Gearing up for college is scary to say the least. It’s hard to figure out what you actually need and what you will actually use once you get to school. And if you are anything like I am, figuring out what tech and digital resources you need is stressful, overwhelming, and expensive. Most of the things on my list are available at a discount to students, so I highly recommend checking them out and I’ll link where you can go to get the discounts. As a soon-to-be college senior myself, the things I’ve listed have been my go-to resources since I was a freshman myself.
College comes with lots of note taking. Even as a marketing major, the amount of notes I take both in class and from my books is crazy. Personally, how heavy my backpack gets trying to lug around my books, notebooks, and laptop is crazy, so I like to easily organize my typed notes in Evernote. This way I can organize my class, test, and more. Plus, they have an amazing app that allows you to view your notes on the go such as on the bus to class or waiting in line at Starbucks, a 5 star feature for this girl who likes to multi-task and make the most of her time. Click here to check out Evernote’s website.
No, this isn’t a necessity, but I’m not sure what I would have done without a study playlist during long hours in the library prepping for an exam. Music is my favorite thing to turn to when I’m typing out class notes, making notecards, reading for class, and prepping my planner for the upcoming week. I personally use the free version of Spotify that does play ads, but isn’t anything too crazy. If you do choose to opt in for the paid subscription Spotify offers a student discount that is only $4.99 a month. Click here to learn more about the student discount.
Quizlet is my hero, literally. In case you’ve never used them yourself, Quizlet is a virtual flashcard service that allows you to make your own flashcards and then use them either online or on their app. I personally learn best by writing or typing things out and then quizzing myself, so Quizlet is my go-to for everything from macroeconomics to basic gen-ed courses. I’ve shared my flashcards with friends in my classes before and then had them thank me for sharing and say they’ve started using the site as well. So if that isn’t enough convincing to get you to use them, just go and check out their site for yourself. Click here to visit their site.
Amazon Prime Student
How are you a college student if you don’t use the benefit’s Amazon offers through Prime Student? I’ve been using Prime service long before I entered college and couldn’t wait to get my hands on Prime Student. Not only do you get it for free for the first six months, it offers free 2-day shipping and tons of other amazing add-ons and features. I personally enjoy Amazon Prime TV and Movies to binge (I mean watch…) my favorite shows and movies. They also offer you Prime Reading, a digital library that offers thousands of titles that you can download to your device for free. Basically, Amazon Prime Student is amazing and a life saver. I mentioned the free 2-day shipping, right? Check out Amazon Prime Student here.
Since I don’t personally use all Mac products, Google calendar is my iCal. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I swear by my paper planners. In fact, I’m not sure I’d live without a way to write out my daily plans and to-dos. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized I might need something in addition to my paper planner, which is where Google calendar came into play. I use it to track when I have classes, my blog posts, social events, meetings, tests, study groups, and more. I even turn on notifications so I get a reminder sent to my phone for important things like when my rent is due and if I have a blog deadline coming up. I love that it is something I can use on my computer and on my phone when I’m on the go. Plus, it allows me to change times without having to cross things off in my planner, a plus for this paper planner freak.
I can’t believe I have to put this on my list of essentials because I thought everyone would have it on their computers already, but that’s not the case. I can’t tell you the number of people who try to get by with just notepad or Google docs. I promise you, no matter your major you will need more than those programs to get through college. In fact, I use Word to write all of my blog posts. As a student, you are offered a huge discount on a four-year subscription by using a .edu email address. Check out the discounts available to you through Microsoft here.
I first heard of Grammarly and their services when I was working an office job. We used it so that when we e-mailed our residents we would have not only perfect spelling, but perfect grammar. It shocks me how many students don’t know about Grammarly so they can’t utilize it. With a Grammarly account you can copy and paste documents into an online editor and you can install it into your Google Chrome browser to ensure proper grammar on everything from e-mails to social media posts. You can also get a Premium membership that allow you more features such as word suggestions, genre-specific tips, and even more editing help. Check out Grammarly here.
And those are my favorite resources for college students. I personally use all of these resources myself and have used all of them for the majority of my college career (except Grammarly, I wish I had that freshman year!) and even use them for my blog. Do you use any of the resources on this list? Are there any resources that you recommend checking out? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
I often joke with friends that part of my motivation to get through college is so that I can still get the student discounts at my favorite stores. In fact, what are you doing as a college student if you don’t use your student ID to try and get a discount? Today I’m bringing you my ultimate guide to all of the best student discounts you can get with your student ID card.
