Disney World 2015

We just returned from our fourth trip to Disney World where we stayed for 7 nights & 8 days. In total we were gone 11 days as we drove to Disney World & spent a day in Pensacola, Florida on the way home.  We stayed on Disney property at Port Orleans Riverside, a moderate resort, because we enjoy the amenities offered including a boat ride to Downtown Disney. We spent 1 day at Animal Kingdom, 2 days at Epcot, 1 day at Hollywood Studios, & 4 days at Magic Kingdom. Below are some of my tips from my most recent trip.
  • Saving Money by using Disney gift cards to pay for hotel, food, drink, & souvenirs. Sam's Club sells Disney gift cards for a $7.12 discount. To put it differently you can purchase $150 worth of Disney gift cards for $142.88, saving you $7.12 (you get three $50 gift cards per package). I know what you are thinking, only $7.12, that's not worth my time. But think about it like this, IF your trip costs you $3,300 and you used the discounted gift cards to purchase the hotel, food, drinks, etc. you would need 22 packs of gift cards.  If you save $7.12 PER PACK of gift cards that comes to a savings of $156.64. My dinner at Ohana Restaurant was paid for with my savings with a little money left over! If you are wondering HOW you can pay for your Disney World package using gift cards, let me tell you. You have to call the Disney resort phone number 407-939-1936 and speak to a cast member.  You will then have to give the cast member each gift card number from the back of the card.  A trick I learned once I was using the cards on the trip is that the gray scratch off on the back of the gift card is actually a STICKER, just peel it off and things will go much faster for you. I also used the discounted gift cards to purchase food, drink, & souvenirs while I was at Disney World.  I used the gift cards for restaurants at theme parks, Disney water parks, Disney resort hotels, and Downtown Disney.  Yes, all of the restaurants & stores at Downtown Disney will take the Disney gift card. I also used the Disney gift card at the Disney Character Outlet Store located on Vineland Avenue. It would have been easier to just link my credit card number to my MagicBand and use it to pay for everything, but I was on a budget and needed to save money where I could.
Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue - Featuring all you can eat 
served family style meal including fried chicken, ribs,
mashed potatoes, corn, beans, salad, cornbread, 
& the BEST strawberry shortcake you ever tasted! 
All while enjoying some down home fun entertainment.
  • Meal plan or no meal plan? That is the question... When we went to Disney World in 2013 we decided to take the Disney Dining Plan whereby we received 1 counter service meal including entree, drink, & dessert, 1 sit down meal including entree, drink, & dessert, and 2 snacks per night of our stay. After we got home from our trip we felt as though we ate ALL THE TIME. Needless to say it was too much food for us. When it came time to book our trip this year, we debated should we get the meal plan or not.  The cost for the meal plan for 3 adults aged 10+ would have been $1281 above the cost of our package. We decided to try the discounted gift cards and see what the difference in cost would be.  Keep in mind that during our 7 night stay we ate dinner one time each at Boatwrights (cost $75), Ohana (cost $140), 50s Diner (cost $53), Raglan Road (cost $68), & Hoop Dee Doo Dinner & Show ($177). Note: If you are on the Disney Dining Plan Hoop Dee Doo will cost you 2 meal credits. As you can see we did not eat all counter service meals, although we did eat some counter service meals, usually one per day.  The total cost for all of our meals including counter service restaurants, sit down restaurants, milk for breakfast in our room, and snacks was $821.90. That was a savings of $460 and we ate plenty of good food! In my opinion, unless you eat A LOT of food you will save money if you do NOT get the Disney Dining Plan.
  • Download the My Disney Experience App for your smart phone. We used My Disney Experience everyday to see the wait times for rides & change FastPass+ reservations. This app will also have your reservations for restaurants, etc.  Disney World has fantastic free WiFi available at all of the theme parks and hotels.  Accessing My Disney Experience will be a breeze with the WiFi available.  

You can choose from a wide range
of colors for your MagicBand.
