More Disneyworld...sorry but I Need Help?!?!

Updated on January 10, 2011
S.H. asks from Troy, TX
22 answers

So the Day before yesterday I asked whether we should choose disneyworld or Universal studios for our vacation in the very near future. After reading all the responses I got here to my family and looking over both websites we picked Disney. It seems so overwhelming though. I just have a few more questions....Is the dining plan really worth it? Is it worth it to stay at one of the hotels at Disneyworld? Do you have to make reservations for all of the restaraunts before you go? If we go ahead and get the package deal with the tickets, the hotel and the dining plan, whats a reasonable budget for everything else per day? Any other great tips?...Thanks in advance :)

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers


answers from Raleigh on

Yes the dining plan is worth it, yes it is definitely best when you stay at a Disney hotel, and yes you definitely should make reservations ahead of time (and as early as possible).

We own a Disney timeshare and go at least once a year. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to PM me! I love talking about Disney and helping others with their questions! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

i agree w/ KE. the dining plan is great depending on you groups age. when we went we stayed on the extra driving. and we did the dining plan. we made reservations for one character meal a so many characters that way!!

More Answers


answers from Dallas on

We've been at least 8 times and we always stay at the Polynesian. It is our favorite. Yes, it is a bit pricier but it is worth it to us.

We never did meal plans, I book airline tickets myself on American, book the hotel directly with WDW. When you book, you need to make reservations for any character dinners, etc.

We took a private cab vs the free shuttle (about $80 each way). That way you have a straight shot and no waiting for the shuttle to make numerous stops.

Some of our favorites....Chef Mickey at the Contemporary, lunch or dinner, breakfast at O'hana Polynesian, Luau at Polynesian. Since daughter got older, we stopped doing the character things and focused on Epcot, etc.

We had a semi private safari at AK and it was awesome...up close and personal.. LOVED it and it was the favorite part of our last trip.

We stayed at the Concierge bldg for Polynesian a few times and they have food available all the time. They have breakfast, lunch, snack, happy hour, light dinner and dessert set up at special times. There were always drinks, fruit and light snacks available. This is included in the room fees which are steep but you do get a lot of food. There are special perks that come with concierge... semi private safari (about $200 each) among other adventures.

As far as the budget... we did a lot in advance... air tickets were paid for, we prepaid most of the lodging. The main thing is DON'T go into debt, stay reasonable within your financial shape.

When we vacation, we always go first class and it is much more enjoyable knowing you have taken care of the finances ahead of time so there are no worries and no debt. Our average Disney trip was around $7000 for a family of 3 and as daughter got older, we paid for one of her friends to join us.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We went for the first time last year and the best resource I had was the Unofficial Guide to Disney World. It's a big thick book with everything you would want to know and they update it every year. It tells you the pros and cons of staying on and off property, the dining plan, time of year to go, etc. and it gives reviews and descriptions of the rides, restaurants. There is also a panel discussion board on the Disney Website where you can ask questions. But I like the Unofficial Guide Book because it's written by unbiased people who are not employed by Disney but have been there a trillion times. Have fun!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Great choice. Yes the dining plan is so worth it. I always like to stay on
property. Makes things easier. And yes do make restaurant reservations
before you go. This means careful planning. If you go with the package,
you should not have to put out any money on a daily basis, except for
souvenirs etc. Maybe an extra drink or two but that is it. Tips are not
included in the sit down meal so that would be extra.

I would make a list of what park we would do on what day and plan dinner
reservations around that. What you want to avoid is running from park
to park during the day. There are some great restaurants in the hotels.
Our favorite at Fort Wilderness Lodge is Whispering Canyon. What a
hoot for kids.

If you did not go with the dining plan, once you looked at the menus you
would regret not doing it.

We have been to Disney so many times that I have this down to a science.
Any questions just send me a message. Have fun.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from College Station on

Yes. TO all of your questions. The most money you will spend at Disney is on food (not counting souvenieres.) The meal plan is one price per day, regardless of here or what you eat. You also get one snack (mickey bar, anyone?) We ended up having snacks left over and hit one of the candy stores on our way out. It is, hands down, the best thing Disney has introduced in years. It lets you keep your food costs down cuz it can get out of control FAST!

