A trip to Disney World is a childhood rite of passage. Despite the fact that there are rides galore, fun in the sun and some very magical experiences, a Disney vacation has the potential to be very stress-provoking for adults and children alike.
There are long waits in lines, overpriced food, plus the potential for some completely fun-filled days that are also extremely exhausting and overstimulating. However, if you follow a few straightforward tips you are sure to have a fantastic time at Disney World in Florida, saving money and time in the process.
Consider A Non-Disney Hotel
Disney’s hotels have some perks: free and convenient transportation to the park, a “magical” atmosphere (with Disney-inspired decor), extended opening hours, access to free parking, and a convenient booking service. However, this comes at a cost: Disney’s properties are both more expensive and less glitzy than the accommodation available elsewhere in Orlando. Although it may be more convenient to book a Disney hotel room along with your Disneyland ticket, consider doing some research and finding something a little more suitable for your budget or needs. Disney hotels have themed public areas, but who needs more Disney after spending an entire day at the park? The rooms at Disney hotels offer less cushy surroundings than other options, even those that are similarly priced. There are luxury hotels located in the vicinity of Disney World that have rates which compete with Disney hotels but with nicer rooms and bathrooms. Since Orlando attracts a lot of conventions, there are also a lot of no-frills hotels with very competitive pricing. If you have been spending your days at Disney World there is a fair chance that your hotel will just be a place where you come home and crash out. Consider saving money on a hotel so that you have money left over for other things. If you do want luxury, you should still be able to find cheaper options than a Disney hotel.
Don’t Line Up
It is now the norm at Disney World to wait in line for much longer than the ride or attraction actually lasts. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t minimise your waiting time and make your day go a lot smoother. Many of Disney’s most popular attractions are equipped with a Fastpass system, which allows you to “reserve” a place in line while you explore other parts of the park. It also allows you to structure your day a little better. All you need to do is scan your admission ticket at the Fastpass kiosk located near the ride of your choice, and plan to return in the one-hour time frame listed on the ticket — whereupon you will use the designated Fastpass line to skip most of the queue. Be aware that there are a set number of Fastpasses available a day, and you can only hold one at a time. So, if you are planning on making your day at Disney World go by a lot easier, head straight to a Fastpass kiosk as soon as you get into the park, and structure your day around that. You can have much faster access to your favourite rides, and even go back for repeat rides on the ones you liked the most.
Don’t Settle When It Comes to Transport
Disney has an extensive travel network which can shuttle you between your hotel and a park, but this so-called convenience can come at a price. After a long day of lining up for rides, attractions and food, sometimes lining up for a bus can be the last straw. Disney buses are slow and uncomfortably crowded, especially if you want to leave just after the peak: the Disney World bus system is most crowded after fireworks. Instead of settling for Disney’s transport options (and locking yourself into a long visit home after a long day at the park), you should consider renting a car when you visit Disney World (or driving if this is a viable option for you). An enormous volume of visitors makes Orlando, Florida one of the cheapest places in America to rent a car. Although parking at the park can be quite expensive, it is free if you do decide to stay at a Disney hotel, and a car will also give you a lot of freedom to visit other places in Orlando, as well: you will have the opportunity to explore other food and entertainment options if you need a break from all things Disney.
Don’t Spend Too Much Money on Tickets
As with many other things Disney-themed, the most convenient option is also the one that will cost you the most money. When choosing tickets — as with other aspects of your Disney vacation — you should be absolutely sure that you are not paying too much for dubious advantages. Disney offers Magic Your Way tickets, which are one-to-ten day passes which can be used for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When compared with multiday tickets, Magic Your Way tickets offer a very favourable discount. If you are only planning on being in Orlando for a few days, or if you want to save money, you should consider buying the cheaper ticket (which only allows you to enter one park per day) and buying an upgrade (which will allow you to visit multiple parks per day or add extra days) only if you need it. It is difficult enough to cover a single park in a day, let alone multiple parks, and you will appreciate the extra cash you will free up for yourself by buying the cheapest ticket that you need.
Don’t Stick to Disney Restaurants
It can be fun and exciting to eat your way around Epcot, and there are some very good restaurants located at the park, especially for families with children. However, Disney isn’t exactly the place where people go for either gourmet food or cheap eats. Disney restaurants are also crowded. If you are happy with chain restaurants, consider venturing just outside the park gates for meals: you will probably save some money, and familiar food may help with defusing conflicts that come from combining a long day at Disney with picky eating children. If you are interested in spending a little more money on quality food, Orlando also has a thriving gourmet food scene, with excellent Vietnamese and Cuban cuisine. A break from Disney at meal times may defray frayed nerves, and it can add some very welcome variety to your Florida vacation.
Don’t Try to do Everything at Once
One of the biggest mistakes that beginners to Disney World make is giving each attraction and ride an equal weighting, by assuming that value is measured not in the quality of the experiences but the amount of experiences. A Disney expert may object, but the fact is that not every attraction at Disney World is worthy of your attention, especially if your children are teenagers. Unless you are in the mood for shopping, you can skip Downtown Disney, or breeze through it early in the morning. The same goes for gift shops: there is no need to linger in every one. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot are each worthy of an entire day, and a long time spent lingering over attractions. You should therefore consider, if your time is limited, spending only half a day at other parks to leave time for the better stuff. You may also want to return to a park that you like, so consider not wasting time seeing a show that is more designed for small children or going through It’s A Small World if you have already experienced it (it is a little weird, after all): prioritize! Look through the park website to see what you are interested in. Take a break and go with what seems like the most fun. That is the object of Disney World, after all.
Don’t Overdo Things
If you consider the four major theme parks and two water park, then your Orlando experience has over a thousand acres of ground to cover. Sounds like a marathon experience. Instead of rushing around trying to see everything, make sure that you schedule regular breaks to lie around in the sun. Most hotels in Orlando have pools, and many of the more expensive hotels have excellent water complexes that compete with Disney for luxury. By making sure that you do not conform to unreasonably high expectations or an unreasonably hectic agenda, you can make sure that you avoid squabbles and meltdowns. Your family has come to Florida with fun in mind, so make sure that all your decisions are based on that and not on making a job out of your vacation.
Don’t Go at the Wrong Time of Year
Does shuffling around in the heat with capacity crowds sound fun to you? While some people consider this experience to be part and parcel of a Disney vacation, you should consider scheduling your holiday for another time, especially if you have small children or children with special needs. When school is out — especially in the United States but also elsewhere in the world! — bookings at Disney World and the associated hotels and attractions peak. Weekends are often considered to be the busiest time at Disney World, although Mondays are also busy. You should consider if you really want to go to Disney World at summer: this is when Florida weather is at its worst, and it is also a peak time. You should consider letting your children take some time off school at a non-peak time: September and Mid-January are perfect.