First trip trip to WDW in 19 years, first time with kids. Looking for advice

So happy to have learned of this site! We are looking at going in late September or October. So much has changed in 19 years. We now have 4 kids and we’re on a tight budget, but don’t want to miss this chance. My daughter’s (16) only request was to do Pirates of the Caribbean.
If we plan our last day there to be September 26th (the day Pirates is scheduled to reopen), is that a mistake? Is there a good chance the opening of the ride could be delayed?
Are crowds of 5 good or should we still expect long waits?
Do you recommend lunch or dinner in the parks (we’ll have a cooler and snacks for one meal)?
My boys are huge Star Wars fans. If we wait awhile to sign them up for the Jedi academy, in case we need to get to TSM if we can’t get a FPP, will there still be space for them?
Thank you for any advice! I’m overwhelmed by all of this.

I will chime in Re: Jedi Training Academy.
Don’t wait. Get there before the park opens and go straight to the spot to get a ticket/time slot for your kids to participate. We went last Feb on a very low crowd day and still had limited choices when it came to Jedi Training slots. If we hadn’t gotten there at rope drop and walked quickly to sign up, we wouldn’t have gotten a spot. Also note that your child has to be with you when you sign up - so I would take whoever is participating and make a b-line straight to the sign up location and meet up with the rest of your party nearby.
I found the line for Toy Story to move very quickly AND there were FPs available throughout the day.

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Hi there claintx!

First, the time of year you are going. September will have slightly lower crowds than October, but will be hotter! It is still warm to hot in October, but from my experience doesn’t feel as oppressively hot if you go about the second or third week of October. That said, I am a fan of going in October.

I will defer the Pirates question to folks better in the know.

You may find these links handy to see the average wait times for attractions based on crowd levels:

http://touringplans.com/magic-kingdom/crowd-levels
http://touringplans.com/epcot/crowd-levels
http://touringplans.com/hollywood-studios/crowd-levels
http://touringplans.com/animal-kingdom/crowd-levels

Lunch is cheaper in the parks than dinner and of course counter service is cheaper on average than table service. It all depends on your budget and the experience you want. Since you say you are on a tight budget, I would say to stick to counter service if you are eating in the parks.

One suggestion I have is to explore the option of staying off site in a condo or house. You can get the 3 or 4 bedroom condo or house for less than what you might pay for staying on site. This also comes with the added bonus of having a washer/dryer combo and a full kitchen to prepare meals and save on dining in the parks.

For example, when we stay in a condo offsite. We will eat breakfast early at the condo and be at the parks for rope drop. We will stay until about 1 p.m. Head back to the condo for lunch and rest. Have a dinner at the condo then head back to close down the park. Or we may do the same schedule, but stay and eat lunch from counter service at the parks and stay until 6 or so then head back to the condo for dinner.

Here is our favorite offsite place to stay:

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Brenfroe’s suggestion for accommodations made me want to suggest renting points. Go to a site like DVCRentalStore.com and test out the “Points Calculator” for the dates you are looking to stay.
I am on a very strict budget but my family of 4 stayed at Bay Lake Tower (attached to the Comtemporary) for the same price as a value resort. We just booked another trip through them and I have nothing but good things to say. Very simple and a major savings if you wanted to stay in a deluxe resort!

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No idea on that one. Sometimes attractions have a “soft open” prior to the official date, and sometimes they do not.

CL 5 is fine - with good TPs for each day you should be able to have reasonably short waits. In general, having a good plan trumps selecting the “best” park on any given day.

If you are planning on taking your pack meal to the parks, then have it for lunch - carting around food until dinnertime is tiring. If you are planning on taking an afternoon break, then maybe have an early CS lunch in the park, and then have your “pack dinner” in the room at the end of your break.

[quote=“claintx, post:1, topic:15407”]
My boys are huge Star Wars fans. If we wait awhile to sign them up for the Jedi academy, in case we need to get to TSM if we can’t get a FPP, will there still be space for them?
[/quote]Sign up for JTA first thing when you enter the park. Have one parent go with the boys to JTA sign up, while everyone else goes direct to TSMM.

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For a family of 6, an AoA room with Free Dining would probably be a pretty good deal for your crowd, or maybe a room-only deal two connecting rooms at a Value or Moderate. Otherwise offsite will have very good September deals (consider a condo/timeshare rental at Wyndham Bonnet Creek for great pools and super close, or VRBO for a house rental in nearby Kissimmee); you’ll just need to add $15/day for parking at WDW, and of course, will need a rental vehicle or your own car.
If you have any kids young enough for a stroller, that’s a great way to roll snacks around the park with you, or you could pack snacks/a meal and rent a locker for daytime storage. We pack almost all our meals/snacks when we travel - even splurging for pre-packaged snacks/meals (Teddy Grahams, apple slices, etc) saved a ton.
If your kids are interested in the non-park fun, and to extend your entertainment options, consider getting WP&M option on tickets so you can hit water parks, mini golf, DisneyQuest. (It’s about $60 per ticket to do so, so you need 2 water park or DisneyQuest visits to make it worthwhile.)
If you have hungry hungry teenagers AND kids who like characters, consider a splurge on one special table service character meal somewhere that’s all-you-can-eat - either IN a park e.g. Garden Grill, Crystal Palace, Tusker House, OR do it on a non-park day at one of the resorts - e.g. Cape May brunch, Chef Mickey, Ohana. (I prefer this on a non-park-day since parking is free for a meal, you can linger and enjoy touring the resort, and it doesn’t take precious time away from your Park day; others feel differently).
Sounds super fun and super exciting!
What ages/genders are your kids?

