Disney is really ramping up the special experiences lately. A trip to Disney is special in itself, however, Disney has created numerous separately priced experiences that visitors have been adding on to their Disney vacations. Over the years, we have done some of these special experiences such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and a Character Breakfast, but we don’t do these every trip…because these add-ons are so very expensive. We have found that a family can just as easily make their own special experiences….without the extra cost. We have taken three Disney splurges for the Animal Lover, the Pretty Princess, and the Character Crazy and exchanged them for a Savings Swap.
The Animal Lover
Splurge: Wild Africa Trek, Cost:$189-$249 per person, plus tax
What it is: A three hour safari at Animal Kingdom where you get super close to the animals in their “natural” habitats. This adventure has rope bridges, rugged safari vehicles with a guide, and a travel photographer. We haven’t done this, but it really looks so awesome, albeit expensive.
Savings Swap: A Visit to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Cost: Free
What it is: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is downright amazing. We really cannot afford to stay there, but we make a point to visit this resort each time we travel to Disney World. A short bus ride away from any of the Disney World theme parks, you will be instantly transported to an African savanna, once you set foot on this gorgeous property.There are about 200 animals and birds on this property, and so many of the animal centered activities on this property are completely free. Some of these free activities include: watching flamingo feedings, viewing the sunset on the Sunset Savanna, listening to nightly African storytelling near the fire pit, and looking at the animals through night vision goggles, just to name a few. Animal viewing guides are available at the front desk. This is a hotel where you can spend hours just taking in the beauty. Some of our favorite memories of our past vacations include walking around this hotel, looking at the animals, and sitting by the fire pit. A perfect evening for the animal lover in your group…and the best part…it’s free.
The Pretty Princess
Splurge: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Cost: $59.95-$194.95 per person, depending on package purchased
What it is: An enchanting princess beauty salon with a location inside Cinderella’s castle itself. In this salon, little girls can become princesses right before your very eyes, with their very own personal fairy godmother, who does their hair, nails, makeup, etc. We have splurged on this experience, when our own little girl was four, and obsessed with all things Disney Princess. It was such a memorable experience, but one we cannot replicate every trip due to the cost.
Savings Swap: Turn your little girl into a Princess, and have your own Princess Meet and Greet, Cost: Free
What it is: Bring your own Disney Princess costume, make up, and crown….and turn your little one into a princess. On the day your little princess is dressed up, make a point to find the princesses on that day in order for autographs and precious photos. The best place to find princesses at Magic Kingdom is at the the Princess Fairytale Hall. The best place to find princesses at Disneyland is at the Fantasy Faire. The best place to find princesses at Epcot is the World Showcase. At these parks, you can find character guides to let you know when and where your little princess can meet their idol. To a little girl, the opportunity to put on a princess costume and crown at the place where princesses’ live, is so very exciting…it doesn’t matter where the crown and costume comes from, she will remember it forever.
The Character Crazy
Splurge: Meals with Disney Characters, Cost: Varies per Menu
What it is: At all four Disney World theme parks, and at Disneyland, there are restaurants that offer character meals, where theme park guests can enjoy various Disney characters as they eat their meal. We have done this once, a breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table. As we ate breakfast, the Disney Princesses went around from table to table, posing for pictures, and signing autographs. It was indeed magical, but with prices over $60 per adult and $35 per child for breakfast (prices go up for lunch and dinner), it definitely became a one time thing. Other restaurants offer this type of experience, such as Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot and Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios.
Savings Swap: Bring an Autograph book, and Make Your Own Character Experience, Cost: Free
What it is: With little research, you can have your own character experience, without the extra cost of a character meal. All the theme parks, have characters milling about, which brings such delight to children, young and old. In a past trip, we just stumbled upon characters, without much planning….but this resulted in us missing a ride on our schedule because our daughter had to have a picture with Belle . However, we found that with a little research, we could actually plan out when we would see a certain beloved character, without missing anything in our schedule. All the theme parks have daily guides, which point to where and when characters will be present. We started to pay attention, and plan our day accordingly. It made all the difference. Our little one was able to see all her favorites, take pictures, and get autographs, without the stress or hurry to get to the next thing. The character meals are great, but the time with each character is not that long, it seems just as long when you meet the characters out in the parks…the only difference, really, is the meal. Our absolute favorite place to meet and greet characters is the Epcot Character Spot, a one stop shop with all the big ones.
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