6 Tips for Visiting Disney as a Florida Resident

Photo by Kayla at Mommy of a Princess.

As a Florida native, I grew up going to Disney quite a bit. I still remember being restless with excitement the night before a trip, and I still have that feeling of nostalgia when I hear “When you Wish Upon a Star.” I HEART Disney so much for so many different reasons, and I want my kids to have the same great memories of Disney that I have! We are so lucky as Florida residents to have several perks to take advantage of that make Disney even more enjoyable (and affordable) than it is for many others — and the short drive is only the beginning! Here are a few of my tips for taking on Disney as a Florida resident:

1. DO NOT go during peak seasons!

Yes, I am literally screaming this at you. Do NOT go to Disney over Christmas, Spring Break, Easter, really any holiday or, God forbid, SUMMER!! Crowds and waits can make for a miserable trip. We are lucky to live 2.5 hours away. Pick a random weekend and go, or better yet, if you can miss work and take the kids out of school, go on a random Tuesday or Wednesday. You will get to enjoy so much more and get so much more for your money.

2. Don’t try to do it all in one trip.

That’s what’s so great about living so close. Depending on what ticket you get (see no. 3 below) you can come back and try something different on a different day. Kids are so overwhelmed by Disney as it is; there is no reason to push your kids (and yourself) into meltdown mode. Choose a park or two and stick with that. Give yourself time for just strolling and enjoying the setting. (Did I mention Disney is the BEST ever for people watching? Hands down. Ever!) There is a lot to be said about enjoying the not-so-popular attractions and just taking it all in. Fast passes and dining reservations (more details below) really make this doable and help you enjoy your time in the parks!

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3. Take advantage of ticket deals for residents.

Disney is always running specials and ticket deals for Florida residents. Pay attention to the fine print, though, as some blackout days apply. For example, right now for a limited time, Florida residents can enjoy three days at a Walt Disney World theme park for $159 per person, plus tax with a Florida Resident 3-Day Ticket and have the option of adding a 4th day for just $20 more! These days do not have to be used together. So you could do two days this weekend and then two days, say, in May! They do, however, have an expiration date.

If you know you will be visiting Disney more than two times this year and want the ability to visit more than one park a day, becoming a Passholder is the way to do it! Disney offers the Seasonal Pass to Florida residents, which excludes peak-season time (and we don’t want to go then anyway, right!?) There are a variety of annual passes to choose from that range from Water Park-only passes to full Disney Platinum passes. You can also make payments, which makes paying for passes a lot more palatable when you are not dropping well over a grand in one day for a family of four. To me, these are by far the best way to go.

4. Call 1-407-W-DISNEY to make hotel reservations.

If you want to stay on property (and by this I mean at a Disney-run hotel vs. a Hilton or Marriott) call 1-407-W-DISNEY to make the reservation. Do not go on Disney website to do it; call and ask for a Florida resident rate at the hotel of your choice. Disney runs specials on hotels all the time for us Floridians, and calling and speaking to an actual person will help you quickly compare rates and see what discounts are available. Disney’s website for making hotel reservations isn’t the best.  So go old school on this one and talk to a real person!

Now, I am not saying you MUST stay on property; we stay off property plenty, but it does have its perks. First, you will be provided transportation to all the parks through buses, boats, and the monorail. (This for kids is a treat in itself.) Second, you’ll have access to “Extra Magic Hours.” These “extra hours” allow you access to the parks before or after hours, when everyone else who is NOT staying at a Disney property must leave. For those with littles, the morning extra magic hours are amazing! Parks with Extra Magic Hours change, so check the schedule here before your trip to plan accordingly. Lastly, the best reason for staying on property currently is that you and your family will get this beauty…

Photo by Kayla at Mommy of a Princess.

…the Magic Band! Disney’s latest and greatest rollout of awesome technology. These bracelets are your room key, your credit card, your park ticket, your photo pass… EVERYTHING you will possibly need at the park (besides your phone/camera — though I imagine that will come in the future). Right now only people staying in Disney hotels will get these Magic Bands. Then you can download Disney’s My Disney Experience App and plan your trip with fast passes, dining reservations, etc., and all information is saved on the chip in your band. It’s seriously awesome — click here for more info about the Magic Bands.

5. Make dining reservations ahead of time — trust me.

This is still something that a lot of people, especially us Floridians who plan last-minute trips, often fail to do. Then we get to the park and are all huffy and puffy that there are no available tables at any of the sit-down restaurants. Disney’s online dining reservation system is fantastic now! Like I said, you can download an app on your phone (my Disney Experience) and have access to dining reservations at your fingertips. ALL sit-down restaurants on Disney property take reservations, and they pretty much all require a credit-card number to hold them. So you must cancel in advance or be charged a fee.tables in wonderland card

6. Get a “Tables in Wonderland” card.

This is a secret all Florida residents should be taking advantage of, especially if you have a large family and plan to visit often. This little card costs you $175 ($150 if you are a Passholder), but saves you 20% off your entire meal including alcoholic beverages. They do add an 18% gratuity, but the card will pay for itself quickly. It has saved my family a lot of money at Disney, AND you get FREE valet when visiting hotels or theme parks for dining purposes. The last perk of this little card is you get invited to all these wonderful seated dinners and wine pairings that different chefs do at various venues on property throughout the year. You can get your “Tables in Wonderland” card at any guest relations desk at the entrances to the parks. Click here for a list of participating restaurants and more info.

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14 Responses to 6 Tips for Visiting Disney as a Florida Resident

  1. Erica Jan 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    As a passholder and frequent Disney-goer, I not only love this blog, but totally agree and can vouch for all! There are so many things to take advantage of! Great post!

