Monday, January 6, 2014

Disney for Newbies: What I Reccomend

***Disclaimer: Again, I am NO expert and I do NOT pretend to be. This is just what we recommend after one visit.***

Now that it's been almost 4 months since we returned I wanted to continue my Disney for newbies posts.  This has been sitting in my draft box for months, but I just now found the time to finish it!  Like I said on my last post in this series, I am brand new to Disney planning and really also to touring. It had been almost 25 years since I went to the Magic Kingdom, so I wasn't really sure what to plan, how to tour, where to eat, and how to manage the buses.  Michael and I have discussed what we are glad we did, what we would do again, and what we would do different next time...

Stay on Property
We chose to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort in the Epcot resort section and I would absolutely, without a doubt, stay there again (but we may try another resort next time).  Some people aren't fans of how large and spread out it is, but we loved it and enjoyed a nice leisurely walk around the lake in the center of the resort to get to the food court and pool.  We also loved the convenience of the meal plan and ability to charge purchases to our room key.  "Mousekeeping" left Nicholas' stuffed characters doing funny things everyday and there are fun little bits of magic everywhere! 

Disney Dining Plan 
We had the quick service dining plan and it was PERFECT for our family!  With a small child we learned very quickly how difficult it is to stay on a schedule (as in it is impossible!) and I'm glad we weren't tied down to more than 2 ADRs.  The QSDP includes 2 quick service (or counter service) meals plus a snack/per person/ per night of your stay.  We ate 2 character meals, but we just paid out of pocket for those.  We spent close to $50 each meal and the plan only costs $39/day, so it worked out great for us to not have to worry about how much the meals cost or how we would pay for it since it was pre-purchased.  We have said several times that we will never go back without some sort of dining plan!  A tip on the dining plan, stockpile powerades!  You get your refillable resort mug and at every meal you also get a drink. We always got powerades and stockpiled them for park time.  It worked great!  Also, you can get free ice water at any counter service, so add some lemonade mix and you've got a free lemonade! :-)

Low Crowd Levels Are A Must! 
For two people who didn't know what they were doing, we got super lucky on our travel dates!  We booked our trip, started making ADRs and then I purchased touring plans iPhone app.  The app rates crowd levels and gives recommendations for park days on a scale of 1-10.  We ended up in the magic kingdom on crowd level 2 and 1 days.  Honestly, the 2 seemed less crowded than the 1, but both days were amazing! We walked on every ride with a wait of 10 minutes at the very worst!  We have yet to stand in line at Under The Sea, Toy Story (the hottest fast pass in town and we actually WALKED ON right at rope drop and obtained a fast pass for a 5 minute wait an hour later), and Peter Pan (walked on a rope drop and during fireworks the 1st day)!  It was insane how low the crowds were.  I don't think we could ever visit on a crowded day now that we've gone during such a low time of year!  

Know About Fast Passes
We only used 2 fast passes the entire time we are there, but they were awesome when did get them!  We came out of Hollywood and Vine just as the crowds came into the park from rope drop and were LITERALLY running to Toy Story, so I joined in and ran with them (with a backpack on and my boys trailing behind!). I pulled a FP for an hour from rope drop and we went into the standby line and walked right onto the ride!  The next day we didn't get to the park until 11:30 and by the time we got around to Peter Pan at noon it was a 60 minute wait.  No thank you!  We walked on after a 5-10 minute wait in the FP line at 1:45!  Awesome!  I kept reading and hearing about how important fast passes are, but we only used 2 all week because the crowds were so low! 

Do Character Meals To Save Time 
Since we were only there for 4 days, we wanted to maximize our park days as much as we could.  We also knew seeing characters were an important part of touring for a 3 year old.  To make the most of our time we made ADRs for 2 character meals at the 180 day mark in March.  I knew I wanted to kick off our trip at Chef Mickey on our arrival night (a mistake, but more on that on our day 1 recap) and Hollywood and Vine on our Hollywood Studios day so we could meet the Fab 5 characters and Disney Jr characters without waiting hours in line.  The only line we waited in after seeing in a meal was Jake, but it was worth it to Nicholas, so who cared! 

Use A Stroller!
I don't care if you bring one from home or rent one, just USE A STROLLER!  We only had one meltdown all week inside the park and it was a direct result of the fact N refused to ride in his stroller and was hot and tired.  Once we had a nap and made a rule of "you have to ride in the stroller" it was great!  
I also know a couple of people that have had strollers stolen at Disney, so if you bring your own, it's a chance you take.  To help cutdown on our chance of getting our stroller stolen or accidentally taken by mistake, I made a sign and tied ribbons on the handles.  It also worked great to help find it in a sea of strollers!  
On that note, also get a rain cover.  I saw people use ponchos and garbage bags, but our cover was awesome and Nichols was able to ride under it.  I got ours at Toys R Us on clearance for $7! 

Bring Souvenirs With You
One thing I did over the 8 months I planned our trip was slowly buy what we needed and park souvenirs from the Disney store online and outlets when on sale.  This saved me a lot of money and Nicholas loved that "Tinkerbell" visited him at night!   She left light sabers, snacks, shirt for the day, and a stuffed character.  Best money saving thing I did!  

Our Take on Disney Transportation
We were not fans of the busses from resorts to the parks, but some people love it.  We went with the full intention of riding the busses, but it was just too much for us.  We preferred driving our car to the Ticket and Transportation Center then taking the ferry over to the MK.  Our resort was 0.6 miles from Hollywood Studios, so we just drove and parked the day we went there.  We found it much less stressful and the ferry was an awesome way to enter the MK!

This is the end of my posts, but feel free to go back to September to read the rest of the tips.  My mom and I are in the process of planning a trip for next winter, probably in January.  She and I are taking Nicholas and leaving Michael and my Dad behind.  I'm considering a monorail resort or another trying out moderate resort, but undecided.  Like I said, we loved Caribbean Beach and the location, so I may just do it again.  If anyone has any tips on a hotel, let me know!