Put on your Disney World Vacation Pants – Family Edition, Part 1 of 6

Packing for our trip to Walt Disney World – 2015

My Vacation Pants will teach you how to take the most budget efficient trip to Walt Disney World with your family. Continue reading to find out how you too can plan the vacation of a lifetime without breaking the bank. This is part 1 in a series of 6.  This first post will give you the tips you need to book a Walt Disney World vacation.

Trip Overview
Imagine this:  My hubbs and I secretly booked a Disney World vacation for our kiddos.  We didn’t tell them anything.  They knew all about this fantastic place because we told them all about it.
(Being a past Disneyland Resort cast member, I had gone a few times before.  In my younger adulthood the only way I could afford to go was to take people on my Main Gate Pass, which worked for both the California Resorts and the Florida Resorts.  I will cover taking a cast member trip in another post.)
Back to the story: our flight to Florida left super early one morning.  The kids were asleep as we loaded them into the car.  We woke them up at the airport parking lot and told them the news.  They were so excited!  We felt like the BEST PARENTS EVER! It was hard to keep the trip a secret from them, but the reaction was so worth it.  It’s been one year since the day we took off on this fantastic trip, and I am ready to blog the pants off of this thing.  I can’t wait to give you all the tips I learned on my 7th time visiting this wonderful place.  This is part 1 of a series of 6 posts about Disney World.  This first post will prepare you on how to plan for a trip for Walt Disney World.  


Check out the video below to see our kids reactions to the BIG news.




Trip Itinerary

Overall this was an 8 night, 9 day trip.  I know you may be thinking, “Do I really want to spend 9 days at a theme park?”  Yes, yes you do.  If you want to immerse yourself in the full Disney World experience, you have to realize that you could stay a whole year here and NOT see all it has to offer.  The longer you stay, the more you will get to see and do.  Also, this ain’t a trip for the faint of heart.  You will NOT be relaxing much on this vacation if you want to get your money’s worth, so maybe plan a little down time after your trip to recover.  This was the longest Disney World trip we had ever taken, and it still went by in the flash of an eye.  


Day 1: Flew from Los Angeles, CA to Orlando, FL.  We took the complimentary airport shuttle, (Disney’s Magical Express) which is free if you stay in a Disney Property Hotel, straight to the resort. Plus we went into Disney Studios and the Magic Kingdom once we arrived.

Day 2:  Animal Kingdom
Day 3:  Disney Studios
Day 4:  EPCOT
Day 5:  Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Downtown Disney (now called Disney Springs)
Day 6:  Magic Kingdom
Day 7: Changed hotels: We went from All-Star Music Resort to the Contemporary Resort and went to EPCOT
Day 8: Disney Studios and Magic Kingdom
Day 9: Magic Kingdom and then we flew back from Orlando, FL to Los Angeles, CA


MVP (My Vacations Pants) Trip Tip: Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America, and Jet Blue are some budget airlines that fly from major airports to Orlando for dirt cheap.  Check out those airlines.  Sometimes it is worth driving a couple hours to an airport if you are going to save hundreds of dollars on airfare.  


Trip Budget


My mother in-law was actually graduating from an online university during the time we took this trip.  Lo and behold, her school decided to hold the graduation at Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.  A cool part about Disney World is that many athletic competitions and conferences take place there.  This may be a time to combine work and pleasure to get a discount.  Discounts on tickets and hotel rooms extend to friends and family, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity if it ever comes up.  We certainly did.  


