Magic Kingdom® Park Prep: Your Guide to Seeing the Movies that Inspire the Magic

Headed to Magic Kingdom® Park soon? Be sure to check out this comprehensive list of Disney films that either inspired the attractions or were inspired by the attractions at Magic Kingdom® Park! Keep in mind most titles you can find on Amazon, but some may be in the "Disney Vault" so you may have to do a little digging. Also I have only listed primary features to watch, not sequels or other shorts where characters may appear.  

Films/animated features/cartoons are listed first, with the attraction or restaurant listed below and the location in parenthesis. I encourage families with small children to focus on the animated classics first then move on to the live-action films if you have time.

BY NO MEANS do you need to watch ANY of these to have a phenomenal day in Magic Kingdom® Park... this just helps to enhance the experience and get you excited about your upcoming trip!

So what are you waiting for?  Grab some popcorn and enjoy!!

  • Classic Mickey Mouse Cartoons or the New Mickey Mouse Cartoons (like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or these Mickey Cartoons)
    • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Main Street, U.S.A.® Area)
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Pete's Silly Sideshow (Fantasyland® Area)
    • The Barnstormer (Fantasyland® Area)
      • This is a goofy-themed rollercoaster but is very much reminiscent of the the classic Goofy cartoons so many of us watched as children.
  • Peter Pan
    • Meet Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater (Main Street, U.S.A.® Area)
    • Peter Pan's Flight® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
  • Fantasia
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
  • The Lion King
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
  • Lady and the Tramp
    • Tony's Town Square Restaurant (while the food at this restaurant leaves a lot to be desired, it's fun to see the Lady and the Tramp decor here. If you're a big fan of the movie be sure to peek your head in). (Main Street, U.S.A.® Area)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
    • The Crystal Palace, A Buffet with Character Restaurant (Main Street, U.S.A.® Area)
    • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Fantasyland® Area)
  • Swiss Family Robinson
    • Swiss Family Treehouse (Adventureland® Area)
  • Aladdin
    • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin Attraction (Adventureland® Area)
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean® Movies
    • Pirates of the Caribbean® Attraction (Adventureland® Area)
    • A Pirate's Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas (Adventureland® Area) - this is an interactive game where you collect Treasure Finder Cards and unlock special effects in the Adventureland® Area - lots of fun for boys and girls (and adults!) alike!
    • The Pirates League (Adventureland® Area) - you can transform into a pirate here for ages 3 through adult.  Extra fee required.
  • Song of the South
    • Splash Mountain® Attraction (Frontierland® Area)
      • This film will be VERY hard to find as the Walt Disney Company has removed it from circulation due to controversy surrounding the it.  I have seen it, and love the animated portions of the film depicting the stories of Uncle Remus, Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear.  At the very least, if you can't see the film be sure to check out YouTube videos of the animated portions by doing a simple search for Br'er Rabbit within YouTube.  And of course, you must watch this clip of the classic song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.
  • The Country Bears
    • Country Bear Jamboree Show (Frontierland® Area).  
      • This film is not a favorite of mine - I'd make it last on your watch list!  This is a case where the film was inspired by the attraction (and the film leaves a lot to be desired).
  • The Haunted Mansion
    • Haunted Mansion® Attraction (Liberty Square Area)
      • This is another case where the film was inspired by the attraction, and is a live-action movie starring Eddie Murphey.  The house in the movie actually looks more like the Haunted Mansion® Attraction out in Disneyland® Park but much of the theming is exactly the same.  If you go into this movie expecting it to be cheesy and corny, you won't be disappointed in the feature, and it does have some really cool ties back to the attraction.  I'm still holding out for one that Guillermo del Toro is supposed to be making.  HOLY COW that would be amazing!!  Check out an article on that here.

Attractions or Lands that inspired movies, starting at top left and going clockwise: Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion® Attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean® Attraction, and the themed Tomorrowland® Area (Tomorrowland® Area photo courtesy of Jennifer Sebby)

  •  Cinderella (animated classic) and Cinderella (live-action feature film)
    • Cinderella Castle (Fantasyland® Area and "the hub" where all "lands" meet)
    • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Meet Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall  (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Cinderella's Royal Table Restaurant in Cinderella Castle (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (Fantasyland® Area in Cinderella Castle) - transform into a Disney Princess or a Valiant night for ages 3-12 only.  Extra fee required.
    • **BONUS** while not in Magic Kingdom® Park, you can have dinner with Cinderella and Prince Charming over at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at 1900 Park Fare. It's a short monorail ride from Magic Kingdom® Park!
  • Elena of Avalor (Disney Junior TV Show)
    • Meet Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall (Fantasyland® Area)
  • The Princess and the Frog
    • Meet Tiana at Princess Fairytale Hall (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Tiana's Riverboat Party - Ice Cream Social & Viewing Party (Liberty Square Area) - this is an additionally priced experience on the Liberty Square Riverboat where you can meet Princess Tiana and Price Naveen during an Ice Cream Social and then have VIP viewing for the Festival of Fantasy Parade.
    • **BONUS** while not in Magic Kingdom® Park, you can stay in a Royal Guest Room at Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside, all decked out by Tiana for her princess friends.  And the entire feel of the Magnolia Bend portion of Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside is classic New Orleans plantation-style.  Love!
  • Tangled
    • Meet Rapunzel at Princess Fairytale Hall (Fantasyland® Area)
    • While not an attraction, if you walk from the Fantasyland® Area to the Liberty Square Area, you will go through a part of the park that is very much dedicated to Rapunzel and you can even spot her tower.  While here, be sure to check out the restrooms - they're the prettiest ones in the Magic Kingdom and there are hints of Rapunzel throughout.
  • Beauty and the Beast (animated classic) and Beauty and the Beast (live-action feature film)
    • Enchanted Tales with Belle (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Be Our Guest Restaurant (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Gaston's Tavern (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
Gaston's Tavern WDW Shutterbug.jpg

Above, the interior of Gaston's Tavern (photo courtesy of WDW Shutterbug).  The cinnamon rolls here are delicious and you can use a snack credit to buy them on the Disney Dining Plan!

  • The Little Mermaid
    • Under the Sea~Journey of the Little Mermaid (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Ariel's Grotto (meet Ariel in her mermaid form) (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Prince Eric's Village Market (snack stand) (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Mickey's PhilharMagic® Attraction (Fantasyland® Area)
    • **BONUS** while not in Magic Kingdom® Park, you can stay in a Little Mermaid room at Disney's Art of Animation Resort.  These rooms are super cute and loved by aspiring little mermaids everywhere. :-) Even if you're not staying there, if you have a Little Mermaid fan in your family it's totally worth stopping by to check out this section of the resort.
  • Alice in Wonderland (animated classic) and Alice in Wonderland (live-action feature film)
    • Mad Tea Party (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Cheshire Cafe (snack stand) (Fantasyland® Area)
    • **BONUS** while not in Magic Kingdom® Park, you can have breakfast with Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter (among others) over at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at 1900 Park Fare.  It's just a short monorail away from Magic Kingdom® Park.
  • Dumbo
    • Dumbo the Flying Elephant® (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station (Fantasyland® Area)
    • Big Top Souvenirs (Fantasyland® Area)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Fantasyland® Area)
  • Pinocchio
    • Pinochio's Village Haus (quick-service restaurant) (Fantasyland® Area)
  •  Tomorrowland (live-action feature film)
    • Tomorrowland® Area
      • This live-action feature film was partly inspired by the themed land of Tomorrowland® in Magic Kingdom® Park.
  •  Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University
    • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor® Attraction (Tomorrowland® Area)
  • Lilo and Stitch
    • Stitch's Great Escape!™ (Tomorrowland® Area)
  • Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3
    • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin® (Tomorrowland® Area)

BONUS!!  Fireworks & Parade

Magic Kingdom® Park's fireworks spectacular, Happily Ever After, is FULL of references to Disney movies from the past and today!  I've listed as many as I have caught below but quite possibly could have missed a few! These include:

**Note: I only provided links to films that were not outlined already above.


Happily Ever After Fireworks.jpg

Above, Happily Ever After lights up the night sky and turns Cinderella Castle into an amazing projection screen during Magic Kingdom® Park's not-to-be-missed nighttime spectacular! How many Disney characters do you recognize from this picture?

