Disneyworld+ 5 yo Daughter, done on short notice...the Mefi Smart way?
May 1, 2017 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Are you a Disney Expert? Aficionado I want to take my 5 year old little girl to Disneyworld - in the next 21 days or so. All last minute. Figure 3 days/2 nights. And if there's a booking sites/forums that is ideal for this, where?

It'd just be her and I - Mrs. Filmgeek and baby filmgeek aren't going.

Sadly, in the "Good, Fast, Cheap", I'm opting for Fast...and Good. Dammit. I want 'less expensive" but not cheap. I've begun to research forums and sites, but I'm finding myself overwhelmed.

I'm totally looking for advice for us.
Little Filmgeek, loves Princess Leia (despite never seeing any Star Wars...YET), Doc McStuffin, and the standard princess fare. Swimming isn't a big thing (we have a pool) but a character meal would be nice.

Can I get a Disney MagicBand?
Disney Shuttle?
Should I use someone's Villa from Disney Vacation club? (what size?)
Is there an ideal booking site/forum you know of?

Shower me with knowledge!
posted by filmgeek to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should contact these people and see if they have any specials you can take advantage of. It might be a little too last minute, but it's worth a try.
posted by cakelite at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2017

Sending you a PM.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:43 AM on May 1, 2017

I don't know much about booking - but here is a dump of random info based on my latest trip to Disney World.

Staying in the park hotels will get you magic bands, shuttles, and "extra magic hours". Vacation Club studios are plenty of room for two.

You can use this calendar to get a feel for how crowded it will be over the next three weeks: https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/May-2017/

The My Disney Experience app is an amazing time-saver - it will tell you wait times, where characters are for pictures, the nearest bathrooms, you can reserve meals, etc.

If you narrow down dates, you can start booking meals now. Character meals are a lot cheaper if you do breakfast. My favorite was the Ohana restaurant at the Polynesian.

Buy your tickets ASAP to get fast passes for rides. You can select 3 in the am and then change them throughout the day. If your little one wants to meet the princesses, those fast passes will save you a ton of wait time.

If you want to ride Frozen without waiting 2 hours, my best advice is to be at Epcot right when extra magic hours start (check the calendar for those dates) and head straight there. We were there during a slow week in February and never saw the wait time for less than 1.5 hours. The rest of the Epcot rides can be knocked out in a quick morning.

There really isn't much Princess Leia stuff at the parks, but you can buy some stuff at the Star Tours gift shop in Hollywood Studios that is hard to find anywhere else. Animal Kingdom has Doc McStuffins at Rafiki's Planet Watch - it is super cute and she gives stuffed animals an exam. But unless she is super into animals, I'd skip the Animal Kingdom because it is sort of a bust.

Don't try and do everything - the Magic Kingdom alone takes two full days to hit the highlights and it definitely has the most 5 year old friendly rides.

Hope that helps! Disney with a little one is a blast no matter what.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 10:48 AM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

We used mytouringplans.com (they have an app) and put in all of the things we wanted to do - it told us the best schedule to do those things in. It was really surprising how accurate they were - we would see a line with a much longer wait time that we were supposed to be in in 45 min, and by the time we got there, the wait time was reduced, just like the app said.
posted by needlegrrl at 10:52 AM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify: at least two of the answers here are focused on Walt Disney World (in Orlando). You say DisneyWORLD in your title, but DisneyLAND in the question.

Are you going to Orlando, FL (-world) or Anaheim, CA (-land)? Because the advice would be different for different parks.
posted by anastasiav at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2017

Did the q just get edited? The title, question, and tags all say Disney World. No Land mentioned. So Orlando/World answers are the way to go.
posted by brainmouse at 11:38 AM on May 1, 2017

When I was planning our trip to Disney World last year (we went in December) I frequented disboards. There is a ton of useful information there.

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with galvanized unicorn - my family loves Animal Kingdom. You can do the Wilderness Explorers activities there and earn stickers. My son kept his book from our trip three years ago so he could keep filling it up this trip. Plenty of 5-year-old friendly things in there, and you can do as many or as little as you like.

EPCOT - we did Agent P, but she might be too young for that. We went on Frozen with a Fast Pass- there is no way I would have done it without.

Doc McStuffins is also in Hollywood Studios, where all the Star Wars stuff is. If I had to skip a park, it would be this one.

Magic Kingdom - we aren't into most of the traditional Disney stuff so I can't give too much advice here. Check out the Pirate's Adventure if you have time - it's a scavenger hunt in Adventureland.

I would make your hotel reservation right now. Figure out what you definitely want to do in terms of a character meal and the must-do rides/meet-and-greets, and then go from there. The Disney website is great in terms of being able to see what's available, where everything is, etc.

If you stay on Disney property you get a Magic Band, and you can make all your reservations now. There is transportation from all the hotels to all the parks.

This time we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which was frigging amazing, but def a one-time thing for us. We saved forever for that. Not sure what your budget is like. We stayed at the Art of Animation a few years ago when we went, and that might work well for you. Tons of Disney theming (way more than any of the other hotels I've been in there,) a great pool for kids, a decent food court. Stay in the Nemo suites because they are closest to the pool/food/bus.

One thing I would not do is get their Dining Plan. I suspect you will not save any money and it's sometimes a hassle figuring out what counts as a snack, a meal, etc.

