The last thing your kid, whether teen or tween, wants to do in Walt Disney World is learn. Have fun, sure. Learn? Never! But just like every ride and show has its Hidden Mickeys, every Disney vacation has hidden opportunities for your kids to take on some new skills.
Tim Brooks' unique guide to Disney World posits a simple truth: your kids want to be involved in planning their trip to see Mickey. So let them. Budgeting and simple economics can be taught while making dining reservations or selecting a resort. And in the parks themselves, every ride and attraction can be mined for its history and its hidden meaning.
Did you know that Liberty Square has no bathrooms? Finding out why is a mini-history lesson that will engage your teens and tweens better than any textbook. Brooks also shares:
YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG TO PLAN A DISNEY VACATION!
Chapter 1: Disney Magic
Chapter 2: Magic Kingdom
Chapter 3: Epcot
Chapter 4: Hollywood Studios
Chapter 5: Animal Kingdom
Chapter 6: Dining
Chapter 7: Dining Plan
Chapter 8: Dining: Character Meals
Chapter 9: Dining: Non-Character Meals
Chapter 10: Value Resorts
Chapter 11: Moderate Resorts
Chapter 12: Deluxe Resorts
Chapter 13: Deluxe Villas
Walt Disney World is one of the most magical places on earth and is filled with fun and adventure for people of all ages. In this book I will take you through the exciting attractions, wide variety of restaurants, and wonderfully themed resorts that Disney World has to offer.
This book can be used to help you work with your parents in planning a vacation that everyone can enjoy. You will notice that every attraction has some time of “educational slant”. A lot of families go on vacation at Disney World while school is in session. These “educational slants” can be presented to your teachers to help develop special projects for you work on while on your vacation. I know, it does not sound like fun, but, trust me, you will be having more fun than your classmates who are stuck in school.
This book is designed for your children to use in conjunction with any Disney World guidebook that you may also purchase to help plan your Disney World vacation. When you are planning your vacation, bring the kids and have them grab this book and work alongside them. The more the kids feel included, they will gain some ownership in the vacation which should lead to a more enjoyable experience.
There is an “educational slant” section for every attraction. These are ideas that you can present to your children’s teachers for projects that they can work on at Disney World. Some schools and teachers are supportive of a Disney World vacation and will not put up much resistance for pulling the kids out of school. However, there are some schools and teachers who are not as supportive. These “educational slants” can help you be more pro-active in showing that a Disney World vacation can be a learning experience (and one not just limited to the different cultures of Epcot’s World Showcase).
A Disney World vacation is something that cannot be planned overnight. Planning a Disney World vacation is a lot of work. It is work that I enjoy. This book, in addition to helping you plan your vacation, will also inform you about key dates leading up to it. These dates are important because they will help you and your family obtain the dining reservations and FastPass+ times that you want and not be stuck with what’s left over.
There are three big dates in planning your vacation: 365 days before, 180 days before, and 60 days before.
365 Days Before Your Vacation
This is the first day you can book a full package (room, park tickets, and a Disney dining plan). You will have the widest selection of resorts available. Park tickets and dining plans are always available. But booking the reservation as a package is easier than booking a room and then adding tickets and dining plans later in the process. You only need to put down a $200 deposit, with the balance due 45 days before your vacation begins.
Once your vacation is booked, your package rates (room, ticket, and dining) are locked in. They cannot increase even if Disney raises prices between when you booked your vacation and when your vacation begins. This is the most important benefit to planning vacation early. It allows your parents to lock in a rate and start saving with the goal of having the vacation paid off by the 45-day deadline.
Should a special discount or promotion come out during this time, you MAY be eligible to apply that discount or promotion to your existing reservation. But I tell everyone to plan and budget for what you can afford; consider any discounts or promotions that can be applied to your vacation as a bonus. Never plan your budget around getting a discount or a promotion—it may only lead to disappointment.
180 Days Before Your Vacation
You can now make all of your Disney dining reservations, in either of two ways: on the Disney World website starting at 6 a.m. Eastern or by calling 407-WDW-DINE starting at 7 a.m. Eastern. Have multiple electronic devices when attempting to make reservations through the website. The Disney World web servers are not the most stable and are prone to crashing or not working on a specific web browser. When my family makes our dining reservations, we have multiple devices—laptop, tablet, and desktop—at the ready in case of a problem. Calling in means waiting in a phone line as people who are using the web-based reservation system are potentially making reservations in front of you.
