Since going to Disney recently with my toddler and planning a few more trips, including a last-minute one Memorial Day weekend, I’ve found a few tips for planning your vacation to make sure you get the best deal and are going on the right days.
Don’t count on weather forecasts. We were supposed to go weekend before Memorial Day weekend, but decided not to because the weather put it at a 50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms all weekend long. We were supposed to go with a friend who still went and who also let us know what a great time she was having all weekend long and how not a drop of rain fell on them. Weather forecasts suck. They are never right, and if you think there might be the possibility of some rain, take rain gear. Don’t cancel, unless there’s a hurricane headed our way.
Check unofficial sites for deals. I checked with Mousesavers.com for off site resort deals. Since we were booking a room at the last minute, all the rooms available at the Disney resorts were out of our price range, so we decided to book within the Disney compound, but not an official Disney resort and that ended up being a much cheaper option. We stayed at B Resort within walking distance of Downtown Disney, and it was great! The resort was really nice, the pool was amazing, and it was very reasonable considering it was Memorial Day Weekend. The upside to staying at a Disney resort is Disney transportation, free parking and you get to take advance of the Extra Magic Hours, but since I have annual passes I get free parking anyway, so we can just drive to the park of our choice, and since we have a toddler with a very specific sleep schedule, we won’t be able to take advantage of the extra hours anyways, so this time around, we’re staying on/off-site.
If you plan on going often enough, a subscription with TouringPlans.com is worth it! I use this sites crowd predictor calendar to try and figure out when and which park I should head to on certain days, and it also helps when making resort reservations because it helps predict the slow seasons, which means you can get great rates at the Disney resorts! This site will also email you if crowd predictions change, so you can plan park trips accordingly. They also have a bunch of tips like where Fastpass+ kiosks are located in the different parks.
It just might pay to get on a Dining Plan. Even though we’ve never taken advantage of the Dining Plan because we thought it wouldn’t pay and would be useless, we decided that with 2 of our upcoming trips we’re going to try out the dining plan. I’ve recently done a little research into this and found some great information that in truth I’m not sure where I found it, but basically led us to decide to include Disney Dining in our reservations. Why? Because it allows us to prepay meals and reduce the amount of money we will need at the time. My husband and I always talk about how we’re going to put money aside for our trips (or anything else), and when it comes down to it, things come up and you end up using the money you said you were going to save. So if you actually make payments towards the vacation until the day it needs to be paid off, you’re set! You have one less thing to worry about. This is also how we paid off the cruises we’ve been on. I also think we will actually save money using the dining plan as opposed to paying out of pocket. We decided to do the regular dining plan which will include one quick service meal, one table service meal and one snack. This amounts to about $64 per person per day. With our upcoming trips, we want to do character meals which run anywhere from $35-$50 per person. One quick service meal for our family is about $15-$20 per person and snacks are about $5 each. I did the math and in those instances, with the dining plan, we are actually saving some money. We will need to pay for one meal, but we figured that if it’s something like breakfast where we don’t get a whole lot of food and breakfast is normally cheaper anyway, we’re set!
Again, this is another area where I haven’t actually done this, but where I did some research into it and our history of food spending, and these are the conclusions we came up with. Once we actually experience Disney Dining, there will be an updated post on our experience.
Things they don’t tell you about the Magic Bands. On our April trip, we were given the option to do online check-in. I attempted to do it and even though every time I did it I was sent to an error page, all the information was there, so I thought it was just a glitch with the Disney site (of which there are plenty) and that it went through. This was not the case. We ended up having to check-in in person and were informed that since there was still a balance for our resort stay, we were unable to do online check-in. These are the minor details you run into when booking online as opposed to over the phone, but there really should have been some kind of online notice about this, or in the packet you’re sent once you book. I had no idea this was the case and would have gladly paid the balance ahead of time to avoid going through the check-in lines.
So that’s pretty much it! Of course, I’m coming from a place where Disney is only a few hours drive for me, so I’m sure the experience would be much different for someone who has to fly to Disney for their vacation, but if you’re close enough to Disney World/Disneyland, these tips may work for you.
I’m also going to write an updated version to this as I have a trip where I’m going to Disney alone with my toddler. It’s going to be a mommy/baby trip while my husband is away for business. I figured it would be better for me to take the baby to Disney to have fun, instead of sitting around the house waiting for my husband to get back from his trip, so we’ll go on our own little fun, adventurous trip.