This month, I’m writing a series titled 31 Days of Disney! In this part of the series, I’m reviewing past Disney trips and lessons learned along the way. Today’s post is a review of our fourth trip to Disney World. This was our first Disney trip as a family of four, our first Disney trip with two children, and the trip on which we learned the greatest lessons to date. If you’re considering a family trip to Disney with your children, love Disney or just want a fun and highly informative read, this post is for you!
Quick Summary of our 2010 Trip to Disney World
We decided it was time to take the plunge. Time to take the plunge into our first week-long Disney vacation as a family of four. We’d made three trips to Disney prior – when we honeymooned, when I was pregnant with our second child, and when we brought our son for the first time – but those trips weren’t the same as this one. This was a FULL. FLEDGED. FAMILY DISNEY TRIP.
This was our oldest daughter’s first trip to Disney. It was also her first airplane ride and her first time going on a week-long family vacation. For those reasons alone, it was special for our Elsa girl.
We got on that plane, deboarded in Orlando, Florida, and spent a week at Walt Disney World Resort. We made a good go at it, that’s for sure! We used Disney transportation. We stayed on Disney property for the first time ever. We purchased the Disney dining plan for the first time ever. And we did seven days of Disney parks and waterparks. As you might guess, that means this vacation was 100% Disney. Clearly, Disney floats our boat.
We had a marvelous time. Incredible, in fact. Looking back, I realize this vacation was not only fabulous, but an invaluable learning opportunity. We learned so much on this vacation. What to do. What not to do. And under ideal circumstances, what works best when traveling to Disney as a family. On this vacation, we learned lessons we’re still applying to this day. Here goes, friends.
Lesson 1: Staying on Disney property is convenient and fabulous.
Okay. So we did NOT stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort as pictured above. For some odd reason, I didn’t take any photos at our resort during this vacation, so this is the only photo I have of us on Disney property from this particular trip. We chose to stay at a “Disney Value Resort” as that was the only property type we could afford as a young family of four. Let me just say that the “value” resort was amazing. We loved it. It was perfect for our family. We were close to all the parks. We didn’t have to worry about renting a car, and instead took shuttles to and from the parks every day. Everything about our vacation was Disney all the way around, including the art on our walls, the shower curtain in our bathroom, and the Mickey shaped waffles for breakfast. Huge lesson learned on this trip. When traveling to Walt Disney World, we HIGHLY recommend staying on Disney property. Whatever you can afford. Whatever makes sense for your family. The “value” resorts are great. If you have money to do a higher-end upgraded resort, go for it! They’re all fantastic, incredibly convenient and well done, no surprise.
Lesson 2: Autograph books are AMAZING!
This was our first Disney trip with two school-aged children, so we had a lot of Disney tricks to learn while navigating this trip. On day one, we realized we’d be meeting characters at the 1900 Park Fare breakfast, and didn’t have anything for them to sign. I remember purchasing two autograph books and two big Disney pens at the Grand Floridian Resort gift shop just next to the 1900 Park Fare dining room. The kids used the autograph books that first morning and like mad the rest of the trip. They got autographs from EVERY Disney character they met. If you have preschool and school-aged children, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing an autograph book and big pen for each child the first day you arrive at a Disney park. It’s cheap. It’s fun for the kids to get the characters’ autographs, gives them more time with characters, provides great opportunity for photos, and is fun for them to bring home and show their friends all the autographs they got on vacation!
Lesson 3: Late night at Disney parks can be incredibly magical, even with littles!
After one incredibly late night at Magic Kingdom during this trip, we became huge fans and proponents of occasional late nights at Disney parks! I realize it’s not conventional for parents to suggest late nights for kids. After all, they can get super crabby, which can ruin your next day. But if you plan it right, late nights with kids at Disney can be a huge success! On this particular evening, Disney was running Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom. When you stay at a Disney resort, you can take advantage of special days when they open select parks early and keep them open late for extra enjoyment with fewer crowds. Extra Magic Hours are amazing, both in the morning and in the evening. Morning Extra Magic Hours are a great time to get in a couple rides and the best photographs without lines and crowds all around. But to me, evening Extra Magic Hours are extra special. On this trip, we became fully aware of the magic of Disney at night. We got an awesome seat for the electric parade, enjoyed snacks, put on our sweatshirts and literally ran around the park enjoying ride after ride with no lines AT ALL! It was amazing. A Disney memory I’ll certainly never forget. And one I’ll always try to recreate on future trips.
Lesson 4: Disney dining plan is the way to go!
Did you know that Disney has a dining plan where you can pay a flat fee, in advance for a certain number of meals and snacks per person per day while you’re at the parks? This was the first trip we tried the Disney dining plan, and when it comes to Disney World, we’ll never do it any other way again. Disney dining is fantastic, and takes the hassle out of mealtimes for sure. On this trip in 2010, our next trip in 2011, and on our upcoming trip in 2015, we purchased the dining plan in which each person gets 1 sit down meal, 1 quick service meal, and 1 snack per day. It’s perfect for our family and highly recommended. The sit down meals include a whole range of options, including formal sit-down meals at steak houses and character dining. The quick service meals are just that…quick service at places all around the Disney parks; you pick up a meal that’s pretty much ready to go, and there you are! Time to eat! Snacks are self explanatory, and are actually a pretty good deal because you can choose anything from as small as a soda, to as large as a pineapple float. If I haven’t said it enough, we love Disney dining. The value is incredible. You don’t have to carry cash around everywhere or worry (or fight) about every single dollar you’re spending. I think you get much more for your money doing the dining plan than you would paying meal by meal while you’re at the parks. Plus, it provides young families with the amazing opportunity to meet characters up close and personal at the specialized character dining locations. Character dining is definitely a Disney must if you’re going all in for a week-long family vacation.
That’s it for today, friends. This post feels like Disney gold to me. Some of our greatest lessons were learned on this trip. If you have any questions about any of these items, please feel free to ask! I’m happy to chat and answer any questions you have.
This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!
I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.
You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days, and I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson. You can also find me on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson, and I might even do a few scopes live from Disney World, so follow me on Periscope at @AmyBPederson to see if I get brave!
So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.