Some Disney Tips
Trip Start Sep 12, 2009
14Trip End Sep 19, 2009
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Here are some tips we thought we'll pass along:
First and foremost – Disney is geared towards kids.
It might be obvious to you and me, but most of the negative reviews online start with "we don't have any kids but…".
The food is lame?
Your honeymoon was ruined by the crying brat next door?
Yes, yes and yes.
Disney a great place for kids of all ages, but be aware that kids will be there, throwing tantrums, being brats and that includes the parents.
Even though our kids threw a tantrum here and there at the parks, they were angels compared to what we witnessed (even though most parents quickly got a handle on the situation).
That being said:
Curb Your Fancy Expectations
There is a difference between "luxury" and "Disney luxury"
We brought our stroller from home and it was worth it. The strollers you rent at Disney looked uncomfortable and you'll appreciate not walking out of a show/ride and looking for your stroller in a sea of similar looking strollers parked outside (Disney Cast Members often rearrange the strollers).
As I said, we used Small World Vacations, which took care of all hassles for us (making reservations, etc.), gave us advice and guidlines as well as helpful links.
This is of no cost to you (and if you're going to Disney, believe me you'll need the money) because Disney pays them for the booking.
If you are on the dining plan you have to make reservations to sit down restaurants if they are popular (Cinderella's Royal Table for example). You are only allowed to make reservations 90 days in advanced but if you are staying at a Disney resort you can make them 100 days before.
Disney has opened their on-line reservations system so now you don't have to call, but travel agents have first dibs as the system opens earlier for them.
Disney Dining Reservations are NOT "Dining Resevations" as we know them to be
We found that out the hard way. Disney dining reservations are a "dining FastPass" - meaning you could wait up to 45 minutes after your "reservation" time for a table to open up because "Disney reservations" simply puts you at the head of the list.
Yes, it sucks and there should be a better system especially after you made the effort to make "reservations" 3 months in advance as well as plan your whole trip around them.
It sucks even more if you are waiting outside in the heat with a whole bunch of annoyed adults and hungry kids.
For a huge company that can basically order just the right amount of hockey-puck hamburgers each month, they should be able to make their reservations system work better.
PhotoPass is basically professional photographers scattered in strategic and photogenic locations around the Disney parks ready to take your picture. They'll give you a card with a number and after your vacation you can go on-line, look at the pictures (up to 30 days) and order prints or a CD if you'd like.
We took 151 PhotoPass photos (most are pretty good and about four are "frameable". If you know something about photography you know that's a good ratio), and the PhotoPass photographer were happy to take a picture with our camera as well.
If you get two cards, you can join them together and most Disney park / hotel has a PhotoPass desk where you can view your photos answer questions and even look for photographs if you lost your card.
By the way, you can associate your PhotoPass cards with many character meals and get all the photos on the CD instead of just the printed souvenir they hand you at the event.
Use this link to pre-order the CD for $99: http://www.disneyphotopass.com/previsitcdplan.aspx?CMP=EMC-PASOWphs
The link is NOT on the PhotoPass website.
Update: Disney has removed the $99 PhotoPass pre-order deal.
From what I understand some people who stay on Disney property get a discounted offer mailed (or e-mailed) to them.
Jakey (2) was freaked out by all the costumed characters except Tigger & Pooh, Isabella (four - AND A HALF!!!) loved them all.
The autograph books were a great way to get Jakey to go up to the characters. All the characters we met, especially the talking ones (princesses, fairies etc.) were consummate professionals and impressed us to no-end. They were sweet, kind, took their time (as much as they could), kept the lines moving yet made every child feel special (our favorites were Cinderella's step-mother and step-sisters).
Keep it up!!!
The costumed characters were excellent as well, even though their job endearing themselves to kids has to be harder because they don't talk.
We didn’t force the kids to go up to anyone they didn’t want to.
Child Safety Tattoos
We got the temporary tattoos from Safetytat printed with our cell phone number on it (http://www.safetytat.com/). The kids liked them and gave us a little peace of mind.
Take a Picture of Your Children Everyday
This way if G-d forbid something happens, you'll know what they were wearing. That being said: number of kids gone missing from Disney parks since they opened in 1955: zero!!! (at the time of this blog).
Take a Picture of Disney Tickets
You should already have photocopies of important documents and credit cards - that's Travel 101. We also took a photo of our Disney tickets and of our PhotoPass card in case they got lost.
Even if you have the dining plan you still need snacks. There is a Florida online grocery store (http://www.gardengrocer.com) to deliver groceries to your hotel.
If you have a car service pick you up, they will stop at a supermarket for you (ask for the local supermarket like Publix, not the ones geard towards tourists).
We brought our own snacks & breakfast items with us, as well as bought a few water filter bottles from http://www.purewater2go.com/ which worked out great and did a wonderful job filtering the water (which could be refilled at any one of the many fountains in the park).
Bring snacks into the park
Disney allows you to bring snacks into the park as long as they are not in glass container or alcohol (if you bring alcohol to Disney you have bigger problems).
This is a HUGE money saver.
If you freeze the water bottles over night you'll have cold water throughout the morning.
You could also ask for ice, which is free.
There are several "official Disney outlets" driving distance from the parks ("Character Warehouse", "Character Premiere", etc.) which sell only official Disney merchandise for a hell of a lot less than the parks (even though it's "off season" merchandise).
Bring Toys from Home
OK, it might be cheating – but it’s cheaper.
For example you can get the glow sticks at the Dollar Store and give them to the kids at the park instead of buying them and paying untold amounts more. We brought a Cinderella dress that we paid $20 for instead of bying one at the park for two, three, or four times that.
If you are staying for more then five days check into the cost of an annual pass, it might be cheaper and more convenient (park hopping wise).
Get in the mindset to have a good time.
Yes, the food is mostly theme park food (because you're in a theme park), it's hot, humid, hoards of annoying people around, crying kids, rude adults etc.
But you're at Disney - and you're lucky you can afford it and it's the "happiest place on earth" so just relax, let things slide and have a good time.
You'd be surprised how nice people are once you're nice to them. We conversed with strangers every day and almost on every line.
Regrets - We've Had a Few:
I wish I would have bought a small tripod for the camera. I'd have gotten wonderful night pictures.
We should have built more down time, even though we thought we did.
If we had to do this trip over again I'd switch are character lunches / late breakfasts with early character breakfasts.
Resources We Used:
allears.net - a great website with everything Disney and updated everyday
disboards.com - a Disney community with tips, strategies and plans. Every question you post will most likely be answered by the community.
Fodor's Walt Disney WorldŽ with Kids 2009 - a great book which includes time and money saving tips, insider secrets, and scare factors for every ride and venue, including those at Universal Orlando and Seaworld. Befoe we even left I already had the book borrowed by co-workers (all of them have been to Disney several times).
Small World Vacations - I haven't used a travel agent since 1992, using this agency was probablly one of the best things we could do on this trip.