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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Our Typical Epcot Plan - What Works for Us

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Typical Epcot Plan - What Works for Us 

If you came across this article, chances are you're diving into planning a Disney vacation or you're looking for things/overlooked items that could improve your vacations in the future as a repeat guest. Another option is the fact that you may be falling into that "trap" of articles just to see what works for other people out of pure curiosity. Either way, you're in the right place. It's no secret that we approach Disney parks planning from a different perspective than most. We're never going to tell you a "perfect plan to hit every attraction in a day" or a plan of "how to plan every fastpass at the perfect time." Those articles are all fine and good if that's your style of planning, but in my opinion they spend more time worrying about what's next rather than concerning yourself with what's really important... living in the moment and making the most of every single minute you have in the parks. 


If I could give one tip to any prospective guest it would be to plan the bare minimum. I know at times I sound like a broken record but I do believe the best thing you can do is to go into your vacation with the outlook of "whatever happens, happens." If you're ultimately flexible, there's no doubt in my mind that you'll have an incredible vacation. Next time you're in the parks, take a moment and look around you. Chances are you'll see four types of people: locals without a plan at all and simply wandering around enjoying the moment, the over-planned group running around with an itinerary, the group that literally just showed up that morning and planned nothing, and the guests that have obviously been there more times than they can count. As weird as it may sound, typically the ones having the most fun every time you walk past them are either the locals or, and perhaps more interestingly, the ones who planned absolutely nothing. You'll overhear them in lines talking about how hard it was to get fastpass+ selections but at the same time they're the ones that always have a huge smile on their faces no matter what the situation may be! 

I say this not to encourage prospective guests to "wing it" (please don't do that), but rather to share that you can plan every detail in the world but what really matters is the outlook you bring with you to the experience. If you're go with the flow and adaptable, chances are you'll have an incredible vacation no matter how much or how little you plan. On the other hand, if you over plan your stay and book everything down to the minute you end up overloading yourself with stress and anxiety and it makes it quite difficult to enjoy the experiences. 


It may seem odd that I'm sharing this before an article about planning "Our Typical Day At Epcot" but it is important to note that so much of this is an aspect of our fairly vague and adaptable "plan." We tour the parks a lot. More often than not these days it's multiple weeks throughout the year, and while we're not local, we have a similar perspective on how we spend our days in the parks as a result of how often we are blessed to enjoy the Disney experience. 

So, taking that into consideration, here's how we approach a day at Epcot. 


Early Morning

Our mornings at Epcot typically start when the park opens for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, if you get there when the park opens you'll face vastly shorter wait times until roughly the first two hours of the day come to a close. Also, if you get there early you can typically ride every attraction you intend to before the World Showcase opens for the day at 11:00.

If you can get there about 25 minutes before scheduled park opening you can usually get in the parks a few minutes early and they'll move you on into the park to a roped off area to stage more guests and reallocate the crowds. When the park actually officially opens the rope is quite literally dropped and the crowds split off in three directions typically. One group will go to Soarin, another group will go to Test Track, and a third group (typically with kids) will go straight to Frozen Ever After. We always pick one attraction to head to first and reserve a fastpass+ selection for one of the other two. Before Frozen Ever After debuted you could typically get through Test Track or Soarin and then hit the other attraction with a Fastpass+ selection and avoid the lines entirely. 



Now, after the debut of that inevitable replacement of Maelstrom, you will typically have to wait around 45 minutes for one of the three attractions using this strategy simply because you cant get through all three fast enough to beat the crowds as they fill in for the day. Our recommendation tends to be to grab a fastpass+ for Test Track because it is the most likely to have technical difficulties and then you'll be credited with an all day fastpass for the attraction when it reopens if it closes during your fastpass+ time allocation. 

The other fastpass+ selections are kind of a toss up in all honesty. We don't do Mission Space and with the tiered fastpass system at Epcot your other options are Journey into Imagination with Figment, The Seas with Nemo, Spaceship Earth, Pixar Short Film Festival, Living With the Land, and the Character Spot. For the most part you wont need a fastpass for these attractions and offerings unless it's a holiday weekend. Our go-to picks are typically Living with the Land and Figment. Both can back up as the day progresses but ultimately just take the earliest fastpasses in the day that you can get and you wont have much to worry about as far as wait times in this park.         



