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Honeymooning at Walt Disney World
By Bonnie Joy Dewkett
ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the April 13, 2004, Issue #238 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Are visions of wedding dresses, cakes and invitations dancing in your head? Well, if so, chances are you're getting married and you have millions of things to do. If you're anything like my husband and me, the honeymoon planning doesn't always happen first. I'm here to help you switch those visions to princesses, castles and the Mouse himself!
My husband and I visited Disney World for our honeymoon in September 2002 and it was truly magical. We started planning only about six months in advance (so don't lose hope if your wedding day is fast approaching!) and we had enough time to make reservations, plan our days and ensure that we were able to see and visit everything we wanted. There are a lot of books out there on visiting Disney World as a couple or without kids and they are helpful. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing and planning a Disney honeymoon.
First, make sure you are both looking for a honeymoon where there is a lot of walking, activity and excitement. If you are looking for two weeks on a beach in the sun, you may want to consider the low-key resort at Disney's Vero Beach instead of the World itself.
Secondly, consider the time of year you are getting married. If you're planning on honeymooning during peak season -- in June or July, for example -- your Disney experience may not be the best. Since we got married in September, right after school began, the parks were deserted. We almost never waited to get on a ride and we had a lot more interaction with the staff than we would have had during peak times. However, realize that the parks' operating hours are cut back during low volume periods. To best use the parks' open hours, plan to visit attractions first and make dinner reservations for times after the rides are closed.
Also keep in mind when booking your honeymoon that you are probably going to spend more time in your room than if you were traveling with family. You may want to consider paying a little more to stay in a resort with more amenities. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and loved having breakfast with the animals every morning on our balcony. We also planned our days to include an afternoon rest, dip in the pool, and snack at our hotel. Check out a hotel's pool area before you decide. Some pool areas are more romantic than others and offer more hot tubs, poolside bar access, or more space for lounging. Also, you might want to spend the little bit extra to get the Ultimate Park Hopper. It offers the freedom and flexibility to visit the theme parks as well as the water parks as often as you want during your stay -- you can explore the Magic Kingdom in the morning and hit Blizzard Beach in the hot afternoon.
Although we rarely needed them, before we left home we made Priority Seating arrangements for dinner for every night. It was nice to know we would have a table ready and waiting for us. In particular, honeymooners might want to visit Victoria and Albert's in the Grand Floridian. You will need reservations a few months in advance for this, and proper dress is required, but it's all worth it! This very romantic meal comes complete with seven courses, a fresh long-stemmed rose, a personalized menu, and, if they know you are on your honeymoon, a complimentary gift! The whole meal takes more than two hours and it's a welcome change halfway through your honeymoon.
Before we left on our honeymoon, I remembered something I had seen in the parks on a previous visit: Mickey and Minnie ears. But not just any ears -- white Minnie ears with a veil for the bride and a black top hat with Mickey ears for the groom! I called the parks' merchandise mail order line and ordered a pair of each ($10 each plus shipping). We wore them during the last dance at our wedding (to the Aladdin tune, "A Whole New World") and for our sendoff. Our wedding guests loved it! We also brought them on our honeymoon for some great photos. Be prepared, though -- everyone will know you are on your honeymoon! If you don't want to wear the ears all day, take some photos (in front of the castle, for example) and then put them in a locker. Surprisingly, though, even when our ears were safe in our hotel room, many Cast Members somehow spotted us as being on our honeymoon (at least five different times). It brought a little more magic to the trip!
If you decide on a WDW honeymoon and are planning a gift registry or website, you may want to consider requesting Disney Dollars in lieu of a gift. We did this and got quite a few for my bridal shower. We used them throughout our honeymoon for all sorts of things -- it was much better than receiving another blender!
If you or someone you know is going on a Disney honeymoon, consider taking advantage of the Walt Disney World Florist's gift basket/delivery service. By calling and picking out a few items, you can purchase and arrange for a fantastic basket of goodies to be delivered to the WDW resort room. A few sample items in our basket were: a bride and groom Minnie and Mickey, a bottle of sparkling cider, two etched Mickey glasses (which we used on our one-year anniversary), cookies, candy and fruit.
Packing for a honeymoon isn't much different than packing for any trip to Disney World. I'm obligated to remind you, though, to bring comfortable shoes and sunblock. Sunburn and blisters can ruin anyone's day. Of course, you don't want to forget lots of film or digital media, as there will be plenty of kisses and moments you will want to remember. If you are traveling with a digital camera, consider bringing a laptop computer so you can upload images at the end of every day. That way you don't need to spend a fortune on memory cards and you can view your photos together in the hotel every night. Also, if you are planning on having any sort of wine, bring a corkscrew or bottle opener (but don't pack it in your carry-ons if you're flying!). We didn't pack one, and the gift shop didn't sell them. Guest Services hunted one down for us, but they said they normally don't have one to lend out to guests. The amount of luggage you can bring with you will depend on if you drive or fly, but if at all possible leave your wedding gifts, dress, veil and any large amount of cash at home with the best man or a family member.
