January 25, 2011

I Didn't Need Both Kidneys Anyway

The one time all four of us got out of the house this weekend was for a dual errand run - Target and the beer store. Mia loves Target (who doesn't?) and Owen loves to go with me to buy beer. And frankly, I like filling a cart up with cases of beer and pushing a kid around with me while I do so. People look at you really funny. Anyway, on the way there, we were stopped at a light in front of the local community college. The gigantic, recently-installed electronic billboard advertised their latest course offerings. Paralegal! Private Investigation! Winning Proposals! I was bummed because I didn't see the one course I needed - Disney Vacation Booking!

Shhhh! Don't tell the kids but we're planning on hitting Disney World sometime in the near future. And by near future I'm talking late 2011 or early 2012. But because the two people I mentioned it to told me that I was already way behind the planning curve, I started investigating. And then my brain exploded.

Trying to figure out how to visit the Magic Kingdom - where to stay, where to eat, meal plans, room rates and packages, transportation, park passes - is like trying to simultaneously play Jenga while reciting pi to the 300th decimal place with Charlie Sheen and a horde of coked-out hookers partying in the next room. Actually, no. I'm guessing it's harder.

There are usually university degrees - even graduate programs and residencies - for tasks this complex with this many variables. The hotel thing I can figure out. That's simple, relatively speaking. Park passes are a little trickier but I'm not a total nitwit; I can probably wade through the details and come out okay on the other side. It's the dining thing that gets me. Not only is it confusing, it's pretentious as hell. And it makes it sound like we're entering some bizarre future world where all food is made of yeast or Soylent Green and is available only in vast, heavily regulated dining halls. Not only do you buy a package but should you find yourself in need of extra confusion, you can take your meals and trade up. There's even a chart as to what types of meals can be traded for others. An example:


1 Table-Service Meal = 1 Character Dining Meal (except meals at Cinderella's Royal Table in Magic Kingdom theme park)

2 Table-Service Meals = 1 Signature Dining Experience (such as Citricos at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) or 1 Character Dining Experience at Cinderella's Royal Table in Magic Kingdom theme park or1 Disney Dinner Show (category 2 or 3 seating only, subject to availability) or 1 booze-fuelled orgy with Snow White and three dwarves (dwarves selected by the management and subject to availability; adults only!).


Okay, I made that last part up. Who came up with this? Why does it have to be so complex? And what is category two and three seating? I'm imagining my Category Three family handing tickets to an usher only to be led down a vast dark corridor with an extremely limited view of the stage. Watch your step around that equipment folks. That's where we keep Walt's cryogenically frozen body. Was that a bat? I'm getting the hell out of here! Of course, for that they'd probably charge extra, like, five table-service meals, an describe it as a magical show with Walt-side seating.
disney%20cost.jpg

Have you ever done the Disney thing? How did you figure it out? And how much do you think I can get for a kidney?

Posted by Chris at January 25, 2011 7:22 AM
Comments

We're about to make out second trip to Disney, and I didn't plan a bit of it. My dad did all the research, and he used a travel agent (I'll give her your name if you want) who has been to Disney often and knows the ins and outs.

For the dining plans: We found that the 1 snack, 1 counter service, 1 sit down meal thing was WAY too much food for us. By the end of the week, I was trying to trade my desserts in for salads, and I'm normally the kind of girl who would prefer to skip for all the time for a dessert!

DO do a character meal: We did the breakfast with the Princesses at Akershous, and my girls were ecstatic. This year, we'll be doing a lunch with the Princesses (sensing a theme?) in the castle, as much because I want to see the inside of the castle as for them. Remember, whichever meal you choose, Mia will never know if there was something "better." Reservations can be a bitch, from what I hear, but it's totally doable.

I can't tell you much about where to stay: Last time we were in a cabin at the Fort Wilderness campground (we had a party of 8) (it was crowded anyway), this year we'll be staying in a treehouse in Saratoga Springs (this year we have 9!).

