Nova Scotian needs advice - Planning first WDW trip!

Discussion in 'Canadian Trip Planning & Community Board' started by missnita, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. missnita

    missnita Earning My Ears

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    Hello!

    My husband & I would LOVE to take our kids to WDW next spring, or even the following spring depending on pricing. I'm absolutely overwhelmed with where to start as far as researching & planning is concerned. I have never traveled outside of Canada [nor has my husband] although we have each traveled a few times within the country....but it was at least 8 years ago for each of us.

    I'd obviously love to plan a trip that is economical, where we get the most for our money, but also feels like we're not sacrificing quality. Our kids are sweet, but tempermental, so we want to keep them as comfortable as possible too.

    Is the most cost-effective way to get there to drive to a US airport & fly to Orlando from there? Or is there a time of year where flying out of Halifax is on par with flying out from Maine or New Hampshire? Best sites to check for flight deals? Are children's fares less expensive?

    Where should one stay when in Orlando?

    What should we see & do? What about food?

    How much should one expect to pay for a vacation for 4 to WDW?

    Is it worth it to pay more & stay at WDW, have meals included etc.?

    We were going to plan a trip to Toronto & go to Canada's Wonderland, but we don't want to do the 24 hour drive & airfare is ridiculous, so why not go to WDW?!

    Any help would be appreciated, as I'm feeling overwhelmed! hehe!
     
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  3. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    I'm formerly from just outside Halifax, and have gone a few times with kids (at first they were under ten, now 2 are teens).

    You should probably provide some more info to get better help.

    I've never driven, but I wouldn't recommend it especially for shorter trip. Google says 30 hours straight, one way. Flying out of the US will save a lot, but you'll have to judge the drive for yourself. We've always flown using aeroplan points. Others will offer better advice than me.

    What are the ages of your children? That matters a lot. I find Disney is better for younger children, and as they age they prefer Universal, etc.

    How long were you thinking of staying? Don't fool yourself into thinking you could see it all - even if you could, that would less like a vacation and more like a forced march. We went for 10 days to disney in 2008 and saw most of it. 7-day disney tickets are $250 or $300/person I think. We'll be getting flexpasses like last time, they're $300/person but give you 14 days at universal, seaworld, aquatica nd wet'n'wild (add $40 for Busch Gardens Tampa). IMHO it's too costly to do some disney and some not; better to do all disney or no disney at all (due to the sliding scale of ticket prices).

    Want waterparks? Disney has a couple of good ones, but Aquatica (part of SeaWorld) is also good.

    If you're going on spring break it'll be busy. If you're going to disney, learn in advance how the fastpass works, its included with every ticket and can get you onto some busy rides with less hassle if you understand it.

    It's less expensive to stay offsite, and that's what we do. Most people on these boards recommend onsite and purchase the disney dining. I'll let someone else argue that case. We find offsite more relaxing, but we've been several times. I suggest you make two quick plans: one onsite, and one offsite. Put estimated costs next to each item to get an idea of the cost. Then let your mind relax and tell you which one you *want*, which one you'd rather.

    We don't find the drive to/from the parks onerous at all. We have a timeshare condo (you could get a whole house at a reasonable cost too). And when we return from a park, we have a routine where one of us takes the kids to pool and relaxes, the other throws something in the oven and relaxes. The kids would eat chicken nuggets and pizza anyway, and they'd rather be in the pool than waiting in line to get into a restaurant.

    The shorter your trip, you could be spending less time in your hotel so it'll matter less. Onsite offers extra magic hours if you want to maximize your time in the parks; combine that with disney dining and the only time you'd be outside the parks is for sleep.

    Must do: (opinions from our family)

    EPCOT: test track, world showcase, illuminations fireworks

    MAGIC KINGDOM: nothing much, but our kids are 11, 13, 15, they'd prefer universal. Younger ones might like Big Thunder Railroad, fantasyland, monsters inc comedy club, buzz lightyear (shooting targets ride)

    ANIMAL KINGDOM: expedition Everest (may be too much for younger 1s), bug's life, safari, kali rapids, dinasour!

    HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: muppets 3D, car stunt show (worth doing once), toy story midway (shooting targets ride)

    DOWNTOWN DISNEY: Goofy's candy company, shopping at the lego store. We do this every visit because Downtown Disney doesn't charge admission, and is better than citywalk in our opinions.

    You could do the highlight from the 2 universal parks in 2 days if you wanted to add them on. Might not be worth it for younger ones.

    Recommend:

    Islands of Adventure: Harry Potter ride, Spider-man ride (best ride in the world IMHO, check out the detail for yourself), Hulk rollercoaster, dragon challenge roller coaster, popeye's barges, jurassic park, cat in the hat

    Universal Studios FL: despicable me ride, the mummy (scary indoor coaster), men in black (target shooting ride), simpsons (simulator), rip ride rocket (intense coaster with music)
     
  4. missnita

    missnita Earning My Ears

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    Thanks for the info & advice!

    My kids are currently 2 & 4, but would probably be 3.5 & 5.5 or older when we took the trip. Not sure if we're crazy for even considering taking them at that age, lol.

    We would not mind driving to Maine or NH to take a flight to Orlando, but we certainly would not drive all the way there with kids these ages. I'd go crazy, hehe!

    We're not interested in seeing any water parks...I think we'd strictly stick to Disney & take another trip when they're older to Universal etc.

    We would not mind staying offsite at all. My husband used to work for Wyndham & got deep discounts on timeshares, but he doesn't work there any more, sadly. I just wondered what was the most economical & easier, but I guess that's a personal choice based on comfort level.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc <font color=royalblue>We had a wonderful time, but

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    Welcome from a New Yorker of Canadian descent!! (My mom's parents, as well as her oldest brother, were born in Newfoundland.)

    My advice is to keep things as simple as you can. Stay on site. That means you won't have to deal with getting from the airport, or with the timing of shuttles to the parks; Disney transportation runs all day long.

    Disney resorts fall into 3 different price categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. You can find the rundown on all of them at www.allears.net, under the Disney World link. All include that ride from the airport (Disney's Magical Express), free transportation within Disney property, and access to Disney's Extra Magic Hours-- times when the parks are only open to visitors at Disney resorts. All also include access to the Disney Dining Plans if you choose.

    The difference between the categories are in terms of amenities, location and so on.

    For what it's worth, this will be our 4th trip as a family, and we've never felt the need to go to the waterparks, or to leave Disney property. (Then again, as a family of 5 we tend to stay in the resorts that have pretty remarkable pools.)

    We love the dining plan. With 2 kids who count as "children" it may very well prove to be economical for you-- take a look at the numbers. The table service meals on the plan include most of the character meals, so your kids can get autographs and pictures from the comfort of your table, without waiting on line. We find dining at Disney to be pretty expensive, and love that the dining plan is pre-paid. As you can tell, I value simplicity.

    Does that help a little?
     
  6. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Kids that young, you might save the money and wait 3 years. Disney would be better than universal for you , I think.

    I bet in the 7-9yr old range is the sweet spot. For girls, just before they grow out of the girly-girl princess thing, take them and get them dressed up like a princess. For girls and boys, take them to the Jedi Training Academy outside star tours at disney hollywood studios. OK, that last one is really a vicarious thing for the parents who saw the original star wars when they were kids. ;)

    3.5 is old enough to enjoy a lot of stuff. Remember, younger kids are easier to please (try pleasing a teenager). When I took my kids that age to Seuss Landing in Islands of Adventure, they thought that area was the whole park, and didn't want to leave (they thought the were going home, they didn't understand).

