Planning a Disney trip? After more than 50 trips and at least 10 with a small child, I have learned a few things that I am excited to share!
Of course, as Florida residents, we get great deals, plus we can be in the park within two hours of leaving our house. So we try to go often as it can be an enjoyable, and easy (yes, easy) experience for all ages.
I am a big Disney fan. Not just the park and the brand, but the man. Walt Disney was an ircredible person who believe in the power of having a dream and taking action. His legacy is infiltrated into the core of Disney today – the parks, the movies, the media and of course the experience. There is a “Disney Way” for anyone who has worked at for the company (even a high school chorus member siging for one event). If you pay attention, the money you’re investing in a Disney Vacation can return vaulable life lessons for your children like patients, organization, the power of a postive attitude, and even justice (have you eversee someone try to skip the FastPass line?).
When you’re planning a Disney experience with kids, planning ahead is key, so you’re already on the right track to a really fun day!
The Disney Parks are almost totally automated. (Walt Disney loved innovation). So the most important thing you can do is download the MyDisneyExperience app, bring a charged phone and maybe have a backup power source (more on that later).
If you are going with friends, you will need everyone who wants autonomy over their tickets and plans to download the app also and connect with you on the app. Don’t worry abut kids 2 and under.
Once you download the app, I highly recommend planning which parks you’re going to asap. You MUST get FastPassess in advance. Disney is always crowded. If you’re coming for the first time or once in a blue moon, do not get stuck waiting in hour-long lines for a ride that you could have had a FastPass for.
You can measure your child in advance and figure out what they can ride based on the description of the ride in the app. You can sort by rides for pre-school aged children too.
I have it on good authority that FastPasses are released at the top of the hour based on how many have been booked or canceled. I know people who have really good luck reloading and reloading the app.
Don’t forget to make FastPass reservations for everyone in your party through one account as you will never be able to get the same FastPasses if you don’t link you app account and have one person get the passes.
I would also book your dining reservations if you want to go somewhere specific. Otherwise, you can actually order through the app from most of the restaurants and tell them when you arrive. Check out the menus for all of your options before the day that you go so you can quickly order and get back to the fun. BIG THANKS to the random guy who told us about mobile ordering last summer when I was starving and the lines were insane.
Kids under 2 are free. PRO TIP: Don’t add your small child to your MyDisneyApp until they have to have a ticket. When you add them, you include their date of birth. I don’t encourage scamming, but I have only seen one person ever be asked, “how old is he?” Many three-year-olds are in the park without a ticket. #justsaying
If you’re a Florida resident and you think you may go a few more times, I would highly recommend the annual pass. One day is $120+ per person. The Annual Pass (Weekdays) will use that as a down payment and then charge a monthly fee. Plus you get free parking ($25 savings) and 10% off food and merchandize if you are an annaul pass holder. You don’t get a discount as a Florida Resident for one day, but you can also by a pass for several days that can be used within 6 months from the first day of use.
For everyone else, check for current deals and discounts. You always get a deal per day when you pay for more days. If you’re coming for a long week, the meal plans are helpful.
Somewhere where you have access to shuttles and Disney transportation to the parks. BUT, that is not only Disney parks. My one critism of Disney is that Disney Hotels are TOTALLY overpriced. Period. Even the “World of” hotels are an arm and a leg and they are glorified motels. Don’t bother.
My favorite hotel to stay at for a quick Disney trip is the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Area (not the Hlton Palace) right next to Disney Springs. They have a shuttle to the park as does every hotel near Disney Springs. There is also a Bonnett Creek resort area with a Wyndham, Hilton and Waldof Astoria. The Dolphin and Swan are actually Marriott properties. All of these hotels have pools and transportation, and are way less than the comparable Disney property.
The benefits of booking through Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors outweight paying premium for a Disney hotel and you get more bang for your buck.
I have previously posted about the perfect theme park outfit for summer, but honestly it is always hot in Orlando. I cannot recommend dry-fit athletic materials enough. Definitely bring good walking shoes and layers if it gets cold.
If it rains, those rain ponchos are gold, but buy them from Amazon before you go.
A easily maneuvered, easy to fold stroller with good handle storage and AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!
I know when you have small kids or babies, you need so much crap. But I would HIGHLY encourage you to get everything down to one small diaper bag or backpack. Do you really need seven pull-ups for five hours?
You should know that every park has first aid, every park has a baby care center that you can buy incase you *really* need an item of clothing or extra diapers. There are water fountains every where.
Here is what I bring:
I have linked my favorite products below. I am a big fan of the City Tour for one kid and the City Select Double Stroller for two (maybe three) kids. The Skip Hop stroller caddy is awesome also.
The phone charger that I bring is actually one that I got in the park from one of the designated kiosks in the park. I paid $30 one time for a battery pack that included the charging port. Every time I go, I bring it with me charged, use it, then switch it out for a full charge replacement for no additional cost. It’s awesome considering a year ago I would find an outlet in bushes and just sit there for a few minutes.
I recommend weekdays and preferably January-March because it’s cool that time of year.
I would say not the week after Easter or the week before or two weeks after Christmas. It is insanely busy.
As for what time of day, there is a serious debate among parents on this…
Many parents would say “as soon as the parks open,” but that could be 7:00am.
I strongly disagree. Here is why…
The parks will be packed, or hot, or it will be raining any time you go. There will be something negative to deal with. BUT if you plan ahead with FastPasses and pre-purchasing tickets, you can really get around the crowds.
You should go at a time that everyone in you family will be in a good mood. I am not a morning person, so it feels like a chore to go early in the day and you’re rushing to beat the rush.
We prefer late morning or afternoon. We normally drive to Orlando during nap time, then arrive with a rested child. We can squeeze about 5-7 hours of quality park time in and then drive home in jammies around bed time. We take our time and schedule our FastPasses in the 1pm-5pm range. We don’t feel rushed, we get lots of time in the park and we get out before the shit show melt down starts. It’s what is best for our family. So really, the best time to go is when your kids are prepared for 5-7 hours in the park. If that is 6am, great! If it is 4pm, also great! The parks stay open late and you can always enjoy Disney Springs or your hotel pool if you’re staying for the night before you brave the park.
Take care of yourself. I cannot tell you how many times I have been dangerously dehydrated or sunburned. It makes the day so much harder, so drink lots of water and protect your skin!
Also, bring a positive attitude and low expectations. If there is something really important that you want to do or want to see, add it to your plans. Make a reservation if possible. Otherwise, just go in an enjoy the day. A positive attitude can go a long way. And whatever you do, don’t skip the FastPass line.