Disney World is often referred to as ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ but sometimes the thought of going with kids can be overwhelming. I was always told to “Wait until the kids are old enough to remember it”, “wait until they’re potty trained”, “wait until they can ride all the rides”
I am here to tell you, NO THANKS! Waiting isn’t for me. I believe you should take kids while they’re young enough to believe in the Magic! So what if they don’t remember every detail? You will! They will have pictures to look back on and special memories and stories to hear from you. So what if they can’t ride all the thrill rides? There are so many other fun things to do! I have always had an outstanding love for Disney, and visiting the parks. As a single woman, I would show up at whatever time I want, ride whatever I want and eat whenever and where ever I wanted. Visiting with kids changes EVERYTHING. I tried to be as organized as I possibly could for my first trip with kiddos but I quickly realized, I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I was. After a few more trips, I’ve learned a lot and I’m here to share some tips with you to make your vacay a little more stress free.
1. Disney World App
This will be your best friend while on your Disney vacation. From your Disney App you can mobile order food, pick up Fast Passes, get up to date wait times on rides, organize character meet and greets and shows, instantly download your PhotoPass pictures and it even has an interactive park map. It’s free to download and will help you navigate through the parks.
2. Fast Pass
Fast Pass selections can be made 60 days in advance if you’re staying in a Disney resort and 30 days if you’re staying off property.
Fast Passes are a great way to avoid standing in long lines where kids tend to get impatient. You can book 3 Fast Passes per day before your vacation. It’s best to get Fast Passes for as early in the day as you can. Once you use all 3, you are able to pick up more..one at a time.
This is 100% the best thing you can possibly buy on your Disney vacation. As a parent it will help take all the stress off capturing those sweet character interaction moments. It will allow you to be in the moment, enjoying the experience with your child. It also allows everyone to be in the picture. Plus you get Magic Shots! These are the cutest little experiences you can find all around the parks. Sometimes you get to hold Tinkerbell, sometimes you get to dance next to Olaf. The kids will love it! We got to the point where the kids would run up to every PhotoPass Cast Member they could find and ask them which Magic Shots they have. Also, if you buy before the trip you get a discount and trust me, it is so worth it!
The one thing everybody dreads! Navigating a heavy stroller miles and miles around a crowded park all day is not ideal but trust me, you want to have one. We heavily debated on not bringing one but boy what a mistake that would have been! The kids will get tired and need a place to rest and honestly it is a lifesaver not having to carry the bags around the park all day. I recommended a stroller with a storage space at the bottom.
- Do not bring multiple umbrella strollers if you have multiple children. I honestly thought that was a good idea on my first trip because yes they’re light and fold easy but Disney Cast Members are constantly rearranging the stroller parking areas and if you have more than one stroller you will spend your whole day searching for them. I never realized how many red strollers there are in the world until I was trying to find ours in a sea of strollers that all look exactly the same.
- Put something on your stroller to separate it from the rest. Wether that be a flag or a sign – have something that is easy to spot to save time.
5. Bring Your Own Snacks
I always bring an empty water bottle for each family member. If you have the dining plan with the resort cups you will be able to fill them before you leave but because of the design of the cup, you will be stuck holding them. So bring along a bottle with a sealed lid and empty your drink it to it and toss it in the stroller. Disney also allows you to bring food in to the park. We always do the dining plan so we typically stop in the cafeteria in the morning before we head to the park and each pick out a bag of snacks to keep with us to munch on while we’re standing in line. It is an easy way to keep the kiddos happy when there’s nothing else to do.
6. Disney Resorts
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Disney Resorts are too expensive. I’d rather find a cheaper hotel close by and save some money.’ I used to think that way too but let me tell you…Disney Resorts actually SAVE you money in the long run. Yes, you heard that right. Let’s look at the benefits of staying at a Disney Resort.
- Parking at a Disney park is $25 per day! Think of how much money you’ll save on parking alone. Not to mention gas and possibly having to rent a car, if you flew to Orlando. The Disney bus service is amazing. They pick you up right from your hotel and drop you off right at the entrance of the park. It is quick, easy, clean, convenient and fun! We actually love riding the Disney busses. It also makes nap time so much easier. Depending on the ages of your kiddos, they will get tired and they will need a mid day rest. Some kids can sleep in a stroller with all the noise and some can’t. The Disney bus makes it so easy to pop back over to your resort for a quick nap and then get back to the park ASAP.
- Extra Magic Hours. These will vary and either be offered early in the morning, before the parks open or late in the evening after they close. All guests who aren’t staying at a Disney resort will have to leave the park, leaving it just for Disney resort guests. You would be surprised at how empty the park feels and how many rides you can ride with little to no wait.
- Merchandise delivery. All of the gift shops in Disney Parks will deliver your purchases to your resort free of charge. I love shopping while I’m in the parks. You can find so many items exclusive to the parks but the last thing I want to do is carry around a bunch of shopping bags. Besides the inconvenience of carrying them, you also risk losing items. I love being able to send my purchases straight to my resort.
- Dining Plan. You can only use the Disney Dining Plan if you are a resort guest. Dining plans make life so much easier! More on that in the next section.
7. Character Dining
I never experienced Character Dining before I went to Disney with kids but it is a great way for the kids to have time with the characters and actually play and interact with them. Character meet and greets are typically a little more on the rushed side as they are trying to get lines of people through as fast as possible, but character meals really allow your child to have time and enjoy the characters. It’s a wonderful experience to watch and it allows you time to relax. Plus we’ve never had a Character Dining meal we didn’t love!
One of the few souvenirs that are free! We usually collect ours at our Disney resort as soon as we arrive. Kids absolutely love them! The front desk will have “1st Visit”, “Happy Birthday”, “Happily Ever After” and “I’m Celebrating” buttons. We’ve managed to collect them all at one point or another. They’re fun to wear around the park or pin on your backpack. Cast Members notice them and often time create a little Disney Magic just for you and whatever it is you’re celebrating.
9. Rider Swap
This is so helpful for big thrill rides that little ones can’t go on or a ride that one child is tall enough to ride but another isn’t. Rider Swap allows one adult to go on the ride and as soon as they get off the other adult gets to ride without having to wait all over again. If there is a child tall enough to ride, then they get to ride twice!
10. Zip Lock Bag
I always like to bring a zip lock full of essentials. Band aids, Tylenol, Sunscreen…things we are bound to need every day! If you forget something, don’t stress. There’s First Aid Centers at all the parks and they are more then happy to help out with any boo boos.
The shows are a fun way to take a break from all the excitement. Most of the shows are indoors so they can also be a great way to cool off during the summer months. Some of our favorites are Beauty and the Beast, Frozen Sing Along, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Disney Jr. Dance Party. That is the one show nobody talks about but the one we had the most fun at! I suggest a Fast Pass for that one. We got to be the very first people in with our Fast Passes. Everyone sits on the floor. We sat front and center. The characters come out and dance in the crowd with the kiddos. It’s a blast!
Last, but certainly not least, Disney parks are big places with lots of people. It would only take a split second for a child to disappear in to the crowd. We always put our names and phones numbers inside the kids shoe. Make sure the child knows it’s there and how to find a Cast Member and tell them, so they can call us.
The most important thing to remember is to relax, Mama. Plan it out as best as you can but don’t stress over it.
I can promise you at the end of the day, no matter what, everyone will have had a great time and you will have a ton of magical memories to look back on.