Tips for Vacationing at Disney

We are just finishing up a great vacation that included 4 days at Disney with 2 days at their Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Although expensive, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth every penny.  There is something wonderful about seeing God's beautiful creations roaming right off your balcony. My eldest loved the bunk bed and talking to the animals whenever she got the chance.

The view from our Animal Kingdom Lodge room.
Animal Kingdon Lodge:  A giraffe eating right outside our room.

These are my lessons learned from our trip.

1)  If you are staying at a resort, do online check-in.  You can check-in online up to 10 days prior to your arrival date.  I did so and when I arrived at the hotel there is a counter specifically for those that have checked in online.  I was the first one in line.  The regular check-in line had a few families waiting.  In addition, my keys and my room were ready.  However, the room for guy next to me in the regular linewas not ready and they were going to text him when it became available.

2) Use the Fast Pass Option.  Certain popular rides will have Fast Pass kiosks which will issue you a time to return to the ride without having to wait in the regular line.  Instead of waiting 60 minutes at a ride, you wait 5 min.  It is well worth it!

3)  If staying at a Disney resort, leave at least a full day to spend at the hotel.  We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and there was so much to do, but we just did not have enough time to truly enjoy it.  We spent so much time at the parks, we did not enjoy everything the resort had to offer like watching a Disney movie from the pool!

4)  If staying at a resort, get the Dining Option!  This is a real money saver if you plan to eat most of your meals at restaurants.  Disney says that you can save up to 20%, but I believe that it is more, especially if you are careful with how you use your credits.

5) Be careful how you use your dining credits.  If you have the Dining Option, you get a lot of food per meal.  Our first day we used it when we ordered lunch we got so much food we couldn't eat it all.  We would have had enough for all three of us for just 2 meal credits instead of using 3.  Although we still came out ahead, we could have used our credits better to get more out of them.

6) To save money, bring your own food.  Disney allows you to bring food into the parks so it is possible to pack sandwiches and snacks instead of buying food at the park.  Our resort room also had small refrigerators.  I am not sure if all Disney resorts do, but it is worth calling or checking the room amenities before hand.

7) If you are military, take full advantage of their military discounts.  Disney has the Shades of Green resort that is exclusively for military, but they also provide steep discounts at some of their other resorts.  At the Animal Kingdom Lodge it is 40% off the regular rate.  The best deal of all is the 4 day park hopper which at the military rate was for $136.00 per person (not including water parks)--compare that to $250.00+ at-the-gate rate.

8) You may need more than one day for your favorite parks.  We did not feel that one day was enough to see and do everything at Epcot nor the Animal Kingdom.  We could have easily spent two days at each of those parks. 

Meeting Cinderella at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
9) If you are looking for a cheap souvenir, the pressed pennies are a great option.  Everything at the Disney parks is super expensive.  A lot of people will do the pin trading but you are paying anywhere from $7-$14 per pin (and sometimes more for the nicer pins).  We found a pressed penny Tinker Bell holder for $8.  After that it costs only 50 cents to press the penny.  My daughter loves it and she has one for each country at Epcot, one of each of the parks, and various ones of her favorite characters. 

10)  If you want to dine with the princesses, do so at Epcot's Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  It is cheaper than the one at Magic Kingdom (only takes one dining credit compared to two at Magic Kingdon) and the girls get some great one-on-one time with each of the princesses (Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Belle).

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