Breaking Down My Disney World Podcast

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I have a confession, I don’t listen to many podcasts. I always hear about these amazing podcasts and how I should tune in but I’ve never quite gotten it. Mostly because I don’t have the ability to listen to something, like really listen, and do much of anything else. I’m not a very good multi-tasker if my brain has to be involved. But the idea of a podcast has always intrigued me, and sounds like something that would be really cool! The people that have them have got to be way cooler, and much more tech-savvy than I am!

And then one day, a mom from our school asked ME if I wanted to be a guest on her podcast! She asked me to be her Disney expert! Yall, I’ve never been considered an expert at anything, but if I know a lot of stuff about one subject, it is Disney! So of course I jumped at the chance to try this new cool thing, and get to do it with someone I knew would help me through it!

You can listen to the Beginner Advice for Disney World on Reviews and Randomness today! While you’re at it, listen to Laura’s other posts! She really is awesome!

I thought it would be fun to break down the interview, and expand on some of my answers here!

Isn’t Going to Disney World the Same Thing as Going to Six Flags?

This cracked me up that Laura’s husband asked friends at work this question, but honestly I was impressed she bought it up! If you know Disney people, you know they’ll come out with the pitch forks for this kind of comparison! LOL! So my short answer is “Um, No!”

We have a Six Flags less than 10 minutes from my house and I have not been to it in 25 years! I’m sure I’ll have to go with the kids at some point but I’m going to wait it out as long as possible. The last few times I went, it was just gross, and I’m told they’ve fixed a lot of issues, but still, Disney has forever changed my theme park expectations.

Disney World Cast Member
Disney World Cast Members are Second to None

The main reason I feel nothing holds a candle to the Disney Parks is their service! Every time you approach a Cast Member whether at your resort hotel, or in the park for any kind of assistance, they go above and beyond to make sure you are taken care of. You are always greeted with a smile, and there is never a time they make you silly for asking for help. I’ve gone down to our concierge desk more times than most guests probably do on our trips, to the point the gentleman knew me by name before we left our last stay at the Beach Club Resort! Several times, he called our room after I went back up to follow up and make sure I found what I was looking for or to even add information he meant to include for me but forgot to. I have never had a hotel employee do that anywhere else. At best, I’ve been handed a map of San Antonio and told “the Restaurant is on the other side of the River Walk.” Gee, thanks! The Cast Members you encounter in character are INCREDIBLE! Just look at her interaction with Landry in the Jedi Academy!

Main Street USA
Main Street USA. Photo Credit: Disney Parks

The other main reason (I mean, really there are hundreds but we’ll just stick to these two) is Disney’s theming. The second you pull onto Disney property you are transported to someplace magical! Your hotel will take you away to an old-timey Boardwalk, or the New Orleans Bayo. Walking down Main Street USA takes you to a simpler place in time and immediately makes you feel warm and happy. Then you see the Castle! As a little girl, the Castle was THE ULTIMATE DREAM! Who didn’t want to be Cinderella or the brave Prince riding up with his sword drawn to save the day? I tear up each time I see it for the first time, but that’s just me! As you walk through the different lands, Disney has taken incredible efforts to ensure that views are not conflicted, and you aren’t seeing Space from Fantasy Land or Hollywood Studios from the French Pavillion. None of those things happen in other theme parks. I may tear up at Six Flags but not because I’m all warm and fuzzy feeling!

French Pavillion
French Pavillion in Epcot

How do you go to Disney, maximize your budget, without breaking the bank, but not going on the cheap either?

I tell everyone to plan like this is your one and only trip, unless you’re a true Disney person and know you’ll go 100 more times. The reality is, most families will only go once or twice so you do want to maximize your time and your dime. You need to see everything you can without breaking the bank. So how is that possible?

Disney Parks Offer

Take your kids out of school! GASP! Sorry teacher friends, yes this is a big deal to me! I have taken our kids out of school for every Disney vacation we have ever gone on. There are a TON of reasons for this. First of all, a lot of the school year is considered the off season! Think about it, probably 70-80% of US families travel during school holidays and that’s it. If a destination is in the off season, they’re going to be doing whatever they can do to drive visitors which means discounts! You’ll find some of the best incentives for your Disney vacation during the school year, and now with the park tickets varying in price from day to day, you can bet the cheaper tickets are weekdays, during the school year. If you want to maximize your dollar, you will go while they’re running a sale during the school year.

Now, before you stop reading because I’m a crazy person, hear me out on this! I grew up as a pilot’s daughter. My dad could not take off during high travel season because that’s when he worked the most. He got vacation in October or February. We were pulled out of school for almost all of our family trips. I can’t tell you much of what I learned in 5th grade (other than 5th grade history because my teacher, Mrs. England, was amazing) but I can tell you all about our Hawaii trip and even how my mom made me turn a report into my teacher about what I learned while whale watching to prove I was still learning while we were off. I remember that family time, and that, to me, is far more valuable!

