If you saw any of my Instagram stories last week, you probably saw where we were at Disney World!
This was our second trip to Disney with the Circus. We took her two years ago around Christmastime when she was three and she’s five now. I have to say, it was still just as magical this time around as it was last. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did get a little teary-eyed when I saw Cinderella’s castle that first day. I never went as a child, so I think I’m allowed to be a little sappy about the whole experience now, right?
While we had planned to take the Circus to Disney again in the future, it was my father-in-law who asked earlier in the year when we were all going back and therefore, started the wheels a spinnin’ for this trip to happen. A huge thank you to my in-laws for taking us all!
Even though, this was just our second time going to Disney, I felt like this trip went so much smoother than our first one. We learned a lot that first time around, so we were much better prepared for this trip.
You might have noticed that I titled this post Disney World Tips for the Average Family. Average being the key word there. We know lots of people that go to Disney multiple times a year. My hat is off to them because that would be just more than I could handle. They are total pros at Disney World and all that it entails. I could never keep up with them. That being said, these are the things that us average folk have learned what and what not to do when it comes to Disney World.
And if you have no plans of doing Disney, then by all means feel free to just browse through the photos of our trip below and tell me how cute the Circus is. 😉
Disney World Tips for the Average Family
Where to Stay & Eat
1. Stay at a Disney Resort on the monorail if you can.
If you want to have easy access to all the Disney parks, dining and everything at Disney Springs, then you will definitely want to stay in a Disney resort. Personally though, we highly suggest staying at a resort on the monorail. Resorts on the monorail are a little more expensive than other Disney resorts, but they make travel to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot so freakin’ easy. If you eat at restaurants in any of the resorts on the monorail, you can also easily get to them. There are three resorts on the monorail: The Contemporary, The Polynesian and The Grand Floridian. We stayed at the Grand Floridian this time around.
The Magic Kingdom was just one monorail stop up from the Grand Floridian. To get to Epcot, we just took the monorail three stops up, switched trains and then we were right there at Epcot. You do have to ride a bus to anywhere else you might want to go, but having such easy access to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, where we spent three of our days there, was awesome. We only had to take buses to Disney Springs and Animal Kingdom.
If you don’t stay at a resort on the monorail, then Disney does have buses at all the resorts that run regularly throughout the day which will take you to all the Disney parks, Disney Springs and other Disney hotels. We stayed at Pop Century the first time we went and used the bus system the whole time we were there. Pop Century wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as convenient as being on the monorail. I will say that the food and beds were both much better at The Grand Floridian than they were Pop Century though.
2. Never pay full price for your trip.
Disney always has some sort of deal(s) they are running. All of their current offers can be found here. Even after we had already booked our trip using a special offer, we got a coupon in the mail for an extra percentage off (I can’t remember the exact amount) and we were able to get that additional discount. Grunt also works with Disney travel consultant, so she helped us book everything. She knows her stuff, so that made the booking process go smoother as well – especially with that first trip when we didn’t know much.
3. Get the Disney Dining Plan and book your dining reservations as soon as possible.
In our family’s opinion and in the opinion of multiple other families I’ve spoken with, getting the Disney Dining Plan is the way to go. I think it is roughly $70 per person 10 years or older per day and $25 per person 3-9 years old per day. The plan consists of two snacks, one quick service meal, and one table service meal for each person each day. You also get a mug at the start of your stay which you get unlimited refills on throughout your stay.
For us, we tended to use our snacks as our breakfast. Snacks could roughly be anything in the parks or at a quick service restaurant that are a single serving such as fries, a cinnamon roll, a cup of yogurt, a piece of fruit, etc. A snack can also be an ice cream bar, a drink, etc. Each resort has a quick service restaurant so we would have our “snacks” there in the morning, then head out to a park.
Think of a quick service as a meal at a fast food restaurant, except the food is better. 🙂 There is at least one quick service restaurant at every resort and lots in every park.
The table service meals are sit-down meals. These are the ones you need to make reservations for as soon as you can. You can start making your reservations for table service meals 180 days out from your reservation. Do it then! These are the restaurants where there is usually also character dining, so they fill up fast. This trip we went to:
The Crystal Palace
This is inside the Magic Kingdom. Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore are here, but my kid was not a fan of them. The food was great!
1900 Park Fare
1900 Park Fare is located inside The Grand Floridian. This is where you will find Cinderella, Prince Charming, the evil stepsisters and evil stepmother.
Ohana is inside the Polynesian resort. Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto are here, but only for breakfast.
On our last trip we also went to the Tusker House (inside Animal Kingdom) and Chef Mickey’s (inside the Contemporary resort). Both of those had some of the original Mickey characters – Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto, Daisy, etc. and both were super yummy.
