Disney really is the happiest place on earth.
Everyone is so friendly and you can’t help but smile while reminiscing in your memories and looking forward to making new ones.
My husband and I took our two young daughters (5 and 2.5) to Walt Disney World in March 2017. It was magical. We met princesses, got front and center to Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire (live show in front of Cinderella’s Castle), rode rollercoasters, and fought Darth Vader!
With this trip under my belt, I made a “lessons learned” list and here are the top four tips I think all parents should know prior to your Disney trip.
1. Don’t do it all in one trip. If you don’t know me yet, you should know I’m a project manager by trade and event planner by heart. So trust me when I say I put a lot of thought and research into this trip. This first tip sounds so cliche and I read it over and over from other bloggers prior to our trip… but of course me being the type A go-getter that I am thought I could plan it perfectly and do everything on our list. I was close, and at some parks we did do it all. But looking back I wish we would have cut out some of the rides/attractions and just relaxed at the hotel pool. While we were in line waiting for rides, food, or meet and greets, my girls would ask if we could go back to the hotel pool (which we enjoyed on the first day in Florida). I told them we’d go back on the last day when we didn’t have park passes because we were at Disney to be at DISNEY, not to be at a pool that really wasn’t any different than any other pool. But in hindsight everything is 20/20, right? I wish we would have cut out the mid-day or evening hours at the park to relax pool-side for the kids to play and for mommy and daddy to catch a break. I noticed even when the girls got 10 hours of sleep they were still just exhausted in the morning because we were running literally all day. I think they would have been able to soak up more of the experience if they had some down time, too.
2. Don’t make meal reservations outside of your normal meal hours. We didn’t do the meal plan because my girls don’t eat a lot and we thought we’d save money by only paying for what/when we ate. Instead, we made reservations at a variety of places. We planned our trip under the 180 day mark so we took what we could get in terms of openings, most of which were late lunches (2:30) or late dinners (as late as 9:30 one night!). We probably still saved money compared to purchasing the meal plan, but we ended up spending so much money on food that my girls never touched. These reservations were flat fee buffet reservations (around $20-30 per child and around $30-40 per adult) and every person must pay because you’re not just paying for the food, you’re paying for the experience of the character meet and greet, too. Most of these meals my girls never touched a bite simply because the reservations were too late so they snacked too much leading up to it. Yes, my fault, but here’s my reasoning… I gave them snacks to avoid Ms Fussy Pants and Ms Whiny McGee coming out at the parks. Then when it came to lunch/dinner, they were full on snacks. But sure enough we’d be one hour after the meal and they’d be hungry again. It was a never ending cycle.
NOTE: There are staple restaurants that you should try to get reservations for (Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom). The 9:30 dinner I mentioned was the Be Our Guest reservation. My five year old was passed out on her chair and my two year old was happy as long as she had “The Gray Stuff” (which I recommend by the way!). But the experience let alone was totally worth it, if even only for me and my husband!
3. Start planning your trip more than 180 days in advance. Give yourself more than a 6-month buffer so you can identify which meet and greets, meal reservations, and rides you want to do while on your trip. Download the My Disney Experience app. Then at the exact 180-day mark you can make reservations and schedule fast passes to (hopefully) capture the time slots you desire. We booked our trip just under 6-months in advance and had the help of a Disney Travel Agent but still found it a little stressful to continuously try to find openings for Best Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table. We did get all the fast passes we wanted because we kept checking availability prior to the trip and even the day-of. You really need to be flexible while at Disney because a street show could pop up in front of you or you could get a new fast pass that deters your plans for the remainder of the day. If you plan your trip with your “must do’s” in mind then let Mickey take the wheel while you’re at the park, you’re sure to have a good time!
4. Drink the beer. A Disney trip is exciting but also stressful. It’s hot. It’s packed. It requires patience. You’re dodging toes and strollers. And overall, as a parent, you’ll feel like you need to make it perfect for your little ones so you’re constantly looking on the My Disney Experience app to get better fast passes or find the coolest swag. So that leaves me to my last top tip. Drink the beer! Sit down on the curb and throw back a cold one to 1) cool down and 2) chill out. Allow yourself to take a break and reflect on the great memories you’ve made so far. Let the kids run around aimlessly to get more energy out because trust me, they somehow come up with twice the energy they do at home. Hollywood Studios and Epcot serve alcohol throughout the park while Magic Kingdom only serves it at sit-down restaurants.
I could go on and on about our Disney experience and things I’ll do differently next time, but I hope these top four tips help you have the best best on your trip!