Just for fun … I’m going to tell you about our Disney World Vacation that we took in Fall of 2016!!!! Since there is so much to tell you, I’m going to divide it up into a mini-series. Haha!
This vacation was the first one we had been on in many, many years, so planning this trip was such a fun blessing!
Our Disney Trip Details
We were fortunate to book our trip when the Free Dining promotion came out in the Spring. We were able to book our reservations at Disney’s Pop Century, which is a value resort, and the quick service plan came with that reservation. We decided to pay the difference to upgrade the dining plan to the regular Disney Dining so that we would get one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack each day, plus the Disney Resort refillable mug. We ran all the numbers and this was the best deal for us. We only booked 3 park days, which was plenty since we went for the entire day, open to close. The table service dining is most of the character meals, so that gave us experiences to do on non-park days.
Our total cost was $2762.68 for 4 of us, 3 adults, and a junior (child under 9). Disney only requires a $200 deposit and then you can make payments (whenever and however much you want to) until the deadline to pay in full, at 30 days before your trip.
We chose to use a travel agent for a few reasons. When you personally call Disney, it may take some time to get through to a customer service agent. When you use an agent, they handle all changes, confirmations, and any problems with the booking directly. While you get the same price, whether you book with an agent or through Disney, good agents will stay on top of ways to save you money and can make those changes accordingly. Oh, and we learned lots of tips from our agent, along the way.
By the way, an example of saving me money that happened with this trip…
When we first contacted our agent to book the Free Dining promotion, there was no availability at Pop Century at all, and the only resorts that were available were out of our budget. We initially booked a regularly priced vacation at Pop, which was going to cost around $3400. By the next morning, I had an email that he was able to switch us over the to Free Dining promotion, including everything we wanted, and saved us almost $700.
That’s what I’m talking about.
I dont get anything for referring you to him, but if you are interested, you can find him at Joe’s Magical Moments Facebook page.
They Got Disney World for Christmas
***Throughout this post, there are affiliate links, which means when you click on a highlighted word or picture, the link will take you to Target where you can read about the product, see the reviews, and if you make any purchase using one of my links, I will make a little money as a referral fee. However your price remains the same. See my full disclosure here.
Since it’s so expensive to go, we actually gave our girls the trip for Christmas. Thinking back, I wished I had taken a video of Christmas morning, but I didn’t. Pictures will have to do. 🙂
Our yearly Christmas Eve tradition is that everyone opens one gift, which is always pajamas and then we have a family gift to open, which is our Christmas Eve activity. It’s usually a family game, gingerbread house set, or a movie. This year it was Disney themed PJ’s and the Disney game Pictopia. It was a lot of fun brushing up on our Disney memories that night.
For Christmas morning, we had a scavenger hunt all over the house (and even outside to the mailbox) to collect the gifts. Gifts? I hear you thinking … but I thought the Disney World trip is their gift. That can easily fit in one box. Haha! Of course it can! But let’s be real. Kids love to open up gifts on Christmas morning, and as a parent that doesn’t splurge often, I love giving them gifts at Christmas because it’s an opportunity for me to remind them about God’s greatest gift to us, Jesus. Okay … okay. Back to my story.
How are they going to unwrap a trip to Disney World in different gifts? You’ll see.
A Disney World vacation is just one of those trips where you FEEL like you need all the extra stuff. Especially, when you arrive and see all of the Disney spirit everywhere! The ears, the shirts, the balloons, the water bottles, the … EVERYTHING! Well, I’m not sure if you have caught on to this yet, but I’m not a big spender. Haha! I already know the “I want this and I want that” is coming. So how did I handle that? Gifts beforehand. Christmas gifts I purchased on sale, not on Walt Disney World Park non-sale. See what I mean?
Christmas morning gifts all consisted of things I knew they would want or could use once we got there. I also spent a lot less than my normal Christmas budget, and at the end of the scavenger hunt, they were overjoyed.
They each got a Disney T-Shirt, 2 books, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and Hidden Mickeys. I also had wrapped up 2 Disney themed water bottles, a very lightweight backpack, and a Disney gift card for each of them for souvineers. (A little savings hint: I even saved 5% off of the giftcard and got free shipping by getting them at Target and using my Redcard debit!) Getting the kids a giftcard in advance also cuts down on the “I want its” because they have a budget to stick to. Help them divide it up so they can spread it throughout your vacation time. The final BIG gift (the trip) was the countdown calendar that I had created with a print-out of the vacation details. I’ll tell you about how I made the countdown later. They had a blast! Well… we did too! Haha!
The Christmas morning scavenger hunt was a hit! Yes, that says 287 days until Disney so we created a countdown calendar to keep the excitement going. We had 39 weekly links to tear off each Friday. Each link had an activity to do on it that was Disney themed. Activities got them involved in the research and planning, as well as fun crafty things to do to prepare.
The weekly countdown calendar included instructions to help with research and planning our itinerary. We watched YouTube videos about all kinds of things, we read in our books, we pinned all kinds of things on Pinterest, and decided what our “must-do” list included… from restaurants to rides, from character meet and greets to sights to see. We made a list.
The countdown also included fun things like designing our magic band decorations, and then decorating them! That was fun. It made our 39 weeks (287 days) go by fairly quickly. Of course, that was the goal. Haha!
The Fairly Godmother … Yes! Fairly. Haha!