Finally, Disney's Festival of Fantasy Parade also features spectacular floats, catchy music and amazing performances that highlight characters from the following Disney movies:

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Cinderella
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • Frozen
  • Tangled
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Peter Pan
  • Brave
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Pinocchio
  • Dumbo
  • Fantasia
  • Classic Cartoons featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip & Dale

Above, images of some of the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom® Park.

Why you should visit Walt Disney World® Resort... right now!

Many people avoid visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort in the warmer summer months because it can get pretty warm in Florida in the middle of the summer.  But with a little preparation and a lot of excitement, it can be one of the best times of year to go!

1 - You don't have to take the kids out of school (and if you work for the school system, you don't have to worry about taking vacation days!).  Especially if your children are older and it is very important for them not to miss those college-prep classes, going in the months of June, July and August allows you to take the kids and stay as long as you want without having to work-around the school schedule.

2 - The parks are open longer into the evenings, allowing you to take breaks mid-day to rest, relax and cool off in your resort pool while returning at night to sometimes lower crowds and cooler temperatures.  Typically Magic Kingdom® Park is open until 10 p.m. or later, with other parks open until 9 or 9:30 p.m. (and sometimes later).  Plus, right now with the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar, through the first part of July Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is open for resort guests until 1 a.m. each night!

Above: The Walt Disney World® Resort is even more beautiful at night than it is during the day.  Enjoy the night even more with longer hours during the summer season.

3 - Typically all attractions are up and running.  As we all know, refurbishments of popular attractions are necessary from time to time to keep them updated and running smoothly.  But during the summer months, typically all attractions (and especially the most popular ones) are open and ready for you!  Major refurbishments of popular attractions are typically done during the slower winter months.

4 - Summer discounts on resort stays are still available!  Get up to 25% off your resort stay when you book for a summer trip (vacationing through August 31st) by July 14th, 2017.

5 - There is still a lot of availability in popular restaurants and resorts in August!  Typically in August kids start to need to be back for band camps, sports practices and other before-school-starts activities.  If your child can miss these or is not participating in these activities just yet, there is actually still a lot of availability in great resorts and at popular restaurants in August!

6 - It's prime time to enjoy Disney's two outstanding Water Parks or your resort's pool.  Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park (better for older kids) and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park (better for younger kids) are excellent ways to cool off on your summer Disney vacation!  And with hours from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day, it's fun to enjoy a water park on a "down day" and sleep in a little, then head back to your resort for a delicious evening meal before turning in for the night to enjoy more Disney Theme Park fun the next day!  And did I mention that each of these parks has a bar for you adults?  Just take your Magic Band (which is waterproof after all!), and swipe away with the phrase, "Yes, I WILL take a Margarita, thank you very much!"

And did I mention resort pools?  Some of them can be mini-water parks themselves!  A perfect example is the pool at Disney's Beach Club Resort and Disney's Yacht Club Resort.  With a life-size shipwreck, sand-bottom pools, lagoons, water slides and even a lazy river, you could spend an entire day just enjoying this resort's amazing water playground!

Beach Club Pool.jpg

Above: Just a very small portion of Stormalong Bay at Disney's Yacht Club and Disney's Beach Club Resorts.  You can see the mast of the pirate ship looming in the background. If you stay at this resort I highly recommend taking a "down day" just to enjoy this amazing water recreation area!

7 - The Cirque du Soliel™ show La Nouba®, which has been playing at Disney Springs™ since 1998, is closing on December 31st, 2017.  And let me tell you - it is a sight to behold. No words can describe this amazing performance that is part acrobatic amazement, part theatre, part circus, part music concert and ALL spectacular.  Even the soundtrack is performed live during each show!  You should see it this summer rather than this fall or winter because I'm sure as we get closer to its closing date the faster shows are going to sell out.  Check out this clip below:

8 - There are tons of new offerings for the summer months!  Be one of the first to experience Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.  Avatar Flight of Passage is very quickly becoming a resounding "favorite attraction" among ALL the attractions at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  

Above: Pandora: The World of Avatar is absolutely breathtaking and features 2 new highly-anticipated attractions: Na'vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage.

Over at Disney's Hollywood Studios®, see The Music of Pixar Live! - where the touching and beautiful music from your favorite films is played by a live orchestra along with clips from the films and your favorite characters making appearances on the stage.

Pixar Live.jpg

Above: The Music of Pixar Live! features a live orchestra, clips from the film and your favorite characters!

If you haven't heard the buzz over the new nighttime fireworks and projection spectacular over at the Magic Kingdom® Park called Disney Happily Ever After... I can assure you it is AMAZING!  Check out the video below for just a few glimpses into the most amazing fireworks show yet to come out of Disney Parks!

Over at Disney Springs™, check out new restaurants such as The Polite Pig (a modern barbecue outpost featuring Florida-inspired cuisine and an array of libations on top), Paddlefish (board an iconic paddleboat and feast on fresh seafood and savory steaks), and Planet Hollywood Observatory.  There's even a new second story bar that has opened over at Splitsville™ Dining Room!

The Polite Pig.jpg

Above: The Polite Pig is one of the newest - and yummiest! - additions to the restaurant offering over at Disney Springs™.

Did I mention the Water Parks?  Don't miss the newest addition to Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Miss Adventure Falls, a family raft ride!  And back for a second year are the Frozen Games at Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park!  Join in the fun on Team Kristoff or Team Olaf and take part in tons of family friendly activities.  Check out the video below for highlights from last year's games!


Been to the Walt Disney World® Resort before in the summer?  I'd love to hear YOUR favorite things about visiting during this time of year! Comment below!

Want tips and tricks on how to make the most out of your summer vacation to the happiest place on earth?  Be sure to reach out to me by clicking HERE.  I would love to help you plan your trip!

Why stay "on-property" in a Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel? Here are the top 10 reasons!

As a travel planner for all Disney Destinations, I work closely with clients to choose the perfect hotel for their family and budget.  I sometimes hear the phrase, “…but it’s much less expensive to stay off-property when you are at Walt Disney World®” or “my friends said they stayed off-property and it was fine.”  While that may be true for some, for the vast majority of families (especially those going to Walt Disney World® for the first time), the benefits you receive if staying on-property far outweigh the little cost-savings you may receive staying off property... and sometimes it’s not even a cost savings at all!  Keep reading for more information or head straight to the bonus at the end of this post to see a black-and-white numbers crunch! 

The breathtaking lobby of  Disney's Polynesian Village  Resort, a deluxe resort on-property.

Above: The breathtaking lobby of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, a deluxe resort on-property.


1 - Parking and Transportation

  • Complimentary parking at the parks.

  • Complimentary transportation to and from the parks.

    • Not only is it free, but depending on where you stay you have a variety of transportation options as well (bus, boat, monorail, and walking!). Further, Disney is now planning a Gondola system connecting some of the value and moderate resorts to Epcot® and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.® Talk about variety!

