Feeling completely overwhelemed

Discussion in 'Welcome to the DIS' started by RobertParr, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. RobertParr

    RobertParr Earning My Ears

    Jun 17, 2013
    Where to begin?!?
    Family of 5 (10,11,12yo) heading down for their first time. We want to do +/-7days at WDW and +/-2 at Universal. We want to stay onsite to take advantage of the extra hours - but where onsite? The number of variables is staggering. So much so, I don't know where to start. Do I get one non-residential annual pass (heard you got free parking and discounts on food and lodging)?

    Meal Plans?! Do I go with the meal plan instead? If so which? Having not had one before, I don't know how much we would need as there may be a chance we skip a meal do to the excitement of the day and opportunity to ride more rides.. (who knows?!?) Do I bundle everything? air/lodging/food/both park tickets?

    Fast Passes?! which when and where? No clue which ride they will really want and which we 'must' get fast passes for if we ever want a chance to ride that ride?

    Being a newbie, I am sure there are things I am overlooking.. but what?
  2. ThinkerWen

    ThinkerWen Earning My Ears

    Jul 11, 2018
    Hello Robert =)

    Planning can be half of the fun, at least it is for me. Gathering information is very important to enjoy more your trip. There are plenty of websites where you can find very valuable information. When I went for my first time, also family of 5 but with small children, I used Disney Tourist Blog as a guide. Your first visit.net was also useful. Your planning really depends on many factors as when you are going, what is your budget, what are your priorities, are you eaters, and many more. In that Blog I found specific guides for specific needs, pasrks etc.

    On YouTube you can find also some restaurant and rides reviews, best and worst, top 10, etc.

    And this site is amazing to find help on any subject and to read the latest news, some great articles and much more. I love the Disunplugged show.

    Don´t worry to much anyway you are going to have tons of fun, just enjoy! Happy trip!
    RobertParr likes this.
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  4. starry_solo

    starry_solo DIS Veteran

    Nov 19, 2010
    If you stay onsite, you have to pay for parking at the resorts but theme park parking is included as an "amenity" for staying onsite. Depending on the resort you stay at, it could be $13-24/night for parking. So that would be $91-168 in costs.

    It would be best not to be on a meal plan, unless you can find a "free" dining plan, which would require you to pay rack rate for your hotel room.

    When do you want to go?
    RobertParr likes this.
  5. HopperFan

    HopperFan "It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, princess."

    Sep 6, 2003
    Go to the RESORTS forum for help on Disney resorts and the ORLANDO forum for help on non-Disney resorts.


    If you stay in Disney hotel you get free park parking (or bus) so AP doesn't help with that and there are General Public discounts on rooms similar to AP discounts that you can get ... I have an AP and often use the General discount instead.

    Onsite depending on your budget your room options maybe more limited for 5. When you get on RESORTS forum let them know your nightly budget and they will direct you to the available options. Same on ORLANDO board.

    Dining Plan for your group = 5 adults will be pricey. I would look at restaurants and menus and price out what all would normally order (your kids can order off kids menus if paying cash) vs the Dining Plan. After years of Dining Plan we found it forced us to eat and order what we normally wouldn't and so we were spending more for plan than we would paying cash.

    FastPass+ will be the last thing to worry about .... but the ones to worry about are really only Slinky Dog, Flight of Passage and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train.
    RobertParr likes this.
  6. DarthRemy

    DarthRemy Earning My Ears

    Jul 14, 2018
    I know what you mean... so many options. My wife and I did the dining plan years ago; the amount of food it provides felt glutinous to me. Now with kids, it seems like we can get by without the plan and it will save a bunch of money.
  7. Dumbo7

    Dumbo7 Mouseketeer

    Dec 8, 2016
    What kind of budget are you looking at? We travel with 5 and are most comfortable at the grand Floridian. We also like port orleans riverside but we get two rooms. Not a fan of the dining plan but if your doing character meals sometimes it’s beneficial otherwise way too much food.
    RobertParr likes this.
  8. skylock

    skylock DIS Veteran

    Sep 2, 2010
    I suggest you talk to a travel agent that specializes in disney. They can help you sort it all out.
    Mickeynutty likes this.
  9. DisneyFansInNYC

    DisneyFansInNYC DIS Veteran

    May 28, 2012
    The first thing you have to do is think about your budget. You can get a room for $150 a night or $500 a night (or even more). We are a family of 6 so we tend to like the deluxe hotels. One reason we like the deluxe resorts is that they are not as spread out as the moderates or value resorts. If you stay at a moderate resort some of them have preferred rooms, this is usually closer to the check in area and buses. Not all the moderate or value resorts allow 5 in a room. You can check on the Disney site for that.

