October 21, 2015

So You’re Thinking About Going To Walt Disney World…

First of all, I’m jealous. Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is so much fun! I just went in February and I already wish I was planning another vacation, it might as well have been a year ago. Not that I didn’t have fun, it just already feels like it was a long time. (The goal for my next trip is November 2016, I just have to convince my family Dad).

There are a lot of decisions to make when booking a vacation to Walt Disney World, and the first piece advice I can give is use the Walt Disney World website. It has the most detailed information and is very helpful when booking a trip!

This post will serve as sort of a dashboard for lots of information you would need when planning a Disney Vacation. All of the things that you need to consider when thinking about visiting Walt Disney World, and links to other posts here on the blog that expand on those topics. I will continue to update this post as other topics are posted so everything is easy to find! Let’s get started!

Length of your stay

There are so many things to see and do at Walt Disney World! That’s why I would suggest dedicating an entire vacation to it, especially if it is your first time! A 5 night, 6 day trip is usually enough time to see most of what Walt Disney World has to offer, but I’ve been seven times and still experience new things each trip! A week is generally enough time, and a lot of deals are geared towards staying this long. It sounds like a long time to be there at first, but once you go you will be glad you were there for a week!

Anyone recognize this carriage?

Anyone recognize this carriage?

Where To Stay

Disney owns a bunch of restarts on property, and I have done a post all about it! You can read that here. I break down everything you need to know about where to stay, and give my opinion on whether or not it’s worth it to stay on site. It is a different decision for everyone, but the post shows where I stand!

Dining Plan

If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan! This post goes through the different “levels” of the dining plan and talks a little bit about if it is worth it or not. During my last trip I did not purchase the Dining Plan, but I have on previous trips so I could compare.

Who would believe this is in Orlando?!

Who would believe this is in Orlando?!

Dining Reservations

Walt Disney World has amazing food! As I explain in my Disney Dining Post, there are two types of food service in WDW. Quick service, where you order at a counter (like McDonald’s) and Table Service meals, where you are served at a table (like Boston Pizza). If you are looking for a sit down meal, you should make a reservation. You can make dining reservations up to 180 days before the first day of your trip if you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. If you are staying off site, you can make a reservation 180 days in advance of the day you are booking for. Obviously Disney gives you a slight “advantage” if you are staying on site, but it is something you should plan for because you need to eat while you are there! Disney restaurants can be found on the Walt Disney World Website and can be made from there as well, or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Trust me, the food in Walt Disney World is different than anything you have had at a theme park!

Disney’s Magical Express

Look for a post all about Disney’s Magical Express coming soon! This service is free, and available to guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels. You receive luggage tags before your trip, and when you arrive at Orlando International Airport you don’t need to pick up your bags! You just head to the bus that takes you straight to your resort an get your vacation started!

Eric's Castle

Park Tickets

There are a few different types of tickets that are available when visiting Walt Disney World. In a future post I will break down all of the different types and which I think are worth the extra money. You have your basic ticket, a special ticket if you want to visit the water parks, and if you want to visit more than one park in a day. You don’t want to be spending money on something that you aren’t utilizing, so it’s important to know the difference!

Which park to visit on which day?

This point applies more to guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels because of Extra Magic Hours, but it is still something to think about when planning your vacation! If you are staying off site but eating at a Walt Disney World restaurant, you are going to want to go to a park on the day with the longest hours, to get the most out of it! Park Hours are available months in advance on the Walt Disney World website, so it is definitely something to check out!

My Disney Experience

My Disney Experience is the dashboard of your vacation. I wrote a post with everything you need to know! Even if you are not staying on site, it’s something you will want to check out! You can read that post here.

The FountainWhat sort of things do you think about when booking a trip to Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey
September 30, 2015

My Walt Disney World Strategy

To expand a little more from last week’s post, I thought I would give a little insight into how I approach the parks during my vacations. Not everyone will be able to take this approach, but hopefully you can try some of the things I do to be successful in the parks! I have adapted this strategy during my last two trips (May 2013 and February 2015) and they have worked really well for Ethan and I.

