Once Gracie turned 2 in January, I decided this would be a great year to take her to Disney World. I felt like she was old enough to enjoy many of the attractions in shows, but still able to get in free which makes it more affordable to go as a family. I opted to purchase the Florida resident pass, which got us four days in four parks for about $130 per adult. And since we had six months to use it, I planned for two days in March and the other two days in May.
Here are some points from my experience, advice you can take or leave, but if you’ve never been at least I hope you read this blog post.
Weather: our trip in March was quite cold and windy. Which was actually quite nice for experiencing the parks and not having to worry about getting overheated. On the downside there was not much swimming pool activity back at the hotel because the water was so cold. When we went back in May however, it was 90°, sunny, a little rainy, and let’s face it, hot. We like the heat, but I know many people struggle with the heat, sunburns, have trouble staying hydrated, fussy kids when they’re sweaty.… The list goes on and on. So just consider the weather when you’re planning your trip. Make sure to dress appropriately, pack for the climate you are expecting, so that you can make the most of it!
The crowds: Let’s be honest here folks, you don’t go to a theme park expecting it to be desolate. You expect the weekends to be more hectic, although as much of a destination location this is for a vacation spot, it’s expected to be busy every day of the week, especially in the summer when school is out. Our trip in March was a Friday / Saturday. Our May trip was Thursday and Friday. Tip number one, do not attempt for Saturday in May, when many schools are perching finals. If you have your heart set on writing a certain ride or experiencing a certain attraction, go as soon as park opens, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and arrive at your specific desired attraction as soon as the park opens. This will give you the best chances of seeing and ensuring you get to see what you want to city. Then plan on the rest of your must see items strategically scheduled with the fast pass system. We were newbies at this and failed miserably, but since there was only a few things that we really wanted to see each day, we went to what was nearby and our limit on lines was 30 minutes.
The lines: So if you’ve never been to a theme park with kids, you may remember your childhood experiences waiting in line, not thinking it’s too big of a deal. However if you have never waited in line with a toddler, you’re in for real experience. And a word of caution, for you mamas that may think you can keep your little one occupied in a stroller while in line with some iPhone games, think again. Strollers wait outside while parents, toddlers, and the rest of the world wait in line together. So if that means you have to carry your kid, so be it, if that means your kid needs a nap, plan to hold your kid while they sleep. Oh yeah, ever tried changing a diaper in line… LOL – you are in for a real treat! So my advice on the lines, avoid waiting anything longer than 30 minutes… It is simply not worth it! Go to your must-see items early and fast pass it the rest of the way.
The food: many out-of-towners purchase something called a meal ticket or food plan, where they pay a flat rate per day and it includes unlimited sodas, as well as your meals at a food court type restaurant. My family and I attempt to eat healthy, don’t drink soda, and prefer to sit down at a restaurant when having a meal. So we opted to not purchase a meal plan. There are quite a few sit down type restaurants throughout the parks, however you apparently need reservations months in advance to get a table. This was news to us! Frustrated after getting turned away without reservations, we were stuck with the food court. If you are health-conscious at all, you would be better off packing snacks, then eating the crap they serve there. Your choices include pizza hotdogs jumbo turkey legs, oh they did have a chicken Caesar salad which was pretty much a joke. I thought I was prepared with a cooler full of water protein bars and shakes fruit etc. to get us between meals so that we could sit down and have a real meal, but I was wrong. I wish I would’ve packed some homemade sandwiches or wraps or something.
The resorts. Nothing short of amazing, as you would expect for the price you pay. If you are lucky enough to get a room on Disney property at one of the resorts, you can expect excellent service, clean rooms, and comfortable beds. And just like everything else, there are different options for different budgets. The first trip we stayed at a moderate resort, as it was categorized. It was called Port Orleans Riverside and had a nice New Orleans Flair. It had a nice pool, although we did not use it, because this was our trip in March when it was very cold. The resort was spread out in multiple buildings over acres and acres of land, which was nice in my opinion, to take a nice walk in the morning over to breakfast in the main house. In May, we decided to upgrade our stay a bit, because we wanted a few more restaurant choices within the hotel and we wanted access to a fitness center. Based on recommendations from a few friends, we decided to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which was truly amazing. The restaurants were divine, and the fitness center we used was second to none. The resort actually had to fitness centers, although we never saw the other half of the resort. Our itinerary this trip involves some downtime at the pool, and it was so nice to have tiki bars right around the pool and a 68 foot waterslide to entertain Gracie. She had an absolute blast! Apparently the other pool, had a 130 foot slide and a water playground for more childhood fun! The main feature for this resort was the savanna in the backyard. It felt like you were on a real African safari to look out the windows and walk beyond the pool to find giraffes, zebras, and a variety of other animals right there! It was truly a neat experience!
Best Bets: Our favorite “must see” things include… the safari at Animal Kingdom Park, Disney Live show at Hollywood Studios, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo ride, and the Electrical Night Parade at Magic Kingdom. For our first experience we did learn a lot, but had a great time and will go back again some day. If you had a good (or bad) experience with any of the parks, I would love to hear about it in the comments!