Bean Disney Vacation 2011

My family and I recently got back from our annual trip to Disney World. I’m sure you’re thinking that that’s quite an expense to take every year and why would you continue going to the same place every year. What’s so great about it?

You’re right, it is a great expense, but it’s one that we have deemed as important enough to forego other things in our lives to make it happen every year. For my part that means a lot of lack of sleep and long hours working as much as I can on a variety of different projects.

Go Off-Season

Here’s the thing we’ve found though about our Disney trips. We go off-season to save money. We pay attention to the deals and discounts all year and pick the times that are best for us. For that effort we’ve found that the following times are great for low crowds.

  • The first full week AFTER Thanksgiving – added bonus of everything being decorated for Christmas, which we love. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
  • Mid-to-late December – crowds get heavier the closer to Christmas, but still not a bad time. Last year we went at this time and the weather was a bit cold for the average guest, but not for us Hoosiers.
  • Mid-October – this was a great time of year for crowds. Weather was great! Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
The bonus of going with low crowds is that you can actually enjoy your time and not feel like cattle at your local stockyard. The ability to get into a park at opening gate and get all your favorite rides in at least once before lunch is well worth the adjustment in your calendar.
For us, one of the benefits of going each year is that we’ve further cushioned ourselves to not feel like we have to cram everything into the vacation. We relax more. We spend more time at the resorts. We don’t stress as much. We actually enjoy our vacation! We get so sick and tired of seeing parents drag their crying kids in the middle of a meltdown around the park to get their time in!

Stay on Resort

We also stay on resort every year. We feel the combination of being able to take advantage of all the Disney transportation between the resorts and parks is worth it. Plus, when you stay on resort you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at the parks. This helps even further with trying to avoid crowds and get more accomplished in the parks. I’m sure we could save some money staying off resort, but part of us making it a great vacation every year is staying on resort.
This year we stayed at Wilderness Lodge, which is a deluxe resort. Usually well out of our budget, but due to a special we could take advantage of on the room rate, we stayed here instead of the normal moderate resort for only about $150 more for the entire week. The other nice benefit of a deluxe resort is free wi-fi access, worth $10/day if you’re like me and need to be able to connect and take care of some business in the early mornings or evenings. Otherwise, your Internet experience at Disney is less-than-magical.
We’ve stayed at Fort Wilderness cabins, Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs in the past. Fort Wilderness cabins sleep six and have a small kitchen that could be used to save some money on dining by having breakfast items in the morning and quick lunches if needed. Our favorite moderate resort is by far Coronado Springs. Recently renovated, rooms and amenities are very enjoyable with great pools. Access to the Pepper Grill market is a bonus as well.

Take Advantage of the Disney Dining Plan

Disney Key to the WorldI can’t stand spending money. Perhaps more accurately, I don’t like seeing the money I’m spending leave my fingers and wallet throughout my vacation. It kind of ruins the experience for me. One of the ways I enjoy my vacation is that we do the Disney Dining Plan every year. All I have to do when someone wants a snack, or a meal is to present my Key to World card and I get handed food. Usually more food than we can eat. I’ve never gone hungry at Disney, and folks, that sounds like a vacation to me! I’ll publish a post later with more tips and suggestions on where to grab some food while at Disney.

There’s a variety of things you can do to save money and stretch your snacks. Usually for every Quick Service meal you get a snack/side item and a dessert. We’ve found that grabbing some fresh fruit, brownie, chocolate milk or fruit juice as one of these items and throwing it in our bag gives us another snack later in the day, or when we’re back in our room.

This year, we purchased to-go travel mugs that gave us free drink refills from the Roaring Forks restaurant at Wilderness Lodge. So, we would grab another drink as part of our dining plan and then use the mug for our drinks with the meals. This let us stock our fridge in the room with drinks for later or milk in the morning for breakfast.

The Best Vacations We’ve Ever Had

Our family vacations to Disney have been the best we’ve ever had. We’ve combined them with other trips on the front or back end of the week to make each trip a little different. As the man-of-the-house, the Magic of a Disney vacation for me is that once you step off the plane in Orlando, or step onto the property at Disney, your vacation has begun. By going off-season, staying on resort and doing the dining plan, everything is taken care of for me. I don’t worry about anything and I just enjoy the time with my family.

I realize our family has the opportunity to be more flexible than other families. We home school our kids. My wife is a wonderful stay-at-home mom. I work on the Internet, so I can be productive from just about anywhere with an Internet connection. But I can tell, if none of those things were true and we had to fight to schedule our vacation and then sacrifice all the time, money and effort to make a trip like this happen. I absolutely WOULD NOT GO TO DISNEY WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS THERE! If my kids are doing well in school, I have no hesitations taking them out of school at any age for any opportunity to share time together as a family. Don’t go in the heat of summer when you’re going to be miserable in the parks and stand in lines because everyone else is there. Take a family vacation, and if you’re going to take one, do everything you need to do to ENJOY YOUR FAMILY VACATION!

If you’re planning a trip to Disney and have questions about anything, feel free to leave a comment and I’m sure me or my wife could give you some tips or pointers to help you really maximize and enjoy your vacation.