Help! Disney novice - it's all so overwhelming!

(13 Posts)
julietbat Mon 18-Jan-16 11:40:11

We're trying to plan our first trip to Florida for summer 2017. It will be me, DW, DD (who will be 9) and DS (who will be 7). But I just have no idea where to start!! There is so much information and after a while my head feels like it's about to explode! confused

We're looking at about two weeks over there and aren't sure whether we should do the whole time at Disney or whether we should do one week in the parks and then a second week on the Gulf coast somewhere. Is one week enough or will we run ourselves ragged trying to do everything?!

Would anyone who's been before with kids (they're quite adrenalin-junkie types!) mind suggesting their tips for what to do and what not to do, please? Best hotels? Should we stay on-site or off? Best meals? Etc.

Thank you smile

mouldycheesefan Mon 18-Jan-16 14:10:44

Look on the dibb website
Read the guidebooks

We are doing 9 nights Disney, 1 night Kennedy, 5 nights coast
Not doing universal or sea world or Busch gardens.

Start with your budget that will help guide your hotel choice etc

Sp

mummymeister Mon 18-Jan-16 14:37:18

1 week is not enough. you will run yourselves ragged trying to see everything. go for 2. buy 2 books, WDW with kids and Beyond WDW with kids they are fab. in the back they have touring plans on each of the attractions. this will help you to focus on what you do/don't want to do. book your flights and accomm separately yourself. its cheaper. we always go for a villa - gives you much more flexibility and gets you away from all the disneyfication. have a look at sunset lakes on owners direct website for ideas of what you can get and the cost.

plan to do Disney and universal but use the books to make sure they are the right heights for things. 9 and 7 - unless they are tall - will mean they cant go on some rides and its worth knowing that before you go.

julietbat Mon 18-Jan-16 16:58:59

Thanks both.

Mummy you're right - I am worried about getting frazzled trying to squeeze everything in to one week. I don't want it to be a stressful experience!
You suggest staying off-site in a villa - how do you get to and from the parks? Do you drive there and therefore is it ever a problem trying to park?

sandythesquirrel Mon 18-Jan-16 17:30:57

We spent three weeks in Florida - 15 nights in Orlando and 6 nights at Palm Beach to recover

Your children need to be both over 122cm for the rides and some I am sure where for 130cm or taller. We waited for DS to be 125cm - otherwise he would have missed out on so many fun rides. If one child is tall enough and the other not - I would really advise waiting another year.

I also think 9 and 7 are young - unless you plan a return trip when they are older.

We stayed at Disney Boardwalk Inn - it was the best location ever and a great hotel. I really recommend it. We did get very tired by about the fourth day so we spent a day around the pool and around the boardwalk (it is like a mini theme park itself). Every evening the Boardwalk was bustling. We even wasted one whole day just doing nothing because we were knackered - we slept in until about 11am and took a taxi to a mall for a few hours.

There were shuttles to/from airport and between all the disney theme parks. We did get a taxi to/from international drive, to Sea World and to Universal.

Sea World and Universal were definitely worth the taxi trip out.

Build in a couple of non-theme park days to chill or go shopping. If you can do a few days at a beach after it is great. We stayed at the Four Seasons Resort - which is a daydream of a place.

That trip cost a fortune - over £10k - but then we stayed at really nice hotels - we could have saved a few grand staying somewhere cheaper - but it was a lifetime holiday. But generally everything costs a lot of money. You will come back with a lot of tacky Disney souvenirs....

julietbat Mon 18-Jan-16 21:02:46

Thanks sandy - lots of food for thought there! It's such an expensive holiday I've got to make sure I've thought it through properly. 10k?! shock Mind you, you said that was for 3 weeks which makes sense.

The kids are already over 120cm - my 6 year old is close to 125cm already (he's a giant in his class grin) and my 7 year old is 122/123 cm so I'm hoping by the summer after next they'll be fine height-wise. But you're right, making sure they can both ride the same things would be paramount. Particularly because it would be the older one who would potentially lose out and I can't see her dealing with that well!

