meal, a sit down meal, and one snack per person. It’s $40 a day per adult. Most of the character meals are buffets. We liked Chef Mickey’s and Crystal Palace (Tigger and Pooh) when we were there this year but the food and interaction were better for us at CP over CM’s. However, since we have a two year old next time we may try quick service plans because sometimes sitting down for an hour isn’t really what she wants to do. Keep in mind that Epcot has some great playgrounds for the kids to blow off steam in between looking at the attractions so it is doable. Also in Epcot, the seas with Nemo and friends, is a great exhibit that was probably one of our daughter’s favorites. She adorned looking at the dolphins and other fish and did like the Nemo ride as well as turtle talk with Crush. Last tip, get to Magic Kingdom at rope drop and you can get most of the kids rides in with very little wait; after 11 is when the lines get crazy for the most part. By the way, October is a great time to go to Disney! Good luck with your planning and enjoy Disney!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.:
I have been to Disney World many times with my children in the past. You are going at a great time of the year. October should not be too crowded or too hot. If money is not an option then by all means stay at one of the high end hotels. If money is an option the value hotels are great. Your plan should center around the closing times of the parks. With little ones it is best to get a very early start, come back mid-day eat and nap and then go back until closing time. The hotel pools are usually a gather place for people after the parks close. Epcot used to have a firework display everynight at 8 or 9p.m. Since it is off season you will not need 3 days in the Magic Kingdom. I would bring a cooler with breakfast items, water and sodas etc. as these things are very expensive on the property. Bringing in your own water will save you money. You can refill bottles at water fountains. At the Allstar Resorts they have the most affordable food on the property.

1 mom found this helpful

We stayed at the boardwalk a few years back - it was a two bedroom suite - OMG.....beautiful. I have stayed at Pop Century in a regular room and they are SUPER small. I know you said you don't want to hassle with being off site, but next time we go we were thinking of renting a condo that has a pool. A) It's still a short drive to the park - as much time as waiting for a shuttle, etc. b) easier access to grocery stores c) no crowded pools to come home to. d) only $99 - $120 per night compared to over $200. That was our plan for next time (Although my brother is now moving to Orlando on August 7th - I am hoping that will be our new "hotel"....LOL. ANyways, I guess I have no advice, just wanted to share!

Oh - I think 2 days at Magic Kingdom is sufficient - and Sea World and maybe Animal Kingdom. I think Epcot is fine, I went when I was 7 for the first time and had a BLAST.


1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.,
You would be surprised at how many things there are to do with little ones at EPCOT and also at Hollywood Studios. We took our two boys to both when they were 5 & 3, and we all had a blast! I don't think I'd want to do 3 whole days at DisneyWorld. I would do one day at each park and then maybe just a day to relax at the resort and go to Downtown Disney. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is amazing but pricey. But you could go eat dinner there and walk around on your first night. The Boma restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is our favorite place to eat in all of Disney. And the lodge is like walking around an upclose zoo. Really fun! At Downtown Disney try the Rain Forest Cafe or T Rex (if it's opened yet--it wasn't open the last time we were there.)
There are some great books that will help you plan. I think the one I used was called Disney with Kids (or something like that)--it was very helpful.
I hope you have a wonderful trip!

We went to Disney World in 1994, with our five children, and the best advice anyone gave us was this: buy a copy of the book, "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World." You can get it online at Amazon for about $10. They come out with a new edition each year.
We followed the advice in the book on which sights to see, in which order. And we did not have to wait in lines. And made the very most of our days in "the World."
We stayed at a condo, outside of "the World," so I don't know much about the Disney places to stay. But I know that is covered in the Unofficial Guide.
Have a good time!

We just got back from Disney 2 weeks ago. I definitely recommend the Princess lunch at Askerhaus in Epcot. It is nearly impossible to get reservations at the Castle. At Askerhaus, 5 princesses come there. We got to see Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Snow White and Aurora. Don't forget to go to the Hall of Fame at MK to see Tinkerbell and the other fairies. It's a long wait but they spend quite a bit of time with each child.

Epcot is Fantastic !!!

They have a whole Nemo thing at the aquarium. Nemo talks to the kids and responds to their questions. They have fountains my son loved, he loved the muscians at the old America place and seeing the countries. There's not a lot but it's not crowded and it's the best place to see the characters. Belle and the beast are in France, Jasmine and the guy is in the arab place there, and all the reg characters travel by in a car. It's easy to see them. I like the fireworks there too. It's spaced out and not crowded compared to the other places and you can sit and watch the fireworks a lot more comfortable than anywhere else.