Be There for Rope Drop

What’s rope drop you ask? It’s when the park first opens. And you should be there. Getting to the parks early is a key part of my strategy in the parks. The first few hours of the day is the time when the parks are the least busy, so you can do the most popular attractions with the lowest crowds. I’m serious. And if you arrive early at Magic Kingdom, there is even an opening show, complete with a countdown and some fireworks! It is AWESOME! In most cases, Cast Members actually have a rope holding back the line, and they will walk you to the different areas of the park. More on that below.

Welcome Show

When Ethan and I went to Walt Disney World in 2013, I had heard about rope drop from The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and really wanted to try it. We made it to most of the parks pretty early, but only to official rope drop on Animal Kingdom day. We were there 20-30 minutes before park opening, and were near the front of the line. We were roped off, and the crowd finally started moving. Everyone was heading to Discovery Island (where the Tree of Life is located) and I’m not really sure how, but Ethan and I managed to get away from the crowd. We went the Dino-rama route, and it was quite funny. It was us versus the crowd. We could see the crowd across the way, inching closer to Mount Everest. Would we beat them? Should we run for it?! We kept looking back and sped up! We walked quite fast, and were the 4th and 5th guests in line for Expedition Everest. It was really neat to be on the first train of the morning, although there was some dew on the seats. Just to paint a picture of how fast the lines move, we rode Expedition Everest 4 times in less than 20 minutes. It is the most popular ride at Animal Kingdom. 20 minutes people! Waking up early does have it advantages! If you can make it to the park for rope drop, it is definitely worth it!

 

Fastpass +

Fastpass + is free! And it gets you onto your favourite rides faster! February was my first trip using this new system, and I have to say I liked it! You know which fast passes you have well in advance (up to 60 days before your trip), and you don’t have to have someone run to all of the different rides to get fast passes for your party. I will be doing a post that goes into depth about the new system, so make sure to keep an eye out for it! Now you can also get Fastpass+ for nighttime shows and parades, securing your spot without having to worry. Definitely something to take advantage of on your next trip!

Take a break

Especially if you make it to the parks for rope drop, you’re going to need a break! I like to take a rest during the busiest time of the day (early afternoon). It’s when kids are at their crankiest, and when it’s the hottest. It just screams break time to me. I head back to my hotel, take a nap, or just lounge around for a little. I haven’t been one to swim during this time, but if you are travelling with kids who won’t want to nap it would be a perfect time to do so. I’m not sure how I made it through some of my previous trips without taking breaks! During my last trip there were only two days where we didn’t take a break, but they were days that were a little slower paced. Basically, if you go crazy every day and are there from park open to close, you aren’t going to make it through your vacation! You are going to be tired when you get home from Walt Disney World no matter what, but this way you won’t be quite as tired!

The Tree of Life

Get the Dining Plan

I’ve discussed the dining plans before here, and gave my opinion on whether or not it’s worth it. By the title of this section, I’m sure you can guess where I stand. Having a sit down meal a day gives my days a little bit of structure, without taking a lot of time from your day. Not having the dining plan on our last trip meant looking at food a little more closely, and seeing how much we were spending every day. Having the dining plan is much more relaxing, and that’s what you want to do while you are on your vacation! Depending on the level of dining plan you purchase, it doesn’t mean you will be eating burgers and pizza the whole time, Disney does food really well.

Eat a small breakfast

This is a recommendation for those purchasing the Disney Dining plan, more specifically the ones with only two meals. I found that eating a small breakfast or sometimes even just coffee was great. It helped us get to the parks faster in the morning, and when the meals rolled around that we used our dining credits for we could take advantage of the large servings. When you are getting the dining plan you have paid for it in advance, but it is only covering 2 meals per day so it’s nice to stretch that a little. This helped to keep food costs down, and we could get more out of the dining plan.

Reflections of Earth

I hope this has given you some insight into what my trips look like, and I hope you can try some of these during your next trip!

