Disney Park Itineraries

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Do you have 1 day to spend at one of the Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other Disney theme parks? Our Disney park itineraries will help, with our recommended attack plans for the day, covering everything from attractions to restaurants to quiet places to stop and enjoy the ambiance.

Our patented (not really) park itineraries are dubbed “Daily Trip Blueprints” or DTBs (like the site’s acronym, “clever,” eh?) for short. Unlike most theme park strategy guides that you’ll find, these are not focused solely on efficiency. We believe Disney theme parks should be sipped like a fine wine, and enjoyed for the wonderful atmosphere and sense of place that separates them from other theme and amusement parks. In other words, if you’re a commando ride junkie who is only concerned with quantity of attractions “completed” and not quality of the experience, these itineraries are not for you.

Of course, given that the Disney Parks do cost a lot of money to visit, and for many people are a once in a lifetime trip, we also understand the need and desire to get the most bang for your buck by doing as many attractions as possible, so we balance this “stop and smell the roses” mentality with a sense of efficiency, as well. We think the result is plans that allow you to get a lot done, while also enjoying the scenery and what the theme parks have to offer beyond the rides. We do not view the parks simply as collections of attractions that should be completed checklist style, so the plans balance “getting stuff done” with “having a nice, leisurely day.”

If that approach sounds appealing to you, check out our plans… (more…)

Tips for Renting Cars for Walt Disney World

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One of the big dilemmas facing many people is if they should rent a car at Walt Disney World, and if so, how to save money when renting a car at Orlando International Airport. This post covers the pros and cons of renting a car for a Walt Disney World vacation, as well as how to go about saving the most money on rental cars, and other rental car hacks, pitfalls, and other random rambling.

As a threshold matter, you have to determine whether you need to rent a car at Walt Disney World in the first place. Unlike many other vacation destinations, a rental car at Walt Disney World is not a strict necessity, so don’t assume that a booking a rental car is an inherent step in your trip planning. In the first section of this post, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of renting a car. If you already have determined that a rental car is right for your family, you can skip ahead to the second half of the article, which covers tips and tricks for saving money on rental cars at Walt Disney World (and beyond).

We have a lot of ground to cover in this post, so let’s start by taking a look at whether you should rent a car at Walt Disney World or roll the dice and rely on Disney’s “lovely” “free” transportation system… (more…)

How Much Does a Walt Disney World Vacation Cost?

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The cost of a Disney trip can be shocking, often being much higher than people anticipate. This post takes a look at Walt Disney World vacation price ranges for each element of the trip, from park tickets to hotels to dining and beyond. Hopefully, it will help you avoid sticker shock when you make that Walt Disney World vacation quote request, or will help you to come up with a more reasonable plan if you’ve already received the quote and realize it isn’t feasible.

Frankly, this is a tough post to tackle. Even with hypotheticals it’s impossible to pin down the actual cost for every set of circumstances. Rather than try that, we’re going to look at some ranges and prices for each aspect of the trip, come up with totals based on those, and let you extrapolate for your own conclusions based upon that information. Given that the thing most readers report surprise over to us via comments and emails is cost (crowds and lines are a very distant second), I felt this a topic worth addressing, even if I can’t give any hard numbers for everyone.

As a blunt preface: a Walt Disney World vacation is an expensive proposition. It’s undeniable that Walt Disney World vacation costs have skyrocketed in the last 5 years, and with record attendance, that trend doesn’t seem likely to reverse itself anytime soon. Despite this, I think that the comparative cost of a Walt Disney World vacation is not out of line with many other destinations.

Sure, you could travel to one of America’s National Parks and pay a $10 entry fee for your entire vehicle for a week, camp on-site for $15/night, and cook food by campfire for $25/day for a party of 4. You could also travel to New York and spend the cost of theme park tickets on daily entertainment, pay $150/night for ‘adequate’ accommodations, $55/night for parking, and an exorbitant amount on food. The point isn’t that a Disney vacation isn’t expensive, but that expensive is a relative term.

This post assumes a 5-day, 4-night Walt Disney World vacation for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) that is not within driving distance to Walt Disney World, with no rental car unless otherwise specified. Airfare is not discussed as it varies so widely based upon origin city that there’s really nothing meaningful to say–just know that it’s another cost that’ll probably add another $200-500 per person to your trip.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the range of costs you should expect to incur for each element of your Walt Disney World vacation… (more…)

Disneyland Annual Pass Info & Tips

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This post breaks down the confusing world of Disneyland Annual Passes to help you determine if an AP is for you, and if so, which one. It also covers some of the benefits of having an Annual Pass, and ways to make the most of those benefits.

