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View Full Version : Finally, WDW! Tips, ideas?


hippiemom
01-16-2010, 12:20 PM
I'm new here, and am just amazed (and confused) at the vast amount of information available!

So, I'm hoping to streamline specific ideas into this one thread.

We are a family of 5, all kids between 3-10. We are doing this for the first time as a HUGE event for our family. We're not folks who can do this every year, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Background (feel free to skip) is that we're a homeschooling family, DH is a disabled police officer (and former military) and we live on a small, fixed income. We are taking this trip bc our kiddos have been put through a hellish couple years, between their dad's injury, losing 2 grandparents (my parents in their 60's) suddenly, and having another grandparent very ill. We've planned and cancelled several "small" vacations due to extenuating circumstances. My dad's life (small, split 4 ways) insurance showed up in our mailbox a couple weeks ago, and we're doing this instead of paying off bills or home improvements. He was a "grand gesture" kinda guy, so I know he'd approve.

anyway.... we keep going around and around about how to do this...
on a budget? stay offsite, bring food, drive 16 hours, spend about $3000,

OR splurge for this experience-stay onsite, do the dining plan, and fly (southwest-direct, and inexpensive) for about $4800.

Any discounts available on the "big ticket" things like deluxe resort or dining?

We're planning on going Jan 31-Feb 5. Thanks!

Any advice or direction would be appreciated. We would likely not have the opportunity to return to WDW anytime soon, so cutting things out to save for future trips is not on our radar.

hippiemom
01-16-2010, 12:23 PM
I've already got conflicting advice on this...

friends who *know* me and our situation say to splurge.

Sister who lives N of Miami and has a season pass has tons of advice on saving money> stay at buena vista, use the shuttle, pack a backpack of food. BUT, she goes several times/year.. We have never been (as a family..went as kids ourselves).

Sorry for being so long winded...trip is short notice and I'm trying to figure out as much as possible.

Perditamarie
01-16-2010, 02:50 PM
Welcome to the DIS!! We are a family of 5 too. We like to:

* stay onsite for convenience and pure Disney magic...we love their transportation and use WDW transport exclusively...save $$ on renting a car. Have read that off site shuttles are limited. Families of 5 can stay at Port Orleans w/ a trundle bed, Fort Wilderness Cabins, All Star Suites....more pricier options include Deluxe resorts like Beach Club, Boardwalk, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian.

* fly to get here fast...we don't rent a car, so we use Disney Magical Express and our luggage is delivered by disney too. Not sure where you are driving from, but long car trips can be hellish with small/bored/excited children...we like to get to WDW ASAP to start the fun....in this case, time is worth the $$$.

* The Dining plan could be a real value...all food $$ would be prepaid. See if you can get the ADRs for your trip to see if it is worth it. This may be a fun splurge if you don't do much restaurant dining at home, and is a great bargain for kids under 10 -- includes 1 table service meal, 1 counter service meal and 1 snack. Another strategy we do to save time/$$ is bring food to eat for breakfast while we get ready, then the DDP covers meals during the rest of the day. There is also a quick service plan that includes refillable mugs, 2 counter service meals and 2 snacks.

* Tix.....need to purchase a package onsite w/tix to get the dining plan. Once you figure out your ADRs, you will know what parks you will be at and if you need hoppers. You could save $$ here and skip hoppers....probably not a bad idea anyway so you can thoroughly enjoy the park you are at w/o having to worry about being someplace else.

Hope this helps to get you started....I would call Disney and check availability and prices and see where you want to go from there.

hippiemom
01-16-2010, 03:00 PM
thanks for the info.

One question, though.. what are ADR's?

klacey1
01-16-2010, 03:02 PM
Without knowing your family personally, I'd say go for the dream vacation. Growing up, my mom would scrimp on certain things each vacation because she knew we'd be back in a couple of years and could splurge on them (and scrimpt on something else the next trip). I.e. one trip we'd stay at a luxury hotel and eat CS food or food in the hotel room, the next trip, we'd stay in basic accomodations but eat fantastic meals.
However, if this is a truly "once in a lifetime" trip for your family, and knowing the tough time your kids have gone through, I'd splurge on everything. Now, I wouldn't be ridiculous. I wouldn't stay deluxe-- I'd stay at POR in Alligator Bayou, where your entire family could fit in one room (Mom and Dad in one bed, two kids in the other, third kid in trundle bed). I wouldn't get the deluxe dining plan, but I also wouldn't get the Quick Service plan-- I'd get the basic (1 sit down meal, 1 snack, 1 counter service meal pp, per day). I would check the WDW website for % off codes to get the price of your hotel room down.
You can splurge and have a wonderful vacation in a beautiful hotel that will amaze your kids without staying deluxe and doing everything "deluxe." I would, however, book NOW.
It seems like this is something you really want to do for your family. Life will be waiting for you when you get home. Forget about it for a little while with your family...

