We got back from Disney and I am still recovering. I am going through Disney withdrawal. It is a serious thing. After months of planning and planning once the vacation is over…. it leaves you with a void. I am filling it by planning our homeschool curriculum for next year and remembering all the great moments on our trip.
I thought I would put all my tips in a post so that next time we go to Disney I can remember.
Booking and Planning.
Step one: Deciding to go
The hardest part about going is paying for flights. It can be expensive. I happen to come upon a great deal at Jetblue and I just couldn’t pass it up, it ended up being less than driving. Together with the great deals that Disney was having (free dining) it was really cost effective. I thought it was crazy to take an 8 month old but I figured at least his airfare would be free. Plus the boys are getting older by the minute. I didn’t know how much longer I had where the boys thought going to Disney was “cool”. So it was now or never. Hubby says I always want to go to Disney when I have a baby because I realize how fast the kids are growing up that I want to make memories and hold on to their childhood. There is something about having a baby that reminds you how fast it goes. It feels like I blinked and my baby was turning 10 *tear*.
We booked during the slow time…February. I can’t do the summer because I hate the heat and I hate long lines. The cool weather and no lines make your Disney trip just that more magical. It wasn’t as slow as I thought it was going to be but it was manageable. Especially since everything was so planned out.
Step 2: Booking
So I decided to book with a travel agent this time. It was so much nicer than booking online. We exchanged emails a few times and then chatted on the phone for about an hour. Having someone that was willing to chat and give me tips and answer my questions was really great. Then she booked everything which saved me a lot of time. We ended up booking a 7day 6 night stay at the Port Orleans Riverside with the dining plan. I ended up using Krista from Mouse Tales Travel.
A few weeks after we booked my parents and sisters decided to join in the fun. It was nice because we knew we would have help with the kids. But planning for 9 is harder than for 5. I really tried to have everything planned out to make everything run smoothly. If I added up the hours I spent planning you would think I was crazy. But I love planning so for me it was so much fun. If I could turn it into a job I would totally do it.
The best part was that after booking I got a card in the mail from Disney about free dining plan. I emailed Krista and 20 mins later Disney took $500 off my total. So if you book a Disney trip and then get what looks like junk in the mail…Open it. It saved us $1000 because they passed the savings on to my parents also. It was a savings that was not online. They just sent it to me…pure luck.
Step 3: Planning our days at Disney
First step of planning I decided what park we were going to on what days. Then I decided where we wanted to eat and what I wanted to use my FastPass+ on. The best resource I found was WDWPrepschool. It is a a blog with a lot of tips and info for your Disney trip. I found the Best/Worst Park Chart which helped me to pick the parks that I wanted to visit on each day. I also read her description of each ride in her park guides and noted what we wanted to do for sure…everything else would be extra.
- Sunday – Hollywood
- Monday – Epcot
- Tuesday – Magic Kingdom
- Weds – Animal Kingdom
- Thursday – Downtown Disney and Magic Kingdom
I probably would have switched these up a little bit. Hollywood was so packed on Sunday it was hard to get around. I probably would have done Epcot on Sunday because it has less to do and is my least favorite park. It was harder to plan because my boys are older so our visit was not your typical Princess or little kid visit. It is nice because they rode all the big rides (even Everest) so we spent time together in line. It was a big blessing because my mom took care of the baby when we rode the big rides. I still planned a little princess stuff for my sisters and myself. I just had to make sure to balance. The kids could care less about taking pictures with characters. But I wanted to so I had to find a happy medium. Character meals were a great compromise.
Here we are in line at Soarin and Everest. Some of the best times was laughing and waiting in line. Yes you do wait in line a lot at Disney but it is time you spend together and part of the great memories. I will never forget my kids excitement while waiting in line.
You will notice that every day our shirts had a theme. I spent a lot of time figuring out the themes and making the shirts. More than I ever thought. I have a silhouette machine and cut out the designs in heat transfer vinyl. I am planning on making another post just about it. But I wanted to point them out since I spent so much time and energy on them. 🙂
One of the hardest parts was planning our meals. I knew that I needed reservations because we were such a big group. I tried to book the daily table service and then we would just wing the quick service meal. This worked out really great for us.
I booked a lot of character meals and more expensive dining experiences. It was so nice knowing it was included and not coming out of pocket so we splurged at every table service.
- Hollywood Studios – Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. I booked with the Fantasmic! Dining Plan and it worked out perfect. The food was good and getting the special seating for the show was very nice.
- Epcot- *My favorite of all the character meals* Akershus Royal Banquet, getting to meet all the princesses at one time was so much fun for my sisters and me.
- Magic Kingdom- Be Our Guest, I was able to get a fastpass for lunch. The food was very good and not waiting was a plus. The decor was amazing. My favorite was the look of snow outside. It was a wonderful quick meal for our dining plan.
- Chef Mickey. This character meal was nice. It was not my favorite but the breakfast was delicious and we had a lot of fun.
- Animal Kingdom- Tusker House, this was the boys favorite. We didn’t have a reservation and were able to get in right away which was nice.
Here is my autograph book. I say mine because the kids are boys and didn’t care about autographs. LOL I didn’t want to spend a fortune but wanted something cute. I found some free digital scrapbook design elements online and quickly created the front and back. I printed it on card stock and got some blank card stock and cut it in half. Then I had it bound at office depot. It cost about $4 and totally cute. I just made sure to leave one blank page with every signature to have a place to put a picture. I figured this would be great for the kids to have in their room.
Aren’t E’s Mickey hands the cutest. He wanted them to show Mickey when we went to Chef Mickey. He was so excited. Something I will remember forever. The last little bit of childhood.
*I am attaching the jpg for the front and back of my autograph book. I got the original files from here. I asked Amber if it was ok if I attached the file for download. I was so excited when she said yes. You can download here. Autograph Cover I printed on a 11×17 so that it would print full screen. Then just cut up. Hope this helps others.