10 Questions with Clara Power from TPI, an authorized Disney vacation planner agency
1. When is the best time of year to go in terms of: A) getting the best deal B) not having the worst crowds?
This is such a big question that every client asks and I always answer the same way – the least busy times to go is outside of any school or national holiday. Christmas, New Years, March Break, Easter, July & August etc. are peak times, so if you are looking for times that are not as busy, plan to visit outside of those times. The best rates are usually outside of the peak times as well.
2. How many days should I plan to spend at the park?
What many people don’t know is the Disney World in Orlando Florida consists of 4 separate theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. I believe all first time visitors should visit all 4 parks at least once, as they all have so much to offer. If time permits, I also encourage clients to visit Magic Kingdom twice, since it is such a full park and there is so much to see and do. If time is limited and only 1 park is possible, definitely Magic Kingdom.
3. What time of day should I get there? Is morning better before the crowds or will I be missing out if I am not there for the evening parade/fireworks?
The earlier the better! If you can get to the theme park as soon as it opens, you will have the opportunity to go on many of the busiest attractions before the lines become too long. It’s also one of my favourite times to be there, when you can see the park without the throngs of people.
I usually like to get to the park right at rope drop time and get some of the most phenomenal pictures as there is no one blocking my view. When traveling with young children, I encourage my clients to head back to their resort after lunch for a rest or some pool time and then return to one of the parks in the evening that is having fireworks or parades. This way you get refreshed and ready to take it all in again. As the children get older, spending the full day at the park ensures that you don’t miss any of the action.
4. Can I use these passes at other theme parks or do I have to purchase each park separately?
Disney offers a ‘More you stay, the less you pay’ Disney has a number of different theme park tickets ranging from 1 day to 10+ days, and with each additional day purchased, the per-day price does decrease. You can either purchase a base ticket which allows you to visit 1 park per day or a park hopper ticket that allows you to visit as many parks per day as you wish. The Waterpark add on also allows visits to the 2 Disney waterparks – Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.
5. How do Fast Passes work?
Fast Passes are FREE and they are so worth using. When staying onsite these can be booked 60 days in advance and those staying off property they can booked 30 days in advance. All guests are entitled to 3 Fast Pass selections per day and they allow you to by-pass the queue for the ride or attraction you have selected. Once you have used your 3 Fast Passes, you can retrieve additional Fast Passes while in the Disney Park using the Disney App. Definitely a great time saver.
6. Is it worth it to stay on site? What are the benefits?
Without question! Staying on site offers so many benefits including extra magic hours, complimentary transportation throughout WDW, magic bands, early Fast Pass reservations etc. Staying onsite ensures that you get the full Disney experience and you never have to leave the magic!
7. Are there any secrets that I should know about to book ahead (like the Bippity Bobbity Boutique or meals with the characters for example).
Best piece of advice is to book early! For the best prices and the best options, booking early is always the way to go. Dining Reservations open 180 days prior, and some of the hottest and most popular restaurants book up very early.
Does your daughter want to have breakfast in Cinderella’s Castle with some of her favourite princesses? This is one of the most difficult reservations to secure if not booked at the 180-day mark. Other popular reservations include Be Our Guest and Chef Mickey which are also some of my personal favourites. When booking a resort stay, Disney requires a $200USD deposit with final payment due 30 days before arrival. If the price drops from the day you booked until final payment day, the booking can be adjusted – making booking early a win-win situation.
8. Can I bring my own food and drinks to the park?
Guests are permitted to bring food items – such as snacks or foods that do not require heating – into Disney theme parks. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park. Foldable, soft sider coolers are also permitted, but be sure that any items package are in plastic not glass constrainers, as those will be confiscated. If bringing food, it’s beneficial to have a stroller to carry it in, but remember wagons are not permitted.
9. A family of 4: 2 kids 2 adults, with airfare and a healthy amount of park time, what’s the average budget you recommend (CAD or USD).
When staying at a Disney property, the prices can vary significantly depending on the time of year and the type of Disney accommodations selected. I have sent clients to a Value Resort for 7 days including the meal plan and a 5 days base ticket for as low at $2500 USD. When staying at a Deluxe property, prices will increase depending on the resort, type of room, view (theme park views are most expensive) and there are special room categories including club level or overwater bungalows. Flights to Orlando can also vary and from Toronto – anywhere under $500 per person roundtrip is good. With extra planning and good advice, Disney can be affordable for everyone.
10. Are there any big ‘don’ts’ for going to Disney? What should you avoid, what are expectations that are most often disappointing?
What I always like to remind my clients is that going to Walt Disney World is a vacation – you are supposed to enjoy it! Planning is key, but overscheduling is not going to benefit anyone. Plan based on your children and what they can or can’t handle. If they are easily stimulated, plan lots of down time as a meltdown isn’t going to make a memorable experience.
Include your children in the planning process. Get them excited about what’s to come so they can be mentally prepared – and if possible try to enjoy a resort day with no parks to rest your feet. Use the services of a professional who can help navigate and make sure you get the most value for your dollar by planning special VIP tours, specialty dining and unique activities.
Clara Power is a mother to 2 well traveled kids, Andrew and Lauren. She is a Personal Travel Advisor at her own travel agency, Clara Power TPI, which is in association with Travel Professionals International. As an active traveler having visited over 35 countries and almost every continent, (still working on Antarctica), Clara is no stranger in understanding the unique wants and needs of families travelling together making her your expert choice for creating those special family vacation experiences. Her agency is also recognized as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner due to her extensive knowledge and superior service.