Worth noting up front is that a Disneyland Annual Pass is probably not for most people who live outside Southern California. Even if you’re the type who has a Walt Disney World Annual Pass while living in Indiana, since typical visiting patterns are different for Disneyland, the percentage of out of state visitors to Disneyland who will need an Annual Pass is pretty small. Basically, it’s those people who will make a few trips to Disneyland per year, or who already have Walt Disney World Annual Passes.

With that said, a Disneyland Annual Pass is one of only three things Southern Californians need to survive (the others being In-N-Out Burger and Rainbows flip flops). Also, possibly water–but hopefully not, since there isn’t much of that stuff to go around.

Wondering if an Annual Pass is right for you? Let’s crunch the numbers and take a look at the benefits… (more…)

Off-Site v. On-Site Disney World Hotels

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One of the most difficult decisions when planning for a Walt Disney World vacations can be whether you should stay on-site or off-site. Walt Disney World resort hotels have a lot of great benefits and are a compelling choice for many guests, but the hundreds of local off-site hotels offer many equally compelling reasons as to why guests should stay off-site. If you already know whether you want to stay on-site or off-site, you should skip this article and go directly to our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews index page to determine which hotel is right for you.

For many people considering where to stay at Walt Disney World, price will be the determining factor, as it can be cheaper to do a Walt Disney World Trip on a Budget while staying off-site. However, this isn’t always the case, and there are other factors to consider before booking. Those with small vacation budgets might be surprised to find that, in some circumstances, it’s better for them to stay on-site, and those with large vacation budgets might be better served by staying off-site.

When this post was originally written, we had never stayed off-site at Walt Disney World, but I aimed at writing an article that objectively looked at all of the pros and cons of both staying off-site and staying on-site. Since then, we’ve stayed off-site on several occasions, so I’ve revised the post a bit (in April 2015) to reflect how those off-site stays have changed my perspective. Surprisingly, my views are pretty much the same, but some of the new insight should help you with your decision to stay off-site or on-site.

Let’s get started with the pros and cons of staying off-site versus on-site at Walt Disney World… (more…)

Tips for Making Be Our Guest Restaurant Reservations

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With Advance Dining Reservations now available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you might find yourself wanting to have a meal…or 3…there. After being shut out of getting ADRs there more times than I care to admit, I think I have some helpful tips to offer to ensure that you’re able to score those elusive reservations.

At first, I thought it was simply a matter of waiting for the initial hype of the restaurant to die down, as we were unable to get ADRs during our first couple of trips shortly after it opened. Fast forward almost 3 years later, and I still haven’t eaten dinner there. Some of this is because I simply don’t plan 180 days in advance anymore, which is when the window for booking ADRs opens for the restaurant. It’s a rarity for me to start planning 3 months in advance, and by that time, ADRs are long gone.

In fact, they’re often long gone by the 180 day mark. That may not make sense, but the first tip isn’t really a tip so much as it is a simple fact of life: if you’re staying on-site at a Walt Disney World hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll be shut out for dinner even at the 180 day mark. This is because on-site guests can start making ADRs 180 days before the start of their trip, not the day before they want to dine. In other words, if you’re staying on-site and have a 7-day vacation starting on September 26 (180 days from today), you could make ADRs starting today not just for September 26, but for the duration of your trip, whereas off-site guests could only make ADRs for September 26 or sooner.

Given that there are around 80,000+ guests staying on-site in Walt Disney World on any night, this is a lot of people who potentially can book reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant before the window for off-site guests even opens. Granted, the vast majority of guests know nothing about ADRs and won’t try book reservations at the 180 window, but around 1% of those guests could book dinner and the restaurant would fill up.

If you’re staying on-site, it’s good practice to try booking Be Our Guest Restaurant as soon as your window opens, and for as far into your vacation as you can. Plan your park days around that. You might even make a couple of ADRs so that you can cancel one after park hours are released. If you’re not staying on-site, well, good luck. Try right when your 180 day window opens, and repeat as necessary for subsequent days of your trip.

Let’s just assume for a second that you’re unable to score one of those coveted ADRs far in advance of your trip. Fortunately, there are other options… (more…)