Rylee
01-16-2010, 03:06 PM
I'm going to say... somewhere in the middle.

Splurge on some things... save on others.

Accommodations -
Splurge and stay on-site. Save by staying at a Disney Value Resort.
If you splurge on nothing else... I would definitely stay on-site at a Disney hotel. With 4 young children, the convenience will be worth it. That said - all levels of Disney hotels are nice. Your park experiences won't be any different staying in a deluxe villa, than they will if you get 2 rooms at a value.

For your family of 6, cheapest going up in cost -
Value Resort - 2 rooms
All Star Music - Family Suite
Fort Wilderness Cabin

*Disney is offering a couple of discounts right now. Check here, mousesavers and the Disney site, and make sure you know the code and ask to have it applied when you book.

**Disney often automatically add trip insurance. Decide if you want or need this.

***If you stay off-site, be prepared... you may not find the shuttle service reliable or convenient.


Tickets -
Save by not adding the "hopper" options. Hoppers do add convenience for dining purposes, but... hopping takes time. Since this is your first visit, you'll have plenty to do and see in one park per day. (You can still return to your resort for an afternoon swim or nap, and return to the same park later in the day.)

Disney Dining Plans -
Remember, your 10 year old is an adult for the dining plans (and tickets.) Read menus here and at the allears site. Guess at what you might order for a day and see what comes out as a better deal for your family. I don't know the cost of the Quick Service meal plan, we always do the regular DP. (I would definitely recommend NOT doing the Deluxe dining plan, as you will spend most of your time sitting in restaurants.) We like having our meals paid for in advance but many people feel it's cheaper to pay out-of-pocket. (The regular DP is a good deal for children.)

*Save by packing breakfast items for your room and feed the kids while getting ready in the morning. Pop-tarts, granola bars, juice boxes, etc. If you drive, bring it with you. If you fly, place an order with gardengrocer or ship a box ahead of time.

**Even if you don't purchase a DP, you need to make Advance Dining Reservations for any Table Service meals. Your kids would probably enjoy at least 1 character meal. Call ASAP.

Traveling -
Only you can decide to drive or fly. Can you find reasonable airfare for January?

Have a great trip. :wizard:

klacey1
01-16-2010, 03:08 PM
thanks for the info.

One question, though.. what are ADR's?

ADR's are advanced dining reservations. You tend to need to make reservations up to 6 months in advance if you want to eat at the more popular places. However, there are less popular places that are just as wonderful. You can go to the Disney website and play aroudn with the "online dining reservation" tool to see if you can get any buffets or character meals. I'd say your chances are slim, but who knows, you might get lucky and catch a cancellation! We were told 3 months out (back when you could only make dining reservations 3 months in advance) that there was no availability for O'hanas at the Polynesian for the entire duration of our trip. About 1.5 months later, I was able to get a reservation on the Saturday night of our trip using the online tool!


I would also, like the previous poster said, reccomend flying, especially since your trip is fairly short.

Rylee
01-16-2010, 03:11 PM
Sorry...

I thought you were a family of 6. Just read it's 5.

Cheapest option for a family of 5 is Port Orleans Riverside, AB section.
It's a moderate and it's beautiful!

Great pool with slide. A boat that goes to Downtown Disney. Beautiful landscaping.

mjkacmom
01-16-2010, 03:13 PM
Is there any reason why you need to go so soon? The reason I ask is because if this is a once in a lifetime trip, you might want to have time to plan, to eat at the restaurants you want to eat at, and know what you want to do. I've been the WDW many times, and I planned our last trip for more than a year!

Since you homeschool, you can go during less crowded, but WARMER times, such as October and May. You might even get free dining in October. I just wouldn't want a few weeks to plan my once in a lifetime trip.

