Disney World was a place I’ve always dreamed of taking my kids to. I never thought I could afford it because it is so expensive, especially if you really want to experience the perks and extra stuff they offer. I’m going to sum up each day we spent at the parks with my pros and cons, as well as our hotel arrangements and costs. I hope that this helps someone out as they’re planning their dream vacation!
How far in advance did you plan?
We booked the resort maybe 8 months in advance. It’s important to do this in advance so you can keep up with all of the other planning (such as dining and fast passes). Six months before our trip we were able to make dining reservations. This is so important to do at this time if you have your eyes set on a particular place, such as Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table. Fast passes can be scheduled 60 days in advance if you’re staying on Disney property or 30 days in advance if you’re not staying on property. The stress of getting everything done on time and getting what we want was a little off putting to me. A vacation should be relaxing to me, but this one was obviously a tad more stressful than a resort in Mexico.
We chose to stay at Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club. We chose this place because we wanted to be able to have two separate rooms and a full kitchen at a decent price. Staying on site would’ve costed us a lot more and we’d have a lot less room. We also wanted to have a full kitchen so we could make meals at the condo if we chose to. I am super happy with the accommodations there. We were able to pick up the rented stroller right at check-in, as well as have access to a pack and play so Harper could sleep. There were many pools and it was only 10-15 minutes away from Disney World.
We rented a car through Dollar Rentals, along with two carseats. Once we landed in Orlando we picked the car up and picked out our two carseats. I didn’t LOVE that the carseats were so old and used (I expected them to be used, but not sooo old). We also had to pay for parking at the parks each day which was $25. With these added expenses it was still cheaper for us to stay off site with a car rental than to stay on Disney property at a smaller place.
We got a 5 day park hopper so we could visit all 4 parks and have an extra day at whichever one we chose.
Monday: Magic Kingdom
We arrived early to make our breakfast reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. I will say that this experience was totally worth it to me! The stuffed french toast was delicious, not to mention the pastries you get as soon as you sit down. We got to meet many of the princesses, and the kids got a sword and a wand to take home (still playing with those). It was expensive, but going for breakfast is much more cost effective than lunch or dinner. I really wanted to try Be Our Guest, so maybe we will do that next time.
After breakfast we went on some rides without a fast pass like the teacups and the carousel. If I were to go back, I would most definitely arrange my fast passes closer together, so that we can get more afterwards. As soon as you use all 3 fast passes, you can add more. It’s unlikely a popular ride will have spots available, but it’s worth a shot. We didn’t get to meet Belle because by 3pm, Bailey was done and wanted to go home. So go early and leave early or go late if you want to stay late. We learned quickly how exhausting it can be and it’s no fun with a grumpy toddler. The lines were long without a fast pass, so expect it.
We went back to the resort and went to the pool. Kids went to bed on time and we started back up the next day!
It’s a Small World: I’ve heard that everyone loves this ride, but I just wasn’t a huge fan. I don’t love the song, so I should have known. It was neat seeing all of the people from around the world, but it wasn’t “fun” if you know what I mean. I’d choose many other rides over this one.
Bippity Boppity Boutique: This was amazing! I highly recommend it if your little girl or boy wants to turn into a prince or princess! (Yes, they take boys too! They have knight outfits or your son could be a prince!) We had Bailey already in her dress and scheduled the least expensive package. This included a hairstyle, nails, make-up, and a drawstring bag with the make-up. Bailey usually cries when I brush her hair, but this fairy Godmother was magic! Her hair even came with a little crown we could take, as well as a Minnie Mouse clip. I would suggest scheduling it first thing in the morning so your girl can have herself done up for the whole day. Think it’s too expensive? I would rather take away one of the mediocre restaurant buffets and give my daughter this experience instead.
We got to Epcot early and walked around only to find out the food places aren’t open until 11:00 so if I were to do this over, I’d make most of my fast passes in the morning! That way, you can walk around the world showcase without having to rush back for a ride. I REALLY wanted to go to Frozen Ever After but the line was too long and we didn’t have a fast pass for this one.
Turtle Talk with Crush: We didn’t have a fast pass for this ride, so we waited maybe 30 minutes. It was super cute and the kids loved it. The kids sat on the carpet in front of the screen while Crush talked with them and had the audience ask and answer questions. I think the adults laughed more than the kids, so definitely check this one out!
Meeting Mickey and Friends: This was awesome because we got to meet Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. If you are wondering about the memory maker, get it! So worth it.
Meeting Anna and Elsa: We didn’t have a fast pass for this one so we waited 20-30 minutes which wasn’t horrible. It was worth it and Bailey had a blast meeting Elsa and Anna. I love that they really engage with the children and don’t rush the meet and greet.
Spaceship Earth: Our kids were not a big fan of this and neither were we. Bailey actually fell asleep towards the tail end! haha. But it’s probably something I would do once and then not again because it was cool, but not super exciting. We had a fast pass for this and if you don’t, the wait will be pretty long.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends: We did have a fast pass for this ride and it was super cute. It was short, but the kids loved it. We sat in the ride and it took us through many scenes from the movie. It was a lot of fun for the kids, but not very exciting.
We left Epcot around 3pm. Once you get through everything and walk around, there’s not much else to do if you have kids with you. I would love to go back here one day without kids!
Wednesday: MK and Epcot
This day we decided to spent a couple hours at Epcot in the morning getting lunch, go home and take a break, and go to MK for fireworks. We didn’t make it for the fireworks because the kids were too tired. We did go on some rides at MK though which were a lot of fun!