Speaking of transportation, don't forget to decide how you are going to arrive in Disney World. If you are flying, arrange for transportation from the airport to your hotel before you leave home. It's too stressful to arrive and then have to rent a car, or hire a limo once you have landed. If you are driving to WDW, be prepared to spend an extended time in the car with your new spouse. Call AAA or another travel agency and have maps prepared for you ahead of time. Reserve a hotel room in advance if you will need to stop along the way and pack plenty of snacks and water. These may seem like simple things, but they can easily get overlooked in all the wedding planning. My husband and I drove, and although it took us 24 hours to get to Disney World, it was wonderful to retrieve our car at any time, travel to any park, and come back when we were tired. By the way, valet parking service was worth every cent. For the 10 days we stayed in Disney I felt like my Prince Charming was picking me up in a pumpkin carriage every day!
So, once you arrive at WDW, how will you spend your honeymoon? One thing to remember is that you are going to be exhausted when you arrive. It may be hard to imagine, but after days of visiting, dancing and happiness, you may want to do nothing more than sleep. Take a day to rest up -- plan an easy day, sitting by the pool or sleeping. For a romantic luxury, consider booking massages at your hotel or a Disney World spa.
You could also relax by just walking around Downtown Disney. We found that to be a great time to get our shopping done for all the relatives at home. That way we didn't worry about it in the parks and it was a nice relaxing way to spend an evening. Remember, if you are staying in Disney, they can even ship the packages back to your room so your hands are free for holding.
OK, if shopping at the world's largest Disney Store isn't your idea of romance, visit Ghirardelli's and share a hot fudge sundae (or get your own). After months of wedding dress preparation you deserve it. There are also many romantic restaurants in Downtown Disney. I recommend Portobello Yacht Club. There are no natural disasters occurring every few minutes (like the erupting volcano at the nearby Rainforest Caf, the number of children is limited, and you may request a seat on the deck overlooking the water.
While you are in the parks, remember that you're on your honeymoon -- take your time and enjoy the scenery. Don't just rush from ride to ride. However, at the start of every day you may want to make a list of shows, rides and attractions you both want to see to avoid confusion later in the day. Or map out your day's plans using a guide map the night before. It may not seem romantic, but no one gets their feelings hurt or ends up disappointed because "their" attraction wasn't visited. To maximize your time in the parks as much as possible use FastPass and be prepared to change plans at any time to accommodate lines, closed attractions or inclement weather.
There is no doubt you'll buy a lot of souvenirs on your honeymoon, but think about what type of souvenirs you'd like to have when you get home. If you're just moving in together or decorating a new home, you may want to consider purchasing some less popular items. Many gift shops have items related to the park, land and/or hotel they are in. You can find decorative household items such as pictures, plates, blankets and even bedding. At Disney's Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney you can purchase Christmas ornaments to decorate your first tree together. Many of the ornaments can be personalized with your name and a date. Also at Disney's Days of Christmas, you can find a personalization station that offers engraving, embroidery and other methods of making your souvenir special. Here they also sell frames, blankets, Christmas stockings, pins and a variety of other items. Keep in mind, though, that personalization may take a few days, so hit this at the beginning of your trip.
It may sound obvious, but make sure to get lots of photos with the characters. They are part of what makes this honeymoon so unique. The photos make great gifts for relatives, or you can have them made into "thank you" or Christmas cards when you get home. If you want to preserve your honeymoon memories in another special way, make sure to visit the scrapbook store, Disney's Wonderful World of Memories, in Downtown Disney.
We had learned about Hidden Mickeys before our honeymoon, and we had a blast looking for them together. It gave us some time to walk around, hold hands and explore either the park we were in or our hotel. As soon as we returned home we learned there is actually a book published to help you find them all -- Hidden Mickeys, by Steven M. Barrett.
After you are fully exhausted from all the fun, excitement and adventure the parks have to offer, you might want to travel two hours to Florida's east coast to Vero Beach. Disney has its own resort here, offering all the magic of Disney, but none of the hustle and bustle. Vero Beach itself offers shopping, restaurants and beautiful views. Take a drive or just stay at the hotel and enjoy its beach access, pool with 60-foot water slide, mini golf, or one of its many restaurants. This hotel offers many activities during peak attendance. They also offer massages, rentals and a larger selection of food and supplies in the gift shop. Keep on the lookout for the Hidden Mickeys! This is a perfect way to wind down a Disney World honeymoon.
Planning a Disney World honeymoon takes time and attention to detail. Inevitably you will forget something at home, but not to worry -- this is when the service of Disney really matters. Ask for help when you need it and enjoy the service, fun and atmosphere. Most of all, enjoy your time as newlyweds! No matter what you do on your honeymoon at Disney World it will no doubt be memorablein fact, it will be Magical!
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About the author: Bonnie first visited Walt Disney World in 1987 and fell in love right then and there. Her husband, Matthew, shares her love for Disney, even to the point of creating Hidden Mickeys for her around the house... he even makes Mickey Mouse pancakes! They both love to travel, adore all things Mickey, and hope to visit the Mouse again later this year.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.