Mid Day "Shift"

As lunch time approaches and the World Showcase opens for the day at 11:00 typically we'll do some shopping if we knock out the attractions we want to hit for the morning and then head straight to the World Showcase. A top pick for us in the World Showcase for lunch recently has been the table service offering Via Napoli. The food is great and fairly reasonably priced for what you get. Another great option if you don't want to pay the prices for table service is the Mexico Pavilion's outdoor quick service location La Cantina de San Angel. The food is great and super convenient and most of the menu items can be shared among two people if you're like us and want to "taste" your way through the countries various quick service locations as you make your way around the World Showcase. 




In the afternoon we tend to take a leisurely stroll through the countries and hit the highlights of what we really enjoy and then wander and try to find some hidden details we may have missed on previous trips. Even after all these years, we still find new things to explore and try around the World Showcase.

A few highlights tend to the Mitsukoshi store in the Japan Pavilion, the French bakery in the back of the France pavilion, the Puffins Roost (now called The Fjording Shop) in Norway, and even typically a quick stop in the Mexico pavilion for a quick and typically "wait time free" ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour! All of these are great offerings but they only scratch the surface of all that is available. 

If it's a festival season at Epcot like Flower and Garden Festival or even the famous Food and Wine Festival, be sure to stop by a vast variety of outdoor kitchens for incredible offerings at a pretty reasonable price while tasting the flavors of places all around the world. 



Combine the food with the special events the festivals encompass and you're set for an incredible time in the park and one that requires very little time waiting in line! 
            

Breakfast or Lunch Table Service

I'm sure it comes as no surprise to some of you that I recommend eating your way through Epcot. I'm all about the food and really just the experience of Epcot more than anything else. I could literally spend hours just sitting on a bench taking in the atmosphere without exaggeration! 

Food is a huge part of the Epcot experience and to me it can start successfully at any point during the day, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even the vast variety of snacks available! A few highlights that tend to make it into our days are a stop by Garden Grill in the Land for a reservation only Table Service breakfast (one of the best breakfasts on property), lunch at Via Napoli, or even dinner at Teppan Edo for some incredible Hibachi style offerings. If you want something simpler, consider checking out the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion for excellent fish and chips at reasonable price. 



No matter what you choose, you really cant go wrong as long as you pick a culture and food variety that you are comfortable with and that the menu sounds good to you. We're reasonably picky eaters and have never had any problems at Epcot. Every location is quite accommodating. My only recommended "skip" would be Tutto Italia. If you're going for the food, like we often do, try and pick one or two reservations for the day and play the rest by ear. Typically we'll select one lunch reservation and more often than not make it for the middle of the afternoon to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner to free ourselves up to head back to the resort for a break after lunch before retuning back to the park that night.     
         

Afternoon Break 

The afternoon break is something that really plays a role in our plans for the parks particularly in the hot summer months. In the spring and other months you can usually get by without it because park hours are shorter, the cooler temperatures don't put as much strain on your energy, and ultimately it's less needed. In the summer, you'll need a mid day break to cool off in the peak of the day, and as the crowds really hit their stride and max out you can escape from it all for a couple hours, hit the resort pool and get ready for the night. This seems so simple but don't underestimate the power of this break! Grab a water, hydrate all you can, take a nap, relax poolside, or do something to recharge in a way and it will turn your night around in a big way! It's hard to leave the parks mid day but so so so worth it if you can pry yourself away. 



I know we do go at this from a different perspective than most because we've seen and done so much so many times in the parks, but trust us the time you spend away from the crowds will be made up for ten fold! Don't worry about doing everything, and spend more time enjoying what you get to do and make the most of that time! That's the key to it all. It's not about what you do but instead what you do so incredibly well and enjoy so incredibly much that you remember it years later!      
   

Illuminations 

At the end of the night, after you've returned to the park, one of our go-to things of nearly every trip is to grab a snack or dessert somewhere in the World Showcase, wander around the showcase a bit more as the temperature falls and the lights start to come on as day transitions to night, and enjoy a nice sunset as we simply enjoy being there in the moment. 

Those moments of doing nothing or having no plan are often the moments that are the most enjoyable in an odd way. You can stroll the showcase without a worry in the world enjoying the sites and sounds of the experience as the crowds start to file in for Illuminations. 



