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5 Top Disney Splurges that are Worth the Money

March 12, 2018

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Review of Disney Splurges Worth the Money
Review of Disney Splurges Worth the Money

Top 5 Disney Splurges

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.

Review of Disney Splurges Worth the Money

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

Mickey at Chef Mickey's
The girls with Mickey at Chef Mickey’s

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 list 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!

Disney Character Dining with Donald Duck

Wondering if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it?  This post has this question answered!

Splurge #2 Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirate’s League!   

Girl in Snow White Costume
Transformed to Snow White!       

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!

Hairstyle at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Sleeping Beauty in Progress

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

Giraffe at Disney Animal Kingdom
Giraffe Spotting on Kilimanjaro Safaris

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.

Girl in Princess Dress on Teacup Ride
Who can resist this little face on the teacups??

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!

Kids at Parade at Disney
Happy Parade-goers!
Festival of Fantasy Parade Disney World
Belle and the Beast leading the Festival of Fantasy Parade

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!

One of the easiest ways to manage your vacation spending is to get your finances in line and start to save monthly for it!  Need simple budget advice?  Check out this page for a free download a simple budget!

Review of Disney Splurges Worth the Money

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  • Amanda

    March 13, 2018 at 9:33 am

    If we ever go to Disney I will keep these things in mind


      March 13, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Absolutely! Hope you make it there someday! It’s such a fun place!

  • Courtney

    March 13, 2018 at 9:56 am

    These are great tips. I don’t have kids but I consider myself a kid at heart. My friend and I are hoping to go to Disney next year and will have to take these tips with me!


      March 13, 2018 at 10:54 am

      If you are looking for restaurants without characters, Ohana is by far my fave non-character dining. But honestly, take your friend and your appetite to the Garden Grill, it was SO good!!!

      1. Shelley

        June 12, 2018 at 3:38 pm

        We did Ohana for Breakfast and it had characters… Mickey, Pluto, Lilo and Stitch! The food is so amazing, we’re going again this time in dec.


          June 12, 2018 at 3:43 pm

          oh so fun!!!! what did they have for the food for breakfast? We were there for dinner!

  • Lacy

    March 13, 2018 at 10:21 am

    I was so excited to read this post and it did not disappoint! Yes to all of it!!!! We do everything on the list except getting the parade spot, but we will definitely try this next time! Great list!


      March 13, 2018 at 10:53 am

      Oh good!!! I’m so glad it could help! Yes, definitely check out the parade reserved seating, it was perfect!

  • Ashley Stephenson

    March 13, 2018 at 11:01 am

    My friend is planning on taking her little girl to Disney for the first time this Fall – I will definitely be sharing this with her!


      March 13, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks for sharing! I hope they have a great time!

  • Alice

    March 13, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Great list! I’m all about the character dining! So many great options at Disney.


      March 13, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      Character dining is our favorite!!!

      1. Shelley

        June 12, 2018 at 3:35 pm

        Our favorite character dining was at EPCOT. Norway’s Akershaus had amazing food and I got all of the princesses coming to our table while we ate.


          June 12, 2018 at 3:44 pm

          I’ve heard such good things about Akershaus!!! glad you enjoyed!

  • Cassie |White Sands and Cool Breezes

    March 13, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for these great suggestions. We just started to think about going to Disney and there’s so much. This definitely helps with planning!


      March 13, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      How exciting!!! Have you gone before?

  • Chelsie

    March 13, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    This is great information! It’s so overwhelming to go to Disney and see all of the things you can spend your money on, so it’s awesome to have a guide and details on how to pick the best!


      March 13, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      I agree!! there is so much information sometimes it’s hard to know!

  • Tierney

    March 13, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Love this! As a former Disney cast member, I think you e hit a lot of the great spots! I definitely suggest staying on property so you have easy access to all of he parks, plus extra magic hours.


      March 13, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      So jealous that you were a cast member!!! Where did you work?

  • Summer

    March 13, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Oh my gosh… the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique looks SO FUN! When I have kids (hopefully a girl), totally doing this!


      March 14, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      it’s the cutest place ever!

  • adriana

    March 13, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    The character themed meals are MUSTS for kids! Disney is such an experience, the splurges are worth it! 😉


      March 14, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      I completely agree!!

  • Erica @ Coming Up Roses

    March 14, 2018 at 7:30 am

    OMG I hadn’t heard of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique before but it looks + sounds ADORABLE…what a treat for little girls!!!


      March 14, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      they just love it!!!

  • This Messy Season

    March 14, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I completely agree with all of these suggestions!


