I’ve been a Disney World fanatic for years and my family and I have made the pilgrimage to Orlando many, many times to take on the Disney parks. And the main thing we’ve learned after all these years is that there are two types of Disney World vacations:
The magical and the… well… unorganized.
Here now, some tips that have worked for us that will hopefully help you and your family get the most out of the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Advance planning is essential. Disney is large. It’s crowded. And if you are going there between April and November, it’s hot.
All of these things combined make for a miserable experience if you don’t plan. And by that I mean: Book everything as far in advance as possible.
It may be a headache to call Disney at 9am EST exactly 180 days in advance of the day you arrive at Disney World, but I promise that you will thank yourself (and me) for doing so. Do the needed research to book your dining reservations and your FastPass+ times as early as allowed. Let the masses stumble around with that overwhelmed look in their eyes while you happily stroll through the parks with your plan!
Ensure your plan is flexible. With the introduction of FastPass+, Disney is making it increasingly difficult to build flexibility into your day. Trust me; there is nothing that can ruin a day at the parks faster than a draconian plan that dictates what the entire family will do with each and every minute.
“Yes Tommy, I know you love The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but the plan says we have to be at Jungle Cruise on the other side of the park in 2.3 minutes. We have no time for your fun!”
I try to ensure that I have a handful of things scheduled each day (2 meals + the 3 allowed FastPass + times). Those are my bookends. Everything else is based off a loose, general plan. Know what area of the park you will be in for your meals and FastPass + attractions, and then go with the flow.
Get input from your entire family. Each day that you go through the parks, try to focus on doing a couple of things specific to each member of your family. Involve them with the planning phase to get them excited. Order the free Disney Vacation DVD from the Disney website, and sit down with everybody one night to watch it. This gives everyone the opportunity to see the attractions for themselves and pick out what looks especially exciting to them.
Print out a map of each park before you leave and have each person list their top 3 “must-do’s” for each park. In the past, when our kids were younger and less experienced with Disney World, we would set aside a special family night to look at the maps and talk about all the fun things that we would do.
Look into the many Disney Resorts on property. If your situation allows, consider staying within Disney World at one of their resorts.
There are a few different levels of resorts: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe; each with their own unique theme. As with anything else at Disney World, the theming at the resorts is awesome!
Why stay at a Disney World resort? Two good reasons.
For starters, you’ll have the benefit of transportation to and from the parks. Depending on which resort you stay at, you can be whisked away to any location within Disney World by bus, boat, or monorail. No need to get in your car and drive, or see that un-magical outside world beyond the Disney gates! You will also be able to participate in Extra Magic Hours, which provides Disney World resort guests even more time in the parks.
Plan a “No-Park Day” for the middle of your trip. If you are at Disney World for a week, you may wake up one morning about mid-week and realize that you can’t feel your legs.
Slogging around the park for 12 hours can wreak havoc on your feet. And that calls for a laid back “no-park day”!
This can take many forms. Sometimes I like to plan a day at the water parks in the middle of the week, either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. The water parks are a bit more relaxing, and offer a ton of shady spots to crash on a beach chair while you watch your little ones play in the sand or in the wave pool right in front of you.
You might also want to head over to the Boardwalk to rent a surrey-bike that fits up to 6 people, and then top that excursion off with a cool treat at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop!
Or, maybe spend a day at Downtown Disney to catch up on some shopping and snacking. Or just hang out at your resort, which offers activities (boating, fishing, parasailing, outdoor movies, campfires, etc.) throughout the day.
For tips on how to make the most of your time once you actually get to Walt Disney World, click here.
Read more at Traveling Dad about how to get the most out of Walt Disney World:
- At Walt Disney World, The Magic Is Truly Everywhere
- Man Snacks at Walt Disney World
- Why You Need to See Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life for Yourself
- How to Enjoy a Butterfly Garden Visit at Epcot
For even more on Disney…there’s a wealth of information over at Traveling Mom. Click here.