One of the many unique joys of Illuminations is that you don't have to stake out a spot an hour in advance. You can see the show from basically anywhere in the World Showcase, as long as you have an unobstructed view of a majority of the lagoon. If you want a specific spot, you may want to arrive about 45 minutes before the show, but if you're not picky, it's not out of the ordinary to find an incredible spot in the last few minutes. The kicker to it is that everyone crowds that "front" edge of the lagoon and it's really not necessary. You can be anywhere on the main promenade and still see the show unless there's something like a big tree in front of you. Some of the more unique views that are go to spots for us are the staircase leading up to Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion, a spot along the wall just up the stairs in the Canada pavilion near the shop, and on around near the Italy Pavilion in a big open area that tends to fill in as the show time approaches (sometimes used as reserved event seating). You really cant go wrong with viewing spots for this show!   




Stay Until After Closing Time  

This part of the plan isn't going to be for everyone. If you have young kids this may be incredibly difficult, but if at all possible, hang around after Illuminations and don't head straight for the exits. Within 30 minutes of the final burst of Illuminations, if the park closes at the end of the show, the park will clear out and clear out quite quickly. However, while you cant ride any attractions, the common areas and main stores stay open and you can wander a near empty park as guests finish up their late night dining reservations. It is a surreal feeling and one that you really can't explain in words. Everything is quiet, the music feels louder, and the details really pop out at you. I didn't start doing this until I really got into WDW photography and wanted those empty parks shots everyone wants to grab, but even if you're not into taking photos, the quiet nature of the park after close makes for a truly incredible experience.



Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.


Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!      
  



Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Main Street Light Bulb You Never Knew Had A Story!

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

The Main Street Light Bulb You Never Knew Had A Story!

After looking back through some of my all time favorite articles from the early days of this site I came across this little hidden gem of an article that unveils perhaps one of the most overlooked hidden details of Main Street USA and had to recirculate the article!  

Have you ever been inside the Car Barn on Main Street U.S.A at the Magic Kingdom? If not, be sure to add it to your list for the next time you are in the park. The barn is full of little Disney details that you can peer through the big barn doors at and it truly feels like you're getting a look "behind the curtain" at something uniquely Disney. Fortunately, there's more to this story than you may expect.


If you get the chance to peer into the barn, be sure to catch a glimpse of a small light bulb hanging from a single wire on your right just inside the barn near the far wall (pictured in the center of the picture above) While that light bulb is quite small and seems to serve very little purpose for lighting the room, it holds an interesting backstory and is a level of incorporated detail that only Disney would include.


(The lightbulb described is hanging by a single strand just inside the door.)

As you may know, the lights of Main Street tell a story all on their own. As you progress through the time periods each section of the street represents, the light fixtures vary in order to fit the era represented. When you really take the time to notice it, there is everything from authentic gas lamps to electric lights as you move further and further throughout the eras of production. With that being said, there's only one true representation of the original electric lightbulb. 

As you may have guessed, this is where the story starts to come back around full circle! The lightbulb we originally mentioned hanging on the wire all by itself is a contracted piece specifically for the purpose of authenticity. The bulb itself is created by one particular individual in the northern United States using only the materials Thomas Edison had available when the original lightbulb was created. I can only imagine how delicate that creative process is and has been for many years. 


How do You Catch a Glimpse of It?  

To be quite honest, there are really no guaranteed times when this little light bulb will be viewable. To catch a quick glimpse, I recommend heading towards the car barn in the early afternoon. During parade times, the door will be closed and from my experience the same tends to remain true in the early hours of the day. Part of catching this hidden detail is getting a little bit lucky and finding a few brief moments when the door is ever so slightly opened so that guests can peer into the room.       

Honestly, it is a very small detail of the parks, but something Disney truly did not have to add. However, I'm amazed and happy that they do in fact continue the tradition. It's these little details that create the "Disney difference." No other organization would put so much effort into a single light bulb in a place that many guests will never even see in order to make the experience as realistic as possible. This is amazing in my own personal opinion and one of those little details that you may have never experienced, but one that you surely should appreciate on your next vacation! It's not a grand spectacle, an overwhelming beautiful detail, or a must do for every single guest, but instead something that goes to show the pride Disney has had and continues to have in their parks.       

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Ready to Plan?


Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Here's a closer look at why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way.




Our Top 5 Resorts for Walt Disney World in 2019 - What We Recommend

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

Our Top 5 Resorts for Walt Disney World in 2019

Picking a Disney World resort can be a challenge at times and ultimately you're undoubtedly weighing a lot of factors when making a decision no matter if it's your first trip or your 50th trip. If you're like us, you have your "go-to" favorites but also have a desire to try and experience as many different resorts as you can because they all truly do have something to provide that is unique and different from the rest.

