It’s been 6 weeks since our surprise family vacation to Walt Disney World and we’re all still reeling from excitement. My girls can’t stop talking about how much fun they had! I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World since their free-admission-on-your-birthday promotion back 2009 and I was a Florida resident then (and didn’t have kids). Well, a lot has changed and navigating everything during the planning phase felt slightly overwhelming at times. In an effort to help you not feel so overwhelmed in planning your upcoming Disney World vacation, here are four things I think are definitely worth the extra money.
MagicBands are bracelets that you link to your My Disney Experience account. You can link your park tickets, FastPasses, photos, and (only if you’re staying at a Disney Resort) a credit card. If you choose a solid color MagicBand, they’re only $12.95. You can buy them at the gates of the park but I recommend buying them beforehand and having them shipped to your home so you can have everything linked to them when you arrive. If you lose your band, you can use the My Disney Experience mobile app to deactivate it while you either look for yours or buy a new one. Also, MagicBands are reusable so be sure to keep them for your next trip!
Pro Tip: When you arrive to the park on the first day of your trip, you’ll have to use your fingerprint which will then be programmed to your respective band for future admission. I recommend using your fingerprint for your small children, too, to avoid delays at the gate.
Hands down, this was the best purchase of our entire trip. I am so happy that I bought Memory Maker. As you may know, there are Disney PhotoPass photographers spread all over the Disney parks, including at all of the character experiences; your photo is taken on some of the rides, too. With Memory Maker, you can have any of the Disney photographers snap your photo at any time and you get to keep all of the photos! Unlimited photos, y’all. It kept me from having to take my camera with me to the park every day and it ensured that I got to actually be in the photos! Once the Disney PhotoPass photographer takes your photos, they scan your Magic Band or card and then the photos show up on your My Disney Experience account so you can download them. You can access them through MyDisneyPhotoPass.com, too. We were able to download photos from rides, all of our character experiences, and my girls’ experience at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! This is definitely something you should purchase online at least three days before your trip, though, so you can save. Memory Maker is $169 if you purchase it 3 days or more before you use it or $199 to start using it immediately. Worth. Every. Penny.
Walt Disney World Resort Accommodations
While planning our trip, I wanted to spend the least amount of money as possible and found an amazing resort not far from the Magic Kingdom’s gates. Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I should have spent the extra money to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort…
- your family’s MagicBands are complimentary.
- you can link your credit card to your MagicBand and use it to pay for everything at the parks.
- you can have your in-park purchases sent directly to your room so you don’t have to worry about hauling them around. (Pro Tip: If you stay off the resort, you can have your purchases sent to the front of the park for pick-up when you leave; it takes 2-3 hours for your bags to make it up there.)
- you get to take advantage of “Extra Magic Hours” (when the park closes to the public but remains open for resort guests during certain times of the year).
- you get early access to make your FastPass+ selections – 60 days before your trip vs. 30 days as a non-resort guest.
- the monorail and ferry both stop at the resorts so you don’t have to worry about driving and/or parking. Not having to drive and/or pay for parking alone is worth it, in my opinion. My girls had just turned 3 and 5 at the time of our visit – they needed naps to make it through the day. Being able to jump on the monorail right back to our hotel would have made life so much easier for us.
All of that said, I’m pretty sure we’ll be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort for our next trip.
If you decide to stay somewhere other than a Disney resort, I highly recommend paying $40 for premium parking vs. $20 for regular every day. With premium parking you get to park walking distance from the front gate instead of having to wait for/get on the tram that drives you from the regular lots to the gate. If you have a stroller – or in our case, a double stroller – premium parking will save you from having break down and fold up the stroller since you can skip the tram and just walk. You also get free mini water bottles when you enter the lot! We decided to do premium parking on the last day of our trip and it was definitely worth the money, especially at the end of the day when my girls were completely wiped out and exhausted; they fell asleep in their stroller on the way out so we only had to lift them out of it to get them into the car. We regretted not doing premium parking on the days before. Side Note: you only have to pay for parking once per day, regardless of how many parks you visit or how many times you exit and return.
Have you been to Walt Disney World lately? What other things do you recommend spending the money on? Tell me in the comments below!