(Asheville, NC usa)
Lots of great info on your site. But many of the other sites say NOT visit Magic kingdom first? Any ideas? We will be traveling early March this year staying at Caribbean Beach Resort with the free dining plan plus. Any advice you can give would be great. I haven’t been since I was a teen (83ish). Thank you in advance.
The best time of the day at the Magic Kingdom Photo by stuckincustoms
Dad’s THE PLAN Answer
Clista, you’re in for a treat – Walt Disney World has changed a lot in the last 3 decades and it’s going to feel like a whole new magical world (no pun intended) to you! To help you navigate your trip, today we’re going to talk about when to visit which parks, what you can expect at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and how to make the most out of your Disney Dining Plan. I hope you’re comfy, because here we go!
Let’s begin by talking about your PLAN. Deciding which park to visit on which day is one of the most important aspects of your trip, and your research now will pay off once you arrive at the most magical place on earth. Each day you’ll encounter different operating hours, different crowd levels, and even different entertainment options! Every family has different needs, and it’s important to take yours into account when making your PLAN.
Depending on your length of stay and your specific dates, my advice as to which park to visit when would change. When possible, I love starting and ending a trip at the Magic Kingdom, but sometimes that’s just not possible or necessary. When the Princess had her honeymoon last year, she spent one day at each park and ended with the Magic Kingdom and things worked out swimmingly for her!
I suggest you head on over to Touringplans.com. Their crowd calendars will show you the operating hours for each park on each day of your trip, along with notes on daily entertainment (for parades and shows like Wishes and Fantasmic) and crowd projections so you’ll know how busy the parks will be. They can also help you with a step-by-step touring plan to help you get the most out of your time in the parks
Moving on to talk about Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, the first thing that I should mention is that this is one massive resort! That’s both a good thing (there is lots of space for fun and unique activities) and a bad thing (it’s a long walk to get anywhere!). It may not seem like a big deal, but your resort will affect your PLAN in a big way!
The resort is comprised of six “villages” of guest rooms and a main building (Old Port Royale) situated around the 45 acre Barefoot Bay lake. There are bus stops and small pools for each village, but all of the main activities are centered at Old Port Royale. If you plan to spend a lot of time there, ask for a room in the two closest villages – Martinique or North Trinidad to guarantee the shortest walk.
Dad, what’s there to do at Old Port Royale that I would want to spend any time there at all? Well I’m glad you asked. Most importantly, all of the food at the resort is located there, from the food court (with 5 stations) to Shutters (the table service restaurant) and even the bar (Banana Cabana). The Calypso Trading Post and Straw Market (Disney-speak for “gift shop”) is located there also.
Old Port Royale is also where you’ll find the resort’s many recreational activities: a giant pirate themed pool complete with slides and water cannons; bike and surrey rentals, boat rentals, and an arcade. The resort also features beaches, hammocks, and jogging trails. Little pirates ages 4-12 can even set sail on Disney’s Pirate Adventure, where they can search for treasure on a pirate boat (advanced reservations and fee required).
One of the “hidden” amenities of Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort is open to all Disney resort guests: Extra Magic Hours . This is a special perk that allows you to enter one park an hour early or stay 3 hours after closing each day. Make sure you check this schedule, as it’s a great way to maximize your time in the parks and minimize dealing with crowds!
Finally, lets talk about the Disney Dining Plan. Generally speaking, this is not Dad’s favorite topic, but since you got it for free, there’s no harm in making the most of it! The Disney Dining Plan will allow you to have one snack, one quick-service meal and one table service meal per person per day of your trip (plus a refillable mug which you can use ONLY at Old Port Royale, but can save you a bundle on beverages!).
This brings us back to THE PLAN. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to make reservations for all of your table service meals. You can do that on the Walt Disney World website by clicking here. Once you know which days you’ll be in which parks, you can decide which restaurant to eat at, and make your reservations (reservations open 180 days in advance, so your first choices may no longer be available).
Dad’s Bottom Line
Clista, your first step is to determine your PLAN – that will help all the other pieces of your Perfect Vacation slide into place. Yes, Dad prefers to visit the Magic Kingdom first, but that doesn’t always fit into THE PLAN.
Once you’ll get your plan, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy your trip with your family.
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