I like to consider myself a Walt Disney World Pro for many reasons, but #1 being that I am a travel agent that plans trips to Walt Disney World for my clients every day! Why does this matter? Well, even a WDW veteran like myself learned some important things on my last trip to “The World” and I want to share them with you!
- Park Hoppers are about convenience and flexibility! One of the easiest ways to cut back on the costs of a Walt Disney World vacation is to forego the Park Hopper addition to your tickets. Currently, the Hopper allows you to visit any of the other Disney theme parks after 2pm and it does come at an additional cost. What I learned was that sure, I saved a little money by purchasing a “base” (non-hopper) ticket, but had I bought the Hoppers, we could have gone back and ridden rides at Magic Kingdom that my kids ended up loving after we wrapped up our day at Animal Kingdom, or we could have snagged that last minute Droid Depot reservation at Hollywood Studios on the day that started in Epcot. That Cinderella’s Royal Table reservation that you wanted so badly? Well there’s a dinner time available on your Animal Kingdom day and if you have a Hopper, it could be yours!! The Park Hopper provides flexibility and freedom in planning and that is something that is worth paying for! As much as I’d like my family (and life in general) to follow the plans I have so carefully laid out, sometimes it pays to be able to pivot and go with the flow and that is what the Park Hopper allows you do. If you can, get a Hopper!
- Choose a resort with lots of food options! Walt Disney World has over 25 resort hotels that all feature different themes and cater to specific tastes, but the differences in the resorts also extend to the variety and types of dining. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s food everywhere throughout the resorts, parks and Disney Springs, but it is so nice to be able to walk downstairs or to a nearby building to grab food and bring it back to your room. Look at the menus and dining options for your resort before you book and make sure that it is something that would work for your family, if not, is there something nearby that would help to supplement? One reason that I like staying at Epcot area resorts is that you are able to easily walk to the other resorts or even pop into Epcot (if you have a Hopper – see what I mean!), for a meal or snack! Same goes for the resorts on the monorail line, the transportation and proximity of the resorts really open up your food options!
- Visit any Disney message board or social media group and you are bound to see a question on if a 5,6,7,10 year old needs a stroller or not. This is going to be a personal decision, but here is my experience. I traveled with 3 kids, two (almost) 2 year olds and one (almost) 6 year old, we had a double stroller for the twins and had no plans on bringing a stroller for the oldest, I mean he was almost 6, can ride a 2-wheeler like nobody’s business, can play outside for 12 hours straight if we let him and run, run, runs all day. Why on Earth would this kid not be able to walk!? Well, he lasted 2 park days walking, but those two days were also filled with me saying “Caleb, please keep up, I don’t want to lose you.” “Where is Caleb?” “Caleb, you can’t just sit there, we are leaving.” “No, you cannot sit on your sister’s lap!” and that was met with “But my legs are so tired, they need a rest!” Part of me couldn’t believe that I was considering renting a stroller for my 1st grader that could quite literally push his stroller and the double stroller, but here we were. Parents, a stroller for your child (no matter what the age) is not only for their “tired legs,” but for your sanity and their safety. Let’s face it, after walking 40k steps in a day, in the heat, we’d all like to hop in a stroller at some point! RENT THE STROLLER! Since I ended up renting a stroller from the Disney parks for our last 2 park days, I was able to get a discount on the daily rate by purchasing all of the days at once and it was very easy! They gave me a receipt that showed how many days I had paid for and the next day I just showed the cast member at the next park the receipt and they gave me a stroller, easy peasy and the complaints from my son decreased drastically! Even if he didnt use it the entire day, it was well worth it!
- Rise of the Resistance boarding groups are harder to get than a Harvard admissions letter! Well, the 7am slots anyway. I am 0 for 2 with snagging a boarding group for 7am and I try all of the tips one can find, but I have friends and clients that get it all the time, why do I have the bad luck?! The 1pm drop seems to be slightly easier to get, but you still have to be on top of it as the clock strikes 1pm. I don’t say this to discourage you, but to manage your expectations and not be too bummed out if you don’t get a group at 7am (or 1pm for that matter). Remember, JOIN-JOIN-JOIN and figure out the rest after you’ve gotten that group!
- If you see something, say something right away! Disney does an amazing job of maintaining their resorts and properties, but there can be issues. It is best to call down to let the resort know of anything that seems off as soon as possible so that they can take care of things. Same goes with if you see a problem with your room charges or with your tickets. Don’t wait until you are home to try to address the issue, Disney is great about helping out and they can usually help a lot faster if they know about it while you are still there.
- Last, give yourself and your traveling party grace while you are on vacation. Did you tell everyone that they needed to be ready to leave at 7am to get on that first bus for Rope Drop? Of course you did! Did everyone sleep in because you walked 60k steps the day before and had the time of your lives including you? Perhaps… It’s OK!!! This is a vacation and while you have plans and want to fit in all of the things, sometimes you just have to just go with the flow! Your vacation can only be as magical as you let it be and that starts with having a positive attitude and being realistic with your plans as the trip progresses!
I do hope that some of this resonates with you and if you’d like more advice on planning your ultimate Walt Disney World vacation, I would be more than happy to help! In the meantime, you can find me buying Park Hoppers for my next trip!