1st Time going to WDW and confused!Please help!


Hello Everyone!!! I am having a problem making the plans!!! There is just so many ways to go (which resort, food plan?, park hopper, no expiration, transportation…the list goes on). Here is a bit of my background. We are planning to go down July 1-7 (actually going down June 31 and then staying at another hotel on the trip back up on the night of June 7) We live in Ohio and so we will be driving…it’s about 1300 miles so we are splitting the drive up with a hotel stay on the way down and on the way back up. We have 3 small children…ages 8, 6, and 2 so we have to make it easy on them. I have so many questions and am feeling a bit overwelmed trying to plan things (I put in for a quote with mouseketrips, so just waiting for them). Anyway…We are on a “budget”…meaning we are planning this too late to start saving. Here is the questions…I apologize that there is many.

  1. Is is cheaper to stay in the World or off site? How does it work for parking? Do we need to pay to park everyday and roughly the cost?
  2. If we do the onsite option, we would probably stay at a Value Resort because I do not forsee us spending too much time in the hotel (not spending that kind of money to sit in a room, lol). How is transportation? I read that it is only by bus…what does it cost and is it efficient? Can we drive to the parks ourselves even though we are staying at WDW? Do we again, have to pay to park?
  3. Meals…lots of questions here. I looked at the WDW website quote and for 500 bucks we get the meal plan for 5 days. Is it worth it? I have picky eaters who can be very wasteful so we usually have the kids share meals sometimes. What is a good budget for a family of 4.5 (little one doesn’t count…she usually picks from everyones plates) for each day. We aren’t into the fancy dinners (we are like the simple things), however I would like to do a character dinner or two. My husband seems to think we can budget far less than 500 bucks for meals, but I am not so sure with the way some have said meal prices were. I don’t want to go down unprepared for the prices though, that is why I was leaning towards the meal plan.

Okay…I apologize that this is lengthy and so many questions…I just don’t want to miss something and then be stuck when we are down there.
How much should I plan on spending for this vacation???
I have read lots of your posts and you guys are extremely helpful!!!
Thanks in advance.

  1. My vote is to stay onsite. You get many more perks. EMH and free parking
    All stars a value resort even has a new family suite. That would be perfect for your family.

2.Parking is free with POV on site and you can drive yourself. Buses will be available though the time of year you are going they will crowded, but they are effcient.

  1. Dining Plan is great I say it is so worth the cost. And everything is paid for in advance one less thing to worry about while you are there. Do I have enough to pay for this meal.

Oh and welcome to DC!


Ditto :smile:

Welcome to DC :smile:


You picked a great place to come for answers to your ?'s about WDW. Reading reviews and posting questions here has ABSOLUTELY made my WDW trips better. I’m definitely not an expert like most folks here, but we are leaving next week with our 2 & 6 year old so I have some things to share.

  1. Mousketrips ROCK! Their knowlege saved me big bucks this trip.

  2. Stay on site! So many perks AND it is so much easier to use WDW transportation especially with little kids. Driving to and from your off-site hotel gets old. And all the WDW resorts are so beautiful and you are emersed in Disney!!!

  3. Since you are driving down (we did this from Michigan w/ 2 kids last year), you can bring so much to help you save $$. Like water, juice boxes, cereal, etc. All rooms at WDW resorts refridgerators now (right? DC experts?) We are planning to eat breakfast in the room. And you can bring stroller down instead of renting ($8 a day!) We even bought a $12 umbrella stroller for my 6 year old because of all the walking.

You’ll love your planning with the help of Disney Central. I now amaze my friends with the tidbits I learned here!


Welcome to DC! And don’t worry about the questions. I did the exact same thing last year for our first trip . . . same confusion, same questions, same stuff. You came to the right place for answers and opinions!