Students get free two-day shipping for six months, discounts on Amazon Student Prime, and more.
Discount Dance Supply
Offers 10% off of your first purchase with student ID.
Offers a 10% discount.
Offers a 20% discount.
Offers 15% off of in-store purchases.
Offers 5% off of food at participating locations.
Offers up to 69% off and free gifts.
These locations offer a discount for students, but the discount rate varies based off of location.
Depending on location, you can get 15-20% off of purchases in store.
Participating locations offer 10% off.
Offers free shipping on all orders.
Get 10% off of supplies you buy for class projects.
Offers a 20% discount to students when you spent $100 or more online.
Varies by location, but they do offer specialty pricing to students.
Offers $5 student burrito meals
Get 30% off on documents and 20% off of shipping services.
Participating locations offer a free drink with a valid student ID.
Offers $10 or 10% off for students.
At participating locations you can get 10% off of merchandise.
Offers 15% off of purchase in store.
Offers vary by participating location.
24 Hour Fitness
Offers special pricing to students, varies by location.
Offers 15% off of you full-priced purchase in stores.
Ben Franklin Crafts
Shop here on Tuesdays and get 10% off of all purchases.
Get 40% off of books, videos, newsletters, and journals plus free shipping.
Offers student edition software such as Acrobat and Creative Suite.
Full-time students under the age of 25 with a B average or better get a discount.
Offers the Sam’s Club Collegiate Membership and savings on college essentials.
Participating locations offer 10% off of your purchase.
Many locations offer 10% off.
The New York Times
Students get a student rate of 99 cents for the first 4 weeks and 50% of regular pricing after that.
Offers the Student Advantage Discount Card which gives you 20% off of fares and more.
Offers 50% off of Norton Protection Software.
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
If you are 14 or older and register with the Jo-Ann Student Discount Program you will get 10% off of all of your purchases and two coupons to use in-store and online.
Most locations offer a free drink.
Varies by location, be sure to look up if they offer discounts with your school.
Offers 25% off with good grades until you are 26.
Offers 10% off in stores and online.
Offers 10% off of your purchase.
Offers 15% off of purchases.
The Wall Street Journal
Offers more than 75% off of regular rates for online, print, and mobile delivery.
Offers 15% off of full priced items.
Offers special pricing to students such as up to $200 off of a new Mac.
Offers a Good Student Discount where you can get 25% off if you get good grades.
Typically offers a student rate.
Do you use any of the discounts listed on this post? Are there any student discounts that you would add to this post? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
This was originally published on my blog in May 2015 and is being republished for college month. Enjoy!
About a month into my freshman year of college I sat down in my favorite coffee shop on campus and starting writing this list. I outlined the major things that I had already learned and slowly added onto this list as the year progressed. Now, I’ve just finished up my freshman year of college and added a few more things that I learned along the way. Because if I’m being completely honest, freshman year is scary. I went in worried about things that didn’t end up mattering and unaware of the things I should truly have been worried about.
1. Get involved. Yes, you’ve heard it about a million times, but honestly the best thing to do in college, or any form of school, is to get involved. It’s a great way to network, meet new people, improve your time management skills, add to your resume, and allows you to be involved with something you are passionate about.
2. Know your priorities. In college, there are lots of events being held that you can fill your free time with, but you need to know your priorities. A weekend long service trip may not be the best idea if you have three tests the next week.
3. Have Goals. Take the time to make goals for yourself to reach during the school year. Set goals for things outside of school as well, such as social, financial, work out, relationship, or involvement.
4. Wear Shoes in the Shower, wash your hands, flush the toilet, clean up after yourself if you get sick. Just because your mom and dad aren’t around doesn’t mean your personal hygiene can go out the window.
5. Don’t Allow People to take advantage of you. The fact that I am a freshman on campus and have a car is a pretty big deal. Add on top of that the fact that I managed to get a really good parking spot in the parking lot right outside my dorm, people are well aware of the fact that I have easy access to a car. Just because you have a car does not mean that you should be the designated taxi driver.
6. An Ethernet Cable is the best investment you will ever make. Buying an Ethernet cable for my dorm room was honestly the best investment I have ever made. I always try to stay out of my dorm room and be on campus for the majority of my day, but when I have online homework, I am in my dorm room using Ethernet so that when Wi-Fi goes out, it doesn’t disrupt the timed math quiz that I am taking.
