We have all been smitten by the magic of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, while growing up. I remember making my sisters complete their chores fast, so that our parents would put on our Sunday morning shows (That’s the advantage of being the youngest one). Who can forget, Mickey club house, Duck Tales and Uncle Scrooge?
We lived in a fantasy of Mickey and Donald, until the whole lot of other Disney Characters happened. By the time, you remember one character, there are 20 more character’s to remember and to top it, your kid’s favorite characters keep changing and before you realize, your house is flooded with everything “DISNEY”. That’s the magic that you cannot escape, even though I can throw rocks at Elsa to shoo her away from our daughters life (I sometimes feel neglected). To live the dream even if it’s for a few days is truly magical and alas, came our turn.
It was my daughters 5th birthday and I wanted it to be special. That’s when, I started my Disney journey (without realizing how addictive it could get), almost like 6 months in advance. Trust me, even with that, I couldn’t get dining reservations for Cinderella’s Royal Table, I wish they had the option of throwing handkerchief to reserve the seat (that’s how you reserve seats on Indian public transport or I would like to believe, used to be).
I have read numerous blogs, spoken to umpteen people and called every travel group that are licensed. Yes, very few travel groups specializes in exclusive Disney bookings.
Let me take you through our journey, you ask and I answer:
How many days should we stay?
Personally, I feel it should be for 5days, if you are going for the first time. I insist on 5days only because Disney is an addiction (don’t tell me I didn’t warn you), you see one location, you would want to visit every other Disney locations, so save up! There are 4 main parks unlike any other Disney locations. Yes, Disney World is “BIG”.
Where should we stay?
I have two takes on this:
First, assuming it’s your first time, I would say, stay in one of their resorts. Some of the perks of staying in their resorts are:
- Free transport anytime
- You get first preference when it comes to booking the FastPass
- Extra before and after hours in the park
- Other fun activities in the resort
Second take, Look for Airbnb’s or hotels which are close to the parks. Find a hotel which provides free transport or don’t feel shy to ask the hotel to provide free transport. Some of the hotel listed below are walkable distance from the park (collected based on my research and not personal experience).
- Best Western Plus Park Place Inn
- Anaheim Desert Inn
- Park Vue Inn
Perks of staying out:
- Little light on the pocket
- If you are for it, you can even cook and save some bucks there (which I am totally against, my take is, you go on vacation to relax and see places not to be stuck in the kitchen stressing yourself out.)
Where did you stay?
We stayed in Animation Studio, Little Mermaid Resort. This was reasonable compared to all the other crazily expensive resort (I had to sell my kidney for it), though Disney Pop Star resort is the cheapest among them all, you can also get some amazing deals if you keep looking. Also, if you book through a travel agent, they will look for the deals and keep updating you.
How did you book?
We booked our package through “Small Wonder Vacations”. Comparatively, we thought Small Wonder had the best deal. Though not much difference in pricing, it’s more on the customer service, which is very important.
What kind of package did you book?
We took a 4 days single park entry pass. They also have the option of park hopping, which I totally discourage. Each park is massive and you will not have the energy to take a bus to get to another park, which is like at least 30min away.
We also bought food vouchers which includes quick snacks, lunch and sit down dinner.
- Quick snacks include fruits, muffins, chocolate bars, ice creams, pop-corns, cookies and etc.
- Lunch includes all the meals that you get in the kiosk inside the park.
- Sit down dining requires reservations in the restaurants inside the park/resorts and its more fine dining, though drinks are not part of the plan.
It is definitely worth taking the 4 days meal package and we were left with a lot of coupons, which we used up on the 5th day, so it was quite sufficient.
How to plan out the day?
Make a time table, I mean it, write it down on a piece of paper or if you maintain a journal. You will need it to book your FastPass and make your dining reservations.
Our plan was:
Day 1: Epcot, this was my favorite park.
Day 2: Animal Kingdom
Day 3: Magic Kingdom, this was obviously my daughter’s favorite park
Day 4: Hollywood Studios, this was hubby’s favorite because of Star Wars and Indiana Jones show.
Day 5: We went to Disney Springs, did the boardwalk and went back to the resort to laze around. Yes, even if you have checked out, you can still use the amenities.
Aah! That’s an exhaustive planning, isn’t it? It doesn’t end here, you have a couple of more tasks to be completed before the dream vacation becomes a reality.
Happy cursing through the booking galore!
(Check out my next article for some tips)