Planning for Disney with Children

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For the longest, I was convinced we weren’t “Disney people.” In fact, I had never been to Disney, my husband had only been once as a child, and we really didn’t have any interest in going. That all changed in early 2018 after a miscarriage when I googled “vacations that make you happy.” Of course the happiest place on earth would be at the top of the list. My son was about to turn 2, so we decided to take him for his birthday. We planned, packed, and loaded up our son and niece, then headed to Disney World. Seeing Disney through my 2 year old’s eyes was pure magic, and it sparked something in me during that dark time that I can’t explain. We have been back twice a year since, most recently with all four kids, including our three month old!

How do we make Disney fun and affordable for everyone? Here are the highlights I’ve learned over the years.

1. Plan Early and Use a Travel Agent

It really helps to have a plan before you go to Disney so you can avoid long lines and trying to figure it out when you’re already there. We used a Disney travel agent the first few times we went. This is 100% free to you so take advantage of this amazing service! I told our travel agent how much I wanted to spend and she gave me three different options to choose from. I always make a detailed itinerary for each day that includes what time the park opens and closes, dining reservations, and our must-do rides for the day.

Obviously we hold these plans with an open hand since we have young children, but for the most part we stay on track and it makes Disney as efficient and fun as possible! Our kids want to do everything and I want to get our money’s worth, so it is worth the effort to research and make a plan so things go smoothly when we’re there. My husband jokes that I have more fun planning for Disney than actually, going which may be partially true. Things are constantly changing at Disney World, especially right now, so I like to follow Disney bloggers to stay up to date.

WDW News Today and Disney Food Blog are good resources, along with just searching for “recent Disney World vlogs” on YouTube.

2. Travel Hacks

We have been travel hacking for years and almost never have to pay for a flight. Driving to Orlando with little ones can be challenging, so we prefer to fly right now. You can’t beat that short flight from Birmingham to Orlando, and Disney picks you up at the airport for free! However, flying a whole family can get expensive, so we plan this out in advance too. We watch for credit card promotions, and when we find a good one we sign up for it. We pay our regular bills with these cards to meet the minimum requirement for the reward, and we usually earn several free round trip flights to Orlando. In addition to these perks, we use a credit card that earns us Companion Pass, which means we get to fly one person completely free for an entire year! (I am not recommending anyone take on credit card debt to go to Disney World.) Personally we have found Southwest to have the best deals and flights from Birmingham to Orlando.

Saving Money At Disney Resorts

You can save money on Disney resorts, too! We prefer to stay on Disney property for the experience, proximity, and convenient transportation, but we have found ways to do this cost effectively. Now that our family has grown, we want to stay at resorts with larger accommodations, but not at a much larger cost. We travel hack this by renting from Disney Vacation Club members. This is essentially a Disney timeshare that members will rent to you for a fraction of the cost of booking directly through Disney. We use DVC Rental Store and have found the process to be so easy! We have stayed at deluxe resorts for an extremely affordable price.

Another travel hack is staying at resorts with an extra bathroom vs. extra bedroom, and parking the baby’s pack ‘n play there at night. Typically you will not pay much more for an extra bathroom, and the baby has their own quiet area without taking up a whole bedroom. We have done this at Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Kidani Resort at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

3. Pack the Essentials

Mobile food orders and Genie+ (for skipping long lines) are convenient but will drain your phone’s battery, so be sure you pack portable phone chargers. When we took our three month old, I made sure I had a stroller she would sleep in, her sleep sack, a portable fan, portable sound machine, and, of course, extra batteries. Everyone gets a water bottle to refill, a fan, and a Disney suitcase with clothes organized by ziplock bag with the day they are to be worn—this makes getting ready so easy!

I always pack a couple sets of noise cancelling headphones, although we have only ever used them when they’re babies. We have done full park days from open to close, but we prefer to come back to the resort for a midday break. Packing a small cooler with snacks and replenishing on our break saves tons of money and offers much healthier options. I like to have groceries delivered on our arrival day—we got a free delivery code from the DVC Rental Store AND bell service delivered to our room. You can’t beat Disney hospitality!

4. Include Everyone in the Planning, and Make it Fun!

Even though they are little, my kids love planning for Disney. Leading up to our trip, we have monthly Disney theme nights and a countdown chain. Everyone gets to pick one place they want to eat and their must-ride at each park. We watch YouTube videos of Disney rides, restaurants, resorts, and pools. The excitement grows and they can hardly contain it when we wake them up and say “Today is finally the day!” We leave Disney World every time with our kids declaring THIS the best trip yet.

 

 

 

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