Oh, and we get the 1 park/day pass, with the waterpark option (which also lets Rex/Dad play golf for free) and it works fine. For us, the park hopper thing where you can go from park to park in one day just isn't work the money.

Hope that helps, and I'd be happy to answer anything else, if I can!

Posted by: Becky at January 25, 2011 7:59 AM

We are going this year for the first time (with the kidlet) and I went nuts with the planning.

In the end, reversed all of my initial decisions--no dining, no park hopper, no water parks.

Re: dining. I did an analysis, and it worked out to be not worth it for us. All the plans jut seemed to have too much food (really, dessert at every table srvice meal?) My kid is also very hit or miss with meals so I figured the rigidity of the plan (and yes, you can use your credits however across all your days, but still, rigid) wasn't in our favor.

My boss, who goes every year, says the dining plan is great when it's free (usually offered in September) or when it's 50% off (I think usually in November).

Posted by: Jenn at January 25, 2011 8:06 AM

Chris, you're going to need alot more than beer to get you thru this one!!!! But I applaud you taking the kids on this trip, it IS magical.

Posted by: Dawn at January 25, 2011 8:19 AM

I think your post is a perfect example of why I never had any desire to go to DisneyWORLD. Too much confusion. My poor brain would explode as to whether I planned everything right and I'm sure there would be friends and relative letting me know I did it all WRONG.

I emphasized the "world" because I've been to Disneyland in California twice. Once when my son was 2 and 1 month (a little too young) and again just before he turned 5 (perfect!). It's small, manageable, was fairly affordable. We even stayed at the DisneyLand hotel the 2nd time and could take the monorail into and out of the park and did a character breakfast for my birthday.

So good luck with the planning!!

Posted by: NancyB at January 25, 2011 8:25 AM

We are in the midst of planning our first trip too! I'll share what I've discovered. First, check out these websites:

www.allears.net
www.mousesavers.com

By perusing those sites and talking with friends we have decided the following:

We are going in late September - it's the cheapest time of the year, it's not too crowded, it's still nice weather. There's also a deal where kids stay and play for free.

We are staying on site - you can't beat the free transportation.

We are not doing the park hopper pass but we are doing a dining plan (haven't decided which yet).

We are most likely going to contact a travel agent who specializes in these things (not the same as having a degree, but close!), which may result in all or some of the above statements being changed :)

We haven't told the kids. Nor will we. We are not crazy, but would be after months of "How long until we go???" :)

Posted by: Elizabeth at January 25, 2011 9:11 AM

This is the most hilarious breakdown of Disney planning I've ever seen! Nice choice of graphics! I've never ever ever thought of going to Disney World (mostly because I'm on the other side of the country and don't have kids), and I'd never thought it would be that hard! My cousin, however,worked there for years, met her husband there, and ended up starting a business to help people with Disney World-specific planning. Here's the url if you're interested! http://www.easybreezyplanning.com/index.htm

Posted by: mjp at January 25, 2011 9:21 AM

My husband and I take 1-2 trips to Disney each year. (We're Vacation club members). We don't do the meal plans, because it truly is too much food, but for a family of four, it can work out to be economical. The meal options are vast and confusing, but when you figure out what you like and what your kids will eat - it gets a little easier.

I'm more than willing to answer any questions that you may have about the Disney experience (I'm actually at Disney right now *0* ) Just drop me a line and I'll get right on it for you :)

For me, half the fun is in the planning - so hopefully you'll get excited after you get over your kidney removal surgery...it only hurts a little bit ;)

Posted by: Kellie at January 25, 2011 9:30 AM

Oh, my goodness. I've never been to Disney, and we're planning to go there for our honeymoon in August. And that dining thing FLIPPED. ME. OUT. I still don't really get it? And also apparently if you want to character dine with Cinderella, you have to book six months in advance? Sorry Cindy, you ain't even my favorite princess.
We've got to do it soon, though, as the "off season deal" we're looking to book ends March 27th. It's just every time I think about it, or look at their website, my head explodes.

