A Parent’s Guide to Traveling to Disney World
The expense of a trip to Disney has as many variables as it does attractions, but the good news is that you can have the vacation of a lifetime at any price point.
Disney World offers a few programs meant to enhance your experience, but is it worth the expense? Let’s take a closer look at some of the options available, using a three day/two night vacation for a family of four at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, as a model.
There are different value levels available for resorts:
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort: (Value) $225
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort: (Moderate) $475
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort: (Deluxe Resort hotel) $800
- You just park, unpack, and play! Disney does all the rest — even checking in your bags for flights on major airlines.
Off Campus Orlando Hotels
Here is a sampling of prices for local accommodations:
- Bella Vida lakefront home with pool: $840
- Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa Hotel/Resort: $310
- Wingate by Wyndham – Orlando International Airport: $245
- Hilton Garden Inn at SeaWorld $200
- Econo Lodge: $90
- It might be nice to step away from the Mouse! Disney World is not the only thing to do in Orlando, Florida!
- Many hotels have free breakfast!
- It’s the least expensive option.
Memory Maker is a photo package where for 45 days after your trip you can download your professional photos taken in the parks!
- You don’t have to ask someone to take the picture so you are actually IN the pictures.
- No embarrassing selfie sticks!
- You have the option of editing and putting special borders around the edges.
- While only one person can download the pictures, any family and friends can be given access to the photos for viewing.
- Bonus: a whole video of your ride on “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” or the “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train” is only available on Memory Maker.
- You can add Memory Maker at any time in your trip.
- Roller coaster pics!
- For a family on a budget, it might not be cost-effective when you can just take your own pictures.
- On a few Disney forums, some have complained of a hit-or-miss quality to the photos. Some feel the term “professional” is rather generous when applied to cast members toting cameras.
- You won’t get any candid shots on the Photo Pass. Pictures by the cast members always have that “soccer team pose” look to them.
Disney Dining Plan
For families staying at a Disney World Resort, the question of “to meal plan or not to meal plan” is tricky. On one hand, it would seem that the Disney Dining Plan would be an effective way to contain the family’s dining expenses. But would you end up spending more money than was necessary? It’s a lot of food — how much do you need to eat in a day? Is the dining plan an overkill?
For the sake of this conversation, here are the costs of the two most frugal 2015 Disney Dining Plans. (All prices include tax.)
Quick Service Dining Plan
Two quick-service meals, one snack, and one refillable drink mug.
- Adult: $41.99
- Child: $16.03
Standard Dining Plan
One quick-service meal, one full-service meal, one snack, and one refillable drink mug.
- Adult: $60.64
- Child: $19.23
- Meals are hassle free. Your choices are limited which, although it may sound counter-intuitive, gives you more freedom. The extra money spent on food might be worth it in that it brings the stress down a notch in what is already a pretty intense day
- And it is a great way to keep your meal budget set in stone.
- Alcoholic beverages or specialty drinks are not covered on the plan.
- The plan can end up being overpriced if you choose items that cost less than the days’ total.
- If you don’t use it, you lose it: there are no refunds for unused meals.
- If you don’t plan things out you run the risk of having too many hamburgers and fries. There are varied menus out there, but plan it out.
Hip Tip: A good resource on this subject is disneyfoodblog.com. You can enter your desired meal choices into a form, and it will tell you how much cash the meal plan does or doesn’t save you.
Here are some other great resources that are generated by seasoned guests willing to share their tricks, tips, and suggestions for an optimum Disney experience.
- Touringplans.com – An easy-to-read site that is updated frequently and goes a little more in-depth than some of the others. There is a Disney World Crowd Calendar, articles on crowd levels, and Touring Plans that suggest efficient park “routes” for the number of days you plan to spend at Disney World. To access the full site a subscription is required, but there are many free resources as well.
- disboards.com – A comprehensive forum about all things Disney, with over three million discussions, over 55 million messages, and almost half a million members, you will probably find more than one opinion about any question you might have. Here you will even find discussions about Disney Vacation Club, UK trip planning, and Disney Cruise Lines. There are also forums about some of the other theme parks in the area.
Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Let your inner youth out. Bring bottled water. Make a wish!
This post was posted by TheHipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on January 6th.