Our best friends asked us to go to Florida with them, they found a beautiful home to rent out and our flight there was dirt cheap so it was the perfect time to jump aboard and join them on a family vacation! Before I give you all the deets, I think its important to provide you a little bit of a background of both families traveling.
My best friend and her family are a family of 5, herself, her husband, and 3 beautiful kids, 2 boys (ages 7 and 5) and 1 girl (age 10). My Family is a family of four, myself, my husband and my two girls ages 5 and 7, for a grand total of 9 people.
With our two families going, we were able to split the cost on a vacation home in a gated resort community just minutes from Disney and other amenities. If you can go with a group or another family I highly recommend renting a vacation home in one of the many resort areas in Orlando. Our resort was called Solterra. The vacation home we rented had 5 bedrooms (2 had en-suites) and 5 bathrooms! Disney themed rooms with Frozen & Star Wars. TV's in every room, a loft area, full kitchen, full cable, WIFI, laundry, pool and hot tub and BBQ and a central pool area with a lazy river and water slide open to all guests of the resort. All these fantastic amenities really come in handy when you need to keep the kids busy during down times and being able to BBQ and cook food really saves you a tonne!
We rented our own vehicles to get around Florida, we bought groceries at Costco and picked up a few items like laundry detergent and some toiletries that I forgot to pack ☹
We only ate out twice, once for breakfast and our last night we decided to go out for dinner. The rest of the time we ate in and cooked most of our meals.
My husband did a lot of research on Disney and which parks would suit our families needs and we decided to do Disney Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Disney Springs.
Here are a few tips before going to Disney to Save you on time and money,
Tip 1: Pick a good time to go!
We left after Christmas in January which turned out to be a great time to go. Our kids missed the first week of school but it was also back to school and back to work time in Orlando so the parks weren't as busy. Also the weather at this time of year is perfect! Not to hot and not cold at all.
Tip 2: Save on your Flight
We flew out of Syracuse Hancock Airport, which has direct flights to several Florida cities. Syracuse is about a 3-1/2 hour drive from Ottawa but is a very easy drive. We ended up flying with Allegiant Air which was, for the most part, a positive experience. You can park at the airport for $10 per day or $12 if you want covered parking. Flights USA to USA can be much cheaper even when you factor in the exchange rate. Props to my bestie for keeping an eye on the flights and alerting me when the price was right. If you fly Allegiant, be sure to download their mobile app and manage your trip through the app; it will save you money because they will charge you extra fees if you do things like checking your bag at the counter. Do not over pack! The maximum weight allowed is 40lbs per checked bag, if you go over they will charge you.
Tip 3: Have a Plan
If you are limited on the amount of parks you can go to, make sure you decide before hand which Disney parks you want to hit but one of them has to be Magic Kingdom if you have never been to Disney World. We only got tickets for 2 parks so we decided on Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Research the parks you are going to at Disney, there is a tonne of great information out there but one of my favourites is www.travelingmom.com. That website has great articles on how to best navigate the parks and how to save time and money. Also you must download the app on your phone. The Disney World app was invaluable, as it has complete maps of all the parks with the locations of all amenities! What, you need to go to the bathroom, the app says there is one 5 minutes away! The app will even map your route to the bathroom! But the absolute best thing about the app is that it accurately displays all the wait times for rides and attractions which really allows you to get the most out of your visit.
Tip 4: Have a Good Backpack
When you enter the parks they will check your bags but you are allowed to bring food into the parks, sorry no booze though ☹ Pack as much snacks, lunches and water you can handle. We saved a lot on food because I packed a lot of snacks and we ate lunchables for lunch. The food at Disney is pretty pricey i.e it was $3.50 USD for 1 banana…yes you read that right…it was one banana lol But there are some reasonable eating options at each park.
Tip 5: Visit your Fairy Godmother
If you have little girls, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a MUST DO!!!! The one in magic kingdom was fully booked so we went to Disney springs and it’s the exact same thing, bring your princess dress and shoes that way you save a lot. The BBB takes it to the next level and really provides an amazing experience.
Tip 6: Souvenirs
Don't waste your money on overpriced souvenirs at Disney World, instead stop by the many shops along the strip where you are staying to get your souvenirs, there are souvenir shops in every corner and they sell the exact same thing for way cheaper.
Tip 7: Mickey Ears
Get your Ears on Amazon! The Micky Ears at Disney are $30 USD each. We bought two from Amazon which cost us $20 plus tax for both. It wasn't the real Disney Ears but my kids didn't even noticed and it did the job.
Tip 8: Magic Kingdom Must Do's
- The Disney Park puts on an amazing parade. You get to see all the Disney Characters at once. Just make sure you go early to get a good spot
- Fast pass for the seven Dwarfs ride
- Purchase your princess autograph book on amazon to get the princesses to sign.
- Make sure you see Princess Belle, you get to go to her cottage and they put on an amazing skit that you can be part of, its truly magical.
- Make sure you catch one of the shows in front of the kingdom.
- Stick around and get a good spot for the fireworks and the closing show where they light up the castle.
Tip 9: Animal Kingdom Must Do's:
- Do the Safari first thing in the morning before the afternoon sun gets too hot.
- Fast pass for Avatar, splurge on this ride, its worth it.
- Its a bugs life attraction is a must do.
- The Lion King Show was truly amazing, its the one show to see and the kids will love it. They put on a great show and they really get the crowd involved.
Tip 10: Hakuna Matata - It Means No Worries!
The most important tip is simply this… JUST HAVE FUN, take it all in and enjoy every moment, create as many memories you can with you and your loved ones, we had a few hiccups along the way but we did not let it ruin our vacation. This place really takes all your worries away!
I know its easy to get stressed and overwhelmed when something doesn’t go your way but remember you are on vacation, so don't sweat the small stuff 😉
I hope these tips are helpful! I cant wait to go back to Florida and do Disney again, it truly is the happiest place on earth!