Posted by: caleal at January 25, 2011 9:38 AM

We took the kids for a week long trip back in 2004. We stayed on site, and I had spreadsheets laying out which park we were visiting each day, where we were eating, etc. I think we left Disney property once the entire week. We did the meal plan thing. I'm not sure if it cheaper, but it is definitely easier. My blog posts on the trip...
http://www.odonnellweb.com/?p=744
http://www.odonnellweb.com/?p=746
http://www.odonnellweb.com/?p=750
http://www.odonnellweb.com/?p=750

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, primarily because it was one of the few resorts where you could get bunk beds. I rigged up a screen with some string and an extra blanket so that we could put the kids down at a reasonable hour, and we could still relax and watch TV without keeping them up. Also, the whole drinking coffee on the balcony thing while zebras and giraffes roamed free outside was very, very cool.

This might not be an option for you with a kid in school, but if you can go when nobody else does, do so. We went the week before Thanksgiving, statistically the 2nd least busy week of the year at Disney. I don't think we spent more than 15 minutes in a line the entire week.

Posted by: COD at January 25, 2011 9:46 AM

Oh, Disney. What a crazy place. It's so worth it, though, to see the kids just light up. And it really isn't that bad for adults either...I was quite taken in once we got there!

Meal Plan...totally confusing. A friend of mine is a Vacation club member and we stayed at Saratoga Springs (not the tree house) in an efficiency and a friend who lived in the Orlando area did a little food shopping for us...We didn't have a full cooked meal, but totally could have...so depending on your choice of residence while you are there, this may be an option for you too. We did go with the Meal Plan for 4 adults and three kids...it ended up being too much, but it may be worth the cost (We went for Halloween, not sure if we got it discounted or not).

Depending on how long you are going for, what you want to be able to do, I would suggest the park hopper tickets - it was worth it for us...we ended up going to one park in the am and one park in the late afternoon twice while we were there.

Oh, and I highly recommend having a meal at the restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge...total fun! We did breakfast one day...the bad thing about it was, we had to take two transfers to get there from our resort, so it ate up one entire morning. But it was worth it. It's a theater meal, so be prepared to participate! It was fun! Ask for Ketchup...just you wait! ;-)

As for Dinner at the Castle...do the breakfast or meal with the Princesses somewhere else. We did what was billed as Dinner with the Princesses at the Castle. It got us dinner in Cinderella's castle...we got to meet Cinderella before we were escorted upstairs to our table, but she didn't appear for dinner...only the Fairy Godmother and the mice! It was a bit disappointing...although the girls loved it. I understand that the princess meals at the different hotels are much better, include more than one princess and they are there for the meal! Mia will be more impressed by the Princesses than she will by being in the Castle.

Most important. Have fun. And let go...be a kid again. It's a blast! I can't wait to go again. Oh, and I HIGHLY recommend you find someone to hang onto the kids for a few minutes and you and Beth go ride Rock n'Roll Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. AWESOME! I rode it like 6 times? Loved it! Best roller coaster ever! ;-)

Posted by: cyndy at January 25, 2011 9:52 AM

I've never been myself - however, I have friends who have been several times, and swear by a book called the Disney Passporter....It tells you when ride lines are longest, and how to schedule your rides, etc. to avoid the longest lines, and everything you'd like to know from A-Z Disney. Good luck!!
http://www.passporter.com/wdw/guidebook.asp

Posted by: 3jaysmom at January 25, 2011 10:05 AM

My friends took a Disney Cruise and they had all sorts of chances to interact with ALL the Disney characters. PLUS, there were baby sitters so Mom & Dad could have date nights!
Just saying....

