This site has wonderful information from Mike who was a VIP private guide at Walt Disney World. He will tell you which rides he recommends, which to ride first, in which order to ride… you get the point. He has sample itineraries for each park and even has recommendations for which day to go to each park based on when you are going. To access everything on his site you do have to pay $21.85. (Unless the rate went up) But it was worth every penny-we waited 10 minutes or less for everything that we did according to his schedule. Which is pretty impressive. I know we went during a “slow” season, but I am always amazed at just how many people are there.
2. Get to the parks early
One of Tour Guide Mike’s BIG things though is that you be at the park a few minutes before opening time. So if you know that your party won’t do this you might not want to purchase that. I think it is completely worth it- getting up early and all. I mean, how much are you paying for this trip? And when will you be there again? We were done in most parks with about everything we wanted to do by 1:30 or 2:00 and then headed back to the room for rest. We did go back to the parks some evenings for parades, dinners, or the dancing lights in Hollywood Studios. We were at the parks for opening four of the five days of our vacation. (My family is shocked! )
3. Disney Dining Plan
Truly, I think this may have been the best decision I made for this trip. I was dreading eating the same burgers and chicken and fries for every meal like we usually do when we pick the closest place and cheapest things to eat in Walt Disney World. We got the Basic Dining Plan which included 1 counter service meal, 1 table service meal, and 1 snack per person per night in their resort. We ate like kings! It was so much food. We got to eat at really nice places with characters and princesses. We didn’t have to wait in lines to meet many characters because they came to us while we ate. We ate at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway (Epcot), Planet Hollywood, Play ‘n’ Dine at Hollywood and Vine, The Plaza on Main Street in Magic Kingdom, and at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. Those were the table service meals. Most of these were $100 or more without the dining plan. So it was really nice to just have to pay the tip. I think that adding the dining service added about $600-$700 to our total package, but we would have spent a lot more than that to eat everywhere that we did. And that is just my point! We would not have eaten at these places if we hadn’t purchased the dining plan. It made the vacation very fun to have nice food and characters to eat with. You should be warned though: most of the character dining meals were buffets. Great food- just difficult with three small children and two adults. One of us sat with the kids while the other made about forty trips to the food for us. Also, if you are expecting a nice quiet, peaceful meal you will be disappointed. The restaurants are generally packed and noisy. HOWEVER, with small children this was rather nice. I was not concerned about whether my kids fussed a little or whether they were keeping their voice quiet. There were characters that would come out and sing or do skits.
4. Book early and get the dining reservations that you want.
Although we did have wonderful meals and ate with the characters we wanted, we did not get to eat in Cinderella’s castle and we did not get to eat at the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast with Mary Poppins (my kids fav- go figure!). So if I had it to do over this might be the only thing I might change. The online booking system on the Walt Disney World website is the same booking system that is available to the representatives you call if you try to book on the phone. Cinderella’s Castle does take two of your table service meals though if you are lucky enough to book it. They accept dining reservations up to 180 days in advance, so seriously, book early. I spent 30 minutes a day for a week or two before our trip just trying to get all of our meals booked. I actually booked our last dining reservations on our trip. You do want to book these based on which park you will be in on any given day, so be sure to check with Tour Guide Mike’s park recommendations before you book meals.
5. Pack ahead of time.
I know this is not always possible. However, for us it was. We went in December and were able to pack summer clothes for our trip and some of our toiletries that I had stockpiled. This made it possible for me to have the house cleaned when we left. Which made for a very happy homecoming!