    • Transportation runs to each individual theme park approx. every 20 minutes. Most places off property, if they do run a shuttle bus, only run every 30 minutes and can have multiple park stops along the way (meaning typically an hour plus commute to your off-property resort ONE WAY.).

    • Using Disney’s transportation, you’re usually dropped off right at the entrance of the theme park (or just a very short walk away). Typically if you are headed to Magic Kingdom® Park, your off-property shuttle will have to drop you off at the Ticket & Transportation Center, where you will then have to take a ferry boat or the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. This double-commute can be a bit daunting (and time consuming).

  • Complimentary transportation between Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World® Resort.

    • Disney’s Magical Express® Transportation will not only transport you to and from the airport with ease, but they will pick up your bags from baggage claim and deliver them right to your resort hotel room – all totally free of charge. Now that’s service with a smile - where YOU are most definitely the one smiling!

    • When you return to the Orlando International Airport, you can check-in to your airline at your resort and check your bags at your resort so when you get to the airport you just head straight through security and to your gate.

Clockwise above, from top left: Disney's Magical Express® Transportation, a Disney Transportation Bus, boat transportation to Disney Springs™, and the monorail running through Epcot®.


2 - Magic Bands

  • MagicBands are complimentary when you stay on-property.

    • If you are staying off-property you can still get a MagicBand and link your tickets to it – but it will cost you $12.99 plus tax for each band (current price at the time this article was written).

    • MagicBands are not only your park tickets, but they are your hotel room key, your dining plan “card”, your Memory Maker “card”, a charge “card”, and your Disney FastPass + service “vouchers” (for lack of a better word).

    • Imagine being able to enjoy your day without worrying about pulling out your wallet every time you want to make a purchase, get into the park, or utilize the Disney FastPass + service. It’s possible with the MagicBand technology. Further, on certain rides when you’re wearing a MagicBand you’ve received as a part of your Magic Your Way Package, some attractions have special personalized surprises just for you - within the actual attraction! It will really blow your mind.

    • MagicBands are waterproof – meaning you can go to the pool or a water park without worrying about keeping up with your credit card, park ticket, and room key.

    • Along with this, regardless of whether or not you utilize a MagicBand, comes the ability to be able to make your charges back to your Walt Disney World® Resort hotel. It’s so nice to be able to see all your charges on one statement at the end of your stay rather than keeping up with a million receipts.

    • Click here to learn about the new style of MagicBand on my YouTube channel.

  • MagicBands are personalized for you free of charge.

    • On the inside of your band you’ll have your printed name or a fun name of your choosing. It makes a great souvenir!


Above: Some personalized "special magic" inside the "it's a small world®" Attraction in Magic Kingdom® Park, possible by technology reading the MagicBands we were wearing.

3 - Dining Plans and Advance Dining Reservations

  • The opportunity to purchase and utilize the Disney Dining Plan.

    • Only guests staying on Walt Disney World® Resort property can purchase the Disney Dining plan, which can typically save you 10-15% off the cost of food at the Walt Disney World® Resort. When using the dining plan you can also use your credits to reserve meals that you have to pre-pay for in advance (such as Cinderella’s Royal Table or the dinner shows like the popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue) – instead of having your credit card charged for the full amount at the time of reservation.

  • The ability to make dining reservations for your ENTIRE length of stay (up to 10 days) 180 days out.

    • Anyone – on property or off, with or without a resort reservation or park tickets, can make a dining reservation 180 days prior to the date you want to make the reservation for. However, only guests staying on-property at the Walt Disney World® Resort can make their Advance Dining Reservations for their entire length of their stay (up to 10 days of a stay) at their 180 day-out mark. And with the popularity of such restaurants as Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant filling up right at 6 a.m. on 180 days out, you’ll need every bit of advantage you can get to secure those hard-to-snag dining reservations for the entirety of your trip.


Above: This delicious Grilled Salmon Salad at Geyser Point Bar & Grill at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a quick-service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

4 - Advance Disney FastPass+ Service Reservations

  • The ability to make your FastPass+ reservations 60 days prior to your check-in date, rather than just 30 days prior to your stay for everyone else.

    • As with some of the most popular restaurants, FastPasses for the most popular attractions (think: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom® Park and Frozen Ever After in Epcot®) can either be totally gone or have return times for very late in the day if you have to wait until 30 days out to make those reservations. Even if you do get a reservation for late in the day, that’s not the most efficient and effective use of the Disney FastPass+ system. We’ll help you out with that when you book with us!

5 - Extra Magic Hours

  • One park each day either opens early or stays open late – just for guests at Walt Disney World® Resort Hotels.

    • Head to a park an hour early or stay a couple hours later at night when you stay on-property. This allows you to get a jump-start to your day or take advantage or less crowds during the evening. (Hint: one of these is better to utilize than the other… book with us to find out which one!)

6 - Package Delivery

  • Shopping in the parks during the day? Have that package sent back to your Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel free of charge.

    • While you can have packages sent to the front of the park regardless of if you are staying on-property or off, having them sent directly to your resort is really priceless. No lugging shopping bags along with your stroller, backpack, kiddo sleeping on your shoulder and other park bags on and off the bus, boat, or monorail – you just pick the package up at your resort hotel’s gift shop a day or two after your purchase. It’s super simple and SO convenient.

7 - Coupons and Vouchers

Above: When staying on property, you'll get vouchers to use at either Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf or Winter Summerland Miniature Golf.

8 - Booking Deposits

  • Only a $200 deposit is required to book your stay – that’s for tickets, room, and dining plan, if applicable.

    • While this may not be true for each and every off-property resort, many will require a full length-of-stay deposit in order to reserve your hotel room (in the example I use below, this was the case).

    • When you stay on property, it’s one easy transaction that includes your room, tickets and dining plan if you choose the dining plan… when staying off-property, it’s a different deposit and transaction for your room and your tickets – and tickets must be paid for in full at time of purchase.

9 - Complimentary Services from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience

  • While anyone can use my services as a travel planner for all Disney Destinations, only those staying on-property at the Walt Disney World® Resort get to take advantage of personalized itinerary planning, our invaluable park tips & tricks, and more - 100% FREE of charge.

    • As part of Ears of Experience, we are paid by Disney and not by our clients when they stay on-property at a Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel.

    • When staying off-property I can still plan for you, but at that point I do have to charge a concierge planning fee of $249.95 (an upcharge for parties of 8 or more does apply).

Above: On an early morning for me as travel planner for all Disney Destinations, I was able to get every dining reservation on my client's wish list. I'm up at 6 a.m. 180 days prior to your check-in date to do this so you don't have to - all free of charge when you book your Disney vacation with me.

10 - Being in the Middle of the “Magic”

  • There is just something to be said for staying “in the middle of the Magic” that you really can’t describe to someone unless they’ve experienced it for themselves. From the amazing customer service you’ll receive, friendly cast members, fun Disney-themed activities and movies at your resort hotel, to even being able to see the fireworks from your room in certain resorts, there is just something about staying in the “Disney Bubble.” If you are trying to get the authentic experience and magic that a Disney Vacation can bring, there’s really no other choice than to stay on property!

Above: One of my children giving Tow Mater from Disney/Pixar's Cars a hug at Disney's Art of Animation Resort - because when you're at Disney and are staying on property... the magic is REAL.

Bonus! 11 - It may actually be less expensive to stay on-property!

Now, having said all that, I also did a pricing exercise (because I’m a numbers girl and wanted to see it in black and white dollars-to-dollars comparison).  I took a family of 4 staying for 6 nights and 5 days, checking in on a Sunday and checking out on a Saturday and looked at staying at a Holiday Inn off property, versus staying at Value Resort OR a Moderate Resort on property. Check out my comparison below… I think it will surprise you!