7. Have a College Bucket List. Start a bucket list of sorts of things that you hope to be able to do while you are on campus. Some examples of this could be to get involved in Greek life, to be an RA in a dorm, to be nominated for homecoming court, or to be a campus tour guide.
8. Keep in Touch with Friends From Home. I know you are super busy and meeting new people on campus, but keep in touch with your friends from home. They would love a quick update about how your move into the dorm went and how much you love your RA.
9. You Learn to Use Your Time Super Effectively. Coming to college and getting adjusted to the crazy college schedule took a good four weeks of getting used to and figuring out my routine. I had anywhere from an hour to four hour break between classes, each day had a different schedule, and days and times for my organization were always changing. It was a big adjustment, but I learned how to plan for each day to use my time to the best of my ability.
10. Do the “silly” freshman things. At my university we have something called a FIG, which stands for Freshman Interest Group. You can select a FIG based off of your major, so for example, since I’m a marketing major I was in the marketing FIG. A FIG essentially meant that you lived on the same floor as other people in your FIG, had two lecture classes with them, and then a FIG class with them. Whenever I told older students that I was in a FIG, many of them told me that they felt bad for me and not to worry “it will be over next semester”. Honestly, I think joining the marketing FIG was the best choice that I made coming to college, especially making the jump into 500 person lecture halls. I will never be able to explain how much it helped having the realization that twenty people in the lecture hall would be familiar faces.
11. Community Style Bathrooms Never Become “Normal”. While yes, I love that while people are showering with their music playing there is a mini dance party/singing marathon in the bathroom, I still shriek a little on the inside when my foot accidentally touches the floor when I’m getting into the shower or some part of my body touches a wall in the shower. It will never become normal that I am wearing flip flops in the shower or that I have to carry all of my stuff to the bathroom in the morning to wash my face and brush my teeth. It is fun, but I miss having all of my stuff in the shower, not having to wear shoes in the shower, and having good water pressure.
12. Take Classes Outside Your Major. This is the most common way that people find minors that they are interested in or even change their major. Or it could just be the way you incorporate something you are interested in into your class schedule, such as the textile and apparel class I took last semester.
13. Make Time for Yourself. A few weeks into college I realized that I was always around people, whether it be in class, studying at the library, or even my own dorm room, I didn’t have much alone time for myself. That’s when I started taking runs around campus, driving to the grocery store, and reserving private study rooms just to get away from people for a short amount of time and give me some time to myself.
14. Buy a good umbrella. I kid you not when I say eight weeks into my first semester I was on my 4th umbrella. Take the time to invest in a good umbrella because you will be using it a lot more than you imagine you will be. I’m speaking from experience on this one…
15. Utilize Rate My Professor and upper class-men. Rate My Professor has honestly saved me from almost picking some of the toughest or most disorganized professors on campus, which saved me grade wise. Another good thing to do is talk to upper class-men in your major about professors and classes and get advice from them.
16. Get to know everyone. Outside of your classmates and peers, get to know others. Talk to your RA’s, your advisers, your professors, and the lady that scans your meal card at the cafeteria.
17. Find your favorite places to study. I have a place to go to study when I want to be able to read my index cards out loud, a place for when I need total silence, and a place to go that is my absolute favorite escape for when I need to “get away”. There is nothing wrong with a change of scenery every now and then, especially when it feels like you are doing homework and studying for hours on end.
18. Invest in good tennis shoes. I kid you not when I say that a “lazy day” for me means that I have walked three miles. The Nikes that I bought before coming to school were probably the best investment that I made. While I love to look cute and put together, I can save that for going out with friends or the weekends. I’m always on campus wearing good tennis shoes and it has saved my feet and my legs from so much pain.
19. You get what you put into it. I can’t even begin to put into words the difference between the people who get themselves out there and do things and the people that don’t even try to get involved. Now, I am not talking about people who basically only have time for their job, school, and school work (trust me, I know people like this! I look up to them and want to learn their time management ways) I’m talking about the people that you want to ask, “Do you ever leave the dorm? Or your dorm room in general?” The people that seem to never leave their rooms are the ones that think college isn’t worth it, that it’s a waste of time, and that it isn’t what they thought it would be. Those that are putting themselves out there, getting involved, going outside of their comfort zones, and pushing themselves are the ones that are always talking about how much they love college and how it’s so much better than what they expected. You get out of it what you put into it.
