Jennifer is a one in a million stay-at-home mom. (More like one OF a million stay at home moms!) She graduated from a liberal arts college but there is nothing liberal OR artsy about her. She is married to Kevin Fischer of This Just In, and together they have a beautiful young daughter Kyla Audrey. In no particular order she loves dogs, wine, a good bargain, her family, pizza, and entertaining. Follow her blog of all things miscellaneous including but not limited to cooking and baking, entertaining and party planning, being a mommy, and homekeeping.
I don’t know the EXACT number but Kevin and I have been to Disney World together more than 20 times since we met. Before Kyla was born, we averaged two trips down there per year. I’d never write a book about my own personal tips, observations and memories but I certainly could. So this lengthy blog will take its place.
One thing that is essential to a good time at Disney is the proper planning ahead of time. If you go without any plans, any reservations, and ideas of what you want to accomplish you will be in BIG trouble. And you’ll have a lousy time. You’ll complain that the wait times are too long for rides & attractions. You’ll be angry that you couldn’t walk into a park restaurant with your starving family and be seated in five minutes. You’ll curse the day your kids fell in love with Frozen. And you’ll come home saying you’re never going to Disney again.
Let me reiterate: You need to PLAN for a Disney trip. This isn’t the time to fly by the seat of your pants as they say. If you don’t strategize you will waste precious time. When you’re sitting in your room thumbing through a guide book or looking at your smart phone others will already be in the parks, having had a great breakfast and been on three rides.
Now that I’ve stressed the importance of planning your trip ahead of time, my next important idea is that everyone’s concept of planning is different because everyone’s concept of the perfect trip is different. And yes I totally understand that everyone has a different budget. Now that we are a one-income family with a five-year-old money pit, we don’t do things as extravagantly as we used to. But we still live by the motto “go big or go home.” We’re not about to spend our precious family time in Disney worrying about whether we should actually pay $4.00 for a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar. (For us there IS no question!)
After all, this is a VACATION. While we are traveling with only one child that doesn’t mean things aren’t less expensive. We know that everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, costs more at Walt Disney World. While prices might cause a bit of sticker shock, think about what you are all getting. The entire experience is a value when you think about the amazing parks, the beauty, the joy, the entertainment, the quality of food, etc.
If you plan and do your homework, there ARE deals to be found. Knowing discount codes, reading certain web sites and chat boards, staying informed on Facebook are all ways that you can possibly save on hotel costs, ticket prices, and if you are so inclined the dining plans. Sure, we’ve learned a lot from our own experiences. But listening to the advice of others can certainly be helpful as well.
Unless you follow what is, in my opinion, terrible advice. Like the people who tell you not to stay on Disney property. Guaranteed, those people have never actually stayed on property or they would never suggest that. You can find great rates at the “value” Disney resorts that are in line with the other area hotels. But if you’re not on property you can’t access Disney bus transportation from your hotel. You miss extra hours that the park is open for property guests. If you take your own vehicle you must park quite a way from the entrance and pay for parking. You do the math.
Also, I’m all for taking along a few snacks to tide you over when you’re in line. Big tummies rumble too but for your little ones even a 30-minute wait can be interminable when they are hungry. Hot + hungry does NOT = happy kid. But attempting to take your entire day’s worth of food and drink shoved into an industrial-sized back pack probably isn’t the route you want to take. Schlep a cooler around all day just so you don’t have to buy a Coke? No thank you.
Also if you’re schlepping aforementioned cooler and food that means you chose to drive to Florida rather than fly. For some people that might be the only option (for some reason that personally I can’t comprehend.) When you take into consideration the extra travel time necessary, the cost of gas, wear & tear on your vehicle and your bodies PLUS the time it takes to shop for & pack all that stuff… Suddenly this seems like less and less of a vacation.
Even if you didn’t take your cooler packed to the brim so that you don’t have to pay “crazy prices” for Disney food you might think you’re money ahead LEAVING the park to eat. First of all that “nearby” McDonald’s clearly KNOWS it’s nearby. So their prices are going to be like airport prices – jacked up considerably from what you know at home. Now you’ve left the park (it takes a while just to get out the main gate.) You have to get to your vehicle. You have to drive to wherever you decide. You place your order and either wolf it down there, or on your way back to the park. Then you have to find another parking space, trudge back through the gate and start all over again. Please tell me how that makes any sense.
Getting back to following terrible advice… When I see a blog start out with “How to be frugal at Walt Disney World” I just shake my head. I don’t even read them. When I see a slightly different title “Never before seen tips: Disney with kids” my curiosity is piqued a bit and I do start to read. Then I shake my head again. I’m sure “Becky” is one of the sweetest women you could ever meet. I’m sure she’s an amazing mom, great wife, terrific friend. But as for her ideas of the perfect Disney trip, that’s where my compliments end. There’s a reason you’ve never seen these tips before. IT’S BECAUSE THEY ARE AWFUL. They guarantee a less-than-optimal Disney experience.
It’s tough to top “bring crock pot meals” as the worst bit of advice. But how about this gem?
We told the kids before we started: “You can buy one toy on the very last day. If you ask us today, we will say No. If you ask us tomorrow, we will say No. You will get a chance on the last day. We will let you look around in a very big store and you will have $30 to spend on whatever you want.”
HELLO???!!! Clearly you do not understand how Disney works. I get that you don’t want your kids begging for every single piece of merchandise they see. (Kyla is fascinated for some reason by those cheaply made, over-priced battery operated whirly toys. Some light up, some squirt bubbles, some make noise. She has never and will never get one.) However… if your cherub falls in love with a park-specific souvenir you WILL NOT and I repeat WILL NOT find it anywhere else. Not even in that “very big store” that I’m guessing is World of Disney at Downtown Disney.
As an aside that’s another reason why her tips are terrible: she offers no specifics. If I weren’t a Disney Veteran I’d have no clue what “very big store” she is talking about. She references “the electric parade.” Doesn’t call it by it’s proper “Main Street Electrical Parade” name and doesn’t tell you what park it is in. Again if I were a Disney newbie this would NOT be helpful.
I’m surprised her last “helpful hint” wasn’t a staycation. You know, everyone put on homemade Mickey ears, watch a Disney movie, and dream about what it would be like to actually visit The Mouse House. I’m sorry, but this entire blog gets an “F” in my grade book.
Here’s my answer: Save your money. Maybe you don’t do a trip every year. Maybe it’s every two or three years. Don’t live beyond your means but my God, LIVE. Do your homework. Find deals, packages, maybe enlist the help of a Disney-specific travel agent. Find a few corners to cut now, at home, so that you don’t have to deprive yourself on vacation. (Do you really need a trip to Starbucks every single morning? Can your kid live without a new video game for now? Can hubs skip one or two rounds of golf this summer?) Make the trip your FAMILY Christmas present. Less “stuff” to unwrap on Christmas Day isn’t necessarily a bad thing for many reasons. I’m sorry, there are better ways to save money than buying a Disney magnet at home and taking it on vacation so your kid gets a “souvenir.”