Help Me Hank takes on Disney World: Tips for planning, saving money

Hank Winchester reports from the happiest (and most expensive?) place on Earth

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ORLANDO, Fla.This article first appeared in our Help Me Hank Newsletter. Sign up for it below:


Greetings from the happiest (and in my opinion, the most expensive) place on Earth.

This week, my family made our way down to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was a great trip.

This type of trip, especially in this economy, takes some time and creativity to plan. I also learned some things from other parents, so I thought I would share some hacks with you all this week!

Planning your trip

First of all, if you want to go to Disney World this year or next, start planning now.

We started booking “moments” (i.e.: a meeting with Princess Belle) in January this year. These activities fill up fast. You can do a lot on your own using the Disney app, or you can hire (not cheap) a Disney insider or travel agent to assist.

Disney does have representatives available who can offer free tips and help.

AAA sometimes offers discounts on tickets to the resort, and other insurance providers may, too (especially when it comes to car rentals). Some employers offer discounts on everything from hotels to park hoppers, so check with your work team during your planning.

At the park

We decided to go to the park each day at 11 a.m. Were told the 8 a.m. rush lines are long, and we wanted to avoid that. Going at 11 a.m., we never got stuck in line!

The parks are filled with employees who are there to help. We would often ask the staff members: “If you had 1 hour right now, where would you go?” They pointed us into some great pockets of the park that we may have otherwise ignored.

I waited until we were in Orlando to buy all the Disney swag. We bought all of our Disney hats, t-shirts and glasses at CVS and Walmart, rather than in the park.

Inside the Disney resort, a shirt costs around $29, while at CVS, shirts were $9 or cheaper. Rather than splurge on clothes, save your cash and splurge on an experience in the park that your little one may remember.

Also, keep in mind that you can bring water and snacks into Disney World. Again, I loaded up on food and water at CVS, and it saved us a lot of money. A bottle of regular water can cost $5.99 in the park.

Overall tips

There are thousands and thousands of black strollers at Disney. Some people made signs or tied balloons onto their strollers to make theirs stand out. It’s a great idea. Sometimes, Disney staff members move your stroller when you’re on a ride, and it can be hard to find afterward.

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The crowds are huge, and while we always held hands as we walked, the thought of losing your little one is terrifying. Some suggest discretely writing your name or number on a name tag, or placing an Apple AirTag in your child’s pocket. Safety first, right?

Finally: Have fun! Friends reminded me to enjoy the moment. It can be a stressful experience, but these are moments that go by so fast.

If you have any tips or suggestions, let me know. We can all learn from each other.

Happy travels! Be well. - Hank

Email me or check out @HelpMeHank

hmh (WDIV)

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About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.