  • MagicBands are really cool! If you are staying at a Disney World resort or you are an annual pass holder you will receive a MagicBand for each member of your family included in your package cost. If you are not staying at a Disney resort or are an annual pass holder, you can still get MagicBands to use while at the theme parks, you just have to pay $12.95 for them online or at select retail locations. I really liked the MagicBand - once we got them all working. Our MagicBands worked without fail to enter the theme parks.  However, they would not open our hotel door at Port Orleans Riverside the first time we tried. Unfortunately we discovered this at 11:00 PM on the night we checked in. Tired we went back to the front desk and the cast member "fixed" the bands.  Long story short, she only "fixed" mine and my son's band.  My husband's band required a second trip back to the front desk to fix the problem. Once they were all fixed we really enjoyed tapping our wrists to use our FastPass+ selections (remember once you are in the theme park, you can use anyone's MagicBand to access a Fastpass+ reservation - they do not make you give a finger print to use the FastPass+ at a ride), get our room door to open, or gain entrance to a theme park. An additional benefit was we could have tied our credit card to the MagicBand and we could have tapped to purchase food, drinks, & souvenirs, meaning no wallet necessary. We opted to use Disney gift cards to purchase our food, drinks, & souvenirs because you could purchase them at a discounted rate at Sam's Club. See above for how much money I saved using gift cards from Sam's Club. One problem I saw with the MagicBand for FastPass+ was about 3 times I saw people arguing with the cast member because they "supposedly" had a FastPass+ but it was not showing up in the system and thereby denying them entrance. I think they were just trying to sneak on the ride without having to wait in line... There is no fix for dishonesty I suppose...
You have 1 hour to redeem your
 FastPass + reservation. Example redeem
between 9:00 - 10:00 AM. 
  • FastPass+ - Maybe it is because I am a planner, but I really like the FastPass+ system Disney World began using in 2014. I booked my Fastpass+ 60 days before my scheduled arrival date.  I then used My Disney Experience computer and app based version to track my reservations & change them as needed. I no longer had to worry about IF I was going to get a FastPass for my favorite ride. We did not wait more than 10 minutes for any ride and the theme parks were very busy. As much as I like FastPass+, I would like to see Disney make a few changes to the system however. For starters I do NOT like the tier system Disney has for Epcot & Hollywood Studios FastPass+ - just make them like Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom. Another change I would like to see would be for Disney to allow you to use My Disney Experience to get the FastPass+ choices after the initial 3 selections are used up. It could be a benefit for Disney Resort hotel guests. Finally I would like to be able to select the same ride multiple times for my initial 3 FastPass+ selections.  For example, I would have ridden Seven Dwarfs Mine Train three times in one day instead of Seven Dwarfs & then 2 other rides. I tried to get a FastPass+ to Seven Dwarfs after I used my initial 3, but guess what?  There were none available and standby times for this ride averaged 80 minutes. Since we don't like waiting in lines, we only got to ride Seven Dwarfs once on this trip. Even with the suggested changes I still believe FastPass+ is better than the old FastPass system. 
  • Take Disney transportation to Downtown Disney & expect renovations in the theme parks. Disney World is undergoing A LOT of construction! To some extent, every theme park & Downtown Disney is experiencing construction.  Magic Kingdom has walls up on Main Street & around the castle making for a less than desirable photo.  At Magic Kingdom, Disney did attempt to make the walls blend in to the background but it does not look the same. Epcot is renovating the Norwegian ride so that it is "Frozen" themed. Innovations West at Epcot is permanently closed. Hollywood Studios has many areas, such as Back Lot Tour & American Idol Experience, shut down permanently. Animal Kingdom has walls up in Asia, Africa, & Discovery Island.  The walls at Animal Kingdom do not attempt to blend into the background, making them less appealing. You cannot get to some parts of Discovery Island due to construction. Downtown Disney is perhaps the biggest mess of them all. Downtown Disney has been under construction since 2013 with completion expected in 2016. New shops & restaurants have been added and will continue to be added. I suggest you take Disney transportation to Downtown Disney instead of trying to drive and park.