Posted by: Maribeth at January 25, 2011 10:26 AM

We did Disney for the first time less than a year ago. We had a really good time, too. Our kids were 6 and 4 at the time and it was a great time in their lives to go. My first and biggest recommendation is to not take them when they are too young to last at least a half a day at the park. We would go to a park first thing in the morning and by early afternoon, we were headed back to the hotel. They both loved everything and would go go go, but the 4-year-old would fall asleep the minute we got on the shuttle bus. He hasn't napped in 2 years so that was a big deal.

We would rest in the afternoon or swim in the pool and then have a fun dinner or something low-key like go to a store.

We avoided the meal-plans and I was happy about that. We did do one character breakfast though and that was worth the cost.

If you have more questions, feel free to let me know.

Posted by: Brad at January 25, 2011 10:29 AM

Went last year with kids 3.5 and 6. We opted for the quick service dining plan and stayed at a value resort. This was great for two big reasons: 1. We took breakfast stuff with us (cereal bars, etc.) used our snack and lunch options in the park and generally ate dinner back at the hotel dining area. 2. We did one park a day and found that by dinner time we were exhausted and came back to have dinner and play in the arcade (a life saver when it rained one night). The day we went to MK we went to the hotel to nap after lunch and came back in the evening right as they were lighting everything up and we had the stamina to stay for the light parade.
The value resorts were good for us even though they only had double beds. We took turns sleeping with the kids and just made it like a big sleepover. The Quick Service Plan was more than enough for us to eat and they had good options for kids and always included 1 main thing (burger) 1 side (grapes or carrots for kids) and a drink and dessert. Really more than enough food, even at dinner when we ate at the hotel.

Also, I highly recommend Small World Vacations. They are FREE travel agents. They work for/with Disney and book your stuff and get their commission from Disney. They mail you all sorts of info, fun coupons, luggage tags if you're flying, and can make your hotel, park and dinner reservations for you. We opted to skip character meals and dined at Rainforest Cafe which I wouldn't recommend as it is really, really loud with all the "ambiance" and the animals scared our kids. There are plenty of places to see characters if you don't want to pay for the character meal experience, though most people say it's great.

Posted by: Amanda at January 25, 2011 11:04 AM

Well, we've been a few times, and we always stay at the Grand Floridian, 'cause my Mom pays and she likes to be on the monorail line. Although once we stayed at the Swan and that was cool too. Anyhoo, we don't do the meal plans. We have a few places we like to eat (Cinderella's Royal Table, the restaurant at the Living Seas at Epcot, California Grill at the Contemporary Hotel for the fireworks show), so we book those in advance and that helps us plan which park we'll go to each day. We might take the kids next year if we can save up, since the new Fantasyland should be done by then. The kids want to do a cruise. We'll see.

Posted by: Brooke at January 25, 2011 11:22 AM

We went with my husband's family a few years ago. We did a mix of Sea World, Disney and Universal, so we didn't have to get too far into planning just a Disney trip (staying on propery, meal plans, etc.)....but I was just obsessive enough to want to know about some of it! I don't know if you're into podcasts, but there are some really great ones out there that give a ton of information from real people that go to visit the parks a lot and they will take listener questions.

It sounds like a big part of the park is currently under renovation and when it re-opens, there will be a lot of new princess rides/restaurants/meet and greets opening up. Speaking as the mom of a little princess-obsesse girl, you may want to check into when some of those things are scheduled to open before finalizing the date of your trip!

Have a great time!! And like everybody is saying, the kids will have the trip of their lives and if you "miss" something, they will never know!! Don't kill yourselves trying to do it all. =)

Posted by: Julie at January 25, 2011 11:24 AM

Been to Disneyland once when Harley was 5 or 6. Just hit Disney World over Christmas. Highly recommend the Disney Meal Plans and staying on Disney property. Transportation is easier, you get extra hours and perks. We stayed approximately 6 miles away off-site. It wasn't worth the savings in lodging.

Little one's love the character meals. We did a few at Disneyland.

