There are entire blogs and websites and books and businesses on the topic of Disney World tips.
And for good reason.
And I’m not going to turn this into a Disney World blog (though oh my goodness what fun!).
But I went. I saw. I loved. And I learned. And so now it’s time to share.
So if you’re headed to the Big D (our codeword from when the trip was still a secret), here’s a glimpse at how we did it.
Tips for your Disney World vacation
1. Stay on property
We didn’t. But next time, we will.
There are numerous advantages to staying in one of Disney World’s hotels. The ability to get into the park before it opens to the general public (aka: Extra Magic Hours) and being able to ride the monorail from your hotel to the Magic Kingdom, just to name a few.
But the real clincher for me? Of course, it’s the magic. When you stay ‘on property’ you never have to actually leave Disney World until it’s time to catch your plane. And believe me, when you leave Disney World in search of a quick lunch before nap time and you find yourselves at a Denny’s, the transition from Magic Kingdom to Moons Over My Hammy is HARSH.
2. Get there early. As in, when it opens, early
Those 6am wake-up calls our baby boy delivers every day came in handy at Disney. We were all up and out of our hotel room by 7am which put us in perfect position at the gates when they opened. And for about our first hour, sometimes two, we walked onto just about every ride. Wait times aside, there was also something just lovely about walking around the park when the sun was still rising and the crowds were still small. Even Disney is quite peaceful when the day is still waking up.
3. And then leave midday for a break
We left the park before noon each day and headed back to our hotel where the baby napped, our girl at least laid down for a bit, and we got to put our feet up for a few. When naptime was over, we headed back to the park or out to the pool or over to Downtown Disney and the fun continued. But without that midday break, none of us would have made it to dinner in one piece.
It can be a tough sell to convince a kid to leave and, to be honest, I didn’t always want to either. But we never regretted it and I do think we had more fun thanks to our mid-day breaks.
4. Make a plan
For each day, that is. It doesn’t have to be set in stone or followed perfectly. But make one so that if you break it, you at least know what you’re breaking. Plan out which rides you really want to ride or which things you really want to do. Dumbo happened to be top of our girl’s list (she loves those flying elephants) so we made sure that was locked into our plans and would not be missed. And then we rode it at least twice. Reserve a FastPass when you can and plan other things around those reservations.
5. But also roll with it
It was our last day and we were walking out of Epcot, headed back to our hotel to pack. And I saw that the Character Spot had only a 15 minute wait. And we had no idea which characters were in there or what we were getting into and we really did have a ton of packing to do, but we stopped. And we waited. And I will never forget the looks on my little ones’ faces when they got to the front of the line and saw Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. And my typically shy and reserved little people ran up to those mice and that dog as if they were long lost friends. It was probably my favorite moment from the entire trip.
6. Because there will be tantrums
Of course there will be. The Disney magic is strong but tantrums are stronger. And there will be moments when the excitement has built up a little too much or the waiting has gone on a bit too long and their little hearts and minds just buckle under the pressure. But there are quiet spaces in Disney. And so many things to see and do. So roll with it. And use the magic around you to turn the ship around when necessary.
7. Surrender to the magic and enjoy the experience
Childhood magic doesn’t have to be just for the little ones. Enjoy this time to be with your family, gaze at the wonder in your children’s eyes, and get swept up in the beauty of it.
A quick rundown of things we found useful:
Floridays: if you plan to stay off property, stay here! They are incredibly convenient to the park, have a great pool (and fantastic kiddie pool) and our room was perfect.
Garden Grocer: you order online and they deliver groceries to your hotel room. before you get there. nothing beats walking into your room and finding your fridge appropriately stocked with Corona and milk.
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014: This book is fantastic at giving you the information you need to get prepared and excited before you leave!
My Disney Experience app: get it now. create an account and then download the app onto your phone. you link your tickets to it, make your reservations on it, check ride wait times, and it’s awesome.