20. Have a budget. I hear it all the time, “I have money now, so I will worry later when I start to run out.” That is not the way that you want to go about spending your hard earned money that is supposed to last all year but only lasts you half way through first semester because of your horrible spending habits. Sit down and make a list of all of the things you have to pay for that are necessities, figure out the costs for those, how much you have to spend that much, then how much money can be your “fun money.” Is being on a budget fun? No. But trust me, you don’t want to be the one spending your Christmas break trying to find an on-campus job because you already spent all of the money in your saving account.
21. “You Have a Package” E-mails are the Best. The best e-mails that you will ever receive come with a subject line of “You have received a package that is too large to fit into your mail box.” Those e-mails are literally like Christmas come early even if you are the one that ordered it and have been tracking it online.
22. Ask for help if you need it. There is this strange thing that comes with college that asking for help isn’t okay. Yes, you have this crazy new awesome since of freedom, but I promise asking your professor about that math lesson that went completely over your head will not take that since of freedom and independence away from you. Your professors are there to help you!
23. Get involved in events your campus puts on. Our school hands out a calendar to each student at the beginning of the school year that includes all of the events going on around campus. From Flick on Faurot to Spa Night, from Free Movies to the Career Fair, it is all on this calendar and online. I always hop onto the website at the beginning of the month and scroll through the calendar and add things for the month to my calendar to go to if I happen to have the chance.
24. There is a world outside of campus. I kid you not when I say that after a week of being on campus, going grocery shopping that Saturday was pretty eye opening. One of my friends even made that comment that she had kind of forgotten that there were grown-ups and little kids in “the real world”. Laugh all you want, but until you are surrounded by the college atmosphere, you truly do forget about the “real world”. I live in the dorms on a large campus and walk everywhere, so actually getting into my car and driving off campus is refreshing.
25. Treasure every alone moment you get. Living in the dorms, having a roommate, and all of the amazing things that come with being a college student has a down side: you don’t get much alone time. I used to feel bad for the students that sat by themselves at dining halls until I realized that is how they are getting away from people and finding that alone time. The most cherished time I have (yes, cherished) is driving by myself to go get groceries. It’s amazing to actually hear yourself think and not have other people talking around you.
26. Track your involvement. Did you have an on-campus job? Where you a volunteer at your school’s annual blood drive? Did you have a leadership position in your sorority or fraternity? Have an organized way of tracking your involvement. I personally have a Word document saved in my college folder that tracks what I was involved in each semester. Thanks to tracking everything, I won’t forget things that can be put onto a resume, including the things I thought I would “never forget”.
27. Get out of your dorm room. Get out of your dorm room and go somewhere else, even if it’s just the dorm’s lounge that is on the floor below you. I am honestly only in my room to sleep, get ready, eat breakfast, use Ethernet, and to watch too much Netflix with girls on my floor. Other than that, after I leave in the morning, I’m on campus all day unless I go back to use Ethernet.
28. Talk to your adviser. Your adviser is there to guide you through the next 4, or even 5, years of your life, so you have to use them to your advantage. It is recommended that you talk to them at least once a semester to check up on things, make sure you are on track to graduate, and plan classes for next semester. I honestly LOVE my adviser. I walk into my appointments with my list of required classes for my major, a list of questions, and a list of classes that I am looking at for the next semester and she always is happy to answer everything, walk me through things, and explain things that I completely misunderstood.
29. Homesickness is real. The hardest thing for me about going to college was that I was the only person from my graduating class at my university and several of my friends went to the same university and had classes together. Getting onto Facebook and seeing their posts with pictures of them together was very hard. The thing that I couldn’t figure out though was that I loved my university and I had always had the impression that if you were homesick you didn’t like your school. That is not the truth at all. The truth of the matter is, you are at this strange in-between place in your life. You are torn between two places because you have your room at school and your room at home. You are adjusting to new found independence and are trying to figure out your life. If you are homesick, it’s okay! It is completely normal and doesn’t mean that you don’t like your school. I promise, from experience, it is all okay and will get better.
30. Use your school’s GPA calculator. Your GPA in college is a lot different in college than it was in high school. In high school your GPA is typically based off of 6-8 classes, while your college GPA is typically based off of 4-5 classes. That one B or C+ can make a big difference on your overall GPA for the semester. I definitely recommend using your university’s online GPA calculator and figuring where your GPA will be based on grades you feel you can reasonably obtain.
