Disney! I love Disney! I could go every year and find something new every time. I love seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they first see Cinderella’s Castle. I also love the glow that comes over the 85-year-olds when they get to give Mickey a hug. It never gets old.
For me, staying on-site Disney is the way to go. I don’t want to have to drive between my hotel and the parks every day, pay for parking and waste my time. When you stay on-site you get to use Disney’s motorcoach system, the mono-rails and the ferrys. Let someone else do the driving! You also get the advantage of getting into the parks for early or late hours. Depending on which resort you choose the time between lobby and park is 5-15 minutes on average. That’s a lot better than highway traffic, the line to get in gate and walking from the parking lot!
My husband, two kids (ages 7 and 5) and I went for a seven night vacation this summer. We decided to stay at one of the value resorts…Disney’s All-Star Movies resort. We were in one of the 101 Dalmatians blocks. The rooms were nice. Of course, being a value resort, they weren’t the largest or most luxurious. The room had two double beds which kept us real cozy. There was plenty of room for the four of us. The pools were fantastic! One was huge! Mickey as the Magician’s Apprentice shot streams of water out into the pool. They even had a bin off to the side where you could borrow life jackets for the little ones… just in case. The dining at this property is cafeteria-style. They had four “restaurants” with different things to offer for each meal. It was quick and easy.
We had the Hopper passes for our stay. The Hopper passes are for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Personally, I would never get the base tickets. It is so worth a little extra money to be able to go in and out of the parks as much as you want. We went to three different parks on one of our days. We finished doing some things we’d missed at Epcot, then we went to Magic Kingdom to re-do some rides and went to Hollywood Studios that night for their late hours.
Almost every day we went to at least two parks, either for rides or restaurants or both. There is an add-on for the two water parks… Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. We didn’t go to the water parks on this trip. The main reason being that both of my kids are little enough that they wouldn’t be able to ride very much. We decided to stick with the pools at the resort. My husband and I did the water parks a few years back. They are fantastic! There is a wide variety of rides from lazy rivers to “wedgie-makers.” There are rides for singles, doubles and groups. We had a blast!
Part of the reason we decided to stay at a value resort was so we could spend some of our budget getting one of the dining plans. We chose the deluxe plan. It gave us three meals and two snacks per person per night. Plus, we could tell the kids, “We already paid for our food so we have to stop and eat.” It made them slow down a little so they wouldn’t be worn out by 3pm. By purchasing the deluxe plan as part of a package we saved 40% over paying for our meals at the parks. This plan also let us have as many table-service meals as we want instead of just cafeteria-style dining.
Reservations for table-service dining is very important! We didn’t realize that until we got there. The concierge desk helped us make some reservations. We ate at the Yachtsman Steakhouse (Disney’s Yacht Club Resort), the Tusker House Restaurant (Animal Kingdom) and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot: Norway). If we had known how important reservations were, we probably would have had a lot more sit-down dining.
If we had not had the dining plan, we wouldn’t have eaten at any of those restaurants. The Yachtsman Steakhouse would have cost our family (I’m approximating here) around $175. The Tusker House is a fabulous buffet, but it runs around $40 per adult! We would have had sticker shock! At Akershus the appetizers are buffet but you get to order off a menu for the main course. They have, in my opinion, the best Princess dining of any of the parks. My daughter got a souvenier photo with Belle. Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty came to our table and let us take pictures with them! It would have cost us around $50 per adult. BUT!!!! It was included in our meal plan. The only things out-of-pocket for the dining are the tips and alcoholic beverages.
There are two other dining plans. All the dining plans include your drink, main course with side and dessert. The kids need to order off the kids menu. I don’t think my kids were able to finish a single meal. They all had too much food! One has two quick-service meals and two snacks per person, per night. The other has one quick-service, one table-service and one snack per person, per night. I’ve done the one quick/one table before. Since I didn’t have the kids with me that trip, it worked just fine. I’d eat a later, larger breakfast and then have a late lunch/early dinner. I liked the deluxe plan much better. The snacks that I’ve mentioned are pretty much anything that is less than $4 on the menu. It can be popcorn, ice cream, bottled water or soft drink, etc. When you have one of the dining plans that include table-service dining it is very important to have the Hopper passes. That way you can make a reservation whereever you want. You can plan to eat at Epcot but be able to go to Hollywood Studios to “play.”
Of course, the kids loved Disney. This was their first time. My 7-year-old son loved The Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios). My 5-year-old daughter loved Big Thunder Mountain (Magic Kingdom). They both enjoyed Everest Express (Animal Kingdom). Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) was closed while we were there. I’m sure they would have loved it too. We spent four of the days with all four of us doing everything together. Then we split up… one adult per child. That way we could focus on exactly what that child wanted to do. And we didn’t have to hear any arguing. It worked out fantastic. No one felt like they had missed out on anything. I didn’t get to ride my favorite ride (Rock’n Roller Coaster) but that’s okay. This trip was about the kids! They want to go back next year. I think we’ll wait until they are tall enough to ride everything.
There is something for everyone. From young to old and sedate to active. You can’t go wrong with Disney!
Thanks to guest blogger Debi King, an agent at Advance Travel. You can reach Debi toll free at 1-866-712-7047 or email her.