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Think back to your first trip: What do you wish you’d known?  Was there a moment where you thought to yourself “I could have saved myself a lot of time (or money) if only I’d known that!” In my case, my first “real” trip came when I’d moved from Florida and was no longer taking quick day trips. There were so many things I didn’t think about when Disney World was just a few hours drive away.  John was wondering that too, so he put out a question on the Facebook page and here are some of your answers. I hope you find something you can use –or even pass on to a Disney newbie:

10.   Suzanne G. is a girl after my own heart. She advises to take a jacket (or a sweater), even if it’s supposed to be warm.  While you’re at it, bring a poncho too.  It’s probably going to rain at least once on your trip.

9.  Get to the Magic Kingdom at opening and make a beeline toward Fantasyland.  Sometimes you buck conventional wisdom; this is not one of those times. If you have little kids, you want to knock out Pooh and Peter Pan first since these rides are some of the most popular in all of the parks. After that you can take on the mountains.

8.  Stay on property.  I’ve found it’s hard to sell someone on Disney property if he or she is looking at the bottom line. If you’re purely interested in saving money, you can usually stay cheaper off site, but if you think that time is money, you might find quite the opposite:  That you actually save money by staying on property. So do the math, but always remember the convenience factor. It’s huge.

7.  Pace yourself: You can’t do it all in one trip.  Going completely “theme park commando” for days at a time is overrated.  Take in the little details, people watch, eat some good meals. It’s all part of the experience.

Poly

Okay, so it’s painfully obvious that I love Disney World, but even a diehard fan like me has the occasional head-scratching moment over some things that achieve cult status among Disney fans. Whether it’s food, a certain restaurant, or even a resort, I just don’t get it and I think I’m not the only one. Or at least I hope not.

Here are my top five overrated Disney things.

5. The Polynesian.
For years I’ve wondered why the Polynesian, which essentially looks like the hotel the Brady Bunch would have stayed in during their family trip to Hawaii if Mr. Brady wasn’t still paying alimony to his first wife, has such a cult following. Sure, it’s got a great pool and gorgeous landscaping. The way they light the grounds at night is breathtaking and, dare I say it, romantic. And you can’t beat the location on the Magic Kingdom monorail. Beyond that, however, it’s kind of underwhelming: Dark rooms, dated furniture, and a small lobby. And I’m pretty sure that 90% of the plugs in the rooms don’t even work.

It happens a lot: You’re hot and tired and without thinking, you grab your Key to the World Card and pay for a nice cold drink using your dining plan snack credits. What’s wrong with that, you wonder? Well, a drink costs around $2.59 and your credit is worth about $5. If you have extra credits to burn, it’s fine to use them on less expensive items like drinks, but if you’re like most people, you’ll want to save those credits for more expensive purchases. In our family, we’ve got a “no drinks” rule when it comes to snack credits. That’s probably the easiest way to make sure you don’t waste credits, but beyond that rule, there are even better ways to get your money’s worth.

You’ll get the most mileage out of your snack credits by buying cupcakes, Mickey bars, funnel cakes, and pretzels. Most candies in Epcot’s heavenly ode to all things caramel, Karamell Kuche, are one snack credit, and for that you get a treat that’s big enough to share. Nearly every elaborate cupcake, croissant, cinnamon roll, and brownie in Hollywood Studios Starring Rolls Bakery is also one credit. If you know you’re going to have a carrot cake cookie for a mid-afternoon snack and a funnel cake with ice cream later that day, you’ll want to find out which item costs more and use your credit for that. It may only be a small amount of money, but over multiple days with multiple people in your party, it can really tip the scale in your favor as far as savings go.

If deciding where to stay on Disney property were as simple as sticking to your budget, you’d book a value room and be done with it. After all, they’re clean, comfortable, and give you all the benefits of staying on Disney property while still being kind to your wallet. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Staying at a Disney resort is half the fun of visiting Walt Disney World, with each resort offering a unique feeling and experiences that make choosing downright difficult. Need a little help in deciding where to stay next time? Then try the following suggestions:

1. Set a budget within your comfort zone. Sure, you can probably swing $3500 for a week at the Grand Floridian, but how does that make you feel? If it makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s not the right resort for you even if you can afford it. The nice thing about staying within your budget is that it allows you to potentially say yes to a lot of other things, whether its tickets to a holiday party, a toy your child wants, or a big dinner at a signature restaurant.

You may be using group discount coupon websites in your local town for some big savings, but have you considered taking advantage of those same great savings when you’re on vacation? Most popular destinations like Anaheim and Orlando have tons of great deals that are perfect for savings.

Half-Off Depot frequently has deals with 50% off savings on Kissimmee and Orlando area attractions and hotels.

Groupon Orlando has more restaurant deals, but they also have been known to include an attractions or water park deal every now and then. Los Angeles and Orange County are definitely worth checking out if you’re planning a trip to Disneyland.

LivingSocial also has Orlando and Orange County deals. I’ve found some really great vacation bargains via LivingSocial.

Even if you don’t see any deals you’re interested, make sure you sign up for email alerts to any city you plan to visit in the next 6 months or so to see if great deals appear. However, keep in mind these points:

  1. Some deals don’t activate immediately. So read the deal carefully before buying.
  2. Read all the requirements and the expiration date before buying. A deal that saves $10 off a $20 purchase but requires a $50 purchase from the whole table, may not be a good deal. Likewise, a deal that expires in September, but your vacation is in October, won’t work.
  3. Don’t over plan. Part of being on vacation is having flexibility, if you have a group coupon for every day of your vacation, you’ll miss out on some of the serendipity.