Best Disney World Meals Under $20: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

Disney World Beaches & Cream meal under $20

Updated for 2018!

Food is expensive at Walt Disney World, but if you look hard enough, you can find some excellent places for a great meal that won’t bust your budget. You want to make a reservation and then drop in Beaches & Cream Soda Shop over at the Beach Club Resort.

What can you get for under $20? Tons of entreés and sides, plus a long list of desserts!

[Read more…]

The Disney Holiday Gingerbread House Kit: Is It Worth the $10?

disney-gingerbread-house-kit

Updated for 2017!

How do you entertain three older teenage kids during the holidays? Buy them a gingerbread house! We found a Disney “Crafty Cooking Kits” Mickey and Minnie house for $10 at Big Lots.

Here’s what you get for ten bucks: [Read more…]

Cheapskate Guide to 2016 Disney World Halloween & Christmas Parties

There is a reason Disney World, especially Magic Kingdom, is considered the most magical place on Earth. For 365 days of the year, children, men and women walk through the gates and experience all the magic the parks have to offer.

But for fifty nights this fall, extra holiday magic fills the air as Magic Kingdom is transformed to a holiday wonderland.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are two of the biggest events every year at Disney World. But, are these holiday parties a perfect fit for you and your vacation? Let this list of tips and information help you decide.

Disney World Halloween & Disney World Christmas Party Basics:

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are both separated ticketed events and are NOT part of your regular park admission tickets. You MUST purchase tickets to these parties in advance or at the gate of Magic Kingdom. (NOTE: If you wait until the date of the party to buy the tickets, you do run the risk of the event being sold out.)

The 2016 prices for each party are tiered and different depending on the date you choose to attend. Each party lasts from 7 pm until midnight.

You are able to gain entrance to Magic Kingdom at 4 pm on your party day. When you arrive and check in, you are given a wristband to wear for the entire party. You want to make sure you get this wristband because once the clock strikes 7:00, Cast Members will be checking to make sure only party guests are left inside Magic Kingdom.

Because you are able to get in at 4 pm, I always prefer to use our party day to sleep in, have lunch in Disney Springs and then head to the party. This is a great way to conserve your park tickets during your vacation!

At both parties, exclusive party merchandise is sold. T-shirts, hoodies, limited edition souvenirs and trading pins are just some of the things you can get and they are only sold during the party. There are also specialty holiday food and drinks you might want to try.

Also, with both parties, you will not be able to make fast passes for rides or attractions during the parties. But, honestly, that is not really a bad thing. Especially with the Halloween party, where this is so much entertainment, you might not want to ride anything that night!

MNSSHP (1)

Disney World Halloween:  Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Dates for 2016:

September: 2, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 29, 30
October: 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31

The best thing about the Disney World Halloween party is that it truly is more fun than scary, which makes it the perfect addition to a vacation with little ones. Costumes are a must for the kids, and you will definitely have fun seeing all the princesses, pirates, fairies, ghosts and goblins. And for kids especially, I think this party hands down, wins over the Christmas party in terms of price of admission, getting to dress up, trick-or-treating, parades, oh my!

NOTE in 2016: Because of Disney World’s enhanced security measures of metal detectors and bag searches, please take note of their policy regarding costumes for the Halloween Party. “While costumed attire may be worn, guests ages 14 and older are strongly discouraged from wearing layered costumes or costume props that surround the entire body as they may be subject to additional security screening. Additionally, costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.”

As for costumes, remember, you are in Florida. The lighter weight, the better! If the weather at your home is freezing on Halloween, and you are accustomed to bundling up…don’t do that for this party. You might want to put together a lighter, less expensive version of your kids’ favorite costume so everyone will be comfortable.

Trick-or-Treating through Magic Kingdom is a once in a lifetime experience, and you should come prepared with a couple of bags to hold it all! Now, I’m sure most parents would agree that if your kids KNOW you are about to trick-or-treat, they are going to ask to start right away. I personally recommend keeping that little tidbit of information as secret as possible until you are ready to start, or until you have a plan.

