Planning in advance:
1. I encourage most of my clients to book their trip at least 6, if not 9, months in advance. Rates are better, availability is wider, and reservations to the best restaurants are still open.
2. Consider the month you’re planning on traveling.
A lot of people automatically think about going in the summer (which I’ve done before) but I would never encourage. Summer months are crowded and hot…not the best combination.
Typically September to mid-October and January to mid-February are the least crowded months…which also make them the most affordable months. The weather is cooler and beautiful too.
Mid-November through New Years Day is extremely crowded too because of the Christmas celebrations that go on that time of year. However, I do encourage my clients to visit during the holidays because even though it’s crowded, the weather is so nice and the festivities are so much fun! Just know in advance that you will have to wait in some lines.
We went last April and it was ok. I don’t think I would travel there again in the spring though. Spring Break season lasts from early March to the end of April, so even though the weather is pretty nice, the crowds are high.
3. Book your dining reservations 6 months in advance.
A good travel agent will book all of your dining reservations in advance for you. You are able to book them 180 days before you arrive in WDW. I know it sounds crazy to book your breakfast 6 months in advance…but if you want the best restaurants, the best times, and the most options, you need to book those things early on (or have your travel agent do it for you).
Where to stay:
1. I personally only book WDW vacations for people staying on the property. I know many people chose to stay off property and then drive into WDW for the parks…in my professional experience, you’re missing out if you do this, so I don’t recommend it. WDW has a hotel room for every budget…and the accommodations at WDW are part of the experience. Plus, they make everything so easy if you stay on property. For me, your experience starts when you check-in to your resort.
2. The resorts are referred to as value, moderate or deluxe. If you’re looking for the lowest price, you should pick a value resort…if you want more amenities (like out of this world resort pools and dining areas), you should pick deluxe…and if you want something in the middle, pick moderate. WDW also offers campgrounds, condos and villas for larger parties. I’m just a firm believer in staying on property to maximize your experience.
3. Consider the pool at your resort verses adding the water parks to your Park Hopper Pass. Last year, we stayed at the Disney Yacht Club because of their wonderful “beach” and pool areas…and so, we didn’t include the water parks on our Park Hopper Pass (because we used the resort pools instead). Or you could do the opposite, stay at a value resort without a great pool area and include the water parks on your Park Hopper Pass…the bottom line is pay attention to the details when having your travel agent book.
What to add:
1. When booking your vacation, make sure you add your Park Hopper Pass (the ability to get into the 4 main parks and then perhaps the water parks as well). Park Hoppers are worth their weight in gold!
2. Pick a WDW Dining Plan for your food! This will save you so much money! There are several different WDW Dining Plans but I always recommend the Magic Your Way Plus Dining option. This will allow you one quick service meal, one sit down meal and one snack a day…which at WDW, is a lot of food!
Where to go besides the 4 main parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios):
1. WDW offers two water parks that can be added to your Park Hopper Pass.
2. Downtown Disney is a fun little shopping and dining area that requires no pass. The WDW transportation takes you right there.
3. WDW has 4 golf courses on property for those days when you (or your hubby) want to do something besides visiting a park. All 4 course are spectacular! If you have a golfer in the family, I would highly recommend making a tee time.
4. Disney Boardwalk is where we spent a lot of time in-between parks or at the end of the day. There is shopping, dining, live music, midway games and boat rides.
5. ESPN Wide World of Sports will make the sports enthusiast very happy in your family!
6. WDW offers world class spa treatments at many of their resorts. You don’t have to be staying at that particular resort to enjoy a great spa experience, you can shuttle over and indulge after a long day at one of the parks.
A few other tidbits:
1. If you’re flying into the Orlando Airport and staying on property, your luggage and transportation services are taken care of! Make sure your travel agent books you on the Disney Magical Express and your luggage will go from your departing airport directly to your hotel room…without you having to do a thing.
2. WDW does a great job with shuttles and transportation on property…once you’re inside the park, it’s really simple to go from one area to another. All of the places I listed above are on the bus routes, so you don’t have to worry about driving, taking a cab or renting a car.
3. Children two and under are not required to have Park Hopper Passes or Meal Plans.
4. I would say WDW is perfect for all ages (infants to people in their 80s) but if I had to pick, I would say between 2 and 6 is the best age group. I feel like kids this age really believe they’re seeing Cinderella or Mickey Mouse…it’s so real to them. That would be my ideal age…but like I said, I plan on still going when I’m 78.
We had the best time at Walt Disney World last year…and hope to revisit again next year too! I do have a few more secrets and tidbits of info…but, I have to leave some things for my travel clients :). No matter if your kids are toddlers or teens, I really feel like your family can have a wonderful experience at WDW. The time spent together is what’s most important…and family togetherness and Walt Disney World just go hand in hand.
Now…I promised to answer a few questions from last week’s post about traveling with your kids…so, here you go…
1. What do I do if I need to take a taxi? Do I use a car seat?
A lot of shuttle companies will bring car seats if you call in advance. If we know we need to take a shuttle somewhere for a lengthy distance, I will call in advance and request (for a fee) that they bring along car seats. When we travel abroad, most of the time, we rent a car and also car seats…I really can’t think of a time when we didn’t either rent a car or use the subway system. When we went to Russia and Thailand, we found shuttle services that had car seats for the kids and then in the other places we’ve visited, we rented cars. A lot of people travel with kids, so you will probably be surprised to find more of them with car seats then you might think. Also consider the subway systems in most major areas…that’s a really easy to way to travel with kids.
2. What do I do about naps when my kids travel? I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…
…in my opinion, when I’m traveling, I don’t want to be stuck in my hotel room while the kids nap (and you know how important naps are to me when we’re at home!). When I’m on vacation, I want to be out and about seeing things and taking it all in…so over the years, I’ve learned that when my kids are tired, they’ll nap…in their strollers. I would try and just go out and enjoy your day and when you think your kids are getting tired, put them in their strollers…they’ll go to sleep. Vacationing with kids is not about rules and schedules (those things are for home)…vacationing with kids is more about going with the flow and making the most of situations. Typically, my kids catnap as we push them around (30 minutes to an hour at a time) and that is enough. Try and relax and they will too.
3. How do I handle time zone changes?
The same rule applies when we arrive home from a trip…we just pick up and move on with our day and try to stay awake until bedtime that night. If your kids are completely overwhelmed and exhausted, a short nap (1 to 2 hours) will be good but set an alarm! Don’t let them oversleep or else they’ll be up all night!
4. How do I sleep in hotel rooms with my kids?
We keep our routine the same in hotels as we do at home…baths, pjs, a little Mickey Mouse on the i-Pad and then they lay down with their sound machine on. If they talk, I ignore them and do something quiet like read a book or watch a movie on the i-Pad with headphones (if you start talking to them, they won’t stop talking to you!). I find that kids are usually tired by the end of the day on vacation, so as long as their routine stays somewhat the same, they’ll adjust pretty well. The sound machine is great because it blocks out other hotel guest noise and all of our little tossing and turning.
So, that concludes my thoughts on Walt Disney World and Traveling with my Kiddos :). As always, if you would like more info on me helping you with your Disney vacation (or any other vacation), just send me an email. You can find all of my contact info here.
And now for the winner of my Stella & Dot giveaway…
Congratulations Kelly! Email me to claim your prize!
For the rest of us, don’t forget, you can still shop Stella & Dot between now and next Friday by clicking here. Your summer wardrobe will thank you…don’t delay!
On the foodie blog today, Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats!