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Storygirl

Staying off-site at Disney World

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Where have you stayed?

If you have stayed both in a Disney resort and off site, what were the pros and cons for you? I am particularly interested in this question, but all answers will be helpful.

Obviously, it is cheaper to stay off site.

In the past, we have stayed in a family suite at All-Star Music, because it has space for six.

We appreciate the provided transportation to the parks. I think if we stayed off site, we would need to rent a van plus pay for parking. And parking at the parks is less convenient than being dropped at the entrance by the bus.

Has anyone stayed at a resort that provides a free shuttle? What have been the drawbacks? Do the shuttles get you to the park before rope drop? Do the shuttles fill up, so that you end up being delayed and annoyed? Do you have to time your exit from the park to catch a shuttle back, because they don't run regularly enough? I am talking here about any shuttles from the independent hotels; I know how the Disney shuttle system works.

And we appreciate the extra magic hours for staying on-site. We've found in the past that we can get through a substantial number of rides during the early entrance, and we consider standing in line a waste of money after paying for expensive park tickets. We have not been there for a few years, since our kids have been in public school. We used to go during low crowd times, but this time, we would be going during moderate crowd levels (and perhaps some higher crowd days) at the beginning of the summer. I'm thinking that we would appreciate the early entrance hours even more and wonder if we would regret not having them if we stayed off site.

It's easier to save on food costs when staying off site. However, we have typically spent the entire day at the park, from rope drop until closing (or close to it), and I will not want to cook much on top of that. Plus we will be getting back at bedtime, not supper time. Cooking adds extra work for me when I will already be exhausted, so realistically, I won't do much, unless it is just heating something in the microwave. But then I would have to find time to go to a store to shop for food. And transportation to get to the store. So, yes, cooking saves money but has other negatives to consider.

We managed to go during free dining previously, but that won't happen for us this time. I usually pack in my suitcase snacks and also ready-to-eat breakfast items, like breakfast bars and small boxes of cereal when we stay at a Disney resort, so we only need to figure out lunch and supper (even when we have had free dining).

So the pros for us on staying on site are the transportation, the early entrance hours, and that the six of us can stay in a value resort. We do not hang out at the resort much at all but just use the room for sleeping. Except we will plan one day in the middle of our stay not to go to the parks but to sleep in a little,  swim, and visit Disney Springs instead.

We have not in the past gone back to the room in the middle of the day, as some suggest. We aim to spend as many hours as possible in the parks, knowing that we won't be back for years and wanting to take as much in as we can. Knowing that is our strategy may be important for responses. We are not looking for many amenities in the hotel itself, other than a pool, because we won't use them.

Thanks!

 

 

Edited by Storygirl

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We are gate drop/all day people as well.

Last time we stayed at a Hampton Inn, in a suite style room. They do run a shuttle, but there are six of us so it was easier to drive. Even with a car rental and parking, it was much much cheaper to stay off-site. We paid about $100/night. 

Our Hampton had a lovely free breakfast. We ate at 6am and then had plenty of time to drive, park, and be there for gate drop. We ate quick service lunches in the park. Most nights we picked up easy suppers from the store—bagged salad, bread, fruit, deli chicken but other nights we got takeout—Chipotle, Papa John’s pizza, etc. The quality of food was better and it was certainly less expensive.

(Perhaps the high end restaurants are nice but I have not been impressed by the quick service and mid-range ones at Disney).

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We usually stay off site.  We get a 2-4 bedroom condo or townhouse.  We pack a backpack cooler for the day with lots of snacks, trail mix, crackers, sandwiches, water, cookies, fruit, etc.....and much for the day on that.  Then we go off-site for dinner or we do eat some meals in the parks.

Shuttles from nearby hotels is pretty shoddy time-wise.  They don't have many and they aren't good with the times we want.  

However, there is one condo I haven't stayed in that I have heard good things about, and you could walk to Disney Springs to get a Disney bus.  It is called Bonnet Creek.

I will list some of the ones we have stayed in later.  I don't have time right now.

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We stay at Hilton properties because we use travel points. Both Hilton hotels have dependable shuttle service.  IIRC, they run every 30 minutes. They also have early magic hours. I don’t know about rope drop, it isn’t something we’ve ever paid attention to. 

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A hotel room, even a suite, with 6 people would be a deal-breaker for me. I need space to get away from my people. A 3 BR condo at Windsor Hills can be rented for about what it costs for a room at the values onsite. For me it would be worth it to add in the cost of a rental car and parking just to have the additional room.  Windsor Hills is about a 10-15 minute drive to the parks, with Animal Kingdom being the closest.

Driving to and from is no big deal. And walking to my own personal (rental) car at the end of a long day, dealing with only my own crabby kids and not everyone else's, is a huge perk, as is being able to drive right up to the front door of my condo. 

Plus having a kitchen doesn't necessarily mean full-out cooking. A deli chicken, a frozen pizza, cereal in the morning--all of these things can save money from buying all of your food in the parks or resorts.

Those are the reasons we have chosen off-site over on-site. Once we got to the point of needing 2 rooms for the 5 of us (before they had the suites), we never stayed onsite again--it was cheaper (and more enjoyable) for us to stay in an offsite condo.

Edited by mom2att
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I haven't been yet but I have some friends that told me about their trip where they stayed off-site.   They rented a house with a pool for a week.  It was shockingly cheap.  it was cheap enough that we plan on leaving some down-time days in between Disney days and just using the pool and recovering.   

So, I don't have specific advice, but maybe check into house rentals.   

Also, 🍿
 

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DH did some research today. Has anyone stayed at DoubleTree Hilton Disney Springs? He thinks he can get a really good deal there for a room that will work for six.

 

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We are fine, by the way, with having six in a hotel room. It's what we usually do when we travel, so we are used to it.

I would like to have a kitchenette for the full fridge, sure. I don't know if we would even eat rotisserie chicken or pizza in the room. Depending on park hours, it may be 10 or 11 or later before we return, and we just won't be eating a meal then. Otherwise, I would not be averse to sometimes having and easy meal in the room. I just doubt we will be in the room at any meal time other than breakfast. And even on our non park days, we would probably choose to leave the hotel to eat at Disney Springs.