However, I do have to admit that this list is a bit skewed towards deluxe tier resorts and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't what we prefer. We are deluxe fans and we're not afraid to admit that. Sure, paying those top tier prices isn't for everyone, but for us it really is one of the few things we will splurge to do time and time again at Walt Disney World. Now, that's not to say there's anything wrong with moderate or even value tier accommodations. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those tiers. On my upcoming trip at the end of May I will even be staying at All Star Music for a night (which I will review) before attending a conference for a couple days and then moving over to the Boardwalk Villas to meet family for another 7 days or so. I say that to show that it's all about working with what you need and want out of a desired stay. You may not want to spend a ton of time at your resort and may not care about the decor and incredibly detailed theming and story elements you'll find at deluxe resorts. Instead, you may look at a resort as simply a place to sleep for the night. While I'm not one of those people, I really can appreciate that thought process and often times it accompanies a pretty substantial savings. 


All of this is simply a preface to our list because this is what we think about when compiling a list like this and the mindset that we look at things from. To us, a resort is a part of the experience and something that truly sets Disney apart from all other vacation destinations. If you look at Disney in a similar way, our list will undoubtedly work out well for you. If you look at a resort as simply a place to sleep, this list honestly may not be for you, but I do believe that's a certain mindset that needs to be shared before we dive right into it. 

As a final note before we break this down, I have to say that some of the greatest experiences we've had as a family at WDW haven't been in the parks. Sure, a ton of great things happen in the parks, but perhaps the greatest memories I have are of sitting out on the Boardwalk catching a sunset, wandering Wilderness Lodge late at night after the majority of guests have gone to their rooms, or even simply catching the view of the Happily Ever After fireworks just steps from our resort room door at the Contemporary. A resort room can really make all the difference in the world if you want it to and you allocate that time to really enjoy the resort and make the most of all of its amenities.





For those of you who may be first time visitors to the parks preparing for your first trip (welcome to the small scale addiction), it's important to note that all Disney resorts offer complimentary transportation to the parks, each have their own restaurants, and ultimately they all offer similar room types but of varying sizes. Also, deluxe tier resorts offer villas that vary from studio rooms to 3 bedroom villas. All Star Music and Art of Animation do offer family suites but they are quite different from deluxe villas. If any of that trips you up, feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook and I'll walk you through it.

However, what you're all likely here for is the list, and if you skipped through the rest of this to get to the list I completely understand! So here it is! Our top picks for 2019. 

Wilderness Lodge - Boulder Ridge Villas 

If you've read many of our articles on the site, you likely know my "slight" obsession with Wilderness Lodge and in particular the Boulder Ridge Villas. Truthfully I believe the Boulder Ridge Villas section of the property is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the Disney resorts as a whole. If you're not looking for them on the property, you'll likely never wander over to the villa section of the resort and you'll likely never have a need to unless you're staying in the villas. However, the villas are truly incredible and one of the single most relaxing offerings of accommodations anywhere on property. From the moment you step out of the main lobby, walk the short distance down the covered outdoor path to the villa lobby and step into the smaller yet just as picturesque entryway, you're transported to a simpler time. Of course you have all the amenities of home, but you're surrounded by the warm smell of wood and the subtle essence of the fireplace near by and for a moment the worries of life drift away. It's a surreal feeling. 


When you get to your resort room itself, that oh so prevalent smell sticks with you in a pleasant way and your room is subtly accented with dark woods and elements that make you feel welcome from the moment you step inside the room. My personal favorite rooms are the one bedroom villas. Often times they cost less than a standard room at the "main" resort, but offer up a "full" kitchen, living room, and an incredible amount of extra space at very little to no difference in cost.

The common misconception about villa accommodations at WDW is the fact that most are listed as DVC properties. As a result, many guests assume that only DVC members can reserve these accommodations. Simply put, that isn't true. Anyone can book these resort rooms. They are focused towards DVC members, but Disney does hold a select amount of rooms for non-DVC guests. Prices can fluctuate drastically but these accommodations are more than worth looking into.     
                 

Saratoga Springs One or Two Bedroom Villas 

In a similar way to Boulder Ridge, Saratoga Springs is a DVC resort on paper. However, anyone can book a stay here. Saratoga is kind of a double edged sword. If you book a preferred room you're set! If you don't book a preferred room, chances are you'll be walking a pretty substantial distance to the lobby, main pools, and dining areas. That's not to say that it isn't an excellent resort because it is! However, it's a resort that often appears quite budget friendly at first and then by the time you upgrade your room to a preferred room for better placement on the property, sometimes the costs can increase exponentially.