    You can also think about the theme of the resort. Some of the value resorts have fun themes. Art of animation has suites that you can all fit in and fun themes.

    We did the meal plan once and it was a mistake. Besides the fact that we were left with snack credits and quick service credits - it didn't save us money at all. I believe the meal plan is a way to pay in advance and not think about food - yet I believe most people are losing money. We figured it out after several trips when got back to see if the dining plan would have saved us money and we would have lost money if we purchased it. Depending on when you go - some days we just weren't that hungry and would eat light. Especially if you are going for 7 days.

    For the annual pass question. That is a tough one. If you are buying 7 day park hopper tickets (so you can go to several parks in one day - not necessary but we do it when we don't have annual passes) - it will run you $490 per person. If you buy one annual pass that will be $849. The difference is $359. So you would have to save that much money to make it worth it. I will say sometimes in the past the annual pass did save me that much on our rooms - this summer the annual pass is not saving me any money on the rooms - the room discounts are better or the same as the annual pass. You will also save money on merchandise and many restaurants - just remember the person with the annual pass has to be there to do all of the purchases. Here are links of annual pass discounts.

    The fastpasses are done at 60 days out if you are staying at Disney. This is the fun part. In the beginning we would sit with our kids, watch ride videos and discuss what rides they want to go on. Then I would check out this forum to see the hardest rides to get on and get those fastpasses. It is not hard booking these.

    Restaurant reservations called ADRs are done at 180 days out for the most sort after reservations. You can make some much closer - it just will be harder to get certain ones and certain times.

    The main issue with going to Disney is you need to plot out your days in advance and try to stick with it as you will be making reservations so far in advance. I agree with other posters - it is just as much fun planning the trip as it is going. We go every year and still get so excited planning it. We are in the watch everything Disney videos to get so excited for the trip.

    I hope that wasn't too much information and I hope it helps. Have fun planning!
    Cornish Lad and RobertParr like this.
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc DIS Veteran

    Jul 2, 2007
    OK, the first obstacle is that family of 5... from the mom of a family of 5.

    As I recall these are your onsite options, more or less in order of cost:

    - 2 hopefully connecting (not just "adjoining") rooms at a value. Note-- Disney will NOT guarantee that they'll adjoin
    - A suite at ASMusic
    - A suite at Art of Animation
    - A Cabin at Fort Wilderness
    - A room at Caribbean Beach or Port Orleans Riverside. Both have either a Murphy Bed or Trundle for that 3rd child. Check the size with the size of the child who would be in it.
    - A room at any of the Deluxes that sleep 5. I think the order of pricing is roughly:
    * Contemporary Garden Wing
    * Beach Club/ Yacht Club/ Boardwalk
    * Poly
    * Grand Floridian

    First, decide on your resort, then come back with the other questions.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
  11. maxiesmom

    maxiesmom The Mean Squinty Eye Works

    Jul 6, 2004
    This is where I think you should start too. It gives you a base to work from.

    If you already think you will be skipping meals and want to hit more rides, don't do the dining plan. Having meals set every day does make your schedule more ridged than it sounds like you want for a first trip. I would next decide how many days you want to spend in each park. Look at videos and check out the rides. That will help you to decide.
    HopperFan and RobertParr like this.
  12. Carol Greenblatt

    Carol Greenblatt Earning My Ears

    Aug 5, 2018
    Having been to WDW multiple times (and several times with my entire extended family) I agree that planning a trip can be overwhelming. However, I will agree with what others have said and say that you should first research your resort options and pick a place to stay first that fits your budget and your family size. So many of the resorts at WDW are amazing, and they come with the perks of transportation to the parks and extra magic hours its great to stay there. There are many options that fit a family of 5, but it will take some research. One website I love is allears.net. It has a lot of information on all the resorts including fact sheets and some with videos. Once you pick a place to stay you can then tackle the other options like dining plan and fast passes!!! Hope this is helpful!!!

  13. Cornish Lad

    Cornish Lad Mouseketeer

    Oct 16, 2017
    We purchased the basic DP in 2016 and ended up spending more money on TS restaurants as my wife is a vegetarian and the choices for her in the QS places were very limited. This time the basic DP came as part of our package so paid a little extra (and it was little compared to what we paid previously) and have upgraded to the DDP. I would only do the dining plan in future if it came within our package but would certainly not pay for it outright.

