I am going to try to keep this Disney post shorter than the last! (here’s hoping, huh?) I think I’m just going to do bullet points to try to keep it simple!
Before you go…
- Plan ahead! Use the WDW website, and the links I gave you in the last Disney post to have at the very least a rough sketch of what you want to do each day of your vacation. Plan what park(s) you want to visit (take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours if you’re staying at a Disney resort!) each day and roughly what rides/attractions you don’t want to miss. If you are going during a busy season, you’ll need to plan more. The simple reason is because planning what attractions you want to do in what order (ahead of time) can save you time waiting in line at the parks. Be sure to use the fast pass system to decrease wait time (this may or may not be necessary during slow times – when we went in Feb., there were only a couple of attractions for which we needed to use the fastpass).
- If you have picky eaters, you may want to peruse restaurant menus ahead of time so that you know where you want to eat. (go here) Believe me, this is way better than walking around and checking what’s available while you’re there and everyone’s tummies are growling!!
- Decide if you want to dine at any sit-down restaurants or do any character dining and make reservations! Although the character dining is expensive, I felt it was totally worth it for my kids. My 9 and 7 year olds were skeptical about going to the “princess breakfast” at Royal Akershus in Epcot. But believe me, when we were there, they totally felt the magic. They were excited about it (yes, even my boy!) and enjoyed the one-on-one attention that each princess gave them, right at our table. The food was fantastic, too!
- As I said in the first post, we got the quick-service dining meal plan. With the ages of our kids, we didn’t want to spend too much time eating (the sit-down restaurants take longer) and it was perfect for us. The one tip about this is to use your snack credits for breakfast. Our hotel food court had muffins, danishes, cinnamon rolls that counted as snacks – so we could get these for breakfast. I had brought cereal bars and other breakfast items in our suitcases to eat for breakfast, but I really didn’t need to – it was a waste of space! And for us, we didn’t even miss those extra snack credits – the meals were plenty of food in themselves and pretty much filled us up. (notwithstanding the occasional need for a cup of coffee to refuel or a mickey mouse ice cream bar!!). We brought our own water bottles, so we really didn’t need to use the snack credits on drinks, either. The other tip on snack credits – if you have leftovers at the end of your trip you can use them on prepackaged candies / rice krispie treats / etc. as souveniers to bring home.
While you’re there:
- Don’t forget to pack… comfortable shoes that are worn-in, a first-aid kit, extra batteries, sufficient personal care items (yes, ladies, you know what I’m getting at), medicines including some pain relievers and cold/sinus meds, extra pants/sweatshirts if you’re traveling in the winter, lightweight gloves for the kids in the winter (although it was in the 60’s during the day, the wind was chilly, especially at night!), rain ponchos, water bottles and single-serve drink mix, handi-wipes and hand sanitizer. Believe me, you can get all this stuff at the parks or in the hotel gift shop, but you will pay for it!!
- If your kids don’t like self-flushing toilets, bring post-it notes to stick on the sensors. It works wonderfully!
- Go with the flow. If you have smaller children, let them direct your activities to a certain extent. In other words, if they are tired, take a break. If they would rather get character autographs than ride rides, indulge them in that. Believe me… being flexible in this area is going to lead to a much more enjoyable time than pushing kids to do things they don’t want to do. Build in some down time back at the hotel in the afternoons if you plan on being at the parks late to watch the shows at night. Sometimes the best things around Disney are only experienced when you’ve slowed down enough to find them! And sometimes these smaller things are just what the kids want to do – rather than wait in line for the “big” attractions. For example, early in the morning at Epcot they bring out balls and large garbage cans for the kids to play with. At first I thought to myself – let’s not do this because there are rides we need to get in line for! But if we’d sped past this fun moment for the kids – we would have missed out on a fun memory and I would have regretted it. So don’t feel stressed to do it all – take it easy!!
- Set a spending limit with your kids ahead of time. We told the kids upfront and clearly how much money they could spend (obviously the littler ones may not fully understand). Then we didn’t let anyone buy anything until after we’d visited all the parks and they’d had a chance to see what souvenirs were available. I suggest you limit your shopping, though, to about one of the larger stores in each park because the kids tend to get overwhelmed with all that’s available. (if you’re new to Disney, you’ll be shocked to see how many stores there are at each park!!!)
- Take lots of photos! The photopass system is really neat, but the photos are sooo expensive. You’ll have to decide if you think it’s worth it! I would suggest as an alternative that you just ask other WDW visitors to take photos of your whole family – many are glad to help.
- The bus lines for the WDW resorts can be looong after the fireworks shows at night. You want to either try to be closest to the park exit during the shows & get to the bus first, or instead you might want to linger in the parks (get a snack, look through the stores) a bit after the show and wait for the line to go down!
- There is a bag check at each park in front of the entrance gates – and they are very thorough. In order to make this go quicker for you, you might want to limit the number of bags you have and bring bags that only have one or two pockets (because they’ll want you to unzip ALL of them so they can inspect!). I had a backpack with 4 pockets, a camera bag, and a fanny pack. It served us well, but next time I’ll be cutting back!
- If you are going during a busy season, you may want to bring things for the kids to do while waiting in line. I will say that I did bring stuff, but in February it really wasn’t necessary.
- Let one responsible person carry all the room keys / park tickets. Enough said.
So those are the things that I think are most important – there are lots of tips floating around on the internet and you have to pick & choose according to the needs of your family. I am probably going to do one more post listing what our family’s favorite attractions were, just to give you some ideas in that area. See you then!