All Things Disney | #dunphysdodisney

In July, 2015 my family made a trip to Walt Disney World.. granted it wasn't our first, will not be our last, we really had a blast this particular trip, noted everything we spent + felt like a LOT of these tips could really help our fellow Disney-goers! {especially if you're military}

Caribbean Beach - has their own private sunning beach - no swimming allowed

  • Accommodations - When we first began looking, I did what EVERY clueless "My kids (I) want to go to Disney" mom or dad does + hit up the the My Disney Experience Site [MDE]. While this is great + can walk you through a step by step, reservation by reservation process I quickly became overwhelmed; so many choices! So, I located the very best Official Disney Travel Agent I know + let her handle the big stuff. (more on how to get a travel agent FREE here!)
Caribbean Beach Resort - Moderate 

We chose to pay a minimal $30 extra (for the entire week) + stayed at a moderate hotel; Port Orleans, French Quarter. We've stayed at the Value resorts [the all-star selection] as well as a Moderate one [Caribbean Beach] in the past and there really is a significant difference, especially if you plan to do more then spend 8 hours sleeping in them.{even the toilet paper is better. lol}

What we found particularly nice was not only did it have an onsite pool (all disney resorts do) the moderate level ones also have extras; water slides, cool fountains etc. 

For us, we like to get up early, hit the parks, have lunch, then make our way back to the resort for a nap or swimming during the hottest, most crowded part of the day. Having a resort with more than just a pool (because my kids swim daily) was definitely key.

One downfall from the PO|FQ resort for us was that even though we made a request prior to our check-in to be on the first floor (with our giant stroller), or at least near an elevator, we weren't granted either. Additionally we were at the very back building, which meant it wasn't super simple to get up to our room with only one parent and the baby/stroller.
  • Magic Bands - in short, they're amazing. They're your room key, your park pass, your meal ticket, your fast pass, your check card, and have GPS in them to "keep track of how long you wait in line".. haha we found this out when we were late for a meal reservation! We were actually told "it's okay, we held your reservation, we could track you were trying to get here"!! eeek talk about Big Brother Walt watching over his park, huh?

When you book your trip through MDE you automatically get set up for a band for EACH member of your traveling party. Yes, even Weston @ 18months was assigned a band.. even though he didn't need a ticket to enter, even though he didn't need a meal plan - everyone gets banded ;)

From there you have a short window of time to go and personalize your bad; by selecting which color you want assigned to each person (or your stuck with grey). Do not worry however if two people pick the same color, your name is also imprinted on the inside! There are TONS upon TONS of etsy shops, and online marketplaces that additionally make "wraps" and cover stickers to personalize these as well.. we chose some little widgets you pop in (like the croc pegs).

  • Disney Dining Plan (DDP) - If you stay on Disney property and do not take advantage of the meal plan system, you're a [damn] fool.. the catch is you HAVE to stay on property to use it.. and it's completely worth it.. I kept track of every single bill during our 6 night/7 day stay at WDW. We ate OVER $1200 worth of food.. and keep in mind that was only for 3 people. Weston didn't need a meal plan and wasn't old enough for us to purchase him one if we had wanted to anyway. If your child is under 3, they can share your plate with you at a DDP restaurant and are allowed their OWN plate at buffet - what a frickin' steal because every meal on the plan came with a Drink (non alcoholic*) so you can get a shake or smoothy most places, an entrĂ©e + a dessert. We weren't ever able to actually individually finish a meal, we were stuffed and took togo boxes and we are very hearty eaters especially walking around and swimming all day.
The DDP we picked offered 1 Quick Service Meal (QS) and 1 Table Service Meal (TS) and one snack a day, per person, per night stay. The trick was, you didn't have to use them all in that order, you could do two TS meals in one day + two QS meals the next, or eat all your snacks day one.. oink oink ;)

Honestly, before we got there, we were worried about that "third meal" that most people eat daily, so we brought a box of granola bars and kid friendly portioned snacks with us.. and never really used them.. We had lunch early everyday around 11 + then a midday snack + a late dinner that usually gave us left overs to snack on if we happened to be able to still stuff anything else in late in the evening.

We did choose to use our meal plans exclusively for lunch + dinners. Why? Because if you got breakfast, dessert wasn't included.. and well, we like dessert and are not big breakfast people anyways.. Im not sure how people scarf down eggs and bacon then go ride the teacups!
2015 + 2011 with the Evil Step Mother

The best part about the DDP is you can also reserve Character Dinners (CD) with them. Most CD's only use up one of your credits. Every trip we specifically reserve the 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridan for a meal with Cinderella + her family. It's definitely worth it + you get a formal photo taken as well as character ones.

