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sotodog
05-04-2009, 09:24 AM
We are planning a trip to WDW in August 2009 (My birthday 8/23). It will be 4 of us; hubby, me, almost 7 year old boy by and 5 year old girl. Hubby and I went B4 kids about 10 years ago, Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

I am very budget oriented and am willing to pay for things which add value but not unnecessarily. No need to pay for a nice hotel room if weíre not going to be in it or get the park hopper if the kids will be too tired to go to 2 parks in 1 day. Anyway, kids don't know much about Disney as we never talk about it. My son loves all things science, engineering, geography and 'real' as well as loving rides. My daughter doesn't really like rides but loves animals and dancing. I asked her if she wanted to eat with the princesses and she said 'no' because she was scared. She can be timid but she's been surprising me lately. They both used to be terribly scared of 'characters' and not 100% sure of where they stand now. We are going to Hershey Park at the end of May so I'll see how they are there.

We don't like to plan things out too much but it seems that is a good idea at WDW. We typically prefer to sleep in until 9am or so and go later in the evening.

I've looked into the free dining program which seems like a good deal.

Iím just so overwhelmed by all the thought that everyone puts into this and want to get the most out of it with 2 very different kids. I donít want to split up all time nor do I want to rush. It sounds so tiring.

What thoughts/tips can anyone offer me?

mom22gls
05-04-2009, 10:26 AM
With regard to your hotel, a value hotel at Disney is not, by any means, a "cheap" hotel. My only stay at a value was a couple of nights at Pop Century. We had a good stay, and the hotel has much to recommend it. At the value level, you are giving up some square footage in your room, and you will have a couple of double beds. If you have tall or larger adults, or kids who really move around in their sleep, the beds may seem too small. Also, the pools may be smaller, won't have slides, or the intensive theming you may find at a higher level hotel. At the moderate level, we have stayed at Coronado Springs, and, while it was too cold to swim, the pool area had a great theme, and there was a very nice play area. The food court also had extensive choices. I thought it was a good value.

In August, it is going to be very hot and humid. I strongly recommend that you take a mid-day break with the kids, to go swimming. After about four hours in the heat, you really need a break. That may be a good reason to upgrade to a moderate hotel, with a great pool, because you will be using it every day. We, typically, get a pretty early start, do one park for four or five hours, take a break to swim and relax, then go back out in the late afternoon or early evening. We always do park hopping, and, if you are going to invest in one "upgrade" I recommend that you get the hopper feature. We often spend the later part of the day at Epcot, to take advantage of the dining, and evening atmosphere. We have the option of going to a park, just to do one or two attractions or rides, then we go to another park later in the day. If you want to do a late night, go to the MK later during Extra Magic Hours-last June we went to the park at 11PM (after we all had a nap), and closed it out at 2AM. Obviously, we got a later start the next morning.

As far as characters, my younger daughter was very timid around characters, with the exception of the princesses. There is a big difference between a non-human character in a costume that makes them seem very large, versus a recognizable person in a pretty dress. My daughters loved the princess character meals, but don't push it on your daughter, if she really doesn't want to go.

Skawt
05-04-2009, 10:31 AM
Couple of things that jump out to me.

We passed on park-hoppers on our first family WDW trip to save a bit (In your case I believe it would be a $200 difference so it's not insignificant). When everything is new you can easily spend a full day in each park without hopping.

With the dining deal you will be staying on-site, well worth the extra expense in my opinion, and you'll need to decide on which resort to stay at. If I was looking for a more budget trip I would have no problem choosing a value resort (particularily since you kids are younger, younger = smaller and the value rooms are a bit tight on space). I really enjoy Pop Century and since Pop Century has it's own busses may be a little better in the transportation department.

On the character meals and fear of characters, you can always avoid the characters. The characters rotate through the dining room and you'll see them coming, just jump up and go through the buffet line and by the time you get back they'll have made it past your table.

Reading these forums you will certainly get the impression that every detail must be planned but just because some of us are crazy does not mean you can't have an amazing experience without planning out every minute of your trip.