If Character Meet & Greets are what you are most looking forward to, you are in luck! Several very hard to see characters will be available to meet and take pictures with, as well as some old characters, all of whom you would not see any other time. The Seven Dwarfs, for example is very popular and an excellent photo op. Another very popular duo at the party are Jack Skellington and Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas. TIP: Start lining up by 6:30pm to see either the Seven Dwarfs, or Jack and Sally, because these lines will be long all night.

One of the best things about the party is you can use the party map (pick one up when you arrive) to hit all the trick-or-treat spots. While walking from one trick-or-treat location to the other, you will find many of the characters as you are walking through the park. We have stumbled upon some great characters just by enjoying walking around the park waiting for the parade.

There are also a couple of locations for Character Dance Parties. A couple of times we have literally run into Monsters, Inc. characters dancing in Cosmic Rays in Tomorrowland or Tarzan in Adventureland. The best thing about running into characters like this is interacting with them. Dancing with The Incredibles or having King Louie recognize your beat skills can be the highlight of your entire vacation, whether you are a parent or toddler!

One of the best things about the Halloween party is the Boo to You Parade! There are always two times for the parade,(8:35 pm and 11:15 pm) and the second one is usually less crowded and my personal pick. However, if meeting characters or trick-or-treating is not that important to you, then you might want to see the first parade AND then watch it again at the later time. (It is that much fun to watch it twice!) Whichever parade time you decide, you will want to find your viewing spot at least 30 minutes before the start time. If you want to view the parade from Main Street, you might want to leaving more than 30 minutes to find your spot.

The Headless Horseman starts the parade off, which is one of the highlights! (If it is raining hard, or has been raining all day, the Horseman might not ride.) But don’t be surprised to see the Horseman and then….wait for it….the parade to continue several minutes later. This parade is not just phenomenal for Halloween lovers, but it really is one of the greatest parades you can see at Disney World. The music, the characters, the choreography, everything is really spectacular.

HalloWishes, the fireworks spectacular, only happens once a night, (10 pm) between the two Boo to You parades. The great thing about HalloWishes is that if you are viewing it from anywhere other than Main Street, you will not be missing any projections or anything happening in front of Cinderella Castle.

Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular happens in front of Cinderella Castle (check party guide for exact times) and is not to be missed. (You have four chances to see this show: 8:00 pm, 9:20 pm, 10:40 pm and 12:00 am) The Sanderson Sisters debuted in 2015 and are back again this year for some double, double, toil and trouble! This show, featuring Maleficient and Dr. Facilier, as well as several classic Disney villains is a fantastic way to celebrate Halloween.

disney world christmas

Disney World Christmas:  Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Dates for 2016:

November:  7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27, 29
December: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 22

Is there anything better than a Disney World Christmas on Main Street, complete with snow, chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate? It is a tough combination to beat, honestly. And of the best things about the Christmas party is that you are able to go in early November and December before holiday crowds make party going uncomfortable.

(Note: After December 22, the Holiday Wishes are shown nightly replacing the regular Wishes fireworks show. Also, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade runs daily through the holiday as well.)

Character Meet & Greets are available and, like the Halloween party, there will be characters you might not normally get to see.  However, with the Disney World Christmas party, you are less likely to need a plan of attack to see characters. BUT, the Seven Dwarfs, Jake Skellington as Sandy Claws and Anna and Elsa are all big draws at this party. TIP: Just like the Halloween party, if you want to see a particular character, you want to start lining up by 6:30pm to see either the Seven Dwarfs, or Jack and Sally, because these lines will be long all night.

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is truly one of the most magical experiences you can have in Magic Kingdom. It is very difficult to describe the beauty of the lights, the characters, reindeer dancing, tin soldiers marching, the music AND Santa Claus. And just when you think you won’t be able to handle the magic one more second…it SNOWS…on Main Street…at Disney World! Just like the Halloween party, there are two viewing times available for the Christmas parade. And also like the Halloween party, the second viewing of this parade is usually less crowded.

Typically there are two Character Dance Parties you can enjoy as well. The Holiday Hootenanny is in the Gold Horseshoe building, and then Club Tinsel is in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. The Hootenanny is a fan favorite for most people over Club Tinsel, but both are fun for all ages.

Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Stage Show is new for 2016, and is replacing Celebrate the Season show, held in front of Cinderella Castle.  Mickey Mouse throws a party with his friends complete with Christmas carols, dancing and special effects!

Holiday Wishes is the nightly fireworks show, and it is as magical as you can imagine. The choreography of the music and the fireworks is a holiday experience like no other. Trying to decide the better show, Holiday Wishes or HalloWishes, for me is like trying to pick my favorite child. It is impossible because I love them both so much. But the Holiday Wishes at the Christmas Party definitely gives me goosebumps every time.

Cookies and Hot Chocolate are given throughout the park and if you want to enjoy them during the parades or fireworks, keep in mind, the lines for refreshments get longer the closer to Main Street you get.

disney world christmas

Are of the Disney World Halloween or Disney World Christmas holiday parties right for you and your vacation? Is it worth the extra money, especially this year with tiered pricing?

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Early Morning Magic in Fantasyland at Walt Disney World: a Cheapskate Guide

Updated for 2018!

With Disney World so insanely busy lately, it’s no wonder they started offering tickets to get into Magic Kingdom before the park actually opens. You can make your Magic Kingdom morning more magical than ever with a limited-entry, first-access experience in the park, but it’s going to cost you extra money.

Is it worth the price?

[Read more…]

runDisney in Your Neighborhood and Earn Mickey Medals!

guide to Disney World Virtual Running Shorts

2016

I’ve wanted to participate in a runDisney race for years, but the timing of the races has never been compatible with my work schedule, and planning a vacation around a race just hasn’t fit into my budget. With the announcement of Disney’s Virtual Running Shorts Series, beginners to seasoned runDisney veterans can get outside for some Disney-inspired fun and exercise this summer and bring home official race bling! You can run with friends and family or all by yourself. What you don’t have to do is actually run in Orlando, and you have from May 15th to June 30th to do it.

Are you ready to bring home some Disney race bling without ever setting foot on Disney property? Then it’s time to get out your Visa and register. 

Walking Miles & Miles at Disney Theme Parks

rundisney virtual race

runDisney short medal

In your own backyard…

RunDisney will now add virtual races to their established park race lineup, and your whole family is invited to join the Disney fun without driving to Orlando. Participants can walk, jog, stroll through your neighborhood, or run a race on a treadmill. You will choose the course that’s right for you, selecting from one of three Mickey-themed Disney 5Ks. You also have the option to run all three for completion of the Running Shorts Series.

Runners track their own times and completion is based on the honor system; you can register here starting April 28.

Many people drive to Orlando for the runDisney races just to enjoy time with friends, dress in Disney-themed race costumes, and of course the exhilaration of running across Disney property. But let’s face it; prices are going up and a weekend stay in Orlando with food, souvenirs, and race registration can cost hundreds of dollars, even thousands if you stay Deluxe and fly into town. But if the funds aren’t there for 2016, or you want some motivation to work yourself up to a half or full marathon on Disney property, then these Virtual Running Shorts could be just what you need.

What will you get for your money, since you will not be on Disney property?

  • exercise (although technically this part is free!)
  • medals: up to four specially-designed Finisher Medals celebrating Mickey Mouse
  • tumbler if you participate in the three-run series

Almost 130 FREE Walt Disney World Resort Activities!

runDisney race virtual registration

Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required

Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s Yellow Shoes Finisher Medal
  • Yellow Shoes Digital Race Bib

Completion Timeframe: May 15 – June 1, 2016 

 

Running Shorts 5K –2 Red Pants Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required

Running Shorts 5K-2 Red Pants Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s Red Pants Finisher Medal
  • Red Pants Digital Race Bib

Completion Timeframe: June 5 – June 18, 2016 

 

Running Shorts 5K-3 White Glove Highlights 

  • 3.1 mile run on course of runner’s choosing
  • Proof of run not required

Running Shorts 5K-3 White Glove Race Participants Receive

  • Commemorative Mickey’s White Glove Finisher Medal
  • White Glove Digital Race Bib

Completion Timeframe: June 19 – June 30, 2016 

What You Can NOT Wear to Disney Theme Parks

runDisney virtual race guide 2016

4. runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series  $142.00

This will be the Disney fan’s ultimate summer running challenge – three 5Ks, four Mickey Finisher Medals, and 9.3 miles of fun!  

