Since we had our free park tickets for Disney, we decided to head to Orlando for Labor day weekend. We thought Saturday would be a nice relaxing day at the resort, with some pool time and then a nice dinner out. Right before we left town, I got a $10/$30 coupon for Mimi’s Cafe. It was 10 miles from our resort, away from the tourist areas, perfect. Now my GPS and google maps had us traveling the toll road. I pride myself on reading a map and taking the best route. After seeing there was another road, parallel to this one we decide to take that one.
We soon started to see signs for a toll at specific exits. No where on my GPS or google maps does it say this particular road is a toll road. I’m guessing the tolls are so new, the maps haven’t been updated yet. Sure enough, we had to dish out $1.75 for the toll. Now I don’t mind a toll road here and there, but when you take another route to avoid one toll road, only to end up on another, well that’s annoying. What’s more comical is that instead of a receipt we got a post card with an advertisement on it. Really? They’re getting money from us and advertisers.
If you’re heading to Orlando, you can check out Restaurants.com for local restaurants you maybe interested in dining at. Type in the zip code of the hotel you are staying at and search in the area. I found a few nice places including Outback Steakhouse, and a few of the Disney resort hotel restaurants. And even a Pirates dinner adventure.
Often times I look into AAA for additional discounts, but this may not always be a deal. When I did a search on Disney’s website for pricing, I saw a room I wanted to book, but I decided to call to see If I could get a better deal with my AAA discount. The rep was quoting me $50 more for a suite and he said there were no standard rooms available. Upon telling him what I had just seen online he exited out of the AAA screen and found exactly what I had seen online. Apparently they set aside specific rooms for AAA guests and it’s not always the value rooms. We got a better deal without using AAA.
There are benefits to staying at a Disney resort. While it may not always have the better room price, some perks out way the cost. For instance, parking at a theme park is $14 for each car, per day. If you stay at a Disney resort, you can park for free, or use the Disney transportation.
Benefits to Disney resorts:
Parking is free at the parks (a $14 value for cars)
Or use Disney transportation for free
Free outside night Disney movies (Select Locations)
Other free resort activities like pool games
Souvenir refillable cups
Extra Magic Hours
Each day, one of the parks opens 1 hour early or stays open late just for resort guests! This is what Disney calls Extra Magic Hours. We chose to go to the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, because they stayed open till 1am for resort guests. We like to hang at the pool in the morning, then take an afternoon nap. We arrive at the park around dinner time. Everyone is refreshed, and ready to play. The crowds are slightly smaller and the sun is going down. Remember to bring your resort key card for every member of your family. After regular closing hours, they only let resort guests on the rides. You must show your card to the employees before getting in line. For us the lines have never been over 20 minutes, except for Space Mountain.
We love staying at the Fort Wilderness campground. Each camp site allows 2 tents with up to 10 people. If you travel with another family you can split the cost of a site. Plus, you can cook your own meals on the campground. They do not allow campfires, but a charcoal grill is on each site. You can read more about our experiences at Fort Wilderness here. We didn’t stay there this trip because they were full, and to be honest, 90 degree camping in Florida is not a vacation to me!
If you are traveling with young children who cannot ride certain rides yet, make sure you get a ‘switch pass’ from the Disney employee at the stand by line. Part of your family waits in the standby line to ride, then when you come back, you can use that pass for up to 3 people in your party to use the fastpass lane. We do this a lot when our daughter is scared of a ride. One of us waits with her, while the other rides with our son. Then when we are done, we switch and the other adult takes our son back on the ride. Our son gets the best of this deal!
Here is a short video we did on our trip. I’m not an expert but I hope this helps some of you plan. Please leave a comment and share your tips!
We drove through McDonald’s the next day for coffee and there was a ‘to go’ tax on our receipt. Wonder why they don’t just call it tax? Also, you might not want to wear a tank top if you are toting a backpack. This was the first time I had done that. It rubbed my arms a bit, lesson learned. If you are interested in a backpack like the one in the video, it is the Picnic Time Zuma Insulated Cooler Backpack and you can get free shipping with Amazon Mom.