Plan 1: For the Park Pro
Courtesy of Walt Disney World
Your family has taken several trips to Walt Disney World, in Orlando. You want to go again, but what haven't you seen? Learn about the latest happenings.
Stay Look into the newest resort: Disney's Art of Animation. The final phase of rooms, decorated in The Little Mermaid theme, opened in September with rates starting at about $100 per night. Family suites with The Lion King, Cars, or Finding Nemo décor (starting at $249 per night) are also available. "Art of Animation has so many cool touches," says Deborah Bowen, a Disney Parks Moms Panelist who has been to the park more than 100 times with her two sons, ages 8 and 9. "In the Finding Nemo rooms, for instance, the lights are shaped like bubbles and if you go underwater in the pool, you'll hear the voices of some of the characters from the movie."
Play Focus on New Fantasyland, which reopened in December with new attractions such as Under the Sea Journey of The Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales With Belle. For Ariel's ride, families hop inside a giant clamshell and are immersed in bubbles as they hear the mermaid's story. In Belle's attraction, guests are led into the library where she and Lumière give them a chance to take part in the telling of the princess's story. A sweet touch: "Children who participate receive a nice bookmark," says Bowen. What's more, Disney's Dumbo attraction has new water and light features and no lines! A pager system lets families know when it's their turn to hop on. More new must-sees: characters from Wreck-It Ralph at Disney's Hollywood Studios and a renovated Test Track Epcot, where you can design your own car and see how it manages the hills and hairpin turns of the test-track circuit. For an insider feel, book a behind-the-scenes tour such as Disney's Family Magic ($34 per person), a two-hour scavenger hunt around the Magic Kingdom. Pass time while you're waiting in line looking for Hidden Mickeys, images of the mouse ears concealed in the design of an attraction, a restaurant, or a hotel. "A Disney cast member can often give you hints about where to find them," says Jodie Hilson, a Disney Parks Moms Panelist who has four children.
Eat The hottest restaurant is Be Our Guest, in the Beast's new castle in New Fantasyland. When you go for lunch you order at a counter and receive a rose to take to your table. "Using technology in the rose, the staff is able to track which table you're sitting at and deliver your food on a glass cart," says Bowen. (For dinner, you order at the table and can make reservations.) If Cinderella Castle is "been there, done that," try 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for a dinner buffet with Prince Charming and Cinderella and her stepsisters. Outside the parks, get the turkey sliders and barbecued-chicken pizzas at Splitsville, a new upscale bowling alley in Downtown Disney.
Save Don't overdo it on souvenirs, especially if you know you're likely to come back in the future. "Instead, give your child a $25 Disney gift card and, on the last day, let her spend it however she wants," says Mary Waring, founder of mousesavers.com.