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It’s four families with 8 kids ranging from 2 to 13 and 8 adults, what could you expect other than a fun time at a place where you can forget about everything. It is everyone’s dream vacation land, Walt Disney world. We just got back from our much awaited trip to Disney world, Florida. It was 9 day trip, 8 night stay in Orlando. I cannot just say that we all had great time because that’s just an underestimated statement. We had loads of fun but as every Disney world visitor says we needed a vacation after a vacation. We came back with great memories to add to our photo album. Here are some Tips, Tricks and Thoughts from dream vacation with few pictures which should help you plan your dream vacation to Disney world.(at the Magic Kingdom Park Entrance)
Planning is Key
As many of you know, I am a strong proponent of planning ahead of time instead of figuring out things at the last minute. It really helped in our long 9 day vacation to Florida. Everything went as per plan and we all had great time spending reasonable amount of time and money wherever needed. I started planning 3 months in advance from the place we want to say, which park to go first, where should we eat and which rides are good and so much more.
Tip: Either buy The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012 (Unofficial Guides) or lend from your library. I borrowed from library and scanned the pages needed and printed them out to help us every day on our schedule.
I started looking at Disney Resorts, Westgate resort & Costco offers referred by few friends and checked out vacation deals from websites. Nothing came close to renting a villa to stay together directly from the Owner. We stayed at a Solana Dream Villa in Terra Verda Resort and paid $120/night for 6 bed/4.5 bath with all other usual stuff. It is not a luxury villa but we just wanted something to stay and eat together. It was only around 9 miles from Disney, not too far and close to all the shopping and eating places. It worked out great.
Tip:We saved few hundred bucks by going directly to the owner instead of the middle management companies. Here are links for the resorts around Disney which sends emails to owners directly,
Tickets & Fastpasses
As a frugaler, I always look out for deals on everything. I know the theme park tickets don’t come cheap so sweeped all over the web. I only found few deals which can save couple of bucks. I also made sure to be careful in avoiding timeshare deal tickets. I didn’t find any deals which can save good money but I finally ended up getting a good deal after talking to Billy from Billy Boys. They sell discount tickets in their website TicketMomma.com. Good thing, I didn’t have to buy the tickets until I get to Orlando. I just got email confirmation about the deal and later called them when I got to Florida and picked up tickets personally before heading out to the park on the first day. They accepted credit card and even offered 2-3% discount if paid cash but we didn’t have enough cash to pay for all our tickets. So I ended up paying via credit card otherwise we might have saved few bucks. They been selling tickets for 10+ years in the same place and they are legitimate and don’t try to sell you any timeshare deals.
I should tell about the FASTPASS system in Disney parks. It was a great, great idea and helped us so much. We used the touring plan suggestions from the guide and couple of adults always go out to get FASTPASS before we head to check out a show or ride. Once we get back from that one, we will get FASTPASS for another ride and go to the one which we got FASTPASS earlier. Their ChildSwap system also helped much so we got company to go with you all the time and kids where able to try out second time. Thanks to Disney for offering FREE!
Tip: Try to follow the touringplan from book and get FASTPASSES for the ride you like to go before ahead and check other out and you will cover most of the rides.
Theme Parks to visit
We want to have fun visiting as many park possible but at the same time we don’t want to visit every park out there in Orlando. There is Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and lot more small parks. We decided to go to Disney which is well known and ranked first in our list. We also decided to go Universal park either for a day or two depending on our tiredness level.
Now comes the decision time to choose which park to first and later in the Disney world. Since I almost completed the Unofficial Guide and bring important print outs. It helped us on every decision from which park to go, which ride is good and plan for the day. As per the book, their recommendation was to head to parks in this way, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. We discussed and decided to follow their tips and also took the weather into consideration. We did EPCOT as our first park.
It is a decent size park but lot less rides compared to others. We did the Living in Land ride, Soaring which was great. We checked out Captian EO, later Mission Space which made me sick a little bit. Then Universe of Energy show which was fun and Space Earth ride. We didn’t walk the international country side of park instead cut short to hit few countries and ended with the Illumation Fireworks show.
Animal Kingdom was our next park. We felt the heat a bit more since it was all wandering outside instead of shows in a/c hall. We hit the Kilimanjaro Safari ride first, later Mt. Everest Ride and couldn’t go to Kali ride due to technical problems. We hit the Dinoland and finished the Dinosaur ride. After lunch, we went to Swirl ride in the Dinoland few times and ahead back to Kali River water ride. We bought Pancho’s from walmart to protect us from getting wet. I still got wet but not a lot so I should say it helped a bit. We checked out the 3pm parade and headed to other side of the park using train and kid enjoyed the petting zoo. We ended our fun time at park by checking out the It’s tough to be Bugs which was cool show and did twice as there was no queue.