  • Pricing is for 2 adults and 2 children between the ages of 3 & 9.

  • This pricing exercise was completed in May of 2017.

  • Pricing assumes the family drove their own standard vehicle to Orlando.

  • Pricing does not include park tickets or a dining plan (if on-property only).

  • Pricing DOES include applicable tax at time of this publication.

  • All pricing shown below is for a vacation in August 2017; all pricing is subject to availability at time of booking, regardless of whether you are staying on-property or off-property.

  • This assumes that said family will be eating a quick-service meal, a table-service meal, and 2 snacks in the parks each day (including their arrival day).

Holiday Inn Orlando – Disney Springs Area

  • Total cost for standard hotel room + service fees + tax = $733.43

  • Cost of parking at the resort, $12 per night = $72.00

  • Add on the cost of (4) MagicBands at $12.99 + 6% Florida sales tax = $55.08

  • Add 10% extra that this family would pay for in food because they cannot add on the dining plan when staying off-property: $113.17 (based on the calculation of the Disney Dining Plan being $1,131.67 for this family of 4 and how much 10% of that is)

  • Family wanting to drive to the parks in their own vehicle for 2 of their 5 days in the parks = $40.00

  • Family decides to play miniature golf one day ($14.00 + 6% Florida sales tax per adult and $12.00 + 6% Florida sales tax per child) = $55.12

  • Purchase of Concierge Program to utilize personalized itineraries and park planning from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience = $169.95

  • GRAND TOTAL for staying off-property = $1,238.75

 Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (Moderate Resort)

  • Total cost for standard hotel room + service fees + tax = $1,022.70

  • Cost of parking at the resort, FREE = $0.00

  • (4) Personalized MagicBands included, FREE = $0.00

  • Family decides to purchase the dining plan which would save them approx. 10% over the cost of food they would buy if they did NOT do the dining plan and stayed off-property = $0.00 (calculated at $0 since we ADDED in $113.17 in the Holiday Inn example)

  • Family wanting to drive to the parks in their own vehicle for 2 of their 5 days in the parks, FREE = $0.00

  • Family decides to play miniature golf one day (they use the vouchers included in their Magic Your Way Package) = $0.00

  • Personalized itineraries and park planning from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience, included FREE of charge = $0.00

  • Staying in the middle of the magic = PRICELESS!

  • GRAND TOTAL for staying on-property in a Moderate Resort = $1,022.70

    • This is a SAVINGS of $216.05 by staying ON property!

Disney’s Pop Century Resort (Value Resort – my favorite value resort, actually!)

  • Total cost for standard hotel room + service fees + tax = $708.36

  • Cost of parking at the resort, FREE = $0.00

  • (4) Personalized MagicBands included, FREE = $0.00

  • Family decides to purchase the dining plan which would save them approx. 10% over the cost of food they would buy if they did NOT do the dining plan and stayed off-property = $0.00 (calculated at $0 since we ADDED in $113.17 in the Holiday Inn example)

  • Family wanting to drive to the parks in their own vehicle for 2 of their 5 days in the parks, FREE = $0.00

  • Family decides to play miniature golf one day (they use the vouchers included in their Magic Your Way Package) = $0.00

  • Personalized itineraries and park planning from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience, included FREE of charge = $0.00

  • Staying in the middle of the magic = PRICELESS!

  • GRAND TOTAL for staying on-property in a Value Resort = $708.36

    • This is a SAVINGS of $530.39 by staying ON property!


Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock... When is the best time to BOOK your Walt Disney World® Resort Vacation?

"Tiiiiiiime is on my side... yes it is!"  The infamous song by the Rolling Stones is running through my head as I write this post.  I know that many people ask me when the best time to visit Walt Disney World® is, and that's subject for another post, but here I'm going to talk about when the best time is to BOOK your Disney vacation.  And in this case, when you have a lot of time, it IS on your side.  Yes it is!

So let's get right to it.  In my professional opinion, the best time to BOOK your vacation is at least 7 months out from the day you want to check in.  Now don't look at me like I'm crazy... it's true!  And here's why:

  • Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance, so booking 7-months out gives us time to come up with a preliminary park plan and secure those must-have dining reservations for you.  Trust me.  I know you have no idea what you'll be in the mood for 6 months ahead of time.  But let me tell you - the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World® book up at 6 a.m. on your 180 day-out date.  Why?  Because they are excellent... either excellent food, atmosphere, service, or all three.  Restaurants like the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort where you can see the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom... Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom which is modeled after the ballroom & the west wing from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom where you can eat in Cinderella Castle and dine with the princesses, Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort where you can eat with Mickey & his pals, Le Cellier in Canada at Epcot where you can feast on some of the most delicious steaks you've ever tasted, and the Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater at Hollywood Studios where you eat in cars while watching old 1950s Sci-Fi clips on the big-screen in a drive-in setting... all these places and many others - especially character and princess dining experiences - are just a handful of examples that book up quicker than you can say "Mickey Mouse." 

Booked closer to your check-in time than 180-days out?  Unfortunately many times these popular places to eat are completely booked when we look for reservations.  The good news is that many times I've seen reservations come open for these places at random times, but it does make it all the more difficult to snag what you want.  If you book 7 months out, we can discuss your wishes and where you would like to eat so that at 6 a.m. on your 180-day-dining reservation date, I'm up and at 'em with my phone, iPad & computer searching for your dining reservations.  The likelihood of you getting EXACTLY what you want, when you want it is much greater if we have a plan and can be johnny-on-the-spot at your 180 day mark.

Images above are from Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom.  One of the hardest reservations to secure, oftentimes if you don't reserve exactly at the 180 day mark, your likelihood of eating here (especially for dinner) can be slim.

  • You have many more options for on-property hotels if you book way ahead in advance. This one isn't quite as critical as your 180-day dining date, but if you've always wanted to stay at the Contemporary Resort in a room with a view of the Magic Kingdom, or your little girl would simply be in heaven if she had a room fit for a princess at Port Orleans Riverside, again, the best bet of getting exactly what you want is to book as far in advance as possible.  You don't get to Disney that often and it can be (doesn't HAVE to be, but can be) quite expensive... why shouldn't it be what you've always dreamed of?
  • Related to your resort, booking ahead of time (before a promotion or discount comes out) gives you a greater change of securing a discount or promotion if and when a promo DOES come out for your dates.  When you book with me, I always will look for the lowest price for you.  If a promotion has not come out for your dates yet, never fear.  Part of my complimentary services to you include price-watching.  If a promotion does come out for your timeframe that is applicable and available for your package, I will automatically adjust the price down for you.  Not applicable to your package?  If you like, I can look at other resorts or different time frames that may work and we can adjust your package accordingly.
  • Fastpasses can be booked 60 days in advance of your check-in date.  Again, not as critical as the dining date or your hotel, but I've seen many a popular ride (think: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Frozen Ever After) have zero fastpass times available for a certain date when going back in and looking on a client's 58-day out mark (thankfully I had already gotten them what they wanted... phew!).  If there were still fastpasses available then they typically weren't until late in the afternoon, which isn't exactly ideal for your park plans (which I explain when you book your vacation with me!).

Your Fastpass+ experiences can be booked up to 60 days prior to your check-in date.

  • Get the party dates you want.  During the Halloween & Christmas seasons, two separately-ticketed events take place: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  Both are highly-anticipated events that can have a tendency to sell out quickly, especially as you get close to the actual holidays.  Advantages to going to these parties include lower wait times at some of at the more popular attractions in the Magic Kingdom, special character meet-&-greets, special parades & shows, and even snowfall on Main Street USA for the Christmas Party.  If you've booked well in advance, I can be watching for the dates those go on sale and get you the exact day you want.  

