What is Worth the Money?
Are you planning a Disney vacation on a budget? Are you hoping to not be a total cheapskate but stay in control with your spending? We recently took a trip to Disney where we really focused on spending our money wisely. We wanted to focus on value, both from a money and experience standpoint. One of the things that we decided at the beginning was to be very reasonable when it came to our choice of hotels. We chose one of the value-priced resorts, Disney’s Art of Animation. Despite being labeled a “value-resort”, we were blown away by the quality of the hotel, food, and pool.
Our main goal for our trip was to get the most experience we could for our buck. We went to Disney in February with the intent of spending most of our times at the park. So, we decided to invest our Disney money in experiences! Wondering what to focus your Disney splurge on, even if you are planning your Disney vacation on a budget? If you are planning a Disney vacation and looking for a few things to invest your Disney dollars in, read below for my 5 top Disney splurges that are totally worth it!
Splurge #1: Character Dining
There is no shortage of options for character dining at Disney. You definitely will want to do your research and depending on how many days you will be spending at the park and your budget, rank your favorites by character and cuisine. You really can’t go wrong at character dining from a food perspective. Some character meals are buffets while others are family-style. WDW Prep School has a great listing of character dining pros and cons too!
We’ve been to a number of character dining meals and to determine which character meal is best for you and your budget, I would do the following:
Character Dining Tip #1: Decide on which characters you want to see.
With two girls, our house is princess-central. So Cinderella’s Royal table was definitely a splurge-worthy meal for us. We decided to book our dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table the same days the girls did the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. As many of the fun tees out there stated, it was definitely the “Most Expensive Day Ever” 🙂 But again, if you are going to Disney on a budget but you don’t want to be cheap, you have to plan your splurges. For us, this was completely worth it.
If your kids are smaller and more into Disney Junior, Hollywood & Vine is a great character meal with all of the Disney Junior faves, Doc McStuffins, Jake, Sophia the First, and Handy Manny.
Most of the character dining includes different classic Disney characters.
Character Dining Tip #2: Consider what time of day works best for your kids.
Character dining can happen at all mealtimes of the day. We’ve done both breakfast and dinner character dining and have used our quick service meals for lunch (or just for a snack if we had a big breakfast!) More to come on how to optimize your Disney meal plan. If you have little kids like I do, then breakfast is going to be your go-to. Kids are usually in good moods (hopefully!) and excited to see and take pictures with the characters. No matter what time of day, the characters are always excited to see your kids and take the time to interact with each one. The characters were very patient with us to take lots of photos, sign our autograph books, and just have fun interacting.
Character Dining Tip #3: Are you willing to go to the park for a specific character dining?
Many character dining experiences happen in certain parks. Hollywood & Vine is at Hollywood Studios, Cinderella’s Royal Table is at Magic Kingdom, and Garden Grill Restaurant is at Epcot, just to name a few. When you are making reservations, consider the parks you are wanting to go to. There are many options for character dining outside of the parks also. One of our favorite character dining experiences is at Disney’s Beach Club Resort at the Cape May Cafe. Minnie, Goofy and Donald all appear in their beach gear!
There are also several non-character dining options that are completely amazing. Be sure to add Ohana and Be our Guest to your list of must-visits!
Click below to pin our favorite character dining restaurants at Disney World!
Wondering if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it? This post has this question answered!
Splurge #2 Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirate’s League!
If you have a girl between three and twelve and you are headed to Disney, then I’m sure you’ve considered the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. In case you haven’t heard of it the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a beauty salon that transforms your princess into her favorite princess. There are a variety of packages to choose from, but each really is a special moment for your little girl. If you are looking for the boutique experience but are also minding your budget, the Crown Package includes hair & makeup. You can bring your own dress from home and have a pretty awesome princess experience. The Castle Package adds the princess costume and accessories. Undercover Tourist did a great overview of each package. Whatever you choose, this is one Disney splurge that is completely worth it for your little girl. She gets the royal beauty treatment transforming her into a princess!
Boy moms don’t fret! There is something out there for boys too. Although I can’t say I’ve actually done the Pirates League, I saw some really awesome little dudes running around dressed as their own Jack Sparrow. Or, if your daughter isn’t really into the princesses, she can opt for the justice league too and transform into a pirate, empress or mermaid!
All of the options are really fun and take the experience over the top. There was just nothing like watching our daughters interact with the princesses while they felt like a princess themselves. Definitely worth the splurge!