During crowded times you must make reservations before you go if you want to eat at the nicer restaurants at reasonable times. If you want to do some Character dining, Cinderella's Table (in the castle) or France, Japan, or italy restaurants, then make those reservations before you go.

Some restaurants to skip- the Crystal palace. It is, honestly, the worst meal you will have on property.

Staying on Disney property is the way to go! Easy, transportation everywhere for free, key to the world card, package delivery.

As far as budgeting daily for incidentals, that's kinda up to you. Breakfast is not on the meal plan so you will need to budget for that if you get a room without a mini kitchen (with a family your size I recommend that). You do get a snack with the meal plan, but anything else you want to eat or drink. Drinks are included in the plan, but only with the meal. Souveneirs you or your kids will want. It is not so easy to budget that. My suggestion is to tell everyone that you are not going to buy anything the first day and then give each person a specific dollar amount. Go from there.

Have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Get the Unofficial Guide to Disney and READ it.
Stay on site. We have always stayed at the Contemporary. Love it because once you are back to the hotel-you are practically in the room. Some of the other hotels are so big that you come in the lobby and still have another mile to walk to your room. Also the monorail goes thru the Contemporary AND they allow 5 to a room. We stayed at the Polynesian once and did not like it half as much.
Lots of people are recommending get up and going. Good advice if your kids are small but with teenagers, they might prefer staying late. If you have an onsite hotel it is very easy to come back to the hotel during the day. Don't underestimate how much time you would lose to transportation if you are not onsite. A monorail hotel is even better than just onsite.
We found that pretty much once we paid for tickets, hotel and food-we didn't spend a lot of other money. Once our kids got past the "gimme" stage they were happy to get one souvenir for the trip-a t shirt, toy, whatever or nothing at all. Be forewarned. Almost every ride comes out into a gift shop!!
We did splurge and let them get a pin each day. They enjoyed trading them with the Disney staff and spending time looking at them in the different parks. They run about $5 each on up.
With older kids they have some extra things you can do if you want. My son and I did surf lessons. There are some behind the scenes tours. They are pricey but you will find that Disney seldom does anything "half way".
I promise, get the book, talk to everyone you know that has been. Carry the book around and people will stop and talk to you! Make a plan each day so you don't waste your time figuring out what to do.
We did one park a day. Sometimes we would go back to a different park for dinner. (Did not do the dining plan.) Have a map of the park and get a feel for where you are going before you go.Lots of times the most exciting rides are at the back of the park so if you go early-go straight to the back and work your way forward. This is particularly good advice for the safari ride in Animal Kingdom-the animals are moving early morning or at dusk.
USE the Fast Passes. My husband did not understand the concept at first and thought it was silly. It took him about one day to catch on. Once we entered a park, one person would take all the cards and get fast passes and then meet back up at an easy to get into ride.
GET reservations for the restaurants. It is a challenge to try and figure out where you are going to be in advance but that just helps you organize. Restaurants can be difficult to get into and there is nothing more frustrating than having your kids melt down as you are told it will be a 45 minute wait for lunch. Pick a park a day, stick with restaurants there.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Stay on Disney property. The Boardwalk area is good if your kids are a little older-its connected to Epcot and DHS. IMO it just adds so much more to the experience to stay in the World.

I love the meal plan and you will too-esp with older boys. The thing is you have to make reservations at the BEST restaurants beforehand so that you get the most bang for your buck. A dinner at La Cellier and a lunch at the hotel sitting down are both going to count as table service....of course you want to eat the delicious $40 dinner from La Cellier right? In Disney you will want to make ADRs anyhow just to guarantee you get in....the dining plan has really made their restaraunts much harder. THat being said if you are going in off times you should be ok...stil make your ADRs though. Its easy to do online. I encourage you to do your research on the restaurants ...go to for all the menus. I would also get the Unnoficial Guide TO Disney...super helpful in planning.

One more should really check out dinner at Ohana in the Poly. A great experince and the food is really good. THey bring out big skewers of meat done right there in the barbecue pit.chicken, shrimp and beef. REally tasty and I am picky when it comes to meat. They also have lots of character involvement like a conga line around the restaurant.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We never do the dining plan, in large part because we stay in a hotel on property. Here's our disney schedule:

Get up, eat, & get going.