What strategy do you take when heading to Walt Disney World? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Kelsey
September 16, 2015

What I Love About Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is currently undergoing a huge transformation, a transformation into Disney Springs. If you don’t know what Downtown Disney is, it’s a shopping area in Walt Disney World. There are a lot of specialty stores, restaurants, and even Cirque du Soleil. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and evening. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to call the area Downtown Disney, because I haven’t been to Disney Springs as it is now (and it isn’t completed yet). Now on to what I love:

World of Disney

I usually do a souvenir haul at the World of Disney, because it’s the largest  Disney Store! If you are staying at a Disney resort hotel, you can even have your stuff delivered to your room, or hotel gift shop! Trust me, you’ll want to take advantage of that. It’s organized into “rooms”, (seriously, that’s how big it is), so you can easily find what you are looking for. I love the one stop shopping of this store, and like to go in once a trip just to see everything.

Be warned though… if you see something in this store and say “Oh I like that, but I’m sure it will be somewhere else so I can grab it later”, that might not be the case. On my trip in February I found this Minnie dress that my sister would have loved, and didn’t grab it the day I was at Downtown Disney. So I looked in what felt like every store at every park, and couldn’t find it. So on our last day a couple hours before we had to be back at Caribbean Beach for the Magical Express, we headed back to Downtown Disney. Yes, I had to say goodbye to Magic Kingdom early *sniff* to get that dress for my sister. (You’re welcome Alex!). It was a little rushed and hectic, but it was worth it to see the smile on her face when I brought it home. Moral of the story… if you want it, buy it! Just don’t go too overboard.

This store also has a special place in my heart, because on my trip with my music department in high school, my choir performed on the stage right outside this store. (Yes we performed the first day and got to explore the rest of the parks and Typhoon Lagoon for 5 days… it was AWESOME.)

It's Stitch! Watch out, he spits! (picture from WDW website)

It’s Stitch! Watch out, he spits! (picture from WDW website)

Raglan Road

This restaurant is so much fun! Ethan and I went here on our last trip, and would definitely go back. The food was some of the best we had on our trip, and the environment is electric. Irish dancers go up on the tables, and you can’t help but cheer! I got to enjoy my Irish roots for a night, and loved every minute of it. Our server was great. I seriously can’t recommend this place enough. If you are planning to go, make a reservation on the Walt Disney World website in advance. There was a line up to get in, and I’m sure there was a wait to get a table as a walk up.

This is the inside of Raglan Road... seriously eat here! (picture from WDW website)

This is the inside of Raglan Road… seriously eat here! (picture from WDW website)

 

La Nouba

It’s a splurge, but if you ever get a chance to see it, it is worth it! La Nouba was Ethan’s birthday present on our 2013 trip. La Nouba can only be seen in Walt Disney World, and is a great way to spend a night. I’m not kidding… the couple who sat beside us had already seen the show 3 times! It’s nice to change it up when you are at the parks late every night, and whether it’s a dinner show or Cirque, it’s definitely something to consider! If you don’t know where it is, just look for the giant white Cirque du Soleil tent.

 

The Environment

I can’t put my finger on it, but I love the feeling at Downtown Disney. It’s such a different pace than the parks, and you can just wander around for an afternoon. The water is calming, and there are always different street performers. One of my favourite things to do is sit with Ethan on the benches by the water and watch the Hot Air balloon go up and down,  and the boats travel by. It’s so nice to just slow down when you’ve been going non-stop in the parks, even if just for a little bit.

This was back in 2013, sitting and relaxing

This was back in 2013, sitting and relaxing

 

The Number of Options

I feel like every time I go to Downtown Disney I try something different. There are so many dining options, (and so many new ones coming) that it will be a while before I try everything. There are a lot of new specialty stores opening as well, so it’s always nice to look at those shops as well. Some of my favourite things to buy are things from Disney World that don’t scream Disney. You’d be able to find a lot of these items at Downtown Disney I’m sure. It’s always fun to take something home and use it, knowing where it came from even though others might not. Kind of like a secret. But on the other hand, I like things that scream Disney too. Have you seen the backpack I got on my last trip? I love it.

I will someday go in that hot air balloon!

 

 

What else do I love? I Love Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Walt Disney World!

What do you love about Downtown Disney? Do you always visit? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Kelsey