31. It can be difficult living with a roommate. While living with someone else can be great, sharing one small room together is difficult and issues can occur. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t like how she is handling something within your room or you feel that you are being taken advantage of in some way.
32. College students have some of the best deals offered to them. From free access to the gym or discounts at retail stores, college students have lots of wonderful deals offered to them. Never be afraid to ask if a store offers a student discount because often times they do!
33. Get to know people within your major. Just from getting to know upper level students from within the marketing school, I’ve heard all about good GPA boosting credits, professors that I need to have, and which classes I need to be prepared to have a lot of work in.
34. Talk to you RA. Your RA’s are there to help you and want to help you, so talk to them and use them as a resource! And if you are having roommate issues, they are the people to turn to because typically they have been there too.
35. Go to class. In college, you (typically) don’t have your parents there to wake you up or tell you that you need to get off of Netflix and go to class. Even if you feel that you don’t get anything out of going to class, go! You or your parents are paying a lot of money for you to be there, and you never know, a professor who never gives out extra credit might actually give it because of how few people show up to his class.
36. Do the extra credit. Even if it’s just one point, do the extra credit. You never know, that one little point could be the difference between a B+ and an A-.
37. Utilize your syllabus. Your syllabus outlines your class, assignments, and tests, so it’s always good to reference it so that you know what’s coming up. There have been several times when I am the only person in the class that was aware of an assignment or quiz because I check my syllabus to make sure that I am on top of everything.
38. Be careful with caffeine consumption. Before I went to college, I had actually never drank anything that had caffeine in it. Crazy, I know. Once I got to college, I had to be careful to not lean on coffee to get me through my day.
39. Invest in a good pair of ear plugs. The kind of school work I’m doing determines the kind of environment I want to be in while working on it. If I’m doing homework or making a study guide, I love going to Starbucks or the lounge in my dorm because there is always a little bit of noise. If I’m studying for a test or doing a reading assignment, I need (almost) complete silence. I love going to the silent rooms in the library or sitting in my dorm room, but sometimes there is still a little bit of unpreventable chatter. Investing in a good pair of earplugs was one of the best things I’ve done for my study routine.
40. Do something productive every day. Every once and a while you will be blessed with a day where you have nothing to do, but do something productive anyways. Even if it’s just making a few quick flashcards for your business law class or getting ahead on your math homework for the week, just doing something will help you stay on top of things. And give you less to do when your weeks get crazy busy!
41. Not everyone drinks. There always seems to be a looming pressure to drink or that you will be one of very few people that doesn’t drink. As the school year progressed, it amazed me the number of people that I met that have chosen not to drink. While it is up to you, just know, you are not the only one choosing not to.
42. Use a planner. I’m being completely honest when I say I don’t understand how people make it through school without a planner. My planner manages when homework assignments are due, when review sessions and tests are, when classes are cancelled, when I have organization meetings, and so much more. I refer to my planner multiple times a day and I’m not sure what I would do without it.
43. Learn how to manage your stress. During my second semester, I had a three week span that was one of the most stressful times I’ve ever endured. In fact, it was probably the most stressful time of my life. After getting through that period of time, I realized I had to make time for myself to step away from everything I was doing and make time for myself. For me, that means painting my nails, going to the gym, writing for this blog, or taking a short drive.
44. You learn to appreciate the littlest things. I never thought how much I would cherish the ability to eat a home cooked meal, shower with no shoes on, not have to jump to get into bed, and the three hours to myself on the drive home.
45. Make a professional e-mail. There will be times that it is required to use an e-mail that isn’t your university e-mail, so you want to make sure you have an e-mail that isn’t lovetodance or basketball4lyfe. It’s typically suggested to use your first name, middle initial, and last name to make a personal, professional e-mail account.
46. Check your university e-mail. It’s amazed me the number of people that don’t stay on top of their university e-mail. At my university it is very common that we are e-mailed about upcoming school events, internship opportunities, on-campus job opportunities and reminders about when and how we should sign up for classes. If you are involved in organizations it’s also very important to stay on top of your e-mail because typically meeting times, leadership and volunteer opportunities, and meeting cancellations are e-mailed to you.
47. Do something for yourself every day. Just like you should do something productive every day, you need to do something for yourself every day. Whether it’s facial and hair mask in the shower or trying out a new yoga class, always make sure that you are making time for yourself.