Bonus tip! The Maune Legacy gave me the sneak peek into the Perfectly Princess Tea! A fun princess-filled experience that would be a perfect complement to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! This was completely new to me and I will definitely be adding to our must-do list for our text Disney trip!
Splurge #3: Exploring Parks Beyond the Magic Kingdom
But seriously, have you ever seen a giraffe this close up? Exploring beyond the Magic Kingdom is a must-do for every Disney visitor! The first time we took our oldest daughter to Disney we stuck to the Magic Kingdom for almost the whole trip. We figured that the other parks wouldn’t have things for our then almost two year old to do.
We couldn’t have been more wrong! Which again has me recommending to do your research! There is more than enough resources out there to figure out how to tailor your Disney trip to your family and your budget. You might be tempted to not add on a day at Animal Kingdom, thinking “It’s just a zoo, right?” when you couldn’t be more wrong.
Animal Kingdom quickly became one of our favorite parks this trip. Between the Kilimanjaro Safaris where you can see animals up close and personal, the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, and incredible food at eateries like Satuli Canteen and Tusker House, Animal Kingdom is not one to be missed!
One of our favorite things (that is completely free!) that our kids did this trip was the Wilderness Explorer challenge. You can collect over 30 badges throughout Animal Kingdom (and learn a ton in the process!) It’s completely free and was a really fun activity that our kids really enjoyed.
Animal Kingdom isn’t the only park to explore beyond the Magic Kingdom! Disney’s Hollywood Studios is awesome, especially if you have a Star Wars lover in your family. My niece and nephew got to participate in the Jedi Training Academy and actually encounter and fight Darth Vader. It totally made their day.
There is also Epcot, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and the completely free to visit (and newly remodeled) Disney Springs.
But as you can see, we still love the Magic Kingdom.
Splurge #4: Memory Maker
Being a photographer, one of the things I’ve always been so intrigued by is the Disney Memory Maker. I would wonder, is the Disney Memory Maker worth it? I will want to take my own photos, so why do I need it.
Well for one, being a photographer (and a mom) I’m usually the one taking the photos and rarely do I appear in them. So if you’re anything like me and actually would love to have that magical photo in front of the castle with your ENTIRE family, then the Memory Maker is a must. But, you might be thinking, are you really going to spend all of that money for ONE photo?
Of course not! That must-have castle photo was just one of hundreds of photos that we got from our Memory Maker. One of my favorite things about the Memory Maker is that it gives you the opportunity to get photos taken all around the parks. Photographers are more than happy to snap your photo, or a few of your kids. PhotoPass photographers are also in pretty much every character meet and greet. I absolutely loved this because rather than focusing on taking photos, I was able to really watch my girls interact with the characters and take in all of the magic. I was also able to video their interaction with my phone which I just love! My girls love to watch videos of themselves and we all get a kick out of reminiscing about our time at Disney.
My other favorite thing was that the Memory Maker includes the photos that are taken while you are on rides! It was really fun to get a photo of my younger daughter’s first roller coaster ride, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train!
Splurge #5: Reserved Parade Viewing with Tony’s Town Square Restaurant
Have you ever been to Disney before and walked right through the Town Square on your way down Main Street U.S.A? I know I have because we had our eyes on Cinderella’s Castle! It took a few times traveling to Disney before I realized that there is a Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant right in the Town Square. I was intrigued and did a bit of research about the restaurant and how we could add it to our dining plans for our trip. Plus, Lady and the Tramp is one of the cutest movies ever! Who doesn’t want to eat at the same restaurant as the infamous spaghetti scene?
What I didn’t realize is that Tony’s Town Square (the Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant) has a really awesome lunch and parade package. For those of you who have traveled to Disney before you know that parades are serious business. People start lining up well before the parade start time and crowds can be pretty intense in prime viewing spots. We definitely wanted to take in the parades, but are not a huge fan of spending our park time waiting for the parade to start or getting thatclose to other park goers. Tony’s Town Square has a bundled meal and parade viewing package where you can enjoy a three course lunch (honestly it’s huge and can count for your dinner too!) as well as reserved seating for the parade. We were able to get an awesome seat, right in front with no crowd!
These kids were pretty happy about their prime seating. And check out that view of the parade!! The characters that are walking interact with the people and kids on the street and the kids were really excited about Mr. Smee coming over to them during the parade.Thanks for checking out my 5 Top Disney Splurges! I hope you got some information to help you figure out what is worth spending your money on at Disney!
I would love for you to comment below and let me know what are some of your favorite things to include in your Disney Vacation!
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