When Should We go To Disney World

Once we pick your dates (I’m saying we because I’m assuming you’re calling me up to book your trip here), then we plan to use every minute to the fullest like this is your one time shot! We think through your priorities. Do you have a Princess with you who needs to see her favorites? Or a Thrill Seeker looking to ride all of the Mountains? An Animal Lover who could spend several days on a Safari? We need to plan your time the right way! Look at the crowd calendars, and pick your parks based on the lowest crowd levels, then work everything else around it.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit?

The great thing about Florida is that the weather is amazing all year long! Summer is hot but it’s still doable. But assuming you’re going to pull the kids out of school then you’d be looking at Fall, Winter, or Spring. You’re going to pick your time based on what you want to see!

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (photo credit Disney)

Fall is a really fun time to visit! During the Fall there are several really fun experiences going on that you do not want to miss. In the Magic Kingdom, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party happens on select nights. This is a special ticketed event where the park is closed down to people who do not have a ticket to the party. It is sun a fun Halloween event! In Epcot, the International Food & Wine Festival is taking place. Countries from around the world are showcased with their unique cuisine and it is a Foodie’s dream!

The Holidays appear in Disney World almost as soon as the Fall decorations come down! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the can’t miss event in the Magic Kingdom complete with hot cocoa, cookies, snow, and Elsa turning the Castle to Ice! In Epcot, Christmas can be experienced from around the world! You can learn about the different ways other countries celebrate and view Santa and of course, the beautiful Candle Light Processional narrated by celebrity guests like Niel Patrick Harris!

Epcot Christmas
Photo Credit: Disney Parks

The New Year brings the Festival of the Arts to Epcot. We were fortunate enough to experience it in its first year (completely by accident) and the best way I can describe it is like a mini Food & Wine Festival but with an artsy flair! Broadway shows come to the American Pavilion and Disney Art is on Display! This event takes place from Jan through Feb!

Spring is another great time to visit Epcot for its International Flower and Garden Festival. Beautiful works of floral art come to life and the Garden Rocks Concert Series brings all new fun! Plus, the weather is outstanding!

What’s the Average Amount of Time People Go to Disney? And Can They Make it to Every Park?

I’d say the average trip to Disney is 4-6 days, so yes, it is possible to make it to all 4 of the main parks (water parks excluded), but do you want to in that time? Again, if you are a one trip in a lifetime family and you only have 4 or 5 days, yes, hit all the parks. I’d say, skip the park hopper and power through each park every day (for a 5 or 6 day trip make the Magic Kingdom or Epcot a 2-day park… this will change when Star Wars opens).

If you’re pretty sure you’ll be back, then skip a park on shorter visits. We skipped Animal Kingdom on our last visit, knowing we would want to go back for Pandora the next time we get to go. Use shorter trips to spend more time in areas that are a higher priority to your family.

Spending a Day at the Resort Pool!

Also, I highly suggest, if you are spending more than 4 days in Disney to add a day off in the middle. Take one day off from the parks for every 3-4 days spent in them. Your feet with thank you and your family will be due for some much-needed relaxation! Plus, Disney Resorts have amazing pools and you don’t want to miss them!

Do you Stay On Property of Off Property? What are the Advantages or Disadvantages?

I am a HUGE on property advocate! When I go to Disney, we want to be in the magic the whole time. I don’t want to think about real-world things like traffic and parking! LOL! When you stay on property, all of your transportation is covered for you from the time you get off the airplane. You will be picked up at the airport by Disney’s Magical Express, you’ll not have to worry about your luggage as they take care of it for you, and all of your transportation within the entire Disney Resort area is taken care of via bus, boat, monorail, and even soon a gondola! If you do happen to want to leave the resort for a day, Uber is readily available.

***Pro-Tip: I always recommend taking the first flight of the day on any trip, allowing you to make the most in your destination on your first day of vacation. However, this means you may arrive before your room is ready. Pack your carry-on bag with a change of clothes, swim suits, and whatever else you may immediately need so you are ready to start exploring the resort. Guest Services will let you know when your room is ready!

Disney has also gone to great lengths to make sure that they have a variety of hotel pricing and accommodations available to you so that they really can appeal to just about any budget. They have 3 resort categories: Deluxe, Moderate, and Value with pricing ranging from $175 per night on up to $1000+ per night. They have room sizes and locations to appeal to everyone. When I do price value resorts for clients and compare them to off-property hotels, I typically find that the all in vacation cost is not much more to be on-property (usually within $100-$200 or so).

