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trips-with-tykes-logoContinuing the fun at the Family Travel for Real Life (#FT4RL) conference, and continuing the live blogging!  I hope that you will follow along with me as we learn about family travel, and how those of us with families can take part in it with their families.  See below for the lineup of speakers and follow us throughout the day with #FT4RL

The next speaker is Leslie from Trips with Tykes.  I had not yet met Leslie in person before this conference, but she always favorites my tweets, so I know she must be amazing!!!! :-D.  I know that her site has a lot of great information about Disney, so it’s probably no surprise that her talk will be about Mastering the International House of Mickey.

Hacking the Disney Magic

Leslie is a self-admitted “Disney geek”.  First off, she “called out” Disney skeptics – people who don’t like Disney – her advice was just to quit complaining and just embrace the magic!  Another thing that can be great for Disney is multi-generational travel.  There were actually a TON of people here at FT4RL that had lots of Disney experience.

There is a ton of advice on Disney from your neighbors, friends, or other bloggers out there.  One watchout is to make sure to not take advice from people who have different travel habits than you do – make sure that it is someone who is likely to travel Disney the same way that you do.  Also, Disneyland (California) and Disney World (Florida) are VERY different.

Best Disney sites and information

One thing that I didn’t really realize is that there is a lot more to Disney than just the theme parks in California and Orlando.  There are Disney Cruises, Disney Aulani, Adventures by Disney and Disney Vacation Club (timeshares).

I also didn’t realize that Disney World (in Florida) is a LOT (30,000 acres) bigger than Disneyland (510 acres)

Common Disney Questions

Age: When is the right age to take my kids?  Leslie says that there isn’t really a wrong time to take your kids to disney.  Kids under age 3 get free admission and ages 3-9 do get a slight child discount.  You also want to work around school schedules – times when most schools are off in session are going to have a LOT more lines and crowds

Crowds: Speaking of crowds! Look for school schedule anomalies: teacher in-service days, fall break, etc.  Schools in different parts of the country start and end in different times, so you can check that for your situation, if you don’t want to pull your kids out of school.  Some sites for crowd calendars are or Touring Plans.

Lines: Oh… the agony of lines.  Some tips for beating them are: Arrive RIGHT at “rope drop”, or even better, 30 minutes BEFORE the park opens.  Disney also has the FastPass system, which is free.  If you are staying on Disney property, they also have Extra Magic Hour where you get extra time in the park before or after the time.  There are also apps / software / website that track historical wait times (RideMax, MouseWait).

Some FastPass hacks are the 2 hour rule, Rider Switch (benefit of having a baby / small child, which is defined as anyone that doesn’t meet the height requirements for a ride.  There’s a post over on TripsWithTykes that has some more detail on this)

Walt Disney World has a Fastpass+ system, which uses the “Magic Bands” system.  You get 3 per day but in 1 park only.  Once you use those 3, you can get more at the in-park kiosks.


Here’s the Swan hotel on-property at Disney World

The cost: Yup, it costs a lot of money to go to Disney.  The big cost items are going to be tickets, hotels, rental car / parking, food and souvenirs.  Leslie said that the Disney Vacation packages can actually still be useful.  This can be a good time to actually use a travel agent, since you (the consumer) don’t pay them.

Ticket Prices start at $99 / day, but the longer your vacation, the lower the average cost per day.  Only buy the tickets that you need.  For example, if you have little kids like I do, you might not be park hoppers, so you don’t need to pay $40 / day extra to park hopper.  One way to cut down cost is that you can buy Disney gift cards at Target for an instant 5% off.

For hotels, you CAN save money by staying off-property, or stay at Value Resorts at DisneyWorld.  There is some discussion as to whether you want to stay on or off Disney property itself.  Leslie recommends for Disneyland it’s a Maybe but for Disney World it’s a definite YES.  The perks and proximity outweigh the extra cost.  At Disneyland, there are lots of points hotels nearby, but Leslie’s opinion is that you’re often better off paying cash – $139 vs. 35,000 points / night.  For Disney World, there are 2 Starwood hotels (the Swan and the Dolphin) that are actually on-property – Category 4: 10,000 points per night with the 5th night free.  There are a few Disney-branded credit cards, but the perks weren’t super amazing.

There is so much on Disney that we couldn’t possibly cover here, but I think the #1 takeaway was that in order to really maximize your Disney experience, you really need to plan the trip.  For me, that’s part of the fun – but that’s because I’m a planning kind of guy!

What about you?  Ever been to Disney?  Have any good tips to share?

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