Category Archives: Tips and Tricks
There are as many ways to book a Walt Disney World vacation as there are people booking them (not really but there are lots of ways to do it). You can book your entire package right away, you can book room and tickets with no dining plan, you can book a Platinum plan with everything, etc. Here is how I do it and since I start planning far in advance, why I do it that way.
- You can make a “room only” reservation 499 days in advance of your planned check out date. It requires a 1 night’s room cost deposit to hold the reservation. One thing to be aware of, since you will be crossing years, the deposit as well as the initial estimate of your total room charge will be determined by charging the rack rate for the most expensive season of the year. You can convert it to your planned visit date rate once the rates for the year of your travel are released by making a call to Disney.
- This assures your room availability and is particularly important if you travel during a busy time of the year so the room will be there for you.
- You can add things such as tickets or the dining plan to your reservation at any point just about up until check in date with no additional charge (officially, Disney says there may be a charge for adding but there rarely is) .To be on the safe side make sure you make your plan changes prior to the 45 days before check in date. If you stay with room only you can cancel or modify up to 7 days prior to check in with no penalty (another reason for room only). As the travel date gets a bit closer I look at the available discounts (free dining, Passholder discounts, Buy 4 get 3 free, etc.) that Disney may or may not offer and make my decisions. When I’m confident I will get the most for my money and the available discounts fit our travel style I call and add the appropriate item.
- People wonder what happens if you commit to your reservation and Disney suddenly offers a better discount? All you have to do is call them and they will change your reservation to the new discount and if a refund is appropriate they will reverse the charge to your card. They are very happy to do this so don’t hesitate but make sure that the new discount actually is better. You can request these discount changes at any time.
- If you purchase a package initially, the rules are different as well as the time frames. Things can get very complicated. For this reason I recommend you use a Disney Specialist Travel Agent no matter how you book. I use one and it takes a lot of worry out of missing the best deal. There are a lot of good ones out there but my TA is one of the very best. There is normally no charge for their services but be sure to ask. Remember – Always Use A Disney Specialist!!!
Enjoy your visit to Walt Disney World!!
If I was a Disney Princess, I would make a proclamation that no loyal subjects of Disney World, whether child or adult, could get sick during their visit to the most magical place on earth. Alas, however, I am merely a commoner who happens to know for a fact that visitors do indeed get sick and/or injured sometimes while visiting Disney World.
Thankfully, Disney has spent countless hours thinking of ways to cater to us and provide us with the maximum possibility of having a wonderful trip despite the curves life sometimes throws at us. In each of the four theme parks, you will find First Aid Stations which are fully staffed with medical professionals. Here, they can treat minor injuries like sunburn, blisters, golfer’s vasculitis (which is a nasty-looking but harmless rash I get on the base of my legs every time I visit). The first aid stations are located in the following areas:
Magic Kingdom – next to The Crystal Palace restaurant on Main Street, U.S.A.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios – near Guest Services on Hollywood Boulevard, west of the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.
Epcot – at the Odyssey Center near the bridge between the Future World area and the World Showcase area.
Animal Kingdom – behind Creature Comforts and near the Pizzafari quick-service restaurant in the Discovery Island area.
The first aid stations are very clean and everyone is very nice. They do not carry medications nor do they have a pharmacy but if that is what you need, they will refer you to other avenues for help.
One of the choices for more serious illnesses, if you are staying on property, is to call down to the front desk and have them contact one of the local doctors to make a house call to your hotel room. The good thing about this option is that you can wait in the comfort of your own room. But, be aware that this option may be costly and may not be covered by your insurance.
Alternatively, you might just want to drive to the nearest clinical facility. The two walk-in clinics with the closest proximity to Disney are Centra Care and Buena Vista Urgent Care. Centra Care is located at 12500 South Apopka Vineland Rd. They are open from 8 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. They have a shuttle for patients staying at local hotels. Buena Vista Urgent Care is located at 8216 World Center Drive, Suite D. They are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Thankfully, I have not had to use either of these facilities but, if I ever do, a review will surely be provided in the form of another blog.
