By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.
By Dave Shute
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We would like to plan a trip to disney for September/October of this year. Since it’s been many years since I’ve been, I’ll need alot of help! My kids will be almost 7, 4, and 2 1/2 by then. There will be 3 of us adults. i’ve never stayed in the park before, and wonder if it’s really worth the price to do so. I was hoping to budget about $3000 for all of us, (hotel, tickets, meals). Is this realistic?
Marcia–you didn’t say how many nights you were considering…but if you are talking about 4 nights or more, your probably can’t stay on property with your party size. To Disney you are 5 people (the 2.5 year old doesn’t count against room capacity) and it’s hard to find lower-priced on site accomodations at that size.
See this for more on large families and lower-priced rooms http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/15/lower-priced-options-for-large-families-at-walt-disney-world/
And for staying off-site, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/01/27/the-tightwads-guide-to-staying-off-site-at-walt-disney-world/
Hi we are looking for a holiday from 25th june to 5th sept for 2 adults an 18 &17 year old really need separate sleeping accommodation. Would like to stay on disney for 14 nights in moderate/budget hotel but so far all we can see is single rooms with 2 beds. As we are taking sons friend doesn’t seem appropriate budget is 5k gbp Any ideas
Hi, your best best as a family suite at All-Star Music or the brand-new (opening inlate May) Art of Animation Resort. In either case you get two separate sleeping spaces, one with a queen and the other with convertible furniture that sleeps 4 more, and two baths. Note that late August and Sept is much less crowded than the earlier dates you note.
See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/27/review-disneys-all-star-music-resort/ and http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/08/21/family-suite-floor-plans-for-disneys-art-of-animation-resort/ for floor plans…
I am planning to come from UK to Coronado Springs Resort Aug22nd for two weeks. Im coming with my two daughters aged 10 and 15, I have also looked at budget music resort. The former option looks best I think but my 15 year old thinks it might all be too young and childish for her…. what are your comments on this and my proposed resort..Thanks.. Peter
Hi Peter–Coronado Springs is not childish at all– see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/10/19/review-disneys-coronado-springs-resort/
All-Star Music is a bit garish, but is my personal favorite among the values. It’s also about half the price. See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/27/review-disneys-all-star-music-resort/ The rooms though are remarkably small–I would not want to spend two weeks in one of these rooms.
How about a split stay, where you spend the first half at Music and the second half at Coronado? (Don’t reverse the order, or they will whine about Music after experiencing the greater spaciousness and queen beds at Coronado Springs…)
Thanks for the advice – -by the sound of things think I’ll just do the whole 2 weeks at Coronado. Peter
You’re welcome and have a great trip!
Hi! I am very undecided …please help. Is it better to go to Disney Sept 19th-Sept. 23rd (the 17th&18th is a Jewish holiday) or Oct. 17th-Oct.21st? It is our 2nd time going and we have a 3&5 yr old and want to avoid crowds as much as possible. Thanks
Hi Tricia! Both times are low-crowd, but the September dates will be lower. However, September is still in the peak of the hurricane season, so if it were me, I’d pick the October dates. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/chance-of-cyclonic-storm-affecting-florida/
I think it’s about time that they started eliapnzing people who don’t show up because many a time we’ve tried to book a restaurant reservation (even at 6 months out) to find the restaurant was already booked out for the day we wanted; and by not showing up you’re wasting the restaurant’s time holding that table for you. If you can’t make it have the common sense and courtesy to cancel your reservation (at any restaurant) by either calling the dinning line or stopping by the restaurant to let them know.
They started penalizing people at some of the restaurants a few months ago…
Hello Dave, Thank you for the wealth of info gathered on your site. I apologize if you’ve answer this question and I’ve missed reading it. When we get to 180 days before our arrival date, I am able to make character meal reservations for just that arrival date…or for my entire stay (6 days). Thanks Again. Stephen
Hi Stephen! If you don’t have a reservation in a WDW-owned hotel, then it’s a straight 180 days.
