Everyone has their own way of doing Disney. Some insist their way is best be it budget, entirely mapped and charted schedules, or how to waltz in without a care in the world and simply go with the flow.
I don’t have too many hard and fast rules about how you must do a Disney theme park, however my grandmother taught me some valuable lessons if you want this to be as magical an experience as possible.
Rule #1: You Always, Always, ALWAYS stay on property.
My grandmother lived not too far, but not too close to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL so growing up meant we all piled in…and by ‘we all’ I mean my Mom, brother, Aunt and two cousins- along with what might be another car including an Aunt and two cousins or an Aunt meeting us down there (down there is Michigan speak for Florida) with cousins or Aunts or more cousins magically showing up already there once we arrived OR friends of my Mom and Aunt also doing any of the above.
Occasionally we flew. But for at least every Spring Break and any other random holiday I think my Mom may have invited, we made our way to Debary, FL to see Grandma Ruth.
This meant a trip to Disney World and a trip to St. Pete near the pink hotel. Keep in mind these are childhood memories so my specifics are a bit fuzzy on which beach, which hotel, but you get the idea.
If there was one takeaway from allllllllllll of those trips to Disney World as a child it was that you stayed on property in order to take advantage of the Disney way of doing things.
In time, I realized this was a big part of the Magic.
Monorails to take you past long lines of crowds to get into the park.
Firework watching from the balcony when your baby brother just couldn’t stay awake long enough each and every night to see the display from Main Street.
Packages filled with the shopping you did each day that just magically appeared on your bed when you returned from Splash Mountain.
Riding just a few of your favorite rides in the morning and then spending lunch eating by the hotel pool, splashing and getting so sunburnt your Mom made you wear a t-shit over you bathing suit and zinc on your nose, before heading back into the parks for a few more rides, ice cream and more fun.
And how can I forget quite possibly the most important thing EVER and the BEST reason to stay on property while enjoying Disney: waffles shaped like Mickey Mouse, delivered by a nice cast member while you are still in your (usually bought the night before) Disney pjs. Whipped cream piled high and a fluffy pillow to fall back on once full, mixed with the anticipation of what might happen TODAY while my cousins ran around and we compared souvenirs- totally one of the best memories I have as a child.
Not only has not much changed when you stay on Disney property nowadays, but as an adult I see all the other perks that make that dollar sign you see when you go to book entirely worth it, versus staying somewhere close and paying to park in the lot and leaving you car there all day.
First and foremost I learned with littler kids this is an essential part of the Disney Experience. Nap times are no problem when you can simply hop a boat, bus, tram, take a short walk, or ride the monorail from special entrances and exits to and from each park to your hotel. We’ve never waited too long for transportation and these cast members are experts at every stroller invented (not to mention wheelchair, motorized or manual).
You don’t need to be the family with the cranky kids at the end of the day, struggling to make sure you get every penny’s worth of that ticket by staying through a no-nap temper tantrum no matter WHAT. All while you struggle to find more room in the back of the stroller to stuff bags (because of course you hadn’t planned on buying that much but there were things you could put away for the holidays and every locker was already taken) and wonder if you should leave early to beat the lines for the tram to get back to the car to beat the lines out of the lot.
No. Just. No.
Not only do you get what they call Magic Hours by staying at a select Disney Resort and Hotel (a different park opens early each day you are there so you can beat the crowds!) They still deliver bags to your room, or hold them at park exits – but honestly, who wants to carry those around all day?
I’ve found even if your kids are well past needing a nap or if you and your partner just want some down time, it is still the best way to go. Who doesn’t want to go back to the room, hit the spa for a mid-day massage, or open a bottle of wine on your balcony before grabbing a sweatshirt or sweater for the night festivities inside the park?
This time around we’ll be staying at Disney Yacht Club Resort- a new one for us- and I’m really excited because it’s just a short walk to a special entrance into EPCOT, our favorite. It also boasts some of the best pools on site, which is saying something.
Which means, in short, it is a grand slam for Rule #1 from Grandma.
Now I fully realize a Disney vacation is not exactly cheap.* But you get what you pay for when it comes to the experience and I can not stress enough that part of the experience is staying where you can take FULL advantage of everything Walt Disney World or Disneyland has to offer.
As it turns out, a special delivery arrived while I was writing this post:
Which leads to me to Grandma Ruth’s Rule #2…stay tuned.
*I will be attending Disney’s Social Media Mom’s Celebration in May where we have paid to attend including tickets to the park and our hotel at a discounted rate.