Should you be faced with a very serious illness or injury that requires treatment at the Celebration hospital, Disney will provide complimentary transportation for you to get there. If you need an ambulance, just dial 9-1-1 and emergency services will send an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital or treat you at the property.
I hope you will never need to seek medical care but, if you do, I am hopeful that one of these options will get you to feeling as good as new in no time.
One of the most hotly-discussed topics on any Disney blog, podcast or message board is the Disney Dining Plan…or to be more correct, the Disney Dining Plans, because there are several of them. Those who have purchased one, discuss the pros and cons, and try to decide which is the *best* deal. Those who have not want to know if they should get the Dining Plan. And those who are considering a Free Dining Plan want to know if it is worth it, which level they should get, and if they will save more money with room discounts instead.
Wow. Lots of questions out there about the Disney Dining Plans.
Today let’s talk about the most common thread running through most of these questions: Should I get the Dining Plan? And the answer….as with most Disney vacation planning….is a resounding and definitive…………it depends.
Sorry, but it does. It depends on a lot of variables, and I think that to really know if any of the Dining Plans are right for your family, you need to look at a number of things. Disney vacation planning is NOT one-size-fits-all: what is best for my family will not necessarily be best for yours. There are a lot of things to consider, whether paying for a Dining Plan or getting it for Free.
So to help you decide, I think it is important to honestly, and realistically, think about the following as they relate to your family:
- Consider what everyone likes to eat, especially your children: Do your children (or you) have limited “likes” when it comes to food options? Would elaborate menu options be a waste if everyone is happiest with burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets? Do your family members enjoy trying new foods? Will your family want to try multiple character meals or some dinner shows? Or do you anticipate wanting to eat many meals off-site completely?
- Consider if your little ones will want to sit for long meals: Many toddlers or preschoolers are just not going to be happy sitting for an hour at a table service meal. Thinking character meals or buffets? Then think about how your child is likely to feel with characters coming to visit them throughout a meal: some kids think this is fantastic, but others are completely overwhelmed by the procession of characters invading their dinner space. I have seen children spend an entire breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in tears because they are just not comfortable with the character interaction, which is NOT a magical way to spend your dining dollars.
- Consider if you will want to take the time to sit for long meals: Will you be commando touring from sunrise to sunset, with only the briefest of breaks? Do you want to squeeze as many attractions and rides out of each Disney day as you possibly can? If so, then don’t get a Dining Plan that includes table service meals, as you may not want to take the time to eat them!
- Do you consider food to be an attraction all by itself? Are you a “foodie”? Do you get hungry just looking at pictures of different Disney dishes, mentally adding different choices to your “must eat” list? You know who you are…..and at least the basic Disney Dining Plan may be for you.
- Consider how much you typically eat, including your children: If you had to pay out of pocket, would you buy this much food? Really? Most of the Dining Plans offer a lot of food…and some of them offer vast quantities of food. Significant quantities of food not eaten…and thrown away….is not, in my book at least, a great use of my money. There are lots of ways to make those food choices work best for you, but you need to honestly think about how much you really like to eat. If this is clearly more food than your family is comfortable with, the Dining Plans are not for you.
OK, now having said all of that, what about the Free Dining promotions…since Disney has decided that this is going to be an option for a good portion of 2011? To decide if Free Dining is right for you, consider all of the above plus:
- Which Dining Plan will be offered for your accommodation choice? For example, if you will be staying at a Value resort, but want the Basic Plan, you will need to pay the difference: is it still cost effective for you? Does the Free Plan that comes with your accommodations “match” the Plan that is best for you?
- Are there any other promotions that could potentially save you dollars instead? Any room discounts that might end up costing you less than Free Dining, even if you have to pay for food? This is clearly a job for you and your calculator. You will need to do the math and make comparisons. Budget Planning Worksheets can help you figure it all out.