    As others have advised - sort out your accommodation first, then any "must do" dining events which will then lead you into which parks on which days for planning FP+s.
  14. sheri18

    sheri18 Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2011
    I agree with the other posters..plan your resort...then the rest. It is very overwhelming.
    We have bee many times and I still get stressed over the planning.
    This time we will be going in January...11 of us... I have started a PTR if you want to read it.
    Good luck and ask lots of questions..
  15. _19disnA

    _19disnA DIS Veteran

    Aug 8, 2018
    I don't think planning needs to be overwhelming. You should start with what your budget will be. Perhaps staying offsite will save you enough money so that for the price of 1 on-site Disney room, you could get 2 connecting/adjoining rooms which provides more space and 2 bathrooms to facilitate getting ready each day. You won't have to switch rooms as you would if staying at Disney part of the time and Universal for the other days. 9 days of parks is a LOT and perhaps you are trying to do too much in one vacation. Disney has 4 parks so it is good to have some knowledge of each so you have a general idea of which ones you want to go to. The Disney website has lots of basic information, so you can really do a lot of the planning on your own.

    Since this is your first visit, I wouldn't bother with restaurant reservations since you don't know which ones you will find appealing and may have no idea where you will actually be each day at mealtime. One less thing to plan for.

    Part of the reason we go on vacation is get away from the structure/routine of going to work, so we try to not make planning a vacation like a job.
  16. Wild4Walt

    Wild4Walt DIS Veteran

    Jul 28, 2008
    Ohh planning is so much fun! I'm another vote for starting with your resort. Do your research, check out some youtube vids ( thetimtracker has some really great resort tours ) and then start pricing to see what's in your budget.

    Start within the Disney bubble and compare offsite hotels.

    I always start with a list of Must Haves and then a few It Would Be Nice If's....

    In the very beginning I try not to pick more than 5 resorts and then try and narrow it down from there.
  17. sugar and spice1

    sugar and spice1 Earning My Ears

    Jul 8, 2016
    First choose your hotel. My family always stays at the Port Orleans French Quarter which is a moderate hotel ( middle cost ) It is one of the smaller properties and has a great pool, a great food court, good transportation, and has a boat ride from the hotel to Disney Springs. After choosing a hotel and dates you will be there, decide how many days that you want to be in the WDW Parks. When you get those things booked, then you decide which days you want to be in which park. This is important because as soon as possible you must book your dining reservations. Go to Park hours and Calendar to choose which day you want to be in each park. For example some days a park might have a special event and close early, or some days a park will have Extra Magic Hours, so I look for planning it so I can take advantage of the most time in each park. Then book your dining, I cannot express enough how hard it is to get dining reservations if you do not book way early. Last, I make a plan of each day and I book my fastpasses. We eat breakfast in our hotel room, we bring cereal and buy milk at the resort, then eat a quick service lunch each day at the parks and a sit down dinner at our favorite places like Ohana, Boma and the Liberty Tree tavern.
  18. invinciblesummer

    invinciblesummer Earning My Ears

    Sep 7, 2018
    It just depends on where you want to stay (and when) and budget. We were a family of 5 when I was a kid and we'd always stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort because they had the most space. They have two Queen Beds and the rooms for 5 have a pull down bed which is really handy. It's currently under construction but that looks to be wrapping up for the main projects by the end of 2018 so it shouldn't be as intrusive as it has been for the last year or so. The price right now is in a pretty sweet spot (read: still expensive but not as expensive as it will be soon) because it's bound to skyrocket once they open the Skyliner which will give the resort direct access to Hollywood Studios. So I recommend CBR if you're going anytime after probably late November/December 2018. They're going to have a new Food Court/Gift shop/Check-in area so it should be really nice. Also they're Table-Service restaurant is going to be the Little Mermaid themed called "Sebastian's Bistro" which I just think is so cute.

    You can also try renting DVC points which many people say works out to be cheaper for them. You get all the same benefits of staying onsite but for less money. I've never seen it work out cheaper for our party so we've never done it that way but it's probably because we go during high volume times so the prices are higher.