Special parties during the Halloween & Christmas seasons can fill up quickly. Seeing beautiful decorations throughout the parks like the ones shown above are just one of the many reasons visiting during Holiday Seasons require planning and booking ahead!

  • It only takes $200 down to hold your package, with the remainder due 45 days prior*.  So why not book in advance?  The $200 is fully refundable until about 45 days prior to your trip.  Going ahead and booking gives us the ability to secure those dining reservations and fastpasses for you.  
  • When you book early, you have more time to save for your trip.  This one's kind of a no-brainer.  The earlier you plan and know how much the trip will cost, the earlier you can start saving.  OR - the earlier you can apply for a Disney Visa Credit Card from Chase.  While I'm not condoning credit card debt, this is a GREAT way to earn FREE money for your Disney trip (yes, you read that right!).  It's a no-annual-fee credit card that allows you to earn 1 Disney Dream Reward Dollar for every $100 you put on the card.  Another perk of the card is that many times discounts and promotions for resort hotels come out to Disney Visa Cardholders before they come out to the general public.

What have I been doing lately?  Paying all my bills with my Disney Visa then paying them off right away to earn Disney Dream Rewards Dollars.  I also upgraded to the Premier Disney Visa card ($49 annual fee) so that I can earn points faster, earning 2% at places like Disney locations, restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.  They also will give you points for referring friends and family.  What does that mean for me & my family?  Next time we head to Walt Disney World® we have over $400 in Disney Dream Reward Dollars to spend however we like in the parks (restaurants, merchandise, etc.).  Woo hoo! 

  • More time to research, read, and get excited!  While there is fun in a spur-of-the-moment, last-minute trip, if you are going to Walt Disney World® for the first time you may want to read up a little bit about all there is to see and do in the parks.  Part of my services to you is to let you know as much as possible about Walt Disney World® as I can, but the place is so huge and there is SO much to do that you may want to check out a book or two from the library or download some on your kindle.  Some of my favorites include The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, The Complete Walt Disney World Fun Finds & Hidden Mickeys by Julie & Mike Neal, and The Imagineering Field Guides to the parks.  You can find all these on Amazon.  Also you can watch Disney movies to start getting your kids excited too.  Part of the fun of a Disney Trip is discovering all there is to see & do!

What did I leave out?  What advantages have YOU discovered when you booked early?  How about the other way around - why is planning a last-minute trip better?  I'd love to hear from you! 

*45 days prior to check-in date is when Ears of Experience® requires final payment due on your package.  If you book directly with Disney, the date is 30 days prior to check-in date.  The reason why Ears of Experience® requires 45 days out is to give us as agents enough time to secure your documents and ship you your package full of park tips & tricks, your personalized itineraries, etc.  If you have a special circumstance and you need to wait to pay only 30 days prior, please let me know up front and we will work something out!

Walt Disney World® with Infants? How We Did it & had a Great Time (and you can, too)

May, 2014:  One man, one woman, and not one, but TWO babies in a Chevrolet Cruze riding down I-95 to the ultimate family destination:  Walt Disney World®.  Am I crazy?  Some people may think so, but I beg to differ!  We took our twin boys to Walt Disney World® for the first time when they were only 9 months old. And we had a FABULOUS time.  Will they remember their very first trip?  No, but we didn't really go for them... we went for ourselves!  It had been 3 long years since our last trip and if I didn't get back down there soon I was gonna bust.  So I had two babies at the time.  So what? No, I am not some sort of sorceress nor do I have a fairy godmother who waved a magic wand and made them perfect angels the whole time.  But deep within my two diaper backpacks and the cardboard box full of formula and diapers, I did pack a whole lot of patience, common sense, and items, tips and tricks that I am happy to share with you.  Read on!

My husband Jim with our boys in May of 2014.  This was the day we got there; we stayed at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. They were totally mesmerized by the massive lobby in this resort!

My husband Jim with our boys in May of 2014.  This was the day we got there; we stayed at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. They were totally mesmerized by the massive lobby in this resort!

Things to Take, Pack, and Utilize

  • Invest in a good, strong diaper backpack rather than a diaper bag, and zippered pockets are a must!  It doesn't have to be expensive!  This one by Fisher Price is the exact model I carried in the parks.  It's lightweight, stores a ton, has an insulated pouch in it, and comes with a changing pad.  And you know what?  My kiddos are 3 now and this sucker is still going strong.  That's the best testimonial I can give! See the picture above of my husband wearing it.
  • If you are a breastfeeding mama, remember to take a cooler or bring a diaper bag with insulated pockets.  Try to pump extra bottles of milk for the trip and take them with you in a cooler.  All rooms on Disney property feature a mini-fridge so you can rest assured that nothing will spoil.  You're also allowed to take a cooler into the parks and if you don't want to tote it around all day you can rent a locker to store it in.  Better yet, find a diaper bag or backpack that has an insulated compartment in it for your bottles of breastmilk and put a freezer pack (or frozen bottle of water) in with it.  
  • Single serve formula bottles are the best!  I had finished breastfeeding by the time we went to Disney so I stocked up for several months before on those single-serve formula bottles like these by Similac®. They don't have to be refrigerated and there's no mixing to do.  They come with the reusable and disposable nipples that I cleaned each night when we got back to the room, left out overnight to dry and packed back up the next day in clean ziplock bags.  Each day before heading to the parks I'd throw the number of bottles I knew my babies would need into my diaper backpack and off we'd go. The best part about these? As they finished them throughout the day, I tossed out the bottle and my backpack got progressively lighter as the day went on!
  • Buy the baby food disposable pouches. If your baby is able to eat some solid food and isn't strictly on the milk-or-formula-only diet, the pouches that you can buy that are single-serve are the way to go!  Check these out from Happy Baby Organics.  Again, I stocked up on a lot before we went and took several baby spoons with me.  Baby spoons went in clean ziploc bags at the start of the day and I cleaned them off at our hotel room each night.
  • Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, baby hats and sunglasses.  You don't want to have to buy these in the park and pay out the wazoo for them!  This general rule regarding sunscreen goes for everyone in your party, too - but there's no one more unhappy than a sun-burnt baby in a Disney Park.  I would slather them up with SPF 50 (I love this baby sunscreen by Aveeno®) before we even left the room where it was nice and cool.  Be sure you reapply in the parks in a cool, indoor space (like a baby care center... more on those later in this article).
  • Take an umbrella stroller rather than a giant stroller with all the bells & whistles... especially if you are utilizing the Disney bus transportation.  You'll need to fold this up to get on the buses.  It's much easier to fold up an umbrella stroller and carry it on the bus with a baby and a diaper bag or backpack than one of the giant stroller systems.  We have this double umbrella stroller by Jeep® but especially if you have a single baby any old umbrella stroller would do really well!  If you are staying in a deluxe resort where you can utilize boat or monorail transportation, you likely won't have to fold up your stroller unless it's really crowded.  (This is yet another reason to stay in a deluxe resort!)
Choose a baby hat that is light or white in color so it's not too hot (bonus points if it has a chin strap to keep it from coming off)!  Our Jeep umbrella stroller was able to recline a little for the (many) times when the boys fell asleep being rolled around in the parks.

Choose a baby hat that is light or white in color so it's not too hot (bonus points if it has a chin strap to keep it from coming off)!  Our Jeep umbrella stroller was able to recline a little for the (many) times when the boys fell asleep being rolled around in the parks.

