Our first Disney trip together was great fun but there were some parts of it when we thought “Yes. We are masters of Disney planning.” Here are some of the successes of our trip that we’ll be thinking about in future.
Success #1: Finding a Budget Hotel That Rocked
Two years ago we didn’t have the money to stay at Disney. We were living on one salary with a very high cheese bill (jokes). We decided to book a budget hotel, but one with free transport to and from the parks. We searched on Bravofly.com and found a 3 star hotel called The Clarion Inn at Lake Buena Vista.
The hotel cost £440 for 10 nights. It had a free park bus (Disney and Universal) and was close to restaurants. Located on Palm Parkway, we had an Olive Garden, a McDonalds and an Uno’s all within walking distance. In the end our park tickets cost more.
When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of the Disney hotel, Port Orleans, that I had visited in 2009. The layout of the room was comfortingly Floridian. We had two beds, a sink area with a microwave, and a bath/shower and toilet in a smaller room. We even had a fridge for our beers. Best of all it was clean.
The bus service was great. We tried to arrive 30 minutes before it left which allowed us to get a seat every time. It had a nice pool (which we never actually visited because we were so busy), a shop and restaurant. We tried the pizza a couple of times which were great.
We looked into this hotel again, but it’s since gone up in price since it’s advertised as a Good Neighbour Hotel. But I’d recommend researching a budget hotel to anyone that can’t afford something grander. There are plenty around Orlando which are good bases for visiting the parks. Just make sure there is transport or you can provide your own.
Success #2: Finding Good Beer
We love beer. Particularly craft beer. Scotland is full of it, so usually you’ll see young professionals drinking Innis and Gunn or Brewdog rather than Budweiser. When we first arrived in Orlando we thought there would mostly be the big American brands. As long as we steered away from the Light varieties we’d be ok, right?
We were pleasantly surprised by the range. There were plenty of choices in the Disney parks (other than Magic Kingdom, who back then didn’t serve alcohol). We particularly enjoyed The Dawa Bar in Animal Kingdom. They had some IPA’s and a cider that went down a treat in the midday heat.
The biggest find, though, was a place called Sea Dog Brewing Company. It was 10 minutes walk from our hotel and they made their own craft beers. We’ve since found out that they are brand that is found in many states. Our server was very nice and gave us loads of tips on what beer to get. He brought us two beer flights with a total of 8 different beers he recommended. We had a great time trying these and in the end we gave him a huge tip which I don’t think he was expecting since we’re British and notoriously bad tippers (it’s not our fault, it’s just that waiting staff are paid a decent wage here, so they don’t rely on tips which means it’s not really frowned upon not to tip).
Our favourite beer was the Blueberry Wheat Ale which is also sold in select grocery stores. We can’t wait to grab a few six packs when we visit again.
Success #3: Planning Our Itinerary Well
About 9 months before we went to Orlando, we sat down one night and planned what we would do EVERY DAY. I know that for some, this seems stressful and not what you’d want to be doing on a Monday night. For some, a holiday is a chance to be spontaneous, to relax. Not for this pair! I can only think of a handful of things (cheese, dogs, tea, books) that I love more than having a plan and sticking to it. Planning a Disney holiday down to the last minute is actually really fun and freeing for me because I know what I’ll be doing every day (this is a luxury you can’t have with teaching.)
We started our plan by choosing our ticket types which actually turned out to be a bit of a mistake (for more info see this blog post). We then headed over to the Crowd Calculator on Undercover Tourist. It tells you via a traffic light system, which park will be the least full that day and what the crowd density is likely to be. We used this to decide which park to visit when, and were pretty happy with our results. There were no huge crowds around at the time but it meant that on some days we could run on and off of rides however many times we liked. The morning we went to Animal Kingdom, we rode Expedition Everest 3 times without having to wait in line!
We’re doing this again in August and I think it will be even more useful since all the parks will be busier.