An online friend recently asked for tips on Disney vacations and instead of retyping my thoughts from past blog posts, I’m sharing them here for her and you! There are 20 tips here from my personal experience and from researching what others have shared.
On Saving Money
Nearly every kid dreams of going to one of the Disney theme parks during their childhood years, but parents are usually a little more hesitant to book the trip because of the hefty price tag that accompanies it. If you are thinking about taking a trip to a Disney park and are looking to save money, check out the following ways to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on your trip. Keep in mind that Disney would like you to think that buying their packages is the best way to save money, but often you can save more by buying things separately.
- Stay off the Disney campus. Surrounding hotels have lower pricing to entice travelers away from staying at Disney. Keep in mind that you will need to have a way to travel back and forth from Disney if you stay off campus.
- Book your trip during the off season. Disney has many seasons ranging from “Value” to “Peak”. Unfortunately there isn’t a 3 month period that is considered to be the off season. Weekdays during the fall months are cheaper, and the period after Thanksgiving and before December 21st, when “Holiday Season” starts, is cheaper to book as well.
- Book a hotel that includes breakfast. While breakfast is one of the least expensive meals to eat out, it can save you a surprising amount of money by eating at the hotel. Before heading back to your room, grab some extra fruit for a snack later in the day.
- Bring along a soft sided cooler. You are allowed to bring in soft sided coolers to the park, and the ones that will fit in a backpack or are a backpack are ideal. This allows you to bring in both snacks and lunch. Plan to stop at a discount store or a grocery store to stock up on some food to take in for when family members start to get hungry.
- Plan to eat your evening meal outside of the park. By dinner time you’ve spent the majority of the day at Disney and everyone is probably ready for a break. Take this opportunity to head back to your hotel and let everyone rest a bit and freshen up. Then, before going back to the park, stop and eat something.
- Bring a refillable water bottle and flavored packets. There are water sources around the park that you can fill up a water bottle with, but it’s well water and doesn’t taste very good, so plan on bringing some flavored packets to sweeten up the water. Staying hydrated at the park is very important since you will be outside much of the time.
- Check out local ticket hubs for discounted tickets. Disney wants you to think that you can’t buy tickets anywhere except through Disney and their affiliates, but this isn’t true. Keep your eyes open for ongoing deals. Sometimes you can make a donation to an Orlando hospital and the hospital will give you tickets to Disney for your family. Different programs like this pop up all year long so keep your eyes open for deals. Local ticket hubs can save you 5 to 10%, which may not seem like much, but once you do the math it starts to add up.
- Join the Cirque club to receive 35% off of tickets. Joining the club is free and you must buy your tickets 30 days in advance to receive the discount. The discount is only offered for the Cirque de Soleil performances that are during the Tuesday through Saturday shows. Check the online club for applicable dates.
- Go to Disney Quest for half price. If you’d like to check out Disney Quest (a virtual-reality theme park in downtown Disney) you can check for a manager’s special. Often if you go within 2 hours or less of closing you can save half off the ticket price. It would be something different to do and if you can go for half price it might be worth it. This discount isn’t always offered so check while you are there.
- When renting a car don’t get stuck on size. If you plan on renting a car once you reach Disney make sure to check rental sites often, because specials do change. Rebooking your reservation could save you a bundle. Compact cars tend to rent out first so check the next size up; you can still end up saving because the rental companies may have a bunch of bigger cars they need to rent out and as such will give you a free upgrade.
On Beating Long lines
- Go late in the evening. The benefits of going after 5pm are numerous. First, the sun has set so it is cooler. Second, by then the crowds have thinned. The last time I took my family to Disney World in Florida, we went to Space Mountain around 8pm and timed it the exact time the nightly Electric Parade was going on along Main Street. Most people skipped off to see that. Our wait was 15 minutes flat. We were in and out.
- Use the “Fast Pass” option. Disney’s amusement parks actually have a system that lets you skip the line legally. It’s called Fast Pass. You go to your ride of choice and are given a pass with a specific later time stamped on it for you to return to the ride. Go grab a bite, go on a ride with no line or explore other sites and return at the time on the pass. You get to go straight to a special no-wait line – your reward for patience and using the system. Essentially, you just have time and schedule your visit right to get the benefit of this option.
- Go early in the morning. The other alternative to going late is going very early when the parks first open. There are usually very few families that can get their kids up and out that early so then again, you will be faced with shorter lines. Also, for beating the heat purposes, since the temperature is usually hottest mid day, you can beat the glaring sun by starting your day super early.
- Go during off peak times. March thru May and Early June, and hurricane season in October (for Disney World in Florida) are the times of the year when the crowds are less. Combine the other tricks with going during an off peak time of the year, and you’re almost guaranteeing a seamless ride process.
- Go during the middle of the week. Many people who travel incorporate the weekend and choose Saturday or Sunday to fraternize the parks. That is when locals also are likely to also visit. If you are staying in the area for at least a week, go in the middle of the week to save lines and ensure fewer crowds.
- Bonus from a commenter: Take advantage of the single rider option. You also get a chance to go through the line faster if you don’t mind riding in a car alone or with someone else you don’t know.
On Dealing with Small Kids
- Pack small snacks: A lot of irritability from long strolls from attraction to attraction can be caused by slight hunger. Offer goldfish crackers, cereal, or another fave snack.
- Opt for the umbrella stroller: A bulky stroller will be hard to maneuver in tight spaces. If you have one, bring a smaller umbrella stroller. Also, for rides when you have to park the stroller, it is easy to fold them up and put them aside than finding a space among a sea of strollers.
- Take Plenty Breaks: Avoid the urge of wanting to get everything in. Keep your eye on the clock and the attraction map, but make sure you schedule in mini breaks too.
- Put a cap or Hat and Sunscreen on baby. The sun can be unbearable and the heat would make a small child fussy. Make sure you keep them cool and hydrated and protect them from sunburn by applying plenty of sunscreen before and replenish the application mid-way through. Sweat lessens the effect of some sunscreen lotions.
I hope these tips are helpful! Good luck parents! Let me know if you use any of these tips and if they work out for you!