Come back a couple rides (typically 2 fast pass, 1 or 2 regular) later and go swimming. Have a snack in room.

Go back for a couple rides.

Come to the room and swim and eat lunch. (little ones nap or watch a cartoon for a bit).

Go back for a couple rides.

Come to the room for a swim and snack.

Go back for a couple rides.

Come back to the room for a swim.

Go out for dinner OR eat dinner in the room.

Tired kids go to bed, awake kids come out for another couple rides.

2nd round of bedtimes OR swimming and bedtimes.

1 or more people stay in the room, the rest go ride rides until tired.


Repeat for 4-5 days.

This way we're never tired / always feeling refreshed by the swim and relax time. We keep plenty of food in the rooms, so we're not paying through the nose eating in the park except for what we brought with us in backpacks (milk boxes for the kids, etc.). We typically make reservations for the one dinner and one breakfast that we eat in the park (we go to disneyland, we do Blue Bayou in Pirates of the Carribean, and Goofy's Breakfast.

I used to live 20 minutes from DLand when I was a kid (and it's super cheap for residents... they didn't have annual passes like they do now, but we'd only pay about $10 per person, parking was more expensive than tickets). We'd get there at open, and leave at midnight. I SOOOOO prefer staying in a hotel on grounds. We choose one that is on the monorail route, so it's easiness itself to be popping in and out of the park all day. A kid looks like they're about to melt down, easy peasy. Go back to the room and eat and rest for a bit and it's no worries, 'cause we're RIGHT THERE. It doesn't derail plans for the rest of the day. Happy kids, happy parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I'm all about the dining plan and yes you have to make reservations. Check out it's a consumer site. It lists restaurants, menus, costs and is not affiliated by disney so you get total consumer ratings.

I heard it can be cheaper to stay outside of disney. However, magic hours are only for Disney guests. They allow you to go to the parks before it's opened for the public of after it is closed for the public.

Hopper pass is a must if you want to visit more than 1 park a day.

When we went we choose the dining plan with 1 sit down dinner, 1 quick service and 1 snack. We really did not have to pay for anything else food wise. You can always do cereal in the morning or oatmeal in the coffee pot. Pack granola bars. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom and they do sell milk and laundry soap and other essentials.

Personal Suggestions
-Comfy shoes
-If you plan to do laundry there it is easier if you pack like clothes. It is easier to load all lights/darks especially when there is a limited amount of washer/dryer
-Make your own itinerary on what you want to do. Spontaneity is great but when there are so much choices, planning takes the stress away.
-Character dining is great when you want to meet them but hate the lines

Whatever you do I am sure you will have a great time. My 6 year old prefers the mountains of TN so I'm not sure if we would get a chance to go back *boo hoo*



answers from Houston on

You can buy your hopper passes at the Disney Store here and they are a tiny bit cheaper. You will for sure want hoppers. We always stay at the All Star resorts and the kids love it! You don't really spend a whole lot of time in you hotel, so you don't need anything fancy. If you are doing character dining, make those reservations NOW. You can bring into the parks your own water, snacks, and even food if you want to carry a cooler. We took a family of 5 this summer and really did not spend a bundle. Make sure you allow for some shopping money because there is sooo much stuff you will just have to have :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

We took our 4 and 2 year olds to DW in November. We stayed in a time share that was not on Disney property. It was fine to drive and park, and we were able to bring our double stoller and pack a cooler. Did you know you can bring your own food and drinks into the park? Even if you bring your snacks you'll save some time and money in the park. You do need to reserve character meals ahead of time - I did it online. The ideal schedule for us was to attend a character brunch buffet and fill up, then head to the park. We ate at one of the resorts one day and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Next time, we might stay in Disney just to get the whole experience. I didn't see how old your kids are, but we found that hopping parks, or even leaving and returning to the same park, was unrealistic. Also, we went to Epcot and Hollywood Studios each for a day but had the most fun in Magic Kingdom. We actually bought extra tickets and spent two extra days there (four in total). We closed Magic Kingdom our last day there, and we had checked out of our place in the morning with a 20 road trip ahead. We couldn't get enough!


answers from Chicago on

Since your kids are older, you should definitely go with the dining plan. When we went to Disney, we found the meals in the parks and hotels to be expensive. Even the kids' meals were more than we were used to paying. No such thing as a value menu at Disney! We wished we had chosen the dining plan! Everyone that we know that did the dining plan was glad they did.