  2. Emily Feb 1, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Yes! We are planning a trip there next Feb (2015) for my husbands 50th. Our kids will be 7, 4, and 1. Can you suggest where to stay? I had been looking at Disney’s Port Orleans resort….? I have probably going to Disney World over 50 times but never ever stayed over… So tips for staying over and where to stay would be amazing… Thank you! PS – yes we’re going to go during the week.

    • Kacey Roache Feb 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

      So fun! I LOVE Port Orleans. In fact, as far as moderate hotels go, it is my favorite. Lovely property and you can choose from 2 sides, either The French Quarter or The Riverside. The French Quarter is themed after the french New Orlean’s architecture and The Riverside is more the southern plantation style architecture. They are both great! If you have girls, some rooms in the Riverside section have been redone into “princess rooms” They are really neat with fiberoptic fireworks on the headboards over your beds.

      Another suggestion for a family of 5 is Fort Wilderness. It is also considered a moderate resort. If your husband likes the rustic, outdoors type thing, this is a FUN resort. It has become one of my and my kids favorite places. Instead of rooms, you stay in “cabins”. Check them out online. But the cabins come with a queen bed, a bunk bed, and a pull out full size murphy bed. They have a living room and a full kitchen which is awesome with babies and kids. If you look into the cabins, I would recommend renting a golf cart for the week as well. This makes it much easier getting to the bus stop or the boats in the back of the park. The Golf Cart is also fun to decorate! We usually do this for Halloween, but it would be so much fun to get some balloons and streamers and decorate it for your husband’s birthday! FW has boat service to the Magic Kingdom and bus service to the other parks. I also am a huge fan of Chip and Dale Sing along Camp Fire. The do a fun sing a long around the camp fire and you can s’mores. Then it is followed up every night with a movie on a big outdoor screen. Clearly, I have lots of great memories here!

      Hope this might help some!

  3. Jaime Feb 9, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Kacey!! Why didn’t you tell me about this post! Thank you!! I am planning our trip at the end of the month tonight!

  4. Lyndsay Feb 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

    Kacey, Thank you so much for this post! We aren’t huge Disney fans but are planning a trip soon, and I didn’t know most of this info. Thank you!

  5. Bruno Jun 30, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

    My Favorite way to visit as a Florida resident living over an hour away but under about 3 hours.

    1. Get The Florida resident weekday pass (About $230 I think) if you can go on weekdays, otherwise you’ll have to get the full year pass at about 3x that price. They got rid of the seasonal pass I believe. This pass has blackouts on holidays,, a week in March/April, and summer peak season. But I wouldn’t go on those days anyway.

    2. Book a discounted room at a Disney Value or Moderate resort. This will get you free parking at parks so you do not have to rely on the bus system, and a decent room close by to things. It may also have some fastpass advantages you’ll want to take advantage of. You can zip back from a park to your room in 10 minutes in your car. A bus ride might wind up being up to 20 minutes waiting on the bus plus 15 min on the bus as it makes stops,. And you arrive right at your building, not accross the complex. Figure saving an average of 20 minutes each way using your own car. (Except MK, where I use buses)

    3. Drive down on day one, visit the theme parks, then check in at 2pm. Rest, then head back out that evening. Spend the night, then get up in the next morning, check out, toss your bags in the car, and visit parks again that day. Depart by 4pm to avoid Orlando rush hour traffic and be home later that afternoon. $80-$150 for the room, some gas money, and whatever you eat and drink. I figure if you go 10 days a year your pass is $23/person. A couple mind have much of two days in the theme parks and spend about $250, or $125/day . On regular vacations there a couple might be spending $400/day or more.

    I find taking two days off work to be a better use of my time than wading through weekend crowds, but I’m self employed. I have been shocked a some of the “off season” weekend crowds on many occassions, with it sometimes ruining the entire day as you can’t really do much.

  6. Nicole Nov 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

    We’re headed to disney in January (family of 7) from Naples
    What would be the most cost efficient hotel on property for 7?
    We’ve never been to Disney “Gasp”. Lol
    Any other ways to save $?
    Thanks .

  7. Emily Dec 2, 2017 at 2:15 am #

    Can’t I just take my little girl (who’s never been, but mamas saving!😉) for one day to magic kindgdom? Were Fl residents..thought for sure i would find sometghing cheaper than 120$ for 1 day base ticket. Any sites that offer discounts?

  8. Kim May 2, 2018 at 4:12 pm #

    Hello fellow Fl residents.. I just booked our 3rd ever Disney resort/park trip taking advantage of the “discover Disney deal”. I know I’m getting old because I cannt remember exactly what the proceedure will be our 1st day. We are staying overnight at Disney all star sports( the only value resort left by the time I pulled the trigger on this) Anyways we plan on driving up from Sarasota early wednesday..checking into hotel..question 1) Will they hold our luggage at the lobby as room wont be available @10:00 ETA. Also question 2) Do I understand correctly that I will need to take the bar code that I copied off the computer to the ticket window along with fl id and they will redeam for tickets?.. 3) Do I have to goto the ticket window again Thursday morning and friday morning? Got our magic bands today and alreaddy booked fast passes..its getting real now.
    Thanks for your help.

  9. sanchez Dec 2, 2018 at 11:52 am #

    Thank you for all of your tips! I have just pinned for my Disneyland trip with family.

  10. Susan Dubose Dec 4, 2018 at 10:37 pm #

    Great post and helpful comments, Thanks!

  11. Fly Park Dec 11, 2018 at 11:40 am #

    These are great tips for anyone visiting Orlando. I didn’t know about the Tables in Wonderland card! What a great way to save!

    Here’s another tip – but more related to travel savings: Save on airport parking by booking ahead: “Orlando International airport parking

  12. [email protected] Dec 12, 2018 at 1:51 am #

    Your tips help me a lot of in the trip, thanks you very much

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