The Boardwalk Inn sounds great, just the sort of thing we'd love. I'll look into that a bit more now, thank you. Those kind of personal recommendations are brilliant smile

BaconAndAvocado Mon 18-Jan-16 21:20:12

We were told last year that the car park at Magic Kingdom is the biggest in the world! There is never a problem with parking as everywhere is so very vast.

I would strongly recommend staying at a villa to escape the madness of the parks and just chill. We always managed to get to,the parks very early and returned to the villa at 3ish.

mummymeister Tue 19-Jan-16 08:24:57

julietbat you have to remember that Disney will be like nothing you have ever seen! The sheer scale of the organisation is phenomenal. there is never ever a lack of parking and you park and walk to a bus that takes you there. this isn't the uk where you park 1 mile away and are expected to trudge there and back.

you will need a car if you really want to explore and to go at your own pace but they are not that expensive really and gives you the flexibility to go to Kennedy space centre and also to other parks.

have a look at villas on ownersdirect. we stayed in a perfect one on sunset lakes and it wasn't expensive. once you own the 2 books I recommended it will all become a lot clearer.

if they are older/bigger then you have to factor Universal studios into your plans. this is where Harry Potter world is and the rides are bigger and more exciting.

BiddyPop Tue 19-Jan-16 08:56:13

We had a flexi ticket - that we could use all the Disney parks on any 7 days in 10. So we used both water parks (1 morning each) and went into the "rides" parks after on both days (1 straight away, the other in the evening). It also allowed us to go in for a while in the morning, go back to our apartment, and go back in the evening when it was cooler and quieter. The water parks were actually great, good pools, nice slides and relaxed.

DRINK YOUR WATER. All day. It's very humid and you WILL lose your rag (faster) if dehydrated. Let the kids run into the various fountains - they'll dry off in about 10 minutes. The restaurants etc will pretty much all give you glasses of water if you ask - but you need to ask. We used to get a coke or fizzy drink with lunch but also glasses of water, and also refilled our own water bottles at the various drinking fountains around.

If you have 2 weeks, you can get out into Orlando, and wider Florida. Kennedy Space Centre is a full day outing (we didn't even get the bus to the rocket park, as the Atlantis shuttle was only newly opened and took all our time). We also had a day doing a canoe/nature trip, which finished with swimming and picnic lunch (we had to bring our own picnic but they provided all the equipment), which was really interesting, DD loved jumping into deep water hole off a tree swing, we saw lots of wildlife and it was a lovely and cool, dim, and slow day. There are LOADS of other things to do - either other parks (Busch Gardens, Universal etc) or into Orlando or heading to the beach or into the everglades etc.

DD, aged 8 but short for her age, was too small for only 4 rides across all the parks (I can't remember the exact details now - but I had checked it out and knew which ones to avoid). But she did loads - all the Mountains, the "Tower of Terror" - the lot! And there are plenty of slower rides too that she still loved - like the teacups or Dumbo.

DON'T feel you have to rush around to see it all. Either decide beforehand that "we'll be back again sometime so we don't have to do everything" (even if it may be years away), or tell them that there won't be time to do everything so look themselves at the books (maybe get a kids book) and decide the things that they really want to see/do.

We didn't go for Princess stuff, dining with characters or things like that. Tended to bring in picnics and eat in the more "takeout" type food places (some were indoors with seating, some outdoors with seating, some just stalls to wander from); or else have a snack and eat later in a restaurant/back in the apartment. DO bring snacks in your bag in case people get worn out, and don't be afraid to take breaks and find quieter spots or shady areas. We went during 4th July (the busiest period) and DD has ASD/ADHD so difficulties with crowds/noise, and we got through with no meltdowns as we planned ahead - not set routes of rides to see (I know some people recommend that) but some rides we did want to see and checking maps either on arrival or in advance to see quiet spots or food places to make strategic retreats when needed.

Each park will give you maps of each park - getting one each is great. But the "tourist office" at the entrances will also have maps of the other parks. So either on your first day someone gets at least 1 map of each, or the day before you plan to go get the maps for tomorrow. Then you can look at them back in your accommodation at night, and see if there are rides you really want to go on, or character spots that might be worth stopping at etc.

