7 Mistakes Even Teachers Make At Disney

{Here’s a little guest blog from my fabulous Disney loving husband just in time for summer vacations and the TPT conference in July!}

I’m a planner by nature, I get it
honestly.  We have been going to Disney parks since I was just a little
kid.  Each trip was meticulously planned to ensure we maximized our
value.  Let’s face it… when you spend a lot of money on a trip, you want
to get the most out of it.  Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned
through my 20+ trips to Disney.

1.  Not Planning
Fail to plan, plan to fail….it’s the message
teachers live by from August to May.  Just don’t forget to plan out your
Disney vacation too!
Know what to expect when
you go.
  Teachers are locked
in to specific times they can travel for vacation.  But any guidebook will
tell you these are the times NOT to go to Walt Disney World.  Good news…
you can do it and live through it.  You’re a teacher and if you can
survive the smell of burnt popcorn from the teacher’s lounge, you will be fine
in Disney in the Summer or Spring Break.  Use a service like Touringplans.com (under
$10 fee) to help you choose days with the lowest crowds for each park.
Plan out your fastpass+
 Fastpass selections
can be made 30 days from your vacation start day if staying off property, and
60 days if you are staying on property (and, yes, you should schedule asap for
the best selection).  You can choose 3 fastpasses per day.  While
some may say this takes the spontaneity out of your vacation, I look at it as a
way to relax and enjoy your vacation because the hard work is done.  So
sit down with your family and make a list of must-do attractions.  For
small kids, the list might include rides like The Mad Tea Party or Goofy’s
Barnstormer (one of Cooper’s Favorites).  These two attractions are
FastPass+ attractions, but rarely see waits times, so using 1 of your 3 fast
passes on a ride with little wait time isn’t the best idea.  (Tip: 
You can make your FastPass+ selections at midnight eastern time or after park
closing (if it’s later than 12:00) at 60 / 30 days out. 
Here are some great links to FastPass+
strategies / info by park.
Make sure you get your family’s buy in on the
entire process.  Knowing what their expectations are can really ensure you
vacations is a success.  Watch YouTube videos of attraction rides, etc…
Make crafts that get the family excited about the trip, watch Disney movies
before you go… anything to build excitement.   We usually create some
kind of advent calendar so that Cooper can count how many days until we go to
Disney World.  This was last year’s countdown…

And this year, we used Cooper’s love for monorails to make a monorail countdown.

After all of the planning is complete and you
are in the parks, RELAX…  Have fun.  Allow me to ruin some
of the magic for a second…
  It’s going to Rain everyday you are
there.  There are going to be rude visitors.  Someone is going to
stand in front of you during a parade…  The only thing you can control
is how you handle these situations.  You might think that some of these
things would ruin a vacation, but at the end of the Day your kid might think it
was a success because they met Mickey Mouse, ate a Churro and stayed up past
their bed time.  Push through the vacation stresses and see Disney through
your kids’ eyes.

