Disney on a Dime. Part 1: Planning


I know its been entirely to long since we've gotten together and honestly other than being lazy, giving in to Facebook, Pintrest, homeschooling and enjoying the summer with my home school mommas, I really do not have a good reason as to why I haven't been on here. I am going to do a blog post that is long over due.

Lets talk Disney World.

Oh man. First I want to start off by saying my husband is the reason this trip even happened and was successful. He is the MASTER of vacations, plans them down to the tiniest detail and I let him. I give him free reign when it comes to vacations and he never disappoints. Our Disney vacation was no different. He rocked it!

Let me show you how we had a blast and still saved money.

First of all, what do YOU want to get out of your trip? Is the atmosphere important? Is the food important (other than staying alive that is). Is getting the most out of the parks important? Is saving money most important? Honestly every experience isn't going to look the same.

On my blog I am going to show you how to get the most out of your time and the most for your money.

To say I read 200 blog posts about how to make your Disney vacation a success is an understatement of the year. All of them had different suggestions and none of them were the same. Which I guess is good, but a lot of what they talked about isn't as important as what I learned when I was THERE.

When we decided to go, saving the most amount of money was on the top of our list and then the experience. We paid cash for everything and didn't have a lot to spend, so getting the most out of money was uber important. I also wanted to make sure we had fun shirts to wear that matched. I know that seems silly but it is the truth. (get where I am going with this?)

Here is how we did it.

We flew. We bought our tickets 6 months in advance and checked for prices. Everyone has different prices. Southwest was the cheapest at the time, but honestly I have found that TripAdvisor has become the better place to find tickets for the best price.  Save you some money and get those bad boys early. (Like the minute you decide you want a vacation there)

Not sure how one does a good selfie on a plane but this is a good one.

Next we booked a place to stay. Here is where everyone is probably going to disagree with me, but like I said its preference. We didn't stay on campus (gasp I know). I didn't care if we got to the park and hour early and didn't care to stay an hour later when the parks closed. For me it wasn't worth the price. We stayed at a place called Polynesian Island Resort. Lets stop here a second. It IS a timeshare place, but you DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND THEIR STUFF!!! Do not fall trap to it. Just politely tell them you aren't interested and get on with your vacation....my husband's coworker stayed here right after us and got suckered into it...just dont do it. ok...moving on. This place is literally 10-15 minutes away from the Disney World entrance. Its clean, its safe and wait for it....It was only $85 a night! We had an entire 2 bedroom, 2 bath, full kitchen and balcony suite. If that doesn't sell you I dont know what will. The room service is only once a week (which is not a problem for us) but everything is included! Including laundry detergent and FREE laundry room right off the front door. Can't get any better than that!

I am sure it is nice staying on campus and I am sure it is nice paying those stupid high prices for the tiny room you get, but for me I want my space and I want the best bang for my buck. This room was everything I had ever wanted and more.

We rented a car. Why? Because I can't stand being a slave to a bus schedule or routes. If I want to go to the beach...by George I am going to the beach. --and we did-- I dont want anyone to tell me where I can and cant go AND I dont want to wait on other people....or share my space after I have been in the park all day with strangers. Am I right?? or am I just a grouch? Parking is a little bit more ($20) and a little bit more ($30) to get priority parking. If you plan on leaving the park in the middle of the day (which we did) priority parking is worth the extra money you spend.

We rented from Dollar because they had the best deal. When we arrived we decided to get the toll pass  that was like $50 extra, but TRUST ME it paid for itself in a matter of 1 day. It never talks about it on their website, but they will talk about it when you arrive. Also BEFORE you leave home on vacation call your insurance company and have car rental insurance put on your policy (if you dont already) it will save you money when you rent a car. (You are welcome)

 Ladies and Gentleman up until now we have talked about the items that have been the "cheap" items. Lets talk tickets. Disney tickets are stupid expensive. This will probably the be the single most expensive purchase you have for this trip. Unless you decide to stay at the Four Seasons in Orlando (which we didn't) this will be a huge expense. Do you plan on going to more than 1 park a day? Maybe a park hopper is a good option for you...to us it was not. You ARE able to leave a park mid day and come back to the same park later (which I HIGHLY recommend), but it was worth it to us staying at one park and not spending the extra cash on a hopper.  The more days you buy, the cheaper the tickets get. Also I do want to point out buying tickets from a third party is NEVER a good idea. These tickets will have your finger print attached to them the first day you arrive at the park. To the cheap skate who thinks you can buy tickets online...BEWARE! This is coming from a family who finds the best deals everywhere!