    My advice - let the kids set the pace. If they want to do 5 trips on a carousel, let them. Better to have them enjoy what they're capable of enjoying, rather than doing a forced-march until they have a meltdown from overstimulation. Take a relaxing lunch inside with air conditioning, they won't mind at all, especially when you say yes we can go back after lunch. If you do want them to see some things along the way, don't take the shortest path, wander a bit. If they're young enough, consider a stroller so they can take a nap (or maybe just the younger one, you'll know this for yourself). Also consider a ziplock bag with ice and a hand towel to clean up the kids and help them cool off (I think disney will provide extra ice if you ask).

    You know your own kids better than anyone else, you'll know their pace. Do less and enjoy more. My kids (older now) would rather repeat stuff they enjoy than to try to cross stuff off a list (like that ride they never did before, probably not missing much anyway).

    With respect to length of vacation, we try to do 2 weeks every 2 years, rather than 1 week/year. Saves travel or airfare, leaves you longer to recover after travel so you can have a vacation without jet lag (etc.). Since you're there for a longer time you don't feel as much pressure to make the most of those few precious days. We went for 10 days in 2008, 15 days in 2011 - loved that! And we're now planning something like 11-15 days for xmas-new years 2013. The 15 days in 2011 were great, no pressure. If we wanted to hang by the pool and grill steaks from Costco while having a margarita, then we can do that and enjoy our vacation.

    If the extra magic hours are at night, young kids might (probably won't) stay up. They're lucky to make it to fireworks. If the EMHs are in the morning, the kids would just run out of steam earlier anyway and cranky or worse. Depends on your kids, and this matters less when they're older. So, for younger kids EMHs might not be used, and that's one less reason to stay onsite. Parking costs $15/day, but you'll save more than that staying offsite. Breakfast savings alone might do it if you get some cereal and bagels or something.

    You won't get bored spending 2 days at each disney park, that's 8 days. You might want to do some shopping if you have a rental car; otherwise it'd be difficult to leave disney property.
     
  7. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    You've gotten lots of good advice so far. We first took our kids at 3.5/5.5 and it was pretty darn magical, but also a fair bit of work. But totally worth it. :) My dd doesn't really remember it, but I sure do, and we have tons of adorable pictures. We also went back with them the following year, and then about a year and a half after that, and they really loved it each time. So you could wait, but you don't have to.

    The extra work part with littler ones: they won't be able to go all day, and if you plan on ticking a lot off your list each day, you'll probably get frustrated. Start early, take a break, have a nap or a swim, and go back if they seem up for it. Plan on putting them both in strollers so you can cover more ground, or so that a nap isn't a deal-breaker. Some of my favourite times were when one or the other was asleep in the stroller and we had extra time to focus on the single "awake" child. Then, often as not, the napper would wake up and the waker would nap and we'd do it over again.

    With a couple of years to go, you can decide if you want to save up some sort of points to get tickets. We have flown from Halifax on Aeroplan points, and our next trip is on AirMiles. It's a LOT of points, though. As your kids won't be old enough to "miss out" on school I'd recommend a time when others are IN school, like late April/May. March is high season. I won't take my kids out now that ds is in middle school, but in elementary school (especially primary), a family trip is totally worth the experiences they will have. Airfare from Halifax can vary from about $1000 pp to $500 pp. You have to be diligent and flexible to get the best fares. And no, kids aren't cheaper. I always thought they would be, and some flts to Europe you may get a small discount, but the only child discounts I've seen for Florida are for tickets/meals or packages, not flights.

    When I don't have points to fly from Halifax, we drive to New Hampshire. South West Air out of Manchester NH is fabulous. I recently priced tickets for four from that airport, and it was LESS for sale tickets than I paid in fees for my "free" Airmiles tickets. (We still paid over $1000 in fees for 4 AM tickets from Halifax. I found SW flights for four for nine-hundred-and-something.) You can add another 2-3 hundred for gas, road meals, and hotel/park and fly to get there, but it's still so much cheaper. The first time we drove to Boston with the kids (about an hour past Manchester) they were 2 and 4. Get a dvd player if you don't have one already, and just plan for stops at playgrounds and rest stops. We usually take two days to do it, with an overnight with relatives in New Brunswick, but it's actually only about 10-11 hours of actual drive time from Halifax.