Before Your Trip
4. Download the Disney app.
I didn’t have the app on my phone for our last trip, only Grunt Labor did, but this time around, I did have it and I loved it. On the app, you can see what you have coming up, easily change your Fast Passes, see where characters are in every park, what wait times are for rides, etc. It’s like your own personal guidebook to Disney World.
5. Custom t-shirts are fun.
I didn’t know that custom t-shirts for Disney World were a thing until when we went the first time and Grunt was like, “We have to get Disney shirts made for the Circus!” Apparently, most people have Mickey or Minnie ears or the Cinderella castle or the princesses or whatever put on t-shirts and then put their names on it too. That’s what we ended up doing for the Circus’ shirts on our first trip.
This trip though, we went a different route.
I just wasn’t really a fan of the Mickey or Minnie ears and then the name under it. Every person and their mama had one in the park and I wanted the Circus’s to be more unique. So the Circus and I talked it over and decided what her favorite characters were, then we came up with some designs for a custom t-shirt for her everyday. And then I jumped on that train too and had my own t-shirts made as well.
On our way down to Disney, we both wore our Beauty and the Beast inspired shirts.
The next day, the Circus was meeting Ariel, so she wore her little mermaid shirt with her monogram on it.
We were also meeting Tiana (my favorite) that day, so I wore my Tiana inspired shirt.
On the day we went to Animal Kingdom, the Circus wore her “Working on my Roar” shirt and I wore my Bare Necessities tee.
The next day we went to Epcot and I wasn’t really sure who or what we would be doing, so I wore my Mary Poppins shirt and the Circus wore her Cinderella shirt. The Circus also wore her Cinderella shirt the night we had dinner at 1900 Park Fare when she got to meet Cinderelly, as she calls her.
And on the last day there, we both wore our “Boo” shirts that were Minnie Mouse inspired.
*A huge thank you to my friend, Ashley who made all our t-shirts for us!
6. Book the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique ASAP.
If you have a little girl who wants to get the full princess experience, then you might want to take them to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where fairy godmothers in training transform them into a princess.
There are three different packages to choose from and we went with the full-on-make-me-a-princess-package. That package is $200, so not cheap, but Grunt and I were talking about it and it actually isn’t too bad of a deal if you were going to buy your little one a princess dress at Disney anyway. We paid about $80 for a princess dress for the Circus the first time we went. At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique with the package we got, the Circus got a princess dress of her choosing, a matching wand and crown, her hair styled, makeup done and polished nails. She also went home with a goody bag that was filled with a Cinderella carriage necklace, makeup, nail polish, and other knick-knacks. Of course, she also got the full princess experience. That was the only “souvenir” she got from us though while were there.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique books up super fast though. There are two locations at Disney World – one in the Magic Kingdom at Cinderella’s castle and one in Disney Springs. You can book your appointment up to a year in advance.
7. Book your FastPass+ rides 30 – 60 days in advance.
With your park ticket purchases, you will also get three fast passes per day per person for rides. These are one hour time slots that allow you to go the ride you have your fast pass for and bypass the line. You can book these right in the app. If you aren’t staying at a Disney resort, you can book the FastPasses 30 days in advance. If you are staying in a resort, you can book them 60 days in advance.
While You’re There
8. Splurge on PhotoPass.
As you go around to the different parks, you will see lots of Disney cast members with cameras taking photos of visitors. They are usually also wherever character meeting spots are. This is part of their PhotoPass program. After they take your photos, they will scan your band and the photos will automatically be put into your PhotoPass.
You can purchase all your photos from your trip for $200. Most all of the photos in this post are from our PhotoPass purchase. For us, it is really worth it because you don’t have to lug your good camera around and you can really enjoy the experience, rather than trying to get a photo every time you turn around.
To get your money’s worth, every time you see a PhotoPass cast member with a camera, just stop and have your picture made.
9. Get to the park early to ride.
If you can, get up and be at the park when it opens. Doing this allowed us to get in line ASAP at Epcot to meet Anna and Elsa. If we hadn’t been there earlier, then I don’t know that the Circus would have gotten to see them.
The first day we went to the Magic Kingdom, we went straight in to Adventureland – it was essentially dead. We were able to get right on Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride and then the Jungle Cruise, both with zero wait.
We were even able to switch the FastPass+ that we had originally gotten for the Jungle Cruise on another ride. After those rides, we headed toward Fantasyland and stopped at It’s a Small World, once more with zero wait time.
The second day we were at Disney, we went straight to the Fantasyland area and rode the teacups, Dumbo and the Barnstormer with zero to very little wait time.