Food is expensive and if you opt out of the plans, it makes it hard to eat as almost everyone else has reservations and is on the plan. We ate during off hours at Christmas and still it was nuts trying to get a sit-down meal when you wanted a meal.

Given your kids ages, I would carry lots of snacks and drinks.

We walked and crammed, but we missed things. Prioritize what is most important and try to do certain things each day.

Some hotels have bunk bunks and I have friends that always stay at the value resorts. I have heard the campgrounds are nice too. All depends on what you are looking for. Discount specials run regularly. I saw Disney shuttle buses at the airport. If your just doing Disney World, perhaps you can skip the rental car? I know nothing of how the shuttles work or if they are included or extra.

Have fun.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at January 25, 2011 11:49 AM

Ok my family must be the only people in the world that hated Disney. What a racket. We stayed at The Swan with unlimited passes for the big three parks. We never ate on property due to the expense. I feel like we spent the whole time waiting in line. We learned you have to stay on property to guarantee you get in if it's a busy time of year. Good luck with the trip. I know the kids will love it.

Posted by: Goodsnake at January 25, 2011 12:37 PM

Chris, We have been to Disney many times and I have four pieces of advice 1. buy this book: http://www.amazon.com/Unofficial-Guide-Disney-World-Guides/dp/047061529X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1295977103&sr=1-1. It is a great resource and has excellent information about meal plans, trip plans, etc. We go every few years and buy a new copy each time. It is worth the price. 2. It is hard for adults and little kids (4 and 2) to have fun at the same time. If you can bear it, do the things that make it fun for the kids, including taking a break when they need to, even though it is costing you your nuts to be there. Doing more does not always equal less fun. 3. Bring 2 compact strollers. There is lots of walking and waiting and a stroller can make a big difference. 4. Try the Hoop Dee Do Review. Good silly disney fun w/ beer and sangria included in the price of admision.

Posted by: Kevin at January 25, 2011 12:43 PM

I have friends that go several times a year and they say it is well worth paying extra for the express pass (may be called something else) that allows you to ride the rides without waiting in line. I guess it just depends on how much you plan to go on the rides. Y'all are going to have SO much fun!!

Posted by: sw at January 25, 2011 12:46 PM

We went to disney in October. If you want to have the easiest time planning thing? Google DISBOARDS - it's an online forum where Disney nuts basically live, and they give you all sorts of tips and tricks.

Posted by: Randi at January 25, 2011 12:59 PM

Lots of advice posted already, but I too would skip the dining plans. Too many meals and it's not worth the money. There will be times when you need to pull the rip cord (kids fritz out) and head back to your hotel room so I recommend splurging for a Disney hotel since they're close by and you always feel you are "in" the Disney experience (there's a huge difference between service styles of Disney employees and "regular" employees outside of Disney World). What I do recommend highly is that you get Disney Dining reservations lined up for the important things (character dining). Do those on the 1st moment when you are allowed. Yes, you may have to call every day for a week as new days open up. Disney World is a project! But it's very fun.

Posted by: James Proffitt at January 25, 2011 1:04 PM

I still remember going to Disney World about 9 years ago with a bunch of friends from a wedding party and hearing a kid about Mia's age in line for the Peter Pan ride say "Can we go back to the pool?" meaning the hotel pool.

It was a really awesome pool, don't get me wrong, but I guess this is what I got out of that small comment -- don't plan tons of places. Do one park, Magic Kingdom. They can do a Disney Breakfast and get Mia's fill of princesses. They're so little it's going to be overwhelming otherwise. There will still be lots of pictures and magic. Also, healthy food makes it easier, so I totally agree on the breakfast in the hotel with stuff you know the kids will eat.

And just think - if you sell a kidney, you might be saving someone's life. Bright side to everything!

Oh, and my grandfather did all the planning for my mother and me when I was 14. It was still amazing. Feel free to use him, he had a BLAST planning it. :)

Posted by: alektra at January 25, 2011 1:04 PM

We live about 2 hours north of Orlando but when the kids were Mia & Owen's ages we still stayed on property. Here's why:

*Park the car ONCE and then don't drive the remainder of the vacation. Their transportation options are wonderful, especially when you have overtired/overstimulated kids to wrangle.

