It's been just over a week since the Disney World trip. What an amazing vacation.
It was the first time that we have flown together as a family. Our previous vacations were all road trips. It was nice not having to worry about finding a gas station or place to eat or driving for 6 or so hours. Airport security was not as bad as I originally anticipated - I still think it is a farce, nothing more than security theatre - but that was only because the lines were not too long.
The best resource if this will be your first trip to Disney or if you have no been a long time is to buy a copy of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. It is an amazing source of information providing all sorts of details including positive and negative feedback from visitors on every thing Disney World.
Though we did not use them in the end, the touring plans will save valuable time on busier days. The information in the book we found most useful was the description of all the sit down restaurants, the rides and the shows.
Also coming in handy via the website TouringPlans.com (purchasing the book gives you free access to all of the website for a year) was a crowd level guide and which parks you should visit and which parks you should avoid. Helps you plan which park to attend on which day to improve your experience.
Initially we began planning our trip using the vacation planner at the Walt Disney World website, but the number of options and so forth made it difficult to plan it. I finally went to our local CAA (AAA) office and went over the trip. I booked it.
Advantages of booking through CAA? You get all documentation and items in one package. Also, the travel agent will check to see if there are any better deals on your hotel portion. We got a package that was about $100 cheaper than originally planned PLUS a $200 gift card to use at the park. We booked our restaurants through CAA - a time and money saver since there is no toll-free number for Disney Dining (though it is my understanding that the restaurant reservation system should be online in the near future, if not already)
Disney Magical Express - the bus that takes you between the Disney World and Orlando International Airport - comes highly recommended. Don't let the long line at DME check in scare you. It moves along at a good pace. That said, this would be a good time for the rest of your party to visit the washroom, grab a snack or drink, or to change into more appropriate clothes. It was nice not to have to worry about lugging your luggage and storing it at hotel if you arrive before 4:00 PM.
The parking situation at Disney is not well documented nor well explained. When you check in at a Disney resort, you are given a parking pass. This is your ticket to free parking throughout Walt Disney World. What they don't explain is how to use it when visiting the hotels - you usually need your Park Pass and sometimes a picture ID. At some resorts you can swipe your card for automated access.
We used our AAA/CAA Diamond Parking pass whenever possible. No problem using the pass at Magic Kingdom. Diamond parking was not available at Epcot during our stay and we never drove to Hollywood Studios (choosing the boats instead). We did encounter a problem at Animal Kingdom in that the Cast Member did not believe our passes were real. I told her that was a problem between Disney and AAA/CAA.
The Disney Dining Plan seemed to work out, especially at lunch. We had absolutely no problems using the plan - most Cast Members were helpful in maximizing the value of the plan. Because it wasn't hot during our stay, we found that we didn't drink or snack as much during our visits to the park. So we used the snack credits to get a bunch of fruit and baked goods to use as our breakfast. We did bring bagels, instant oatmeal and a few other pre-packaged foods with us to cut down on breakfast costs.
The Boardwalk Villas are fully equipped. Dishwasher. Stove. Microwave. Washer. Dryer. Utensils, cookware and dishes. You could cook a meal if you wanted to. Best part? Housekeeping would wash everything for you. We always had two single load boxes of detergent. Having the washer and dryer was a god send. We were able to pack half the clothes, freeing up room for souvenirs on the trip back home.
We didn't see every single attraction or spent the entire day at every park. The longest day was at Magic Kingdom - where we did the majority of attractions. The shortest day was at Animal Kingdom - where we visited a single area. We didn't get a chance to checkout World Showcase at Epcot. But that was a good thing. It gives us the opportunity to check out 'new' attractions the next time we visit. And there will be a next time.
Posted by Adam