    Onsite/offsite is your next big decision. First 3 trips we stayed onsite. Disneyworld is overwhelming, and onsite makes it simpler. There are more family suites available now in the budget category, and that might be worth it. What really drove me offsite though was the lack of space. I hate a week or two of four people in one room. I spent too many evenings sitting on the tile in the bathroom with my book or my laptop, because the kids were asleep. We tried a condo, and that was fine, but the last two trips we rented houses. 4 bedroom/3 bath house with a private pool can be had for as little as $100/nt, depending on time of year. My kids are older now, and we are familiar with Orlando, so we are quite comfortable with that. We always get a rental car, but if you stay onsite, you can use Disney transportation.

    My kids loved the Magic Kingdom best, but we also love Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Disney Studios just never really did it for us personally, but it's nice too. Our kids really loved the character meals. There are a couple of princess meals, tons of Mickey/Minnie choices, and we really love the Stitch breakfast at the Polynesian. Your kids may not even know who Stitch is! There used to be some Disney Jr characters at one of the breakfasts, but I have lost touch with that.

    Last trip and this one we are focussing on Universal for the Harry Potter world, and Seaworld. I think Seaworld would be lovely for little kids too. Universal has Suess-land, but generally I'd say it's not really for littles. Barney and probably Dora are around Universal, but I don't know the details. (HAPPY to have lost track of Dora! ::yes::)

    There are some really good planning resources around (online and books), when you get further along you might be interested, but it's probably a little early yet. My personal fav for Disney if not Orlando as a whole is the Passporter Guide. (You can get it through Chapters, sometimes it's on the shelf, or you can order it.) That one in particular will help you understand what the big deal is, and whether it's for you. (The authors really love Disney, and have kids themselves.)

    Good luck, and welcome!
     
  8. bbangel

    bbangel <font color=green>My friends call me the font of u

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    With kids that young, get a double stroller. Even kids that are used to walking at home will find the distances at WDW very tiring. We we took my niece at 5, she was okay in MK and DHS but Epcot and Animal Kingdom did her in. Heat can also be an issue for little kids so you may want to plan to go in early December or the middle of January. You won't have to worry about the heat as much and the crowds will be lower than in the spring.

    Wherever you stay, just make sure there is a pool. That seems to be their favourite part of the day anyway :goodvibes

    You have a lot of time to plan so I would take each component at a time. There is a lot of information on this board that will help you decide about whether to stay on site or off and whether the dining plan will work for you or not. Once you have read more about it all you will likely have more specific questions and there will be people here to help you :surfweb:
     
  9. caisland

    caisland Mouseketeer

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    We drove in 2006 with two boys 13 and 11. It was a long drive.
    2008 and 2009 we drove to Manchester and flew Southwest. About $1,000 return for the four of us.
    Southwest is starting out of Portland Maine in April 2013. 2 hours closer.
    We love staying onsite.
    Free dining happens annually so far and can save a lot of money or room discounts could work for you as well. Watch for Disney specials. On here or their website.
    Pop Century is very Disney feeling. We spent 2 weeks in 2008 there and it cost about $4,500 for everything outside of my wife's shopping.
     
  10. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Oooh, caisland, I hadn't heard that about SW and Portland! :cool2:
     
  11. caisland

    caisland Mouseketeer

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    Doesn't look like there will direct flights from Portland but some will be just a quick stop and go.

    3 hours direct flight from Manchester to Orlando was a snap.

    Aug 2012 DW and I flew Moncton to Toronto to Orlando.
    At Moncton Airport at 10:30am. Didn't get to POR until 11pm local time. 13 1/2 hours with Air Canada.
     
  12. fan1080

    fan1080 When you wish upon a star......