*No need for waterpark tix. All WD hotels, esp. budget ones have excellent mega-pools with slides, kiddy areas, etc.

*If you go during hot weather (basically any time except for Nov/Dec/Jan/Feb) hit a park in the morning, back to hotel for lunch/pool/nap, then back to park around 4:00 or 5:00 till close. Kids are rested, lunch can be sandwiches in the hotel or picnic by pool, and everyone can stay up for the evening parades and fireworks. Parks look and feel totally different after dark, not to be missed.

This is a totally abbreviated version of our game plan-- worked for us every time we visited. If you want more info feel free to drop me a line.

(oh, and Tinkerbell flying from the top of the castle to "light" the fireworks show? Can't miss that one-- the little ones LOVE it!)

Posted by: leslie at January 25, 2011 1:05 PM

We have been twice. Once with just one kid who was 2 and some change at the time and another time with two kids but one was still a wee baby (4 months old) and the other was three and some change. Both times my husband planned it all and seems to get all of it. Me? Not so much.

All I know is go in the off season.
Stay to the right.
Make reservations every single night you are there even if you do not make it to the meal or else you are screwed and will end up horking down french fries and chips at 10pm after looking for a place to eat.
Be on the lookout for better deals. You can change and upgrade for better deals. For instance, we had a hotel set but we saw a deal where we got a $200 gift card if we changed to another hotel so we did it. We used the $200 giftcard on food.
Definitely get a meal plan and plan for more food then you think you will eat.

Get the most updated WDW vacation planner book. There are always great tidbits in those like stay to the right (or was that the left?!)
Definitely do a breakfast/meal with characters and get there as early as you can or else you sit around waiting and hungry. I highly recommend the character breakfast in Animal Kingdom. Best buffet in the place!! Closely followed by the ass kicker cost wise of a breakfast with the princesses in the castle. Which btw the meal sucks SUCKS in the castle but it is freakin' cool to go eat in the castle and see all of the princesses up close.

Have a "park" planned for each day and work your plan. I mean know where you most want to go so you can get there at the butt crack of dawn to get on the rides you most want to ride, characters you most want to see, etc... Even in the off season the lines are long!

Posted by: Christina at January 25, 2011 1:32 PM

Chris
We did Disney last December. It was wonderful. We only planned for a few months. David's parents gave us their time share and we whipped it together in 3 months or so. You have plenty of time. Tell Beth to email me if she wants any thoughts about our trip.
Stacie (neighbor in law :))

Posted by: stacie at January 25, 2011 1:50 PM

Haven't been to Disney World, but we've gone to DisneyLand a few times. I highly recommend doing a character meal--it's the best way to get some one-on-one time with your favorites, especially the princesses. Had one meal with Mulan and Belle and we parents asked them questions. Mulan remarked that Oregon must be far away... How long did it take to get here on horseback? Very fun.

The second thing... Get an autograph book for each child. The characters will all sign the books and some of the autographs are hilarious (paw prints, or Cinderella's carriage).

Next, get a Disney Photo Pass and be sure and tell the park photographers that you have one. They will sometimes shoot extra photos of you in other locations in the park which just makes the photo CD more magical. They can also insert Tinkerbell, Mickey, Capt. Hook, etc. into the photos. Very cool.

Have a wonderful trip! I'm sooooo envious!