RunDisney’s Virtual Running Shorts Series combines all three Running Shorts 5Ks for 9.3 miles of fun. Complete the runs within the scheduled dates to earn the first-ever Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler, plus you get the Red Pants, Yellow Shoes and White Glove Individual Finisher Medals.

Note: you must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals. Your completion timeframe is May 15th to June 30th, 2016

Running Shorts Series Highlights 

  • Running Shorts 5K – Yellow Shoes, 5K – Red Pants, and 5K – White Glove runs totaling 9.3 miles.
  • Proof of run not required

Virtual Running Shorts Series Participants Receive 

  • Running Shorts Challenge Digital Race Bib
  • Special Mickey Series Finisher Medal and Mickey tumbler, along with Commemorative Running Shorts Yellow Shoes, Red Pants and White Glove Individual Finisher Medals.

How to Pack the BEST Disney World Theme Park Bag Ever!

how to run Disney races for cheap

The Fine Print

  1. Entry fees for the runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series are non-refundable.
  2. This was stated above, but you must register for the Virtual Running Shorts Series to receive the Running Shorts Mickey Series Medal and Mickey tumbler in addition to individual race medals.
  3. Dates, times, prices and inclusions subject to change.
  4. Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for, any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.
  5. Disney reserves the right to refuse the entry into, and/or revoke any registration for any race for any reason in its sole discretion with refund of any applicable registration fees being the sole remedy of any such refusal and/or revocation.
  6. All races are non-transferable between individuals.
  7. You can share your experiences with all the races at #runDisneyShorts.

The Ultimate Disney World Tinker Bell Gift Guide

When you finish your summer races, you might treat yourself to one of those PANDORA race charms, because now you’ll be an official runDisney runner!

runDisney virtual races

So for the first time, you can now participate in a runDisney race without ever setting foot in Orlando. Or for more fun, complete your race on Walt Disney World or Disneyland property!

Use this link for more information and to register. 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you lacing up your running shoes, deciding where to hang your medal (or medals!)

 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

.

Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Disney After Hours at Magic Kingdom: A Cheapskate Guide

Updated for 2018!

Disney World has become a really busy place to take a vacation, some would say almost too busy. With some wait times reaching more than three hours during holidays and parents taking kids out of school for trips, there isn’t really a down time anymore to visit the Mouse in Orlando. So if you have the money, you can be among a limited number of guests to enjoy a three hour park experience, but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny.

What do you get and is it worth it?

[Read more…]

Disney World Vacation Planning: Non-Holiday Dates to Avoid

plan a better Disney World vacation

Heading off to Disney World these days requires a lot more planning than it took years ago. In the olden days, or perhaps the Golden Days, you could throw some bags in the car and drive to Orlando for a week or a simple weekend without doing very much in advance. In this new era of technology, you’ll need hotel reservations, Advance Dining Reservations, and ride reservations using FastPass+, if you don’t want to pay a fortune, get shut out of restaurants or stand in long lines. Disney World planning has become complicated.

Many vacation planners are well aware that travel during holidays can seriously affect the quality of your trip, since many families choose major holidays to vacation in Orlando. I’m talking about summer holidays when school is out, Christmas holidays, Spring Break, etc. It’s natural to expect these times of year to be busy. But when you start to look at a calendar to schedule your trip, you should be aware that there are other events and actually sports competitions that can have an impact on crowds and general traffic at WDW. 

Over 10 Ways Kids Can Earn Money for a Disney Vacation

avoid these dates at Walt Disney World

Many of the following competitions and events that take place on Disney property may not have that much of an impact on the amounts of people entering the theme parks. Sometimes athletes and chaperones travel to Orlando for competitions, but just covering that expense alone does not always allow for the purchase of park tickets. What they can affect your trip in particularly are the crowd levels at your resort, since in an effort to save money, many student groups stay at the Value Resorts like the All-Stars and Pop Century Resort. Cheering, chanting and people everywhere can take a toll on your sanity during what was intended to be a time to relax. If you typically choose the Value Resorts, these may be dates you want to avoid. 

