• Abby Cirkles

The Practical Disney Blog You Want


You‘re going to Disney! This is exciting! Whether your first or tenth trip, it’s quite the bucket list thrill, as well as an investment.


A Disney Vacation really is what you put into it. This is not your local amusement park you just show up for. If you do, you’ll still have an amazing time! But the experience (and expenses) are so much better with some planning and preparation.

I‘m writing this with the concept that you’ll reference it a few times. It’s a lot to take in at once!


* Also, I am not an expert or Disney Planner. I am actually not even a Disney Enthusiast (that’s my husband). But I’ve learned a lot from our trips, solo and with kids, over the past 5 years.

So… Here we go. The roundups of all roundups. We are talking Disney World (in Orlando, Flordia). Enjoy some random pictures to help breakup these sections.


FIRST STEPS 🎉

1. Budget/ Save

2. Set your days

3. Get your hotel reservations

4. Get your park tickets and park reservations

5. Follow some Disney Enthusiasts


1. Budget/ Save

I highly recommend using a Disney Planner. They are free but will save you so much time and money. We love Lizeth, with Travel With The Magic but there are so many who are wonderful at what they do.

”Free until Three” is why we have taken our children when they are very young. But we have the knowledge that we hope to take them a few times before they graduate. If we were doing a one family Disney trip, I would suggest a bit older for them to remember things a bit more and be able to keep up stamina wise.


For us we start saving and making reservations a full year out. Just for reference, Disney is taking reservations up to 2024 as of now. We have a travel credit card. We put our monthly expenses on it throughout the year, paying it fully off each month, and then using those points it covers our flights, so we don’t have to budget for transportation.


This last trip, I learned of the GAME CHANGING reality of ordering groceries. We did one big "Instacart" order our first day, delivered straight to our hotel and it saved us HUNDREDS. We ate breakfast in the hotel, we brought packed lunches to the park, and then usually splurged for a Disney Dinner, or fun treat everyday. All of Disney’s menus are online so you really can budget as closely as you need to.


If you do eat fully at Disney, sharing is totally plausible. Also, any age can eat the kids menu. *Our hotel didn’t have a microwave but there was a mini fridge and a coffee pot we used hot water for. *This wasn’t our healthiest of weeks but we made do. We did the following order and it all fit in our mini fridge.

- Bananas

- Cutie oranges

- Blueberries

- 2 Pints of Whole Milk

- 32oz coffee creamer (had to lay it on the side)

- mini cliff bars

- uncrustables

- Turkey cracker lunchables

- individual hummus

- cheese sticks

- instant oatmeal

- greek yogurts

- breakfast bars

- Beef Jerkey. They we’re out of Epic bars but those are great protein on the go

- Alllllll the pouches. Kid veggie pouches; fiber pouches; applesauce pouches. Really great on the go.

- 24 pack of water bottles (not in fridge)

- diapers (I buy them at location to save luggage space while packing.)

***We did not do this, however I have heard of friends ordering a $25 sandwich party tray and then ziplocking them as grab and go ready to made lunches for the week. Pretty smart!

***Also, remember you can always order food with grubhub/Uber eats. Most Disney hotels have a large pizza for $15 that’s a good dinner win, but I am always seeing and smelling pizza deliveries in the evenings.


2. Set your days

If the calendar is flexible to you, it’s much more cost effective to go during “off season“ . We almost doubled our trip days, with the same budget, simply by going 3 weeks later in January instead of December.


“Off Season” includes late January- February; September- early October. These are the cheapest and usually least crowded times to go.


3. Get your hotel reservations

Staying in a Disney hotel is my 1000% recommendation. the convenience and perks outweigh any “deal” you’ll find at a nearby hotel. You get extra park hours, aka access to the park with a fraction of the lines” as well as free transportation to all the parks, aka such a time saver.


Pop Century is our favorite for value sake. But as you would imagine, they have hotels that rise in “swankyness” if you so desire to go big.

4. Get your park tickets and park reservations

Your park tickets are an additional purchase to your hotel. For children I wouldn’t recommend getting a park ticket on travel days, as well as provide a rest day halfway if possible. Once you decide how many days you want to be at parks, you then reserve what park for what day. There are four Disney parks so most people do at least four park tickets. I highly suggest a “rest day” in between some park days to enjoy the resort pools, Disney springs, or just sleep! Disney can be a lot on your body!

A 7 night hotel reservation with 5 day park ticket would be the sweet spot in my opinion, although a 5 night, 4 day park ticket reservation I think is the norm. There’s not right or wrong “order” to do the parks, but know most people do a Monday- Friday trip and start Monday in magic kingdom. So off setting that even one day may be worth it.

