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Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

Lancaster, PA
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28 posts
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Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

I'm a disney newbie, planning a trip for my family in January of 2014. It will be me, my husband, my son who will be 7 and my daughter who will be 6. Looking to have a really magical trip on a budget, but still get to see as much as possible. Will probably be 6 days 5 nights the week of MLK day next January. After browsing around the disney site, I thought I knew sort of what I wanted to do UNTIL I started reading the travel books for Disney. Now I'm totally overwhelmed by the staggering amount of information and choices. I need to start budgeting and figuring things out now in order to make this a reality, but I'm starting to go numb from the amount of choices, LOL. Thinking we will probably want to stay in a value resort, not sure yet if we'll be driving from PA or flying. That's as far as I get.

My questions:

*Value Resort recommendation? We won't be spending a ton of time there, mostly will be at the parks, but need a good, clean, fun place for the kids that has enough room for all 4 of us to sleep. We will likely spend some 'down' time there the first day/night though - especially if we drive.

*Is the dining plan really a good value, or not so much? We were looking at the regular plan, since it looks like we could then do a few character meals? Are all character meals 2 meal credits, or only the more 'fancy' ones like Cinderella's castle? We would likely do the princess lunch at Epcot and one other like Chef Mickeys. Otherwise, we are flexible about food - we're not food snobs. We will probably bring breakfast bars, etc. from home for breakfast each day.

*We will probably spend 4, maybe 5 days visiting the parks. Do I need to do the park hopper? My concern is, if we want to see all 4 parks, what if the kids don't like one park as much as the others and are begging to go back to a different one? I can see them wanting to spend more than 1 day at MK, but I also want to see all 4 parks. But the cost of a park hopper seems significant, and then if we don't use it...

Those are my MAJOR questions at this point, and I feel like most of them are crucial to figure out before I start booking. Plus so many of these options affect my budget/price and I need to start saving now! Any help/advice is greatly appreciated.

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1. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

"Value Resort Hotels" are great - noisy and lots of kids - clean and my family has stayed at all of them,.

"Dining Plan" -did not do it - if you do, you must book early.

"Park Hopper" is best - if you're going for the first time, by the end of the trip, you may want to go back to the park and see some things again.

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2. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

Don't be overwhelmed - it's so much fun to plan the trip - remember, you won't get to see everything and that's the fun of it - you'll have a reason to go back!

Orlando, FL
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for Orlando, Walt Disney World
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3. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

Here is one source to compare hotels which offers lots of photos etc wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/…resort-descriptions.htm

The new Art of Animation Resort has lots of suites if you want extra space. Not sure how a standard room bed configuration would work for you with both a boy and a girl who probably won't want to share.

If you are having a Disney vacation, and staying onsite, the dining plan is a nice convenience. There are some wonderful restaurants at Disney. The plan may help you enjoy them where you might not otherwise spend that type of money. Especially if you want some character meals, the regular plans seems a worthwhile consideration. Most of them are only 1 credit. Here is a summary of this year's plan. That information is covered. …go.com/media/…2013Dining.pdf A note on Disney restaurants. You'll want to make advance reservations known as ADRs. You can do so up to 180 days in advance for free online or by calling. If you decide to drive from PA you could of course leave Disney property to eat though you probably won't want to leave the parks to do that I'm guessing.

For a first timer I'm not sure that Park Hopper is essential and would save around $250 by not getting it. You can always add it on by paying the difference if you find you want it. One day at each park plus a day to go back to the favorite is a pretty good plan.

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4. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

We liked staying at Pop Century; lots of neat statues and bright colors. Very appealing to kids. The rooms aren't the biggest, but they worked fine for us. We spend very little time in the room anyway.

I found the dining plan worth it only if you can get it for free:-) . Many people like it though, even when they have to pay for it. Would you be doing a table service meal every day? If so, you might save money getting the plan.

I wouldn't bother with the park hoppers. I bet you'll find plenty to do in each park.

Valley Stream, NY
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5. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.


here's an article about dining plans. we never use them, always pay less out of pocket than it would have cost to buy it. we bring breakfast stuff from home, saves money, but more importantly time in the morning. we usually have one character dinner. most are 1 credit if you do decide to use the plan.

don't stress out, the first 2 times we went I didn't know about trip advisor, we did just fine.

we always (even the first time) got park hoppers, as you said if someone gets tired of the park you're in and wants to go elsewhere, it's a great thing to have (in my opinion).

Horsham, United...
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6. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

You can always add the park hoppers on once you arrive if you feel you need them.

Sheffield, United...
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7. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

I too was overwhelmed especially when the TA advised me disney was the size of greater Manchester !!! so to try to be realistic as to what you can fit in in without killing yourself trying to do it. As for the tickets we have got the 14 dys for universal and 14 for disney so we can pick and choose. Realistically cannot see moving from one park to the other in the same day other than for park closing and then going back at night to another one for parade/fireworks. Hth

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8. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

I think you are doing the correct thing by looking to stay at a Disney resort. When you are there for the first time, it is very helpful to have transportation to take you from your hotel directly to the parks and Downtown Disney. You don't have to worry about parking at the parks (I like to drive to most of the parks, but I don't think I will ever drive to Magic Kingdom because of the parking set-up there). Also, if you fly (which you will definitely need to think about, as the weather in Pennsylvania is often not conducive to driving in January), you can get free transportation from the airport to your hotel.

I agree with the posters who say that you should save your money and not get the hopper, at least until you get there and decide you really want to switch. You can easily spend a full day in each park (especially for first-timers, you should not be in any hurry to rush through a park without seeing things), and you will probably want to spend two days in Magic Kingdom in light of the newly opened Fantasyland Expansion.

The value of the dining plan really depends on the cost of the plan versus what you think your family will be eating. You can check out menus and prices of the various Disney restaurants here:


Birmingham, Alabama
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9. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

If you can afford it, the Allstar Music family suites would work great, gives you enough beds, two bathrooms, and a mini kitchen. There is a separate bedroom and the living room has both a sofa and a chair that turn into beds.

Keep an eye on the specials on the Disney website next fall and you should be able to get the rooms at a 20 to 25% discount. Free bus service takes you to all the Disney parks and extra magic hours will get you into the parks an hour early to beat the crowds (different park each day). If you use the extra hour at the MK and get there when it opens you should be able to get on rides for the first 90 minutes with little to no lines. Worth its weight in gold. Eating breakfast in the room to save time is a great idea. You can also take food and drinks into the parks if you want.

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10. Re: Disney newbie, and I am overwhelmed.

As for Value Resorts, I cannot comment as we've only stayed at the Moderates. But, if we were to choose a value resort, I'd go with Art of Animation as it's the newest and most up-to-date. Also, most appealing for your childrens' ages.

If you can be patient, you can usually get a really great deal for your budget in January. I'm speaking of the FREE DINING PLAN. The way that works is: at slower times of the year (like mid-January) Disney will offer free dining with your package.

Park Hopper is a must, in my opinion. We first took our children to Disney when they were your kids ages. By staying on a Disney property, you are allowed special priveleges like EXTRA MAGIC HOURS than allow you to visit the parks either, earlier or later, while the crowd is down. By doing so, you can visit one park in the morning, go back to your resort for the kids to rest, and then back to another park later in the afternoon or evening. It's really the best way to get the most out of your time at Disney. Good luck and have fun planning!!!