3.  Assuming a
Dining Plan is the Best Option
The dining plan can be a mistake or your best
friend… it really depends on how you use it.  There are two camps that
are either very pro Dining Plan (DDP) or very Anti-DDP.  I’m somewhere in
between, but I lean against it.  For starters, the DDP is a pre-paid meal
service.  There are several tiers of DDPs each with their pros &
Unless you are a Disney Vacation Club Member or
a Annual Pass holder, you must add the DDP to your Magic Your Way package for
the entire length of stay and for your entire party. It’s an all or nothing
option. This means that Mom and Dad can’t be on the dining plan and kids eat scraps. 
For a comprehensive look at the DDP, check out DisneyFoodBlog.com
I’ve traveled to the parks using dining plans
and paying cash.  You can make either work.  Just do some math. 
If you aren’t great at math try an experiment.  Get a Disney gift card or
Visa gift card and place the amount of money you would spend adding on the
dining plan.  At the end of the vacation, if there is any money left on
the card it can go back into savings and you’ll know what to do next time.
 There is a mythical “Free Dining Plan” promotion that Disney
runs occasionally.  Typically, when you are buying a package with
“free dining” you are paying the rack rate for your room.  This
means you are paying more for the same room than if you would have purchased it
separately.  Look at this question through this lens.  Is the
Walt Disney Company a publicly traded company? (Answer: Yes) Is their number
one job to provide shareholders with value for investing in their company by
maximizing profits? (Answer: Yes)  Then they will not be giving much away
for free.
My personal opinion is the “Quick Service
DDP” is the best value if you are looking to maximize time on
attractions.  Table service meals usually take a good amount of time and
will slow you down.  Enjoy table service meals a couple of times through
the week, but try to keep them limited to lunch time (or whenever works for
your family)
On the subject of Food, We’ve all had that
friend that came back from Disney World and said the following: “I’m tired
of eating hamburgers & chicken nuggets.”  But look closer. 
You can eat good food for a decent price at some of the quick service
restaurants.  There is a great Broccoli Peppercorn Salad at the Columbia
Harbor House (Magic Kingdom: Liberty Square) for under $10 as well as rice
bowls & other Tex Mex items at Pecos Bill’s (Magic Kingdom: Frontierland).
4.  Spending a Lot
of Money
You can stay at the sketchy
motel by the airport and bring all of your food in to the park, ensuring that
you only spend minimal money at the park.  You can also stay on the water
at the Polynesian bungalows (roughly $2500 per night) and eat every meal at
Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian (AAA five-diamond rated). You determine
how much money you would like to spend on this vacation.  You can bring as
much food in as you want.  (You can literally bring an entire thanksgiving meal including table
decorations and pilgrim costumes.)  The only limitation is bringing in
glass bottles.  We typically will bring almonds, granola bars and fruit in
our bag.  Every restaurant and snack stand will give you free ice water,
so no need to pack heavy water bottles.  For our TPT trip, we have
budgeted around $100 daily for food (2 adults, 1 child).  Probably going
to eat breakfast at the resort, lunch/dinner in the part and will still have
room for a churro.

Another way to save money is to bring your own poncho.  The first
afternoon rain shower in the park you will be running to a stand to buy a rain
poncho.  From experience, you don’t want to wait until you need one.
 Last summer we were caught in a downpour.  We bought the real deal
ponchos and paid $40 for the 3 of us.  We won’t every get rid of them now!
 You can also pick up 200 disposable ones for about $15 before the trip.  Throw
them away once you are finished and save having to fold and store them.  

Buying souvenirs in the park?  Ship from the park to your resort to save
carrying them through the park the rest of the day.  There is even an
option to UPS items to your home.

5.  Over packing
One huge mistake is packing
more than you need.   This covers packing for your trip and packing for
the parks.  First packing for the trip.  All Disney resorts
have laundry facilities on site.  We bring a few sets of clothes and wash
a few times during the stay.  If you happen to stay in a Disney Vacation
Club room, you can do the laundry in your own room.  We typically bring a
few sets of clothes and wash a few times during the week.  Tip:  wash
all of your clothes before you head back.  Trust me, you’ll thank me when
you get home and have no laundry to do!

Another consideration is
shipping items straight to your resort.  We ship breakfast items and
snacks via Amazon.  This is typically cheaper than buying on property.
 If you use an airline that charges for bags, this will save you the $75
for an additional bag.

When packing for the parks, think about your bag.  You want it light and
easy to carry.  We use a backpack.  We have a stroller so the bag has
to fit in the under storage and be accessible when we need it.  Typically,
my bag consists of the following:
*rain poncho
*plastic bags to
keep things dry
*snacks (we found we
need less than we thought…too busy to stop and eat!  About 1 small snack
per day per person was plenty for Mom, Dad and our 3 year old!)
*phone battery

You might think of a change of clothes for the little ones.  There are
multiple splash pad areas and opportunities to get wet.

Like I said, we use a stroller so there isn’t as much of a burden to carry a
huge bag.  You want to think about how heavy the bag will be when the
stroller is folded up.  When you are waiting for the last bus out of the
park and you have a sleepy kid, the last thing you want is a heavy backpack.