Since the park closed early and we got to villa bit earlier than yesterday. It was not too tiring so we want to test our capacity and thought it be a won’t bad idea to head to Magic Kingdom. Not really, we found that it is going to rain on the day we plan to go to MG so thought better switch it and finish the big park on the day it’s clear and not raining.
It is the big park compare to other Disney parks and got little more rides and shows. We first ahead to small kids area and checked out Winne the Pooh ride waiting for 30 mins or so while some of us went to get Fastpass for Splash Mountain. Later some checked out “The small world” and later saw the Philamagic show which was fun. We headed to Splash Mountain ride and took the ride which was thrilling so I tried one more time. We get to catch some pictures with the Pooh and Tiger. We had to hurry back to take the PeterPan ride, finished lunch and we aheaded to Tomorrowland. Used FASTPASS to go to Space Mountain ride and check out the 3pm Parade enjoying cold ice cream.
Later we checked out another show across Monster Inc which was ok and saw the Mickey stage show in front of the Magic Palace. Then we headed to Adventureland but missed Pirates of Carribean shows as it was closed due to mechanical problem. Took Tiki boat ride which had fake animals along the way, it was relaxing and fun. Took a break and later gone to Haunted mansion which wasn’t up to expectation. We had more time to kill before parade so we gone back to fantasy land and took kids ride carousel, saucer spin and gone to check out Electric parade and couldn’t get good spot. After that we wait for the big laser show and fireworks at 10pm. It started 9:45pm and it was amazing. It took us more than an hour to get out of the park as everyone wants to get out and transportation was limited. If you want to enjoy till end, that’s what happens and you have to patience and be prepared to stay late and save snacks till end so you won’t be tired out of hunger.
We are so tired and wanted a break before head out to other parks. Since we got package which came with water park admission. We headed to Blizzard Beach Water Park around 12pm and had superb time in the water. It was short but those 5 hours flew fast with great fun rides to try out. I tried every ride except the big one with kids. I even tried tubing multiple times and ended with rafting ride with the family. We left and headed back to villa, refreshed and gone to an Indian restaurant to taste some good Indian food. Next day we plan to go the last park, Hollywood Studios.
We ahead to Hollywood Studies, last disney park on our trip. We again reached the park little late around 9:30am. Started with Disney Junior show for kids, next Great American Movie Ride and Voyage with Mermaid show. We can only get Toy story FASTPASS for 2:30pm only. Had lunch and gone to Tower of Terror and headed to Toy Story Ride which was different and fun with my kids. We had to go back and do Rock Rollercoaster near Tower of Terror. I tried twice with kids and it was great. Later headed to Indiana Jones Show, Star Wars Ride and check out back stage tour and walk around a bit. At end, we walked back to Fantasmic show around 7:30pm to get some seats. We sat close to the water thought it would be good to be close but won’t recommend it. Due to wind, water got all over us. Sit on top seats or may be in the middle. It was one of the great show I have ever seen, excelled with lights, fireworks and action. Don’t miss it.
Universal Kingdom – Island of Adventures
Our last park was the Universal Kingdom, Island of Adventures. I did most of the rides except the big HULK and Dragon roller coaster ones. All the rides more thrilling and little scarier than Disney rides. I happen to get my iPhone wet in one of the ride and it finally crashed. That’s the sad part of the universal park visit. We were also able to get Caricreature done for second son Akhil since we had one done for my elder in Universal Studios, CA. It was another tiring but fun day at the park.
We initially thought of going to both Universal parks but decided to do only one and plan to take rest next day as we have to drive back home. On the 9th day, we took a short ride to Tampa and hit a clear water beach for couple of hours and came back and prepared to vacate the villa. Last day we started early around 4:30am and hit hard to reach Houston around 9:30pm.
Tip: If you going with kids, always take stroller and lots of drinks and snacks so they won’t get hungry and ask your food from the stalls. Don’t try to go every show or ride, be selective as per your group taste and follow the touringplan as much as possible.
Kids had a blast. They just want to keep going on the same ride again and again. Since we had too many things to cover, they were satisfied trying only 2 times. My son who is exactly 48inch tried every ride atleast 2 times with the help of FASTPASS since he had great company his cousins from India. They were tired at the end of the day but get right back next day to go to another one. Bring strollers if they are less than 8-9 years old as they get tired and won’t be able to walk at the end of the day.
Every day was long day starting from 6am to get ready to get to park around 9-9-9:30 and ends around 10-11pm. It was bit tiring after walking back and forth to the rides and shows. We took 2 vans, 8 people in each one. In each van, two adults swapped periodically and drove to avoid tiredness. We took break while going to avoid driving in night. While coming back we just pushed to do it all one day and we did it on time as well.
Disney Park got every aspect to entertain both kids and adults of any age. They have really thrilling rides as well small rides for kids. The shows were really fun with 3D aspects and some exciting factors. Total package for a family and must to visit place for a family with kids atleast one time or one time every few years. Overall, we all had wonderful fun vacation and will surely go back again after few years with my grown up kids.