Let the DCs bring an autograph book for the characters, and have a big sharpie type marker. Some spots, and charaters, are mobbed - others can be very quiet.

In terms of the parks:
Magic Kingdom - we loved and went in about 4 times, including afternoon parade. It's what most people think of as "Disney".
Epcot - we also loved and went in about 4/5 times, including the nighttime firework show. The trek around the world part was great, and had good food (german beers, olde English pub (the day Tim Henman won Wimbledon! so a good atmosphere, there were some nice sweet and bakery shops etc). And there was also a really lovely Christmas shop which I think was in Epcot, to pick up a decoration for your tree to remember the trip (they can be personalized).
Animal Kingdom - was ok. DD got the Park Ranger book to go around, look at various spots and get stamps and stickers. But we only went once.
Hollywood Studios - was also good although we only got there once. Has the Tower of Terror. Lots of good restaurants all along "Main Street USA", good playground area based on "Honey I Shrunk the Kids", and very cool shows of how they make movies.
Both water parks were good. We didn't go to the World of Sport (too much on otherwise).

And we didn't use our 7th day - we went into the Disney town shopping part instead of heading into parks. Really good lego shop (you can make up your own lego figures), figurines shops and souvenirs, bowling, cinema, and plenty of decent food spots.

Pace yourselves and it will be great!

julietbat Wed 20-Jan-16 13:52:07

Thank you so much for the mammoth post, Biddy - loads of fantastic info for me to start digesting.
It's going to be hard not to want to do everything though! I'm going to have to be very stern with myself, let alone the children grin
Thanks for all the specific info - getting people's personal recommendations really helps.

And mummy, I'm off to order the two books right now...!

BaconAndAvocado Wed 20-Jan-16 17:19:24

Another top tip at Disney is to use your 3 Fastpasses each day, they cut down/completely eradicate queuing.

Onykahonie Sat 23-Jan-16 19:34:16

We stayed at Old Key West (fab S/C apartments) when the kids were 10 and 12. Using the Disboards for advice on when/where to book, we managed to get a great discount on the accommodation with free Disney dining. If you get free dining, book as many places as you can in advance (online), to avoid the queues.

We found 2 weeks at the parks was great for us. Get to the parks when they open and walk anti-clockwise, using fast passes when possible. Then enjoy the pools/waterparks later in the day and go back to the parks for the parades and to eat, at night.

We squeezed in a day at Universal, which was great fun, but very expensive with much longer queues than Disney. You really need a few days at Universal to do it justice, or just stick to Disney.

SwedeDreams Mon 21-Mar-16 15:01:39

Dont book until after May. Free dining is usually released mid-May- if you are staying on-site (in a deluxe or moderate Disney hotel) you can then have all your meals paid for. This made it worth us staying onsite as opposed to a villa.

Onsite advantages- no car necessary as long as you are happy to use the free buses. There's movies by the pool and marshmallow roasts every evening- plus easy to get back into the parks in the evenings if you just want to watch the fireworks/have dinner.

Free Dining: You get free counter service dining (QS) at moderate resorts- or a package with one table service meal a day at deluxe. However if you book Saratoga Springs or old Key West (which are deluxe) in May you usually get 30% off - which gives you free dining with table service (cinderellas castle, T-Rex, Coral Reef, Hoop de doo Revue etc) for the same price as staying at a moderate hotel (Caribbean Beach/ Port Orleans for e.g.). That was really complicated to explain but it is a proper bargain!

Read reviews and book all your dining as soon as possible.

We do 2 weeks at Disney only- usual day is breakfast at hotel, off to theme park for 4 or so hours using fastpasses- then lunch at the park and back to hotel for swim & lounge by the pool. The hotels run activities/competitions every afternoon for kids. Then either out to a theme park/ Disney Springs/stay at hotel for dinner. It was great and allowed DS loads of pool time and made the parks much more bearable. You could take a couple days out for Universal etc if you wanted but we havent bothered yet...

Dont fly BA- Virgin much better. If you are booking a package Disney often come out cheapest- unless you are looking for stopovers etc.

We have been a few times- its fabulous!

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