Dining Plans are available to guests who stay on-property as well allowing them to make their vacation package almost completely all-inclusive. I LOVE the Disney Dining Plans! More on that in a minute!

Magic Bands

When you stay on property, you have exclusive perks that you just don’t get when you’re at the Motel 6! Disney has Extra Magic Hours that area available only to Disney Resort guests. These are an extra hour or sometimes two tacked on to the morning or evening of the parks. Imagine being able to get into the Magic Kingdom a whole hour before everyone else! You can get a TON of rides in with minimal lines! You are also given a complimentary Magic Band for every member of your family. The Magic Band serves as your room key, fast pass, park ticket, and even a means to check out at stores and restaurants!

The hotel quality is vastly different off-property as well! Disney does have “Good Neighbor Hotels” that are pretty nice, but if it hasn’t passed the Disney tests, you may find yourself in a dumpy location.

The Case for a Suite…

I LOVE a suite! If it’s a quick trip then sharing a room is fine but anything longer than 3 or 4 days, to me, requires more space! Disney offers family suites at The Art of Animation Value Resort, and also in Deluxe Villas. I feel like every family not only needs some space from the parks after a couple of days but also some space from each other! There is something to be said about allowing mom or dad a quick power nap while the kids watch tv in another room. There is also a certain point in time when families reach a certain age and all families need an extra layer of privacy! Just saying!

Are the Dining Plans Worth It?

Short Answer… YES! I LOVE the Disney Dining Plans for one huge reason, when I’m on vacation, just like I don’t want to deal with traffic, I don’t want to think about money. By adding a Dining Plan to your vacation package, you’re paying for all of your meals upfront. The plans are more or less calculated based on meal averages for Quick Service or Table Service meals, so if you like to adventure and try new foods, then you’re more than covered to try whatever you want to on the menu! You could choose the $15 burger or you could have the $50 steak and there is no price difference to you!

Biergarten Epcot
Biergarten Epcot

I personally found, the one time we went without a Dining Plan, I was hyper-focused on the menu prices. My husband and I would be really hungry but still split a meal to save money. It’s a total mental game with me. By splitting almost all of our meals, we did come in cheaper than had we gotten the dining plan, but I didn’t enjoy any of them because I was more price-focused than I was focused on getting what I really wanted.

We are also a big power-through family when we are at the parks, so taking an hour at lunch and dinner to decompress in some place that’s air conditioned is huge for our ability to make it through the entire day.

Now, if your family is super picky, or the kind that eats to live but doesn’t get a lot of enjoyment out of meals, then the Dining Plans probably aren’t for you, and you’ll find you would save money by paying a-la-carte.

What About Diet Restrictions and Food Allergies?

Disney is incredibly accommodating for food allergies and diet restrictions. When you make your reservations for Table Service you can actually notate any food restrictions so the restaurant knows before your arrival what your needs are. They also have special menu items at many of the restaurants that are food allergy friendly. Always ask your server when you arrive what the accommodations can be.

When making your reservation online, you simply click the Add button under Special Requests and then you can notate any food allergies or additional accommodations you need!

Dining Reservations

When staying on property, you can make your dining reservations 180 days in advance. This is KEY to getting those popular restaurants and character meals. When you book with a travel agent, they can actually book your dining for you, or you can do it yourself on the app.

One thing I do is book my reservations in reverse! I pinpoint the restaurants I do not want to miss, like Be Our Guest, and I book them towards the end of my trip. I do this because I do not have as much competition for dates and times as I would at the beginning of my trip. Let’s say I can book my reservations on Monday for my 7-day trip. Well, someone else started on the Wednesday before for their 7-day trip, so we have some overlapping days, but those people would not be booking at the end of my trip!

Other Tips…

I have a list of must bring products to buy before you go to the parks. Check those out here!

Match your kids in something bright and colorful so you can easily spot them in a crowd.

Rent a stroller once you’re there. The stroller companies that I recommend are really affordable and you avoid the hassle of lugging it through the airport. Even if you think your child is too old for one at 7 or 8, go ahead and get one! Little legs get tired, plus it’s nice to stash your bags or backpack underneath and not having to lug it everywhere!

Order a few groceries for your room including several cases of bottled water. I order one case for every 2-3 days we stay. This keeps you from spending $4 a bottle in the park. I freeze a couple at night to put in the cooler at the park, and then they’ll be ready for you when it’s really hot in the afternoon!

Bring some layers and rain ponchos! If you’re traveling any time other than the summer, the weather can change a bit on you and you may find the mornings or nights a little cool! Bring a hoodie or two. Also, plan for it to rain at least once (probably daily) for a little bit on your trip. Don’t let the rain ruin your park day. Bring a poncho and keep going! The park will clear out and you’ll have a ton of fun riding rides with shorter lines.

