Spring break is coming up, and if you’re one of the lucky ones, you may be heading to DISNEY WORLD!!! (Which, by the way, makes me very envious!!) Or maybe you’re planning for a future trip – which is so important because a well planned Disney trip is an amazing trip, and a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Disney trip could spell disaster!
Let’s face it, it’s a busy place and sometimes the thought of Disney World is overwhelming to a lot of people, but we still want to be able to give our kids that trip of a lifetime! I have to say, it was the best trip my family and I have taken so far. It really is the most magical place for kids (and adults!) BUT I was well planned – and I mean really well planned.
And there were still a couple of things that we learned along the way that I will share in this post so you can have just as magical of a time as we did!
- Bring a stroller
You may be thinking “I won’t need a stroller, my kids are 4 and 6, they haven’t been in a stroller for years”, but let me tell you, the stroller was a life saver for us (and we only did mornings from opening until 1:00 or so each day) and my kids were almost 4 and 6. And if I was to go again this year, I’d bring it again.
The stroller was great for them to rest their legs after walking for awhile, get a bit of shade, have a snack on the run while we went from one attraction to the next, and probably my most favourite thing was that it was a place for us to put our park bag and things. I know they have lockers in the park, but who is going to want to walk all the way back to the entrance to get a snack or something out of their bag? Not me that’s for sure.
There is stroller parking all over the parks so you just have to park it and go on the ride. Everyone keeps their bags in their strollers and I’m pretty sure no one has had an issue with things going missing. I mean, this is Disney and people are paying a pretty penny just to go. I don’t think they’re going to be looking through park bags 😉
The strollers you can rent from Disney aren’t the comfiest strollers, and they cost quite a bit of money each day ($15/day for a single or $31/day for a double). You can also rent them from off site places, such as Orlando Stroller Rentals for $60-$85 for a week, but we brought our own from home since they are free to bring on airplanes, and we loved our stroller 🙂
***Make sure your stroller doesn’t have a bar that sticks out the front (we brought a bike stroller since it was chariot style and both kids could sit comfortably). Ours has a bar that sticks out for the small wheel to attach to in front, and as soon as we got to the park they told us we couldn’t bring that stroller in or we had to remove the bar. We obviously couldn’t go without our stroller so we removed the bar and had to use it with just the two wheels. It all ended up working out, but I was shocked that after ALL of the reading and research I had done about the parks and strollers, nowhere did I read about this!
2. Bring your own food
When I was planning our trip last year, I was almost shocked to find out that you can bring all your own food into the parks! This saves a lot of $$$ and you aren’t stuck eating restaurant food for a week! Not to mention, when you can grab a quick sandwich, you have a lot more time for rides and attractions while other people are wasting an hour or more of their day waiting in lines and eating in restaurants.
I do recommend eating at a couple places in Disney, but I’ll talk about that later. Disney does have restrictions about what you can bring your food in, but it’s still a considerable size and has to be a soft cooler. We stayed off sight about a mile from Disney, so it was easy for us to get groceries and pack our lunches and snacks each night when we were at the house, but if you are staying on site, you can order groceries to your room and keep them in your fridge, as there are mini fridges in each room.
Think easy and healthy snacks like cheese strings, yogurt tubes, baby carrots, bananas, apples, berries, crackers or gold fish, pretzels, applesauce pouches, etc. We stuck to sandwiches for lunch since it was only for 6 days and I didn’t feel like spending time thinking (or making) anything fancier than that.
3. Go early
Mornings are the quietest time in the parks – take advantage of that! I recommend being at the gate at least a 1/2 hour before they open (our first day we ended up being almost an hour early because it didn’t take as long to park and get to the gate as we thought, but it was great! We were one of the first families at the gate and we were able to get some great pictures).
You may have to wait a bit before, but it saves you time waiting in attraction lines later, and you can be one of the first ones in the parks and get to where you need to be. We made sure to pack small colouring books, etc. to keep the kids entertained before we got in the park, but they were happy just to wander near the gate and check things out.
Once the gate opens, you head to your top pick (that you don’t have a fast pass for). The first day we went straight to Princess Fairy Hall to meet Anna and Elsa (although they are not there anymore), so we didn’t need to use a fast pass for that and we only waited about 10 minutes in line instead of 2 hours! Even some of the more popular rides won’t have long waits yet, so use your fast passes wisely. Don’t book a fast pass for 9:00am, instead just go to that ride first and save your fast pass for a bit later.
4. Book a breakfast at Magic Kingdom before the gate opens
Did you know that you can make a reservation to eat breakfast in the park BEFORE it opens? That means you get into the park before the gate is open and there are hardly any people in the park. This is when we got a perfect picture of our family in front of the castle without a thousand people in the background!
We made a reservation at Be Our Guest restaurant for 8:20 on a day the park opened at 9:00. We chose this restaurant for a couple reasons – a friend had recommended it, and it is very close to the Snow White Mine Train which is one of the most popular rides in Disney and we couldn’t get a fast pass for it since they were already booked before we were able to book our passes. Once we were finished breakfast, we walked over to the mine train and waited in line until 9:00. When they opened the ride, we were some of the first ones on and there was NO waiting! That morning was definitely a highlight of the trip, and well worth the pricey breakfast 😉
5. DON’T book a hopper pass right away
This is one of my “live and learn” tips. When I booked our Disney tickets a few months before our trip, I thought “I better buy the Hopper pass so we’re not tied down to just one park/day.” Being able to “hop” from one park to another in a day sounded good at the time, so I went ahead and spent the $256 to add the Hopper passes to our tickets.
