Disney World: Tips for First Time Visits part 2

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

*This is the second part of our post on tips for people planning their first trip to Walt Disney World. Read the first part here.

5) Use the Disney Mom Panel advice. Research the different hotels in your price range. The Port Orleans Riverside is not the same as the Port Orleans French Quarter. Take into account location and transportation hubs. The Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary sit in prime locations, with water taxis, monorail, and bus service. You can walk from the Contemporary to one park. Animal Kingdom Lodge on the other hand has only bus service. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but something to consider when planning your days. Some resorts offer convenience and modern amenities while others focus on charm and immersion in themes.

6) Use the Key to the World. Having your room key as a charge card, fast pass, and park ticket all in one is tremendous. This conceivably allows you to leave everything else in the wall safe and just carry that and your I.D. We had a bunch of American Express and Visa gift cards [to use for out of pocket expenses], but keeping track of the different cards and their balances was a pain. Using the room key to cover all charges and then using the different gift cards to pay the final balance at the end was a great help. To illustrate how awesome the dining plan is again, the final bill for a 7 day stay was about $170. This was mostly from gratuities on the sit down meals, with a few souvenirs and adult beverages thrown in. The dining plan virtually guarantees you won't be buying [a lot of] food out of pocket.

Anyone else remember the commercial jingle?
We cashed in our credit card reward points for a pre-paid Visa and combined it with Christmas presents, some pre-paid Visas I won and one with a leftover balance from Tastemakers and took all them with us for our out of pocket expenses. Combined with the Disney gift cards we got from the Vacation Club presentation and we had about $700 to use (and came home with almost all of it). 

It took a few days for Phil to think of this, but we started charging everything to our room. Hot chocolate, the tips on our sit down meals, the hats and scarves we bought because it freezing. It was nice not to have to keep track of cash or the balances on the various cards. The key is this (and it's important!): you MUST settle those charges the night BEFORE you are to check out or they will automatically go onto the card you used to reserve the trip! 

We stopped into the hotel lobby on the way back from a late dinner and took care of it. The most money we spent out of pocket was in the airports on breakfasts and Starbucks. If you have any means of earning pre-paid cards, answering emails or taking surveys and buying cards with that money I highly suggest it.

7) Plan your trip carefully on the website. The website is very helpful, but there are some snags with it. Two [things] that bothered me the most were the itinerary function, and the initial booking function. You have to be very careful when booking your trip because there are several defaults in the system. 

When you pick your initial date, number of people, and hotel range, it will kick out a recommended package. This is when you can go in and change options around such as dining plan, room choice, and ticket options. Be careful, because when you select an option for one thing, it may effect other categories you didn't intend. 

For instance, the default ticket option gives you the park hopper and water park. If you select a dining plan, it resets that option to the base ticket, which is what comes with the dining plan. The itinerary function is just buggy. I had a hard time making and editing notes. I wanted to keep dining reservations there, but it was difficult, and didn't always display right. Also, the printout isn't as functional as it could be.
Hollywood Studios stunt show
8) Make dinner reservations. Early. If you don't have reservations when you start your trip, you aren't getting in to any restaurant during peak hours. Period. If you find yourself without reservations, your best bet is to hit the place right when it opens for lunch or dinner. If you try at noon or 6 without reservations you can forget it. The resort restaurants are less crowded then the park ones, so you may have better luck there.

This is definitely necessary but leaves little room for flexibility because reservations need to made at least 180 days before your trip! Say you're in Magic Kingdom waiting in a 90-minute line for Space Mountain. You have 6:00 reservations for dinner at Animal Kingdom. You have to be very aware of your time, factor in travel times around the park and be prepared to give up your fast passes.

If you're late, your reservation is gone. If you make a reservation plan on being in that park for the day. There were a few times we didn't want to leave where we were. We also had some rain that we didn't feel like venturing out into but didn't want to lose the chance to eat at the various place in the park (there's some awesome food at Disney!)

Phil originally had eight tips but I wanted to add one item.
9) Check, re-check and check the weather again. We had a freak cold because of the snow the east got. We were under dressed and not prepared. I was at the conference on the day it poured and Phil wasn't sure where to go to spend a rainy day. We didn't know there was a movie theater in Downtown Disney and we hadn't gone to Epcot yet and didn't know about Innoventions either. It's easy to kill about 2 hours there. The couches for tired parents are a welcome bonus. Have a back up plan for weather.


  1. Thanks for the tips. I have wanted to go to Disneyworld for some time now and I hear it's HUGE (I am used to Disneyland in California). Hope we make it out there this summer!

  2. Hi, thanks so much for the tips! I'm going to Disney Social Media Moms this year, and trying to figure out the whole dining plan thing. The gal on the phone when I made my reservations said you need to purchase a park ticket for each day that you want a dining plan. Since we already have park hopper passes through the conference, do you know if that means we need to purchase an additional ticket in order to get the dining plan? And in that case, I wonder if it would still pencil out... So many things to figure out! ;)


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