This is a roundup of tips I gleaned from planning a trip to Disney World with my 10 and 5-year-old. You can read about our trip (including visits to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and LEGOLand here, as well as Day, Day 2, and Day 3 ,Day 4 and Day 5. Our photos from the trip can be found on my flickr page.
Everyone goes to Disney World with the intent to have fun and make some magical memories. With some research and preparation beforehand, you can make sure the fun outweighs the potential headaches and I-wish-I-would’ve-knowns. Here are 10 tips I found to help us hold it together at Disney World and have a wonderful trip.
1. Read up
I know without a doubt that both of our Disney trips were successes because of the pre-trip reading I did in The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World . Yes, it’s enormous and yes, it will set you back a few bucks. But I guarantee that you will find information in there you won’t find anywhere else – information that will save you time, money and make your trip more pleasurable. Even if you don’t care to read anything about Disney beforehand, I’d at least buy a subscription to their website in order to access the more than 140 touring plans they’ve developed. These touring plans are the surest way to tailor a plan of attack so you get the most out of each park with the least amount of waiting. I also bookmarked a few websites to read during the few months leading up to our trip. My favorites were Mousesavers, Touring Plans and WDW Prep School.
2. Plan around a crowd calendar.
Again, I’m back to the wonderful resource at Touring Plans. You can plug in the time of your visit and it will give you both a crowd predictor and suggestions for which park to visit and which to avoid for a particular day. We planned our visits around this information and crowds were never an issue.
3. Buy your tickets ahead of time.
We found significant savings by purchasing our tickets ahead of time through Undercover Tourist. Sign up for the free email newsletter from Mousesavers to be eligible for even deeper discounts at Undercover Tourist. We saved over $100 by purchasing our tickets through them – and I priced them against buying through Disney and AAA. Be sure to check out their prices for other area attractions as well – we also purchased our Universal tickets there at a significant discount.
4. Make copies of your tickets.
If there is only one tip that you take away from this post, let it be this one. We lost one of our park tickets -it’s not that hard to do. If you have a copy of the ticket, Disney Guest Services will replace your ticket for free. No copy? Prepare to be done touring or fork over the cash for a new ticket. I made a paper copy to keep in our backpack and I also took a photo of each ticket and stored it on my phone. In less than 5 minutes we had a new ticket and were on our magical way.
5. Keep all your tickets and room keys in one place.
I know that Disney is rolling out a wristband system, but until that is fully implemented I would suggest keeping everything together. The last thing you want to do is rifle through each purse, backpack and pocket to find what you need. I bought this Bungee Card Case specifically for this purpose. All week long it held our tickets, room keys, FASTPASS and Disney Photo ID cards.
6. Don’t be afraid to split up.
This is especially true if you have a big age range among kids in your family, but it also holds true if you have people with different ride preferences or different ideas on what they want out of each park. Split up and take the big kids on the thrill rides and let the little ones visit characters. Mike knows I love the shops at Epcot. He could care less, so he wandered with the kids and let me take my time. Just because you’re on a family vacation doesn’t mean you have to do everything together all the time in order to make the best memories. Unless, of course, your best memories include everyone being mad at everyone else.
7. Pack drinks and snacks.
Disney allows guest to bring in water bottles and small snacks. All Walt Disney World rooms have small refrigerators, so we took advantage and made a quick trip to the grocery before checking in. We purchased granola bars, fruit, water bottles and individual powdered drink packets. Each day we’d throw our snacks and a few water bottles into the backpack. This saved a ton of money throughout the week, since we weren’t buying drinks at every meal. We’d bust out the snacks while waiting in line to distract the kids from waiting.
8. Utilize park apps.
Disney has its own app, Mobile Magic, that can be very helpful. We were big fans of the Lines app from Touring Plans. It had additional features that were super handy, such as listed wait times vs. actual wait times (using crowdsourcing), FASTPASS and character greeting times, as well as the ability to create and follow touring plans (it even updates your touring plan as you’re walking around the park!).
9. Use FASTPASS.
No one likes to wait, and no one hates to wait more than kids. Disney does a great job of making your wait as entertaining as possible, but they can only do so much. FASTPASS is free for all Disney Park guests, so use it! If a ride has a long wait time, you simply find the FASTPASS kiosk and insert one park ticket for each FASTPASS desired (only one FASTPASS is allowed per ride, per guest, within a certain time frame). The kiosk spits out a FASTPASS giving you a one hour window to return to the ride. When your time window arrives, you return to the ride and enter through the FASTPASS ticket holder entrance and enjoy the ride with a minimal wait. And if you’re using the Lines app? You can edit your touring plan with your FASTPASS information and it will reconfigure your plan to account for the change! God bless technology.
10. There is no one-size-fits-all Disney trip.
This is why I encourage you to read up before you go. Your cousin might go to Disney and pack it full of character meals and special options that leave your head reeling. Your best friend might insist that with kids of a certain age you should only visit one park. Your mother-in-law might tell you going to Disney without doing all the parks is a waste of time and money. Only you know what will really work for your family. You know what the best way to do Disney is? Your way. Know your options and pick what sounds fun and appropriate for you.
You’ve endured so many Disney posts, including this one, so here’s a bonus tip for you: RELAX AND HAVE FUN! Once you’ve spent all your time researching, packing and traveling, let yourself relax and enjoy the magic that is Disney. Some things will not go according to plan, and that’s okay. Let your plan be your guide and leave room for changes and spontaneity. Hope my tips help!