I think the most important part of this is to make sure that the Dining Plan you are planning to buy (or get for Free) truly matches your family’s eating personality. I know when there are Free Dining promotions being offered all over the place, it can be tempting to just jump on it. And it might be best for you! But it might not too. Before you book, consider some of the other expenses/aspects of your Disney trip, such as airfare, crowds, school vacations etc. to see if, all things being considered, it is just better for you to go at another time. Yes, you may pay more for food….but if you are paying less for airfare, who knows, that may just be more of a savings. Do the math to see!
Now having said all of that, *for our family* of 3 foodie adults, the basic Disney Dining Plan is absolutely the most affordable choice for us. Since we enjoy a table service meal each night, our family has purchased the basic Dining Plan on each of our last several trips and it is a huge saving for us. We use the counter service meal for lunch, the table service meal for dinner, and we use the snack credits for either breakfast…or eat light in our room. For us, it is usually way more food than we can usually eat, and so we often get our dessert at dinner “to go” since we are so full. Other times we choose fruit and/or muffins for our lunch or dinner desserts and use these for snacks later or breakfast. We have experimented with the plan a number of different ways, and no matter how we do it, we eat very well, have food left over to bring home (snack credits purchase great edible “souvenirs”), and we spend less money/day buying the Basic Plan than we would if we were paying out of pocket for the same meals. For us, it’s a no brainer.
But that will not necessarily be the case for you, and for many, many folks, there are other, better ways to spend…and save…their Disney Dining dollars.
So, take an honest and realistic look at what your family will truly enjoy when it comes to food at Disney, use that calculator to compare your options, and then make the right choice for you.
Nancy, her husband and college-age daughter live in the Baltimore MD area, but consider Walt Disney World their second “home”. She started her site, The Affordable Mouse, as a way to share ideas about how to plan affordable Disney vacations. Her favorite things at Disney World (in no particular order) are Soarin’, most of the food in World Showcase, Illuminations…and that special “Disney magic” found in the most unexpected places.
So your at Walt Disney World and the lines are long. You standing there with your family along with a very antsy child. He or she is climbing on everything, hanging on the chains, and generally don’t want to be in line.
For many families this is a reality. For my family last January this was all to true. Until..
One of my good friends, and fan to Chip and Company, Shelly shared with my little one a simple but effective item to keep her busy in line. Not only did it keep her busy it helped clean her teeth and put a little extra food in her belly.
The secret is something very simple and I am sure is in almost every parents home in the US. What Shelly did was take pieces of Dental Floss and strung Cherrios & Fruit Loops through to make pretty kid size necklaces. She said the possibilities are endless!
You could use plain dental floss or any flavor you like. The same goes with the cereal just as long as it has a hole in the center. Shelly had a ziplock back full of different flavored necklaces.
When Shelly gave my little one this necklace she just stood in line and was a perfect little angel while she munched on her necklace. It was so wonderful and became the lifesaver of the trip, before then we had a hard time keeping busy with toys, games and what not.
So next time your at Walt Disney World or Disneyland try this little trick out and see if it makes for a happy toddler like it did for me!
P.S – Thanks Shelly for sharing this with us!!!
When your planning your Disneyworld I can’t stress how important it is to make those Advanced Dining Reservations or ADR’s. There is nothing more frustrating that having to wait sometime hours to eat a meal. Countless times I have gone up to a restaurant to check in and heard the hostess tell the people in front of me “It’s going to be over a hour wait”. Ugh!
Disneyworld has some of the best dining on the planet and there are many Disney Food Junkies like myself out there who snatch up their ADR’s when they come available at 180 days out.
In the past you had to call Disney to make your Advanced Dining Reservations but now a days you can go online and make them yourself. Which I will say is very helpful and a feature I just LOVE! It makes planning a Disneyworld vacation so easy.
If you don’t make ADR’s even after my persuasive article, Disney released a new feature for finding a place to eat. You can now check for table-service availability at nearby restaurants using the location-based services on your supported Android, Blackberry or iPhone device. For more information check out this post.
Good Luck and Happy Planning.