Ex: Tuesday - travel flight (cheapest flights are Tuesday/Wednesday typically)

Wednesday - park day : Hollywood Studios

Thursday- park day : Magic Kingdom

Friday - park day : Animal Kingdom

Saturday- rest day (busiest Disney day)

Sunday - park day : Epcot

Monday - park day : Magic Kingdom

Tuesday - travel day


5. Follow some Disney Enthusiasts

For tips, and just pure excitement we love following Disney Food Blogs, Tim Tracker on YouTube and Instagram has tons of fun friends : @4thstartotheright ; @disneyfoodblog ; @brbgoingtodisney are some good starts



GETTING CLOSE, BUT STILL AT HOME 🎉

1. Disney App : Start some itinerary planning

2. Magic Band : Order Ahead

3. Attire Prep : Get The Gear

4. Reserve Dinning

5. Reserve Airport Transportation


1. Disney App : Start some itinerary planning

Get the Disney World app right away! You can start ”liking” rides, parades or shows to start building your itinerary. It’s also where you will make reservations so it’s good to get familiar with the layout.

2. Magic Band : Order Ahead

Magic bands are not a necessity, but a major convenience. If you are staying in a Disney hotel, you can order ahead. This is a fun way to tell your family about a trip!


3. Get The Gear

Disney fashion is a thing. I was honestly so overwhelmed the first time I went with everyone’s themed shirts, and Mickey everything.

Etsy, Amazon, even stores like kohls or target that have Disney deals will have lots of Disney merch you can get before you go.

Also know, there is NO need to be head to toe Disney.

* Reference packing list below to make sure you stock up on some helpful items.

4. Reserve Dinning

For those iconic eating experiences, such as Cinderella’s Castle, Beast‘s Castle, or Firework view restaurant’s… you really have to make those months in advance.

Character dining has ebbed and flowed with the pandemic situation so check before your trip. It’s a big price tag for mediocre food, in my opinion, but you’re paying for the character interaction, and for that it’s quite fun. It is nice to be able to know your princess lover will be able to see all the princesses in one meal, instead of hoping they’ll pop up in the park, for instance. (Princess dining at Akershus in EPCOT is a fun thing!)

5. Reserve Airport Transportation

Mears transportation is associated with Disney and will take you and your luggage directly from Orlando airport to your Disney resort. This is an additional reservation and price, so you’ll need to plan for that.



ONE WEEK UNTIL DISNEY 🎉

1. Parent Packing List/Hacks

2. Family Immunity Boost Plan

3. Emotionally Prepping Children (And Yourself)

4. Set “My One Thing” for each member

5. “Busy Bag” Game-plan



1. Packing List/Hacks

You know all the “normal stuff” to pack. Here’s my “Disney MVP” list

- Water bottles all around

- Stroller fan

- Fanny pack

- Extra empty “tote”

- White noise machine or app

- Clean Crib sheet from home

- Ziplocks. All the sizes. They are useful for everything. - Your most comfortable pair of shoes

- Raincover for your stroller and portable ponchos for sudden rain showers.

***@taylorv.cowen on Instagram has a Disney highlight that is goals! Especially packing tips and gear.


2. Family Immunity Boost Plan

Okay, folks. Don’t laugh at me but 7 days out I went on lockdown lol. I know this isn’t fully possible for everyone but, you can intentionally boost vitamin c and elderberry, limit play dates and mall trips, and enjoy extra fresh air to make sure your family feels the best possible going into the trip.

3. Emotionally Prepping Children (And Yourself)

This is SO big for me. I think it truly was the one thing we did that helped my toddlers so much.

For adults, we tend to not want to “spoil” the surprise“, but kid‘s brains work differently. They enjoy things MORE with confidence.

For us that looked like:

  1. Watching YouTube videos of rides, tours and parades.

  2. Playing airplane (This is a great book to read before)

  3. Listening to Disney Soundtracks

  4. Reading books with characters they may see.

  5. Lots and lots of conversations about anything I could think of.

- “Did you know at Disney World the bathrooms might be very loud and they have robot toilets that flush on their own!“

- “Wouldn‘t it be so cool if we get to ride Dumbo?! But if it’s closed, we can ride something different. Sometimes things are closed and that’s okay.”

- “At Disney World you‘ll sleep in a bed by mama and dada in the hotel. It may feel different but you’ll have your same pajamas and mama will even pack a blanket from home.“

You get the idea…. *** Magic Spoiler Ahead : every family is different, but we are very clear that these Disney friends are characters and not real. We talk about the ones that are Disney world are costumes or robots. I by accident started adding descriptions to characters and it really seems to help my toddler separate it all. “Look, there’s walking Mickey!“ “Oliver, do you like this toy Mickey?” “Oliver, wave hello to statue Mickey”.

4. Set “My One Thing” for each member

I think it’s healthy to sit the group down and ask “what’s your one thing for this trip?“ Yes there will be many more things they want to do, but knowing that top priority will really help you know what decisions to make.

My one thing was to take Eleanor on Winnie the Pooh. The days kept being crossed off without it happening. Finally we went for it, we got there and they told us ”we are sorry but it just shut down to be fixed.“ My heart sank. Thankfully the next day it was open and it was the FIRST thing we did on the day. And guess what? An hour later, it shut down again, this time for the rest of our trip.

