The first time I had ever been to the most magical place on earth was almost 2 years ago with my husband’s side of the family. There was 10 of us all together including FIVE boys aged 10 years old and under. Let me tell you, it was a BLAST! Super crazy busy and tiring…but a trip we’ll never forget.
Now, full disclosure here - I grew up watching Disney movies and all, but I was never what you would call a huge Disney fan. In all honesty, I’ve watched more Disney movies since becoming a parent than I did when I was growing up. So, when we went to Disney World, I was mostly excited for my boys. I was excited to watch them see the castle for the first time! I was excited to see their little faces when they met their favourite characters. I was excited to hear them scream and laugh on rides! And Disney didn’t disappoint. It was amazing! But something happened on that trip that I never would have ever expected;
It was ME who fell in love with Disney World!
So, after that trip, we decided that we wanted to plan a trip of our own – just the 4 of us – and take it all in at a slower pace. And we wanted to do it while our boys were still young and in complete awe of the place. That being said, I’m a grown adult and I’m in complete awe of the place, so you’re truly never too old for Disney! We did our research, planned our trip…and we loved every minute of it! (Minus a few meltdowns of course! More on that later.)
We returned from our trip earlier this month, and since I know a lot of you reading this are thinking it’s just not financially possible to take your family to Disney World, (because I thought that, too!) I wanted to share a few tips I’ve learned from our trip to help make your family’s dreams come true!
Here are 4 things you should keep in mind when planning a trip to Disney World;
RESORT – For those unfamiliar with Disney, there are 3 types of resort categories; Deluxe, Moderate and Value. We stayed at a Value resort. Yes, because it’s cheaper. But also because it was sports themed and we are a family of sports lovers! We also know most of our time in Disney will be spent in the parks, so why spend a fortune on a resort? You can also stay outside of Disney and probably save a few bucks, but I enjoy the perks that come with staying on Disney property. (magic hours, Disney transportation, free parking, etc.)
TIME OF YEAR – There are peak times at Disney. If you hate over-spending (and massive crowds) don’t go near any major holidays, (especially Christmas) and stay away during the summer months. The parks are packed and it’s more expensive. Also, keep weather in mind. Florida is HOT! It felt like 43 for the entire week we were there in late September/early October. We still had loads of fun, but we decided if we were to go again, we would go when it’s cooler.
FOOD – Disney food isn’t cheap. We chose to go in September during their ‘Free Dining’ promotion – which they usually have every year for specific dates August through December. Essentially, you get the Quick Serve Disney Dining Plan for FREE! If you don’t think the dining plan will work for you, you can also bring your own food, or pay for food as you go. For this one, I highly suggest you do your research and decide what makes sense based on your family’s size and eating habits.
TRANSPORTATION – Obviously, flying costs more. But it makes sense if driving 22+ hours doesn’t excite you. The first time we went, we flew down. This last time, we drove. It’s costs way less to drive because gas in the states is cheap. But keep in mind, we like driving and we hate airports. So, we actually prefer driving over flying. But not everybody does. Decide what makes sense for your family and your budget.
If you keep these 4 things in mind when planning your trip, it will definitely help you stay close to your budget. And you don’t need thousands of dollars up front to book your Disney vacation. All you need is a $200 deposit and then the rest isn’t due until a month before you arrive. You can make payments online whenever you want for however much you want – as long as it’s paid in full a month before you arrive. It’s super flexible. You can also cancel online before a certain window and get a full refund if for some reason you’re unable to go.
One non-budget thing to keep in mind is…meltdowns. They will happen. Yes, it’s the happiest, most magical place on earth, but telling your kids “there’s no crying in Disney” doesn’t always work. (Trust me!) There WILL be tears, there WILL be whining, there WILL be arguing. It could be due to heat, hunger, exhaustion – or all of the above. And it won’t be just your kids!
I witnessed a 3-year-old girl dressed up in a beautiful princess dress and sparkly tiara scream her way through the line of “It’s a Small World”. They’re still kids no matter where they are. Plan downtime. Don’t exhaust yourselves. Take breaks to cool off or have a snack.
I’m not a “Disney Expert”. I haven’t been there enough to be called that. I’m just an average Mom who wanted to let other parents know that…it IS possible to take your family to Disney on a budget. We did it, and we would do it again in a heartbeat! (Or when Star Wars land opens in 2019!)
I hope these tips were helpful, and if you have any Disney tips of your own – I would LOVE to hear them!
Have a magical day!