While Mardi Gras is not an actual event that takes place at WDW, many school children get off for several days or the entire week in southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Our coastal Alabama school system shuts down for Monday and Tuesday of Mardi Gras week every year. We live four hours away from New Orleans, but that is close enough for local cities to have their own Mardi Gras parades. 

Teens from Argentina and Brazil frequently take school breaks at Disney World in large groups. There are intense discussions on the Internet about the chanting, singing and clapping that occur within these groups. While I am all about having a good time with other students on a trip, many people have complained these large 100+ teen groups (did I mention loud noise and chanting?) created tranquility issues for their time in the theme parks. The word chanting is like the opposite of the word relaxing. 

Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

IMG_7323

Around the 1st/2nd week of November, New Jersey schools have a teachers’ convention when many families head south to Disney, a time known as “Jersey Week.” This is like the Spring Break of winter for New Jersey schools, and park attendance will definitely increase. 

During “Pop Warner Week” in December, Disney hosts the The Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer & Dance Championships. Again to save money, football players, cheerleaders, coaches and family members will pack out the Value Resorts, as well as some of the Moderate Resorts. If you can imagine almost 70 football teams and over 400 cheerleading squads there for competition, you will know to expect noise and crowds, especially on busses, and higher there park crowd levels at night when competitions are completed. 

Will it be the ruination of a great vacation if you schedule a trip during these events? Absolutely not, but it’s just a good idea to be aware of what is going on at the parks and resorts so you can make an informed decision. Everybody handles crowds and kids differently.

Understanding Disney World Bus Transportation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

when is Jersey Week at Disney World

Use this simple layout so you can see how these dates might affect your trip. These were dates for 2016. 

January

College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championships – January 15-17, 2016

National Dance Team Championship – January 30-31, 2016

South American Tour Groups

February

National High School Cheerleading Championship – February 6-7, 2016

Twirlmania – February 12-15, 2016

March

Contest of Champions Nationals – March 4-6, 2016

International All Star Cheerleading Championship – March 12-13, 2016

Mardi Gras Holidays – February 9 is Mardi Gras day in 2016

April

All Star Cheerleading & Dance Worlds – April 23-25, 2016

July

South American Tour Groups

November

Jersey Week – November 10-11 in 2016

December

Pop Warner Super Bowl – December 5-9, 2016

National Cheer & Dance Championships – December 5-9, 2016

Cheapskate Princess Extravagance: Platinum Disney Jewelry

best time to go to Disney World

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

.

Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

.

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney theme park closure phase

There are a LOT of people taking vacations to Disney parks, which these days can pretty much be year ’round. There seem to be no “down” times to go to Disney with short lines and low crowds like in years past. And during holidays, things can be just downright crazy! If you are one of those people planning a trip to Disney, you need to be aware that all these visitors in one place at one time can affect your vacation in more ways than you may realize.

Walt Disney World will limit the amount of people they allow through the gates so guests have more fun and stay safe. What happens if you are vacationing during these crowd-intense times? Can you get shut out of the theme parks?

Use this link for more Cheapskate Guides!

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Parking Lots Closing

The first thing to close when crowd attendance levels start to peak will be the Disney parking lots, because they generally reach capacity levels before the parks start closure procedures. At this point, your car may be diverted to an alternate parking lot. You will be provided bus transportation back to the park with the closed parking lot, provided that park is still open to visitors.

Time = Money. Driving over to another parking lot will take a lot of time, with traffic moving slowly, bumper to bumper. You will use up time getting to the new parking lot, plus time to get to your destination. When parking has reached the point of diversion, your day is going to get off to a slower start. 

Parks Closing

Now remember that the phrase “park closure” does not mean Cast Members simply shut the gates immediately; there are levels of closures.

Every single Disney World theme parks has reached a level of closure at some point, even if it was a lower level, and predictably because of its popularity, Magic Kingdom is the most likely to start closure procedures based on high crowd levels.

Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are less likely to reach closure phases, but it is definitely possible because they are smaller parks with less standing around room than Magic Kingdom.

Epcot has massive amounts of space, so it’s less likely to close than the other three parks.