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Parking was up to $17 in June @mossmacl! sigh

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Check into staying offsite @claintx! Even with renting a car you can get very good deals!

You can bring everything into the park except glass containers and alcohol so you can save a few dollars by carrying your own lunch. But be warned: the Florida sun will wilt your sandwich for sure. No ifs about it!

Buffalo stampede to JTA sign up!

I don’t think you’ll have a problem with PoC not opening on the 26th but good luck anyways! I hope you get to see it several times on that day! I love PoC!!! :smiley:

Crowds of 5 are really good, but arm yourself with a TP just in case! Trust them! They do work!!!

You’re looking good! Asking the right questions! What more can we do for you?

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Wow! You are so ahead of the game finding this site before your trip! Relax and enjoy the planning! Someday you can ask us all the mistakes we made on our first trips, and laugh at us- but we all learned to love the parks!

Have you made any initial plans? Usually, if an attraction is not going to open on time they will announce it at least a week ahead of time if you see it as a fast pass choice on your day, that is a very good sign!

Staying onsite/ off impacts when you can get fast passes booked, so the sooner that is settled, the sooner more detailed plans can be created.

There are some wonderful counter service meals. I think those prices are the same for lunch/dinner, and the portions are often large enough to share.

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Yes, @PrincipalTinker is correct that you are ahead of the game with finding this resource before your first trip. I did literally zero research before my first trip as an adult, and I am surprised that I even managed to enjoy it enough to come back. You’ll be prepared and have a wonderful trip.

I am in the same boat you are with JTA - it is a must-do for my DS10, and one that I am nervous about screwing up. Fingers crossed for both of us! And I think we will be there at the same time - we leave on the 26th, too!

As for food, I definitely think that @brklinck is right about you not wanting to tote around food with you all day. In the heat of September, you may be best off with some simple things like fresh fruit and granola bars. Since you are trying to save money, I would recommend a lot of sharing for the meals you do buy. Many of the QS meals are easily shareable. Also, most of the time you can order an entree without the automatic side for less, even though it does not appear on the menu that way. For example, if it says chicken fingers and fries for $9.99, you may be able to get just the chicken for like $7.99 or something like that. This saves stomach space and money for other tasty treats that you will come across in the parks. Also, I do not hesitate to split an entree at a TS restaurant. This does not work at a buffet or family style, obviously, but my husband I will often get two apps then split and entree depending on how hungry we are.

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Thank you, all so much! A friend told me about TP. You all gave me some great food pointers and I need to go peruse the forum more to get more ideas and learn all the acronyms.
We are driving there. I’m now meaning toward the week of Oct. 19th. That was PoC will be open, it will be cooler (hopefully!) and it works better will our homeschool co-op commitments. My kids will be 7 boy,10 boy,14 boy,16 girl. I was looking at vrbo, but a La Quinta has breakfast and would be cheaper, brcause knowing me, I don’t know if I could leave the park to go rest. I feel like I need to take advantage of the whole day to “get my money’s worth.” So we wouldn’t be in the room for long.
I was considering taking an umbrella stroller, parking it and leaving the cooler in it until lunch.
I’m tentatively planning 4 base WDW days with 5 day free and squeezing Home school day at Legoland in.
More questions:

Should I have the kids tell me what they want to see and do SBD plug it in to TP and let TP schedule it for me? If I can, that would take off a huge load.

Would a locker be better for our cooler thanleaving it in a stroller parked?

Can we use our base tickets for 2 parks in one day?
Once in the park, can we use the shuttles/monorail to get around or is that only for those people staying onsite?

Totally random question: Has anyone ever booked a stay at a timeshare place in Orlando that requires you attend to the high pressure meeting? But gives a great rate and tickets?

In my opinion, it is never worth it. I hate those things. And you will always stay longer than they say you will for the sales meeting.

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I had a friend who did the timeshare pitch in April. Four hours later ( whole family had to be there) he bought the timeshare.

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The lockers are good size and they are in cooler rooms- yes it would work better.

No, you cannot use two park days to park hop. You need to add park hopper together into a second park.

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Those were some expensive park tickets!

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I tried responding to this earlier, but my formatting got all screwed up. Here is my second attempt!

I am not sure what SBD stands for, but I do think that plugging everything into the TP is the way to go. It will even suggest which fast pass to get. Very easy, and very worth the time.

I think the stroller will end up being more of a hassle than it is worth, but the locker does add a cost, thereby offsetting some of your savings. IMHO, you’d be best off to bring light snacks that you can carry around in your backpack. The problem with the stroller is that they get moved around a lot by CMs, so if you go back four hours later, there is a chance that it will be difficult to locate your stroller. Pushing it around and finding the designated stroller parking is annoying to me, but maybe not to you. If you do go the stroller route, definitely tie something very distinctive to it so that it is easy to spot in a crowded stroller parking area.

I have not done this as an adult, but my parents did it when I was a kid. My step sister and I were bored out of our minds and very cranky. To us, the time went very slowly, though I know time feels that way for kids. I highly doubt that it’s worth your time in the savings, but then again, if it’s the difference between being able to go or not, then maybe do it.

Anyone can use the Disney transportation system, they do not check to see if you are staying onsite.

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Even funnier, I told him specifically how much a Disney resale would be before he left: yup he paid more than Disney and bought into summer months with a wife that hates the heat.

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Thank you! I think my phone auto corrected and to SBD, lol! You all have been very helpful.
I was telling a friend about TP and that you can plug in the rides you want and it will plan it out for you. She asked if everyone would get the same plan. I assume TP switches up the plan based on how many are planning the same rides, not just plugging everyone in at the same time.
I think we’ll avoid the timeshare thing and do a regular hotel off site.

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