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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

a Disney Adventure! by Jessie Legere

Lizard hunting, packing snacks, and double days at Sea World = GREAT ideas for your trip to Florida! Thanks, Jessie Legere, for sharing your tricks with us. 

Part 4 in our Disney World Adventures, hope you enjoy! 

All photos from Jessie Legere

1. When did you go to Disney World in Florida? Who went with you?
We didn't go to the Disney parks this trip, but we did 2 days at Sea World, 1 morning at Downtown Disney, and 1 day at Cocoa beach! We went February 3-8 2013. It was myself, my husband and my 21 month (at the time) son. Let me start by saying that my husband didn't really want to do this trip, he thought that my son was too young and that it would be so much work and he wouldn't really enjoy it (he was completely wrong :)). When I finally convinced him that we should go he said "okay, just find the cheapest way possible". 

2. What did you do beforehand to prepare financially? How far in advance did you save money?
The summer is my busy time so I tried to just put aside a little bit of money here and there, it wasn't specifically for this trip at the time but just to save for something to do as a family. We didn't decide until winter that we were definitely going, but having the money already aside was a big factor in choosing to go. 

3. How much did your trip cost, including flights, hotel, car, park visits, food, etc. (try breaking it down as much as you remember for us... $$ on hotel, for example, etc.)?  
Hotel + Flight + Car = $865 total. I booked through travelocity, at the time of booking there was a deal for up to 30% off certain hotels, and I believe some discount on the flights (we got tickets for just my husband and I) 
Sea World tickets = $79 x 2 (my husband and I, under 3 was free). We planned to do 2 days here since we knew my son would fall asleep at some point, a 2nd day was only $10 extra per person, on our way out of the park I went to the booth to pay for the second day and for some reason it was free (still not exactly sure why), Parking $16/day 
I can't remember exactly what we spent on food but it wasn't too much, and we really didn't buy a ton of souvenirs. We were lucky enough to have rides to and from the airport so parking there wasn't an additional expense. I want to say our trip total was right around $1500. 
4. Where did you start researching for this trip? Any helpful books, movies, shows, Web sites, travel agents you used, etc.?
I just googled like crazy to try to get some information. I have a couple clients who had been a few times recently so I asked them a few questions, too, but mostly just searched online and then just decided to wing it. I felt like I was starting to go a little crazy with all the research. I had the general ideas of what we wanted to do but didn't want to get too obsessed with details. I did call AAA to ask about discounts, but didn't make any plans with their travel agents. 
5. Did you receive any special discounts, coupons, or have some secret tips to share about saving money?
AAA had a meal plan included for 1 day at Sea World. That day we ate breakfast at the hotel, packed snacks for most of the day and did a late lunch, that way we wouldn't need a big dinner. We went to Target the day we arrived to buy water and snack foods. My son and I both drink a lot of water so buying and packing of our own each day saved us some money right there. We aren't big into eating out so our plan was to get a room with a kitchenette so we could hopefully save leftovers, one night we just did pizza hut and another Joe's crab shack and had leftovers from both. Also, we didn't need to plan around school vacations so our trip was much cheaper.

6. Best places to eat, stay, visit, etc.? Things you encourage families with kids MUST do while in Florida?  
My husband loved Joe's Crab Shack! In Downtown Disney the store World of Disney is huge and so fun to look around, there is a cute salon inside where little girls were dressed up and getting pampered, it was so cute to see how excited they were. 
Another store has a "build your own Mr. Potato head" area, my son loved that, and, of course, the Lego store was a big hit. I would suggest getting a hotel with an indoor and outdoor pool. 
We luckily had great weather while we were there but we still used both pools. 
7. On days you visited parks, did you eat there, pack lunches, leave at a certain time, etc.? 
Our first day we went to Sea World. We had the meal plan so we ate a late lunch in the park that day. The second day we went to Downtown Disney, it's full of shops and places to eat but not really enough to spend a full day. We stayed until mid afternoon and stopped for lunch on our way back to the hotel, the rest of the day we did "lizard hunting" (one of the highlights for my son) around the hotel, swimming, and then went out to dinner. 
Our third day we went back to Sea World. Before our trip I was worried that 2 days at Sea World would be too much but we just started at the area that my son fell asleep the first day, and even when we saw some things over again he still loved it. We had lunch in the park this day, too. We saw the "Elmo rocks" show which is in one of the restaurants so we ate lunch during the beginning of the show. The last full day we took a road trip to Cocoa Beach, we spent a good part of the day there with lots of snacks and then stopped on our way out for an early dinner.
8. What is your best advice for visiting parks... pack ___ in a backpack? wear swim clothes? etc.?  
If possible try to pack all your valuables into one bag that's easy to carry around. In Sea World (and I'm sure many parks) there were a lot of places you had to park your stroller so it was nice to just be able to grab our bag each time. I packed a hat, diapers, suntan lotion, change of clothes, sweatshirt, camera, phone, wallet, snacks and lots of water. 

If your kids plan to sit in the splash zone during any shows you may want a change of clothes, and might want to plan to see the last show. This wasn't a problem for us but we saw some parents getting a little annoyed with their kids complaining about being soaking wet and having to walk around like that. 
9. Top 3 travel tips in general - getting to and from location with kids... (car seats? bring iPad for plane ride? pack snacks? etc.)  
For the airplane I had some games on my phone and lots of coloring and stickers to keep busy. 
If you plan to only spend one day at Sea World I would suggest planning which shows you want to see ahead of time. Between both days we saw most of them, but had we tried to fit them all into one day we wouldn't have had anytime to see the exhibits. 
Pack lots of snacks. We definitely saved lots of money not having to buy snacks/drinks.  
We really enjoyed having a car since we weren't staying in a park, it was really nice to be on our own schedule instead of having to worry about catching a shuttle and being out of the park at a certain time.
10. What would you do differently if you went again on this trip?
I don't know of anything specific we'd do differently if we did this same trip again. Next time I'm sure we'll just try to add in another park! 
11. How old were your kids when they went on this trip, and do you think they got a lot out of it, remember it, etc.? Was it a good age span to go on this trip? 
My son was 21 months and he LOVED everything about this trip!! When we got home he loved talking to anybody about it, and even months later he would randomly talk about things from the trip. It's now a year later and he keeps asking to go back to Florida. 
12. Misconceptions: Something you think people don't know or are confused by when making plans to travel to Disney World? 
There is a lot of planning that goes into it, but try not to over do it so you forget to enjoy yourself. For us even just being away together, out of the cold was great. My son would have been completely happy if we had stayed at the hotel and spent the days swimming and "lizard hunting".

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