    Universal isn't that far and Ubers can be mostly inexpensive from Disney there but you'd have to pay that four times - to get there and get back for two days so that's just something to keep in mind. If you bring your own car or rent one that's less of a worry but you'll have to pay for parking at the Disney resorts now. Parking is complimentary at the parks but not at the resorts anymore. You'd also have to pay for parking at Universal for the two days. It might be more economical to do a split stay and do all of Disney at once staying on site and then do all of Universal staying somewhere on site (or close by) to make your days there a little easier. They have a bunch of new resorts and their most value resort is very nice so you can't go wrong staying on site at Universal for a few days. Staying close by instead of onsite at Universal is a great option because there are plenty of hotels that have free shuttles to and from Universal so that could save some money there. I really LOVE Universal so you should definitely try and visit there as well if you have time because it is so much fun.

    This is a point of contention I've noticed here a lot. Most people say that it's not worth it but I mostly disagree. I do think it's worth it purely for convenience on a personal level but on a more general level if you're looking to do a lot of sit-down meals this is a deal that cannot be beat. We did ONE sit down meal for 3 adults and one toddler in Hollywood Studios last summer and it was almost $200 and we didn't even order the most expensive menu item - in fact we tried to order the least expensive menu item - and we didn't get any desert or soft drinks. So if you want to do a sit-down meal every night of your trip I think the Meal Plan absolutely pays for itself a good 80% of the time. Maybe the Quick-Service plan isn't as good of a value but the regular mid-tier one definitely is. Some people aren't big eaters and that's okay but my toddler niece can shovel her two snack credits and everyone else's in her mouth and still have the gall to say she's hungry 20 minutes later. And she's barely 25 pounds don't ask where she puts it because we do not know.

    The next point of contention is whether the "Free Dining" promotion really is a good deal. If you book during a certain window (usually April through July) you can snag the coveted "Free Dining" promotion which allows you to receive one of the dining plans for free based off of which Hotel you're staying at. Value Resorts and Moderate resorts get the Quick Service plan (2 QS [entree and beverage], 2S) and Deluxe resorts get the regular plan (1 QS [entree and beverage], 1 TS [entree plus dessert and beverage *alcohol now included for those over 21], 2 S). Certain resorts or rooms are usually excluded like the Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation and there are date restrictions. But generally if you're open to staying at a different or less POPular resort and you have flexible dates (i.e. don't buy airfare until after you have a FD reservation) you can snag the FD without having to stay up all night the night before release waiting for it to drop. Though, it is quite fun and you can make lots of new friends while waiting so you should absolutely do it that way the first time ahahahaha

    Real talk: it may not be a good deal for some folks and that's valid but it seems to be a pretty great deal for most folks and that's why there's threads dedicated to watching and waiting for information on the next year's release.

    For my group the free dining promotion is fantastic based on the number of people in our party and what we want to do with those credits. For smaller parties of 2 or 3 it is probably not as good of deal, but for larger parties I feel like there's no way to go wrong with free dining. You can upgrade your free plan for a reduced fee to any other dining plan that you think will suit your needs too which is a nice bonus. A lot of people complain about it being too much food but that's something that you'd have to decide for yourself. If the 3 kids are getting kids meals as they'd be required to do on 2 out of the 3 plans) the portions are much more normal human sized and should be enough for them without being too much. Also, you get 2 meals day on 2 out of the 3 of the dining plans, so you're definitely skipping at least one meal and using your snack credits to make up for it.

    Not to mention that think it is a deal in general because we did ONE Quick Service lunch at Magic Kingdom for 5 people and it was JUST shy of $100 dollars. ONE meal. That, again, was NOT us picking the most expensive menu item available. Theme park food prices are outrageous and the sticker shock is not an enjoyable experience. Not having to worry about prices while at the restaurant is a liberating feeling - everyone just gets what they think looks good. You just have to keep track of your credits and for us that not only works well but saves us money in the long run with how big our group is.

    I stayed up all night the night before the promotion was released and snagged a CBR reservation during prime Christmas season with FD within the first 20 minutes it was live for the exact same price I would've paid to stay at All Star Movies and paid OOP for meals (everyone on here recommends researching the menus and pricing out what your party will eat and it's so annoying and time consuming but mostly worth it to compare if the FD will work for you or not). So to us it was worth paying "rack rate" for the room since it's a much nicer resort where we will definitely be more comfortable. Turns out there was a lot of availability at CBR since a lot of folks were put off by the construction so I didn't need to stay up all night to book at the first minute. There was still availability for two weeks afterward for my dates but not everyone is that lucky (especially those wanting to visit in September and November) so that is why folks pull the all-nighter.