If you do have such a reservation, then once your arrival date is 180 days out, you can make reservations for it and for the next 10 days–so in effect as soon as 180 comes up your window is 190 days…
Hi Dave! I thought of some questions I hope you can help with: We are planning a 5 nite trip in December with a 4 day (non-hopper) pass for 2 adults and 3 kids under 10 (girl 9, girl 8 and boy 6). The dates are open in terms of when to arrive/depart but was thinking of arriving somewhere around the 9th – give or take a few days. Do you suggest a specific date based on any scheduling details? I know you recommend Pop Century (we cannot do a high end resort) but we are thinking of Riverside after several good family friends highly suggested it. Do you still recommend the Magnolia Bend/top floor/building 85? Anything else we need to know about that place? Without a car, will be be able to get to a store to pick up waters, snacks, etc? I know the buses are not that convenient to and from the park from this resort but any advice? Our kids are more into pools, arcades, etc rather than the large cartoon characters, etc., and I am hoping for a little bigger room there rather than Pop. We haven’t booked anything yet and I am thinking of contacting the Destinations travel agent listed somewhere in your site to do all the work/securing for me since they are free. We also have AAA so I am not sure if that would be the same benefits to call them (I am thinking not, since they may not have the “inside” Disney info as Destinations may? Do you know? Can I get all my dinner/show tix thru them too? In terms of budget, we probably want to do 3 or 4 of the meals/shows and these are the ones I’ve narrowed – which do you suggest are the top 3 out of: Hoop-Dee-Doo; Cinderella’s lunch; Askershus Banquet; Crystal Place; Xmas party (we are for sure planning on this – can the travel agent get these tix for me too?); Mickey’s Chef?? I think we are right at the 180 or just shy of it at this point, do they usually book up even at the time of the year we are looking at, this far in advance? We will probably do WDW for 2 days but what other park(s) do you highly suggest (our yougest is 6 so I don’t know if Epcot will hold his attention? However, the Illuminations there I hear are fantastic? We were also debating Hollywood Studios? (No AK) We will not be doing the dining plan because my kids are not huge eaters (nor are my husband and I) and I was hoping to just buy the “kids sized” meals for us when hungry and pack some snacks/protein bars/etc.. OR do you highly suggest the meal plan would save us money? Is it worth it if we are buying the “meals” with characters? Sorry for all the questions, we’ve been saving for awhile and although I think we will do this trip again in several years, this is the first visit for my kids and I want to be sure to make it the best possible!! I can probably think of a 100 more questions if I keep searching (lol) but that should do for now. Thanks a ton – in advance – for helping us to make this a fabulous trip!! 🙂
OK first I’d plan to arrive so you can be in the parks on weekdays, not weekends, as weekends are busier.
Second, all the things you asked “can a travel agent do”–the answer is yes. My friends at Destinations in Florida can be accessed from the form on the right sidebar. I don’t have an opinion on AAA.
POR has a lot of fans and yes that building etc is still my recommendation in it. However since you are 5, you can’t stay in Pop anyway, and only the Alligator Bayou section of POR has rooms that fit 5. My recommended AB buildings are in the review: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/10/21/review-disneys-port-orleans-riverside-resort/
POR has a gift shop where you can buy water, snacks, etc.
I would skip Epcot and spend two days at MK and one each at HS and AK.
The dining plan only saves money if you would have bought similar meals in similar restaurants for cash without it. Your plan will save compared to the dining plan.
Of the special meals you mention I’d go with Hoop, Cinderella, and Chef Mickey’s.
OK I think I’ve answered all the questions! But if not just ask again!
Can’t thank you enough for all your help. It seems every day something is changing with making our plans… We are now taking Grandma so we are a group of 6 and planning on staying at Art of Animation (excited!) but of course the price is rising! Are there specific rooms/floors you recommend there? Also, with trying to secure flights, we can arrive on a Sat and stay thru Thur (Dec 8-13) or Sun-Fri (9th – 14th) or possibly Dec 5-10th (Wed-Mon). Based on what you had said – going during the week, would you skip being there on a Fri/Sat (and maybe even a Sunday) if possible to avoid crowds? Will the parks have extended/late hours during the week if we do not stay on a F/Sa/Sun at all? If we plan on staying 5 nights, possibly 6, what do you suggest are the best dates in early/early mid December for us? We may narrow our shows done to a few with the budget changing so we are leaning towards Cinderella over Chef Mickey (will my 6 yr old son still enjoy this?); Hoop over Akershus and then for sure the Xmas party… Pleasing to 2 girls (9 and 8) as well as a boy I hope? And, one last question you may have answered (if so, sorry)… Based on the 2 “meal shows”, is it still better to buy our own food rather than the dining package based on where we are staying and how little my kids normally eat?? THANKS AGAIN!!!!