I found this website extremely helpful:

Personally, we loved staying on the Disney Property. We were able to get a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at the Wilderness Lodge Villas (friends are Disney Vacation Club members). For our family of 5, it was awesome not to have two hotel rooms and a bed for everyone.

Staying on the property entitles you to certain benefits too. You get extended hours at the parks for disney resort guests only. These differ from day to day, but you can plan your activities accordingly. For example, the Magic Kingdom had extended hours (open later) the first night we were there. We were there until midnight. Very fun going on the Haunted Mansion ride at 11pm! You'll get a schedule when you check in.

I recommend making reservations if there are specific restaurants you want to eat at. And make reservations if you want to do a character breakfast or lunch. We tried to do a character meal without reservations and were told the wait was 2 hours! No thanks! We did something else instead.

When you're there, don't be afraid to ask "Cast Members" about when is the best time to go on the Safari at the Animal Park or where is the best place to see to watch the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.

Have fun!



answers from Minneapolis on

You've gotten some great advice here. I will only add my 2 most important tips.

1). Get to the parks as early as possible. Your first 1-2 hours will be the most enjoyable before the crowds come and ride lines get long. Read The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for the best advice ever!

2.) After you plan what parks you will be which days, use the Disney web site and DEFINITELY make many advance dining reservations. Even if you don't use them, unless it is a special show dinner, there is no penalty for no showing if you get sidetracked or change plans. But you WILL want to have those advanced dining reservations as many places won't take walk up guests. And there are some truly wonderful restaurants, esepcially at World Showcase in Epcot.



answers from Houston on

There's no need to apologize for asking Disney questions!

There are numerous advantages to staying onsite. If cost is a consideration, some of the Value Restorts (All Star Music, All Star Movies, etc) are no more expensive than many other hotel chains and you still receive the benefits of staying on site (ie: free transportation from the airport, transportation to the parks, package delivery for things you buy at the parks, etc).

In answer to your other questions, I sent you a PM with some info that will be helpful to you.


There's no need to apologize for asking Disney questions!

There are numerous advantages to staying onsite. If cost is a consideration, some of the Value Restorts (All Star Music, All Star Movies, etc) are no more expensive than many other hotel chains and you still receive the benefits of staying on site (ie: free transportation from the airport, transportation to the parks, package delivery for things you buy at the parks, etc).

In answer to your other questions, I sent you a PM with some info that will be helpful to you.


answers from Las Vegas on

One tip a mom gave me was a ride pass or something like that that helps with lines. You can order it on their site I believe... I was asking about disney land but I would think both parks have it.



answers from Johnstown on

I'll tell you what we learned from speaking directly w/ Disney if you PM me.



answers from Philadelphia on

here are some things we enjoy doing when we visit disney
1. first purchase a disney guide book
2. in the disney book it tells you where to look for moving trash cans. where to find hidden mickey mouses.
3. we enjoy getting ice cream sundaes at downtown disney at giradelli chocolate
4. we have 3 kids one girl two boys. just my daughter and i are going to the princess breakfast together. she will have just turned 5 yrs when we go.
5. i like to have a disney countdown starting about 3 months before we leave
6. i go to a local kids consignment store to purchase cheap disney t shirts instead of paying $20-$25 for t shirts
7. have a bag for the airplane for different plane activities..nothing messy
8.we always visit one of the disney water parks
9. i would do some research before you gets you excited plus you will know certain things to stay away from and what you would enjoy more. such as all my kids love pirates of the caribean.
10. if you need a stroller just for some days rent it there. disney has the easiest strollers i have ever used. pushing the disney stroller was no effort.
11. we loved the japanese restraunt at epcot.
12. if your renting a wheelchair get there earlier than later. last time we went my grandmom rented a wheelchair and the chairs that worked better were already taken before we got there.
13.once i look thru my disney book i could give you ideas.



answers from Houston on

Yes, stay on property, not just because it's Disney, but because the Disney complex is huge, it'll take you at least 20 minutes from any of the off property hotels to get to the parking lots of any of the parks. Plus, with staying on property you get to go to certain parks earlier or stay later on specific days.