  • Get creative (or utilize a grandma or crafty friend) and create a custom storage bag for your umbrella stroller!  I am NO SEAMSTRESS but I made these two little bags with velcro and handles that attached to the back of our double umbrella stroller for storage of lighter items like the disposable bottle nipples, an extra change of clothes, baby spoons, burb cloths, etc.  When we folded the umbrella stroller up to get on the bus, we simply removed these bags and slid them on our arms or over the stroller handles to carry, but while we were in the parks we didn't have to carry them around.  If you do opt for the umbrella stroller, it's easy to make a simple bag like this for extra storage!  Email me if you need help coming up with an idea!
Stroller Bags.png
  • Freeze bottles of water (that you bought at a store OUTSIDE WDW if possible!) the night before you head to the parks to keep cold things cold.  As they melt, you have drinking water that's a lot cheaper than what you'll buy in the parks.  This is also great if you want to give your baby a little bit of water to drink,too (after her or she is 6 months old) in addition to formula or milk on super hot days (or if you have toddlers).  On my most recent trip to WDW (where the babies referred to in this post were toddlers... tackling WDW with toddlers will be another blog post!), I took insulated sippy cups, filled them with ice and poured a little apple juice over that. As the day progressed the water melted and their drink was still nice and cold with a little bit of flavor.
  • Bring ziploc bags - both gallon & quart sizes.  Quart sizes are great for things I've mentioned above like baby spoons & the disposable nipples for the formula bottles.  They're also great for pacifiers, half-eaten suckers (if you have older kids too), cheerios, just about anything you can name!  Gallon-size ones are also important for my next subject...
  • Pack extra changes of clothes for your baby in a gallon-size ziploc bag (along with extra gallon-size bags inside, too).  Diaper leakage accident?  Spit-up all over the outfit before you put on a bib? Never fear mom or dad, you came prepared with an extra outfit in a ziploc bag.  The reason the ziploc bag is so important is that if the reason why you're having to change your baby is because of a diaper leakage accident, especially if it was of the #2 variety, you will want to be able to put that outfit in a single bag after washing it out and zip that smell away from you!  If your baby does tend to spit-up quite a bit you may want to take an extra shirt for you, too. (And don't forget those burp cloths!)
  • Onesies are a must!  They are typically cooler for the kiddo and you don't have to keep up with a shirt and separate shorts or pants if you have to change their clothes.  Not to mention that they are oh-so-easy to unbutton to change that diaper!
  • Take antibacterial wipes in a to-go pouch.  I personally like these Wet Ones.  Not for your baby but for you!  I can't tell you how many diapers I changed in a shady part of the park on-the-go instead of in a bathroom.  Some people may disagree with me, but especially with wet-only diapers I didn't think it was such a big deal. And by that time I was the fastest diaper-changer this side of the Mississippi.  Wet Ones are great to have also if you are sitting down to a eat (especially at a quick-service restaurant) and the table hasn't been cleaned off yet by a cast member.  Just wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe, and then I'd take a regular baby-wipe over it too.  
  • Take a grandparent (or set of grandparents.  Or both sets of grandparents!).  What grandparent would NOT want to see their grandbaby's first trip to Disney?  And they are AWESOME to watch your kiddos while you get in line to ride Space Mountain.  And Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  And Splash Mountain.  It's a great trade-off... Grandma and Grandpa can ride first while you watch the baby or ride a baby-friendly ride, then you can go ride while Grandma & Grandpa watch the baby.  When you do this you can utilize the Rider Switch Pass, which is also great to use if grandma and/or grandpa can't go with you...
Take the grandparents!  They love watching your kiddos and have a great time themselves.  My mom and dad are big Disney fans so they were not hard to convince.

Take the grandparents!  They love watching your kiddos and have a great time themselves.  My mom and dad are big Disney fans so they were not hard to convince.

  • Rider Switch Pass. USE IT.  Oh Rider Switch Pass, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.... The way this works is, you choose a ride & tell the cast member at the front of the line that you want a rider switch pass because you have someone too young or too short (or they can even be too scared) to ride the ride.  The cast member does have to see everyone in your party including said young/short/scared kiddo.  They will give you a piece of paper that says "Rider Switch Pass" on it for that particular ride.  You stand in line, ride the ride, then when you get off the ride you give the pass to your significant other or grandparent, whoever was watching the kiddo.  They get to go through the fastpass line without waiting in the longer line again.  It's a great and beautiful thing.

Images above are of what a Rider Switch Pass looks like as well as some pictures the hubby snapped of me when I was riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain, utilizing the Rider Switch Pass.

  • Find out right away where the Baby Care Centers are and use them!  Baby Care Centers are magical little places in each and every park that have things like rocking chairs, high chairs, changing tables, microwaves, ovens, sinks, and you can even stock up on diapers, formula, extra changes of clothes, etc. in these places (but you won't need to since you're using all my tips above, right?!?).  There are private nursing rooms and a main room with a TV, sofa, table and chairs for the family while mom nurses, or mom or dad takes care of the baby.  These are great little jewels that are totally free to use when you are at the parks.  Check out the images of two rooms in the Baby Care Center at Disney's Hollywood Studios (courtesy of my friend Rebekah Craig) as well as the current locations of all the Baby Care Centers in the 4 Theme Parks.
  • Take advantage of package delivery to your resort and/or package pickup.  If you're staying on property at a Walt Disney World® Resort, when you buy merchandise in the parks you can have it delivered directly to your resort so you don't have to lug your packages around all day.  It's a complimentary service when staying on-property.  If it's your last day or two in the parks, you won't want the packages delivered to your resort though as it can take a day or two.  In that case, just have the cast member send your package to the front of the park for you to pick up on the way out. 


  • Their admission is free!  Yes, your child is free if they are under 3 years old.
  • You've got older kiddos and they are at the prime age to experience the magic.  Don't wait until your youngest is a little older and you've missed the golden age of an older child (typically preschool-elementary age) where they are absolutely 110% into the magic that is Disney... they believe in princesses and want to be one, they want to be like Jack Sparrow on the high seas, they believe that elephants can fly and that they know in their tiny little heart of hearts that magic is real.  Don't miss out on capturing those memories just because you have a baby, too.
  • There is a ton that babies can see and enjoy at Walt Disney World®!  it's a small world, Peter Pan's Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Walt Disney World Railroad, heck, even the Mad Tea Party and the Haunted Mansion you can all take your baby on (and I did. Every one. And they LOVED it.).  Check out the picture below of my babies on some of the attractions and around the world.  They were enthralled.  Really the list of what they CAN'T see is much shorter than the list of what they CAN experience.
Babies are simply amazed at all the things there are to see and experience at Walt Disney World®!

Babies are simply amazed at all the things there are to see and experience at Walt Disney World®!

  • Sleeping babies make fun and hilarious photo opportunities.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  See my two favorites below.
Sleeping babies make for some fun photo ops.

Sleeping babies make for some fun photo ops.

  • If you can swing it, stay in a deluxe resort on the monorail.  Remember what I said above about usually being able to roll your baby on and off the monorail or a boat?  If you stay at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Polynesian Village Resort, or the Contemporary Resort, you are on the monorail and can utilize that mode of transportation to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  It's also super-convenient for one person in your party to go back to the resort mid-day if they want to take a break with the baby, but everyone else wants to stay in the park.  Deluxe rooms are bigger than moderate or value rooms also so you aren't tripping over the crib or Pack 'n' Play®  in the middle of the night (BOTH of which can be provided to you at no charge when staying at a Disney Resort). 
  • Even better, if you can stay in a Deluxe Villa Resort on the monorail, you are GOLDEN.  Two words, parents:  WASHER & DRYER.  All one and two-bedroom villas in Deluxe Villa resorts have a washer and dryer in them.  Perfect if you don't want to pack baby's entire wardrobe on the trip and you have an accident or two during the day.  While there are laundry facilities in the other resorts, nothing beats having one in your room so you can do laundry while baby sleeps or you relax in the room.  They also have full kitchens with a microwave, full-size refrigerator, stove, oven and a living area. These villas are great if you are taking extended family or grandma and grandpa are going too (and even better if they'll help you pay for it - nudge nudge, wink wink!).  All resorts previously mentioned above have deluxe villas available (at the Contemporary Resort, though, the villas resort is called Bay Lake Tower).
  • There are plenty of shady and cool spaces to take a break in the parks.  Off the top of my head, I can think of the phone charging station area near Rapunzel's tower in the Magic Kingdom, the Chevrolet car showroom at Test Track in Epcot (yes, I found a corner in there and sat on the floor and fed the boys while my mom and dad rode!), the area around DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom is super shady with benches, and an area right outside The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ exit has some (seemingly) old columns and architecture with vines growing all around it making for some nice shade.  These are typically strategically located at entrances/exits to rides so that you can take a break while others ride. And if you're in World Showcase at Epcot, there are lots of areas to stop and take a shady rest near a shop, in or around a restaurant, or while listening to some great music from around the world.
  • If possible, stay longer than just a few days so you don't feel rushed.  And never ever feel like you have to "do it all."  I can't count how many times I've been to Walt Disney World® and I've still not seen it all.  Just go in knowing that especially with an infant, you will be a little slower than if it were just you and your significant other, you by yourself, or even you with toddlers, preschoolers or older kids.  Take breaks and go back to the room for a nap, or take your time at lunch or dinner while the kiddos sleep.  Set that expectation up in your mind before you even go and that way it will make the stay much more enjoyable!
SLEEP.  They need it, you want it!  Build this time into your vacation or expect it going in so there are no surprises.

SLEEP.  They need it, you want it!  Build this time into your vacation or expect it going in so there are no surprises.

  • Try to make earlier dinner reservations at the table service restaurants.  You'll be surrounded by other parents with kids who certainly will be more likely to understand if your baby has a meltdown or throws their spoon across the table.  They also won't look at you funny when you pick up your child and smell his bottom (all you parents out there know EXACTLY what THIS is about!).
  • Take advantage of baby "firsts".  Get them a (free!) "my first visit" button and pin it to your backpack, then put it in their baby book when you get home.  Take pictures of their little faces experiencing the colors and lights in a nighttime parade, or on it's a small world.  Even get their first haircut at Harmony Barbershop on Main Street USA.  They may not remember it but you sure will and you'll have awesome pictures for the scrapbook.
  • If you think you may want to experience a buffet meal with characters but aren't sure how your baby will react to a giant Mickey Mouse, stick to the Princess buffet meals.  The princesses look more like "normal" people so it is less scary for your baby.  For little girls this is a no-brainer, but even for little boys, pictures of them with lipstick kisses on their faces are priceless (case in point below).
What is cuter than little boys being kissed by the Disney Princesses? I mean, really!?!?

What is cuter than little boys being kissed by the Disney Princesses? I mean, really!?!?

  • (Shameless plug!) Utilize my park plans and tips by booking your trip with me to see more and do more with "downtime" included!  I'll include all this and more in my packet to you, and you'll go in armed with a plan on how to make the most of your vacation, stand in less lines, see more attractions and have time to spend relaxing while making memories with your family.  For a free, no-obligation quote, just click here.


  • Make like Elsa and "Let it Go."  Remember:  you are a parent and they are an infant.  Yes, there will be crying.  There will be meltdowns.  You will be tired in the evening.  You will have a diaper blowout (at least one).  Remember:  IT'S OKAY!  It happens to the best of us.  And you know what?  You won't remember much if any of that.  You know what I remember?  My Josh's face when we rode the carousel and he felt the horses go up and down.  My mom holding Robey on the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge and him grinning as we went under the shadow of the Contemporary Resort (see picture above).  The kisses they got from the princesses (also see pictures above).  Feeling their tiny little fists pat-pat-pat on the top of my head as they sat on my shoulders and watched the Festival of Fantasy Parade.

I'm going to end this post with an experience about how the Cast Members at Disney support and understand you bringing your baby to the parks.  We'd just finished an excellent meal at Chefs de France and were waiting on our check when the boys became a little fussy.  It was about 6:15 p.m. and at the table next to us were some older ladies who had been there about 30 minutes.  They made a snide comment to us about how we were "ruining their dinner."  I did tell them we had been there a while; we were simply waiting on our check and that then we would be leaving.  About that same time the manager came over and asked us how our meal was.  My mother told him, "I certainly do hope that we have not bothered anyone too much with our grandsons," and gestured to my babies who were at this point starting to full-out cry.  He looked at my mom, and at me, and smiled and said, "We are at Disney World, and we were all babies once."  He made me want to cry from relief.  Such a nice man telling this stressed-out mama exactly what she needed to hear.  Mr. Manager Cast Member at Chefs de France, I will never ever forget you and the gift you gave me that night to remember to live in the moment and savor all the time I get with my children, be it when they are fussy or happy as can be, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks.  God bless you, and THANK YOU.

A Magical "First": The My First Haircut Package at the Harmony Barber Shop

There are many moments in a child’s life that are special… their first tooth, their first steps, their first word… and their first haircut.  Did you know you can make one of those even MORE special through the magic of Disney?  

I discovered Disney’s My First Haircut package when planning our family trip when my twin boys were going to be 9 months old.  Now my kiddos’ hair grows super fast & they were looking pretty wooly by 9 months so the timing was perfect, but you could have your baby or toddler’s hair cut at any age with this package.  For $25 per child, you get their hair cut, a keepsake pouch with a lock of their hair, a certificate, and commemorative Mickey Ears that have the phrase “My 1st Haircut” embroidered on the back.  It’s actually quite a deal when you consider it costs me personally $15 each time I take one of my boys to get their hair cut locally, and the current cost of Mickey Ears without any embroidery in the parks is $14.99! 

They covered them with stickers and gave them a toy to play with to distract them from the task at hand!

They covered them with stickers and gave them a toy to play with to distract them from the task at hand!

The cast members who cut their hair were simply amazing.  Josh and Robey were a little skeptical at first about letting strangers cut their hair, but after covering both of them in Mickey Mouse stickers and giving them a light-up spinning toy to play with to distract them, they were looking like perfect little gentlemen in no time!  And I got some great pictures of a moment I’ll never forget.  It’s well worth the money to say your child’s first haircut was at Walt Disney World!  How cool is that?!?

Additional tip:  The Harmony Barber Shop is right near where all the parade floats exit to go “backstage”.  Our haircut time was at 3 p.m. - which meant by the time the Festival of Fantasy parade was getting to the end of its route, we were at a prime viewing spot to watch the floats and see them all end the parade.  What a bonus!!

All this was included with the package - a certificate suitable for framing, a lock of their hair and some "pixie dust", and their very first set of Classic Mouse Ears!

All this was included with the package - a certificate suitable for framing, a lock of their hair and some "pixie dust", and their very first set of Classic Mouse Ears!

Can Walt Disney World® really be less expensive than your local theme park?

Last weekend the hubs and I took our kiddos to Tweetsie Railroad, a Wild West Theme Park in the North Carolina mountains.  We had a great time and I love exploring all our local attractions.  Tweetsie is the oldest theme park in North Carolina still in operation.  However, as I rode the chair lift to Miner's Mountain and took in the mountain scenery from the Ferris Wheel with my little ones, it got me to thinking... how does THIS day compare to a day at Disney?

