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There are so many vacation destinations you can visit on the fly. My friends, Disney is not one of them. Fast passes, meal reservations, character greetings, parades, shows and so much more. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is exciting and intimidating. That Crazy Disney Pressure can surely take over. Starting our Disney Bound series on the right foot, I had to open with, Disney World: Top 10 Travel Tips With Kids. This list is dense but its tried and true and a must read for every visitor. Stay tuned as we dig into so many different areas such as Where to Stay, What to Buy, Character Meals, Memory Maker and more! Be sure to SUBSCRIBE, so you don’t miss a beat!
- Research The first step, do your research. Especially if this is a first visit or you haven’t been there since the Fantasyland expansion in 2012. PassPorter’s Guide is an excellent travel planner we’ve used over the last several years. With a new edition every year, you are sure to have the most relevant information. Maps, ride and restaurant descriptions, ride height restrictions, reviews and so much more. PassPorter’s Guide will help you immensely to select your must-do attractions. Doing your homework here will save you future headaches. A little studying will build your excitement and help you out big time when you get hit with the unexpected like ride closures and temper tantrums.
- Daily Itinerary & Fast Passes Make your selections early. Depending on where you stay and when you purchase your tickets you can reserve your spots 30 or 60 days before you arrive. My Disney Experience is a great app to help you with exactly that. It will help you keep track of your reservations, book fast passes and see attraction wait times. Whenever possible, plan your day by geography. Crisscrossing locations and battling the crowds, will waste time. Start in one section, make your meal reservations and pick your fast passes based on ride popularity and move on to the next area. You get 3 batches of fast passes per day but once you use them all you can use the Fast Pass Kiosks to get more. If you are visiting with younger child that do not meet all height restrictions (under 5ish) be sure to pick up Rider Swap tickets. With a Ride Swap ticket one adult can wait with the non-rider while the other parties ride, obtain Ride Swap ticket from ride entrance, then the other adult plus two riders can revisit through the fast pass line- no waiting! Some rider swaps give you up to 7 days to revisit. So if you have to hustle to your next destination, tuck that sucker away and use it later!
- Timing is Everything Do not visit during the summer or peak times. Prior to the park expansion in 2012 we walked on to nearly every ride during off peak. We owned that bitch. Those days are far from over. Even though we continue to visit off peak (and gulp – take the kiddo out of school for a few days), the parks are busier every year. I absolutely cannot imagine visiting during the peak in 100 degree Orlando weather. I cannot express this tip strongly enough. If you need a vacay in July, go to the beach or Alaska. Disney in the summer is freakin suicide.
- Walk and Roll You are a machine. Fuel and hydrate like one. During our 5 day visit we went to all the parks, sometimes multiple parks in one day and logged between 8 & 15 miles per day. All walkers in your party need good shoes. Strollers are a Godsend. Even if your kiddo doesn’t usually ride, they will ride or you will carry them. Like I said- – -stroller. They are even more valuable for carrying all your crap! We like to park ours in a central location and come to as needed. Do not leave valuables. We have never had a problem in 10 years but you never know. Those stroller wheel locks are also super helpful for maintaining your position waiting for a parade to start. And ya know those jerky people who think they will arrive late and squeeze their way ahead of you? For some added fun use that stroller to clip them in the heel. KIDDING! KIDDING! . . . well… mostly.
- Pack Food Even if you plan to dine in the restaurants, you can guarantee your kiddos will eat off schedule. This will be a pain in the ass, guaranteed. We like Uncrustables, cheese sticks, sliced apples, granola or cereal bars, cookies, carrots etc. Lollipops can be a life saver. No matter what your dietary needs are I recommend having the staple familiars plus treats on hand. Do not spend $7 on a kids meal for your kiddo to pass out head on table. If you have a picky eater this is especially helpful. Hungry crabby kids plus unfamiliar food can equal disaster.
- Get There Early If I could only give you one tip, this would be it. Most parks on most days open at 9, but it will take you plenty of time to manage the parking lot, transportation station, monorail or bus and let’s not forget those annoying lines for bag check. If you stay on property utilize the magic hours. Super early character breakfasts can help you access the parks even earlier. Even though you won’t be able to access the attractions until official opening the rest of the population will eat your dirt as you gain a head start to the most popular destinations.
- Midday Escape This is especially important if you start early, have multiple park days or genuinely despise crowds. If you stay at a monorail property, I HIGHLY recommend hopping the monorail and taking a dive at the fabulous pool. A 2-3 hour break in the beast of the day can send you all back to the park revived, refreshed ready for more! If you are not staying at a monorail hotel leaving the park all together isn’t time effective. Use the slower self-paced attraction to wind down. Both kids and parents need freedom from lines and parents need to sit! Everyone needs a little breathing room and decompression!
- Magic Kingdom: Tom Sawyer Island, Walt Disney Railroad Train Ride, Tiki Room
- Animal Kingdom: Petting Zoo and Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Hollywood Studios: Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground (set to close soon), Frozen Sing-Along
- Epcot: Mission Space Playground located through the exit gift shop
- Fireworks, Parades and Shows. Skip Repetition If your visit includes multiple days, you only need to view these attractions once. If your kiddo isn’t invested in seeing shows and parades, this is the perfect time to high tail it to some rides. Parades are a great chance to see your favorite, high profile and even rarely seen characters but they are also excellent chances to hit the rides while crowds fight for every square of asphalt. The trouble with parades and fireworks is you need to get there early for a good spot and once you are planted, you are stuck. It takes a while for the show to get started and then to clear out. During our recent trip, we happily watched the fireworks from flying Dumbo and then walked on- – yes walked on to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which usually has 1+ hour wait time. De-freakin-vine! New in 2016- use a Fast Pass to the for a superb view from newly constructed Gardens. Another fantastic fireworks spot is from the Train station upper level platform. Great view and the extra bonus is that you are closest to the exit to jump ahead of the herds for a fast push home.
- Pack Smart: Theme Park Essentials Packing smart is the fine balance between not being bogged down with stuff and having the things you need. You can buy just about anything there, but of course at a premium. Start with weather. We pack a separate bag that includes ponchos, umbrellas, sunscreen stick, sunglasses, hats. In the cooler month’s hoodies and gloves. The thing is, with Florida weather you may need all those things in the same day. Stroller park your extra clothes, diapers, and wipes. The stroller is truly a Godsend for hauling and parking all this crap. I wear a small backpack that gets refilled from the stroller throughout the day. Next year my 9 year will have her own small pack for water, chapstick, a snack or two and her pocket money. For the newly potty trained: tuck a pull up in your back pack. In a potty emergency that little sucker can transform into a portable toilet while you are 50 deep in line. Tear the sides, shimmy under clothes, PRESTO! Yes, I am serious.
- Be Present & Enjoy! Take a Deep Breath, scream really loud on the thrill rides. Conjure up some extra patience, drink your coffee, do not pick today to start your low carb diet. You are making magic here people. This is hard work. Be kind to yourself and look around. There will be more than one toddler losing his mind because they want to ride but refuse to stand against the ruler to check the height requirement. How many kids achieve the dream of a visit like this? You have already won, really.