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    Welcome to the Disboards, missnita!

    :welcome:

    You've found a fantastic resource for all things Disney. Put your best learning hat on, there's a lot to be researched! :)

    Planning a WDW vacation can be quite involved. There's just so much to learn about a WDW vacation; so many things to see and do. But, no worries, we're here to help as much as we can. :thumbsup2

    To start, WDW can be an economical vacation, or you can go all out and it can get very expensive.

    My family and I have now done 5 trips to WDW. Each one of them worked out to be very close to about $1200/person for a week's stay (although our last trip was 3 years ago so bump that up a bit for a decent estimate). That included staying on-site at WDW, Park tickets for the week, flights, and meals. That budget did not include spending money for souvies.

    The biggest factor, by far, for your budget will be the flights. They can vary a lot from time of year, day of the week you are flying, etc. We've done the drive to Portland once. We flew with Airtran at that time, and it saved us $2000 over flying from Halifax that year.

    A WDW vacation can be done economically. There are some rather interesting money saving tips that you can learn here, everything from, how to save on meal costs (especially if you all are light eaters, ie split a meal between 2 people), to saving a few dollars on your room depending on if you don't mind a little walk to/and from the lobby, etc.

    You have a lot of reading ahead of you. :coffee:

    Have fun researching and planning. :cool1:
     
  13. kellymarch

    kellymarch Earning My Ears

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    We went in 2010 when our kids were 5 & 10 and this March Break again. We flew out of Halifax both times but that is not the cheapest option. This year we had a decent direct flight on Sunwing that was $2300 (Ithink) for the 4 of us. There were also direct flights out of Bangor & Portland--these flights are cheaper, but for us the distance to drive in March factors in--this year there were travel delays due to weather. Other Maritime flights were considerably more expensive and always had at least one stop.
     
  14. bfamily5

    bfamily5 Yes, I need another guide book...it's part of the

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    You will all need them and they are expensive...so my advice is to get them ASAP ;) From what I understand, the cost will double July 1st when the Gov' introduces the new enhanced 10 year passports. Hope this helps!:)
     
  15. ixmnrs

    ixmnrs Mouseketeer

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    Another tip is maybe registering on the disney websites and order a Planning DVD. Once they have you on their mailing list / email list, maybe you might receive a PIN for discounts, sometimes outside what is offered to the general public. Wyndham does have properties off site at Disneyworld but that are listed as Official Disneyworld hotels (Lake Buena Vista / Bonnet Creek) so maybe you're discounts there will make a big difference. I don't believe Disney's Magic Express (Disney's transfer service from Orlando airport to Disney Resorts) however would work with those hotels.
     
  16. fan1080

    fan1080 When you wish upon a star......

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    Just to clarify about passports.....

    10 year passports will be $160, but cost per year is still lower than the current 5 year.

    You will also still have have the option to go with the standard 5 year passport, for $120. That is a substantial increase over the current fee of $87.

    Passport Info.
     
  17. Northstar

    Northstar DIS Veteran

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    For comparing airfares, try www.kayak.com. That compares results from Orbitz, Hotwire, Travelocity....

    If you're planning to book airfare online, create a few accounts with the sites you're tracking for airfare... I have accounts at Travelocity, Air Canada, and Westjet, and it sure speeds things up when you don't have to enter all that information while you're trying to book a hot seat sale before it's sold out!

    When comparing airfares, consider checked bag fees in addition. Southwest still doesn't charge a fee for checked bags but I think all the airlines flying out of Halifax do.

    If you've never been to the U.S., check the sticky threads at the top of this forum for information about best ways to exchange money and carry your money/pay for stuff, and about cell phones and keeping in touch.

    Have fun planning! And if you're not enjoying the planning and are getting overwhelmed, consider working with a travel agent. Come back here and ask people to PM you their recommendations for a good travel agent in the area who knows Disney.

    party: You're going to Disney!
     

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