Dina when I was there only Nemo was open. Just based on the map and experience, I’d vote for upper floors of Lion King. Since it’s the only wing that does not surround a pool, there will be less noise, and upper floors means fewer people in the hallways. But it’s still close enuf to the main building, pools and bus stops…
Re when to be there, I’d arrive Sunday the 9th. If you go to the Xmas party, you won’t miss anything from being there on weeknights.
Adding another adult may make the meal plan a less good idea. What you need to do is get the cash prices and compare to what you would have paid for the meal plan.
The six year old may get a little fidgety at Cinderella, but you can tell him that Hoop is “his” special shows…if he were older he’d appreciate some of the princess necklines if nothing else (Jasmine is hot!)
I am a lover of Disney World and working to convince my husband we can make it economical to visit. We are going to come down for the Disney Marathon/Half Marathon weekend with plans to run the half marathon on Sat. AM January 12th. We would be traveling with our two kids (4 year old boy and 1 1/2 year old girl). Possible grandparents but they would stay in a seperate room. Any thoughts on best resorts to stay at, cost saving ideas, must see activities for this age group? Your site is amazing!
I forgot to say we would like to stay for a week and keep it under $3000 with meals, passes, everything but plane tickets (this would be for the 4 of us, not the grandparents). Is that possible?
Hi Melinda, and thanks!
2013 prices aren’t out yet, but the only way you are likely to get an economical trip is to stay at a value resort. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-stay/next-best-resort-choices/
For must sees, see this page http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/ but note that the “For Pre-School Kids” rankings is pitched at kids a lil older than your 4 year old…
Melinda, I think you can.
See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/what-to-budget/estimating-budgets/designing-your-walt-disney-world-vacation-to-a-lower-target-budget/
The prices on it are out of date, but because of your family ages, you’ll be buying one less ticket and one less dining plan, so it should be in the ballpark
I’m trying to plan a trip to Disney from January 7-10, 2013. We’ll be staying at the Swan & Dolphin from Jan 2-6 for a conference and then after that, we were thinking of staying at a hotel outside of the parks. There will be 2 adults and 4 children ages 6, 4, 2, and 5 months. Do you have any suggestions on where to stay, using the dining plan, or what to see/skip? My husband works for a national mission organization who has a national conference every other year and this is the second time it’s been in Orlando again so this probably won’t be our only trip to Disney World.
Hi! You can only get the dining plan if you stay at an on-site, WDW owned hotel, so neither the S&D nor off site qualifies for it; second, I can barely keep up with the WDW hotels, so don’t have anything useful to add on the hundreds of off-site properties. Sorry to be so useless!
Most of your kids are too young to gain much value from anything other than the Magic Kingdom, so that’s where I’d focus. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/03/09/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-rides-and-attractions/
We coming to Coronado Springs me and my two daughters 10 and 15 yrs, we have the ”Disney Quick Service Dining Plan” is this any good? whats the food like on the plan….
Peter, this plan lets you get meals from any of the hundred or so “counter service” restaurants at WDW. These run the gamut from a nice selection to basic burgers and such.
Thanks Dave, that sounds like it will suffice for at least basic needs…..
Hi Dave, First, I wanted to say that this is the best planning site I’ve come across. My family is planning a disney vacation for the last week of Feb, 2013. (it was going to be the first week of March until I read your advice) First time for us, 2 daughters will be almost 5 and almost 3. Probably won’t get back to WDW for 2 or 3 years. We are planning on staying at the Contemporary for convenience and are springing for a MK view room so that our tired pre-schoolers can watch the fireworks in their jammies. We were also considering a BLT studio for about the same price, but from my research, it looked like the MK views there were hit or miss depending on how high you were and whether you were in an 18 room or a 28 room. Any advice on those 2 hotel options?? Right now we’re planning on staying 5 nights which would give us 4 full days and 2 half days in the park. We’re planning on skipping Epcot given our kids ages. Do you think this is adequate time for our situation? Lastly, my oldest daughter loves princesses and my youngest loves Winnie the Pooh. What character experiences (meals or otherwise) would you recommend? We are not planning on getting the meal plan. Thanks so much for your help and advice!!!