Posted by: Julie at January 25, 2011 2:35 PM

Budget Travel has several articles about Disney world. It is worth a look. have fun planning

Posted by: Charlene at January 25, 2011 2:54 PM

We went when I was 4 or 5ish, and when I was 12. I definitely remember the second trip more clearly - but that may be just because the memories are probably all fused together :P

Posted by: Heather at January 25, 2011 3:26 PM

We were at DW the week before Thanksgiving (which was the perfect time to go, nice weather, not crowds). Our kids are 11 and 8. We didn't stay on property because we have a time share, so we had to rent a car too. It is probably a wash between staying on property and not having to worry about transportation or staying off property and having to rent a car and pay for parking. However, you can find some pretty good deals on places to stay and rental cars! It will probably be nice to experience staying on the property just once though.

Because we didn't stay on the property we couldn't do the meal plan which was fine with me because it did seem confusing and I have heard from a lot of people it is too much food and you wind up overeating. What worked great for us is eating breakfast at our condo, packing a lunch and then having dinner at the park. I never buy the kids lunchables and so it was a real treat for them when they found out they could have these! Very inexpensive too. We packed a small cooler into the bottom of our backpack and had sandwhices for us, lunchables for the kids and a couple bottles of water. For dinner I made a couple of dining reservation, but for the other days we just planned on eating early and we were fine! If you go around 5:30pm it is perfect, and there is only a couple of minute wait.

Also, one thing to remember is that your kids are probably going to get tired early so there is probably no need to pay extra for the Park Hopper. One thing I have heard from others with young kids is that they are just as happy at the pool as they are at the Parks, so you should probably consider that into your plans. We bought a six day pass which as perfect for us. We were able to go to each park one one full day and then go back to our two favorites.

It's a lot of research, and it can be really overwhelming, but it's definitely worth it! We had so much fun, I would love to go every year, but it's expensive from Alaska and hard to pull your kids out of school once they are older. I don't think I would want to go at Christmas break or during the summer.

The sites that I felt were most useful when doing our planning was Allears.net and the "mom's panel" on the disney world website. You can give them your dates and ask them to do an iterary for you!

One last thing, we made this a surprise for our kids and gave them clues the morning that we were leaving to guess where we were going. Our flight didn't leave until noon so we had time to pack their stuff that morning. It was the best surprise ever! Something they will hopefully never forget. Good luck!

Posted by: Fabs at January 25, 2011 3:38 PM

I kept thinking that you REALLY need to go to Disney World since you have these kids who love to watch and be characters!! I'm so glad it's on your agenda! :-)

I've been to Disney World a dozen or so times. We used to go every 1-2 years when I was a kid, but now I've only been once as an adult but do hope to get there this year. We stayed at the All-Star Music Resort last time -- it's one of the lower end resorts but still totally fabulous.

When I went as an adult, I connected so much with all the childhood memories and cried when I saw Mickey Mouse! So, your kids will be making those memories that will probably move them to happy tears as an adult too. Hooray!

Posted by: Sandy at January 25, 2011 3:47 PM

We went in 2009 and are taking the kids this August. We booked both trips through The Magic for Less (jessica@themagicforless.com is our TA) and love them. They make sure we get the best possible prices and deals for our trip.

There are five of us going in August. Two rooms for Sunday-Saturday. Staying at on property at Pop Century. We are going during one of their free dining promotions, so we are getting the quick-service dining plan for free. Park passes for Monday-Friday with hoppers (definitely need hoppers) but NO water parks even though it's August because there are 3 pools at the hotel. Total cost (not including air fare) is $2,700.

www.disboards.com are a great source of info.

I also really like the Passporter book.

That is all. Happy planning.

Posted by: Traci at January 25, 2011 3:48 PM

Seriously? We live 2 hours from the Mouse-mecca and in almost 2 years we haven't ventured over there. Now I know why. They have a nice exit off I-4....

Posted by: David at January 25, 2011 4:27 PM

My wife was the first commenter on this one. She was excited about that this morning. As she said we are headed back there again next week.

Not only was the dining plan that we had last time too much food, but the reservation times for dinners were crazy. The first night we had a reservation for 9:10 or something at night and didn't actually eat until 10. You can imagine the fun with a 5, 3, and <1 year old that night.