One other special magical touch I added to our trip was the Fairly Godmother gifts. Now, I know it’s Fairy and not Fairly. My use of the word “Fairly” was intentional because I most certainly am not the REAL FAIRY GODMOTHER. Merriam-Webster has a definition of fairly as “to some degree or extent; but not very or extremely” so there’s that. Haha! You know how it’s illegal to impersonate a real police officer? Yeah… I don’t want to get caught impersonating the real Fairy Godmother either… just in case. Okay … I know … I know. I’m a rule follower. Just say, “okay” and love me anyway. Haha!
You can do this too without it being a budget buster. I bought small Disney gifts and placed one with a note, on the dresser while the girls were asleep each night. I bought these in advance from Target, Walmart, Amazon, or Hot Topic to save money and most all of them were under $10 each. I bought Minnie Ears, a Disney necklace, hair accessories, a mirrored compact, an autograph book and marker, a small stuffed animal, and Disney mystery figures. You could even get a set of mystery pins for trading, from Disney.com and spread them out each night. That is very cheap and covers every night of a week’s vacation. Anyway, just a fun touch.
I found some fun Disney themed ideas for your own version of The Fairly Godmother at Target. Haha!
***Below are affiliate links, which means when you click on a picture, the link will take you to Amazon where you can read about the product, see the reviews, and if you make any purchase using one of my links, I will make a little money as a referral fee. However your price remains the same. See my full disclosure here.
Our trip went from Saturday to Sunday of Fall break so no school was missed. We live in Georgia, so we drove down to Orlando in an excruciating 10 hours. Haha! There was soooo much road construction, our GPS had to reroute us 3 different times to get out of it. That’s why it took so long. We just sat in traffic. It was a fun start. Sense the sarcasm?
Now on to the plan, we had the opportunity to meet up with some very dear friends who had left us all and moved to be close to Disney, and they were so kind ot treat us to lunch and bowling at Splitsville in Disney Springs. We had a blast with them and it was such a joy to sit and chat for hours. Just like old times. My heart.
When we left them, we went straight to Pop Century where we would live for the next 7 days. This was our first time staying on property, and it was a treat from the very first time we heard the words, “Welcome Home!”
We were in the 1950’s building and got the first floor with a water view that we had requested. Let me tell you, their theming was dead on. We felt like we walked into a time warp with the bathroom tiles and curtain and bedding patterns. Haha!
We unpacked and settled in and then went to explore the resort. Later that evening, we ate our first quick service dinner. Pop Century has such a huge variety of food and everything we ate while we were there was amazingly good.
Monday morning we headed to Animal Kingdom for the morning extra magic hours. While there we just did some pin trading and rode the Kilimanjaro Safari, then off to Epcot.
In Epcot, we primarily stayed for most of the day in future world. We did go to Norway for an Akershus reservation to have lunch with all of the princesses, following a major storm, complete with a drenching downpour. Haha! We also went on Frozen Ever After, and then on to the Mexico boat ride. Illuminations was fantastic as well.
Tuesday and Thursday were resort days. For non-resort days, we had a table service meal planned and we would explore that resort and go to the pool or Disney Springs. Tuesday evening, we went to the Hoop-Dee-Doo dinner show and it was so much fun. We were seated right up front and the actors and actresses interacted with us throughout the show. FUN!
Wednesday was Magic Kingdom day and we started it with a breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest. For breakfast and lunch, they are a quick service meal on the dining plan. Loved the atmosphere and getting to walk through the Beast’s castle. I believe we rode almost every ride in Magic Kingdom, with the exception of one or two.
Thursday, our table service meal was at 1900 Park Faire for the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast with Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad-Hatter, and Tigger. The food was really good and the character interaction was so fun.
Friday was our Hollywood Studios day. We had reservations at Mama Melrose that day. The food was so yummy and atmosphere was so nice. We rode most every ride that was open that day, except Rocking RollerCoaster. That was a favorite from previous Disney World trips, years prior, and we were saving it for last since there were magic hours in the park that night. However, it was so crowded that (and ice cream was involved) that we completely missed the cut-off to get on. 🙁 This next trip we were smart and got fast-passes for it. 🙂
Saturday was our Ohana reservation at the Polynesian hotel. So. Much. Food. But it was sooooo delicious! This was our second time going to this restaraunt, and we loved it again as much as the first time. We already have our reservations booked for this year. Yay! Can’t wait.
One little thing to add, we were so careful with our free dining credits that we limited ourselves a lot because we were so afraid of running out. After all, it is only 2 meals and a snack per day. Our final night, we went and redeemed 2 quick service meal credits and 6 snack credits for 12 take-home snacks from the merchandise shop at Pop Century. We decided to plan our meal and snack usage better this time. I will add, that even though we were careful with our credits, and had leftovers, we were never hungry. There was a lot of food, and let’s face it … we were busy too. Here are some of our pictures. Enjoy!
Just a little something to ponder …
When we pulled out of the parking lot, we were all talking non-stop about our Disney experiences. So many memories were made in that one week. My girls will carry these memories with them for their entire lives. Of course, you don’t have to go to Disney World to make memories, or any vacation for that matter. Memories can be made for free every single day that you devote quality time with those you love. You can set a “making memories budget” aside for vacation, or special activities and save for those things, or you can have intentional meaningful conversations. Those are memory makers too.
If you want to read more about being intentional in your conversations, check out my blog post about Conversation Starters! After you read that one, plan your next memory making opportunity and do it!