Get the park hopper pass. That way you can go to more than one park in a day. You might not think this is necessary, but it can be very useful. Example, Animal Kingdom closes at 6:30 or so, still plenty of time to go to another park, especially one that is staying open later for on property guests.

GET THE DINING PLAN!!!! I cannot stress this enough. Like any other amusement park/sporting event/etc., the cost of food is outrageous. If you can get it pre-paid in advance, do it. Besides, it is totally worth the cost. You can do the all counter service option. But, I would recommend the next step up, which gives you 1 counter service and 1 table service meal per day + snacks. They have some really cool places to dine. We tried all sorts of food the last time we went. We had the buffets at Norway (which was a Princess Character Dining) and Germany. We used 2 table service credits per person to dine at the "fancy" African restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We wanted to go to the Science Fiction Dinner Theater at MGM, but could not get reservations. Counter service alone you can plan on $10 per person per meal, that's for a burger, fries, and a drink. For table service, the entre alone usually runs around $20 per person, and that doesn't include an appetizer, dessert, or drink.

If you do the dining plan with table service (or even if you don't and want to dine in one) make your reservations in advance. You can possibly get a reservation, but it may not be where and when you want. YOU WANT TO PLAN YOUR DAYS IN ADVANCE ANYWAY, NOT GO THERE WITH NO PLAN OF ATTACK. So, plan you dining as well.

As far as budget per day, if you buy the whole package in advance, you don't actually need a lot for anything else. Though, of course, you will spend money on other things. A lot of it depends on how much you anticipate spending on souvenirs. I would suggest giving each child a set amount of money to purchase their chosen souvenir(s). Believe me, every park or store you go in, you and they will see something that you just can't live without.

BIGGEST SUGGESTION, get the photo card from the first photographer you see. You know how parks have people stationed at entrances and such taking pictures, you get a ticket, and go see them later to purchase. Disney has this card you get instead. Then each time you see one of these people at the different entrances, autograph signings, rides, etc., you give them the card and they note your photo. When you get back home you have a month to look at the pictures, edit them, and purchase what you want. Or you can buy the disk which gives you the copyrights to them.


answers from Tucson on

Check out this lady has so much detail on all these things, plus helps you save money. HTH



answers from Cleveland on

Character dining is often booked 18 months out, so yes, need reservations for those. We just went Christmas week, and, well, all I can say is "moooo." Too crowded for me, Universal was much better. Universal is more oriented toward older kids, which I have, in addition to an infant I now have. I've gone in October and February (great timing there) as well as spring break/winter break (awful). I've also heard summer is not when you want to be there. The hotels are worthwhile if you are an early riser or plan on going between more than one park in a day, both of which are too much work for me, but many like to. I usually get a condo in Kissimmee or a home rental. Kissimmee has the Star Island Resort and Barefoot'n in the Keys Resort, both of which will rent very reasonably and are 20 minutes away.

Try dining plan for one day and if you like it, can buy more. At least you can from my recollection, anyone know for sure? Universal is day by day. We didn't like the limitations Universal put on where you eat.



answers from Jacksonville on

I think the dining plan is the way to go if you plan to be in the parks all day long and need all of the meals...we always do......Also, staying on Disney property is a great value because you can easily use their transportation to the parks and other Disney areas as well as have access to extra park hours which is really nice! With staying on property, getting the meal plan and tickets...the only extra money you will need will be for some drinks/water (we like to make sure to stay hydrated!) and souvenirs.....You may also need some money for tips....I'm not sure if they are included in the dining plans anymore.....You will need to make reservations for the sit down meals you would like in order to avoid the lines and get in ASAP...It's really easy to make the reservations, just call the number and they walk you through it step by step....Hope this helps! Enjoy! We're planning a trip for Christmas 2012! Can't wait to start checking everything out and actually making decisions! I love it!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions