Every time I go to Walt Disney World, I buy a t-shirt. On our last trip, I bought two t-shirts, a golf shirt, and a sweat shirt, so it’s not unusual to spot me in Disney gear on any given weekend. Well this past weekend, I was in a local store wearing my Disney golf shirt minding my own business when a woman approached and asked me which Disney store I bought it in. I told her I bought the shirt at Mouse Gear in Epcot. When I said that, her eyes opened real wide, and she had this silly grin on her face. She said she’s a single mom to a young boy who is thinking about taking him for his and her first ever Disney vacation.
The woman was asking me all sorts of questions about Disney World. She then told me a friend mentioned Disney’s free dining offer but she didn’t know any of the details. I described it to her and told her it can be a great deal depending on whether or not there are any room discounts available. I explained when Disney offers free dining you usually wind up paying full rack rate (full price) for your room. I told her she should see what room and package discounts may be available and calculate which would be a better deal, free dining or the discount. Usually, you can save more with a room or package discount, and you’re better off paying for the dining plan.
I was also asked where I would recommend she stay with her son. Having spent a week this summer at Pop Century, I said it was a great place for families with young children if you’re looking at a budget resort. At the moderate resort level, I told her about Caribbean Beach with its Nemo and Pirate themed rooms. I also mentioned if she is looking for a more relaxed and quiet atmosphere, there was no better choice than Port Orleans French Quarter. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the parks, and it has an amazingly themed pool. As for the deluxe resorts, although I have dined at several of them, I have yet to stay at one, so I was uncomfortable recommending any to her.
Another commonly asked question came up, when is the best time to go? I mentioned my favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World is in November during the New Jersey teacher convention week. It’s held during the week of Election Day and elementary and middle school students have a few days off but as far as I know free dining isn’t being offered that week. Now, I don’t recommend parents take their children out of class. That’s a decision parents should make based on their own family’s criteria. The temperatures that time of year are warm during the day but not Animal Kingdom hot and at night it can get cool enough where you might need a light jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt. It’s also when Epcot’s World Showcase hosts the Food & Wine Festival, my personal favorite. Also, the attraction lines are minimal to non-existent making touring the parks a breeze.
We further discussed a good time to visit Disney. I told her the park crowds are much lighter toward the end of August when children in many states return to the classroom, and it gets even less crowded after Labor Day until Thanksgiving week then levels off again until Christmas week. She then mentioned February, and I said I have never been to Disney that time of year, but after New Year’s Day the crowds are light until schools let out for summer with the exception of holiday weekends, winter and spring school breaks, and Easter week. I informed her about the need to plan, especially if she and her son go to Disney during the free dining promo.
I didn’t discuss advance dining reservations (“ADRs”) because I thought her head might explode from information overload. As it was, some of the information seemed to overwhelm her but I could sense through her excitement she understood there was a lot more to planning a Disney vacation than hotel reservations and park tickets. I stressed the importance of using a Disney travel expert and purchasing a certain guide book.
She thanked me for taking the time to answer her questions, and in turn I thanked her because the best part of being a Disney fan is helping others find a little magic in the place we all love.
Contributed by: Stuart S. (NDD #47). Stuart is our resident Disney geek and creator of Disney Geek Dad.