We did so much research and forward planning, creating itineraries and a game plan before we boarded the plane that I do feel as though we made the most of every second we spent there and squeezed out every last drop of magic. It surprises me when people tell me they're off to Walt Disney World for the first time and when I ask them how their planning is going or what ADR's they have made they look at me blankly. I ask them how they plan on getting to Chef Mickeys from Port Orleans Riverside, or if they know the park is open an extra couple of hours because they're a resort guest?
There are so many important things a first timer should know before they go, so here's three to get all your first timers out there thinking!
1. Do it yourself bookings over booking a complete package
That day we walked into the travel agents we where purely curios...what's this WDW our friends and family are talking about? How much would a trip like that cost? It was all curiosity, we just wanted a price, a guide, an idea, we didn't plan on walking out with an invoice in our hands! We got comfortable with the 'package' holiday for the next couple of trips, it was so much easier to just have it all done for us. It's only recently we started to look at the separate aspects of the holiday - from flights to accommodation and tickets, we found there where savings to be made if we booked some things separately ourselves. For example; booking our hotel and tickets as one deal, then booking our flights during a mid season sale saved us a few shiny pennies! This isn't always going to be the case but it's always worth getting a package price and then trying a little DIY too!
2. Booking your holiday during a free Disney dining plan period.
The Disney Dining Plan didn't exist when we first went to Walt Disney World, nothing like it was in place so all your food money came out of your budget too - and when staying on property your options (price wise) are limited. You may get a great $5 buffet on International Drive but the same buffet on a Disney resort could be close to $30+ per person! The Disney Dining Plan, or DDP, is worth well over £1300 if we where to purchase the standard DDP for our family of four adults. When booking to stay at a Disney resort during a select free dining period they are literally giving the food away! Offering the chance to eat at the likes of Cinderella's Royal Table, 1900 Park Fare, O'Hanas, Hoop de doo review and so many more it's an opportunity you shouldn't pass up! We have had so many amazing dining experience thanks to the free DDP, eating at places we could never have afforded or justified paying for out of pocket. The times of year when free DDP is offered makes a huge difference to when we look at booking our next trip.
3. It's not all about the parks!
Call me crazy but I for one don't go to Walt Disney World purely because I love the theme parks! There is so much going on beyond the parks, so much happening in the Disney Resorts alone that you could probably, and easily spend several days just exploring the resorts and never set foot in a single Disney theme park and still have an amazing time! If you are lucky enough to be staying at a Walt Disney World resort pick up the hotel newsletter or ask at concierge about anything happening, from scavenger hunts to pirate ship sales, African tales around the camp fire and a pool side movie, there is always something happening. Sometimes the very thing you are paying a premium for you don't utilise as much as you could, and should have. The Disney hotels really do strive to provide exceptional guest service and offer some amazing and unique experiences to make the hours beyond park opening just as magical!
I know I said three but I couldn't help but add this final little gem...
Treat every trip as if it was your last!!
During these uncertain financial times and not having the power of prediction we never know which trip might be our last, it could be the last trip you take with your now young adults, the last trip you take as a couple before kids come along, the last trip you take for some time because it takes so long to save for. We just never know, and when we approach each and every trip like that we find ourselves stopping to appreciate everything, from the shows, to the rides, the streetmosphere, the smells, sights and sounds, the barbershop quartet, the Cast Members waving their oversized Mickey hands, the leaping fountains, Captain EO, a steam train ride around the Magic Kingdom and that final kiss good night.
Whatever you do, above and beyond everything else, make the most of every last second as if it's your last.