Feel free to PM me if you want.
posted by lyssabee at 11:57 AM on May 1, 2017

Pay the $15 for mytouringplans.com, it's worth it. The app isn't pretty, but once you get the hang of it, it works great. And take their advice on which days to go to which parks.

Consider staying off property. You can stay in a really nice hotel for very cheap, compared to $300 a night for a decent Disney hotel. Driving in, paying $20 to park, and taking the tram in from the parking lot was not that bad.
posted by andrewzipp at 12:26 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

We took my granddaughter at age 5 and she had a blast. She was big enough to ride most rides. If shes a girlie-girl like my granddaughter, the Princess makeover is a must and for us was totally worth it. We bought her a Rapunzel dress before we went and then got her makeover. Then all the park employees addressed her as princess. You have to call them directly to get an appointment though. Download the App for sure. Then you can make reservations and check out the wait times, etc. We did the Cape May character breakfast which seems to be an easy one to schedule.
posted by PJMoore at 12:28 PM on May 1, 2017

Pay the $15 for mytouringplans.com, it's worth it.

You can get the same info from easywdw.com for free, and I find them to be much more reliable. (Probably depends on your tolerance for snark, however.)

Magic Kingdom Touring Plan

Hollywood Studios Touring Plan

Animal Kingdom


If you can get a room on property in any of the "Value" resorts, do that (All Stars Movies/Music/Sports, Pop Century, Art of Animation). (We normally stay in Pop Century and have had nothing but fantastic experiences.) Staying in the on property resorts is more expensive, but the shuttle and the extras (particularly extra park access) is worth it. Your Magic Band comes with your room on property as well.

Your biggest challenge with such short notice will be booking character meals and also getting "Fastpass" access to rides (which helps you to avoid the lines).

Hollywood Studios is under serious construction right now, but it is where you will find both Princess Leia and Doc McStuffins.

Have a great time!
posted by anastasiav at 1:26 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been about 5 times and staying in about 7 different hotels. I totally prefer NOT staying in Disney.
Disney hotels are FULL of kids and the lines are long and it's super expensive (and they food typical overpriced and is very so-so) . We went from a Disney hotel to an regular one with in one trip and were so thrilled with the cheaper place. It seemed like luxury! We loved Caribe Royale Orlando. Not a kiddie place but was a few minutes from Disney and it felt swanky and there weren't a bunch of kids waiting for the water slide, etc.

A more Kid friendly place and our favorite (especially because of big family) is Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa. It's farther out but the pool is great, a little snack bar/bar at the pool, etc. There is a decent Irish pub next door and you can get pizza delivered to the pool after the park. (You'll want to soak your feet in the hot tub).

I can't tell you much about bringing a girl. I have 3 boys.
posted by beccaj at 1:41 PM on May 1, 2017

If meeting characters is a priority, kennythepirate.com is a great resource. They have a rundown of which characters are at which meals, where to find characters in the Parks, which characters you can FastPass, etcetera. I think they also have a character finder app to use in the parks.

Unless you have to eat as cheaply as possible, make reservations for at least one character meal. It's a great way to meet them and get pictures and autographs without waiting in line; I'm a grown woman and I still got all giddy when Tigger came right to my table.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:22 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thought of another one. I don't have kids myself, but this is something I hear from a lot of people with daughters your age: if you suspect she might want to wear a princess costume, try to get one before you go instead of buying one at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I hear that the prices are crazy and they rarely have all of the sizes in stock. (They're also scratchy and uncomfortable, from what I hear, but that doesn't always matter to a kid. There are also sellers on Etsy who make more comfortable versions.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:57 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

3 days with a 5 year old isn't enough time to do everything. Plan 2 days at the Magic Kingdom, and play the 3rd day by ear.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:30 AM on May 2, 2017

We went for one day to DL (Anaheim) with our then 4yo and what made it really easy was I planned out on paper what we really wanted to see with him (rides for the younger kids, and we just didn't bother with things geared for older kids), and then I spent a few days watching the MouseWait app. I could see what the wait times were for the various rides at various times of day. Using that I maximized our time by planning which rides we would get on first and which could wait until later in the day. I think DW has different apps than DL, so you would have to look for those, but it was really the best way we got the most out of a $500 day.
posted by vignettist at 8:17 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I subscribe to the mousesavers mailing list and they usually have deals for last-minute hotels.

Vacation Club rooms are nice and I would recommend them if you find something at a price that works for you. Having a kitchen is also great for minimizing food costs, because you can get breakfast and lunch items and eat them in your room. A studio room should have a bed and a couch bed. I like being on park property so you don't have to worry about getting to and from the parks (the shuttles are great), and I've never had much trouble with large crowds. It might be hard to get something this close to the date, though.

If you get tickets there's nothing stopping you from purchasing a magic band, although if you stay at a Disney resort you will get them automatically.

Our family's secret tip is to just avoid the parks during mid-afternoon. We leave around lunchtime and come back around dinner time. It will probably be hot and terrible (and I say this growing up in central Florida), and it's so nice to just take a break and avoid the crowds. If your kid can stay up a little late for a couple nights it's definitely nice to be in the parks in the evening.
posted by that girl at 3:27 PM on May 2, 2017

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