GaSleepingBeautyFan
01-16-2010, 03:26 PM
I would stay on site at Port Orleans Riverside (POR) in the Alligator Bayou section. You can sleep 5 in one room then.

I would fly - it'll give you more time to enjoy WDW. You could take magical express from the airport at no charge and use Disney Transporation to get around.
I've stayed at POR and only used Disney Buses. It was great!

I would only get the basic tickets - no extras like Park Hoppers. You can use the crowd calendar at www.touringplans.com to figure out which park you want to visit on which day.

I never get any kind of dining plan so I can't give advice on that. ADR is short for Advance Dining Reservations. If you are going to eat at any table service restaurants in disney you will need to make those. They can be done online at the main disney website or you can call to make those. Quick Service is counter service like a normal fast food place. Table service is where you sit down and are served like a normal restaurant.

There are 2 deals going on right now - you have to stay a minimum of 5 days. If you stay at a value resort, you can get a 300.00 gift card, a moderate resort (which is what POR is) you can get a 500.00 gift card, a deluxe resort will get you a 750.00 gift card. This is for the package with room and tickets and you can add the dining plan to it.

The 2nd deal is for room only. It's a basic % off the room only. I think you can add tickets and dining to it but I didn't look as far into this one.

So first I would:
1) figure out if you will drive or fly
2) Figure out if you want to stay on-site or off site and if you want the dining plan if you are staying on site (there are several choices - a quick service only with snacks or the one with Table Service and quick service with snacks) and get your hotel booked.
3) Figure out which park on which day.
4) make any Advance Dining Reservations if you want them
5) have fun reading the boards looking for hints and tips.

Sorry this got so long. Don't let the planning overwhelm you and have fun!:wizard:

PrincessMom4
01-16-2010, 03:51 PM
are your dates flexible?? I saw something about a $500 gift card if you stay during certain times of the year. I would recommended staying onsite at Fort Wilderness cabin.

WeRDisneyPeople
01-16-2010, 08:39 PM
Take the time and check out the Disney website. They are running some good deals right now. My family of 5 is going in April. We are staying at the Ft Wilderness Cabins for 5 nights with 5 day park hopper tickets for less than$2600. We chose not to include a meal plan this time because the cabin has a full kitchen (we've been to Disney many times, so leaving the parks to cook a meal is not a big deal for us). We will have to spend money for food at the parks, of course, but figured, in the long run, we could save money cooking simple meals in the cabin. I'm a total Disney fanatic and a bargain hunter. My friends and family joke that if there is a Disney deal to be found, I'll find it. My advice, stay on-site, you'll find the convenience is worth it (plus parking at Disney is now $14 a day I believe and off-site hotel shuttles are not reliable). The Port Orleans Riverside is very nice. My family of 5 stayed there last year.

Food at Disney is pricey. Unless you are going to stay at the cabins and are willing to spend time cooking, which if this is your first and maybe your only trip to Disney, you won't want to spend time cooking. Add the Dining Plan. It will help manage your cost. Bring snack food or breakfast food for your kids and let Disney handle the rest.

I'd rethink your time of year. Since you homeschool, you are probably more flexible. Go on the off-season or value season. Not only be it be cheaper, but it will be less crowded.

Good luck and have a magical time!

joandegennaro
01-16-2010, 09:28 PM
I read in your post that your husband is former military and a police officer. Does anyone know if The Shade's of Green would be an option for this family? I'm not familar but it might be worth a look to see what discount are available. If you are driving down i would suggest that you plan to eat off-site. This will save you some money, and will give you more varitey in food choices. Have breakfast in the room, maybe pack a cooler with sandwiches or snack for the day and enjoy dinner at a Table service or Counter Service if you don't want to leave the park. Purchase bottled water and bring it into the parks. Having the option of leaving the park via Disney transport is a great option if you want to take the little one back to room for a nap while older one's continue the fun in the park with the other parent. this is why I suggest on-site accomodations.

Regardless of how you end up Doing Disney have a wonderful time!

hippiemom
01-17-2010, 10:08 AM
wow, y'all rock!