Another little tip is to plan the “hard to get reservations” for the end of your trip as opposed to the beginning. At the beginning of your vacation, you are competing against the people are already on vacation in addition to the people whose vacation is starting. At the end of your vacation, you are competing mostly against the people whose vacation started around the same time as yours did.
60 Days Before Your Vacation
This is the last major planning date. You can now make your FastPass+ reservations. These reservations can be made starting at midnight Eastern time. Each guest gets three FastPass+ reservations for EACH day of their Disney World vacation. A FastPass+ reservation allows you to bypass the traditional stand-by line for the FastPass+ line which is, on average, a quarter of the wait time of the posted stand-by time. So, if the stand-by line is 60 minutes, the FastPass+ line, on average, will be around 15 minutes. A reservation is good for one hour and once that hour passes, the FastPass+ reservation is no longer valid and will not be accepted by the FastPass+ reservation system.
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have a simple system for making reservations. Every attraction that is available for FastPass+ reservations can be selected. However, Epcot and Hollywood Studios have tiered systems for the FastPass+ reservations. You must choose from attractions in Tier 1 and Tier 2 when making their reservations.
After you use your three FastPass+ reservations for the day, you can make a fourth FastPass+ reservation, and once you use the fourth reservation, you can make a fifth, and so on. Because of this, FastPass+ reservations are most difficult to obtain early in the day because people want to make their reservations early so they can be used quickly and then new ones can be obtained. A word of warning about making reservations for preferred seating at nighttime shows and fireworks: these events take place late at night and close to park close which will leave you little time to use any extra FastPass+ reservations for those days. If you are fine with only using three reservations for that day, of course, it’s fine.
If you did not get that FastPass+ reservation that you really wanted, do not give up hope. These reservations change all the time, especially closer to your vacation and during your vacation as people shuffle their reservations around to better suit their day in the parks. So, check the system often. There are a lot of people in the parks even on the slowest days, so there is a lot of potential for FastPass+ reservations to change.
There are three ways to get from your house to Walt Disney World: by plane, by train, or by car. Each involve some amount from travel to get from Point A to Point B, and let’s face it: travel is boring. There is only so much scenery that you can look out at from the car or train window and blue sky is blue sky whether the plane is over your house or over Florida. So, let’s take a brief look at some ways that you can entertain yourself during the many hours of travel.
Download some movies to your iPad or use the Disney Movies Anywhere app to view movies already downloaded to your tablet device. A movie will take up a good 90 to 120 minutes which should cover most plane flights, especially now that airlines allow small electronic devices (like tablets) to be used during takeoff and landing. If you have a longer flight, download a couple of movies. A word of warning about the Disney Movies Anywhere app: it needs a strong wireless signal to start the movie even if that movie is already downloaded to your device. I ran into this problem with my daughter’s iPad on a recent trip to Disneyland. We had movies downloaded through the app, but because the plane’s wireless signal wasn’t strong enough, the movies would not start and led to a very upset tween who slept for some of the flight but was bored while awake.
The next easiest thing to do is to bring some books along on the trip. It’s easy to get lost in a book and the next thing you know you have arrived in Orlando.
A great thing to do, especially on the way down to Disney World, is any homework assigned by your teachers. There are not a lot of distractions and you can concentrate on getting your homework done. The sooner it’s done, the less time you have to spend on doing it during your vacation or, even worse, rushing to get it done on the trip back home. Think about it: would you rather be enjoying your vacation or worrying about when your homework is going to get done.
Figuring out how to get to Disney World is a great lesson in planning and budgeting that parents can share with their children. Like I mentioned earlier, there are three main ways to get to Disney World: plane, train, and automobile.
Most people will arriving by plane. It is important to know that there are two airports in the Orlando area: Orlando International Airport (MCO), where the majority of flights land and where Disney operates their Magical Express service to and from the airport, and Sanford Airport (SFB), where some minor airlines offer flights to and from select cities. Disney does not operate their Magical Express service from this airport. You are left on your own to find transportation to and from the airport.