48. Know the difference between casual, business casual, and business professional attire. It’s amazed me the number of events there have been that have requested business casual attire and people show up in yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt. Make sure that you know what attire is appropriate for the event you are attending.
49. Enjoy every moment. Even though it can be very stressful at times, remember to enjoy your time in college. It is a wonderful time of making memories, meeting new friends, finding yourself and growing as an individual.
50. No one’s freshman year is ‘perfect’. While yes, I will tell you how much I loved freshman year and that I am excited to see what sophomore year has in store, freshman year definitely had its challenges. From a severe care of homesickness, to roommate issues, stressing over a class to being sick for two and a half weeks and plenty more imperfect moments in between, what makes freshman year so perfect is looking back and seeing just how much you have grown.
What are your tips for soon-to-be college freshmen? Did I miss anything? Did any of the things I wrote stick out to you? I would love to hear your input in the comments below.
As a current Disney Cast Member I run into a lot of guests that don’t know much about Walt Disney World. Many guests come to Disney with only passes to the parks and hotel reservations, no dining reservations or Fast Passes. While you can still have a magical vacation with hotel reservations and park passes, you will mostly be eating hot dogs and hamburgers and waiting at least 30 minutes for each ride. Today I wanted to share some Disney basics with you so you are prepared for your first trip to Disney and have a magical time.
Disney FastPass+, referred to as Fast Passes, let you reserve times for rides, entertainment, and more. Once you’ve purchased a ticket to Disney World you can make Fast Pass selections 30 days ahead of time. If you booked a Walt Disney World resort hotel you can make your selections 60 days in advance.
Fast Passes are a free benefit in the Disney parks and you can make up to three passes for each day online or through the My Disney Experience app (more on the app later in this post). Once you have used your three passes for the day, you can add another selection to your day on the My Disney Experience app on your phone or at one of the Fast Pass kiosks in the parks.
And for reference from a Cast Member, here are some of the current most popular FastPass+ rides by park:
Magic Kingdom: 7 Dwarves Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain
Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and Kali River Rapids
Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, and Star Tours
Epcot: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, and Soarin’
My Disney Experience App
My Disney Experience is a free app that you can access from your cell phone that is an easy guide to the parks. You can view your Fast Passes, reservations, see wait times, access digital park maps, make Fast Passes, find restrooms, find character spots, view your Photo Pass photos, and more. This app is truly a great resource to have while visiting the parks and I highly recommend downloading it before your vacation so you can play with it for a bit.
Staying on property in a Walt Disney World resort is nothing short of magical. By staying in a Disney resort you have bus/monorail/boat transportation to the parks, meal plan options, and the magic of Disney Cast Members and all things Mickey shaped. Many resorts will also have dining areas to stop by for a quick breakfast as well. The basic break down of Walt Disney World resorts is value, moderate, and deluxe. Here’s a bit of a breakdown as well, just remember that there are more options such as campgrounds and villas that you can check out on the Disney website.
Value resorts: These resorts have bus transportation to the parks, Disney Springs, water parks, etc. and range in price from $100-300 a night. Value resorts include Pop Century, All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, and Art of Animation.
Moderate resorts: These resorts have bus transportation to the parks, Disney Springs, water parks, etc. and range in price from $200-400 a night. Moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Coronado Springs, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.
Deluxe resorts: These resorts boast bus, boat, and/or monorail transportation (when making reservations you will be able to view what transportation is available) and range in price from $300-$3000 a night. Deluxe resorts include Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club, Contemporary, Yacht Club, and BoardWalk Inn.
Not making dining reservations is one of the most common mistakes that guests make when coming to the parks. Disney has a lot more guests than it did 10 years ago when you could walk in and wait for reservations. Now starting 180 days before your arrival date you can begin making dining reservations for your trip. There is a limit on reservations if your stay exceeds 10 days.
While I highly recommend doing your own research on Disney dining, as I could make a full post on this topic alone, if you are wanting to dine at Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table make it 180 days in advance or 99% of the time you will not get a spot.
Also, the character dining options are some of the best dining experiences Disney has to offer. Some of my personal favorites are Chef Mickey’s, The Crystal Palace, Be Our Guest, and Ohana.
I also highly recommend 50’s Prime Time Café, Blaze Pizza, Coral Reef Restaurant, Flame Tree Barbecue, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and Kona Café.
