So you have decided to plan a trip to Disney World, but you don’t want to break the bank. The first thing is to Start Early! Disney World has been my family’s favorite place to visit on vacation – especially my husband!
You can make your reservations at least 6 months in advance (or more). I have done this numerous to times and paid on it each month until the big day. This way, you don’t have to worry about paying the interest on a credit card.
Now, there are a lot of things that you need to decide on and the first thing is where do you stay? On the monorail or off-monorail? On-grounds or off-grounds?
Well, let’s dig into these and I will give you some information and my insight to each.
- Hotels Located on the Monorail- the monorail is a transit system that Disney World has that runs from the hotels on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and to Epcot. Unfortunately, the monorail does not run to the other parks, but here are buses that will take you from your hotel straight to the park you want.
There are currently 3 hotels that are “on” the monorail. They are the Contemporary, Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. Staying at one of these hotels is wonderful and convenient, especially when you have young children or someone with limited mobility. It allows you the ease of going to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot and quickly coming back to the hotel mid-day to take a dip in the pool or a nap for the kids (and adults) before heading back out for an evening of fun.
I’ve stayed at two of these hotels when my daughter was younger and it was very nice to have the luxury of going back to the hotel, if needed.
Now, how do you get to the other parks? Disney has buses that run regularly to the other parks. It is an easy way to travel between the hotels and parks as well as hotel to hotel.
- Hotels Located on the Grounds – but not on the monorail– These are hotels owned by Disney and are on the grounds of Disney but are not on the monorail. Again, you are able to use the bus service from the hotel to the parks and also to the monorail that will take you to Epcot.
I have also stayed at a couple of these hotels and it was a wonderful stay. If wasn’t as easy to get back to the hotel mid-day, but it wasn’t bad because of the Disney buses that run constantly – it was a wonderful stay.
My favorite would have to be the Animal Kingdom Hotel. WOW…I can’t express how awesome it was to see all of the wonderful animals right outside of your room. The staff there were wonderful as well. While on our balcony one evening, one of the animal keepers were feeding the animals and we started talking. They were able to tell us how long the animal they were feeding had been there, the eating habits, etc. We had the best time. It makes me want to go back….
- Hotels Located off the Grounds– These are hotels near Disney but are not owned or operated by Disney. You still get bus service although to me these take longer because they have a route where they have to stop at multiple hotels. So, if your hotel happens to be the last one, it can be a long ride. It’s doable, just make sure that you allot for travel time.
I have stayed at one right across from Disney Springs (aka -Downtown Disney) – and we really enjoyed it. Being across from Disney Springs is awesome. I don’t think that this attraction gets enough attention or kudos. To me it was a wonderful way to unwind, have dinner and do a little shopping. Oh, I almost forgot – desert at Ghirardelli’s. YUM!
Like I said, I have stayed at hotels from each kind throughout my many trips to Disney World. When my daughter was younger – the monorail hotel was the way to go. As she got older, staying at the other hotels wasn’t bad, you just have to count into your day the travel time. You are on vacation – so relax.
Now that I have given you an insight to the monorail vs on-grounds vs off-grounds you will need to go to the Disney website and look at the different hotels that fall into these categories to see which one fits your budget. I will tell you that the Disney owned hotels will allow you to pay on an entire package (hotel, food and tickets) where the off-grounds will not.
Ok, so we talked about where to stay – now let’s talk about food. WOW!
Food Plan or No Food Plan?
Another decision that you need to make is whether you want to include a food plan into your package. This is like a saving account for the food portion of your trip. The food plan usually includes all of the following each day for each person in your party:
- 1 quick service (this is like a hamburger, fries and drink),
- 1 table service (sit down meal, include appetizer, main dish, dessert and non-alcohol drink and tip)
- 1 snack (popcorn, ice cream, etc.).
Note: Some restaurants require that you use two table servings for one dinner. Make sure that you ask when you make reservations.
My family has used the food plan on some of our trips and not on others. Let me put it all out there and you can decide. On the one hand it’s nice to pay for EVERYTHING in advance and know that when you get there all of the basics are paid for and you don’t have to worry about anything. On the other hand, if you are the type of family that doesn’t eat a lot or you have picky eaters, you may want to reconsider. You certainly don’t want to waste any money buying the food plan for everyone and then not using it.
I remember on one trip we didn’t use all of the snacks on our plan, so before we left I went a stocked up on different snacks and drinks for our trip home. I wasn’t going to waste any money, that’s for sure.
NOTE: Whether you decide to use the food plan or not, make sure that you make any reservations to restaurants within any of the parks (including Disney Springs) months in advance. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but we had to take a dinner reservation for 10:00 pm because I didn’t make my reservation in advance. Oh, well – it was worth it!
Let me share with you something that we have done and it really helps cut down on some of the cost. First, we always bring breakfast food with us and store it in our room as well as a case of water. Things like muffins, cereal bars, fruit bowls, etc. This way we have the choice of eating a small breakfast or if we want to go to a restaurant, we can. My family is not big on breakfast, so a muffin was fine for us.
Let’s talk snacks – You are able to bring snacks into the parks. We would bring Goldfish, fruit snacks, hydrated fruits, etc. and that would help with keeping everyone satisfied while not breaking the bank.
What about water/drinks? – you can also bring water/drinks into the park. This helps cut down on paying $$$ for a bottle of water/juice. We usually freeze our water in the hotel room and then wrap them in foil and take them to the park.
Most important thing that I want to leave you with, is relax and have a great time. You need to realize before you go that between the heat and excitement you need to find some down time. That means don’t expect to go to the park at 8:00 a.m. and stay until 11:00 p.m. with no down time. This might mean leaving for a couple of hours and going back to the hotel to rest or take a dip in the pool, especially if you have little ones. Remember, it’s the Happiest Place on Earth.
I hope that this information was useful and please stay tuned for Part 2 – The Parks.