Even Disney’s water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, can close due to high crowd levels, which can occur during Easter holidays and the week of July 4th.

“Best of the Best” Walt Disney World Freebies

Disney World park closure phases

Phases for Closure

The Disney Company does not currently publish any specific information regarding park closure phases. What we assume about closure phases can change at any time with no notice to anyone, so this is our best guess guide. 

“Closure phases” are initiated by Disney to restrict the amount of guests coming into theme parks. There are four phases to closures. These closure phases also may not last all day long. If enough guests leave mid-afternoon or in the evening, closure restrictions can be listed and more guest will be permitted entry. 

Phase One

Guests allowed to enter:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Two

The only guests allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots are:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying on Disney Resort property
  • Guests re-entering the same park that day
  • Guests who entered another park that day (park hoppers)
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments
  • Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation

Guests not allowed to enter:

  • Visitors with no park tickets
  • Visitors with one-day, single-park tickets
  • Multi-day or multi-park tickets holders
  • Visitors intending to use Cast Member passes

Phase Three

The only visitors allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots now:

  • Annual Passholders
  • Guests staying at a Disney Resort
  • Guests with in-park reservations or appointments

Phase Four

The theme park and the parking lot is now closed to all arriving guests. You can assume the entire world is now standing inside that park. 

5 Steps for Planning a Disney Vacation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

crowds during holidays at Disney World

How Can You Ensure You Get In?

1. Scheduling

So we really love celebrating holidays at Disney World, with all the decorations, music, and special fireworks. But traveling during really busy times means long lines, people standing elbow to elbow, waiting in traffic, etc.  Our first suggestion to beat the huge crowds is simply to avoid taking vacations during major holidays like Easter, July 4th,  and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Schedule a trip close to a holiday, but not too close, and crowd levels will be lower and more manageable, way below the point of initiating closure phases.

Use this guide: Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

2. Arrive at the Parks Early

If you want to secure a parking spot and get yourself through the park turnstiles, you need to get an early start.  Standing around before the park opens will be way better than sitting in a car stuck in traffic later on, hoping you don’t get directed to a different parking lot.

Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

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3. Stay on Resort Property

Booking your stay on resort property has several advantages, even if you pay more for this privilege.

By waking up already located on Disney property, you can utilize Disney resort transportation. Guests arriving using Disney transportation rather than personal transportation are allowed through the turnstiles through a level two closure. 

Disney Resorts guarantee their guests access to a Disney World theme park. However, just because you are guaranteed to get into a park does not mean you will be able to get into the specific park that you want to visit. And just because you get in, standing side by side with all those people, this does not ensure you’ll enjoy the low-stress holiday you were looking forward to enjoying (see scheduling tip #1.)

Where to stay? Use this guide: *Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

4. Make In-Park Reservations or Appointments

Guests with in-park reservations get into the parks through a level three closure, so save up your money and schedule a special event or meal just to be sure. 

You can start making ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance of your trip. This is very important as dining reservations fill up fast during holiday seasons. Use this guide: Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Surviving Disney World at Christmas: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

 

 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you considering what you and the fam. are doing during Christmas vacation…

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

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Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Mike Ellis

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

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A Rest Day from the Disney World Parks? Try These Fun Activities

Free Day ideas for Orlando and Disney World Resort

Updated for 2018!

We always to suggest a free day or a “rest day” to those planning a Disney World vacation. Not necessarily “free,” as in it costs nothing, but free as in you do not have regular park tickets for that day. And you may not always be resting exactly, but you won’t be walking miles and miles through Magic Kingdom or other parks. You and the family are not waking up early, walking for miles, and shutting down a park late into the night. 

Many parents new to all this Disney planning stuff don’t realize that Disney vacations are tiring, and it’s a good idea to plan a “free day” mid-vacation just to keep from stressing everyone out. (If you can afford it, we actually recommend two days if you are staying for six days or more.) For those parents not into tantrums and meltdowns, be aware that heat, exhaustion, overstimulation, and an altered schedule starts to wear out little bodies. If you are already in Orlando, you might as well make plans for a day to enjoy life beyond the theme parks, because there really is a lot to do besides roller coasters and in-park character meet and greet lines. [Read more…]

Ferrytale Fireworks Dessert Cruise: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Disney ferrytale wishes dessert party

Updated for 2018!