Hi Matthew and thanks!
The Contemporary, because it is not curved, does have a more consistent set of views. BLT is great, but the curves can throw off some views. Both have lower and higher rooms; the lowest BLT rooms are lower than the lowest Contemporary rooms. So all in if view is important I’d go Contemporary.
For princesses, shoot for Cinderella’s Royal Table at MK–but you need to try for this soon, as it books up quickly. 1900 Park Fare at the GF is the best backup. For Pooh, book the Crystal Palace at MK.
For time planning, at those ages, given you can come back in a few years, I’d focus entirely on MK. You should plan on 2-3 mornings, one afternoon (for the parade) and, if they can stay up, one evening for the evening parade and fireworks.
Hope this helps and thanks again for the kind words!
You bet, Matthew!
Hi Dave, your website is a gift for people like me who love a grasp on the unknown. I have spent hours already scanning over the endless pages of information you have provided. Great Job!!! I am planning a trip 4/20/13 thru 4/27/13. I know that reservations can only be booked out 180 days beforehand and truely for me that is right around the corner. YAY! So my question for you is, will Disney release the park schedules for my trip timeline at the same time frame (Oct 22) When I can begin reserving or is there anywhere I can view this to get my itinerary in order then shoot for the reservations like a pro?
Hi Amber, and thanks!!! April schedules will be out by October 1…and I should have access to them, and have material for you on this page, even earlier: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/basic-itinerary/alternative-itineraries/
I am planning our family’s first trip and had a few questions. We are a family of 6 and are planning on taking my Mother in Law with us too. My kids will be ages 5-G, 8-B, 10-B & 12-B. I am needing reccomendations on what would be the most cost effective for hotel (i.e. 1 large suite or 2 smaller rooms). We are looking at going Saturday to Sunday around the first 2 weeks of December in 2013. We are also planning on going to Legoland for a day while we are there. Do you have any reccomendations on transportation to and from legoland?
Hi Kim! For where to stay, take a look at this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/15/lower-priced-options-for-large-families-at-walt-disney-world/ And sorry, I don’t track LegoLand…
Hello! My family is planning a visit during the month of April. We are planning on staying at Coronado Springs – do you have any recommendations on a location to request for our room there? We have reserved a Standard View room. Thanks!
Hiya Nichole! My recommendations at Coronado Springs are in my review, which begins here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/02/19/review-disneys-coronado-springs-resort-2/
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Hi Dave First time writing in, been checking the site weekly for last couple of years, you’re doing a great job. Got large fam trip (10) coming from uk mid Oct at Coronado. Have dining plan gratis from deal but Coronado dining options still not listed on dining plan!!! Any news? Also, can uk customers register for magic band colours/names in advance? – 3 of the kids and sister are newbies and it would be a great touch. Thanks
Hi Paul and thanks! Last time I checked, you could customize your MagicBands if you were outside the US, but they aren’t sent to you–rather held at the hotel desk for you at check-in. This may change between now and then… it may have changed already!
The only sit-down restaurant at Coronado is the Maya Grill, which Disney does not own. These not-owned restaurants often negotiate to (or beyond) the wire before they get on the dining plan. I’d expect it’ll show up eventually…
BTW, Maya Grill, while OK, is not much–not worth more than one meal…
Cheers Dave. Guess I need to register online closer to travel dates. Re Coronado, not too concerned about Maya grill, was more worried that Pepper Market wouldn’t be included as it would be major inconvenience not to be able to get breakfast on dining plan every morning.. Thanks again Paul
Hi Dave Just had update from Disney guest services, Coronado food concessions have all signed up to dining plan, phew! They’ve updated the dining plan brochure and updated the link on the Disney site.
Great Paul and thanks for the heads up!
We are planning on staying at one of the Starwood resorts (Dolphin?) which I believe it almost on the resort…With that being said, do I have meal plan options? Also is there any information on this site about the Photo Pass? Not sure if that’s the right terminology but I hear lots of people say that is a must have?
Hi Steve, no meal plan options except at the DIsney-owned hotels. The Dolphin is in the middle of the action at Epcot, but not Disney owned. And no I don;t have much here on photopass…
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