Lets talk Food. If you are staying at the resort above, it would be according to what you eat. We spent about $400ish on food. That was snacks and everything we took into the park. (yes you can take food into the park and I recommend it) There are somethings you may want to try in the parks, but for the most part the food is way over priced and not that great. Again it is the experience and I've eaten at some really good/fancy restaurants for the WDW prices. Not being a bahumbug I am just giving  you the facts. There ARE meal programs you can buy and if you eat ALL THE TIME it maybe a good way to go. I will give you an example.

Regular Dining 1 table-service meal 1 quick-service meal 1 snack 1 refillable mug$63.70
Deluxe Dining 3 meals (any combination of table-service and quick-service) 2 snacks 1 refillable mug$115.08

Per person per day.

 That is crazy talk to me. That comes to $1146.60 for 3 people for 6 days just for the cheap plan. um...no. Ill pass. I will go to Walmart and do some shopping myself and pack a lunch. Thank you.

I bought a book. I know it sounds old fashioned, but I learned a lot of tricks about Disney that every single blog I visited didn't tell me and the book is updated year after year! It is worth the few extra dollars I spent. This is also where we chose what fast-passes to scheduled (more on that in a minute). This was really worth its weight in gold. Although I didn't take it into the park with me it was a very good tool to have. Dont obsess over this book. Just get it, read it, get what you need from it and then leave it at home. Dont let this book dictate your life.

I had a few awesome apps. I know this is a no brainer, but I saw very few people using apps or their phone at Disney and I am not exactly sure why. Use it up baby! My "must haves" for the apple (because really is there any other phone?) user are:

Disney wait times
My Disney Experience app (I will go into this one into more detail in a second)
Maps WDW
Magic Guide
Park Hours (because they DO change)
Dining WDW
Shop Parks.

These are my "used every single day" apps. The map app was invaluable because it used my location and told me exactly where we were. These parks are HUGE and trust me when I tell you if you haven't been here before you will get lost. The wait times app!! Hello! Some of the lines are longer than ER visits and they just.get.longer. In between your fast-pass if you can squeeze a ride or two in DO IT! Some rides are walk on ready and you dont want to miss that Golden opportunity.

Fast-passes.  The one word your kids will learn to say immediately. First, before we get to far, go buy your magic bands. This little guy is fun to wear and it puts your fast-passes straight on the bands. (along with your memory maker more on that in a second) They can get expensive and unless you decide to stay at a resort you can't unlock its full potential, BUT I was ok with it. Back to the Fast-Pass.--This is your magic ticket to skipping lines and reservations can be made 30 days in advance, so set your alarms! This you will do on your Disney World experience app. When I tell you there is NO OTHER WAY to ride rides...there isn't. It is your ride reservation. Its amazing. Here is the deal. Initially you can only make "reservations" for three rides....THEN you can make them after you've used all three. HINT: When you are in line for the fast-pass, you just used,  book another fast-pass while you are in line on the Disney experience app. Read that again. I just saved you about 3 hours time and you just rode more rides...(You are welcome) They have kiosks so you can book your next fast-pass, but there is always a line and I hate waiting! Sometimes your ride is.not.close...which is fine. Walk. I would rather walk 10 minutes and not stand in line than get on a close ride and wait 2 hours. Feel me? We walked a lot and waited very very little. We also rode almost every single ride there. It was AWESOME!

My Disney Experience can be used on a desktop or on your phone. I would highly recommend you know your way around the app before you leave home, because you will need it to get fast-passes after you have used them up initially. This is like your trip in the palm of your hand. You book everything here. Although there are maps and times here, it was easier for me to have an app in 1 tap. (first world problems)

Lets talk Memory Maker. Just DO IT! Its $169 (and cheaper if you buy it in advance) for unlimited photos with professional photographers all over the parks. YES YES YES. Just go buy it now....I'll wait. That was fast welcome back. My only regret is not getting more pictures. I wish I would have utilized this more. When  you link your magic band to your account, all you have to do is have the photographer scan your magic band and IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner, your pictures are ready to view. Seriously this magic band is awesome. There is literally no reason to carry a camera (unless you just have to) you rarely have to stand in line and their pictures are great! You get rights to every single one! Its totally worth it.

My sweet boy training to be a Jedi! 

I hope that gives you a good start. Part 2 we will talk about lists.

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