Check out the extra magic hours , you only get this staying at their resorts, fast passes and dining plans. Everyone tells me the dining plans pay for themselves. We love the buses. Too convenient. I would get the hopper passes. Then if one place is wickedly crowded you go elsewhere. Rent a stroller. When you leave one park take your stroller ticket and paper name thing and you can grab a stroller at another park. Anytime you leave the stroller to go on a ride take your name paper. Take note of some easy no line rides, like Mickeys train in magic kingdom. When you get tired and kids want to ride, you go chill on the train.

You'll have a great time. I have taken my son probably 8 times , he's almost 7 now , and am taking my 2 year old in dec.

Any questions just message.

Oh the resorts I have stayed at were Coronado and the New Orleans one. The New Orleans one has a boat ride to Downtown Disney, which is eating and shopping, and adult teen stuff. This Dec. I am staying at the Animal Lodge with the Safari out your balcony. We'll see how it goes.

Take it easy and plan plan plan ! A flexible game plan really helps when you get there. Disney can be overwhelming and you will forget places to go and things to see.


Another website I found is http://beingfrugal.net/2009/07/01/frugal-disneyland-tips/
that seems to have some good frugal tips about disney. I'm still checking this site out myself

We went there in March of last year and was completely clueless on what to expect at Disney. We stayed off site over by Old Town in our camper. The drive was easy to the parks and Sea World but parking was about $20 a place. We are going again this August and we are staying at Fort Wilderness with our camper. We already have a few Character Meals scheduled, just a matter of figuring out which one we want to do. Our kids are 3yrs and my daughter will turn 9 a few days before we go.

You need to figure out where you are going to stay NOW!! Rooms book fast!! You also can't book your Princesses meal till it's 90 days out of your time to be there as well and the meals book fast too. Don't forget about Hollywood Studios becasue that place will have your Disney Playhouse friends that your littlest one probably enjoys. There are Extra Majic hours for the parks in the AM and PM but you can only use those if you are staying on a Disney site.

Make sure you have a compfy stroller for your 2yr old. We bought a Jeep jogger for our son last year and he was able to sleep in it while we walked around the parks.

There is just so much to figure out with planning a disney trip so the best advice I can give you is go to www.allears.net and do your homework. It is a website all about disney that will talk about all the differnt things, which characters are at what dinning meals and there are even reviews from people that have been there done that!!

Good luck!

only the active duty gets the park hopper, water parks and I think some other stuff. The 99 dollar ticket is just 5 days only for family memebers and the park hopper is 25 extra (normally 50!) which 124 for 5 days at disney isn't a bad deal!! We are military so we were even able to score 40% off our 8 nights at fort wilderness!! Sea World and Bush Gardens are still free for active duty as well but only 1 park per year. Sea world is great and will take up a whole day!!

My family and I just got back from Disney a few weeks ago. I want to go back!!! I grew up in Florida and we went to Disney almost every year. I have 2 children, a 4 year old and a 22 month old. This last trip was the best. We stayed at Port New Orleans at Riverside. The resort was awesome! We stayed in a standard room but it did have a fridge. They have a great pool area for the kids with a fun water slide. They have a great dining area right on the property. YOu could easily use one of your days and just stay at the resort. The kids can go fishing, rent a mini boat, go on a family bike ride, go for a carriage ride, or just stay by the pool. The resort has easy access to all of the parks with their bus system and usually a bus stop is right around the corner from your room. Also, they have a boat that travels down a river and will take you to Downtown Disney - great shopping and eating. I already told my husband that this is where I want to stay next year. A couple of years ago we stayed at Fort Wilderness in the cabins. The cabins have a full kitchen and a little family room. They were nice also, but we rarely used the kitchen. Port Orleans is much closer to more activities. Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!!

Good advice so far...
Also, make sure you go to http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/ for great info and you can click on the "Request a Disney vacation planning DVD". The DVD was a huge help the first time we went. It also got my kids really pumped up about the trip. They watched it over and over! : )

We are going in September! Woohoo!

We took our girls in 2007, when they were 3 and almost 5. We hated Epcot. The "KidCot" stations were simple arts and crafts (like coloring), Nemo was too scary for them, and Imagination was a huge disappointment. Even the fireworks, while beautiful, were too much for my smallest, and she spent the whole time clinging to my head and begging to leave. We will be skipping Epcot this time and heading over to Hollywood Studios. Don't pass up a trip to Animal Kingdom- if you think of it as a zoo you will love it.