For those vacation planners looking for a different activity for an upcoming trip, Disney World has an unusual opportunity to see Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show while enjoying yummy snacks and drinks courtesy of the Disney Chefs. While it’s a pricey experience, this event has the potential to make some lasting memories.  [Read more…]

Disney World Extravagance: Keys to the Kingdom Tour

Updated for 2018!

Sometimes Disney fans need something different to propel a vacation to the next level. There are many Disney World special events you can attend by purchasing tickets that feature food, fun, and entertainment. You can also take tours of parks and resorts that provide backstage knowledge of Disney World and Walt Disney himself. These additional tickets are not necessary for a fun vacation, in fact many are pricey, but they can also create memories that last a lifetime. There’s really nothing cheapskate about purchasing an additional ticket on top of theme park admission, so we call this a Disney World extravagance.

Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour provides a five-hour, in-depth look at the history of Magic Kingdom, along with backstage access to legendary hidden areas, and lunch. [Read more…]

Afternoon Tea at Grand Floridian’s Garden View Tea Room: a Cheapskate Guide

Afternoon Tea at Garden View Tea Room prices

Looking for a special Disney activity, something different from the usual roller coasters and counter service meals? Then perhaps you should think about making a reservation for Afternoon Tea at Garden View Tea Room. Vacationers always remark that walking around the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, often referred to as the “flagship” of Disney resorts, is like taking a trip back in time. It’s time to experience a traditional afternoon tea served in grand British style.

The Location

To find the Garden View Tea Room, walk through the Grand Floridian first floor lobby to the lounge area at the far end of the building. This light-filled lounge overlooks manicured gardens, a fountain, and a pool area. You will “tour the globe” sipping international teas, dining on a selection of sandwiches, cakes and other delicacies.

Days and Times

Afternoon Tea is offered seven days a week and is held from between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. At three o’clock each day, enjoy the Grand Floridian piano player as he begins performing Disney tunes, a lovely accompaniment to your relaxing afternoon. You can make reservations for the Tea using this Disneyworld.com link.

Disney PANDORA Charms and Bracelets Are Finally Here!

prices for the Grand Floridian afternoon tea

Prices

I was unable to find prices or menu descriptions on the main Disney website. After some research, the most up to date menu (updated 1/15) and price list was located on  wdwinfo.com. They have a tremendous wealth of information on their website, which you can visit with this link.  Remember that all menus are subject to change at any time with no prior notice.

Entree/Main Course

Mrs. Potts Tea (For Guests Ages 3-9)

Assorted tea sandwiches including tuna salad, ham and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly on white bread, plus a selection of two house-made pastries, together with a special “Dark Tea” (Chocolate Milk)  $13.00

Buckingham Tea

Assorted tea sandwiches, butter scone, jam tart, with a choice of two house-made pastries (Strawberries and Crème or English Trifle) together with your choice of tea  $25.00 ***

Prince Edward Tea

Assorted pâté, cheeses served with cumberland sauce, butter scone, jam tart, together with a glass of Fonseca Bin 27 Character Port and your choice of tea  $30.00 ***

The Grand Tea

Assorted tea sandwiches, butter scone, jam tart, with a choice of two house-made pastries (Strawberries and Crème or English Trifle) together with a glass of Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkling Wine and your choice of tea  $35.00 ***

Princess Kate Tea

Choice of potted shrimp or tuna poke, cheeses and seasonal fruits, buttery scone, jam tart, with a selection of two delicate house-made pastries. together with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and your choice of tea  $45.00***

***There is a charge for additional pots of tea. 

A Disney World Parks Guide: Tips from a Travel Agent

Grand Flroidian Tea

Teas

Cassis  Aromatic blend that harmonizes the sweet tartness of blackcurrants with depth of black tea

Chamomile  Infusion of golden chamomile blossoms with a smooth, apple-like finish

Eros  Medium-bodied Ceylon combines sweet mandarin oranges with warm vanilla for a sweet and creamy finish

Floral Jasmine Green  Spring harvest twisted-leaf green tea with medium- tannic notes and the delicate scent of jasmine