We do have to go kinda soon. FIL is dying (85, alzheimers, cancer) and we've been his main caregivers. He was put into a nursing home last week, so we feel like our "window of opportunity" is now, while he's stable. We've done the "wait and see" before w/ poor results. :(

We also live in a very rural area where airfare is high, and we'd have to connect through ATL. NO WAY! BUT, I have to be at a meeting in New Orleans on the 30th, allowing us to fly nonstop from there. Airfare is also about 1/3 the price as it is from our nearest city.

So, it's booked!

We're staying at Port Orleans Riverside, 6 nights, 6 nights of tickers (no hopper or water park add on), and using the Deluxe Dining. The difference btwn the POR and Poly was almost $850 for the 6 nights.

We're "foodies" so we didn't scimp on food. We decided to pay the extra $500 to upgrade to Deluxe.

So far, we have res at:
The Wave
Cape Bay Cafe (b'fast)
Beirgarten (lunch)
Morrocco (dinner)
Hollywood Vine (b'fast)
Mama Melrose (lunch)
Aloha show (dinner)
Akershus (b'fast)
France (lunch)
Japan (dinner)

On our "want to eat' list:
California Grill
Narcoosee
Ohana
Kat Kora's
Park Faire

Anything left out?

Our total (w/ airfare) is $4200, leaving plenty in our budget for tips and gifts.

Perditamarie
01-17-2010, 01:09 PM
Honestly, I think that is too much dining, with not much time left for the parks, especially w/uncomfortably full bellies. Disney will just be a place you see as you travel from restaurant to restaurant.

If you keep the Deluxe dining plan, consider a breakfast character buffet for the kids and a 2 credit signature dining experience for dinner or a dinner show. That should be plenty to keep you full, especially w/snacks. Otherwise your trip of a lifetime will be about restaurants instead of experiences, rides, shows, etc., not to mention tips on so many meals.

disneylovin24
01-17-2010, 01:23 PM
I'm new here, and am just amazed (and confused) at the vast amount of information available!

So, I'm hoping to streamline specific ideas into this one thread.

We are a family of 5, all kids between 3-10. We are doing this for the first time as a HUGE event for our family. We're not folks who can do this every year, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Background (feel free to skip) is that we're a homeschooling family, DH is a disabled police officer (and former military) and we live on a small, fixed income. We are taking this trip bc our kiddos have been put through a hellish couple years, between their dad's injury, losing 2 grandparents (my parents in their 60's) suddenly, and having another grandparent very ill. We've planned and cancelled several "small" vacations due to extenuating circumstances. My dad's life (small, split 4 ways) insurance showed up in our mailbox a couple weeks ago, and we're doing this instead of paying off bills or home improvements. He was a "grand gesture" kinda guy, so I know he'd approve.

anyway.... we keep going around and around about how to do this...
on a budget? stay offsite, bring food, drive 16 hours, spend about $3000,

OR splurge for this experience-stay onsite, do the dining plan, and fly (southwest-direct, and inexpensive) for about $4800.

Any discounts available on the "big ticket" things like deluxe resort or dining?

We're planning on going Jan 31-Feb 5. Thanks!

Any advice or direction would be appreciated. We would likely not have the opportunity to return to WDW anytime soon, so cutting things out to save for future trips is not on our radar.

If I were you, I'd drive, stay on site, and not do the dinning plan. I would drive because driving to disney is always a fun experience and it saves money that you can use on the hotel once you get there. I'd stay on property because it's so much easier and there's so much to do on disney property. And, I would avoid the dinning plan because then you can control what you eat more. You won't have to worry about wasting credits and you won't have to eat three meals a day. I'd suggest eating one meal out, having a quick snack-like meal for lunch, and either eating breakfast or lunch in your room:thumbsup2

disneylovin24
01-17-2010, 01:26 PM
Dis regard my last post. I didn't see that you booked everything.

TimPaulaDisney08
01-17-2010, 02:36 PM
I think you will enjoy POR--our friends love it there. We are going w/o the dining plan this time. The sit down meals were too much last time with our young kids. They (I mean me) wanted to be on the rides :) You will have a wonderful time and your kids will never forget it! I wish you a wonderful trip!

Rylee
01-17-2010, 02:37 PM
wow, y'all rock!