  • Roundtrip Airfare to Orlando, FL from Los Angeles, CA- $456 a person- Eek!  You can definitely get the price of this down by using Google Flights.  Our problem was that we all had a very specific range of time we could go to Disney World, so we had to fly back on a very expensive day.  In the past I have flown to Orlando for under $200 a person.  You just have to have flexible dates.  The cool part of this was my mother and father in-law paid for our whole family to come out and see her graduate, so we didn’t have this cost out of our own pockets when we went, which was another reason we really wanted to go when we did.  
  • Airport Transfers – FREE  Mickey’s Magical Express is a free shuttle service from the Orlando Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort if you stay at any of the on resort properties, so take advantage of that.  
  • Tickets to the Parks – We bought 8 day park hoppers at the convention discount.  The ticket also included an extra ticket to Typhoon Lagoon, so that’s 9 days of fun for only $377 a person.  That works out to only $41 a day.  That’s some 1990s prices.  So find a conference at Disney World and get those discount tickets.  You know there has to be some kind of conference you want to go to.  
  • Hotels – We paid $81 a night for the All-Star Music Resort which is a Disney Value Resort.  You don’t spend much time in your room, so you might as well go cheap.  The resort was also offering discounted rooms at the Contemporary Resort for $169 a night for people who attended the graduation, so we changed hotel rooms at the end of our trip to take advantage of a deluxe resort deal for a HUGE discount (they are usually $400 a night). Our grand total for lodging was $824 for 8 nights of on property lodging.
MVP Trip Tip: I upgraded my Disneyland Premium Annual Pass to a Premier Pass.  The Premier Pass gives you admission to both the California and Florida resort properties (including the water parks).  It also included free parking.  If you plan on going for as long as we did or if you are taking two trips in a year, this is a fantastic deal.  You also get some discounts on merchandise and some restaurants in the park.  Just upgrade one person in your party and get discounts for the whole group. 
    Trip Grand Total – $4156 for a 9 day/8 night Walt Disney World Vacation!!!  This total is based on a family of four.  Two adults and two children (age 6 and 4 at time of our travels).  


    MVP Trip Tip:  We packed a suitcase of food for our trip.  There is no grocery store on site, and the food at the park and the hotels are expensive.  To cut down our food costs we pre-bought a bunch of snacks that would have cost us a fortune at the resort.  Don’t worry, we still got our eat on!!!  I will explain that more in a later post.  


    Trip Lodging

    • All-Star Music Resort – located on the WDW property.  This hotel is considered a value resort.  But come on, do you think Disney does anything half way?  This hotel is great! It is basically Disney’s rendition of a Best Western or Holiday Inn Express, complete with Mickey shaped toiletries and day and night Disney programming.  What makes it special:  The fact that you are just a short shuttle from all the parks is so convenient and fun.  We loved the pools and the outside decor.  
      Towel animals every night.

      Exterior jazz section of the All-Star Music

      The front of the hotel by the shuttle stops.

    • Contemporary Resort – located on the WDW property in walking distance to the Magic Kingdom Park.  This place is considered a deluxe resort.  Weirdly, after all is said and done, we preferred the value resort to the deluxe resort.  Don’t get me wrong, the murals and architecture were fantastic, but the shuttle system to the parks here was so disorganized and slow, and it was much more convenient and efficient at the All-Star resort.  At the budget resorts, there is a shuttle for each park and the shuttles come consistently, at the Contemporary resort, there was just one pick up location and no queue, so everyone just cut in front of everyone else.  The shuttles were far and few between.  The monorail was broken down every time we tried to use it and it almost made my mom in-law miss her graduation, so that was stressful.  Also, the monorail didn’t even run as late as the park was open, so we had to walk back late at night from the Magic Kingdom with two sleeping kiddos.  What makes it special:  It’s the closest park to the Magic Kingdom, so that was fun.  The monorail runs right through the hotel lobby.  That was cool when it was working.  They had a very fancy pool with pool activities and a water slide.  It definitely was a nice room as well.  Think of a Hilton or Sheraton, Disney style.  
      Bigger towel animals at the contemporary.

      The beds were more comfy. 

      It had a nice little sitting area. 

    Our view from the Monorail.  


    The Mary Blair murals were top notch. 


    So I may have been insanely excited that the monorail was finally working to take us back to our hotel.


    MVP Trip Tip:  Think about how much time you are actually going to be staying in a hotel room.  Do you really need somewhere fancy, or do you just need somewhere to rest your head?  I would opt for the value resorts if you want to save some moola.  


    BEFORE YOU GO – TIPS AND TRICKS

    If you want to get the most out of your Walt Disney World trip, you don’t want to wait until you get there to make decisions.  You need to plan, plan, plan to get the most bang for your buck.  This particular trip was relatively last minute.  We had less them a month to plan, and it did cost us some experiences.  Overall, we came out pretty good, but make sure you use the tips outlined below to really make things go smoother.  

