Four upgrades to splurge on plus two to skip.
My husband and I are unabashed Disney World Fans. During our eight years of marriage, we’ve visited the park six times. I feel it’s important to point out that we did not honeymoon at Disney. We’re not those people. We’re just people with a slightly higher than normal tolerance for exhausting ourselves at a theme park, especially one with Mickey ears. Throughout the years, we’ve learned through trial and error which Disney World upgrades are worth it and which ones aren’t. You’re welcome for sharing this life-altering research with you.
RENTING A CAR
Disney waxes poetic about its shuttle system and for an amusement park, I’ll admit it’s pretty efficient. But the main issue still stands: If you’re taking the Disney shuttle, you’re at the mercy of their schedule instead of your own. Having a car on site has saved our day (and marriage) multiple times. You only need to stand in a crowded shuttle line in the rain for 45 minutes once to realize that everyone who rented a car is already showered and watching a movie in their hotel room.
Not worth it.
Disney Resorts have their own tiered system: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. While Deluxe is the most expensive, we’ve learned that it isn’t always the most luxurious. Many of the resorts are outdated, and prices are often based on the view from the window rather than the quality of the room. As a rule of thumb, I try to find a resort that has been recently renovated. Any resort with freshly renovated rooms typically features wooden floors, nicer bedding, and refreshed amenities that will make your stay feel lux for a lower price.
PARK HOPPER PASSES
Park Hopper Passes can add a few hundred dollars to each ticket and for such a big mark-up, people often wonder if this Disney upgrade is worth it. Even with two kids under three, we found ourselves hitting a minimum of two separate parks per day. For us, it’s Magic Kingdom for rides, Epcot for food, Hollywood Studios for shows, and Animal Kingdom for scenery.
Not worth it.
Dining and restaurants within the park vary from counter service to sit-down, and while I’m a foodie at my core, I’ve never experienced a sit-down restaurant inside Disney world that was worth the hype. Plus, the meals cost an average $50/person. If I’m buying a $200 meal, I don’t want it to be from an amusement park.
While the sit-down dining options in the park are lacking, the options in Downtown Disney are fantastic. They offer fine dining with high quality food, and while you pay more than you normally would, it’s significantly better than the park food. We tend to eat our one “real” meal of the day in Downtown Disney.
STAYING ON DISNEY PROPERTY
This one can be a bit controversial, but I stand by it. Staying on property unlocks several perks that we find essential: proximity to the parks, hotel meal plans, fast passes, extra magic hours, Magic Bands, and the ability to stay fully immersed in the “Disney Experience.” All these serve as motivators to keep us from ever staying off property.
What are your favorite Disney tips?
Erin Jackson is the co-founder of Raise. She's a mother of two, wife, daughter, step-daughter, half sister, step-sister, proud millennial, and lover of travel. She also works as a marketing consultant and interior designer. When she's not working, you can find her planning her next trip, baking muffins, pretending she's going to go for a run, and avoiding playing Star Wars with her kids. She currently lives in Arkansas with her husband, Collin, and sons, Beckham and Reeves.