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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

a Disney Adventure! by Morgan Leeman

Thanks, Morgan Leeman, for sharing your awesome Disney experience with us! You're a pro! 

Part 5 in our Disney World Adventure series, great tips here - including packing band-aids but not needing swim clothes at the park. Good simple tips that are helpful. 


All photos from Morgan Leeman 

1. When did you go to Disney World in Florida? Who went with you? 
We've been in 2010, 2012 and 2014! Myself, Jeff, and Carlie (5,7,9) for all three trips, and Noah for the last two (15 months and 3 years). Jeff's parents came with us on our last trip too! It was awesome for the grandparents to get to see the kids experience Disney too. 

2. What did you do beforehand to prepare financially? How far in advance did you save money? 
After the first year we went, we decided we wanted to take the kids every two years, or as close to as possible, so we put away money for about two years.
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 first year was our most expensive and over $10,000. The 2012 trip was a little cheaper, because we learned a few things but because Noah was with us, it still ended up being close to $9,000. And 2014, was our cheapest (and shortest trip. Only two nights), trip was $3,500. 

We know every year that we're going to go for February vacation and we watch flights for awhile, but for four of us, this year they were about $1,000. We choose to stay on the monorail which is a main reason why our vacations are so expensive, but this year our rooms were $650 a night, 2010 was similar and in 2012, our rooms were around $500 a night. 

In 2012, we went in March and not over school vacation, huge money saver!! Every year we have gotten the park hopper passes, and while they're more money, it makes things way less stressful for us! The park hopper has varied from year to year but it's always somewhere around $300-$400. 

The food can vary SO much, it all depends on how many fast food places you eat at, how many sit down meals you have, and how many character meals you have. We always have a lot of character meals and that drives the price up too. The last two years we've done the meal plan and it's worked out great for us because we do enjoy so many character meals! 

4. Where did you start researching for this trip? Any helpful books, movies, shows, Web sites, travel agents you used, etc.? 

I started researching for the trip, ALL over the place. Disney themselves was actually the most helpful, word of mouth from other moms that recently went, and the Disney Mom panel were other sources I used as well. 

We booked through a travel agent the first year, and then paid close, attention to how we wanted to do things for the next time, we probably spent an entire day figuring out what we'd like to do or not like to do, and it was so worth it.

5. Did you receive any special discounts, coupons, or have some secret tips to share about saving money?
Because we've been a few times we do receive 30% off of our stay and packages, so that is a way that other people can save money in the future. We don't rent a car, and rely on Disney transportation the entire time we're there and haven't run into an issue yet. I've recently found out that has Disney rooms available, but their rates are the same as what we get for booking right through Disney.

6. Best places to eat, stay, visit, etc.? Things you encourage families with kids MUST do while in Florida?  
My personal favorite place to stay is the Polynesian. I think it's awesome for the kids and they have so much more for them than the Contemporary. We've stayed at the Contemporary twice and the Polynesian once, and the next time we go, we will stay at the Polynesian! My favorite places to eat are at the Luau Cove Dinner Show, Chef Mickeys, The Liberty Tree Tavern, Tonys Town Square. Cinderella's Royal Table, is also another amazing dining experience, but pricey and hard to book.

My number one thing for other parents, about Disney, is that you should have at least ONE meal with your kids' favorite character, wait in that 45 minute line in the parks to have them take pictures with and sign autographs, the line is so long because they spend time with your kids, and ENJOY DISNEY! Seriously, take it slow, if you miss things, you miss them, but let your kids run the show. 
We tried to rush around this last (short, three day), trip to Disney and I wished that we didn't. I wished that we sat in the 45 minute line for Dumbo for the second time so my three year old could go back on it, I wish we just slowed down and took more pictures, and didn't try to rush and fit everything in.

7. On days you visited parks, did you eat there, pack lunches, leave at a certain time, etc.? 
We were on the dining plan so we ate at the parks. We never left at a certain time, unless we had to for dinner reservations, but we let the kids let us know when it was time to go back to the hotel. 
In 2010, we stayed out until 12/1 am every night and slept until 10, and that's what worked for us then. The last two times, we'd be up and out by 7:30, and in bed by 10. But we didn't set alarms (except for those early morning reservations, which we tried to avoid), and we just went with the flow.
8. What is your best advice for visiting parks... pack ___ in a backpack? wear swim clothes? etc.? 
If you're not using a stroller, bring a backpack! Pack as light as possible, too. We only brought a change of clothes for Noah, a few band aids, and sunglasses. If we needed anything else, we were a short monorail trip away! 

I would wear light layers, it's chilly most mornings at Disney, but during the day it's hot, and at night, it's chilly again! Disney is fantastic for many reasons, but lockers and storing things while on rides, is not one of them! The only water ride at Magic Kingdom is Splash Mountain and you really don't get that wet, so a bathing suit for in the parks, really isn't needed.

9. Top 3 travel tips in general - getting to and from location with kids... (car seats? bring iPad for plane ride? pack snacks? etc.)  
A. Plan ahead of time, who's going to carry what, and how you're going to lug it all around. Disney has a plan where if you're going right to their resort, they will take care of your luggage from the airlines so you don't have to worry about it! Just call Disney and they will set it up for you. 
B. If you plan on renting a car or a taxi, bring your own car seat. The ones that I've used in the past, are scary and old. We brought our Graco Nautilus this last time and it fit perfectly on the plane!
C. Snacks, snacks and more snacks, and a cup with a lid on it. Airlines are not up to par with children flying. No way would a cup with a plastic lid survive a flight without ending up everywhere, with no cup holders! Also, bring a blanket, we froze on the airplane, even in pants and a sweatshirt. And their favorite toys!

10. What would you do differently if you went again on this trip? 
From this last trip, I would've stayed longer, and not rushed things. It was very hard for me to try to fit in three days at Disney, when we've gone for 7/8 before. I barely took any pictures, because I didn't want to stop, and take them, I wanted to keep going. Big mistake. We got the important pictures, but none of the fun, spur of the moment ones that we've had the last two times. 
It doesn't matter about how long you go for, it matters how you spend it!

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?
Carlie was 5, 7 and 9 years old. Noah was 15 months, and 3 years old. 
My favorite times to see them was at 3 and 5. That's when they had the most Disney magic in their eye. 
Carlie had such big smiles in all her pictures and we got to do so much with her when she was 5. And Noah keeps telling everyone that we stayed at Chef Mickeys house and he walks around pretending that he's Chef Mickey, and all the other characters. They're both talking about when we can go again!  

12. Misconceptions: Something you think people don't know or are confused by when making plans to travel to Disney World?
The biggest misconception that I think people have is that you're to young or to old for Disney. I swear that I'm the one that gets the most excited about going to Disney, and I'm not a huge Disney fan. There are seriously things to do for everyone there, and at 15 months old, Noah didn't miss out on anything. He did the same rides then as he did this year! It's so great for everyone!
13. Anything else you want to add?
The Disney Magic Bands and the My Disney experience app are still a work in progress but awesome. Any time we had questions or problems, everyone was more than happy to help. I loved the fact that with the magic-bands, it was your room key, credit card, park pass, photo pass, and dining plan, all at your wrist. I never had to carry around a purse! 

But also, do your own thing! Don't worry about what other people are doing, just do what your family wants to do! 

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