So it would be nice to have a kitchenette. We would use the fridge and counter space. But it's not essential.

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3 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

DH did some research today. Has anyone stayed at DoubleTree Hilton Disney Springs? He thinks he can get a really good deal there for a room that will work for six.

 

 

One of DH's coworkers stayed there recently and LOVED it.  He had some combination of Hilton Loyalty points and credit card points so it was almost free, and had all the advantages of staying so close.  And he thinks Hilton beds are more comfortable.

If you decide to rent a house instead depending on how many days you'll be there you might look into getting an annual pass for one of the adults. You get free parking and the photo pass thing is free for anyone with the pass, and I think there's a 20% off discount on almost everything on site. If you go annually you can arrange this year's trip to be a week later than next year's trip so you only have to buy the pass for one person once for two trips.  Of course if you live in driving distance the equation might change dramatically anyway.

Also someone told us Amazon has grocery delivery there so if you don't want to rent a car but rent DVC points and stay in a room with a kitchen you can take advantage of that without using a car. That's another thing I haven't tried myself but I definitely would if I wasn't going during free dining plan time.

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30 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

We are fine, by the way, with having six in a hotel room. It's what we usually do when we travel, so we are used to it.

I would like to have a kitchenette for the full fridge, sure. I don't know if we would even eat rotisserie chicken or pizza in the room. Depending on park hours, it may be 10 or 11 or later before we return, and we just won't be eating a meal then. Otherwise, I would not be averse to sometimes having and easy meal in the room. I just doubt we will be in the room at any meal time other than breakfast. And even on our non park days, we would probably choose to leave the hotel to eat at Disney Springs.

So it would be nice to have a kitchenette. We would use the fridge and counter space. But it's not essential.

How are your teen boys not hungry? I am asking somewhat sincerely.  My teen boys are totally up for a full meal at 10pm if they've been eating lightly through the day. (By lightly I mean 3 full plates of food each at breakfast, a burger meal at lunch, granola bars & packed food snacks through the evening...and then arriving back at the hotel.)

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We've stayed at Bonnet Creek resort several times, but we drive and never stay all day.  We tend to only eat in the park a few times all week.  I cook easy meals, take my crock pot, and we take snacks and drinks into the park.  We have a family of 8, so even a quick service meal is $100.  Plus my family just prefers to eat home cooked food rather than restaurant food, especially for days!  

The pros for a condo- more room, full kitchen, nice for your day off, for breakfast, and for keeping snacks cool.  We have not used the shuttle, but BC has one.  

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We have done both. We can drive down so we don't have to rent a car.

Staying onsite was awesome with little kids. We went back in the middle of the day to let the baby nap and dh could stay with the older one or two. 

I have so many food allergies that having a kitchen is important. We have stayed at Bonnet Creek; it is very nice!

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I've done it both ways. There were some perks to staying on site... we had the meal plan, which was certainly nice. But overall, I doubt I'd do it again. None of the perks were enough for us. When we stayed on site, my mom was footing the bill and had planned the trip. When we planned it, we stayed at the Liki Tiki, which was hardly swanky, but our room was clean and nice, the bathroom was big and comfy, the kitchen was nice to have.

I think some of this depends on how you use the parks and how much you want to save. When we did it with just us, I cooked dinner about half the nights we were there (just spaghetti, store roast chicken and salad, that sort of quickie stuff). I made sandwiches and snacks for us to bring in with us. We tend to go in, stay most of the day, then go back - we're not back and forth and going between parks for the most part. If you don't want to cook at all, do want to hop around between the parks and your hotel multiple times through the day... then it may be worth the cost of being on site.

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1 hour ago, Katy said:

If you decide to rent a house instead depending on how many days you'll be there you might look into getting an annual pass for one of the adults. You get free parking and the photo pass thing is free for anyone with the pass, and I think there's a 20% off discount on almost everything on site.

 

The 20% applies to merchandise and table service food places. CS food places usually don't offer the discount, but we always ask anyway because sometimes we are surprised.

Free parking is definitely a huge perk.

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On 4/4/2019 at 1:36 PM, prairiewindmomma said:

How are your teen boys not hungry? I am asking somewhat sincerely.  My teen boys are totally up for a full meal at 10pm if they've been eating lightly through the day. (By lightly I mean 3 full plates of food each at breakfast, a burger meal at lunch, granola bars & packed food snacks through the evening...and then arriving back at the hotel.)

My kids are slightly built. DS14 is the biggest eater, and he could be hungry at that time but would probably be the only one. My kids commonly can have something light for breakfast in the room (little box of cereal or breakfast bar, plus some fruit and milk or juice) and then be good for a couple of hours. We'd carry snacks and drinks with us. Quick service lunch. Quick service supper, supplemented with more snacks from our bag. My girls are lighter eaters, so some of my kids could even share an adult meal. Or some would choose kids' meals, even as teens.

If we stayed at someplace with a free breakfast, the kids would definitely fill up happily before we would go to the parks. If breakfast is not included, we would eat something quick and easy in the room so that we wouldn't have to buy breakfast food in the parks.

DH is busy booking things today -- has done the airline tickets and is ready to reserve the room -- and we think we will rent a van. So we could stop to get DS a sandwich on the way from the park to the hotel. And we can keep peanut butter and bread in the room, even without a fridge

Edited by Storygirl

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https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34515-d10187135-Reviews-Hyatt_Place_Orlando_Lake_Buena_Vista-Orlando_Florida.html  I've stayed several places off-property and on-property, but this is my fav. Well that's not true, I LOVED the condo at Reunion. I'm still shocked you're fiddling around with a hotel room for so many people. Now if it is in Disney Springs you may get the EMH, yes. You'll have to look through them and see. The breakfast at the Hyatt is fab, the rooms generous. You'll have two queen beds and a sleeper sofa and a STUNNING breakfast. 

Fwiw Residence Inn Sea World is close, easy to get on the highway, and does these portable breakfasts that would fit your kids. I don't like them because I like a hot breakfast like the Hyatt, with oatmeal, etc. But the pool is wonderful. Do you like a hot tub? We always look for the hot tub, so to me that's like dealbreaker with Disney economy.

