We held out until this year to head off to the dreamworld of Disney for our family vacation. My daughters are now 8 and 5, and we figured this was the ideal time for them to truly enjoy and remember this magical place.
Let me begin by saying – Disney is not cheap. While there are things you can do to save money, overall this place can put quite a dent in your pocketbook. We knew this going in and had planned on this trip for over a year – so we had money put away, but I can’t see doing this again any time soon.
As I mentioned I started planning this trip almost a year in advance, mostly because we used Airline Miles for our trip to lessen the cost and to get the flights we wanted, we had to book this early. Once we booked our flight, the rest of the planning was done on Disney’s website – which is pretty awesome. Even better, Disney now connects everything to Magic Bands which store all your info so once you get to the Resort, you need not worry about keys, cash, tickets, etc. Your magic band gives you access to the park, is your hotel room key, serves as your ID, and allows you to charge any purchases to your room (adults only).
Once I made our resort reservations, you can plan, book and link all of your activities right there on the site. 180 days before your trip you can start making reservations – and believe me – you really NEED to do this for any high-demand activities. I made reservations for dinner at the Castle (Royal Table) and the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo Boutique exactly 180 days before the trip (and still could not get the exact times I would have preferred!).
Where We Stayed
There are so many amazing choices in resorts on the Disney properties. All offer a different experience. We chose to stay at The Cabins at the Fort Wilderness Campground. There are several reasons we choose this resort over the others. One, with my daughter’s allergies, I needed a full kitchen. While Disney is awesome at cooking for allergies (when making reservations, you can let them know you have a food allergy and the chef personally comes to your table to discuss safe options before you order), we just cannot eat out (nor did we want to) 3x a day for 6 days. A kitchen and full-size fridge was a must for this trip. The cabins offered this. They also provided us a nice break from the crowds. The campground is spacious and having our own little house with a deck was a wonderful respite from the crowds at the parks.
TIP: If you do rent a room with a kitchen or kitchenette, you can have groceries delivered right to your door. There are several services around – we used Garden Grocer and couldn’t have been happier! We didn’t even need to be there for delivery – they’ll just put all your groceries away for you!
TIP: This campground is HUGE. You need to use a bus system to get around…or, you can rent a golf cart. If you don’t wish to rely on buses, I would highly recommend renting a cart. You can do so through Disney per day, or use an outside vendor (which we did to save some extra cash).
We had 5 full days. We visited one park per day and left one day to just relax at the resort. That one relaxation day was MUCH needed – I highly recommend reserving one day to chill out at the pool. The resort even offered hours of organized kid activities while my husband and I relaxed poolside!
All of the parks are unique and worth a visit however, if given the chance to do it over, I would have liked to have 2 full days at Magic Kingdom. It was by far the most interesting and fun for my girls. We were there from 8:30am – 9pm and didn’t see half of the park! The rest of the parks we were able to “complete” in a day.
If you know anything about me, you know I have a love for taking pictures. I debated for weeks on whether or not I should bring my expensive DSLR to Disney or not. I knew there would be moments I wanted to capture with my good camera, but I knew I didn’t want to spend my trip worrying about the safety of my lenses. A friend told me about the photography service Disney offers called Photopass Plus. Basically you purchase unlimited photographs from Disney Photographers during the length of your stay. You get a CD of all your high resolution images. The best part is that I got to be in the pictures too!
And there is no shortage of photographers. They are positioned throughout the parks at all scenic spots and with most characters. In the end I brought my little point and shoot and was so happy when I could tuck it into my pocket for rides and not worry! In the end I had almost 200 photos taken by the park and I was quite happy with the majority of them.
A Princess Dream
If you have little girls, this is place to let them become princesses. We splurged on the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique makeover for both of them where they were transformed into true princesses by their “fairy god mother”. There are many options, our girls just had their hair, make up and nails done (we brought our own dresses – the dresses there are upwards of $60!).
And once they were finished with their makeovers we headed over to the studio where they had portraits taken (all these photos were taken by the Photopass Photographers).
We ended our evening at the Magic Kingdom with dinner at the Royal Palace. Upon entering, the girls had their photos taken with Cinderella.
And throughout dinner different princesses visited our table for autographs and photos.
Another thing my girls loved is that everyone, everywhere referred to them as “Princess”. Too cute!
Fun & Free (or almost free) Activities
Two activities my children participated in the entire trip was pin trading and autograph collecting.
Autograph collecting was super fun for my girls. Throughout all the parks there are character spots where you can meet and get your photo taken with the character. Almost all the children have autograph books and enjoy collecting fun autographs. We surprised our girls with autograph books and pens upon arrival at the park. You can purchase them in the park, but I picked mine up on Amazon before we left.
Pin Trading is another fun activity. Within the parks many of the Cast Members (employees), wear lanyards or bags with Disney Collecting Pins. Any child can approach a Cast Member and ask to trade pins. Obviously you need to start out with a few pins to make this activity worth while. We picked up 3 pins for each girl before we left, but they got so involved in collecting we purchased a bunch more for them so they could collect sets.
|Pin Trading with a Cast Member|
My daughter finished collecting an entire set of these birds on our 3rd day in the parks. She was so excited I had to catch the moment!
TIP: If you are going to pin trade, you can score packs of Disney Pins at a decent price on eBay. If you purchase them in the parks they are quite expensive, especially since you will want at least 7 or 8 to start. Just make sure you purchase official Disney pins. Replicas are not allowed to be traded!
|Her set is complete!|
|Donald admiring her pins.|
All in all we had a wonderful trip!