SouvenirsEvery ride at Disney dumps out into a gift shop, which is brilliant if you own Disney stock. I don't (although I may have an honorary share now). A friend gave us a great tip to save a little cash and crying and to tell your kids they could look at souvenirs all week but you would only buy stuff from the big store at Downtown Disney at the end of the week. I took a lot of pictures of kids with souvenirs all week, and then at the end of the week we gave each kid an allowance to spend at the big store. If you spend enough, they'll actually ship all of that stuff home for you, but our little soldiers wanted to bring it on the plane.
Time of YearWe went in February, which is considered off-season because it is one of the only one months every year that Florida experiences anything approaching "winter". This seemed like a very small price to pay when we were shooting through all of the rides without standing in a single line (the only delay was the distance you had to walk from the entrance to the attraction to actually board the ride). It seemed like a bigger price to pay when a third of your foot is blistered because you've been rocking soaking wet shoes and socks for three straight days.
|Saw a lot of this.|
Fast PassAs stated, we were there in torrential rain the slowest week of the year, so often we didn't even use our Fast Passes. As soon as the sun came out, however, these were critical. It's worth investing a little time into this to make sure you are making the most of this.
Dining PlanYou will buy the dining plan, and you should. On your first day, you'll have no idea what is going on, and it will seem confusing and like it isn't worth it. By the end of your trip you'll be flexing it like a coupon mom and looking back at all of the money you saved. Pro tip: throw a couple boxes of Pop-Tarts in your suitcase for breakfast, which isn't included and which no one cares about.
The FoodI hear a lot of people talk about how great the food is at Disney. I didn't really feel it. Everything was competently made, I didn't hate anything, but I certainly wasn't blown away by anything either. It was all overpriced, but not painfully so (somewhere near airport, well below ballpark) and there was typically variety. The kids meals had relatively healthy choices (grapes and carrots were as ubiquitous as fries) but very limited choices. I was especially disappointed that in Epcot even though I could get a pretty decent Middle Eastern meal, my kids were stuck with chicken nuggets (which they dipped in my hummus).
|Work on your upper body strength before heading down there.|
Staying OnsiteWe bought a package which made staying onsite a breeze. We flew into Orlando, got on a bus, went to our resort, checked in, our bags showed up a while later, and we were off to the park via a bus. I didn't have to worry about renting a car, or parking (which still requires a bus to get to the park) or figuring out a different hotel. Unless you are planning on doing stuff elsewhere, this is the way to go.
Pop CenturyThis is basically a dorm. I'm not entirely sure my wife and I could have laid shoulder to shoulder in the same bed. Also, combined shampoo and conditioner. Also, no pool towels. This was the cheapest place to stay at Disney, and it showed.
BoozeBy the end of every day you'll be craving a beer. Have some, but don't get wasted - you'll have to be sober enough to get your kids home on the bus safely (which isn't hard), you'll be so tired you'll fall asleep anyway, and you don't really want to spend anytime here hungover. The exception? Epcot, which has beers for every country and very slow rides.
AlternativesI wouldn't say I enjoyed myself. There were moments (taking two steps into the park our first day and watching the kids faces light up because we walked straight into a parade, my little princess meeting her first princess, etc.) but honestly I'm not all that convinced my kids loved it. Oh sure, it was better than sitting at home and hanging out in the basement (it's been a long winter) but I think if I gave them each $40 and let them loose in the arcade/food court at the mall they'd have been almost as happy.
|$20 worth of tattoos made my kids happier than the thousands I spent getting them there.|