WDW 2021 & Disneyland 2022 – Misc. Info & Lessons Learned

This post has turned into a combined post of misc. information from the Walt Disney World trip my mom and I did in October 2021 (Part 1 and Part 2) and my recent Disneyland trip.

Everything below didn’t have a logical home in any of the 3 above linked posts, and includes some FAQ I get from folks in my life – enjoy!

Trip Stats From Walt Disney World:

  • Miles Walked: 8 per park day
  • Pins Purchased: 17
  • Puzzles Purchased: 2 boxes, 5 individual puzzles
  • Mugs Purchased: Shockingly 0
  • Churros Eaten: Somehow only 1

How did we book our Walt Disney World trip?

We went through our dear friend Traci Taylor who is a travel agent specializing in Disney and lives near WDW. The only thing we did not coordinate through her was booking our flights and that was due to using credit card points.

What did we do well in planning our Walt Disney World trip?

We were fortunate enough to be able to add one buffer day after flying to Orlando and before we started our park days, and after our park days before our travel day back to California. Both my mom and I felt like that made a huge impact on our trip as far as avoiding burnout and avoiding impulse / now-or-never buying.

We also did a lot prep work before the trip and went into each park only having 1-2 required rides / attractions and 1-2 food items we prioritized, in a couple of cases having reservations. Again, this removed impulsive choices and buying or spending time debating a bunch of food we weren’t sure if we wanted. It also made sure that rather than rushing from ride to ride we had our “must-do” items and could just experience the rest of the day without pressure to hit XX rides in order for the day or trip to feel “worth it.”

For me, what worked best was to create a Google Sheet so we could filter & prioritize. I had one page for food and one page for rides / attractions. Filters included park, land, and “details” about why we wanted to go to a specific restaurant / stand. I had the app downloaded to my phone so we could filter each day and mark what we completed.

What do we wish we would have done differently for Disney World?

I have two regrets from the trip. One was buying a margarita in Pandora. It sounds silly, but I forgot how Disney proportions their adult beverages and if I were a regular tequila consumer I would have been happy. The other was not preparing better for Epcot. We opted for being more opportunistic and had the intent to sample a bunch of things, however that led to far too many options and lots of indecision (which is funny given the spreadsheet mentioned above), coupled with a very hot day. The Epcot one is more of a lesson learned.

How expensive are your trips?

It depends, and I’m going to start the breakdown with what they look like with my partner. Back in 2017 / 2018, Levi & I were both Annual Passholders paying ~$60/month each for our tickets with our only blockout dates being around Christmas / New Year. We stayed at the same Marriott a little further away from the parks every time, and with our AP tiers we had free parking in the garage. Approx. 2017 was also when I got my Disney Visa.

My birthday in 2018 I bought a Dooney using rewards money and we had some left over for incidentals, too. Back then I was making about 30% of what I do now, and had very little as far as expenses go. Our trips back then were the cost of hotel, gas, and food in the park – incredibly minimal, and why we went as often as we did.

When we went for our anniversary this year, we did splurge on hotel – in part because of that massive bathtub – as well as dinner and a few of the souvenir items we got. We did also have to pay for park tickets out of pocket, and plane tickets for Levi. I also had boarding for the dog. We had budgeted for this, and ended up spending about what we had anticipated.

With my family, it’s very different. My family started going regularly after my dad retired for the first time in 2009 as we didn’t have a ton of family trip time like that prior. We did have annual passes back then, and the cost per person with no blockout dates was <$650 if I remember correctly. With my dad’s mobility being what it was (pre-knee replacement) and having the income, it was worth it on many of our trips to stay at Grand Californian, order room service, and do what was needed. We did eventually start staying off property but still in the same block, and it was a choice contingent on there being a shuttle for my dad. I do want to note that was all occurring from 2010 – 2012 when the cost of Disney was much less than it is now. When my mom & I took my grandma in 2018 for her 80th birthday, we made a similar decision to those we had for my dad and stayed at Grand Californian for mobility purposes.

When my mom & I went to Disney World, we spent a very long time discussing what we wanted in a trip and what our non-negotiable features were. For this trip, exploring the parks and Disney Springs were the most important to us, so we were cognizant of modes of transportation available at each resort area. Food and souvenirs were also a priority. My mom did also make the decision that class when flying was a non-negotiable. Where that landed us was flying first class, making reservations at the nice restaurants we decided we wanted to try, mapping out what mobile order food we wanted outside of that, and choosing a hotel that was near the Skyliner and would be comfortable which ended up being Pop Century. We heavily debated Animal Kingdom Lodge and Riviera, but every time we came back to the fact that our goal was to spend time absorbing the parks. As a result, spending all that money on a room we planned on using as a landing point to sleep, store items, shower, and get ready in did not make sense, and we were very happy with that decision in the end.

When we went to Disney World, I had nearly $800 in rewards money which covered most of our pricy meals and souvenirs, and had nearly $200 left over with how I broke things up. I had just under $400 built up by the time Levi and I went to Disneyland and that paid for our 3 reservations. Having credit cards that earn points for things that matter to you are important, and I’m happy with my choices in cards.

In both cases, I did have cash for tip.

Are you planning on getting back to your previous Disney trip frequency?

Honestly, no. Part of it is location, part of it is money, and part of it is time spent. Disney still holds the same weight it has, and I’m at a point where I would rather have one trip of the exorbitant quality I want it to be per year than to go for quantity of trips.

How do you think the parks compared?

I am thankful that I didn’t compare them nearly as much as I thought I would and I do treat them as separate entities.

Things I did notice:

  • PhotoPass people are EVERYWHERE in WDW.
    • PhotoPass was still pretty sporadic in comparison at Disneyland outside of the Sweetheart’s Night event. I’m interested to see how this shifts with character meets coming back.
  • The ride queues are prettier at WDW – there is a lot more covered queue area and I’m sure there’s a weather related reason.
  • The churros at Disneyland are better – this is not up for debate.
  • The castle in FL is massive. You can look at height comparisons and pictures all you want, seeing it in person is different.
  • Expedition Everest > Disneyland Big Thunder Mountain, and Thunder is one of my favorites so that says a lot
  • Mine Train > Disney World Big Thunder Mountain
  • Facade of Disneyland Haunted Mansion > Facade of Disney World Haunted Mansion
  • Interior of Disney World Haunted Mansion > Interior of Disneyland Haunted Mansion

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