We are planning a trip to Disney for Sept. Taking our 3 little girls, 2, 4 and 6. Wondering if staying on site is worth the money with children these ages. Is it hectic to go back and forth off-site? Also wondering which resorts you recommend... Our budget mid-range...
Thanks for any input! : )
I stayed off site a few times in college, and once when we were first married.
In the trips since we've had kids, we've only stayed on site, and it's the best decision for our family, hands down. Transportation is a breeze, you're close to everything, you're in the magic 24/7, and you have access to EMH (Extra Magic Hours when the park is open only to guests of Disney resorts), and to Disney's Dining plans.
As to recommendations, I've got to be honest and admit that having 3 kids limits our options a bit. Here's a list, in order of pretty much increasing cost. Take a look at the slide shows and fact sheets at www.allears.net to narrow things down:
- Port Orleans Riverside has some rooms that accomodate 5. The 3rd child is in a Murphy Bed. It doesn't work for us because my only son is 3 inches taller than I am and wouldn't fit into the Murphy Bed. But for your kids, it's my number one choice. The resort is supposed to be fabulous, and it's cheaper than the Value options.
- Two (hopefully) connecting rooms at a value. The odds are very good (though not 100%) that your rooms would connect internally, since the kids outnumber the adults.
- A family suite at All Star Music (Value)
- A suite at the new Art of Animation (Value)
- A cabin at Fort Wilderness
- A room at a Deluxe. That's the route we go. We save for quite some time, then end up at a Deluxe. We love the amenities-- my kids are total water rats and we adore the pools and the locations. If you're considering this route, take a look at the Garden Wing rooms at the Contemporary. It's probably your cheapest option, and you can WALK to the Magic Kingdom. (More important, you can WALK a tired child back to the room instead of waiting for transportation at the end of a long day.) Also take a look at the Beach Club; you can walk to Epcot, and the pool is not to be believed!!!
Also, take a look at the meal plan (DDP.) With 3 kids under the age of 10, it's a real bargain for your family. It gives you one table service, one counter service, and one snack (think bagel for breakfast) each day. Those table services include character meals, so your kids can have anyone from Mickey Mouse to Belle stop by for autographs and pictures without waiting on line. Take a look at the princess meals at Aukerhaus (in Norway, at Epcot), Dinner with Cinderella and Friends at 1900 Park Fare (on the monorail loop, easy to reach from the Magic Kingdom) and Chef Mickey's (in the Contemporary.)
Thank you for all the awesome information!! : )
Do you feel the dining plan is being purchased out of convenience or to save money? Can you save money just buying food?
Do you think that paying extra for having access to the monorail is worthy?
I love the DDP, whether or not it saves me money. (Keep in mind: all 3 of my kids count as Disney adults at something like $55 a day on the DDP. Your older 2 will run you about $12 a day, and your youngest can just graze off other's meals.) So, yeah, for you I think it will save money. For us, it's probably more about the convenience of not having to check prices and feel as though we're hemorraging money. Food in WDW is pretty expensive; I love the fact that ours is prepaid when we're on the DDP. (Last August we didn't do the DDP, choosing instead to save on park tickets by getting YES tickets at a discount. I really missed the DDP. I felt as though every time we sat down to eat, I had to keep an eye on the bottom line, and ended up checking prices before looking at the entrees. )
(Oh, another tip: order park snacks, breakfast stuff and-- most important-- bottled water from either www.gardengrocer.com or www.wegoshop.com . Both will deliver to the resorts.)
As to monorail, that's totally up to your opinion. Since we've had kids, we've only stayed Deluxe because we love the park access. (We're both teachers in Catholic schools, so we're not exactly made of money. We're currently saving for our summer 2014 trip.) For OUR family, monorail/ Epcot access is worth the money, as are the phenomenal pools to be found in some of the Deluxes. (My kids are total water rats, and we go over the summer.) For other families, it may not be worth it.
For what it's worth, good friends of ours stayed at Port Orleans Riverside in 2008 and LOVED it!!!! If we could fit my son into those Murphy beds, it would be something to consider. But that ship sailed several years ago! So it's your cheapest option, and it's a moderate, not a Value!
You know your family best and have to decide how everyone usually eats and what you think you want to get out of your trip. For my family -- 2 Adults and 2 children that are disney adults for dining purposes-- the dining plan doesn't make sense to pay for. If it is Free during the time we are going then it is a great perk.
We don't do many Table Service meals. We are there to do the parks and spend our time with activities and not eating. We have done all the character meals in the past and my girls are older so that isn't a priority, but even when they were younger it was still cheaper for us to just pay out of pocket for it. We tend to bring things to eat for breakfast like granola bars and fruit because we are Rope Drop people that want to be at the parks first thing in the morning so don't want to eat breakfast in a restaurant.
We often share meals so end up only buying 3 meals many times, and we all prefer water to soda so I bring reusable water bottles that we refill so we don't buy many drinks. When we have used the free dining plan we have actually wasted a lot of food and credits-- I am usually in the gift shop the last day trying to use up the snack credits on things we can bring back with us. But I agree with Aliceacc that it is nice to not have to worry about every penny being spent on food and snacks. Particularly because my kids are VERY frugal (they do NOT get that from me!) and don't like to ask for extra treats since they cost money. Having the DDP means they don't feel like they are spending too much money if they want a Mickey Bar or a Rice Krispie treat .
My mom and brother though are "foodies"-- for them the sit down meals are their top priority. My brother is a big eater and they like to have a soda at each meal. So for them paying for the Dining Plan and even upgrading it makes a lot of sense.
There are menus with prices on wdwinfo.com and allearsnet.com for every restaurant. Take a look and think about what you think your family will probably want to order and then compare the costs with the dining plan.
With kids that young, you definitely want to stay onsite. Get an all-star or AoA family suite, that will give you enough room.
The Disney transportation takes you to the front door of the park. If you stay off-site, you will be left in parking lots where you need to take a tram, etc. to get to the park.
Now that I am older and DH and I go without the kids, we still stay onsite. To me an off-site trip is just a trip to Florida. But an onsite trip is a trip to WDW. Also, if you purchase a lot of souvenirs, you can have those delivered to your resort gift shop for free pick up the next day.
Good luck planning!
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