First of all, if you haven't already click above on the Disney Tips tab. There are so many things I've written before about Disney that are still great ideas. From where to eat to what to do as far as safety goes. Be sure you start there, because I'm trying to only post new stuff here. Also, know that I am NO expert when it comes to Disney. I'm just sharing what we've done and how it worked for us. I'm not getting paid to tell you about Disney(although I wouldn't mind that job.)
So, we just finished our fifth trip to Disney. This was our second trip in May. This brings me to my first thought. Go off season! The best time, in our opinion, is September! The crowds are so much easier to manage, and wait times will be better for rides. Early May is also considered off season, but we found this last time that lots of other people also thought early May was the time to go. It was CROWDED! Going off season is also cheaper. Which brings me to my next thought-NEVER pay full-price for Disney!
There are almost always discounts available. We've gone with several different types of discounts from kids stay and play free to free dining. Go here to see current discounts. The great thing about discounts is that if a better one comes up before you go you can almost always get them to switch it over as long as it's not within 30 days of your vacation(your vacation is paid in full). Know that going to Disney is NOT cheap. For a week long trip we usually spend about $1000 per person with everything included. I'm sure there are ways to make it more affordable, but we have a motto that in Disney why say no when you could say YES! We give each of the kids a gift card when we get there that has their spending money on it. They can use their card to buy ANYTHING they want as long as it's within their limit. The great thing about Disney is that you can make your reservation with a $200 deposit, then make payments at your own pace as long as it's paid for within 30 days of your trip. We also MAJORLY save by using our Disney Chase card throughout the year. Each dollar we spend earns us Disney points that can later be used on ANYTHING Disney. This year we used our points to pay for our deposit, 1/3 of the cost of the trip, then ALL the spending money! If you haven't heard of this sweet deal from Chase you might want to look into it. We just use ours like cash on groceries and gas, then pay it off at the end of the month!
Have I mentioned I've already written a TON about Disney Dos and Don'ts? Here is a great post with info we still mostly follow.
The last two times we've gotten 5-DAY park hopper tickets and we've pretty much worked out a perfect system to see all the attractions we are interested in within the five days. We generally spend 2 full days in Magic Kingdom(the park with the most rides and best attractions for smaller children) a full day in Hollywood Studios(although due to several closures in that park you could probably spend only a half day and still do everything that is until the new areas open next summer!), and a half day in both Animal Kindgom(which is also about to have a lot of new attractions) and Epcot. We've also gone with 7 day passes and taken things a lot slower, but really, 5 days is enough in our opinion.
Those with older kids(or smaller families) may also like adding the waterpark feature onto their tickets. We plan to do this the next time we go in 2018. We've never been before, but they look like a lot of fun. If you're planning to add this feature to your tickets I'd say adding a day to your trip is a smart idea and go ahead and do 6 or 7 day passes instead of the 5 day passes.
Fast Passes(FP+) are a MUST in the park now. They are basically you saying THIS is when I plan to be at this ride. They are a 1 hour window, and are used to make lines MUCH shorter. For instance, The Dwarf's Mine Train never had a line shorter than about a 60 minute wait and was more often 95 minutes. With our fast passes we were able to skip the line altogether and ride in about 5 minutes. There are differing theories about how to use FP+ and when, but the bottom line is you get THREE choices. Until you've used those up you don't get any more. Once all three are used you can keep adding one at a time. We used them for our three most desired rides each day and reserved them AT MIDNIGHT on the night we were able to reserve them. If you don't, you'll likely not get all the reservations you want, but know that they will at times become available due to people changing their plans around. If you have a large group going, or you are going at peak season though, I HIGHLY suggest you making those reservations ASAP!
Dining reservations are also a must! Here are some tips I wrote about that. Most of them are still great EXCEPT!! Pizza Planet(one of my kids FAVORITE things to do in Disney World closed it's doors as one of the MANY closures at Hollywood Studio! BOO!) It's tough to get in to restaurants last minute especially when you have a large group, so plan ahead and reserve meals ahead of time. We also ALWAYS use a dining plan. If you do your research you'll find that you can stretch your plan even more by using your snack as a meal in several places around the resort. Our favorite-the GIANT cinnamon rolls in Gaston's tavern. ALSO, Be our Guest is AMAZING and for sure worth the quick service reservation you can get for breakfast now. We got ours for 8am, then were able to be in the park ready for rides when they opened at 9.
Not sure when to be at each park? Check out Undercover Tourist. They have a GREAT crowd calendar that has been accurate for each trip we've ever taken! They also have touring plans that will save you TONS of time trying to plan each day. Take them and make them yours and you'll be sure to get to each attraction you want most! We love Undercover Tourist!
OK, our new must do list has to include some fun things we've recently learned about.
- Pirate Adventure Cruises If you've got a young pirate you'll want to check this out!
- Jedi Training Academy Brubbs did this on his trip last year! So fun! Be sure to get to the park early to sign up because spots go FAST!
- Winter Summerland Miniature Golf This is a great activity to do on your arrival or departure day. Doesn't take long, and if you plan and book your trip through Disney you get free tickets.
- Lots of new and changing Firework activity in Hollywood Studio and Animal Kingdom.
- Characters in Flight None of us had ever been in a hot air balloon. This isn't actually a Hot air balloon, but basically the same. Only runs when the weather is nice and there isn't much wind, so we've only been able to do it once, but there's lots of other great things to do in Disney Springs(where it's located).