The House of Mouse takes our money every even year. And we don’t mind. No, seriously.
D and I love Disney World. We love Florida. We love vacations. So we budget well, and we make it happen. This year we went above our typical “you and me” getaway and included our daughter and our parents! That’s right. Our first family vacation. Did it go well? I think so.
Fun fact: The last time we were in Florida in 2016, we had a stowaway. That’s right, our Lil Bean.
There are a lot of folks out there wondering why bring your baby to Disney World — they won’t remember anything! But I like to say why not? First, having a baby in tow doesn’t hurt our budget because she’s flies for free, goes to the parks for free, and is primarily breastfed and eating small amounts “adult” foods. I simply share what’s on my plate with her and she’s content. Second, she may not remember anything but we will. As her parents we’ll get to share those memories with her. And since we brought her grandparents they get to share them as well. Magical memories for everyone! And third, just because we’ve got a kid doesn’t mean us adults can’t travel or go on vacation. It’s even more important to take time off and relax.
Back to the vacation! We planned a 9-day trip with us, my parents, and D’s parents. Originally, it was going to be an “us” trip, but we decided we may need extra hands with Lil Bean so we asked our parents and they said yes! Free babysitters! Haha, kidding but not kidding. In the past we’ve always stayed at a Marriott hotel and that was our plan until we realized we could save a bit of money by renting a vacation home.
I’ve used VRBO and Homeaway in the past so I know that it can be hit or miss. However, the place we booked — though wasn’t the greatest — was good enough, AND it was cheaper than the hotel by a third. Rather than spending $3000+ we were spending $2000+ between three families. So, if you’re planning a family vacation with multiple generations/families, try VRBO or Homeaway. They have a vast selection of vacation homes in all sizes and configurations (ex. # bedrooms, # bathrooms, size of pools, jacuzzis, some with even golf course access!). And, BONUS TIP, because we rented a home we were able to cut down our food costs by having breakfast and dinners at “home” vs. at the parks. Extra $$ in our pocket.
Now on to the tickets. Well, it’s not surprise that tickets are expensive. However, if you’re going with kids and know that they aren’t going to last all day, you can save a few dollars by skipping on the “park hopper” option. Another option is to purchase your tickets at a discount from AAA or Costco or even through your work benefits. Always double check which option is the best. BONUS TIP: Sometimes you can find a deal like buy 3 days get 2 days for free.
For D and I, well, we went above and beyond this year because we moved back to California and wanted annual passes to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. We crunched the numbers and realized that though a Premier Passport upfront it’s costly, it will save us money in the long run. So, we did it. Yup, we bought the behemoth pass that allows us access 365 days to both Disneyland parks and Disney World parks. This allowed us discounts at dining, shopping, and free parking for the entire 9 days. Just on parking alone, which is $20/day per car, we would have paid $320. With one of us in each car, we didn’t have to worry about that. Now I only suggest purchasing the Premier Pass if you know you’re going to be visiting Disney parks in Florida and California. Otherwise, it’s not the best investment.
I know you’re all wondering, how did Lil Bean do? Here’s a quick rundown of what worked best for us:
- Baby wearing worked best. She barely sat in her stroller. BUT the stroller worked great as a carrier for our snacks and jackets!
- Pack snacks. Each day we brought a soft sided cooler with us and packed sodas, chips, pretzels, fresh fruit and vegetables, and cookies. As a nursing mom, I knew I needed more than churros and ice cream to get me by throughout the day. Plus, we packed snacks that were baby-friendly so Lil Bean could munch on them too!
- Know that your baby will breakdown. And it’ll be for a number of reasons. Overtired. Over-stimulated. Hungry. Anxious. Etc. Do your best not to get stressed out by it. It’s natural. When Lil Bean would scream and shout, I’d hold her, rock her, and nurse her until she was calm. It happens, mama.
- Rider Switch is your friend. We used Rider Switch with our Fastpasses+ for a number of rides and it worked so well. You get to reserve three fastpasses+ each day (for one park and only one park; can’t divide them up!). When you get to the fastpass+ entrance let them know you are part of a Rider Switch party. Sometimes they’ll ask to see your party (I think they want to make sure you have a baby…). They will then give you a rider switch fastpass+ ticket that the remainder of your party can use for another time. So let’s say D and I want to go on Space Mountain. We get a fastpass+ for it, get in line at our designated time, and let them know we are using rider switch. They give us a rider switch ticket. We exit the ride and hand over the ticket to my parents, who graciously took care of Lil Bean while we rode Space Mountain. They know can enter the fastpass+ line with that ticket and go on the ride. They DO NOT need to use their reserved fastpass+ for the day. SO, ultimately, if you plan it right, you can reserve MORE than three fastpasses+. SO AWESOME,right?
- Baby centers are also your FRIENDS! Lil Bean doesn’t lie still much anymore, and this can pose a problem when you’re changing diapers. I always need a second set of hands and you can’t really do that in the restrooms, mainly because there’s not a lot of space. But at the Baby Centers you can. Plus, they have rooms where you can nurse and feed your baby.
- Nurse your baby on some of the rides! This can be done. I nursed Lil Bean on the People Mover. On Spaceship Earth. And even on the Carousel of Progress (and that is progress!!). There are so many families and moms doing the same thing, so don’t worry.
- Dress appropriately which translates to dress in layers. And dress baby in layers. Oh, and always pack a receiving blanket just in case. There was one night the temps dropped significantly and having that extra layer really helped keep Lil Bean warm.
Oh. My. Gosh. This post is getting long. Okay, I’m going to end this right here. I’ll post another entry with all the cute photos we took. And, if you want to pick my brain a lil more on how we did it, feel free to leave me a message! Hehe. ^_^
‘Til the next time.