Without a doubt though, if you're looking for a first "foray" into the deluxe accommodation realm, this is a near perfect balance of cost and benefits. My personal preference here is to split a two bedroom villa with another family you may consider traveling with. Not only will it decrease the costs, but it will also get you a larger room. 


On a different note, the location of this resort puts it in the prime spot for anyone looking to spend a substantial amount of time at the ever growing Disney Springs area. The short walk or boat ride over is incredibly picturesque and lends the resort to an incredible array of shopping and dining accommodations literally feet from your doorstep depending on the placement of your resort room. It's like having a "park" in your back yard in many ways. 

Speaking of parks, all other transportation to/from the parks is by bus in comparison to what other deluxe resorts may offer with monorails, boats, etc. It's a small trade off of size and transportation options to shrink costs and maximize the value for your dollar when planning your Disney vacation.     

It is worth noting that I am a bit partial to the Saratoga Springs theming elements. While I'm not from New York, much of the horse racing related theming feels familiar to me as I am from KY and live a few short miles from Keeneland in the horse capital of the world.         

The Boardwalk Villas - Two Bedroom Lock-Off

Much like Boulder Ridge, I have a soft spot for the Boardwalk and as a result it pops up in my resort lists time and time again. The atmosphere is a near perfect blend of quiet and classic paired with the flair of night life and unique experiences on the Boardwalk itself.

The resort rooms do tend to be smaller than others when looking at the villa accommodations but are more than enough for the vast majority of guests. Much of the flair in the rooms revolves around a boardwalk theme as the name of the resort implies but it's easy to see the Atlantic City vibe that the resort exhibits and often on a quite literal level with a Lucy the Elephant display and other subtle accompaniments to the storyline being portrayed. 



Perhaps the thing that captures me time and time again about this resort is the transition from day to night and the incredible feel this resort takes on as the sun sets and the Boardwalk truly comes alive. I've often thought to myself, sitting on the boardwalk or peering over from the Yacht and Beach Club towards the Boardwalk, what if you booked this resort on a whim and this is what you arrived to?  

Could you imagine just stumbling into a resort like this when you checked into a business conference or even a random last minute booking? It would be stunning and mind blowing in so many ways. 

In many ways this was a resort I never thought I'd have the privilege to stay in due to cost, but if you act fast on discount percentage offers villa accommodations here can be somewhat reasonable for the average budget. If I had one resort room pick here it would be a 2 bedroom lock off villa. The lock-offs essentially give you a studios room and then attach a 1 bedroom villa to that room. It's an odd set up, and you even get two doors, but the layout  is highly beneficial and doubles many amenities in the room that work highly in your favor as the guest.            


The Swan and Dolphin Resort 

In many ways the Swan and Dolphin are in that "grey" area between being an official WDW resort and being an "off property resort." By the literal interpretation of the phrase "off property" this isn't truly off property. The Swan and Dolphin are literally a five minute walk from the Boardwalk, use the same boat transportation and walkways to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and even use the same fastpass+ booking options. However, the two resorts are run by the Marriot International Group. 

Form a theming perspective that does make them somewhat lack luster, but if you're looking for an excellent, clean, and picturesque resort in an ideal location, the Swan and Dolphin check every single box. They aren't as "Disney" as others on this list but the accommodations are incredible, the variety of food offerings are amazing, and there's everything from a Shulas Steakhouse to a walk up ice cream window on property. The two resorts are large but not near as large as some others near by that are  truly "off property" resorts. The entire property is encompassed in two buildings. The Swan is my preference because it does feel a bit less "convention oriented" but you cant go wrong with either option. 

Last, but certainly not least, the pool here is quite possibly one of the very best anywhere at Walt Disney World. The massive lagoon style pool is impressive to say the least and with near by basketball courts, tennis, and even pingpong, there's always something to do when you're not in the parks!   

Port Orleans French Quarter   

Port Orleans French Quarter is the only moderate to make our top 5 list at the moment and while that may change with the new additions to Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs, I don't believe the rational for placing it on this list will ever change. It is, without a doubt, my number one pick for a blend of quality and price point at Walt Disney World. It isn't like stepping into the Grand Floridian, but it is an incredibly unique resort that tops so many of the other moderate offerings. To me, it acts as kind of a moderate+. It's less spread out than other options, the food is far better than other locations, you get he advantage of boat transportation to Disney Springs, and you get your own dedicated bus stop a vast majority of the time at the parks. 

