Hello Dad! I really like everything that you do Walt Disney World wise. You are truly an inspiration and a great joy to read. My wife, my son and I will be going to WDW on January 3rd 2016. We will be staying in the Orlando area till February the 14th. We will be buying annual passes. Do you have any suggestions for such a long stay? For one week we will be at the all-star music resort and for another at the all-star movies resort. The rest of the time will be spent off site. We will have our car. I have been to WDW and Disneyland as a child and as an adult in 1997(last time). It will be my wife and son’s first visit. I have been planning and dreaming of this trip for years and I really want us to have time to enjoy the parks at there fullest and to take the time to smell the roses. I have no idea when (or if) we will be back some day… Thank you so much!
Dad’s Great Attitude Answer
Dan, thank you so much for the kind words – I hope that I can continue to help you today. It sounds like you have a very, very special trip in place, and I have a whole bunch of ideas to help make it you Perfect Vacation.
Lots of families dream of a once in a lifetime trip to WDW, and many plan for a few days or a week, knowing they may never return. You have the blessing of time on your trip, and that’s something you can put to good use.
Honestly, you’ll have so much time there that I could easily throw my hands up in the air and tell you that you can see and do everything you want, because waiting in line won’t matter as much as for a family with only a few days. But you asked for Dad’s advice, and you’re going to get it!
Since you’ll be spending a month an a half in the area, I’m going to recommend that you consider your time spent staying on property separately from your time off-property. With your Annual Passes, you won’t be limited to specific park days, but I assume you won’t spend every single day in the parks. Using the perks associated with your on-property days can definitely help you in the parks.
Plan a pool day – Photo by Disney Photo Snapper
During your time at the All Star Music and Movies Resorts, you’ll be able to use Extra Magic Hours to your advantage. By entering the parks early or staying late you can really maximize riding attractions or meeting characters that have the longest waits. I find early magic hours especially helpful, but it does mean getting up earlier – sleep in while you’re staying off-property!
Even though it will be chilly by Florida’s standards, the pools will be open – if your family fancies a swim, have a pool day while you’re staying on property, and then enjoy the parks that night. The pool at the All-Star Movies is a little more interesting in Dad’s opinion, but there’s no real difference.
If your family likes movies, consider catching a Movie Under the Stars – played nightly at most resorts – ask for a schedule at check in!
Finally, while staying on-site, take advantage of things like park hopping with the Monorail – which you probably wouldn’t use if you were driving in with a car. The Friendship boats at the Magic Kingdom resorts are great fun too – especially for little ones.
During the time you’ll spend off-site, use Dad’s Crowd Calendars to pick and choose which days you’ll spend at the parks. There’s no sense in visiting when the crowd levels are at their peak!
Movies under The Stars are a great feature at resort hotels- Photo by Disney Photo Snapper
On days that you don’t want to go to the parks but want to have a little Disney Magic, consider visiting different resorts to look around and grab a bite – character meals are at many of the Deluxe resorts, and fun items like beignets at Port Orleans French Quarter or fried chicken at Trail’s End in Fort Wilderness make these some of the most memorable dining experiences at WDW.
Speaking of Fort Wilderness, on your non-park days, you can head over to the campground and resort to visit Tri-Circle D ranch and meet the horses, enjoy the trails, and stay for Chip ‘n Dales Campfire Sing-a-long. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Other things to do outside the parks include water parks (Blizzard Beach will be open while Typhoon Lagoon is closed in Jan/Feb, if you’re up for it in the winter!), mini golf, strolling around Downtown Disney and the BoardWalk, and even renting a boat from one of the resort’s marinas to take out for a spin!
Low-key activities like bike riding and pole fishing are available at many resorts too – a great way to have fun at WDW on the more crowded park days.
For the most relaxing in-park experiences, follow Dad’s advice and get up early to arrive for opening – you can get more done before noon than during the rest of the day. Save your FastPass+ reservations for later in the day if you know you’ll be arriving early.
A long trip is a great opportunity to splurge on souvenirs that might otherwise not make the cut. Lots of parents decide against buying their kiddos a light-up toy or silly hat because they’ll only wear it for a couple days, but you could really get your money’s worth if that type of thing is appealing to your family.
Dad’s Bottom Line
Dan, more than anything I can suggest, I think you have the right idea. Your trip is long, it’s time to stop and smell the roses. The key to a simple, fun, and magical vacation at WDW is to go with the flow and enjoy quality time with your family. I hope you have a wonderful time – I hope you’ll let me know what 6 weeks at WDW is like when you return!