      March 14, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      thanks for checking it out!

  • Denisha

    March 14, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Absolutely loved your list of splurges for Disney!! We’ve taken our girls twice, and haven’t done the character dining or makeovers yet. I had no clue about the reserved “seating” and lunch for the parade! So worth not having to fight the crowds for little ones to see the characters. Thanks for sharing!


      March 14, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      I agree!! it made such a difference. Hope you add on character dining next visit, you’ll love it!

  • Ashley

    March 16, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for the tips. We are south Floridians and will spend lots of time at Disney with our kiddos. This is very helpful.


      March 19, 2018 at 10:37 am

      hope you have a great time Ashley!

  • Amy Jogan

    March 18, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Love all of these and I had no idea about reserve lunch & parade. One additional I would add is Dessert Fireworks with reserved seating. Especially good if traveling with guests that can’t stand or fight for a fireworks space. It was good desserts & great viewing location all with no fighting the people.


      March 19, 2018 at 10:37 am

      I saw that when we where there and thought how great it would be! I wish my girls liked the fireworks but they hate loud noises. I actually watched them by myself the last night we were there and my husband sat with them inside of Pinocchio’s 🙂 Maybe when they’re older I’d love to do this! thanks for the idea, I’m sure it was amazing!

    2. Cara

      April 14, 2018 at 10:58 am

      Where is this? We are planning our first trip the week after Thanksgiving with our soon to be 5 year old little girl… we want it to be fun and not stressful and still allow her to experience all of the amazing things Disney has to offer!!


        April 16, 2018 at 9:59 am

        If you are going the week after Thanksgiving you will definitely want to consider Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! I’m going to be blogging about this soon, its an awesome Disney add-on!

  • April L.

    March 19, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    We are going to Disney next week!! Chef Mickey is my favorite character dining so far. We are having breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table the first day. I’ve not done that one and I’m so excited. Still trying to decide on memory maker. My Mom is taking me and my 2 best friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. Ha. Me and my best friends could not have children, so this is also a celebration of our friendships.


      March 20, 2018 at 10:00 am

      oh my goodness I’m so jealous!!! this trip sounds just amazing!! You gals are going to have such a great time! Happy Birthday!

  • Ashley Leach

    March 19, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    We spent this last week at Disney for spring break. I 100% agree with the character dining. My kids are 4 and 2 and we chose a restaurant for lunch with Mickey and friends and it did not disappoint. The kids were in awe of all the characters and loved that they came up to them vs waiting in line to see them. Character dining is a must!
    Also, yes to going to other parks. Next to the Magic Kingdom, we had the most fun at Epcot, rides were slow for the kids and they loved them plus Princesses everywhere! I had no intention of staying there the whole day, we didn’t leave until after their night show and fireworks.


      March 20, 2018 at 10:01 am

      I wish we would have had more time at Epcot! Our flight was delayed so we ended up not having much time there. There’s always next time though right? Have you eaten at the Garden Grill there? So good!!

  • Tabbie

    April 6, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    BBB was our absolute favorite part of Disney world. They also do boys there as princes. My 8 year old son got his hair styled like a prince and got a cape and sword. It was such an awesome experience and so worth the money!


      April 9, 2018 at 9:54 am

      That is awesome!! I’m so glad that he had a great time too. What a fun time!

  • Melissa Nicholson

    April 11, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    I agree with everything but the memory maker we went in January there wasn’t a lot of photographers out and when you found one you had to wait in line to get a picture. The pics were nice but it wasn’t worth the time.


      April 16, 2018 at 9:59 am

      That’s a bummer!! I do know that Main Street USA is very busy so there are usually lines to get photos in front of the castle!

  • Chelsey

    June 21, 2019 at 11:54 pm

    Do you feel the memory maker is worth it even though the cast members will use your camera for free for you? We have not travelled to world yet but visited land for the 60th. I loved having my camera and just bought a few of the really good ones before our trip ended. I’m a huge photo person and I’m trying to start figuring out what’s a must and what’s not for our trip to world.


      June 22, 2019 at 10:15 am

      I absolutely feel like it’s worth it. I have shot professional photography for the past 8 years and have been to Disney when I”ve had it and also not had it. The first time I went I lugged my big camera around. While I got some pretty artistic and beautiful shots, it was kind of a pain to lug it around and I was worried about it the whole time. When I had the Memory Maker I was able to enjoy the moments my kids were having while someone else was capturing it. If that makes sense. After having been there a few times I realized that I wanted to enjoy that part of it more than taking tons of photos myself.

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