Disney...Our Way...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So I've gotten a ton of emails/comments and questions about our vacation and how people thought it was great that we were able to save quite a bit of money on our recent vacation to Disney...
So....I thought I'd summarize the trip & highlight how we made it soo much more affordable for our family...

First...the time of year we went...I have only been to Disney once - 20 years ago. My hubs has never been and of course our kids hadn't been either...I knew that I didn't want to take this magical vacation only to spend hours standing around in the hot sun waiting 90 minutes in line to do a 2 minute ride...
We've got Valley Fair, Como Town/Park and The Minnesota State Fair for that stuff!

So...I did my research to find out when the LEAST BUSY time of year is at Walt Disney World...
With the kids not being in school yet - it was somewhat easy for us to go on our own schedule...I despise winter and the COLD, so going when it was for SURE going to be winter here was another biggie...
And the least busy season at Disney also equals what they call - the value season -
It honestly cost about 50% less to go in the value season then it would have had we gone another time.
We scored a buy 4 nights, get 3 free deal that included park passes.

We did not choose a dining plan because we don't eat that much food when we are out and about, and the girls in this family are pretty picky eaters...The Disney Dining Plan for our family of four would have added approximately $120.00 PER DAY for FOOD to our trip...how is THAT a deal I ask you?

the details of the dining plan are as follows~

The additional cost for the 2010 Dining Plan (on top of the vacation package) is $41.99 or $46.99 per night per adult or junior (ages 10-17), $11.99 or $12.99 per night for children (ages 3-9). (Prices vary according to the dates of travel.) You get one table service meal, one counter service meal and one snack per day.

While it's true we could have done some Character Dining...We didn't for a couple of reasons...first, we weren't sure how our kids would react to the characters in person. Who wants to shell out $18.99 for adults and $10.99 for kids if the the food won't get eaten and someone might be hiding under the table afraid of the characters?
The other biggie for us...is we didn't want to schedule our vacation so that we were running from one place to the next, having to be somewhere at a said time. If we made dining reservations, we'd have to make sure we weren't at a show, watching a parade, in line to meet a character, or having a blast riding It's a Small World over and over again.
I cannot tell you the number of times we saw people racing to get to a reservation, sure they were going to be late.
That happened THREE TIMES in the line to meet Ariel in her Grotto! Nothing like waiting 30 minutes to meet the Little Mermaid only to have to get out of line and high tail it to a reservation.
We also didn't want to set alarm clocks...We've got two of those built in already - they are 3 and 4 years old...It was important that after a full day at Disney they got as great a rest as possible and if that meant someone needed to sleep in til 8 or 9 am...that was ok with us.

So...the food thing...
We didn't have a car - because we stayed right on Disney Property, they picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel - and we spent the week hopping on shuttle buses at our leisure...
Our hotel room had a fridge...but nothing else like a microwave...
So...after MUCH Internet searching and recommendations from friends...We went with Garden Grocer - an online grocery delivery service. $12.00 for delivery to Disney hotels for orders under $200 - FREE delivery over $200. Amazon.com also delivers food - who knew?

What did I order? Well, a case of 36 bottles of water for starters. Sure, it was $8.99 - but 3 bottles in and we were coming out ahead already as bottled water at Disney is $3.00 a shot! Other things I ordered were bananas, cinnamon bread, regular bread, peanut butter, jelly, butter, string cheese, donuts...We had pop tarts, beef jerky and cheese and crackers...and two different kinds of juice...
We packed this stuff in our backpack each day and ate when our tummies told us to - it worked out MARVELOUSLY...We did also eat some of our food at Disney's counter service locations...they were average at best...and high priced...

Before we went - I ordered several articles of clothing for the kids from an online Disney store - Sweatshirt online $7.99, Sweatshirt at Disney World, $45.00! Long sleeve tshirt online $6.99, at Disney world, $24.99.
A no brainer huh?
We let the kids each pick out one trinket - H picked out a small plush Minnie Doll and D, what else...a Pirate Sword.
We have offered to let them look at all the amazing stuff Disney has to offer online and pick out a couple more things now that we're home...but thankfully, neither of them has interest...(we really do have more toys, etc than we know what to do with!)
What do you do with a giant Goofy hat once you get home?
Soo Soo glad our kids were content to just take it all in while we were there!