We do have to go kinda soon. FIL is dying (85, alzheimers, cancer) and we've been his main caregivers. He was put into a nursing home last week, so we feel like our "window of opportunity" is now, while he's stable. We've done the "wait and see" before w/ poor results. :(

We also live in a very rural area where airfare is high, and we'd have to connect through ATL. NO WAY! BUT, I have to be at a meeting in New Orleans on the 30th, allowing us to fly nonstop from there. Airfare is also about 1/3 the price as it is from our nearest city.

So, it's booked!

We're staying at Port Orleans Riverside, 6 nights, 6 nights of tickers (no hopper or water park add on), and using the Deluxe Dining. The difference btwn the POR and Poly was almost $850 for the 6 nights.

We're "foodies" so we didn't scimp on food. We decided to pay the extra $500 to upgrade to Deluxe.

So far, we have res at:
The Wave
Cape Bay Cafe (b'fast)
Beirgarten (lunch)
Morrocco (dinner)
Hollywood Vine (b'fast)
Mama Melrose (lunch)
Aloha show (dinner)
Akershus (b'fast)
France (lunch)
Japan (dinner)

On our "want to eat' list:
California Grill
Narcoosee
Ohana
Kat Kora's
Park Faire

Anything left out?

Our total (w/ airfare) is $4200, leaving plenty in our budget for tips and gifts.

If possible, I would limit your Table Service meals to 2 a day... Breakfast and dinner. (Or, switch to the basic Dining Plan.) This will leave most of your day free for exploring the parks, attractions, and resort. Otherwise, you will be spending more time waiting for your table and being served sitting in restaurants than seeing all DW has to offer.

You do have some great restaurant choices!

Since you didn't purchase hoppers, you need to be in the park on the day you plan to eat at a park restaurant. Or, dine at a Downtown Disney or resort restaurant, which I see you have some scheduled.

Have you planned out your park days? Check park hours at the WDW site. Also note the Extra Magic Hours.

Make a list of some of the attractions that are not to be missed by your family. Try to visit these as early in the day as possible.

Learn about Fast Passes and use them!

Also, POR doesn't have elevators. Just mentioning this because you mentioned your husband is disabled. You might want/need to put in a request for a ground level room. Maybe even request a building nearest to the main building, food court and a bus stop.

I'm excited for you! :yay: Have a great trip! :wizard:

WeRDisneyPeople
01-17-2010, 02:37 PM
wow, y'all rock!

We do have to go kinda soon. FIL is dying (85, alzheimers, cancer) and we've been his main caregivers. He was put into a nursing home last week, so we feel like our "window of opportunity" is now, while he's stable. We've done the "wait and see" before w/ poor results. :(

We also live in a very rural area where airfare is high, and we'd have to connect through ATL. NO WAY! BUT, I have to be at a meeting in New Orleans on the 30th, allowing us to fly nonstop from there. Airfare is also about 1/3 the price as it is from our nearest city.

So, it's booked!

We're staying at Port Orleans Riverside, 6 nights, 6 nights of tickers (no hopper or water park add on), and using the Deluxe Dining. The difference btwn the POR and Poly was almost $850 for the 6 nights.

We're "foodies" so we didn't scimp on food. We decided to pay the extra $500 to upgrade to Deluxe.

So far, we have res at:
The Wave
Cape Bay Cafe (b'fast)
Beirgarten (lunch)
Morrocco (dinner)
Hollywood Vine (b'fast)
Mama Melrose (lunch)
Aloha show (dinner)
Akershus (b'fast)
France (lunch)
Japan (dinner)

On our "want to eat' list:
California Grill
Narcoosee
Ohana
Kat Kora's
Park Faire

Anything left out?

Our total (w/ airfare) is $4200, leaving plenty in our budget for tips and gifts.

Honestly, I would downgrade the food package to the regular dining plan. You get a ton of food at the table service meals. No way could my kids (ages 6, 8 and 13) eat 2 table service meals in 1 day and get our moneys worth. If you downgrade the meal plan, you could add on the park hopper. You'd be surprised how much you'd enjoy "hopping" from park to park. If the kids want to go back and ride a ride over at Epcot quickly or see the parade at Magic Kingdom, park hopper will let you do that.

Also, some of my kids favorite Disney restuarants. Sci-Fi Drive in. 50's Prime Time Cafe. Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. Narcoose is awesome! My husband and I ate there for our anniversary, but I would not take small children there. I would add more character dining. That is what your kids will remember. It will also give them more "face time" with the characters.

Have fun!