Disney World isn’t only for the rich! I’m telling you there are ways to do it on any budget and still experience some luxury.
So I just recently visited Disney World with my family for my Daddy’s 60th birthay. We’ve been big Disney peeps since I was little, visiting almost once every year since I was a babe. We thought what better way to commemorate my Dad’s 60th birthday than by celebrating like we’re all kids again! So being somewhat of an expert I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned over the years to make your time spent in Orlando perfect!
First thing you should know is that Disney World is full of a vast array of options for any budget. They have budget resorts like Pop Century, then middle of the road resorts like Coronado Springs and Port Orleans as well as Luxury hotels like the Grand Floridian (Check out our Review of the Villas at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa)and the Polynesian. There are so many hotels that even during busy seasons it’s possible to get a deal. Now, I’ve stayed everywhere from Pop Century to the Grand Floridian. This trip we had made reservations at the Polynesian because I had always wanted to stay there but rooms were going for $450 a night. Now, double that for 2 rooms and you’re blowing a lot of money to have a room you won’t be spending much time in. We called around and found rooms at Pop for about $150 per night, a pretty good deal but this is a lower end hotel. It’s actually set up more like a motel. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still very clean and has a great food court and the Disney transportation but it’s not exactly 60th Birthday material. My sis decided to call the Dolphin & Swan Resorts, which are on Disney property but are actually owned by Starwood. Just goes to show you–call around! We got rooms for less than Pop at this luxury hotel. The pools at this hotel are super nice and if you’re a little older you get a tiny bit of a break from Disney’s momentum at the end of the day. They even have an Il Mulino at the Swan (Dol/Swan are right next door to each other and a quick 2 minute walk. My Point: I would 100% stay at some sort of Disney affiliated hotel. Especially the Dolphin or Swan, which are absolutely gorgeous. The grounds are kept up perfectly and the food is always on par. We plan on checking out many more Starwood hotels in the near future. It’s just such a worry free experience. Not to mention the theming is part of the enchantment of Disney World. With 24 hotels you’re sure to find one with amenities that are perfect for your familiy. Don’t settle with the first rate you get. Call around. Ask about Specials. We ended up getting nearly $100 off a night because of a teacher’s promotion they had going on. Ask about AAA or Corporate rates for where you work. It could save you a bundle. Perk: Amazing ice cream bar, beautiful pool with awesome restaurant, clean rooms and ferry that goes directly to Downtown Disney, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in luxury, check out our preview of the Four Seasons Orlando Resort Walt Disney World Resort
One major perk of staying at a Disney Hotel is Disney Transportation. There are buses that take you directly from the hotel to the parks and other area atractions for free. This way you don’t have to deal with parking. THough it’s kind of a drag when you miss a bus they’re not AS fast as the subway in NYC 🙂
The hotels also have a service called the Magical Express, which pick you up at the airport and take you back for free. They show a super cheesy video of Disney stuff that’s kin of fun.Bummer: Dolphin and Swan do not have this service-you can take Mears shuttle though, which cost about $40 rountrip.
I know I’m a little old to be loving Disney World but I can’t help it. Tickets ain’t cheap though nowadays. So you have to pick out what you want to see and strategize. Here’s what we usually do: We think you can see the parks in 2 days. Though admitedly we don’t do Animal Kingdom. Just not our cup of tea. Other people love it though. I suggest you do one day Park Hopper and do EPCOT and Hollywood Studios in 1 day. It works even better if you go on a day where there are extra magical hours and they’re open late. I suggest doing EPCOT in the AM, doing the World showcase and then transferring via Ferry to Hollywood Studios on a night they’re open late.
Bummer: You will miss some daytime attractions and shows at Hollywood Studios and also drinking around the world at night in EPCOT–a fave past time of my sister and mine. Each country has its own fun alcoholic beverage-making it super fun for adults!
Inside Knowledge: Hit up FAST PASS (Get a ticket to come back at a certain time and skip the line) as soon as you get to the park for a very popular ride, otherwise it sells out early and you’ll be stuck waiting on line for 3 hours for rides like Soarin’, Aerosmith’s Rocking Roller Coaster, and the like.
Things not to miss: Philharmagic, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Small World, Tower of Terror, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean.
Things I could do Without: The Country Bears, Hall of Presidents–what a BORE 🙂
If you’re not into parades so much go to busy rides during them because everyone will be on the streets watching so lines will be shorter.
Magic? You save nearly $100 by smushing these 2 parks in one day. Then we usually do Magic Kingdom on its own day. If you find though that you didn’t get enough of one of the other parks you could do a park hopper again for your second day. I definitely think you’ll have had plenty of the parks if you are an adult and probably even if you have children.
Each family is different, we all like different characters and rides. Check out what you want to do before you go to the park so you don’t spend hours trying to figure out where to go.
Read a guidebook.
Visit the official Walt Disney World Resort Web site (www.disneyworld.com) and obtain a free vacation planning DVD; at the site, also check out the online planning tools which offer suggestions about experiences which may be of interest to first-time guests or to those combining a celebration with a Disney vacation.
Consult with the Disney World Moms Panel (www.disneyworldmoms.com) comprised of Disney-savvy parents who share knowledge in an online forum.
Food Glorious Food:
Healthy food in Disney is not easy to come by. I would bring granola bars and other snacks for the rooms so they don’t gauge your eyes out in their snack shops. My sis and I bought a bag of popcorn that I buy at home for over double the price. I mean I know it’s to be expected but it’s still painful to this cheap jap! There are some restaurants that are worth splurging–California Grill, O’Hana, Il Mulino (Swan Resort), Spirt of Aloha (Polynesian Resort).
For adults trying to save money you can even get kids meals at some of the quick pickup restaurants–often times the portion sizes aren’t much smaller than the adult portions. And if they are it’s like a built in diet!
Extra Plus: If your fam is big on soda, the Disney Resorts offer bottomless mugs available for purchase that can be used round the “World” so long as you bring your mug. Afforable and GREEN.
First of all always check Disney’s website’s Special Offers page like last year if it was your Birthday you went for free!
Downtown Disney is free!
Ride the Monorail for free!
Hang out by the Resort pools!
Kids under age 3 are provided free admission to all Walt Disney World theme parks!