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Monday, December 13, 2010

5 more tips for disney fun

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  It is hard to believe that Christmas is now less than two weeks away.  Is it just me, or does time seem to speed up at this time of year?

I have lots of fun Christmas party planning ideas to bring you this week, but today I thought I would do a quick recap of our Disney weekend & share 5 more tips for Disney fun.  Disney World is pretty much magical anytime, but there is something very special about seeing it all decked out for the holidays.

I mentioned a few months ago that this year we spent a large portion of our vacation budget on a WDW Annual Pass, which means we are trying to go as often as possible (to get our money's worth!)  Disney World is huge, with 4 different parks, dozens of resorts, and more to see than we could ever have time for, but each trip we come away knowing a little more.  

After our last Disney weekend I shared my 5 tips for Disney fun (on a budget).  This time around, I did follow most of my own advice, but also came up with 5 additional tips for making the most of your Disney trip:  

1.  Make resort reservations as early as possible & then check back frequently.  This is one piece of advice that I didn't follow & paid the price.  We began planning this trip in August, and while I made our dining reservations, I procrastinated on resort reservations, thinking that a "better deal" would come up if I waited, since it was supposed to be a "slow" weekend.  A better deal never came, and before I knew it, the entire place was completely sold out.  I kept checking back, and eventually something did open up, but not at our first (or even 10th) choice of resorts, and definitely not the best deal.  Oops.  

Once you have a reservation in place, call back every so often to see if anything better has opened up.  People are constantly changing their reservations, and prices & availability can change daily, even hourly.  Start with the best reservation you can get, then keep improving as possible.  Once I did finally get my reservation, I called back each day and ended up saving quite a bit of money (though not as much as I would have had I made resort reservations in August!)

2.  Pick & choose your experiences.  Because this trip was planned as an early family Christmas present, we did splurge on a couple of "extras"--Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party on Friday evening and lunch at Cinderella's Royal Table (in the castle) on Saturday.  

In my (humble) opinion, the Very Merry Christmas party was sadly a complete waste of money and I would never do it again.  The original idea behind the "parties" is a special & unique experience for a limited number of people--you pay a premium for the privilege of having an evening at the park with no waits and few crowds.  Unfortunately, Disney seems to have forgotten this original plan.  Besides handing out "free" hot chocolate & cookies, there was nothing really special or different about the Christmas party from any other evening at the Magic Kingdom and it was so crowded we could hardly move.  We ended up leaving way before it was finished. 

Dining at Cinderella's castle, however, was a wonderful experience that we will most certainly do again, if we can ever manage to get reservations.  (Reservations need to be made at least 3-4 months in advance and must be pre-paid.  I made ours in August.)  It is definitely pricey ($50 for adults, $33 for kids 3+), but table-service restaurants at WDW are all pretty pricey (usually at least $30 for adults) so in my opinion, paying the extra for the experience was worth it.  The price includes a photo package, as well as special wands (or sabers) and "wishing stars" for the kids.  The food was delicious and the service impeccable.  Completely unprompted, our server even brought out a "birthday" dessert for Husband after noticing his birthday button.   

3.  Don't be afraid to complain right away if something goes wrong.  Disney prides itself on customer service and will usually work to correct a problem immediately if you bring it to their attention.  We were so unhappy with the Very Merry Christmas Party that we stopped by Guest Relations on our way out.  The gal was extremely nice and sympathetic.  She didn't offer a refund (we didn't really expect one) but she did give us 3 VIP Fast Passes (each for up to 4 people) that we can use at any park in the future.  Disney is not so good at following up after the fact, so if there is a problem, your best bet is to complain right away rather than wait until you get home.

4.  Take advantage of technology.  I mentioned last time that I am a huge fan of the Unoffical Guide to WDW (I buy the latest edition each year) and it's corresponding website, TouringPlans.com.  The Unofficial Guide and TouringPlans.com now have an app that can be downloaded to your Android or i-Phone, which gives accurate wait times for all the attractions at WDW.  This came in very handy when deciding what to do next!

5.  Buy your princess gear before you get there.  If you are heading to Disney with any little girl between the ages of 3 and 8, be prepared for Disney Princess mania.  I bought this deluxe Cinderella gown for Princess on sale at the Disney store last October.  At $40 (regularly $80), it was still a splurge, but compared to the dress prices at the parks (ranging anywhere from $70-$150), it was a bargain, especially considering that she has now worn it on several Disney trips, two Halloweens, not to mention almost daily dress-up sessions.  The gowns at the Disney store are just as nice, if not nicer, than the ones at the park, but the prices are better and they go on sale.  (Nothing goes on sale at WDW!)  You could probably also find good deals on princess gowns on Ebay, Craigslist, or possibly even local thrift or consignment stores. 

What are your favorite Disney tips?

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