Yes to the annual pass to get the free parking and 20% off your gift shop and 10-15% off your meals. You'll totally be glad you did that. Do it for *your* ticket and then take me down for a girl weekend, hehe. No seriously, if you do it then you could do little flings like that too, like just go do Epcot for a few days.

When are you going? Will Star Wars be open? If Star Wars will be open (I doubt it if you're buying plane tickets), then stay on property. If Star Wars won't be open, then do whatever you want. Obviously in a dream world we'd all stay deluxe on-property and have EMH and ... LOL 

You might consider using uber/lyft. You could price it out. Uber is superfast and easy and you'll get dropped off so close it will make you cry. Way easier and faster than driving a van and parking and doing the transportation and the long walk. Now to get to MK, scratch that, still a pain in the butt, but it was a pain in the butt either way needing to go through TTC. Only on-property have it easier getting to MK. 

Ok, this is just my two cents, but are y'all going to stay together or separate? Is it possible you'd like to go to the hotel room while the boys do their energy-filled runs through the park? Uber or on-property solves that. You've mentioned that vacations with them aren't relaxing and that cruises are. So draw the line. Take a condo or house, make sure it has a hot tub, and you go back and have time to yourself, floating in the water, soaking in the hot tub, and they do your gig. If you have a balcony to sit and read on and a hot tub, you've got your nice vacation. I would prioritize yourself rather than a few extra hours theoretically in the parks. If you pay less to stay off-property, they can have more days. 

Here's a search on VRBO to get you started https://www.vrbo.com/search/keywords:Reunion Resort%2C Reunion%2C Four Corners%2C FL%2C USA/arrival:2019-06-03/departure:2019-06-07?adultsCount=2&childrenCount=4&petIncluded=false  It's the Reunion Resort, and it's a 2 mile area of just utter gorgeousness. Some have golfing behind and some have the pool/hot tub really close. We had a pool and hot tub right out the back door, that close. Choose carefully and you'll find one. It was so nice, we wondered why we were going to the parks, lol.

 

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Thanks, PeterPan!

The annual pass idea is great, but I don't think it will work for us. I don't think there is any way that we would make it down there twice in one year, since we are locked in to the kids' school schedules. We normally heavily resist going to WDW when most people are out of school, and this time will be the exception. We'd have to go a second time before the end of next May, and I just don't see it happening.

We perhaps would separate if someone wants to ride something and others do not. Although in the past, the non riders went through the line anyway and then just didn't board the ride. Depends upon the ride, probably, and the length of the line. But generally we stay together. We haven't done Disney in years, so our strategy might end up being different. But usually everyone wants to ride almost everything, so we stay together.

Having time to myself sounds great!! But I will want to be in the parks. I very commonly send DH and the kids to the pool and stay in the room by myself when we are at a hotel, so I will find little moments for my downtime. We're there for a week, and I'm not sure yet how many days we will go into the parks. Not seven days, so we will have a day or two to just relax and go shopping and sleep in, etc.

Yup, vacations aren't totally restful for me, because I take work with me (the kids!). And I'll be tired from the walking. A hot tub sounds nice!

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We normally don't act this fast, because we usually ponder all of the options for awhile, but DH wanted to book things while he has a chance, given that we need a certain size hotel room. He found a great rate at the DoubleTree. $133 per night, I think, including parking at the hotel (sometimes they charge for parking) and early magic hours at the park.

I think they offer a shuttle (can't remember), but DH thinks we will rent a van and transport ourselves. Which will also easily let us to whatever food shopping we would like.

I have to look up the room to see if it has a fridge, etc., and then I can think about what to do about food.

But we will also have to buy park tickets and figure out what we want to do about Fast Pass tickets, so the food decisions will come closer to the trip. We are going at the tail end of May, so it will come up soon.

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2 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

We normally don't act this fast, because we usually ponder all of the options for awhile, but DH wanted to book things while he has a chance, given that we need a certain size hotel room. He found a great rate at the DoubleTree. $133 per night, I think, including parking at the hotel (sometimes they charge for parking) and early magic hours at the park.

I think they offer a shuttle (can't remember), but DH thinks we will rent a van and transport ourselves. Which will also easily let us to whatever food shopping we would like.

I have to look up the room to see if it has a fridge, etc., and then I can think about what to do about food.

But we will also have to buy park tickets and figure out what we want to do about Fast Pass tickets, so the food decisions will come closer to the trip. We are going at the tail end of May, so it will come up soon.

 

Don't forget that once you use your fastpasses you can book more, one at a time on the app, every time you enter a new fastpass line.

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Thanks, Katy. I'm going to have to figure out the whole fast pass thing, because the last time we were there, it was still the paper ticket system.

The kids are excited. 😎

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We have stayed both on and off with little kids. When off, we stayed at Windsor Hills in a condo through All Star rentals. When on, we stayed at Wilderness Lodge. 

Hands down, I LOVED the condo. I think that is the only way I would ever do it again (though my kids are mostly grown now, so it’s sort of moot.) 

To me, these were the biggest perks: 

1) make our own food

2) everyone had sufficient space and some privacy

3) use of washer and dryer

We had a car, however, so that is probably different from some. We did not fly to FL; we drove our family vehicle. 

Making our own food was a really huge perk to me. I get so sick to death of Disney food otherwise. When we stayed on property, we had a meal plan, which was so gross to me by the end. We packed a cooler with lunches and had some snacks for each kid. This saves money, but for me, really, the biggest factor is just that I don’t want to eat Disney food day after day. I don’t like it and my IBS flares up. 

We were not open-to-close tourers, though, so I can’t speak to that. 

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5 hours ago, Storygirl said:

a great rate at the DoubleTree. $133 per night, I think, including parking at the hotel (sometimes they charge for parking) and early magic hours at the park.

 

Ooo, for that many people that's awesome!!!