Drince88
05-04-2009, 10:56 AM
Reading these forums you will certainly get the impression that every detail must be planned but just because some of us are crazy does not mean you can't have an amazing experience without planning out every minute of your trip.
Oh, that is SO true!!!

If you are uncertain/etc of characters, I would just make life easier on everyone involved and skip the character meals. If it was little ones, that's some times a way to introduce them to the characters in a 'safe' manner. But with a 7 and a 5 year old that 'know' (as much as kids that age 'know') that they don't want to interact, I'd just skip the character meals. There are SOO many good restaurants to choose from that aren't character meals!

I'm a big big fan of park hoppers - but I also understand budgets. But in August you REALLY want to take those afternoon breaks. There's just something about going to a DIFFERENT park after your afternoon break that seems to help with keeping everything 'fresh'.

Also, make sure everyone says hydrated - nothing can put a damper on a group faster than short tempers that could be prevented by a little more water.

The only 'real' planning you need to do is where to stay, and to make your ADRs. If you're doing the dining plan and ESPECIALLY if you're doing it during the free-dining period, you REALLY DO need to have those ADRs if you want to eat at 'normal' meal times (and I do NOT recommend totally messing with your kids' eating schedules at those ages!)

But, I do recommend doing some homework too. The big things are understanding how fastpass works, knowing which are the 'biggie' attractions in each park so that you can hit those first thing/plan around their longer lines, and being familiar with the overall lay of the land.

For your kids' ages - Birnbaum's For Kids, by kids would be HIGHLY recommended from me. I got one for my nephews before our trip, particularly for the one who is fine with stuff, as long as he knows what's coming. It basically describes the attractions in 'kid language'. Birbaum's also makes an adult version, which gives you a good overview without overwhelming you.

Since people have been able to book the free dining promotion for a while now, I HIGHLY recommend you make your room reservations really soon - they do limit the number of rooms at each resort available for the promotion, so you might not be able to stay in your first choice.

sotodog
05-04-2009, 11:18 AM
While I'm looking for value, I don't necessarily have to stay at a value lodging. They don't sound too appealing to me after some of the reviews. I do have the Caribbean, Port Orleans Riverside, Fort Wilderness and Animal Kingdom on my list. Is the Animal Kingdom without a savanah view worth it? My daughter loves animals and zoos. What about the Swan/Dolphin? I guess they are not participating in the dinner package but their rates seem to be reasonable and it's a good location. It sounds like some of the hotels really are difficult to get transportation to and fro. If you rent a car, do you have to pay for parking at the parks if you choose to do this rather than buses? Is there any reason to do this? I don't even know how long we're going to stay. I'm looking at prices between 5-8 days. I personally don't want to rush, rush, rush and was sort of hoping for a vacation at an all-inclusive but hubby said he'd get too bored. We actually spent a week in Orlando about 4 years ago but never went to Disney. We just did some Orlando sites and relaxed at the condo lazy river and pool. We were thinking of going to FL for a week anyway maybe if we just stay at Disney we can do a good combo of parks and relaxing. I don't know. I posted my birtday date because I know I can plan 3 nights at the swan/dophin and get my birthday night free if we want to go to 2 hotels.

4biegelboys
05-04-2009, 11:28 AM
My son was afraid of those characters which were non human but loved the princesses. I guess maybe because they lookes like pretty girls all dresses up. By the time all my kids were about 5 or 6 they outgrew the scared phase. I would perhaps make a character dinner for mid or late vacation and see how they do the first couple of days and if it is not good then you can cancel.
We love to park hop. We do as many have said, take a break mid day and nap or swim and then head back to a different park later. The kids liked the variety. The younger one who doesn't like rides may like a lot of the ones in MK since there are a lot of slow moving rides. Sounds like your son will love EPCOT, my sons do. But it is a bigger park so I would break it up. Also check out the kidcot fun spots(I think that is what they are calling it) where they can learn about the different countries. Last time we bought the kids a "passport" and they got it stamped at each country and they wrote the kids name in that language or a simple sentance. it was pretty cool.

We are doing the free dining because every other amusement park food is expensive, and feeding 10 people adds up quick!! To us it just made sense to do the free dining. We have to eat..and we love to eat so why not!!