I had the most fun at the Blizzard Beach waterpark so I would definitely plan on visiting one of the waterparks.

And have fun!

Posted by: Rex at January 25, 2011 5:55 PM

http://www.amazon.com/Birnbaums-Walt-Disney-World-2011/dp/1423123786/ref=pd_sim_b_1
This book was advised to me for our trip in 2007. Breaks it down into trips designed for particular age groups of kids with suggestions on what to see at each park. It was a wonderful tool. Good luck and like someelse said, Don't stress over seeing everything in every park!!

Posted by: Tess at January 26, 2011 9:44 AM

I agree with staying on property. The Animal Kingdom is great but pricey...waking up to giraffes out the window is great for kids who love animals, though.

I've never done the dining plans and don't think I would - too much changes on the fly for us and I'm worried things would get wasted, not to mention be confusing. We always book a dinner at Liberty Tree in the Magic Kingdom - it's like an old colonial style family meal, with Mickey/Minnie/Goofy and a couple of others. Maybe not for you, though, with the main dish being beef, as I recall. The food was quite good, though, and a nice break right in the park.

Crystal Palace is a big old buffet, with Pooh characters. Also nice, but you might want to pick a character meal with favorite characters (princesses?) We had lunch at Cindy's castle many years ago and got to visit with Cindy and the prince before the meal - they did not come table-to-table. If you do that, make sure to have Mia ask where Jack and Gus-Gus are. Cinderella and the Prince took my 3-year old daughter, who was in awe, on a hide-and-seek walk-around the castle room until they found them. It was the sweetest thing and a memory I'll always have. She doesn't remember, but we do.

The Hoop-de-do review was also fun - buffet BBQ like a big outdoor picnic/hoe-down, with Mickey, et. al. (no princesses).

Bottom line...you will be exhausted but you will have a ball.

Posted by: TeresaLynn at January 26, 2011 11:11 AM

I've been reading your blog for quite some time. Not sure if I ever commented. I have to delurk now though. Disney is my favorite! I've been there 8 times and would go back every year if I could. My mom and I took a trip in Sept 2009. We did the dining plan and stayed on site. All the other trips we spent at off-site condos. Definitely a huge plus for transportation when staying on-site. I liked the dining plan. I think it actually worked out to be cheaper that way for us. We ate at several sit-down restaurants and even had a few "nicer" dinners so we ran out of meals early. I haven't traveled with kids, but I can definitely tell you how much I loved it as a kid. And still do! We also went Christmas 2007. I literally cried when I saw the Magic Kingdom from the monorail. It had been 6 years since I had been there...way too long, in my opinion. Feel free to email me if you have questions. I love talking Disney! :)

Posted by: Amanda M at January 26, 2011 12:40 PM

We went to Disney in Tokyo and used our ignorance of the Japanese language to sneak in food! That said we still managed to come back with popcorn buckets and lunch boxes and enough debt to render our credit card inoperable. I hate to think of what we would have had to sell in order to feed our ravenous crew if we didn't byo.

Posted by: del at January 31, 2011 2:32 AM

No help for you! but I was last in DisneyWorld in 1985 when I turned 11 and I remember loving Epcot and wanting to go back to spend more time there. 25 years later there is much more down there I am curious to see.
The 1985 trip was our second family trip there and a big one with aunts and uncles and cousins. Lots has changed since then of course but I do remember staying in-park and taking the monorail over every day. My sister was 4 at the time and there were some little cousins with us and it was assuredly easier on the grown-ups and the little kids. Heck even I was wiped out every day.

Posted by: Karen at February 18, 2011 9:44 PM

Merci de prendre le temps de discuter de cela, je crois fermement à ce sujet et de l'amour en apprendre davantage sur ce sujet. Si possible, comme vous acquérir de l'expertise, auriez-vous l'esprit la mise à jour de votre blog avec plus d'informations? Il est extrêmement utile pour moi.

Posted by: Lancel at November 18, 2011 4:18 AM


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