Def check out www.allears.net when you get a chance. They have "fact sheets" on all the resorts, including how many pools, types of transportation, square footage of rooms, types of rooms, rates, etc. We are staying in a regular room, like last time. Honestly, they were so tired at the end of each day we could have had a parade and they wouldn't have noticed.

I hope you're getting the "free admission" on your daughter's birthday. We really liked eating at Cinderella's castle, but it was so expensive we won't be doing it again. We will be doing Chef Mickey's and the "Happily Ever After" feast at the Grand Floridian. We loved Boma, and will be doing it again, but it's not exactly kid-friendly. The atmosphere is wonderful, but the food is weird. We did the Crystal Palace last time and it was a nightmare.

Are you military? You can stay at shades of green only thing is I don't think they have a refrigerator in the room which made me mad but they do have a large breakfast buffet that keeps you full until mid afternoon. Also, I don't know if they have suites. The best thing about staying on disney is that they will take you to the park. I have never done Epcot. Don't think I want to. We did disney and MGM studios which was fun. I don't know about animal kingdom. Definitely do Sea World, it's fun and you are able to do it in about half a day or at least 5 or 6 hours. You know the military have a special for $99 for 5 days park hopper. I'm thinking about doing that. We're looking at the long weekend in October too. If you can try to sneakin a few snacks for the kids and water or small juices. Some parks don't let you bring in food but it you have small kids I think you may be able to get away with it. I always did. Prices in the parks are ridiculous. That's why we always ate a large breakfast and snack for lunch and only bought 1 meal in the park (water $3-$4; hamburger/hot dogs $4-5 may be more now).

Disney is all you need for this trip! You'll go again. Considering the ages of your children, staying on property is so convenient to return to your resort to rest and return to a park later. The children need the rest time. It's a pleasure to get on the bus, not having to drive, and get to a room for some privacy. The cabins are more remote than All-Star Disney Music, Disney Sports or Disney Movies, but will give you more space. We really enjoyed staying at the All-Star because the pool is so convenient and eating there is crowded but fun. We were there every other year til my son was 14. The Magic Kingdom is perfect for small children. Make reservations NOW for the birthday party. We took a friend to the Crystal Palace for her birthday party with Pooh characters. We enjoyed Chef Mickey for seeing all the cartoon characters and lots of pictures. The Animal Kingdom is exciting with the safari, and the Tree of Life video is a must see event. The rides there are more for older children. For us Epcot was more for older kids and adults with lots of walking. Each park will have something for your children so getting the Park Hopper is the best way to see all parks in a short time. Keep your tickets if you don't use all of them because Disney has, in the past, honored older tickets on future visits; I have to check that out myself. Relax and enjoy the journey. Prepare for long waits for the rides, even the fast-track lines get long. Buy the Disney guidebook on what to do first; it'll save you so much hassle.
Again, save Sea World and Universal for future trips.

You should invest in the Birnbaum guide-they even do a kid guide. Also, check out
allears.net and mousesavers.com for really great advice, tips and deals. Epcot is a go I think. You'll be there during the Food and Wine Festival and the Kidcot thing is great fun.
Staying on-site is a key to the magic and Birnbaum's can help with that. I think Sea World is great but likely too much for this trip. It can be something to look foward to for the next trip! Maybe a Universal/SW trip when the kids are older and can ride the rides.
The websites I mentioned are FULL of info and great tips, so be sure to check them out.
It's kind of easy to get overwhelmed but your timing is good so the heat won't melt the good time away!
Enjoy and Good Luck!

We stayed in the cabins years ago with my Mom, brother, husband and my daughter. It worked out great. Most cabins have a pull out couch, bunk beds and a full size bed. They are like a one bedroom apartment. We took the ferry boat over into the Magic Kingdom. I agree with you that your kids are too young for Epcot. There's not as much to do there as the other parks. You could easily drive to Sea World for one of the days. Hope this helps!

We stayed at the Contemporary last January and loved it. It's so close to the Magic Kingdom you can walk! We didn't need a suite or a kitchenette. We got a good deal with AAA and they were very helpful. Tip: call and make your restaurant reservations early. The better restaurants fill up, especially those with the Disney characters.

Good luck with your planning and have a wonderful vacation!


PS. You may be okay just doing two days at the Magic Kingdom. If you get the Park Hopper that will give you the flexibility you may need.

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