Whatever you plan to do take time to enjoy yourselves and cherish these moments with your children. They are only this age once!! Have a great trip!

mom22gls
05-04-2009, 11:38 AM
While I'm looking for value, I don't necessarily have to stay at a value lodging. They don't sound too appealing to me after some of the reviews. I do have the Caribbean, Port Orleans Riverside, Fort Wilderness and Animal Kingdom on my list. Is the Animal Kingdom without a savanah view worth it? My daughter loves animals and zoos. What about the Swan/Dolphin? I guess they are not participating in the dinner package but their rates seem to be reasonable and it's a good location. It sounds like some of the hotels really are difficult to get transportation to and fro. If you rent a car, do you have to pay for parking at the parks if you choose to do this rather than buses? Is there any reason to do this? I don't even know how long we're going to stay. I'm looking at prices between 5-8 days. I personally don't want to rush, rush, rush and was sort of hoping for a vacation at an all-inclusive but hubby said he'd get too bored. We actually spent a week in Orlando about 4 years ago but never went to Disney. We just did some Orlando sites and relaxed at the condo lazy river and pool. We were thinking of going to FL for a week anyway maybe if we just stay at Disney we can do a good combo of parks and relaxing. I don't know. I posted my birtday date because I know I can plan 3 nights at the swan/dophin and get my birthday night free if we want to go to 2 hotels.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually considered to be a Deluxe hotel. The Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Wilderness Lodge are less expensive than the other Deluxe hotels, but more expensive than the moderates. Both are terrific hotels. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is only accessable by bus, but the bus does not share with any other resort. The Wilderness Lodge is right across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom, and has boat service, to the Magic Kingdom (and the monorail station, from which you can get to Epcot), as well as the buses. If you are going to Epcot, the bus is probably faster. The Swan and Dolphin don't participate in the dining plan, because they are not Disney-owned Hotels. Both are located on the Boardwalk, and they do have bus service, but you won't get Disney theming, or all the benefits of Disney hotels. From the Boardwalk, you can walk to Epcot (the International Gateway), or walk or take a boat to Hollywood Studios.

sotodog
05-04-2009, 11:39 AM
We just went to DC last weekend to the Embassy Open House and got a 'passport' stamped with the countries we saw. The kids loved it. I did too.

adkinsfamily
05-04-2009, 11:53 AM
I do not think that if you chose the Animal Kingdom Lodge, that you need to get the savannah view. We actually did pay for it, but got on the "bad" end of the savannah and never saw many animals from our room anyways. They have lots of viewing locations throughout the property where you can view the animals. Based on what you have said about your kids, and if you can afford it, I would definitely think that it would be a good fit for your family.

sotodog
05-04-2009, 12:08 PM
What I have to figure out is how much I will end up spending after park tickets and the included meal plan. Does the dining plan effectively cover most dining needs? I see some of the shows can use double coupons but will there still be enough for the trip? What else do I need to budget for on my trip? I know we'll have to go putt putting at least once. I don't know what else I should plan for.

mkraemer
05-04-2009, 01:01 PM
With the heat and humidity in August, I would advise going to a Disney water park. They are great for the heat, and the themeing is fabulous. You could go there for most of a day and have it be a 'break from the parks' day in your trip (or you could go to a park in the evening!).

scoobydooby
05-04-2009, 01:25 PM
We did the dining plan in August and a couple of 2 credit meals but we didn't find we had to pay extra to make up what may appear to be meal spaces. Many of the counter service places have options that are easily big enough to share to compensate, (e.g. Peco Bills, Cosmic Rays, Flame Tree BBQ) and some of the snacks you can get, which are more extensive than officially advertsied, can substitute for a meal too. Really, there is a ton of food on the plan and in August when it's so hot (or wet if you went in 2008 :( ) you just don't feel like constantly pigging out anyway. Our last night we still had 30 snack credits left to use....

Given the heat in August and my general dislike of long lines, I would not personally advocate a late start every day, although you can't be up with the lark day after day either. However, one early start at each park at least will pay huge dividends.