So with the annual pass, remember parking is pretty high now. It was $20. Did it go up? So multiply that X your number of days (5, whatever). And you'll save typically 10-15% at every sit down restaurant. I kid you not. So if you're gonna eat at sit down restaurants for dinner in the kingdoms and plunk out $200 a night ($30X6 plus tax), then think about saving minimum 10% every single time. And if you buy a few things in the gift shops, you'll save another 10% there. I usually go buy everything adorable I find at the shop by Beauty and the Beast in MK, hehe. Totally favorite place, love. So if I drop $50 there on pillows and things, I just saved another $5. It adds up. 

So you'd be buying the annual pass to save money, even if you don't go back. Given the size of your family, you might save. And you can pick up a cute magnet in Epcot for your family.

Yeah, May is before Star Wars opens. You'll have a good time!!! Have you used the dining reservation finder with Touring Plans? That's how I always do our ressies and we get great stuff, basically anything you can dream of. Dinner at Be Our Guest is really different now, so I might pass. I mean it's fine, but I would pass. What do you want to splurge on or eat? I love talking food, haha. 

There's a lot of mobile ordering now and they keep adding restaurants that can do it. The BBQ at Flame Tree in AK is good. The T-Rex restaurant is actually better than you'd think, and they have mobile ordering. Great toppings bar. Satuli Canteen is worth doing several times. Food in MK largely sucks. We always do lunch at Be Our Guest because it's just a think for us. The PeterPan floats at Storybook Treats are DELISH. The loaded tater tots at Friar Tuck's are outrageous in sort of an indulgent way. We ate them while waiting for rain to pass. :biggrin: Gaston's Tavern has phenomenally huge cinnamon rolls if you haven't had them yet. Split one between three, so you just need two for your whole party. They're seriously that huge and I eat a lot, lol. Then go to that little B&B gift shop. It's a ritual with us. :biggrin:

Are there any festivals in May? I haven't been then. Should be crazy fun, and *I* think the crowds will stay low. People who are a doing a once in a lifetime are gonna wait for Star Wars in the fall. 

I really like doing the VIP dining and pass for Fantasmic at HS. The lower priced option at Mama Melrose's is fine. If you do it at the beginning of your trip, you can use the tickets a different day if you get rained out or whatever.

Well cool, you're going to have such a fun trip!!! Do they know what they want to do most? I don't know what it will be like in May, but it has been that the crowds are going over to Slinky Dog and leaving Rock N Roller coaster and Tower of Terror basically walk-on. Same gig in AK with everyone going to Pandora. So work your fast passes, see what you think. You're probably only going to get FP for River of Light, but who knows, you may for Flight of Passage. Maybe you will? It's always worth a try, but think through in your mind how you'll roll if it's only River of Light.

Also Tomorrowland Speedway is down. The railroad might be down then. You can check on Touring Plans. It's only around $10 to register there, highly recommend. You'll get the dining res finder, crowd calendars, everything.

Have you seen the new fireworks in MK? They're sort of over the top now. Like really, they're over the top. 

Oh, say you decided it was at least break even to do an annual pass for yourself to save parking, blah blah. You'd also get a discount on holiday party tickets. And you're like oh, why would I want that? But think about it, you can fly down, do a party, spend one night, fly back. You could take just your oldest dd and have girl time. You'd have options like that. The perks add up. We did annual passes for one year and we definitely came out ahead and I think we only went three trips maybe. Well no, we hit 4. But it was those discounts that got us there. And I wouldn't trade the memories. 

Have you eaten Yak & Yeti? Definitely worth doing. Twice, haha. No but seriously if your kids will eat it, do it. If they won't eat it, leave them behind and treat yourself. Take me. So, so, so, so good. Like I'm exuberant a lot, but it was REALLY slather over your face good.

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Ok, now I so want to go look it up. If the hotels are running deals, then attendance is down with people waiting for SW. Just saying. 

Yup, you're gonna have a great time. It won't be like level 1 crowds, haha, but you'll have fun. I think your EMH plan is strong. And you know there are other things to do when crowds are high, like hit the detective games in Epcot, the map quests in MK, etc.

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Ok 5/25-5/31 crowd levels shoot up. 5/12-5/22 the crowd levels are great. And you get Flower & Garden, score!!!!!

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We'll actually be there the last week of May and the first couple of days of June, because the kids are in school until then. We thought we'd go the first week we are able, thinking that some schools are still having classes through the first week of June.

Thanks for the tips on food. In the past, I've had a good idea about where we wanted to eat before we go, and we time it to eat either early or late to miss crowds. It's been six years since we've been there, so some things have changed, but we will still have some ideas of where to eat. Animal Kingdom and Epcot have better food than MK, I think. We are very unlikely to eat at any of the sit down restaurants. For six people, it's just too expensive. But there are some decent counter food options if you know in advance where to go to get something other than a burger or hot dog. We like Yak and Yeti and FlameTree BBQ. And Liberty Tavern at MK. Be Our Guest was new when we were there before, but we managed lunch there. I have to have a Dole Whip.

Previously, I made my own daily plan using a guidebook. It was before I had a cell phone, so I made a note card for each day and carried it around. An app on my phone would be easier than that, so I'll look into the options.

We would love to see Star Wars, but I wouldn't want to during its first year, so I'm not sad that it won't be open yet. I'm hoping crowds might be lower, due to people waiting until it opens to make their trips this year, but who knows. I think we may skip Hollywood Studios altogether this time. Two of my favorites are there -- Buzz Lightyear and Fantasmic -- but the rest of it I won't miss. We'll have plenty to do at the other parks, and there are new things that we have never seen.

And now that my kids are older, we will not need to spend time in lines waiting for autographs. They were into that before, and it took a lot of time. Except we will need to see Mickey and Minnie. And Winnie the Pooh.

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There is a bus that goes from the DoubleTree to the parks. If we decide to use it, we won't need to pay for parking. We will just need to see if it works for us or not. If not, we can drive ourselves.

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We’ve gone twice in May. We loved the timing. Warm outside and not overly crowded. I think you’ll enjoy it very much! My only other thought that I haven’t seen mentioned...do they still do the thing where if you’re on property you get Fast Pass access 90 ? days out, and off property you get it like 30 or 60? Not sure if FP is that big of a deal to you, but wanted to mention that small difference just in case. 

