- You don't have a to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a hotel. You can do several things. If you don't mind budget hotels like Days Inn and places like that, you could just come and take a drive up and down International Drive or Highway 192 (Irlo Bronson Memorial hwy) and get a hotel pretty cheap. I on the other hand recommend booking through priceline. Don't use their expedia like service, bid on a hotel by naming your own price. Start low and you can bid again in 24 hours if your price is not accepted. We paid $55 a night and are staying at Amerisuites in a room with a king bed and full kitchenette. If you want the whole resort experience through Disney I recommend the value resorts (which are about the equivalent to a Hampton Inn or so) as opposed to the more expensive resorts. It just depends on your budget. The upside to staying in a Disney resort is that they will give you meal plans for a cost as well as provide transportation. Also if you aren't dead set on staying in the Disney area, the hotels are cheaper if you stay up closer to Universal Studios on International Drive and the cool thing about I-Drive is there are several restaurants with breakfast buffets and things like that (Kendra remember that Ponderosa that we ate at like 3 times? It's still there!
- Eat a big breakfast. Depending on where you stay you may or may not have a good continental breakfast. If your hotel does not have one or it isn't that great there are several places to eat. Shoney's and Ponderosa are great, but they can be a little pricey since they are in the touristy areas. Eating a big breakfast is the key though as it is expensive to eat in the park (unless you have their meal plan and then it is a pretty good deal). In addition to this, pack a cooler or something and take snack type foods. The parking lots are far away, but the transportation back to your car is worth the time that it would take for the money you would save. We are packing granola bars and stuff like that and then will go back to the car for a sandwich around lunch time. That way you only have to splurge for one meal in the park. It will set you back 10-15 a person for a meal in the park for a sandwich/side/drink.
- Once you get to the park go to the back of the park first. Everyone starts in the front and works their way around to the back so the lines are shorter in the back of the park earlier in the day. Also make sure you take advantage of the fast passes that Disney offers you can have one every so often and it is worth it on the big ticket rides/attractions as the lines can get long. If you have small kids I highly recommend spending alot of your time in fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom as well as Pooh's tree house. You'll not be lack for things to do there. As it relates to the other parks with kids, each one has some themed areas for younger ones and Animal Kingdom is great because the animals are right there-make sure you check out Kilimanjaro safari. One note about Animal Kingdom though for younger kids, I would not recommend taking them to the "It's tough to be a bug" 4d show as it is pretty intense for the younger ones. It has all the characters from "A Bug's life" but Hopper and some of the special effects can be a bit scary for the younger kids.
- If you can make it the whole day until late with the kids which may or may not happen or if you are without kids make sure you catch the late night shows at each of the parks. I'll talk about them later this week, but each of them is amazing and I HIGHLY recommend "wishes" at the Magic Kingdom. They begin it with Tinkerbell on a zip line from the top of Cinderella's castle. One night I was there Tink got stuck halfway down the zip line which was hysterical!
So there are a few of my thoughts about Disney, if you have any additional thoughts leave them in comment or if you have questions, let me know I'll try to answer them. Also my good friend Josh has some thoughts from his trips with his family as well so check them out. More to come this week...