I have stayed at a moderate hotel with children of similar ages to yours and found it plenty big enough and the pool entertaining enough, even for my fish boy.

If your children like to swim I would also recommend a water park visit.

DebT
05-04-2009, 07:17 PM
I would definitely recommend the animal shows at AK. They are great and I bet your daughter would really enjoy them. I also suggest seeing the Lion King and Finding Nemo shows at AK too.

WDWorldFan
05-27-2009, 02:43 PM
We've been to WDW countless times. Hershey may be a good way to test your kids stamina. Can they make it a whole day in the park, or do they need some pool time mid-day? We always try to break up the day with a nap or swim. It works. We love Hershey, but you'll love Disney World even more.

Just try not to see everything and pace yourself. I remember our first trip - we came back sun-burned, blisters on our feet and exhausted. It was all our fault. Somehow we felt we had to push it. Now - 11 years later - we relax and take it all in...

sotodog
06-03-2009, 10:44 AM
I am considering 2 dates:

last week of August - won't have to pull kids out of school but hot and humid.

First week of November - pulling kids out of school a few days but better weather

Which is less crowded? November is supposedly the 'Jersey week' and Food and Wine while August is still summer and free dining program. Based on crowds and weather, would go in August or November??

Ohthatjeff
06-03-2009, 10:59 AM
Based on crowds and weather, would go in August or November??
Based solely on crowds and weather, November.

Based on taking advantage of the dining plan, which for a family is a great idea, and the kids not missing school, August.

danyoung
06-03-2009, 12:15 PM
With those choices it'd be a no brainer for me - November. The crowds and weather would be overwhelming factors for me. November is a much nicer time to visit, and the F&W Fest. is very enjoyable. August is still unbearably hot, and the crowds are wall to wall till schools start up. Only you can determine if your kids can smoothly survive losing a week of school. But if you can work that out, do the November trip!

njtravelerof6
06-05-2009, 05:21 AM
If you go in August, it will definitely be HOT but since this is your first trip, I would skip the water parks (and I love Blizzard Beach!) because you and your kids will have enough to do with the 4 main parks and you can swim at your hotel pool. Save the water parks for a return trip, JMHO.

coronado_g
06-07-2009, 09:35 PM
For my first WDW trip, I chose November and am sure glad I did. The weather was comfortablely mild and warm. It only rained once during my 2 week stay and even that was tolerable. The crowds were minimal and well-behaved.

sotodog
06-11-2009, 03:01 AM
We are going Oct 31 to Nov 8.!!! Now just have to wait for park hours to be posted.

Drince88
06-11-2009, 03:59 AM
I wouldn't wait for park hours - I'd do a tentative 'guess' on the park hours based on the Sept hours (making sure to check when the Halloween Party is being held, since that affects the MK hours in both Sept and Oct) so you can do tentative ADR planning and make your ADRs 90 days from your arrival.

iloman
06-14-2009, 07:26 PM
Wife and I have always gone in the first two weeks of November. Crowds are low enough that most wait times for rides are 30 minutes or less. Last time in '07 we even got one of the special fast passes they passed out to those lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time, and we barely needed them!

I'll also second the note above about splitting food. We found that we were splitting more and more as the week went on because the portions were just so large (definitely agree with the examples given too).

We found that we can get by with about 3 ADRs for an entire week. I like to do Chef Mickey's for Breakfast one day, Cinderella's castle for Breakfast another day, and then we decide on some place to do lunch or dinner while we are there. The rest of the time we wing it. Sometimes we feel like a sit down meal and see if we can get lucky somewhere, and when we aren't so lucky we're perfectly fine with the variety of counter service meals. If you decide to do this I would recommend becoming familiar with some of the menus first though so you know what's available when you don't want yet another hamburger :p

Lastly, we don't mind paying extra to stay at the Wilderness Lodge. We both love the theme, and arriving at the Magic Kingdom on a boat just gives it that extra special something that puts the whole trip over the edge for us. The three different places to eat right in the hotel are also an added bonus we take advantage of every time. In fact we've made a tradition of having lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe as soon as we've checked in to get us in the "spirit" of things. If you eat there make sure to ask for some ketchup!