Four Kids, Two Parents and a Walt Disney World Vacation – Let’s Do This Again

Zachary and I may be crazy.

We’re taking our four children to Walt Disney World again, this November. We planned a trip to Disney World in 2010 and had such a phenomenal time that we decided we’ll take one more trip to Orlando while the kids are young enough for the experience to be magical and exciting. Did I say one more trip? Well, that remains to be seen. When we went two years ago I was quite sure it would be our one and only visit to the land of Mickey Mouse, but I was unprepared for how completely Disney would captivate me and the kids. So don’t hold me to this “last trip,” thing.

During our last trip, we were fortunate enough to receive a 40% off PIN that allowed us to stay at a much nicer resort than we otherwise could have. We chose Animal Kingdom Villas because we had plenty of space to spread out, a connecting room for Zachary’s parents, and we’re heard it was a calm, quiet space, which appealed to us when traveling with a young toddler who would need plenty of relaxation. Our stay was wonderful – we loved having a kitchenette, loved the washer and dryer in the room, and loved the separate sleeping areas.

Alas, this year we received no PIN, and though there are rumors that free dining will be offered, we haven’t seen any hints for it for our trip yet. Which is totally fine – we’ve planned a trip that we can afford and enjoy, and if free dining does come around for our travel dates, it’ll be a nice bonus, one which may allow us to upgrade our resort or add on extras like Pirates League or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. One change we’re making is that we will NOT buy Park Hopper tickets this year. The parks are large enough that we couldn’t even see an entire one in a full day, so to us it was wasted money. This year we’ll just get regular park tickets.

If you’re interested in hearing about how we planned our previous trip,  and our experiences in the parks, you can catch up with these links:

Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part I – The Planning
Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part II – Traveling and the First Day at Epcot
Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part III – Epcot (Again) and Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part IV – Magic Kingdom
Walt Disney World Vacation with Four Kids – Part V – Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios and a Return to Epcot

For this vacation we seriously considered staying offsite. We looked into package deals that included airfare and hotel at places like the Blue Heron Resort, and also priced out time share rentals at Wyndham Bonnet Creek. The room rates and accommodations at both places were awesome, but a few details made us change our minds and stick to staying on property.

1. We would need to rent a car to stay off property. And by car I mean minivan. Quotes ranged from $400-$630 for a week, plus we’d need to either bring or rent car seats, pay for gas, and pay for parking at the Disney parks each day. There are limited shuttles at the off-property resorts, but they do not allow strollers. We NEED a stroller, and plan to bring the double jogging stroller with us again, so that Jonah and whichever other tired child needs it can rest and not slow the group down. Disney does offer stroller rentals, but it’s a hefty fee when you look at needing it 6 days a week, plus it adds on unnecessary wait time to the beginning and end of the day, on days when waiting is already going to be something we’re spending a lot of time doing.

2. We wanted to take advantage of Disney’s dining plan. There are many resources out there that will tell you pros and cons to using the dining plan vs. not. If you are light eaters who don’t plan to dine at sit-down restaurants, or aren’t interested in character meals, then the dining plan may not be for you. We know we can take our kids to regular restaurants any day of the week here at home, so when we go to Disney we like to cram as much Disneyfication into our week as possible, and that means character meals. Most character meals cost an adult $30 or more, and the dining plan is just a little over $50 a day total for the adult, and includes one snack, one counter service meal, and one table service (sit-down) meal per day. We figured, based on our receipts from last year, using the dining plan saved us a fair amount of money. The kids’ plans are even more reasonable – I believe around $16 a day, which more than covers the cost of just one character meal per day. You can only use the dining plan if you stay at a Disney resort.

3. Travel times and buses. I like not having to think about walking back to our car at the end of the night (which could include a roundabout trip to a travel hub not even near the park, but a monorail or bus ride away), not having to use a GPS to find our hotel, and letting someone else do the driving. The buses aren’t always super fast, and since we’re staying at a value resort this time vs. deluxe our waits may be longer, but it’s still a worthwhile perk to me. We also get to use Disney’s Magical Express to take us to the resort once we land at the airport, which is an amazing benefit.

4. Magic. We chose Disney’s new Art of Animation resort for our November stay. It’s brand new this year, and the themes are totally loud, bold and in-your face. It may not be what I’d choose for a relaxing getaway, but the kids are going to be beside themselves with excitement. Art of Animation does offer themed family suites, but it’s less expensive to do to separate standard rooms (Little Mermaid theme), and we were told we’re guaranteed to have connecting rooms. Like I said about character meals, we’re at Disney to go to Disney, so we are more than happy to stay at a property that really makes us feel like we’re not at the Generic Hotel down the street.

I still love spreadsheets, and I created one that outlined costs for each lodging and dining situation, and at the end of the day, staying on property and using the dining plan and not having to rent a car or stroller was in some cases less expensive than staying off property, and in other cases such a small difference it just made more sense to stay on property given how much the kids will enjoy it.

So far we are planning on dinners at ‘Ohana, the Grand Floridian’s Cinderella character experience, San Angel Inn, Teppan Edo, and Garden Grill, and the character breakfasts at Tusker House (the only repeat from our previous vacation) and Hollywood & Vine. If you have opinions to share on any of those, or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

We told the kids by making a quick slideshow, and they are quite excited, but we also know it’s a long wait until we reach November. Since they were a little apprehensive about rides last time, I plan on exposing them to some at amusement parks closer to home. Miles and Isla are tall enough to go on just about anything, and Grant will only miss a couple, so I’m hoping I have some co-riders for a few roller coasters this year!

Note: I don’t work for Disney and this post is in no way sponsored, I just chose to link to a few things because my old Disney posts are among my more popular and I’d love to make it easier for others planning their own trips to the theme parks (whether they have 4 kids or 1 or none or 14!).

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Comments

  1. Just reading about this gave me massive anxiety. 😉

  2. Oh gosh! You are SO right! I need to go to Disneyland again while the kids are young. But I think I just missed it! My son prefers Universal Studios to Disneyland now!

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