We were also “on a budget.” We chose to stay at a value resort and would definitely opt for that over staying off-site. To repeat queensmama, the perks are worth it. We didn’t have a car there but even if we did, we would have used the resort transportation – leave the headaches to someone else! Some people, on the other hand, like the freedom of having a car. We didn’t do the dining plan. We shipped some food items to the resort in advance and had a grocery stop on the way to the resort so we saved money that way (had a refrigerator in our room). We ate one meal each day at a park or restaurant and did some munchy stuff also. There are a lot of good things about the dining plan but for our family it just doesn’t seem the best way to go.
Good luck and have fun with your planning. As for questions, ask away!


Welcome to DC, jaljayjar.

To help more with budgeting, you need to go to allearsnet.com and have a look at the menus- complete with prices! That might give your DH a little reality check. :angel: While you’re at allearsnet, take a good hard look about where you would realistically be eating and ordering. Remember to include your drinks, and the price of tips (both of which are covered under the dining plan).

The nice thing about the Dining Plan is that it takes the guesswork out of budgeting.

It may be cheaper to stay offsite. You should probably look around a little bit… again, check out allearsnet.com for offsite accomodations, and also check out mousesavers.com. Keep in mind that if you’re offsite, it’ll be about $10/day to park, and also factor in the personal cost to you in travel time and just plain ease of getting around.

Have fun! Keep asking questions!

  1. Disney value resorts are a great bargain but offsite can be extremely competitive ot even better but keep in mind you’ll need to pay for parking everyday. Check hotels.com for options.

  2. The buses are free but budget in wait times due to it being peak season. I’ve heard the run very frequently.

  3. I’ve never personally done the dining plan but I think if your family aren’t big eaters you might want to skip it. If you plan on staying offsite there are soooooo many options from fast food to really nice restaurants to choose from.

As far as how much the trip is going to cost that’s a very difficult question. I’m thinking about $2,000 between hotels, meals, park tickets and misc things.

Welcome to DC and I hope you have a great trip!


Fisrt off welcome to DC! I do have to ask is there anyway you can change your dates to some other week?? Being at WDW July 4th is a nice idea, but after too many July’s there (my bday is 16th July!) I have learned that no I don’t want to go to wdw at that time.

It is cheaper to stay offsite and there are many nice hotels off site. You do get the transportation by staying onsite and can take the bus where ever you need to go. Plus if you have your own car and stay at a wdw resort parking is free. Its just personal preference, most people will tell you to stay onsite, but if you can get a suite offsite for the price of a value onsite… like I said its personal preference. With the kids it may be better for you to use the cars instead of taking/waiting for the buses.

Both are free if you are a resort guest, I guess I coulda answered the question in one if I had scrolled down.

With me and my DW we budget about $80 a day, but thats for one table service meal and whatever else we want. If you just constantly do burgers and fries maybe it would be less. Here is another factor for staying off property most national chains are outside of wdw property. So if the kids are picky eaters then you have restaurants and food that wont be new to them. Just remember prices in WDW are a lot higher than say eating at an Olive Garden, so the average entree is $20+ and about $40+ for a CM or dinner show. (My prices may be off, since I haven’t been in a little while.)There are many wonderful restaurants on prop so if you stayed in a budget resort it may be worth it to invest in the dining plan.

That being said it’s all personal preference
Onsite- free transportation and parking, easier access too parks and of course having that disney theming, but smaller rooms and the feeling of having to stay on prop to dine
Offsite-Bigger rooms, cheaper prices, easier to just go to a national chain restaurant but farther from wdw, having to deal with parking, plus Holiday inn is holiday inn so no theming!


Welcome to DC! Hope we can help with your vacation. You’re already on the right track by realizing that a successful fun WDW trip requires planning and educating yourself - believe me - it will pay off.

