Part of the function of this site is to discuss travel tips, touring plans, and workarounds. Anything that lets you enjoy your visit more, save money, or save time is fair game.
It’s an impossible task to rank tips like these into a list that EVERYONE will agree upon, but we’ll start with what we, at least, consider the #1 tip of all when traveling to Orlando to see the theme parks – and that’s no small prize to be the ultimate tip!
Here it is: stay longer. No, seriously, that’s not meant as some kind of joke or sarcastic remark; you should honestly do what you can to make your vacation last longer. For most folks, that will mean paying LESS for other parts of the vacation (especially on hotel choice) so that there is enough money to stay longer.
Think about it from the point of view of hotel strategy. You sometimes hear advice to stay on-property at WDW, since you can be surrounded by the magic full-time. This is true, but it comes at a cost. Equivalent hotels off-property cost much less, often only one-third or even one-fourth of the cost of a similar hotel within the borders of Walt Disney World.
Let’s take a specific example. If you planned to stay at the Polynesian Resort in February 2014 for a 7 day stay, your rates would look like this: $429 for the cheapest room, up to $961… all this is per night. Keep in mind that the rate changes even WITHIN your stay; weekends are often $618/night. Staying Feb. 14 to 21 would cost you $4,691 for the cheapest room (no park view) and no theme park tickets.
By contrast, imagine staying at a very nice, very close non-Disney hotel – let’s use the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, which has free bus service to the parks and an ENORMOUS list of included activities on its property – way more to do than Disney’s Polynesian Resort (we reviewed this hotel here). For the same dates in February, the Grand Cypress costs only $2001 (including resort fee) – less than half what the Disney option costs. Put another way, you could pay for TWO weeks of Grand Cypress with the funds used for one week of Polynesian Resort.
If you were willing to downgrade the hotel from the Poly and stay off-site, you could save even more, and thus stay EVEN longer. It’s true, you wouldn’t be “surrounded by the magic” 24/7 anymore – but would that be a worthwhile trade off for enjoying a two week vacation instead of one week?
Think about it. Most of the problems that crop up in a Disney vacation have to do with limited time. If you had TWICE the time (or more, if you downgraded hotel), wouldn’t you be less likely to be cranky about long lines? Wouldn’t you revel in the freedom that comes from knowing you’ll be back at this park multiple times in the next two weeks and thus the “pressure is off” to see everything quickly?
And, as you’ll discover from reading around our site, there are simply TONS of things to do in Central Florida beyond WDW. The SeaWorld and Universal parks are worth visiting, as are Legoland, Kennedy Space Center, maybe even Gatorland (or Holy Land for some folks). The Fun Spot mini-parks are a hoot, the trampoline arenas are great, the outlet shopping is second to none…I could go on for days, but you get the point. More time here is the single biggest key to a successful vacation. Scrimp and save on other parts of your vacation (which usually means hotel selection, but might also mean dining options) to stay longer, and you’ll reap enormous rewards.