Part 2 in our Disney Adventures series! Great ideas from real moms who have taken this trip of a lifetime. Enjoy!
Thanks to Lorraine Burr for sharing her family of four's trip to Disney World! Such great ideas - like getting your child's Disney princess costume the day after Halloween for great savings and using a personal shopper to get groceries delivered to your hotel room to save on meal prices. Awesome ideas!
1. When did you go to Disney World in Florida? Who went with you?
We went to Disney World for 8 nights 11/14-11/22/ 2012. It was my family of 4, Husband George, myself, 12 yr old Son Alec, & 6 yr old daughter Alicia.
2. What did you do beforehand to prepare financially? How far in advance did you save money?
We saved for about 9 months for the trip. We saved bottle money and wrapped change, etc My daughter would come home from school every day and dump out her cowboy boot with the change she found around school or the ground :) She picked up every penny she saw. I created a fundraising-like thermometer sign with a map of Disney at the top and the kids colored it in as we added money to our fund (see photo). So that they could see that it was work to save and plan for the trip.
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.)?
The entire trip was about $5,000 with everything. I used Kayak.com to track flight prices and originally was looking at April 2013 but it suggested changing travel days for a better rate and by switching to Nov 2012 we ended up paying $188 per plane ticket for direct flight from Boston to Orlando. I booked everything else through Disney's own site: https://disneyworld.disney.go.
We did a package through them and stayed at a value resort (All Stars Music). However we spent extra to have a family suite. This gave us 2 tvs and 2 bathrooms and a "kitchenette" (sink, microwave, fridge) which was helpful. Our disney package was $4046 and included 8 nights in the suite, disney's quick service dining plan (we loved this!), 7 day park hopper tickets (we didn't plan to go to the parks on the arrival or departure day), & vacation insurance. The dining plan was a promotional freebie during the time that we went. We each got 2 quick service meals and a snack per day. This was so easy to use and made it very convenient for meals. We used the 2 meals a day as lunch and dinner. For breakfast, we used a personal Disney shopper: http://www.kellyspds.com/.
We simply emailed her a grocery list ahead of time and they shopped for the food and delivered it to the hotel for us on our arrival day. We also rented a toaster from her. We had her pick up things like bread, butter, milk, poptarts, frozen french toast, syrup, bananas, apples, chips, cheese its, cheerios, case of soda, case of water and it cost $66 including the toaster. This way we could make breakfast in the room before leaving for the day. Plus we took 4 or 5 bottles of the water in a backpack with us daily to the parks and didn't have to buy drinks there. We paid for 2 meals outside of the dining plan because we wanted to eat at the rainforest cafe and dine with Cinderella. I paid $200 for the Disney photo pass and ended up with around 200 photo with characters, rides, around the park, etc. Again, loved this, they took so many great photos for us. We ended up charging about $400 to our room throughout the trip for souvenirs and special purchases. We didn't rent a car. We used the magical express to and from the airport and Disney resort transportation for everything else.
4. Where did you start researching for this trip? Any helpful books, movies, shows, Web sites, travel agents you used, etc.?
I started with a lot of word of mouth first. Then a site I used a ton was disboards.com and they have forums for just about every question you might have for a trip to Disney. I got tons of great info on there about packing and what to bring, how to plan, etc. I signed up for every blog email I saw regarding Disney and skimmed them for anything relevant each day. Based on the things I read in the blogs I kept a running packing spreadsheet. When I saw something I wanted to be sure to remember I added it to the list right away. Things that I wouldn't have thought to pack like power strips for all the electronics to charge, dollar store folding bins for the table to toss things in from pockets each day, etc.
5. Did you receive any special discounts, coupons, or have some secret tips to share about saving money?
Our dining plan was free for 8 nights and it was soooo much food. We were always stuffed. The personal shopper tips I shared above.
A money saving tip, since we went in mid-November, the day after Halloween I went and bought my daughter a fancy Cinderella costume for half price for her to wear to dinner with Cinderella. They also had a light up wand and things for half off. She had that to use at night during the parades and such without asking to buy something the vendors walked around selling.
6. Best places to eat, stay, visit, etc.? Things you encourage families with kids MUST do while in Florida?
We only did Disney since we didn't rent a car. And it was perfect.
7. On days you visited parks, did you eat there, pack lunches, leave at a certain time, etc.?
We did eat in the parks. With the dining plan, there is a list of restaurants that are covered in the plan and there are several in each park. So we ate lunch at the park every day, We often ate dinner back at our hotel in the evening. I packed snacks and waters to take into the park. Plus everyone got 1 snack/drink a day on the meal plan at the park.
8. What is your best advice for visiting parks... pack ___ in a backpack? wear swim clothes? etc.?
Packing water was a big money saver. I packed small snacks like granola bars, mixed nut packs, crackers etc, to hold us over as needed. And then things like sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, kid's electronics for long waits, tissue, wipes, shiny pennies for pressed penny collection.
9. Top 3 travel tips in general - getting to and from location with kids... (car seats? bring iPad for plane ride? pack snacks? etc.)
#1 Be flexible with expectations. Sometimes we have the idea of the perfect trip in our minds but it's different to the kids or hubby. The kids were happy to just be at the hotel and we were like we spent all this money for park tickets we're going to the park. Just being together having fun and being flexible is important.
#2 - Disney makes life so easy that you don't want to leave - our room key was everything (park tickets, dining plan, souvenir purchaser, etc), and their transportation is easy. Everything is just easy.
#3 the kids' electronics helped on the plane, in line, etc.
10. What would you do differently if you went again on this trip?
The only thing I would do differently is plan for a day at the hotel resort - the kids really wanted to just be there in the pool, the arcade, etc and we didn't really leave time.
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?
They were 6 & 12 and I felt like it was great ages. They did get a lot out of it and we found it went better at times to split up - my husband and son would go do things separate(like Behind the Seeds tour) and my daughter and I would go do princessy things at a slower pace and then we'd meet back for lunch or fast pass rides etc.
Be willing to go with the flow.