Based on our experience, busses do tend to be crowded here, but it is worth noting the there is only one bus stop for the entire resort so you don't spend ten minutes of your travel time stopping at internal bus stops before even exiting the resort grounds. 


You may be asking why this tops other properties like Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, and others that didnt make this list but that's largely because of cost. Sure, those resort are excellent but I wouldn't call them a great "buy" by any stretch of the imagination and that often plays into our rankings. This resort is reasonably budget friendly and what you get out of it often exceeds your expectations. When you stay at those other top tier deluxe resorts, you expect to pay a lot for the experience, you do pay a lot for the experience (which there's nothing wrong with), and while the resort may exceed your expectations, you genuinely hope that it does! 

That's what sets French Quarter apart. I can vividly remember overhearing countless conversations on bus rides of guests talking about being blown away by how nice they thought their resort was for the money. I couldn't help but laugh at times when I heard people say that because it's what we've been saying for years! 
                

Honorable Mention: The Polynesian 

The Polynesian is in an honorable mention category mostly because it is historically one of the most iconic WDW resorts and quite possibly one of my personal favorites, but I refuse to recommend it on a resorts list having not stayed there myself. I have only visited the resort, albeit many many many times, but there's no fair way to recommend a resort authentically if I have yet to stay there myself. 

It is a truly mind blowing resort that transports you into what almost feels like a tropical beach vacation right in the heart of central Florida. It can only be described as a transformative experience. It's amazing how much detail there is to take in and that picturesque view of Magic Kingdom in the distanced is something you have to see and experience first hand to truly appreciate. If money is not an issue, stay here and you likely will not regret it. Make sure to catch the fireworks view from the beach for perhaps the most iconic Polynesian Resort experience in my opinion.

The Overpriced Gem (at times) 

There is one resort I have yet to mention accept in passing on this list and I've done so for one reason, it's typical price greatly exceeds what I see as it's greatest benefits. The resort is great, and don't get me wrong, I do love it more than I care to admit, but it's simply too expensive in comparison to other resorts that offer amore unique experience. This resort is none other than the iconic Contemporary resort. Yep, I said it. 




Bear with me here. The views from the contemporary are iconic, and the experience is excellent but is it really worth the price of over $1,000 a night on select dates.... no, no it is not. 

I have stayed here and have done so quite a few times actually over the years, and those stays created countless memories for me and my family, but I cant say I've ever been  "transported" by the story or the theming in a way like many of these other resorts do time and time again. I know this is a pretty unpopular opinion in the mainstream WDW community of content creators but for me it's reality and something that I really don't mind sharing. I pride myself on being open and honest here on the site and I wont sugar coat my opinions in the vast majority of cases. Hopefully, that authenticity comes across in a  genuine way and as a result this list may be one that in turn helps you out in making your vacation planning decisions.


Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!



Monday, May 6, 2019

How I Save Money at Disney World and Visit the Parks More Often - What Works For Us

Guide4WDW.com

by: guide4wdw - Collin

How I Save Money at Disney World and Visit the Parks More Often - What Works For Us 

One of the more common questions I tend to get asked from friends and acquaintances alike is, "How do you afford to go to Disney so often?" To be honest, the answer really isn't all that simple and while the majority of you reading this are likely aware of why I visit Disney so often, you may have wondered yourself the "how" behind the reality of that situation. 

In the simplest of explanations I am blessed with the reality that all of our family is truly obsessed with the Disney parks and resorts and it's been that way for years. Honestly, I can't remember a time in my life without Disney in it. From the time I was 3 years old we made our yearly trips (which became much more frequent than yearly lol) to Walt Disney World. In many ways I can remember it like it was yesterday. We'd all sit around the phone as we called to make our resort reservation after saving our money for what felt like forever as a kid, we'd make our reservation, and then as a family we'd go over to the local Disney store to buy our tickets because it was the only place you could get "plastic" ticket cards instead of paper ones at the time and we always made a day of it.



For years we literally saved our pennies in a jar (or at least our parents did) and slowly but surely worked towards buying tickets and booking that reservation that we all eagerly anticipated. Back then there were no fastpass+ booking windows and really no true guides for touring the parks beyond the "Birnbaum" yearly edition. I can remember pouring over those books even before I could really comprehend what was written in the words of the pages. Every page told a story and took me "into the parks" through images. I loved every minute of it. 