My dd and I just returned from an impromptu trip to WDW today! We had a wonderful time. This is the first time I’ve ever gone without my dh and we had to rely to Disney transportation. It was WONDERFUL! We never waited more than 15 minutes to go anywhere by bus. Granted, you will be there at a busier time - but I still would go with Disney transportation. And you will have your car in case you need it. I would definitely urge you to stay on-site. Kids just love Disney resorts and you never have to leave the “magic” - Disney resorts just make vacations more special. With children it’s just so much easier - and taking the children on the Disney transportation is a breeze. As noted above - parking is free in all parks if you stay at a Disney resort. You also have the convenience of returning to your resort throughout the day, if you find it necessary to take a break - and in July - you’ll need a break. As for dining - my dd and I decided to do only counterservice restaurants this trip and it was wonderful - Disney has come a long way from “burgers” and “fries”. You can find some great food at the counter-service restaurants and that will save you a bundle of money. The rotisserie chicken at Tusker House is wonderful and comes with green beans and mashed potatoes for less than $10.00 and it would certainly feed two children. All the counterservice restaurants of the World Showcase at Epcot offer lots of interesting choices and usually pleasant little patios to eat on. As for a character meal - of course you should do one - but just one - Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Hotel is a great character meal - breakfast or dinner. The characters are so available in the parks now - your kids are guaranteed to meet all their favourites.


HI! :c)

You’ve come to the right place :c)

  1. It can be cheaper to stay off site - but, you will have to pay for parking - which is 7 or 8 dollars a day. A great value resort is POP Century - and you can probably get it for less than 100 dollars a night - I’m not sure what you’re looking to spend. :c)

  2. The transportation onsite is reliable and decent. It is also free. With 3 kids, I would not want to drive, because you have to walk so far in the parking lot. With onsite transportation you get dropped off “at the door” (so to speak)

  3. Meals. This is a big question - we also have 3 children around the same age - and we normally spend around 100 dollars a day. Between 30-40 dollars per counter service meal. That’s with the baby sharing and not getting her own meal.

A sit down dinner normally cost us around 80-90, plus tip.

The great thing about the dining plan is your tax and tip are INCLUDED.

THere is a great website www.allearsnet.com that has ALL the restaurants menus WITH PRICES - this is a great way to plan what you might eat, and see if it is cost-effective for you to go without the dining plan :c)

No matter what - you’re going to have a great time - however, a little bit of planning can go a VERY LONG way. IT can make the stress of your vacation disappear.

Another tip I have for you is to look up the maps to each park you want to visit, and PICK your must do’s before hand…this will save you SO much time, and in the busier summer time - it can help you get it all done :c)


Wow…you guys are quick and extremely helpful. I am feeling a bit better. Just still not sure of the dining plan. I guess the problem is buying it, then not using the 500 bucks worth of food, or not buying it and having to pinch pennies for meals. I feel stuck between a rock and a boulder! Does the Pop Century rooms have a fridge? I was thinking of taking an electric cooler to keep in the room for lunch meat meals and drinks, etc. That would save big money I am sure. Although, rethinking that idea…would it be worth getting back on buses to go to resort and eat, and then get back on buses to go back to park? How hard would it be? May be a good break though in July. I wish we could change dates, but my husbands company shuts down that week, so that is about the only time we could go. Otherwise, I would change for sure. Any suggestions…please let me know!!! I am obviously a rookie and need all the help I can get. Thanks again!!! Jamie


You can get a small fridge for $10 a day, but I think you’re prob better off with your electric cooler since the fridges are your typical mini fridges that will hold a couple soda/water bottles.
Oh and no you do not want to try and do the whole back and forth from the parks for lunch. If you are doing that I suggest just going to a local resort and eating at their restaurants. I love being at say Epcot and taking a water taxi to either the boardwalk or Yacht and Beach and eating at their restaurants. Its more convenient than you think, plus gives you a reason to snoop out the resorts as they are beautiful themselves!
Use the meal plan, I don’t think you would waste the food, since $500 worth of food isn’t really that much at wdw. Seriously on days where I only get junk food (cokes, funnel cakes, turkey legs, etc.) and nothing else I still run up my tab well over $50 per day and thats with me and DW getting 2 drinks and 2 snacks each time.
I just don’t know about 5 of you being in a room together. The values are very small, what about 266 sq ft? With so many people and only one bathroom, eh but there’s always the resort lobby! I should know I’ve been kicked out of my room at one of the all stars because people have been bathroom hogs!