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Yes, if you stay on a Disney property, you can still get fast passes earlier. But we are past that window anyway. It's less than 90 day until our trip, so even if we stayed on property, we wouldn't benefit from the early sign up on fast passes.

I'll have to figure out when our window opens for ordering fast passes once we buy the tickets. The hotel says we can buy tickets from them once we get there at a discount from the gate price. But the cost savings would mean giving up all opportunities for claiming fast passes before we get there. We'll have to figure it out.

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13 hours ago, Storygirl said:

 I'll have to figure out when our window opens for ordering fast passes once we buy the tickets. The hotel says we can buy tickets from them once we get there at a discount from the gate price. But the cost savings would mean giving up all opportunities for claiming fast passes before we get there. We'll have to figure it out.

 

You can buy tickets at a discount from Undercover Tourist. Very reliable. 

www.undercovertourist.com

 

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On April 4, 2019 at 11:21 PM, Storygirl said:

I think we may skip Hollywood Studios altogether this time.

Oh, I can't imagine!! Well I can, lol. Yeah, HS is such an abyss. It's like you're killing time to eat, lol. My ds LIVES for Rock n Roller Coaster and tolerates Tower of Terror. I'm so charmed by the Frozen Sing Along that it's really essential to me. The Sci-Fi Drive In is surprisingly yummy. So you know that they expanded behind the Toy Story mania ride and adding Slinky Dog, right? The lines can get a little ridiculous, but it's a nice ride, just like a perfectly smooth, nice time, if you happen to get a FP. We didn't do the alien saucers because ds is just that way, opinionated, lol. And really, this is awful, but I've started getting motion sickness on rides. I kid you not. After years of being impervious, last year it started. I wasn't even tolerating Slinky Dog well, if you can imagine. My mother developed vertigo around 40/50, and something has definitely started for me. And Slinky Dog is not like this rough ride either, lol. It's really fun though, memorably fun.

Yes, that will be a relief for you to be free from the character meet & greets! My ds won't do them at all. Like he's totally, totally averse and thinks being forced to meet Belle in Storytales with Bell was abuse, hahaha... He even hugged her and I have photographic evidence!! That was so sweet and magical. But yeah, maybe that's why we get so much done, because we never do meet & greets, lol.

There's wind of new shows at Hollywood Studios. Ok, I just realized what you don't know. Have you seen about the new fireworks they do for Star Wars in HS? It's really worth seeing. Now I'll fess up that I'm that obnoxious type who will do Fantasmic AND the Star Wars in the same night, but you can't do that if anyone is on a scooter, lol. No seriously, they're really unmissable, like don't miss them. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/hollywood-studios/star-wars-galactic-spectacular/  They're seriously really, really well done, very fun. Now would I wait on the grass an hour to see them? Clearly someone would. There's also a dessert party. But no, everyone gets to see them and they're a great show. So if you have park hoppers maybe snag Sci Fi diner for a late dinner and get the milk shakes to go and have them while you wait for the fireworks to start at 9:30. It will be a bit zooish, but if they like SW at all they're fab and worth the effort.

Ooo yeah, you're in for a treat with the new apps! The Disney app is stellar. Once you have that set up, which you can do right away, you can run your Fast Passes, do mobile ordering, everything through there. And then the app for Touring Plans is terrific for making your plan and working the plan. Everyone can load and use it from your account. You can test out itineraries and see how they'll work for your dates. There's a bit of a learning curve (like hello, I don't want to walk in circles and back and forth so much) but it's really nice to have a plan and work the plan. I like that you can see what it will look like and then rearrange to get it just like you want it.

On April 4, 2019 at 11:24 PM, Storygirl said:

There is a bus that goes from the DoubleTree to the parks.

The Disney Springs hotels share busses and they have the system down really pat. I saw the busses pretty frequently, so I think you could be satisfied. The main thing I think is the route and where your hotel is on the stop. I think they run 2 busses, with each servicing 5 or something. You'll google and figure it out. So like if you're hotel #1 on that route in the morning, you're not going to be full. If you're the last hotel and you're riding a scooter, well that's a little rougher and might mean you wait for the next bus. I've taken people with scooters a lot, so I have to look that stuff up, lol. But yeah, I think you'll be satisfied. All the comments I saw online were generally satisfied. And yeah, being near Disney Springs will be nice!!! I'm so all over the gelato, oh my. Try Vivoli il Gelato. So, so, so good. Like I think it's better than the gelato in France at Epcot and you can trust a woman with a waist like mine, haha. No seriously, try 'em all. I just thought it was really good, and it's really close to the ferry. So you can get your gelato and then ride on the ferry out to Port Orleans Resort to listen to music, explore, etc. It's a nice, cheap time. You can eat dinner out there if you want. I didn't do it but wanted to. The resort is a moderate and the food reviews well if it's to your taste. We ate at the House of Blues at Disney Springs, and you can ferry there too. So like take the bus or walk to Disney Springs, ferry to House of Blues, eat, ferry back for gelato, and then walk/bus to your hotel. It works, super yum. Just have ressies obviously. But my ds won't darken the doors of stores, so all that other stuff is lost on us, lol. Like I've been there how many times and never been in a single shop, lol. They'll have music performers and it's pretty at night. You can get beignets at Port Orleans if you want or rent bikes or fish. I don't think the beignets are all that, but people swear by 'em. They're cheap and fun on the ferry. 

17 hours ago, Storygirl said:

The hotel says we can buy tickets from them once we get there at a discount from the gate price.

Why in the WORLD would you do that??? No fastpasses, dumb dumb. The hotels all have booths like that, but mercy. If you're getting EMH, then I would assume you're the longer window. You can probably already make FP if you buy your tickets now. Yeah, Undercover is legit. Personally, I'd just call Disney and sort it out and get it done. You're probably already in the window. yup, googlefoo says 60 days. You should be buying NOW.

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Ok, now I will tell you my uber fun tip and you'll say I'm silly. Get your FP made first obviously, but then come back to this tip. :biggrin:  

When you get the Touring Plans app set up or use the online planner, you'll be able to see all the *street performers* in Epcot. Actually it works in AK and other places too. So like one trip I was taking someone I thought would like the street performers, and I made us an itinerary to hit as many as possible. It was really fun! They seem so random, but actually they're all scheduled, even the crazy Vikings, the vine people on stilts, etc. hehe. So fiddle with it. If you've already done the movies and shops and you're like ok, we're bored, the street performers are fun. And that's how you see them, but pulling them down in the app and scheduling them in. Magic. :biggrin:

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Thanks!

