Author Topic: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts  (Read 1353 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Hey folks! 

I know there are a TON of resources out there for getting info. about Disney, but it's hard to know who to trust.  So, I'm turning to my community of fellow MMMers.

We are a family of 4 - 2 adults, and 2 boys ages 5 and 7.  We have been gifted a 4 night stay on sight at Disney by a most benevolent relative.  We chose to go at the end of January into early Feb. (tickets booked) b/c even though the weather might suck, it will be less crowded. 

We are being given 'carte blanche' in terms of where to stay, meal packages to select, etc. But, within reason...I don't want it to seem like we are taking - if this were you, where would you stay (and why), and what meal packages would you select, restaurants, etc?  Any other info?  I know that Disney experts could write a book about it...but any topline direction/ideas you can provide would be much appreciated.


Mr Griz

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2017, 02:46:58 PM »
We always liked the Caribbean Beach resort when the kids were young. Not too big end mid-range on pricing. It's got a good swimming pool.  All the restaurants are fun (because Disney) so it's really about the theme that everyone will enjoy. Sci-Fi Drive-In should be good for the kids. Breakfast with the characters & dining in Cinderella's castle are also good. You'll need to make reservations early to be assured of seating times. Now is not too early.

There really isn't a slow time of year at Disney. The good thing about winter is you don't fry in the heat & humidity. Staying on site makes it easier to return to the resort for an afternoon nap or swim to recharge before heading back out. Especially good for younger kids; less risk of a meltdown.

Even with the free accommodations, you can still spend a lot. Disney is good at moving folks around the park but even better at lightening your wallet. Setting limits on souvenirs helps.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2017, 08:46:51 PM »
If you want middle of the road, Port Orleans Riverside is very nice.  If you want more upscale, I always wanted to stay at Wilderness Lodge, but could never justify the price.

For planning, see     Josh posts crowd calendars, touring plans, reviews, etc. that are super, and there is a forum to ask questions if you don't understand something.  Read about how to book your fastpasses for the popular attractions at your 60 day window - you may have trouble riding those without the (free) passes. is also really good.   You do not need to pay for planning services - don't fall for those.

Meal plans are expensive, so it's great if those are included for you.  The deluxe plan is apparently a LOT of food, so if you are not heavy eaters, maybe the regular plan would be better.  Read up on what is included, so you can see what will work for you.
When life closes a door, open it again. It's a door. That's how they work.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2017, 09:02:09 PM »
With kids those ages, I would opt for a nicer place, but with a kitchen, so no meal plan, so you can free range food for yourself (and cook).   I don't mind a little light cooking, but I hate hungry, cranky, over sugared kids.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2017, 08:17:23 AM »
Thank you all for your valuable input!  I've got some good info. to help plan the trip.  It is much appreciated.  Although our benefactor is pushing the Polynesian.  So, I guess we are going in Style.  Lucky us :).


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2017, 08:31:29 AM »
If money really is no object, the Polynesian is great.  My wife and I love the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which if you rent DVC points, can be just "very expensive", rather than the usual "insanely expensive".

Presumably your relative knows that this will cost on the order of $500+ per night.  All of the Disney resorts are great, but the highest-end ones are just amazing.


  • Stubble
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Re: FREE Disney Trip, with Options - need help from Disney Experts
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2017, 09:45:34 PM »
Wow, that is an awesome gift!  Apologize up front if any of my info is outdated, haven't gone in a while.

I think you picked the best time of the year to go.  In my experience, there may never be a truly slow season (Disney basically offers up incentives to keep parks busy), but there are many insanely overcrowded ones, which I do not believe you will experience.  (You're going in the same time frame as I picked to propose in fact due to least crowds)

I don't consider myself a Disney expert, but I have done a decent amount of research into things that were important to me.  First off, if you are thinking about meal plans I can't speak to it, but can tell you that it's probably much easier than making lunch and dinner every day and bringing it in your backpack.  If you're being encouraged, it's probably a good thing to have.  Also, can't speak about any of the new fastpass things... haven't used them.

I have read that with kids, it is good to take a break, either picnic, or go back to the hotel at mid-day so they don't get cranky.  You know your kids and their limits, but I've ready this more times than I can count and Im just passing it on.

With regards to special dining (Disney restaurants like le cellier, or others) you want to book almost as soon as you can (6 months out or something like that?).  In your slower time, you can probably get away with booking closer to your travel dates, but with younger kids, I wouldn't want to be relying on standby for a special restaurant... my wife and I didn't mind eating after 8pm.  *You may never want to go to a special restaurant... that's okay too and your kids probably won't care either way.  The drive in type restaurant in hollywood studios was fun though if I could only pick one for kids for wife and I itd be le cellier, or the brazillian BBQ at the polynesian*

Usually during the time you are going, there are some ride closures, and one of the water parks is closed.  To me, the reduced crowds far outweighed the closures.  I highly recommend Blizzard Beach water park if it is open, I'd assume typhoon lagoon is equally great.  Blizzard was by FAR the best waterpark I've ever been to, and is worth the time to go.  When we went, it was like 75 or 80, and the water temp was really nice, but we're from new england so we found it amusing people thought it was too cold to go.  Probably not a whole day event unless you/kids really like water parks, even if you go all day, the waterparks close fairly early.

If you haven't bought passes (park tickets) I find park hopper ones are great if you'll really use them, not worth the cost if you won't.  Weve always used ours, though may slow it down on a future trip, ESPECIALLY with the new expansion in Animal Kingdom.

DEFINITELY look up a crowd calendar, it will tell you which parks are expected to be busy on which days.  It is super helpful.  Typically the park that opens early or stays open later (extra magic hours) will be additionally crowded, so if you aren't using the extra magic hours effectively skip it.  (If you have park hopper passes, you can use the magic hours then go to another park or vice versa)

Pick the most crowded day for Epcot... it handles crowds better so FEELS less crowded, and your kids might not care as much about missing stuff in the international pavillion.

At least read a little on touring plans.  With kids, you likely wouldn't want to follow one probably, but if you go to the park early, avoid parks with extra magic hours (or use them and bail) and start in the back, and head towards the front, you'll probably have shorter waits and see more of whatever you want to see.

In general have a good time, and as a tip for the adults (and kids) what sets Disney apart is the immersion.  The colors chosen for buildings are just as important as the rides they contain.  I could literally never go on a ride and still have a good time purely due to the attention to detail that was paid to everything EVERY THING.

Also, if you're staying on site, I would stick to Disney.  Granted part of this comes from my recent Universal trip where we only actually used 2 of our 3 day passes because we saw everything and didn't want to go another day, but also I would bet your kids won't really care... unless you're going for multiple weeks, I doubt Disney will get old.

Congrats, and expect a great time.  Also, there's tons of places for info, and in general, I haven't been let down by any Disney resource.  Fans seems to be honest and happy to share.