Some pics from Tweetsie, July 2016

The simple answer is there really is no comparison.  While my family & I loved Tweetsie and I am a huge advocate for supporting the local economy and local attractions, Disney far outweighs just about any local theme park anywhere around in terms of entertainment, attractions, restaurants, and family fun.  *DISCLAIMER* - in this post I am in no way, shape or form saying that Tweetsie is not a great theme park and I will say right now it is very much worth your time and money.  This is strictly a comparison of that park's offerings and prices (or any local theme park you may have near you) versus the Mack Daddy of all theme parks... Tweetsie just happens to be where I've most recently visited.

"But Jennifer... Disney is expensive!  It's over $100 a day for a ticket! The food is overpriced!  The souvenirs are outrageous!  Don't get me started on the hotels there!"

Now, hold the phone.  Let me break out a couple of comparisons for you to show you how Disney can be (and is!) just as INexpensive as my day at Tweetsie!  For purposes of this comparison, I'll be using Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World®.

Some of my favorite pics from our trip to Disney's Magic Kingdom in May of 2016

First, let's look at the facts of Tweetsie vs. the Magic Kingdom.  Note all these facts were valid at the time of this publication:

  • Number of attractions (including rides & shows): Tweetsie = 24, Magic Kingdom = 41

    • Note that the Magic Kingdom count includes some but not ALL shows - things like the Park Opening Show or Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire are not included in this total, nor are some of the character or princess meet & greets as they can change frequently.

  • Number of restaurants: Tweetsie = 10, Magic Kingdom = 31

    • This includes stands for ice cream and other treats.  In this count, Tweetsie has zero table service restaurants, the Magic Kingdom has 8 table service restaurants where you can sit down and be served by a wait staff.

  •  Number of Parades:  Tweetsie = 0, Magic Kingdom = 2  (The Festival of Fantasy Parade & the Main Street Electrical Parade)

  •  Amount of Time to See the Park: Tweetsie can easily be enjoyed and visited in a half day (depending on crowds); I regularly tell my clients you need a full 2 days to see & enjoy all that the Magic Kingdom has to offer.  

  •  Number of Fireworks Shows Daily: Tweetsie = 0, Magic Kingdom = 1... and boy, does the Magic Kingdom's Wishes Fireworks show blow any other fireworks show you have ever seen out of the water!

  •  Park Hours:  Tweetsie is typically only open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. (except during their cool summer nights on weekends when they are open until 9 p.m.).  I've never known the Magic Kingdom to close before 8 p.m. (and that's during the very slow season) unless for a specially-ticketed event like Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party; most nights it is open until at least 9 p.m. or later (and later still on Extra Magic Hours nights for those staying on property).  

So now let's look at the ticket pricing.  Since my kiddos were under 3 when we visited, they were able to get into Tweetsie for free.  This is the same at all Disney® parks... children under 3 are free.  This is true EVEN IF your child is turning 3 the second day you are there!  (And what a fabulous way to celebrate a birthday!).  The age of the child when you check in to your resort is the age Disney considers them throughout your length of stay.  Good to know!  So for this comparison I'll be pricing out 2 adult tickets only.

Adult tickets at Tweetsie Railroad were $44 each (that included tax).  When you compare that to a $110 (plus tax) one-day ticket for the Magic Kingdom park during regular season Tweetie's price blows it out of the water, right?  I agree, 110%.  But how many people go to Disney for just one day?  As an authorized Disney travel planner, Ears of Experience always recommends at least 5-7 days at Walt Disney World® - especially if it is your first trip or you haven't been in a few years.  This will give you at least 2 days at the Magic Kingdom, and a day each at Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom

A fact about Walt Disney World® tickets that many people don't realize or understand is that the longer you stay, the less you pay for your ticket each day.  Note the price breakdowns below (remembering this is all at time of publication, for an average day, and prices don't include tax):

  • 1-day adult ticket: $110 per ticket
  • 2-day adult ticket: $101 per ticket
  • 3-day adult ticket: $96.67 per ticket  
  • 4-day adult ticket: $81.25 per ticket
  • 5-day adult ticket: $68 per ticket

You get it.  But, to get down to less than Tweetsie when you strictly look at the price per ticket per day, you'd have to stay at Disney for 9 days (at that point the price for an adult ticket per day is $43.34).  

HOWEVER - when you look at how much more you are paying per day for a ticket exponentially, when you are already staying at Disney for a certain number of days, you can get to that magic number fairly quickly.  Check out the calculations below (note this is for two adult tickets with TAX INCLUDED):

  • For two adult tickets at Walt Disney World® for 2 days, your total (WITH tax) is $430.26.  
  • If you decide to stay for 3 days, you'll end up paying $187.44 more for the two tickets (=$93.72 per adult) making a 3-day ticket for 2 adults $617.70 (tax included).  
  • Staying for 4 days?  The cost difference for a 4 day ticket for 2 adults over a 3 day ticket is ONLY $74.56!  That's $37.28 per adult ticket... so when you do the math when you are already staying at Disney for 3 days, adding on a 4th day ticket is LESS than a single ticket to many of your local theme parks.  
  • A 5-day ticket over a 4-day ticket ends up being - get this - only $31.94 more for both adults than if you are going and staying only 4 days ($692.26 for (2) 4-day adult tickets vs. $724.20 for (2) 5-day adult tickets).  See the value?  That's only $15.97 more per person to purchase 5 day tickets over 4 day tickets.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, what about meals?  We ate at the Feed & Seed and my husband and I each got a Pulled Pork plate with French Fries, the kids got Chicken Tenders with French Fries.  The food was what you'd expect of typical theme park food... it will sustain you but it's nothing to write home about.  We spend about $32 on 2 adults and 2 children for the meals.  A comparable restaurant in Magic Kingdom would be Casey's Corner, where you can get a Chili Cheese Hot Dog with French Fries for $10.79 each and a kid's meal for about $7.99 each.  That ends up being about $37.56 for the meal - only about $5 more than what we spent at Tweetsie.  That total would likely drop down even less if you were on the Disney Dining Plan which can offer substantial savings over paying out of pocket for your meals... but that's the subject of another blog entry....!

Now for souvenirs.  My little boys have wanted toy guns for ages... now I have to note that you can't find a toy gun on property anywhere at Disney... (and honestly with the way the world is today I can understand why), so I'll have to use a light saber toy as a comparison.  At Tweetsie we were able to find my boys little toy western-style guns.  The price of those very small toy guns at Tweetsie was $21.99 each.  They are cap guns so we also bought some caps for them (note we are waiting till they are older to give those to them!) at $3.25 each per pack (we got 2 packs for each kiddo).  That brings the grand total of these toys for them to $28.49 each.  Comparably, an official Star Wars® licensed light saber in a Disney park is $29.95.  Barely a buck fifty more.  We did note that the next bigger size toy gun at Tweetsie was $29.99 (without the caps).

Finally I'll leave you with this - lodging.  Personally my family camped during this weekend of North Carolina mountain fun, but I just looked for room reservations at the Holiday Inn in Blowing Rock, NC on a Saturday night in the summer and compared it to a Disney Value Resort for the same day... $157.88 for a single Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Blowing Rock... $158.00 for a single Saturday night at Disney's All-Star Music Resort on Disney property.  Wait, what?!? :-)  And you have to think about what all a stay on Disney property includes... complimentary transportation to all the parks, your Magic Bands and Fastpasses for rides when you pair it with tickets, the amazing pools and the overall magical feeling you get when you are staying on-property at Walt Disney World®.  

After all, can anything really compare with that?