  • Disney Dining Plan Price - I know, you're all seriously waiting to see "is it worth it.. did she really pay $1200 to eat there for her trip?". Umm hell no!  Thanks to my fabulous travel agent I can guestimate what the WORTH was of my dining plan, what I PAID for it and what I SPENT. Trust me, I know that putting all this down upfront is hard.. but in the end you're not feeling nickel + dime'd all day everyday
For our 6night/7day stay we paid $17xx.xx and that included our hotel and dining plan. You can look up what at typical night room rate was for our Moderate resort - $200 a night x 6 nights = $1200. So if we PAID the remaining for our dining package, then we PAID $500 for a family of 3 (really 4) to eat like royalty for 7 days essentially. {we actually had to cash in left over meals.. meaning we didn't even use them all!} Based on their 2015 chart the WORTH of our plan was $140ish a day for our family, equalling $844 in WORTH. 

Can you believe that? I PAID $500, it was WORTH $840 and we SPENT $1200+ on food. 
I read so many tips + tricks blogs on how to get the most of your meal plan before we went.. I was like my own concierge!

[or I suppose you can do the flip, we PAID $1200 for the food and got the week worth of room for half off $500, which is an even better steal!]

Some of our favorite places to eat included, the Rainforest Cafe (TS), 1900 Park Fare (TS), Le Cellier  (2TS each person) + the best, QS bang for your buck - Wolfgang Puck Express.. our "bill" was $86+ there nightly and to get the best our of QS credit we only needed to spend $60.

An awesome tip that a WDW cast member shared with us on our first lunch is that the QS credits you get, are just that - QS credits - there's no adult or child connotation with them (where as with a TS credit your kiddie has to order off the kiddie meal menu). So, every time we ate lunch, Emma got the adult QS meal - it was more options that just chicken tenders or a burger for her + more than enough to share and even carry away with. Such an awesome tip!

  • Memory Maker - Even as a professional photographer, I like to be IN photos, I like to go to the park without lugging around a camera, or worrying about it while I'm on a ride. Every trip we've taken we always purchase this. This trip it was really upgraded and they even include video footage from most of the thrill rides on property. So here's how it works: anytime you see a WDW cast member with a camera you can have your photo taken, you can have 10 photos taken; mix it up - everyone, just mom and dad, just the kids, each kid, let the good times click, er um roll? Then, they scan your magic band + within 24 hours - usually in 20 minutes - you can go look up the photos they took. To top it off, when you purchase the Memory Maker in advance it's cheaper! Once your trip is over you simply go home + download all your photos.. no extra cost! We usually end up with 200-500 from a trip, ones I may not have bought but they're great for making photo books with.
  • The Gift Fairy - I really wanted to be cost effective during our trip and really the souvenirs inside WDW are so stupid expensive. In lieu of having meltdowns everyday, "Tinker-bell" made a little nightly visit to our room, leaving something small and special (aka from the Dollar General or Target) for each kid. I even found those light up spin-y wand things at a local dollar store, I saved $19 bucks right there.

  • Military Discount (MD) - This obviously doesn't apply to everyone, but for us, and many like us we were able to really utilize and benefit form this discount. Granted, the summer special our travel agent got us was better than the MD, but, the ticket specials they offer are amazing! Normally, any military active duty can get 6 tickets a year (this year they've doubled it, go for 12). And, if you've followed along, Weston did NOT need one, so technically our little family could have gone 4 times this year, OR taken friends and family with us - they can use your tickets if you're with you.
Normally we would have bought our tickets from the local on-post travel center, but from the moment we booked our trip to the day we flew out there simply just wasn't enough time to get them in, we're spur of the moment planners who like to take unplanned trips to Disney over the 4th of July.

You CAN get your MD discount tickets at Shades of Green - the military resort on disney property.. but here's the catch: there's no direct way to get there if you don't have a car on property. We had to take a WDW shuttle from our resort, to the Magic Kingdom, then wait for a ferry to get us across the water way to the transportation depot. We then waited 35 min in the sun at the depot for a Shades of Green bus (they run on the hour).  It dropped us off at Shades of Green where we got the tickets, then had to wait the remaining hour for it to come back and pick us up and do the whole thing in reverse.. it took 4 HOURS to make that happen + we missed our dinner reservation. Had we known this we would have taken a cab or rental car over.. because that was really super chaotic. We were all angry and wet (yep raining) and starving by the time the day was over.

  • Price: the MD for a 4 day park hopper is currently $177.xx per person. That's 4 days of hopping around.. (and under 3 are FREE)! You can add a special extra bonus day for $30 a person that allows you to go to a water park, or putt putt on the 5th day. You really cannot beat that!


  • Use the FREE travel agent - let them do the work planning for you!
  • Choose a Moderate Resort if you have small kids and need a break during the day
  • Utilize the Disney Dining Plan - it's worth it! + the QS credits
  • Purchase the Memory Maker - you won't regret that splurge, I promise
  • Bring your own souveniers and save BIG!
  • Take advantage of the Military Discount if it applies to you.
For help planning your upcoming trip please contact my favorite Disney Travel agent!
For travel tips and packing for multiple kids check here!
To see some #throwbackdisney images from our trips over the years... check this out!
More highlights from our most recent trip and a DISCOUNT CODE for an amazing portraiture-sketch can be found here!

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