10. Epcot is a great place for meeting characters.
I didn’t really know what to expect at Epcot as I had never been before. I knew adult beverages were in abundance there (YAY!) and there were some rides we wanted to do, but as it turned out it was a really great place to meet characters as well. As you walk through the different countries, you will see signs where Snow White, Jasmine, Belle and other characters will be throughout the day.
These wait lines were so much smaller than ones at the Magic Kingdom! And with Snow White, you got to take a photo with her right at her wishing well.
She was pretty proud of that lipstick stain. 🙂
11. Divide and Conquer.
We were lucky on our trip because we had a team of four adults who just wanted the Circus to have a great time and experience everything she wanted to. For that reason, we would all divide and conquer a lot if need be. One of us would go stand in line for a ride or another character meet and greet, while another one stayed with the kid or did something else. Pa totally won the award for dividing and conquering this trip. I can’t tell you how many lines he jumped in a line so the Circus could meet a princess. 🙂
12. See a parade in the Magic Kingdom.
The first trip we took to Disney World, I didn’t really care to see any of the parades in the Magic Kingdom. I just figured, it’s a parade, what’s so great about it.
I was wrong.
They are truly magical.
Try to see at least one parade in the Magic Kingdom – I think there is always one or two per day. You’ll get to see lots of characters you might not get to see otherwise. The music is fun and the performers are all so talented.
13. Don’t miss the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom.
By all means, make it a point to see the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom at least once during your stay. On our first trip, we were in the park to see them. This time around, we saw them just after dinner at the Polynesian resort one night. I think that I almost liked seeing them more at a resort off the monorail, than actually in the park. The resort still played the music that went along with the fireworks and the Circus and I had plenty of room to dance around on the grass during them.
Obviously, we had a great trip! I hope you do too if you go!
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so freakin” sweet! Did you attend the Mickey’s Halloween party?? I took my daughter in October and she loved trick or treating in the park, what a fun experience. As always, love your post!
We didn’t do the Halloween party, Beth. After we got down there though, I really wish we would have gotten tickets for it. I bet its so much fun!
Amie Green says
Love the idea of the personalized shirts! My kiddo just went with his dad’s family. I’ve yet to go. We are thinking of a cruise… but will see what kind of deals we can find! Either way I’m sure it will be magical!
My aunt, uncle and cousin have been on a few Disney cruises and they loved it!
Barbara Christianson says
Glad to hear you had a wonderful Disney vacation. My husband & I live 10 minutes from Disney & we go at least once a week for a couple of hours. When our kids & grandkids are in town we do the whole day thing, but we try to break it up with a rest in the early afternoon back at the house where people can rest, eat or play in the pool. Disney World is truly a magical place. I think the people who don’t have a good experience sometimes try to push too hard & with kids, the heat and exhaustion it’s too much.
Oh wow, Barbara! That is so cool! I agree, you definitely can’t push the kids. We did kind of like you and tried to get back to the hotel in the afternoon so she could nap before dinner. Otherwise, she was not a happy child!
Great post, photos & t shirts! You were so lucky to stay at the Grand Floridian. I went to see the Gingerbread House there last year.
I stayed at the Royal Caribbean & found it easy to get round on the Disney buses. They are every few minutes & are free if you stay in one of their properties.I was situated near Disney Springs which I loved.
I got the full dining plan & got that free as I’d booked so far in advance. I couldn’t believe the amount & choice you got.I used the ” snacks” mostly to get a Starbucks.
I also got the Photopass free, but it’s good value even if you have to pay. If you download the app your photos go to your £device straight away.Wifi is free in all the Parks. On some photos the Disney photographers add cartoon aharacters & videos which are cute.My daughter back home in England also got the app & was able to get access to my photos.
Making hotel reservations & fast passes are good advice.
We’re going to Disneyland Paris in 27 days time. Found out today you can pay extra in our hotel to have a Christmas tree & decorations put up. Disney certainly know how to add the magic touch!
I bet it was nice to be so close to Disney Springs, Shirley. There is so much you can do there! Isn’t the dining plan great?! You’re right, there are so many choices! We had some of those photos where the characters or special effects were added too – so fun! Let me know how Disneyland Paris is!! I bet it will be awesome!
Stephanie S. says
Looks like you had a fun time. The shirts are so cute.
I am only 3.5 hrs away. My hubby hates crowds and went quite a bit as a kid in California. Love it. Glad you got to go.
We had a great time, Stephanie! Honestly, I’m not too big on crowds myself, but it’s one of those things you just have to deal with if you wanna go to Disney!
Susan the Farm Quilter says
What a marvelous adventure with your family!! Circus is totally adorable…but you knew that!!
It was so much fun, Susan!