    • My Magic + – As soon as you buy your tickets, sign up for a Walt Disney World account and start planning your experiences.  You can book your fastpasses and plan your dining reservations up to 30 days in advance if you are just going to the parks, or 60 days in advance if you are also staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel.  
    • Fastpass + – Once you make a Disney World account, go ahead and enter your ticket reservation code under the My Disney Experience tab and start booking those fastpasses.  These are FREE, so make sure you take advantage of them.  You can pre-book three fastpasses per person, per day at a park.  Choose the date and the park you are going to for that date, and it will list three tiers of rides.  One tier includes the big attractions (Space Mountain), the second tier is the medium attractions (Pirates of the Carribean), and the third tier is the attractions that usually have a very small wait time (Philharmagic Show).  Pick one in each of the categories and the hour window you want to go.  My tip would be to book the fastpasses earlier in the day because once you have used them all, you can download the Walt Disney World app and book more fastpasses for the same day, but you have to have used or let your first three reservations expire before you can do this.  These fastpass reservations will then be connected to your park ticket or Magic Band, and you will be on your way. Again, the Fastpass + is included with your theme park tickets or annual passes and is no extra cost to you, so make sure you take advantage.
    • Disney Dining – I will go into detail about where you need to eat later in this blog, but I beg you to make your dining reservations as soon as you possibly can.  The table service restaurants are so popular, and they fill up fast.  I did the math, and buying a dining plan is NOT worth it.  Do your own planning and you will save money and have the flexibility of eating where you want and when you want.  We did 1-2 table service restaurants a day.  The food is amazing and worth it, and the counter service restaurants cost almost as much as the counter service restaurants anyway.  
    • Magic Bands – It is worth ordering the Magic Bands rather then standard ticket cards.  The Magic Bands are waterproof electronic bracelets that work as your park ticket, hotel room key, fastpass reservation, and payment (if you choose to connect a credit card).  No more trying to dig around and find those park tickets or room keys, they are on your arm. This option is free with your park ticket purchase. 

      It was fun having the annual passholder Magic Band.

      Team Magic Band ready to get our WDW on!

    • Make sure you pack: 
      • Comfortable walking shoes – break them in before you come
      •  Mole skin – to cover blisters
      • Ziploc bags to put phones and electronic devices in on water rides, or when it rains
      • Ponchos – it rains a lot in Florida, and out of absolutely nowhere. (You know those old movies where it’s all sunny, and then suddenly there is a total down pour?  Well, that’s what it’s like in Florida.)
      •  A double stroller if you have young children – my kids were old enough to be out of a stroller when we went, but you walk A LOT for multiple days in a row, and I was sooooooooooooooo thankful my hubby made us bring the double
      • Dry snacks – there is no grocery store on resort property, and the snacks at the hotel are outrageously priced, so we bought a suitcase full of chips, granola bars, fruit snacks etc. and we were so thankful we did
      •  A portable charger – I recommend the lipstick sized one that Anker makes, it fully charged my phone from 0% each day, so I could keep snapping those pics, checking wait times, and making new fastpass reservations on the Walt Disney World App. Also, the resort has free wifi, so make sure you connect to that when you get to the resort property.
    • Mickey’s Magical Express – This is the name of the hotel shuttle that you take to the Walt Disney Resort property.  It is free to resort property hotel guests, but if fills up fast, so make sure you make your reservations a couple weeks in advance.  If you do, you get to take the shuttle fastpass line like we did.  We just waved our magic bands and presto, we were on the shuttle.  See how easy it was to use in the video below.  
    • Download the Walt Disney World App – It’s a great way to check wait times, show times, maps of the parks, and of course to make/change/modify  your fastpass + reservations.  Download it from home before you go, so you don’t have to use your cell phone data to do it.  The parks do have FREE wifi, but it does get spotty to use, and has a hard time downloading apps.  

    So that about does it for Part 1 of my Walt Disney World, Family Edition blog posts.  Check back later for more posts about this uh-mazing trip!!! 


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    Trip Links
    Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
    Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need above. 


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