Parents, when searching for flights, bring the kids into the process. Show them that there are individual airline websites as well as websites where you can compare the different airlines side by side. Also, take the time to research nearby airports. In searching for flights to Orlando, sometimes the closest airport is not necessarily the most affordable one. So, it can pay to do some searching, even if the result means taking a short drive to a more affordable airport.
If you take the AutoTrain from Lorton, VA, you’ll depart at 4 p.m. and arrive in Sanford, FL, the next day, at 4 p.m. This is a great option for people who live a good distance from Disney and don’t want to drive the entire way, but still want the freedom of having a car when they are at Disney World. It can be expensive, though. If you reserve a stateroom, it can be as expensive as flying, but you have your own private space which comes in handy during the overnight hours. Amtrak also makes stops in Orlando and Kissimmee, for those who don’t want to bring along their car.
The last option is driving. Parents, get the children involved in planning the route that the family is going to take and, if necessary, research hotels where you are going to stop for the night. Before the trip, plan out how much the tolls, if any, are going to be, and when traveling get receipts for the gas and hotels. When you get home, the family can see how much money they saved by driving instead of flying. Budgeting is an important skill for kids to develop, and a vacation is a great example of showing them how important it can be.
Tim Brooks has been visiting Walt Disney World since the late 1970s. Since then, he has made many more trips to the resort both as a child and now with a family of his own. During those trips, he has built up a wealth of knowledge about the attractions and resorts which make up Disney World. Tim has spent the last two years writing a Disney World blog (dadfordisney.com) and the last 18 months working as an independent travel agent specializing in Disney travel with Fairytale Journeys (fairytalejourneysbytimbrooks.com).
Walt Disney World for Teens and Tweens attempts to fill what Tim thinks is an underserved market in the Disney World guidebook world. There are lots of guidebooks for adults and a few guidebooks for pre-school and early elementary school aged children, but not very many for tweens and teens. Using his own tween child as inspiration, Tim decided to write this book with that age group in mind.
A perpetual favorite: Space Mountain!
Indoor Roller Coaster : 2 Minutes 30 Seconds : Must be 44 Inches to Ride
This attraction is completely dark. The only light is the faint light given off by the stars inside the mountain. The drops are not as large when compared to other Disney World roller coasters, but the turns can feel more severe. In fact, everything feels faster and the drops and turns feel longer. Because you are inside with very little light, you can’t see the track ahead of you and prepare for what is coming. Everything, especially for a first time rider, is a shock to the system because you don’t know what is coming next. That is what makes Space Mountain one of Magic Kingdom’s more popular attractions.
FastPass+ reservations are available and highly recommended. Space Mountain does not go out of service when thunderstorms roll through the Magic Kingdom, since the attraction is completely inside. There are long wait times throughout the entire day, even toward park close.
Educational Slant: How fast do you think the ship on Space Mountain is going? When you return from Disney World, compare your thoughts to the actual top speed and see how far off you were. How does the “unexpected” help increase the fear factor for this attraction?
Continued in "Walt Disney World for Teens and Tweens"!
Eating in the Kingdom.
Restaurant: Crystal Palace
Location: Main Street, next to Adventureland entrance
Meals with Characters: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Characters: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore
Cost: Breakfast: adults $$, kids $; Lunch: adults $$ or $$$, kids $; Dinner $$$ kids $; Disney Dining Plan: one table-service credit per person
Jump into the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and Friends and enjoy a fun-filled meal. It’s Friend’s Day at Crystal Palace and Winnie the Pooh and his pals make sure that they make lots of new friends during this dining experience. Every 30 to 60 minutes, you get to join in singing the “Friendship Song” as the kids dance around the dining room with Winnie the Pooh. This is a difficult reservation to get, especially for breakfast which starts at 8 a.m., before the Magic Kingdom opens (except on days with Extra Magic Hours) so you can experience an empty park and if you finish your meal quickly can get to the front of the line for popular Magic Kingdom attractions or character meet and greets.
I like Crystal Palace because they such a variety of options and I love the triangle cinnamon toast. My mom even makes it at home for me.
— Corbin Wiltse, 11
Continued in "Walt Disney World for Teens and Tweens"!