The value resorts don’t have fridges in the rooms,so if you were planning to bring an electric cooler,do that. Welcome to DC!!!


Welcome to DC! I am confident you will find all the help you need here! have fun planning!


You’ve already gotten some great advice here! I just want to be the next to welcome you to DC!


Welcome to DC!! :cool:


Welcome Jaljayjar!!!

You’re doing the right thing by checking DC out. I was here constantly when I was planning my first trip last year. Great info. I have only been that once but I’ll give what info I have.
We stayed at Pop and really liked it. The room did not have a fridge (we brought a small cooler) and was on the small side. We were fine with 4 people myself, DH, DS 14, DD 7. We used the buses and that worked pretty good. One thing to keep in mine is that the All star resorts share a bus ( i believe) because the lines at night leaving the parks were much longer for those resorts. We were there in June which is busy season and very hot and the night we left MK at closing some people in the all star lines must have waited a good hour for a bus the line was so long. With three kids and 90 degree weather that may not be so fun. However getting out of the parking lot probably isn’t either.

We used the buses the whole trip and went back to the resort every afternoon because it was so hot. I will say I have alot of pictures of us “waiting for the bus again” but hey it’s all good at Disney!!

We used the dining plan. It worked for us. We did 3 character meals and had dinner at The Canada steakhouse. Loved it. I really never checked prices to figure out if we saved money but it was so convenient to just give them the card and not have to worry about money and tips. With your kids being younger and sharing meals you may not need it. But we’ll definitely do it again.

Enjoy checking DC out and have fun planning. I’m in the planning process for next January and I love coming here cuz I know no one rolls their eyes and says “but it’s still a year away” :wink:

Web Shows


Another thing about the dining plan is - you’re getting a dessert and a snack every day, per person, so you can grab stuff and save it and use it for breakfast, or a drink in the room, etc.


It could break down something like this:

Breakfast in the room - because you brought it from home (assuming) 0 dollars
snacks for baby brought from home 0 dollars

Lunch at park - Counter Service - (conservative figure) 35.00 x 6 = 210.00
1 snack a day per person - 10.00 x 6 = 60.00
CS for dinner 4 nights - 35.00 x6 = 210.00
2 sit down dinners - 20.00 per adult, 10 per child (average) x 2 = 120.00 PLUS tip.

grand total: 600 plus your tip for the two sit down dinners

If you do the dining plan - it’s 500 for the week, but you get a sit down dinner every night, and the tip is included.

Am I right on my calculations, y’all?


I will only point out that Character Meals, that you expressed interest in, is more like 40 per adult and 15 per child… THEY ARE COVERED IN THE DINING PLAN!!

I am in the same boat and planning away… however, it is our 3rd trip… it will be our 2nd time on site… while I guess it can be cheaper off site… I keep a budget and our first trip was off site and we only had 3 individuals… the second trip we had 4 and stayed on site and it was a difference of 100.00! So I am not convinced that you save BIG money by staying off site once you figure parking, fuel, and not to mention the time you spend to get to and from! The accomodations were different… we had much more space in the room, however, how long do you plan to be in the room… even when we are at the resort… we are at the POOL! So not a big deal to us…

I do have another option for you to consider… Like you need more options, and it may be too late… but DVC (Disney Vacation Club) is where people buy into time share through Disney… We are renting points from an owner and staying at a DELUX resort for the same price that we are staying at All Star Movies… it’s cheaper to stay at the resort on the weekends… Anyway just another option… if you want more info… I’m sure DC is the place to find it!! :excl:



Hello and welcome. From what I understand, I would recommend staying on site, but not going with the food plan. It works for us, but my guys are older and the boys would eat road kill if I warmed it with some hot sauce.
The cooler/fridge in the room worked for me when my guys were the same age as yours.

Buy a guide. The Unofficial guide will work well to get you comfortable with stuff. Relax, you have planty of time.