    We're going to upgrade our Quick Service FD plan to the regular plan because we like to take a break and sit-down for a real meal every night. Doing that gives us time to re-group, rest our legs, fend off the tired/cranky kids, and just chill for a second out of the madness and crowds. so paying the $200 upgrade fee is more than worth it - 10 sit down meals for the price of one? Sold. Also, we really don't like to survive off of a hot dog/cheeseburger/chicken tender/french fry diet for longer than 2 days so having a time to sit down and eat literally anything else that is hopefully even a smidge healthier is something we really appreciate.

    Basically you really just have to weigh all your options. Which is annoying advice but unfortunately true. I personally think the FD promotion is the BEST deal out there for families and larger parties but that's just my opinion. I've seen folks say they had 8+ people in their party and would've wasted money on the DP, so take everything with a grain of salt and find what is going to work best for your family. It's definitely overwhelming and hard to wade through all the info at first but it's totally worth the headaches when you have a final plan that you feel good about. Plus, you'll be a WDW expert by the time your trip is planned which is fun. I quite like being the WDW expert in my family and friend group ahahaha

    This one is also hard because you aren't sure of what they'll even want to ride but the safest way to plan fastpass selections is to mostly choose the most popular attractions that everyone is tall enough for. That's because waits for these rides can be super duper long so you don't want to "waste" your fastpass on a ride that had a very short wait anyway. There are a bunch of sites that list all the attractions in each park and their popularity so that can help you decide which ones would be the "best use". You can also look into what the ride consists of once you've narrowed it down some so you know how "scary" or "tame" it is - youtube is usually a pretty good place for that. I think the biggest thing is to make sure that the kids will be okay with riding it before committing to the FP. I know I for one hate the Tower of Terror in HS but it used to be listed as one of the best FP uses because the lines would be sooooo long. So even though something is listed as a good use of the FP you'll want to be sure that it's something that all the kids will be alright getting on. Because then THAT is a waste of a FP you know? I'd rather FP something with a shorter wait time than go on something I really would prefer not to. Sorry - that didn't sound as helpful reading it back as it did in my head.

    EDIT: Additionally, I've seen a lot of folks say that the Room Only deals are better than Free Dining and while it may be true I have never seen that be true. I checked the RO deals for my dates once they were released and they were abysmal. Supposedly it was 20% off but it barely took anything off. It was maybe $100 cheaper than our FD reservation, that includes DINING, just for the room. Could've been because we have to go during certain dates that the discount wasn't really applied (time of year, probably) but I wouldn't trust that the RO deal is a better deal than FD
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2018
  19. RobertParr

    RobertParr Earning My Ears

    Jun 17, 2013
    Good to know. So much to digest. Thank you for the detailed advise.

    If you stay in a DW Resort for the days in DW and then another when going to UO, do you consider the day between resorts a wash do to check out and check in times vs time on rides? or is that when you hit the off-site stores for souvenirs or maybe catch an airboat ride?
  20. invinciblesummer

    invinciblesummer Earning My Ears

    Sep 7, 2018
    We usually schedule a "relax" day so that we don't have to rush to check out or in and get to a park. It works out better for us to just take the day to relax and go do do something outside of a park. Yes exactly like go get some non-overpriced souvenirs or an activity in the area. We really liked the airboat that was a fun experience! We once did a helicopter ride over Orlando and saw Disney from very high above which was cool and just a nice break. We went to Kennedy Space Center once which is so awesome and relatively close by - that year though we were staying off-site so it made sense to go do things that were a bit further away while we had the opportunity! We also are very fond of pool days where we do nothing at all and sit by the pool for as long as possible and de-stress haha
  21. billyjobobb

    billyjobobb Mouseketeer

    Aug 6, 2018
    If you stay at the hotels that aren't Disney but by Disney Springs (B resort, etc) you would still get the extra magic hours, the earlier fastpasses, etc.....

    You also get the fast food restaurants right outside the gate. Seriously, McDonalds and Taco Bell, sweet Tomatoes and all the others are a relatively quick trip for breakfast before heading into the parks. It's not like you'll be there from rope drop to last call anyways, so a short drive and you can get a far cheaper meal.

    We always stay at Bonnet Creek where you can get a 1 bedroom with a full kitchen and a washer / dryer. We save so much on food because it often means only 1 meal a day in the parks since we can make a good breakfast before leaving or have something to eat waiting for us at the end of the night.

    Don't stress too much about the fastpasses. Yes, they are helpful, but it won't detroy your trip if you don't get that great one.

    It's a vacation, treat it that way, do some research but don't think you have to do so much of what some people do and plan out every second.

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