I will look into what is new at HS. It's not really an exaggeration to say that I dislike HS, except for the few things that I love. Love-Hate.

I won't ride Tower of Terror or Rock-n-Roller Coaster (did the coast the last time and regretted it big time), and only a few in my family would want to do those. Indy show is boring after seeing it several times over twenty years (if they still have it -- not sure what they closed to make SW). I liked the car show, but it's gone, and there were also things I didn't like about the big stadium venue. I liked the Beauty and Beast show, but I don't think my teen boys will want to do it this time. Love Buzz Lightyear and Fantasmic.

Once we skip the things we don't want, there isn't really enough for a full day there. And I figured that would be even more true now that they have closed some things down for building SW. Also, I hate the park layout. We have gotten lost in those fake set neighborhood streets and wandered and asked cast members for help and found that they couldn't give directions, and that was with using a map and having a DH who is great at directions. Lots of pointless and frustrating wandering.

It's a lot of walking for not enough pay out for me, personally. Hopefully we can go back to WDW a few years from now and see Star Wars.

But with the things that are also new at HS since we were there, perhaps I would like it better. Haven't seen the fireworks. Haven't seen Frozen. Or Slinky.

We won't do park hoppers. It's just too expensive as an add on for six people, and for most parks there is more than enough to fill an entire day for us.

The last time, six years ago, we skipped Epcot. It happened that we went to Disney two years in a row back then, and we had done Epcot the first time, and the kids didn't like it as much, so the following year, we skipped it. This time we will definitely do Epcot, as they are older and can enjoy some of the more intense rides and maybe appreciate the cultural things a little more.

We love Animal Kingdom and haven't seen Pandora, so we are looking forward to that.

We need to decide how many days of tickets to buy, and then we will get it done and figure out fast passes. We have six possible days for going to parks, but we won't do that many, because we will want a day off. DH thinks we should do five days, because it is only $75 more total for all six of us to five days instead of four. Getting into the parks for $12 each is a steal. But we have also discussed doing a day at Universal (we went there a couple of years ago, and kids loved it), and if we do five days at Disney, that's not reasonable to add on. So we have to talk it out.

I definitely want to do two days at Magic Kingdom. It's probably my favorite, and it's too large to do everything in one day.

One day each at Animal Kingdom and Epcot.

So we could do HS for the fifth day and if we don't stay all day, it would still be worth the $12 per person add on cost.

But then, factoring in a day off, there is no time for Universal. Which would be okay by me, but the rest of my family probably would think differently if I took a poll. It would definitely be cheaper to just do Disney parks this time.  There is only so much that we can reasonably do; the last time we were in FL, we did Universal only and skipped Disney. I personally was not a fan of Universal, other than the Harry Potter parts, which were amazing. The non-roller coaster rides there make me dizzy (even the HP ones), and I personally don't ride roller coasters.

I'm actually the one who pointed out to DH that since we will have a car, we could go to Universal one day. But I think I'd rather not. The kids would say yes.

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We’ve been to DW twice...once about five years ago and once last May. We LOVED HS five years ago. Like, it was almost my favorite park of not for MK. Last year, didn’t care for it at all. There just didn’t seem to be anything to actually *do*. (Like you, nobody in my party wanted rockin roller coaster or the tower) We wandered around maybe half a day and left (we had park hoppers). This last time we enjoyed Epcot more than previously. Maybe bc of my kids ages??? But we did the Test Track ride at Epcot and it was a standout ride for all of us, even me! (But can’t see your kids’ ages since I’m on the phone)

Also like you, I started planning and making reservations after the window for FP opened. My biggest two that we couldn’t get were one of the new avatar rides and seven dwarves mine train. We ended up skipping that avatar ride (had a pass for the other one) and waited in the normal line for the dwarf ride...I think the wait was near two hours. 

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3 hours ago, Storygirl said:

the things that are also new at HS since we were there, perhaps I would like it better. Haven't seen the fireworks. Haven't seen Frozen. Or Slinky.

You haven't done the Frozen Sing-Along?? Are you serious? I just assumed they had it when you were there last, because you had talked about the other Frozen ride, the one in Epcot. Well honestly the Frozen Sing-Along is just MAGICAL. 

I hear you on not liking the layout. The Indiana Jones thing is still there but I *think* they just announced it's going to change at some point. 

The new Star Wars portion is an addition. It will be a whole world, sort of like Pandora. They're going to soft-open, with half of it in the fall and the rest next year I think. It's sort of at the fringe, a dead-end.

Ok, something you don't know. They fixed some of the flow. It's still stupid inefficient, with that dumb dinosaur lake and a large T shape, but they totally changed how you to get to Toy Story. All that mess with which side street do I need is over. They have a different entrance to Toy Story Mania, what used to be sort of the handicapped lower level,  and it's directly across from Slinky Dog. So it's more spacious and nice there, more like MK with a big sidewalk and everything visible. That part at least will be nice. I'm still not saying you should do it, but that part is redone to be better, yes.

You can probably find a youtube video of the Frozen Sing-Along and see what you think. If you FP it you end up waiting more (you come early and stand in the front of the holding pen watching funny videos) BUT you get better seats. We've always FPed it. The ending is honestly magical, so don't spoil it for yourself by watching youtube to the end, hehe. So if any of your people are into Frozen, it's worth doing, yes. Even my "why am I here, I don't care about Disney at all" friend LOVED the Frozen Sing-Along. Seriously. :biggrin:

Don't skip Flight of Passage. It's literally the best thing in all the parks right now, which is why the lines go long. And the bummer is, if you try to ropedrop and you fail, the line is literally astonishingly long, like to the back of the park, doubled on itself like DNA, awful. But it really is good. Until Star Wars opens, Flight of Passage is the single best thing in the parks, which is why it's hard to get FP. If you had bought your tickets before the window opened so that you could have done your FP right when the window opened, you probably would have gotten FP. But, you know, make a plan, work the plan. Put some ideas into the Touring Plans thing and see what comes out. If you pick the lowest crowd level of your trip to try to do it and then pick the lowest crowd level time of day, you might make out well.