Disney Magic is a wonderful thing and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I highly recommend looking into many of the amazing experiences that Disney has to offer. While there are many more than what I will be listing today, I’m sharing the two experiences that guests never seem to know about.
Magic Kingdom’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: One of the hidden gems for princesses and knights between the ages of 3-12 is this wonderful place tucked into Cinderella’s Castle. You can be transformed into a princess or a knight by a fairy godmother in training. This experience is always completely booked, so be sure you make your reservations 180 days in advance.
Disney’s Backstage Tours: If you want a backstage peek at Disney’s operation and to learn more about the history of Disney world, a backstage tour is for you. Fun fact: If you book the Key’s to the Kingdom tour you get to go back stage to view the tunnels. Yes, they are in fact real and you can see part of it too. I highly recommend looking up the tour options if you are a Disney kid at heart.
Extra Magic Hours
When planning what days you will be in the parks, look up when there will be Extra Magic Hours in the parks you are visiting. Extra Magic Hours are exclusive to those staying in Disney resorts and give you an hour before park open and 1-2 hours after park close to enjoy the rides with much shorter wait times. Each park typically only has one day a week with early Extra Magic Hours and one day a week with later Extra Magic.
Magic Bands look kind of like a FitBit in that you wear it on your wrist, but it’s much different. Your Magic Band is your hotel room key, how you get into the parks, what you scan for your Fast Passes, allows you to charge things to your room, and more. If you booked a Disney World resort stay you should receive an e-mail and/or a pamphlet in the mail with information about making a Magic Band selection for your party as they can be personalized with your name on the inside and there are many colors to choose from.
Now that I’ve covered booking your trip, I want to cover some of the things in the parks that you might not be super familiar with if you’ve never been to Disney. One of the popular things to do in the parks is pin trading. A lot of the cast members that aren’t in safety critical roles will be wearing pin trading lanyards that you can trade with. You can trade two pins with a cast member as long as they are not broken and they are Disney pins. I highly recommend looking on Amazon or E-Bay for trading pin packs so you have plenty of pins to trade.
Pressed Pennies are also a very popular item in the parks. They are a perfect souvenir and are a fun thing to collect as you run into the penny press machines. I highly recommend going into your vacation with quarters and pennies packed. Keeping them in plastic M&M containers is the perfect way to go.
Buttons and stickers
You will see a lot of guests with Mickey stickers or buttons that say Happily Ever After, I’m Celebrating, Happy Birthday, or First Visit. Buttons and stickers are available in almost every retail shop in the parks. Insider tip: if you are ever talking to a cast member whether they are at the front desk, a bus driver, custodial, working in a retail shop, etc. ask if they have stickers. There are lots of fun stickers that cast members have although don’t be upset if they don’t have any or are out, sadly our stickers go pretty quickly and we do run out every so often.
Shop Disney Parks App
If you see someone with something you are interested in or if you want to know if there is any good merchandise for Minnie Mouse, the Shop Disney Parks app is for you. This app allows you to search merchandise sold within the parks, locate where particular items are sold in the parks, and even have merchandise sent back to your house.
Package Pick-up and Resort Delivery
The final thing that people don’t always know about in the parks is package pick-up and resort delivery. If you purchase merchandise in the parks you have the option to send it to the front of the park, just as long as you will be in the park for at least another 3 hours and send it to the front at least 3 hours prior to park close. Your package will be available for you to pick up at the front of the park after 3 hours. Another option is resort delivery which allows you to send your package back to your resort and then you can pick it up the next day after 1 pm in your main resort gift shop. Just make sure you send your merchandise to the resort three hours prior to park close and if you miss that time frame your merchandise won’t arrive to your resort for two days.
Are you planning your first trip to Disney? Was there anything new you learned from this post? If you’ve been to Disney before, are there any tips you would add to this post? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
As a blogger something that is important to me is supporting fellow bloggers. I’ve been in the blogging community since I was in 6th grade and stumbled upon The Pioneer Woman’s blog and have been hooked ever since. And while a lot has changed since I (finally) started my first blog during the 8th grade, something that hasn’t changed is supporting and encouraging other bloggers. I had plans to write a 2017 blogger’s post round up at the end of the year, but simply couldn’t wait any longer to share some of my current favorite posts. While I plan on the round up for 2017 being much longer, I thought I’d share a little bit of the love with all of you. And be sure to stay tuned for the post coming at the end of the year too.