1. Consider Using a Travel Agent to Book Your Hotel, Dining and Tickets
The benefit to using a travel agent who is connected to Disney is that if a discount on your trip arises after you have booked, they will be able to apply that discount for you and potentially get you a better deal. If you book on your own and need to make changes to your reservation, it is up to you to contact Disney and work through that process. We have found having a travel agent who will sit on the phone for hours at a time on your behalf is worth it. Plus, you usually don’t pay a travel agent out of pocket to use their services, so that’s a bonus.
2. You Don’t Need a Car, but You Might Want One
One of the benefits to staying at a Disney hotel is having access to their vast transportation system. You can take one of their busses from the airport to your hotel, from your hotel to Disney Springs (Disney’s dining and entertainment area), from your hotel to the theme parks—and it’s all included with your hotel booking. Sounds like a dream right, leaving the car behind? It can be, but it can also be a hassle trying to navigate the system, waiting for busses and loading/unloading strollers. We have always rented a car when travelling to Disney World and have never regretted it. The cost to rent is pretty affordable and if you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can park at any of the theme parks for free (off-site guests have to pay a hefty daily sum to park). We also like the convenience of being able to come and go as we please, so make sure you weigh what is important to you when planning your vacation.
3. Choose Your Hotel Carefully
Do some research before you book your hotel because each of the Disney resorts offers something unique. Think about what you want—is it a fancy pool, or the ability to have fine dining at your hotel, or are you happy with something a little more low-key? There is a hotel to suit every taste, budget and family. We love the new Art of Animation hotel because families can spread out in the spacious suites. Each suite has a bedroom, pull-out couch, murphy bed (that turns into the dining room table—so cool!), two bathrooms and enough space so that mom and dad can put the kiddos to bed in the bedroom and relax in the living room after a day at the parks.
4. Think About Your Departure Airport
Flying from Canada is great, but if you live in a border town, look into flying from your closest US airport. By doing so you may potentially save on flight costs, and the amount of time spent going through customs.
5. Don’t Over-Schedule Yourself
Remember that you are on vacation! If your family thrives on constantly being active while on vacation, by all means, visit a park every day you are in Florida. We have found in the past that it has been helpful to have a couple of easier days on our schedule, even including one day where we don’t even visit a park. On our rest days we have been known to do a bit of shopping, relax in our room, enjoy the hotel pool, and basically recharge for the following day’s adventures.
6. Reconsider the Stroller
Rent a stroller, even if your kids have long abandoned riding in one at home. The parks at Disney World are huge and even the most seasoned walkers will get tired. We love renting a stroller (we have used Kingdom Strollers in the past) to save our kids’ feet. Renting can be great because they will drop the stroller off at your hotel and pick it up when you are done. Plus, in each of the parks there are ‘stroller parking lots’ where you can park your stroller and then wander around whichever part of the park you are exploring. You don’t need to be tied to the stroller, but it can be a helpful tool in navigating crowds (it’s easier to push through them on wheels than try to maneuverer tired kids on foot), and of course, it’s great for zooming worn-out tots back to the exit at the end of a long day.
7. Find the freebies!
Yes this is going to be an expensive vacation, but there are many places where you can indulge in freebies. For example, don’t ever pay for a bottle of water. You can walk up to any counter service restaurant in Disney World and request a cup of water and they will give you one…no charge. There are also a couple of places where your kids can be sprinkled with Pixie Dust (including the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique in both the Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs). And if you are celebrating anything from a birthday or anniversary to a first ever visit to Disney, let them know and you will be given a button to commemorate the milestone.
8. Embrace the Magic
Disney World really is the most magical place on earth and it is amazing to see all of the people who visit and work there really buy into the magic. So go with it. Leave your cynical side at home, smile when someone calls you princess, and if they offer you a bit of pixie dust, always say yes.