Another thing I highly recommend...the Disney Photo Pass - my dear friend Laurie suggested it to me before we left, encouraging me to buy it before we went because it was just $99.00 for a disc of everything as opposed to $149.00 if we purchased later.
I contemplated. And thought about it. And mulled it over...and decided I couldn't do it - I take a zillion pictures on my own - why would I need it?
WRONG. On the 2nd day - the hubs and H were off wandering/hiding from the characters that D and I were meeting...so he wasn't there to snap a pic of D and I and Handy Manny (& D wasn't up for doing it alone) - but the photopass guy was there and made it soo easy to give me a card...so...I began using it...sparingly. We didn't have Internet access at our hotel and I couldn't see any pics...How could I spend $100 on pictures I hadn't seen yet?
Well, luckily for me, Disney offered me a discount code so that I can get my disc of ALL pics for $119 - There were 122 different pictures on that disc...and I love quite a few of them. They also got our best family shots of the entire vacation. So...my choices are spend $15 for one picture - or $120 for all of them 122+ (because I'm adding Disney borders, etc to some)
So...GET THE PHOTOPASS - PREPAY IT - AND STOP EVERY SINGLE PHOTO PASS PHOTOGRAPHER YOU FIND AND TAKE SOME PICTURES!! Have fun, be silly, be serious. When you get home - you want to see hundreds of pictures on that disc...make it worth the money!
So...I guess those are the basics...
** I highly recommend doing Disney's Fast Pass...We rarely encountered any lines for anything but Fast Pass allowed us to ride the Safari twice at Animal Kingdom on a VERY busy day and get on the new Toy Story Ride at Hollywood Studios that we wouldn't have otherwise gotten on. (again, with no dining reservations anywhere-we were able to make ourselves available for our fast pass times...which, the toy story one was 8 hours after we put our cards in right when we got there in the morning!
** If you can see Fantasmic - DO! It was AMAZING!
** Animal Kingdom Safari - soo neat to see soo many different animals close up but not in cages!
** We loved the Nemo Show and the Lion King Show...

The rest, we just rolled with! When we arrived at the parks each morning we'd pick up a schedule and look for parade times, block party times or anything else special that might be going ...and it worked out marvelously for us...

Any questions, besides why am I sooo frugal, and why is this post so damn long?

14 comments:

Jen Knox said...

Wow great tips!

We're still a few years from going to Disney, but it sounds like you did a great deal of advance-planning and it really paid off for you!

I had no idea you could have groceries delivered like that. I'll have to look into that option for our other pre-Disney trips as well!

Super informative post!

happygal said...

These are fabulous tips! Thanks for taking the time to recap them. I hope to have our family go next year, so I'll be referring back to this then I am sure.

Samantha said...

LOVE this post! Thank you so much for your insight! I will definitely be using some of your tips!

Meg said...

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest! I loved, loved, loved taking my kids to Disney (what?...already 10 years ago?!?) and we had so much fun...without breaking the bank. I'm mentally filing away some of your tips for next time! :)

Katie A. said...

Great suggestions and information! I can't wait for the hubby and I to get to go to Disney World together (before the kids come, and hopefully a trip with the kids after they come). I will definitely be referring back to this post when the time comes. Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Montessori Moments said...

Great tips! No tips on cheap flight though? LOL, We really want to go visit friends in Florida but can not justify the cost of airfare.
Happy Saturday sharefest!
http://mymontessorihomeblog.blogspot.com
or on twitter @montessoriblog

Amanda said...

You are so wise!! We are going next December and your tips are INVALUABLE!!

Thank you!

Blessings-
Amanda

simplicity said...

You make me want to take my kids to Disney! Sounds like a great trip and you've got GREAT tips Darcie!!!

The Practical Mom's Disney Vacation Companion said...

Whereas the Disney Dining Plan is a great deal for anyone who wants to experience the more expensive Disney World restaurants, or at least be able to choose more expensive entrees, it is obviously not for everyone. It is best to look at what is available, do your own math, and decide what works best for your family. For more detailed help deciding check out: Dollars and Cents of the Disney Dining Plan at: The Practical Mom's Disney Vacation Companion by going to http://www.momswdw.com/demo-new/.

Denise said...

Stopping by from SITS to say Hi!
I am adding you so I can come back & read more!
Please stop by!
http://extremepersonalmeasures.blogspot.com

Denise said...

Stopping by from SITS to say Hi!
I am adding you so I can come back & read more!
Please stop by!
http://extremepersonalmeasures.blogspot.com

Whatever Dee-Dee wants said...

Great tips! My family loves Disney!

Lea said...

Hey Darcie, thank you SO much for leading me here! I appreciate the tips, and wish I'd read this like, 6 months ago! We are going during spring break (ugh), staying on the property, and caved and got the dining plan. LOVE the idea about ordering groceries, because we have picky eaters, too (incl. hubs). Wonder if I can cancel that part?

One question: we only bought tix to the Magic Kingdom, since we're going for only 3+ days. Will my 8-year-old & 3yo be bored?

Signed,
Clueless But Going Anyway :) (Lea)

A Daddy Blog said...

This is WONDERFULLY helpful information. As you know we're taking our (she'll have just turned) 4 year old during one of their Value Seasons as well, in order to avoid some of the cost, crowds and heat. I really appreciate you sharing all of this.

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