So then I'll give you another tip. You would think FP is best on Flight of Passage, but actually the people who stand in the regular line see all kinds of extra stuff the FP people don't. Well I don't know how much, but my hates Disney friend went back for a day and waiting in line 3 hours and said she still had fun. Apparently there was lots to do. And you'd be surprised. Like the line could be three hours in the morning and then things shift and it's like 60 or 90 minutes. I've even seen Navi River longer than FoP, which is totally stupid as Navi River is just, well it's weird. It's fine, do it, but it's I don't know. 

4 hours ago, Storygirl said:

since we will have a car, we could go to Universal one day. But I think I'd rather not. The kids would say yes.

Does your dd like Universal? Maybe the guys go to Universal for that day and the girls use uber and go do the stuff you'd like at HS. Since it would just be the two of you, you could do a sit-down meal. If she wants to see the Frozen sing along and doesn't care about Universal, it could work.

Yeah, there's so much fun stuff. Maybe give up an MK day to get the Universal day? 

Once you buy your tickets, you're stuck at the gate getting them altered. I'd just pick generously and plow forward. You're gonna have a magical time! A bad day at Disney is still a really good day! :)

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There was nothing for Frozen at Disney yet the last time we were there. It was also before the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride, so that will be new for us, too.

The Harry Potter areas at Universal are like what you described for Pandora. We got in an hour before the regular gate opened and zipped back there and walked onto the HP rides. 30 minutes after the regular gate times, the lines were snaking through the park and were well over an hour long very quickly after the regular gate time. The lines just got longer from there on out. By the time we left the HP part of the park, it was jammed back there.

We've had a strategy to go in early and be in the front of the pack for those high value rides, and it's worked well for us, although you do need to pick which ride(s) to prioritize, because you can't be first in the pack for all of them, obviously.

The last time we were at DIsney, we entered MK during early magic hours and did every ride in Fantasyland twice before the gates opened for the regular time. That was before the Mine Ride, though, and it was a low crowd time (last days of Aug through first days of Sept), so I'm sure we can't be that efficient this time.

We will do what we can, though. I know some experts at avoiding crowds say not to go to parks on magic hour days, because the crowds are higher. But we've found it has worked for us at both WDW and Universal.

I just have to practice my speed walking between now and then, because I am the family member who will fall behind the others.

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Fun personal fact -- DH and went to DisneyWorld for our honeymoon 21 years ago,because his family friends gave us a week in their Disney time share villa for a wedding gift. I had never been to WDW before. Animal Kingdom had just opened for the first time two months before, and it was June, and it was not just ordinarily hot but a blistering heat wave. The entire park was packed with people, and we had to leave at lunch time, because we couldn't take it any more.

Hence my desire to avoid SW land for the first year at least after it opens. I've been at a WDW park when it has just opened, and once was a enough.

We figured if we go this year, we get to miss the SW land craziness, and perhaps the overall crowd levels this summer will be a little lower, because many people will want to plan their trip for AFTER it opens.

Normally I would never choose to go there in June. But DD17 graduates in a year and who knows where she will be off to after that. We may not have many vacations left with all of our kids together, so we decided to go for it and do Disney one more time.

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I would definitely do a day at Universal with your kids ages.  A lot of older teens like it more than Disney, especially if they're Harry Potter fans at all.

You could see about Disney after hours events while you're there.  You can enter at 7 even though the official start is 9 and stay till midnight.  Everything is empty, no lines.  A family I know with all older teens prefers it - they get all the rides they want, don't have to worry about fast passes or rope drop, they can sleep in, they can spend the best tanning hours at the pool or shop when pools and shops aren't crowded.

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3 hours ago, Storygirl said:

Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride

Ok, here's my two cents. It's utterly adorable, very simple. Kinda like Slinky Dog in that sense. I think the ending is utterly charming. But if you ask my ds, he has better things to do and is gonna head to Space Mountain. Anyways, it's so classic, so adorable, the line is always, always, always long, meaning it always needs a FP or rope drop. (or in our case the DAS) But it's not super high value either, unless you're crazy nostalgic or like tame rides. It just works for everyone so everyone wants on, lol.

Check, but I think Peter Pan may be down. That's seriously killing me, because going without Peter Pan would be like, well missing half of myself? No seriously, I spent a lot of time as a kid studying the maps in the end pages of my grandmother's Peter Pan book, so to GO there and BE there and actually fly it is just magical. Oh you lucky dog, it's back open!!! Tell me if they spiffed up anything. I always wondered how they touch up all that paint and make it glow. :biggrin:  Tomorrowland Speedway is scheduled to reopen 5/18, so sounds like it should be open for you also!!

3 hours ago, Storygirl said:

I know some experts at avoiding crowds say not to go to parks on magic hour days, because the crowds are higher.

I agree with you that even on high crowd level days the crowds are going to tend to start lower and ramp up. Now if there's a HUGE difference in the predicted crowd levels, sure I might chase a low crowd park. Really though, I think your logic is sound. No, it's not going to be walk-on. Some of the crowd levels predicted around your dates are pretty high. You'll use your FPs and work the plan. I think getting in early is really smart. Then maybe take a break, sit down, and proceed when you're fresh.

I don't think anyone REALLY knows what crowds are going to be. I'm sure Touring Plans is trying to predict and has sources, but I'm just saying the SW thing is a huge variable. You could get there and the crowds are surprisingly low. I've never been in the parks above a level 6, but I think just take a deep breath and have fun. My personal tip, when crowds are uncomfortably high, is to do things that don't involve lines. Like have y'all done all the treasure map quests in MK? I think they're fun. And the spy agent (Perry whatever) in Epcot are really fun too! Or like make your own crazy missions, like dividing in teams and trying to get something from every snack counter in a quadrant of the park and reporting back. 

Well I'm so excited for you! It sounds like it will be a wonderful trip!

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7 minutes ago, Katy said:

Disney after hours events while you're there.

