I have always wanted to go to Disney World….I have always wanted to meet Mickey Mouse….I have always wanted to see the castle at night when the sky was alive with fireworks…….but, wait doesn’t everyone have a dream to go to Disney World? Okay so maybe not “everyone,” but this family did, and it finally came true over the holidays! We are on a really tight budget…I wish I could say we had all the money in the world to stay in the Presidents palace, eat at all the famous restaurants, have a personal driver and VIP passes into all the parks…but we did not.
So, I had to research…research…research into how to take a vacation to Disney World on a really small budget. Here is how we managed to take a ten day vacation hitting all four Disney World Parks, Sea World, LegoLand and both parks at Universal.
1. DRIVE….Yes, drive to Orlando (if you can). We are stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. It was about a nine hour drive but so worth it. We spent $250 on gas and food. Make sure you fill your gas tank up before you leave post (it’s cheaper), pack a cooler with sandwich items, juice, bottled water and snacks, this will save you money on fast food (it’s healthier too).
2. Purchase all park tickets at your local MWR office. They have great military deals and you will not be charged tax. If you plan to attend fun extra events at any of the parks make sure you also purchase them at MWR. Click here: http://www.armymwr.com/
3. Make sure you get your free tickets to Sea World. All you have to do is print them off and show your military ID at the ticket window when you arrive. Click here: http://www.wavesofhonor.com/
4. Make all your dinner reservations in advance, otherwise you may not get into the restaurants you want to eat at. They fill up quickly. Click here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/
5. Stay at the Shades of Green Resort…available only to active (including Reserve and NG) and retired military families. It’s across the street from the Magic Kingdom and is a great place to stay. I recommend getting the Sun Rise package which includes a breakfast buffet everyday and is really yummy! The resort has free transportation to all parks within Disney and Downtown Disney where you can dine at some awesome places. Click here: http://www.shadesofgreen.org/
6. Set a budget ahead of time and make sure you stick to it. We did not take a credit card or debit cards to the parks. We went to the Exchange and purchased a pre-paid Visa Card and added all of the money we wanted to spend on souvenirs, food, drinks, etc. while at the parks. This way you are guaranteed not to over spend…I know how tempting it gets when you have a credit card in your hand. Also, if you choose to stay at the Shades Of Green or another Disney hotel within the grounds of the resort, you can have all your purchases made at the gift shops in all four Disney parks sent to your hotel for you. This way you do not have to carry them around the park.
7. Bring a backpack with you everyday. Fill it with bottled water, snacks, a poncho for each family member, sunscreen, bug spray, your pre-paid Visa cards and your military ID . You will need it to get on the Shades of Green shuttle bus.
8. There is no need to get up super early….I recommend getting up around 7:30 a.m. getting ready for your day (pack your backpack), hitting the buffet at Shades of Green (eating a late breakfast will allow you to just snack for lunch and save money), take your shuttle bus to the park you are attending, make sure you have dinner reservation in that park and stay late to see every parade and the fireworks shows….trust me they are worth it!
9. Make sure you take advantage of the freebies that are available to you. Such as:
- Campfire Sing-Along with Chip & Dale is a FREE campfire show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground every night around 7 or 8 p.m., depending upon the season.
- If you see a tree walking down the sidewalks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, stop and watch. It’s actually DiVine, an incredibly talented performer. Likewise, if you see a trash can roaming around Tomorrowland.
- Select attractions have single rider lines that will save you a TON of time if you don’t mind splitting up from your group. You can save an hour or more on the posted standby time.
- FYI, character meet and greet lines are typically shortest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and typically longest in the Magic Kingdom.
- There are “Party Line” phones on Main Street and in Tomorrowland which are located in the Magic Kingdom. Pick them up to listen in on some hilarious conversations.
- Request a FREE wake-up call each morning from Mickey or Stitch on resort hotel phones. It’s a really cool way to wake up!
10. Have Fun!!! Remember this is your vacation and you deserve to let loose a little….dance at the shows, giggle with your kiddos and don’t forget to wear your Mickey Ears!
There are literally thousands upon thousands of things to do at Walt Disney World…. many of which are well known and quite popular…. and some are basically unknown. Read and research as much as you can when planning your trip, you can never know too much about Disney World….however, you can know too little…which is a HUGE No-No!