6.  Staying off
There is no sugarcoating
what I’m going to say next.  I’m a hotel snob.  My idea of roughing
it is a hotel without bathrobes.  The resorts on property rank anywhere
from good to excellent.  The lowest class of hotels are “value
resorts” and they start at $89 nightly.  They offer great value and
the same perks as staying at the most expensive resort.  We have stayed at
a value resort and it worked just fine for the little time spent in the room.

Moderate resorts start at $166 nightly and are a great option.  Typically
these feature better food options, larger rooms and more activities at the
resort.  Pools are generally themed better (although the pool at Art of
Animation, a value resort, is one of the most elaborate pools at Disney).
 Activities at the moderate level consist of fishing and bike rides as
well as shopping.

Deluxe resorts start at $289 and are really top notch.  Food and shopping
are upgraded from the moderate level and the service is a step above to match.
 For example, the Yacht Club/Beach Club resort has a signature dining
location, 3 casual dining locations, 3 lounges as well as a quick service.
 You can have a character meal without leaving your resort.  If you
stay at a deluxe resort, you might not want to go to a park at all.  There
really is that much to do.

Staying on property also allows you to use Magical Express, a bus service from
the airport to Disney property.  Resort guests can sign up for Magical
Express before they leave.  You attach the luggage tags that Disney mails
to you and check your bags at the airport.  When you get to Orlando, go
straight to the bus.  Your bags will magically arrive at your resort at no
cost to you.  (Make sure you allow a few hours for delivery and pack med
or immediate things in your carry on.)

Staying on property can save time as well.  If you stay off site, you will
need to drive to the park and find a parking spot.  Depending on which
park you are going to you will either take a tram, boat or monorail to the
front gate.  All of that after fighting Central Florida traffic.  (Tip:
Save more park time by showing up approximately 45 minutes before the opening
time scheduled.  If the brochure says the Magic Kingdom opens at 9:00, you
will likely be in the park before 8:30 after watching a great rope drop show.)

7.  Buying the Wrong
Park Ticket
There are a lot of options
for the getting into the theme park.  You can often save a bit of money if
you really plan out how many days you are going to be in the parks.

Single day tickets have recently been priced off of three seasons:
value, regular and peak.  If you are a teacher, you are likely traveling
during the “peak” season.  This means a one park for one day
will cost $124 for the Magic Kingdom and $114 for the other parks.  This
is the adult (ages 10+) price.  Kids will be $118 and $108, respectively.

If you are going to be in the parks for multiple days, even if they are not
consecutive, you can get a multi-day ticket.  Disney makes it
cost effective to go to the park on mutliple days.   The same one park per
day ticket over 7 days costs $52 a day ($370).  If you want to add on the
ability to go to multiple parks in one day, add the park hopper option for
an additional $60 for the 7 day pass.  This will allow you to attend
multiple parks in one day.  Add the Water Parks and More option for
an additional $40 for the water parks, golf, and Wide World of Sports.

Now…if you really want to do some math, try this.  If you are planning
on making another trip within the next 365 days, look into an annual
.  The break-even point of multip day tickets vs. annual passes is
somewhere around 11-12 days.  Owning the annual pass will also get you
discounts on dining, shopping and resort activities.  You can also get
free parking for the parks.

For my family, the annual pass was the right choice this past year.  Our
break-even point was a little lower because we get discounted annual pass
prices through Disney Vacation Club.  We took a trip with extended family
last July for 8 days in the park.  I had a half marathon scheduled for
November which was an additional 4 days in the park.  So now, the days we
spend in the park for this conference are just bonus.  

If you are still confused about what ticket to buy, use this ticket price calculator.  Input your info and they tell
you what your best option is.  They even have links to certified discount
tickets.  Pleas don’t buy tickets from that ticket stand on I-4 that is in
a strip mall.  If the price is unbelievable, it’s probably counterfeit or a
partially used ticket.

If you are headed to the TPT conference like Whitney, have fun!  And if
you see us in the parks, say Hi.  If you have any questions, leave them in
the comments and I will do my best to answer them!

Mrs.  Mr. Shaddock

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