What are the Best Ages to Take Your Kids?

The best age is now! Your kids will go through different stages that will drastically change their experience! Little ones two and under are FREE! Will the remember? Probably not but you’ll have the pictures and the stories to show them, and they will really have a ton of fun.

Meeting Peter Pan

If you only go once, go while they’re little, like around age 5. You want to go when the magic is still real, when Mickey is really Mickey and the Princesses are really Cinderella or Belle! They can’t ride every ride, but that’s fine. There is still a ton to do. The last time we went, my oldest knew the characters were actors. He still had fun with them but it was definately different than when he believed in them.

Going back when they’re older allows new experiences, like rides they couldn’t get on before! They have a new appreciation for parks like Epcot the older they get. Learning about new countries is really fun for my oldest who is super into History. He didn’t appreciate that at age 5!

What is Your Best Tip for Revealing the Trip and Prepping Your Kids?

We’ve surprised them the day of, and also told them well in advance. My favorite was the time we surprised them the morning of! It took them a minute to figure out because they were still so disoriented and sleepy, so I didn’t have the reaction I wanted, but it was still fun! Plus, they went to bed the night before! When we told them in advance, they were so excited the night before we left, getting them down was a nightmare!

Disney Trip Reveal
Christmas Day Reveal

Prepping kids in advance has a lot of merits as well, especially if you have a child that has adhd or autism and surprises are not good for them. Every child is different and of course, make your choice for what you know is best for them!

If you do have a child with special needs in the park, the Cast Members are amazing to help you accommodate them. Whether they need a minute to decompress or escape, there is a way to take care of that. For my child with adhd, sound is a big deal. A lot of times we will watch the fireworks from a distance or bring something that will distract him so he can block out everything around him that is becoming over stimulating. I know others who have brought great headphones to block out noise, or put a blanket over a stroller so they can escape the park for a few minutes and nap.

Off Topic!

If you had $100 to spend on anything, what would it be? Easy, I would get a massage! I don’t take self-care time to myself enough and that is my quiet time!

What do you do for your hair? Yall, I have this life-changing curling iron! I know, that sounds silly, right? I have a crazy amount of hair. It has to stay long, or it will be HUGE and crazy! Having so much hair means it can take me FOREVER to do my hair. I purchased The Beach Waver a couple of years ago, and this thing can curl my hair in under 15 minutes! I’m obsessed with it. I also use a few products, not many though, but they work wonders! I use Enjoy Hair Oil & Biosilk before I blow dry (a dime size of each), and I use Pureology Hydrate Shampoo & Conditioner!

How Can I Book If I’m Ready to Get Started?

Send me a message and let’s get to planning! I would LOVE to help you book your Disney Trip. If you have an idea of when you want to go but no set dates, let’s start the conversation anyway. I can put you on the radar for a certain time frame and I’ll start watching the prices for you.

Did you know that all vacation destinations already have the Travel Agent Commission built into your package? My services don’t cost you an extra dime, but if you don’t use a Travel Agent, you aren’t going to save that money! That’s just money back to the resort’s bottom line. So can you book on your own? Sure! But you won’t have someone who is an expert in travel who can stay on top of your reservation and package pricing, or can help you when something comes up!

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  1. Cindy Gordon | 19th Mar 19

    I will make it out there one day! This guide was super helpful to people like me!

  2. Renee | The Good Hearted Woman | 19th Mar 19

    I come from a long line of teachers, and the idea of taking a week off during the school year (and pulling kids out for it!) was Completely off the table when I was growing up. We wouldn’t have even thought of it. But a few years ago, I did just that – I took in the middle of January, and it was perfect! No crowds, no oppressive heat – totally worth it! I’ll never go during the busy season again. (For reference, I’ve been there at both Christmas and Thanksgiving.)

  3. Michelle Kellogg | 19th Mar 19

    I’ve not been to Disney World as a tourist and customer. I went once for a job interview there but I didn’t get to see the park. I would like to go though and would love to take my kids. I didn’t know about the big discount they give you if you go in the off season. That’s an interesting idea.

  4. Carolyn Arentson | 19th Mar 19

    These are such great tips! I loved my trip to Disney and would love to take my family one day!

  5. Vanessa | 18th Mar 19

    Disney during the holidays is the best!! We went to Disney Land last year during Christmas and it was magical. But I totally agree with the tip about going during the school year!

  6. Ursula Herrera | 18th Mar 19

    Very helpful information! I am going to Disney with my family this weekend 🙂

  7. Mz_Ola | 18th Mar 19

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re just considering going to Disney this summer. Been holding it off for a while. Thanks for this

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