All that to say, you never know the weather, or if a kid will get sick, or a ride will shut down. If it’s something important, do it first. Make it a priority.

5. “Busy Bag” Game-plan

A few “busy bag” items will go a long one on airplanes, restaurants, early mornings stalling in the hotel bathroom while other sleep, and even line waiting.

Do your very best to keep this limited. Toys pack light, snacks, go big 😂.

A few new sticker books or trinkets do help, but don’t feel pressure to get new stuff.


I recommend the following and set it aside one week out so that they will all feel fresh and fun. - 4 books

- stickers (These are great because they are easy to pack)

- crayons

- small characters for pretend play

- Toddler headphone with adapter for desperate moments. (These were great for our two year old)



TODAY IS THE DAY! TRAVEL DAY! 1. Pack your magic bands with you. Not checked luggage.

2. Order Groceries

3. Mentally add 45min more to everything you do. Travel takes time, give yourself time so you are stressed and rushing.

4. If you don’t start at a park, consider Disney Springs. You don’t need a park ticket to go in and it’s the foodie destination of all destinations. Everyone likes a good meal after long traveling. 5. Give yourself time to fully unpack and get organized. No need to flesh out those points any more.



GO TIME! PARK KNOW HOW

1. Arrive early and go straight to top ride

2. Eat lunch at non lunch times (avoid 11:30-12:30)

3. Use Parent Rider Swap

4. Genie Plus / Ride Payment

5. Parades and Firework


1. Arrive early and go straight to top ride

It pays MAJORLY to be at the park right when it opens. It’s the difference of a 10 min wait to a 165 min wait. Just remember, it takes time to wait in line, drive to the park, wait in security, etc. If the park opens at 9am, we try to leave our hotel room by 8am.

Have your first ride set and get to know the map, so when you get in you can go straight there. You’ll beat the lines and feel so great to start the day with a top ride already done!


2. Eat lunch at non lunch times (avoid 11:30-12:30)

To keep little people happy and the flow of the day moving, this is such a helpful tip! An early lunch seems to really help avoid long lines, help you be able to sit at an actual table, as well as keep moods happy. We would try for 11:00 lunch and then an afternoon snack.

3. Use Parent Rider Swap

Sadly, we didn’t find out about this until the end of our trip, but this is a great option for parents with littles! I think an example might be best for explanation.

We want to ride Slinky Dog Dash, but Eleanor can’t and Oliver doesnt want to stand in the long line. So Ryan and I together go to the cast member (that’s what Disney staff are called) in the lighting lane. We ask for rider swap. They scan our magic band. Then Ryan goes alone to wait in the line and I leave to explore the park with the kids. Let‘s say Ryan had to wait 45 min in line. Rides alone. Walks off. When he’s done, he takes the kids and I go with Oliver to the front of the line and scan in which allows me to skip the line and ride right away. I don’t have wait 45 min like Ryan. Major parent win.

4. Go Left

For whatever reason, human nature tends to go right when walking. Therefore you will go with the flow of the crowds by working your way around the park going right. However, you can skip some of the crowds but going against the grain and going left and working your way through a park in that direction.


5. Use Parades and Firework Times For Shorter Lines

Parades and nighttime shows are such a highlight of the Disney experience, however during those times, people aren’t in lines for rides. So it’s a great time to catch some shorter lines.


***Here is a PS about Genie Plus and Ride Payments. It honestly was a bit confusing and I feel this video does great job explaining. I don’t think Genie Plus was worth it, but the $11 we spent to walk on flight of passage instead of waiting 2 hours was very much worth it. It’s so dependent on your preference of things to do.


Here‘s my *very personal* “A Winning Day” list. Hopefully, you’d get much more done than this, but when I’m overwhelmed or on toddler time, this would be my first go-tos.

Hollywood Studio Day! 1. Slinky Dog Dash

2. Mickey Runaway Railroad

3. Live Beauty and the Beast show


EPCOT Day!

1. World showcase. All of it 🤩

2. Soaring

3. Frozen Ever After

Animal Kingdom Day!

1. Kilimanjaro Safari

2. Expedition Everest

3. Flight of Passage (worth paying for)

*Festival of Lion King is the live show that’s a great option for those who don’t like roller coasters


Magic Kingdom Day!

1.Space Mountain

2. It’s a Small World (nostalgia sake)

3. Fireworks Show




I’m sorry and you’re welcome 😂. That was a lot of information and all from my perspective.


Just remember, this is a sacrifice and gift to enjoy so savor it! Be flexible, take pictures, give grace during meltdowns, and have fun!


I wrote in part one of this blog about some of the realities that comes with a Disney Trip (we’ll any trip). There will be disappointments, there will be meltdowns, there will be tension. But there also will be giggles, and memories, and expanded worldviews! It’s is so worth it my friends!

The Castle Awaits,

Abby


PS - I‘m happy to dialogue or answer more questions you have on social media! @abbycirkles



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