After planning a bit more of our trip I came to realize that chances are we wouldn’t be doing multiple parks in a day because of our family planned to meet back at the house each afternoon to swim with all of the cousins, and our kids were at the age where they still had to be in bed at a reasonable hour so we weren’t planning on nighttime at the parks (except for our last night).
I called Disney to see if I could take that option off my tickets since we hadn’t used them yet, but they said that once you buy them, you can’t get a refund. And I then found out that I could’ve added them to our tickets at anytime during our trip! So next time, I will be sure to wait until we arrive to decide if the hopper makes sense for us. That’s a lot of money to spend if you want to go to multiple parks for just one or two days of your trip. Especially when you can spend multiple full days just at Magic Kingdom!
6. You can’t do it all!
Depending on the age of your kids, this will vary for each family. Older kids will certainly be able to handle a lot more in a day than the young ones. We went with the intention that this trip was for the kids, and we knew they were going to love every minute, and what they didn’t know, they couldn’t miss.
We made sure to do the rides and attractions that we knew they would love, but we didn’t spend hours in lines waiting for every character’s autograph either. We picked the princesses that my daughter loves and made sure when we were at Hollywood Studios that we got to see Jake for my son. If we happened to be walking by and saw a character without a big line, we’d stay to meet them.
Depending on how much time you spend in the parks during the day will also determine how many attractions you can visit. We just wanted to do mornings because we didn’t want the kids to get exhausted and start asking to leave. We left about 1:00 each day and found it was a perfect amount of time, and they were still having fun when we left and were excited to go back the next morning. Most kids LOVE to just swim in a pool, so to go back to the house with their cousins and swim was probably just as exciting for them and it was some downtime for everyone at the same time 🙂
I HIGHLY recommend doing part days if you have little ones, and a 6 day pass is only a little more $ than a 3 day pass, and if you use 6 half days you’re spending the same amount of time at the park as 3 full days but it’s so much more enjoyable! At the very least, plan to take breaks during the afternoon and then maybe go back in the evening after some downtime.
7. Make reservations for Bibbity Boppity Boutique and restaurants early!
Many people don’t realize that you can book reservations (at the BBB or restaurants) 6 months in advance. And the BBB books up fast, so if you want to be able to pick your time, book ASAP! I waited until a couple months before our trip since I didn’t realize you could book that early, and they had 1 spot left (at 6:40 in the evening on our last night there). I took it of course, and it did work for our schedule since that was the night we planned to stay for fireworks, but it would’ve been better earlier in the day so she could enjoy her new princess attire for a bit longer.
I think the best time would be in the afternoon since that’s when it gets hot and busy in the park. Another tip for the BBB is that you can bring your own dress! I bought a cinderella dress at Walmart after Halloween for $7 and brought it with us to Disney. Before we went to the BBB, I surprised her with it and she was just as excited about her $7 than the $$$$ dresses they sell at the boutique.
They have cheaper packages as well (I paid $56) for the make-up, hair and nails, as opposed to over $250 the lady before me paid. (That was including the dress and accessories she had bought). I mean, I’m all for giving our kids a great experience, but I wouldn’t be able to justify that kind of money for my 4 year-old when she can have the same experience for $60. This was a definitely a highlight of the trip for her!
8. Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios
This is a very popular attraction at Hollywood Studios. Children get to dress up and actually fight Darth Vader! In order to sign up for a training time, you have to go into the park early and follow the signs to the store where they meet you and sign you up for a time later in the day – DON’T wait at the gate until it opens! T
here will be a staff member with a sign for Jedi Training near the end gate and he will let you into the park BEFORE the park opens to go and sign up. If you wait until the gate opens, the line just to sign up will be 30 minutes at least and now you’ve wasted so much precious morning time! We were in and out in just a few minutes and then could wait inside the park for the rides to open and got to the popular Star Wars ride first thing without having to use a fast pass.
9. The PhotoPass is worth it!
This one I wasn’t sure about when I was first planning our trip. It seemed like a lot of money to spend on pictures when I knew we’d have our phones to take our own pictures. Then I found out that you can link your whole party (we were going with my sister’s family so there were 8 of us total) on one PhotoPass! (And you don’t always have to be together). Since this cut the price in half for us we decided to try it. It was SO worth every penny!!
There are so many photographers around the park and you just walk up to them, they snap your picture and then scan your magic band and all the pictures are scanned onto your account. This makes family pictures so easy since someone is always there to take it (not to mention in great quality too!) And they take a lot of pictures at each character greet so there are a lot of great candid shots that you would never be able to get on your own. Just check out this picture of my daughter and her favourite princess and you’ll see what I mean! I never would’ve been able to capture that moment 😉
10. Plan, plan, plan!
I can’t stress this enough! It is crucial to plan ahead to make sure your Disney vacation is an unbelievable experience. There are so many blogs (and I thank you for taking the time to read this one 🙂 ), books and apps that can help you create the perfect vacation, but you will have to put in some time and effort. My husband kept bugging me about the time I was putting into planning and thinking about Disney (but in my defence, I do LOVE to plan things 😉 ), and then during our trip he admitted how all the planning paid off and couldn’t get over how everything went off without a hitch!
I used “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World”, “Birnbaum’s 2016 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide”, the “My Disney Experience” App, and the “WDW Lines” App. The WDW Lines app lets you track the busiest days, plan a day with attractions you want and it even adds in wait times so you know roughly how your day should run. It is around $12 to buy but worth it for sure!
I hope you find these tips helpful! Do you have any great Disney tips you’d like to share?