Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Disney World: Do before you go

Here are several things we did prior to going to Disney that I think really helped us have an affordable and extra fun trip.

Read The Unofficial Guide to Disney World.  You will be overwhelmed and skeptical, but their plan really works and once you understand it, is very flexible.  We were at Disney at one of the busiest weeks of the year.  We saw everything we wanted to see and rode all of our favorite rides at least twice, never waited in line more than 20 minutes and never spent from opening to closing in the park.  I read through the book several months before our trip, then the night before visiting each park I read that park's section and picked our touring plan for the next day.  Most days we chose their "Whole Family" plan for the park we were visiting.  This way we got everything from the Dumbo to Space Mountain on our plan. 

Pay to subscribe to Touring Plans and download the Lines app for your phone.  This gives you the best planning tools for finding discount tickets, figuring out which park to go to which day, pick a touring plan for each day.  The app then allows your touring plan to be at your finger tips with actual wait times for rides without lugging around the book or several sheets of paper.

Buy Disney Trading Pins and Lanyards from ebay.  These pins are $7 or more each in the park.  We bought a lot of 50 pins for $35.  The cast members (staff) at Disney all have pins and you can trade with them or other guests.  My kids loved trading and it was a great activity when waiting in line to get in the park or to ride a ride.  It also made a great souvenir that didn't break the bank.  All four kids started with pins they didn't really like, but all four came home with pins they love.  Ruby collected fairies.  Rehm collected Mickeys and Muppets.  I'm not sure what the other two collected, I think they just enjoyed the trading and didn't really care what they got.  These really cut down on the I wants in the park because every time they traded they felt like they had gotten something and were not feeling deprived. Also buy metal backs for your pins from amazon.  They stay on better than the mickey back they come with. 

Pre-buy the Photo Pass CD.  You can the CD at any time, but if you buy before you go, it only costs $99.  If you buy after you go it costs $149.  As soon as you enter the first park, find a photo pass photographer and get a Photo Pass Card and of course get your picture made.  Every time you get your picture made have them scan your card.  This is a great way to get pictures of your entire party as no one is behind the camera.  We ended up with 130 pictures of our family and another 40 stock photos from Disney that all directly related to our time at Disney.  I have not received the CD yet as I'm still editing the pictures and adding borders and such.  Once I receive the CD I can use the pictures any way I want.  Expect to see some of them on this year's Christmas card and of course on the blog.  This made it easy for me to relax and enjoy our trip instead of constantly feeling like I needed to be taking pictures.  It also allowed me to take the point and shoot camera instead of the dSLR. 

Buy prepackaged snacks.  Disney will let you bring food in the parks.  One backpack was filled with nabs, peanuts, chips, gum, and other easy to grab snacks.  This saved lots of time and money while in the parks and prevented more than one melt down.  We also took a couple of water bottles in with us each day and re-filled them at the water fountains.

Bring a roll or two of quarters and a roll of pennies.  This is another cheap and easy souvenir.  There are pressed penny machines all through out Disney.  We got our favorite characters and favorite rides and one for each of the parks.  Each one costs $0.51.  This is a souvenir that is easy to say "yes" to.  It is also a good time killer to do with the kid that doesn't want to ride the ride the rest of the family is on.  We bought a pressed penny holder at one of the many gift shops to hold all our our pennies.  If you forget change, no problem. There are plenty of change machines and the cast members are happy to give you change in any of the gift shops.  

Shop at Miss Morgan Designs on Etsy and make custom shirts for your family.  This was affordable and fun.

Pack to coordinate.  All four kids had on the exact same shirt every day we were at Disney.  This made it much easier to spot them in the crowd and helped the ride operators know who was in our party. I used shirts we already had from school, VBS, choir musicals, sports teams, etc.  It also made getting dressed each day a breeze.

Make ID cards for the kids with your cell phone number on them.  We attached these to their trading pin lanyards.

Make a first aid kit to keep with you so you don't have to go to the medical station for every blister or skinned knee.

Take a sharpie.  This came in handy to write my phone number on the kids' forearms each day.  That way if something happened I knew the information would literally be at their fingertips.

I'm sure I'll have more to add, but these are the things that come to mind right now.

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