Garden View Blend  Assam and Keemun black leaves blended with the floral overtones or flowery Early Grey

Harmony   Mild and sweet with a blend of chamomile, orange blossoms, peppermint, and allspice

Imperial English Breakfast   Blend of Ceylon and China black teas. Decaffeinated English Breakfast is also available

Jade Leaf   Delicate tea with a hint of sweetness, fresh and grassy quality reminiscent of Nori

Jamaican Spice   Brilliant red zesty infusion of hibiscus, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party   Medium-bodied Ceylon tea leaves scented with the essential oils of vanilla and natural fruits, including passion fruit and pomegranate

Mango Oolong   Refreshing Tung Ting oolong, mingled with the scent of ripe mangoes

Masala Black Tea Chai   Layered and complex blend of spices with notes of clove and cardamum

Organic Breakfast   Blended true to the origin of “English Breakfast,” this organic connoisseur-grade version is made in the great tradition of strong, malty black tea

Organic Vanilla Rooibos   Madagascar vanilla bean natural essential oils sweeten this organic rooibos

Osmanthus Oolong   Rare Osmanthus flowers are placed next to oolong leaves for fragrance. It is highly coveted for its champagne aroma and deep, rich flavor

Princess Breakfast Tea   South African Organic Rooibos flavored with vanilla beans and a hint of strawberry, rich in antioxidants and vitamins and naturally decaffeinated

Russian Earl Grey   Blended in the honor of the Russian tradition, this Earl Grey uses the rind of the spicy beramot orange for an exotic blend of citrus

Silver Leaf   Harvested from south of the Yangtze River, this premier connoisseur grade of white tea is named for the silver downy hairs that cover the young, unopened buds

Thunderbolt Darjeeling   Often referred to by tea connoisseurs as muscatel, which is a grape varietal found in sweeter wines, this thin-bodied tea is light with a floral aroma

Vanilla Earl Grey   This “classic with a twist” has a decidedly smooth finish

Characters in Flight at Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Guide

Afternoon Tea at Grand Floridian's Garden View Tea Room

Randy Ash, long-time Cheapskate Princess reader, took his family to the Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Tea Room this past January. We asked him how he enjoyed his experience. “I enjoy the down time that Afternoon Tea provides. It is a beautiful place to sit, enjoy a snack, and plan our evening. We’re very happy we purchased Table in Wonderland this year.

Disney Grand Floridian Afternoon Tea Prices

His wife Stacy also told us what she enjoyed about the Tea, “The exquisite foods, tea selection and timeless atmosphere are on our itinerary every Disney trip. Visiting the tea room is like walking into a grand time in history. The atmosphere is fancy, but the service is friendly.”
 
What were Stacy’s favorite foods? “We can’t pass up the cheeses and tea sandwiches, but the scones and lemon curd and fresh strawberries with cream are exquisite. Every WDW trip includes a trip to the tea room, that’s if we can get in!
Disney Moms fun outside the parks

Discount?

The cost for the Ash family’s four people was about $134 including tax, but they saved over $26 on their Tea by using the Tables in Wonderland card. You can read more about this at tablesinwonderland.com.  To my knowledge, there are not any price discounts other than Tables in Wonderland.
Remember even if this is not a full meal, it is essentially a table service experience. An 18% to 20% gratuity for table service meals is suggested.
 free day activities at Disney World

Our Fans

We asked our Facebook fans what they thought about the Grand Floridian’s Garden View Tea.
 
Pat S., “We enjoyed the tea, but it was five or six years ago. It was a fun girl’s time out.
Helen Z., “It was such a wonderful experience. They have several tea packages that they offer. I can’t wait until my next visit in April.
Jennifer E., “I took my two sons last year. It was so fun; they really enjoyed it, as did I. I see they raised the prices. My kids requested this for our spring trip, so we will see. It was awesome though, so I am considering it.
And our one negative vote:
Christina R., “In my opinion, it’s not worth the price. I have been to a lot of tea houses with my parents over my childhood. The food was average, service was fantastic though. I liked it better when you could order a la carte.”

fun things to do at Disney World

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you headed through the lobby at the Grand Floridian…

 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.