Haunted Mansion: This was one of my favorites. I heard it wasn’t very scary and that it’s okay for kids, but it was super scary for Bailey! She was terrified. The ghosts in the mansion looked so realistic I couldn’t believe anyone said that it was a good ride for kids. We sat in the moving ride which took us all through the spooky mansion. I loved it, kids’ didn’t 🙂
Dumbo the Flying Elephant: I chose this ride for the indoor playground, but what I didn’t know is that if you have a fast pass, you can’t go in the playground. It’s nice because you go right to the ride, but we really wanted to see the play area! The line wasn’t super long either, so skip the fast pass on this one!
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: This ride was one of the more interactive ones and I think it was my husband’s favorite! On this ride you take a star cruiser on a journey and fire lasers and earn points. There’s also a camera on this ride so if you’ve got a memory maker you’ll get that picture!
Thursday: Hollywood Studios
We had so much fun at Hollywood Studios! If your little ones like Disney Junior, you’ve gotta stop by! They also have a Toy Story Land which was super cool. We didn’t get any fast passes for these rides unfortunately.
Lunch @ Hollywood and Vine: The only thing I enjoyed about this lunch was having the characters come by the table. The kids loved that. The food was okay, but not worth the price. The quality is similar to Golden Corral in my opinion. Each adult costs $52 and a child’s price is around $32. We were honestly shocked when we saw the bill. I would most definitely skip this for another restaurant.
Disney Junior Dance Party: This was a lot of fun! I wish it was a little bit longer, but the kids had a great time. Mickey and other characters came on stage and danced with the hosts. I would recommend this if your kids are into Disney Junior!
Voyage of the Little Mermaid: This was OKAY. Ariel did sit on her rock and sing a song, but my kids weren’t amused by the puppetry. My daughter was scared of Ursula! I would probably skip this next time and see the Beauty and the Beast show.
Frozen Sing Along: This was a lot of fun! The two hosts were hilarious and kept the adults entertained. Anna and Elsa also came out which was nice. Bailey had a blast singing along to all of the Frozen songs.
Friday: Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom was our shortest day! We got their early to hop on the safari ride. We watched a show and played in the dinosaur play area! I wish ALL of the parks had this playground. It was amazing. I’ll leave details below!
Kilimanjaro Safari: The safari ride is a MUST. It’s one of those rides you need a fast pass for, unless you get to the park right when they open! We sat in the trucks and rode around looking at different animals. The guide/driver was really good and the kids loved seeing all of the animals. We saw elephants, hippos, lions, cheetahs, etc.
It’s Tough to Be a Bug: This was a short show based on the movie “A Bugs Life.” We did not have a fast pass, and the wait was very short. I loved it. The special effects were really cool. Bailey was afraid, so if your kid is scared easily, I’d skip it.
Meeting Mickey & Minnie: We got a fast pass for meeting Mickey and Minnie although we had already met them earlier in the week. It was cool, but if you’ve already met Mickey and Minnie, I’d try to find something else!
Boneyard Playground: I didn’t even know this existed until we walked by it and I was in shock! There’s an actual playground at one of the Disney parks? With no need for a fast pass…why didn’t every park have this? It’s a lot for kids to either sit in strollers or walk and follow closely, so when Bailey saw this playground she freaked out. She could’ve spent all day at it.
There was so much more we wanted to do, but we didn’t have fast passes and the kids were getting tired! I would have loved to stay at night for the light show. It’s really hard when the kids are little. You don’t want to drag them around if they’re miserable. We adjusted our schedules, moved fast passes around, and ended our days early.
Was 1 and 3 a good age to go to Disney World?
I really think this depends on so many factors. We decided to go because Harper was free and we didn’t know when we’d get the next opportunity. There’s always going to be pros and cons of taking little ones.
Pros: It’s amazing to see their reaction when they meet each character. After a certain age, that magic does disappear a little bit. They fit in the stroller. There was no complaining about legs hurting because they each had a spot to lay! They also don’t eat much, so we didn’t have to buy each kid a separate meal.
Cons: They won’t remember the trip. They’ll have pictures, but the trip was for our memory and for the kids’ experience. We couldn’t go on any roller coasters because we didn’t have an extra set of hands with us to watch the kids. If the kids were older, we could all go on the bigger rides together! The kids didn’t last long and tired easily. If they were older, I’m sure we could’ve stayed for fireworks and such. Older kids don’t have as much of a routine and schedule as toddlers do.
I think it’d be so fun to take the kids when they’re older. They won’t have the cute “aww” moments when they get a picture with the characters, but there will be so many fun moments. So either way, it’s fun to go whether your kids are toddlers or middle schoolers. I wouldn’t have taken my 18 month old if I didn’t have my 3 1/2 year old. Before we ever go back to Disney World (if we ever do go again) I would LOVE to go on a Disney cruise. I think that’s the perfect mix between relaxation and fun Disney activities.
Any extra tips?
Bring lots of snacks to the parks. Snacks are so expensive otherwise! We went to Wal-mart and bought a n=bunch of snacks. We got uncrustables, cheese sticks, goldfish, oranges, chips, etc. We grabbed a case of waters too and brought those as well to the parks. This all fit in the storage compartment under the stroller or in the backpack we brought. We only brought one backpack and were able to fit all that we needed. We packed a few diapers for Harper along with wipes, snacks, chapstick, wallets, phones, and chargers.
Also, look at the maps of the parks and see when the parades are, especially at Magic Kingdom. I am still so bummed that we only saw the tail end of one of the parades. Just plan, plan, plan. Don’t try to wing it, otherwise you will most definitely miss out on something and then regret it.
If you’re looking to go to Disney or have any questions, please let me know in the comments below! I hope this helped anyone who is planning or trying to decide if Disney is right for them at this time!