When our travel dates would finally roll around, sometimes even a year later, we'd meet up with our friends that we always traveled with, load up two Honda Odyssey minivans, and slowly yet surely make our drive down to Orlando from Kentucky. I can oh so vividly remember the little toys and games our parents had bought to keep us occupied hidden in the seat pockets and after hours of driving arriving at this incredible place of sunshine that seemed like something out of a dream. 


I share this story for a reason and it may not be quite the reason you expect it to be. I share this because when we were making these trips that ultimately set in motion my personal journey surrounding the WDW parks and resorts, it wasn't what anyone from the outside looking in would consider a "glamorous" picture perfect vacation, but to me it was everything I could have possibly imagined it to be. 

To me, that's the key to all of this. Everything is about perspective and while Disney has a habit of glorifying their top resorts in the promotional material, it's well worth noting that the moments you share with family at Walt Disney World aren't about the resorts or the parks, or really anything else you would expect. It's about the people. If you reread that story above you'll notice there's something missing from it all.... the parks. Sure, they were our end destination, but the memories in my mind are all about those little things like the travel, the booking experience, and ultimately the anticipation of the incredible experiences we would get to share with everyone once we arrived at the parks. 



Sure, today we stay at Deluxe resorts more often than not, eat multiple table service meals per visit, and splurge for an annual pass, but the trips I remember the most are the trips that started just like that story above. More often than not our destination was Carribean Beach back when resort rooms were less than $100 a night and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It! was still popular at Hollywood Studios! 

The key to saving money at Disney World isn't any one tip but rather stretching every dollar you can afford to throw at making memories that truly will last a lifetime. That's not to say that we haven't learned some great money saving tips over the years, so while keeping that in mind let's dive into a few things that have really worked for us time and time again.   
                               

Travel With Family/Friends 

As mentioned above, traveling with friends was a staple of our WDW experiences growing up and believe it or not we still get to travel with that same great group of folks now that were all adults and at different stages in life from time to time. I bring this tip up not only because it's a great way to create memories with people you enjoy traveling with but also because it can play a big role in minimizing costs. 

We're no stranger to deluxe resort standard rooms but if I had my preference we would always opt for villas because they often accompany a lower price if you're careful were you book, provide you with more room, and ultimately allow you to split up costs by booking a larger one or two bedroom villa and splitting up the payment. 



Not only do you get the advantage of a bigger room compared to booking two or three separate standard rooms, but you also get the huge added benefit of a "full" kitchen at your disposal. Even if you don't plan on cooking, it's always nice to have a full size refrigerator or freezer, microwave, and full sink at your disposal if you want to store some food, water, or even leftovers from the night before. Additionally, a huge benefit is having a full washer and dryer in your room to dry swimsuits or wash some clothes if you spill something or get soaked one day in a pop up afternoon rain shower. 

More than anything though, the benefits of the resort room vastly work in your favor and can even save you money when you split up the costs with another family to secure a larger room.  


Combine Meal Times

This is one of our go-to plans for every single trip. If you're looking to book table service meals but not go broke in the process, go ahead and book the meal you've been dying to try, but book it mid afternoon or as a late breakfast around 10:45 and combine meal times. 

Use your late breakfast as breakfast and lunch or your late lunch as lunch and dinner. If you fill the gaps with cheaper snacks rather than full fledge counter service meals you'll still get plenty of food and typically can offset the cost of an additional counter service meal that you may have bought if you ate at 6:30 or 7:00 at night. Book one meal at those seemingly strange times each day and you may be surprised at how little you eat the rest of the day after one big table service meal per day. 
   

Cut Park Days If You're Not an Annual Passholder (let me explain...)

This is a tip that's easy to suggest but hard to do if you're not someone like us that tours the parks quite frequently. However, the tip in and of itself is to buy a shorter length of ticket. I know that sounds insane but bear with me. If you shorten your number of park days it can save you up to $100 per person per day depending on the seasonal pricing structure. With that $100 or even a small portion of the money you can try a meal you've always wanted to try outside of the parks, play a round of golf at one of the incredible courses on property (I personally recommend Magnolia), or even extend your resort stay by an entire extra day to enjoy the pool or the resort grounds. 

There is far more to do at Disney than just the parks and with the ever expanding presence of Disney Springs you can make an entire day outside of the parks and quite possibly create an equally as great set of memories without spending that extra money.  
    