And are they separate tickets like the party tickets? I saw someone online saying she did the after hours tickets for AK to do Flight of Passage without such crazy waits. 

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3 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

And are they separate tickets like the party tickets? I saw someone online saying she did the after hours tickets for AK to do Flight of Passage without such crazy waits. 

 

Yep, separate tickets, kind of expensive.  Last I looked they were $125.  I'll find a link:  https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/after-hours/

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Reading this with interest, we want to go back once Star Wars opens. We always stay on-site, but those condos Peter Pan linked look great. 

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We couldn’t get a FastPass for Flight of Passage, so we did the thing where you arrive before the park opens to get in line. The grounds open before the park and rides - check for the time. A ton of people were doing the same thing so it felt like a madhouse - the line ended up extending even beyond where it goes when it gets long during the day, but that’s just because of people coming in and them getting the line going, so if you do it and see that, don’t panic. In the end, we probably waited about half an hour, got to see all the line theme stuff (very cool) and when we came out, the time on the line said nearly two hours already (it got even worse later). It meant we had to get going early, but it was very worth it.

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If Story is wondering, yes they're starting bathroom passes for the Flight of Passage line. I kid you not. So like if the line is 2 hours when you get there and you're all the way to the door (oh no, my ds would never do this, lol) and someone in your party needs to go to the bathroom, the cast member gives them a pass and they can return. 

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21 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Yeah, there's so much fun stuff. Maybe give up an MK day to get the Universal day? 

 

Heresy! 

And it's so bloody expensive to do one day (whether Disney or Universal). We did it mostly Disney with one Universal day one time, and it made me a little sick to compare the expense of that one day to the rest of the vacation. My kids were mad HP fans, and they do like the big rides. We certainly enjoyed it, but I have trouble saying that it was worth it. So if we go back, it will be Universal only, and Disney trips are Disney only. 

OP, you might consider getting tickets for all six days if you don't do Universal. As you saw, tickets get much cheaper the longer you go for, so it may well be worth it to do two or three shorter days instead of one full day off. This gives you more of the sweet spot of early in the day as opposed to more crowded afternoons. If you get EMH, all the better. When you get to the lower costs of days five and six and so on, even 2-3 hours in the park is well worth it, and you have plenty of time left to go to Disney Springs or back to the hotel to swim. If you wanted the day off to sleep in, consider a nap instead. 

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We have not stayed offsite.  For our family, having close proximity to a park was important.  Our last WDW trip the oldest walked back to the room to do his online classes and check in with his teachers.  Before that we liked being able to go a little slower and going to do hotel things if the park got too crowded.

And I will say the dining plan isn't all that big of a draw unless it's free or reduced. The last trip we carefully saved records of our meals/where we ate and when we got home I plugged it all into a spreadsheet. If we had done the dining plan we would have paid MORE for our food than we did by paying as we went. We came out ahead, and that was with tips and alcohol included. Our trip before that we had so much wasted food and snack credits that went uneaten.

I really want to do Universal on our next trip but I don't think I'll justify the cost.  That might wait for a few more years until we do Universal only.  I just dislike that they don't have transportation from the airport and it requires an extra step from me.  😄

One small tip that my husband thought was crazy until I brought them out - I pack squares of crib mats for the parks.  Not puffy things, but really thin waterproof material with flannel on each side. They take up next to no room in my bag but we always had dry, clean seats after rain or during the parades.

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1 hour ago, HomeAgain said:

We have not stayed offsite.  For our family, having close proximity to a park was important.  Our last WDW trip the oldest walked back to the room to do his online classes and check in with his teachers.  Before that we liked being able to go a little slower and going to do hotel things if the park got too crowded.

And I will say the dining plan isn't all that big of a draw unless it's free or reduced. The last trip we carefully saved records of our meals/where we ate and when we got home I plugged it all into a spreadsheet. If we had done the dining plan we would have paid MORE for our food than we did by paying as we went. We came out ahead, and that was with tips and alcohol included. Our trip before that we had so much wasted food and snack credits that went uneaten.

I really want to do Universal on our next trip but I don't think I'll justify the cost.  That might wait for a few more years until we do Universal only.  I just dislike that they don't have transportation from the airport and it requires an extra step from me.  😄

One small tip that my husband thought was crazy until I brought them out - I pack squares of crib mats for the parks.  Not puffy things, but really thin waterproof material with flannel on each side. They take up next to no room in my bag but we always had dry, clean seats after rain or during the parades.

 

Do you mean crib mattress pads?  Can you link to what you mean here? Wet butts would like to know.

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35 minutes ago, Katy said:

 

Do you mean crib mattress pads?  Can you link to what you mean here? Wet butts would like to know.

Yes, those!  I was given some old ones when my kids were little that were kind of like this but more like large placemat size.  I cut them in half and they're just right to plop a rear end on. 

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7 hours ago, katilac said:

 

Heresy! 

And it's so bloody expensive to do one day (whether Disney or Universal). We did it mostly Disney with one Universal day one time, and it made me a little sick to compare the expense of that one day to the rest of the vacation. My kids were mad HP fans, and they do like the big rides. We certainly enjoyed it, but I have trouble saying that it was worth it. So if we go back, it will be Universal only, and Disney trips are Disney only. 

OP, you might consider getting tickets for all six days if you don't do Universal. As you saw, tickets get much cheaper the longer you go for, so it may well be worth it to do two or three shorter days instead of one full day off. This gives you more of the sweet spot of early in the day as opposed to more crowded afternoons. If you get EMH, all the better. When you get to the lower costs of days five and six and so on, even 2-3 hours in the park is well worth it, and you have plenty of time left to go to Disney Springs or back to the hotel to swim. If you wanted the day off to sleep in, consider a nap instead. 

The idea to buy tickets for six days is a great one! I hadn't thought of it.

We've done an entire vacation where we just stayed at Universal and didn't do Disney. Although we liked Universal (kids loved it), it really is so much less expensive to do an all-WDW trip this time. The kids will be busy and happy at DIsney. We considered adding the Universal day briefly but realized how much more expensive it would be, and since we have already been there, it's not worth it this time. So I agree with you.

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