Expedia trip tips: Disney FYI -- 5 things you need to know | ShopAtHome.com

Expedia trip tips: 5 things to know before you go to Disney World

August 1st, 2013

disney1disney2By Natalie Marusin

If you have kids and are keen on taking a vacation with the little ones in tow, a Disney vacation is most likely in your near future. And, with all types of new Disney attractions and activities popping up regularly, your trip can become complicated (not to mention expensive) fast.

So, whether you’re a frequent visitor to theme parks or you haven’t been to “the happiest place on Earth” in a while, there are some tips and tricks to making your day with Mickey Mouse a bit more enjoyable — and easier on the wallet. Kay Belin, a guest blogger on the Expedia Viewfinder travel blog, has made it her business to know all the ins and outs of Disney parks, and has happily given us the scoop on the five things you need to know before you go to Disney World.

Disney FYI: 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Go

By Kay Belin, Disney Parks Moms Panelist

There is often one common word used to describe families planning a Walt Disney World vacation: overwhelmed! It is understandable when you realize they are heading to one of the largest vacation destinations in the world. But with a deep breath – and some essential pre-planning – a Disney vacation can be truly magical.

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Understanding all that is offered and available is crucial for any trip to be enjoyed by the entire family. Here are some tips that guests should know before they arrive to make their vacation a success:

Tip 1: Understand Florida weather — and crowds

Folks tend to over-complicate it. In short: Summers will be busy, hot and humid, with guaranteed afternoon thunderstorms. Conversely, Florida’s fall and winter months are cool, even chilly in the evenings (pack your sweatshirts). Typically, the parks are not as crowded outside of summer and peak holiday periods. Based on your preference of weather pattern and appetite for crowds, pick a vacation date that best suits your group’s collective needs and comfort.

Tip 2: Disney’s resort categories

Some families like to be close to the parks; others choose to save money and spend less for their room. Disney offers three unique resort categories: value, moderate and deluxe. Most families can find a great resort somewhere in this range that fits their vacation budget. Take time to check them out and compare, and don’t forget to look at the Disney Vacation Club (Disney’s version of timeshare) properties, as well. If they are available, any guest can reserve them for their vacation without being a member.

The bonuses to booking a Disney resort: complimentary transportation service to-and-from Orlando International Airport and your resort (Disney’s Magical Express), additional hours in the parks only for resort guests (Extra Magic Hours) and on-site transportation (buses, boats, monorails, walkways) throughout the entire property.

Tip 3: Advanced dining reservations

Too many unprepared families arrive not realizing that all Disney table-service restaurants accept advanced dining reservations. These can be made up to 180 days before your arrival date and they are strongly encouraged. It’s rare to walk up, same-day, and find a table at Disney’s hottest eateries. The more popular ones – such as character dining experiences like Chef Mickey’s and newer locations like Be Our Guest Restaurant in New Fantasyland – immediately book up when their reservation windows open, so you don’t want to disappoint your family by not getting the reservations you need. Budget tip: Consider booking a lunch – as opposed to dinner – as menus tend to be similar yet less expensive.

Tip 4: Get to know the parks

You can find maps of each of the four theme parks and the entire resort property online, so have everyone study them well in advance of your vacation. Have a general plan and let each member of the family have input to make it a true family vacation. Confirm a meeting spot in the parks when your party splits. You can also find park hours online about six months ahead of your visit to assist you in the process.

Tip 5: Forget the parks

Most guests decide to come to Walt Disney World because they have four great theme parks to visit. However, there is so much more to a Disney vacation. Guests can enjoy sports and recreation such as golf, fishing, boating and horseback riding. There are two beautiful water parks — Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Downtown Disney abounds in fun during the day and night, and it is where you can find Disney Quest (an indoor theme park), Splitsville (bowling), an AMC Movie Theater and Cirque du Soleil, just to mention a few choices. Don’t forget to check out the specialty cruises that all guests can book, including “Pirates and Pals” and “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” fireworks cruises.

As you can see, planning is fundamental to a Walt Disney World vacation. In addition to reducing stress, it gets every member of the family engaged in the trip. And, once it’s out of the way, you can begin your stress-free countdown to the Vacation Kingdom!

Kay Belin is a member of the 2013 Disney Parks Moms Panel. Panelists have received/will receive a Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Disneyland Resort or Disney Vacation Club vacation for panelist and up to three family members and/or park tickets for their participation on the Walt Disney World® Moms Panel. The views expressed in the Panel are those of the panelists, who are independent contractors. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online, its affiliates, its management, its agents or its employees and have not been reviewed or approved by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online prior to posting.

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Natalie Marusin is a Colorado native fresh on the blog scene. She writes and edits for the Online Shopping Report at ShopAtHome.com. She graduated with an English degree from Colorado State University, and previously wrote for MileHighSports.com. Follow her on Twitter @ncmarusin.