Head to the Water Parks 

Essentially following in the footsteps of my last recommendation, if you're willing to leave the parks for a day, consider picking up a one day ticket to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon. A waterpark ticket is only $69 and while that isn't a huge savings over an additional day in the other four "main" parks depending on your length of stay, it is a savings. We applied this tactic one time a while back and absolutely loved it. Now, we don't splurge for the waterparks add on to our annual pass, but the waterparks are an excellent experience that tends to get overlooked. Plus it's a good way to escape some of the crowds and heat of those peak summer months! 
     

Always Order Water

As possibly the simplest tip on our list, this is also most likely the tip that has saved us the most over the years with the sole exception of our annual pass purchases. If you are willing to order water at restaurants, you will be shocked at how fast the savings add up. It's not out of the ordinary for a fountain drink to cost well over $3 in the parks. If you're looking to drop costs quickly, this adds up shockingly fast over the course of a week. Just for a family of four you can knock $12 off of every dining bill if you opt for water.


If you want to take it a step further, avoid buying water bottles in the parks and additionally avoid the hassle of carrying around water bottles by walking up to any counter service location with a drink machine and asking for a cup of ice water. While rumors have floated around for quite some time that this could be going away, at the moment water is free everywhere there is a drink dispenser. Personally, I don't see it going away anytime soon mostly because of the liability equation and the fact that they encourage guests to drink water time and time again in the peak heat summer months. If you can ditch the soft drinks you'll save a ton of money in the long run but you'll also end up bettering your experience by staying hydrated and healthy during your stay. Never underestimate the power of water to cure a heat headache and any number of heat rated issues that could pop up during your vacation. Florida summers are nothing to mess around with so keep yourself safe and make this one a priority even if it's not for the cost savings.  
            

Cut the Souvenir Budget 

If you're a repeat Disney World guest, this is going to be a bit more easy for you to implement than the first time guest. If you're looking through gift shops and the variety of stores on poverty, I highly recommend working towards finding one nice, reasonably high end souvenir that means something to you to purchase, rather than buying the typical keychains, repeat t-shirts, and stuff that has been around for years that we fall into the trap of time and time again. 


When Booking Look For "Hidden Rates" When Discount Offers Are Live

To many, this may seem like an odd tip and it's one that needs a bit more of an explanation. When you're booking your Disney trip, by default the online website will dump you to a discounted rate if there is one available. That's excellent if your desired resort is available but what many guests don't realize is that if the site shows "no availability" that doesn't always mean quite what it implies. For example, Caribbean Beach might show no availability but what that's really showing is that there's no availability for that particular rate. Disney essentially caps the number of rooms allocated to discounted offers. After those rates are sold, they are marked as "no availability." However, if you click off of that particular rate or discounted offer and click "resort room only" you will often find availability just at a different rate. In some cases this works in your favor like when a standard Little Mermaid room pops up on non-discounted rates for Art of Animation when compared to the higher priced suite rooms that are included in the discount. 


Other times, proffered rooms may be available at discounted rates but a standard room at non discounted rates could be a better option for you in the long run depending on the rate and the timeframe of your vacation. No matter what, play around with the different offers available for your stay and compare prices before booking what appears like the cheapest option at face value. 
        

Buy an Annual Pass 

I've done a whole article on how much an annual pass can save you over time and its benefits, so I won't rerun that article in depth here, but if you are looking to learn more about that be sure to check it out here -The Unique Benefits of Becoming a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder That Tend to Get Overlooked. Long story made short, if you're booking more than one trip to Walt Disney World within one year of your first visit of that given year, buy the annual pass! 


Wrapping Up

In the long run, I hope that this post saves you some serious money, but more than anything I hope it helps to tell a story and put into perspective what really matters and what you really will remember years later from your vacation experience. Sometimes it's the little things that get lost in the hustle and bustle of the planning equation, and sometimes all we need is a quick reminder to realize why we tour the parks in the first place. As always, if you have unanswered questions or questions in general feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook and I'll get back to you soon. If you are interested in working with us, feel free to give me a shout there as well and we'll see what we can make a realty! 



Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Need a Travel Planner?

If you want or simply need a little bit of planning help to make your Disney vacation dream a reality, check out the quote request form below this article for our friends over at Destinations to Travel. They'll let you do as much or as little of the planning as you'd like and may even save you some money along the way! As always, thanks for supporting those who support us.

Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You'll probably even save money along the way!



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