Let me preface by saying I do not like large crowds nor do I like long lines. I am very much a homebody and the thought of vacationing to Disney gave me a bit of anxiety. My husband and I had the opportunity to bring our boys to Disney for the first time in August of 2017 and again in October 2018. As thrilled as we were, the excitement wore off and reality settled in…how in the world were we going to afford to go? What on earth do I pack? Where do we stay? What should we do and see? The list went on and on. I became overwhelmed and stressed before we had even booked our flights.
The initial planning process was overwhelming and stressful. As first-timers we had no clue how to prepare ourselves for a Disney trip. During our first trip, we had a not-yet-potty-trained 2 year old and an extremely high-energy 4 year old. I researched and scoured Pinterest for weeks in hopes of finding tips on travelling with little ones, activities to keep them entertained, ways to avoid meltdowns, what to pack, you name it…I was determined to make this trip enjoyable for us all. After months and months of preparation the time finally came to set out on vacation. And guess what? We all survived the trip and I hope I can help answer some of those questions you have as you’re planning your family vacation and to ease some of your anxiety.
There are a lot of great tips out there for first-timers, however, these are by far the best tips + tricks that we found super helpful!
- Rent a stroller
If you take any advice away from this article, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take this tidbit of information. Rent a stroller! We used Magic Strollers for several reasons. A. They were a Disney Featured Provider B. They were so easy to book online. We went with the City Mini Double Stroller – which will cost you approx. $10.71 per night. This was by far the best decision we made. Magic strollers sends you a text message when the stroller is delivered to your hotel/resort as well as any pickup notices. C. They deliver and pickup the stroller without you even needing to be there. Just to give you a comparison, the in-park Disney strollers are $31/day or $27/multiple days (length of stay) for a double!!! And they are HARD plastic and do not recline…need I say more!?
2. Have your groceries delivered
We did not take advantage of this the first vacation. I so wish we had! There are many services that you can use to have groceries delivered to you. We chose Amazon Prime. We had this snack box https://www.amazon.com/CraveBox-Healthy-Assortment-Students-Christmas/dp/B01MY9L0J3/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=healthy+snack+box&qid=1553706111&s=grocery&sr=1-8, waters, and vitamin waters delivered right to our resort. You can also have diapers, wipes, or other baby necessities delivered. Be sure to order online a few days before your stay. Disney World states that:
If you intend to receive mail during your vacation, be sure the letter or package:
- Includes the mailing address of your Disney Resort Hotel
- Clearly features the word “Guest” on the front and the date of your arrival
Please note that a $5 per package handling fee will apply to all packages that are received through the Front Desk or are delivered to your Disney Resort hotel room.
Art of Animation – C/O Jane Doe (Guest)
10/18/18 – 10/22/18
1850 ANIMATION WAY
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL 32830-8400
Walmart & Garden Groceries are additional options. However, make sure you check if there are delivery fees or minimum order requirements. Also, check locations-some services will not deliver if you are not staying in a Disney hotel/resort.
3. Don’t’ buy water in park
Otherwise, you will spend a fortune!!! You have a few options. You can bring your own into the park. We ordered Life Water and Vitamin Waters from Amazon Prime, froze them the night before and brought them to the park with us. You could also buy/bring a filtering water bottle such as this one https://www.amazon.com/Brita-Premium-Filtering-Bottle-Filter/dp/B07H1F6N2F/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=water+bottle+filter&qid=1553712256&s=gateway&sr=8-3 Lastly, you can get a free iced water from any kiosk in the park but be warned the water tastes so gross!
4. Skip meal plan
Guests are allowed to bring their own food into the park. This alone will save you so much money and time. With two little ones, who were picky-eaters and didn’t eat much this was perfect for us. We packed snacks and drinks in our soft cooler. Consider buying stuff to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Just note- keep your cooler accessible when entering the park as you’ll need to go through security first and have all your bags checked. Once you’re in the park you won’t have to worry about it again.
5. Use the Rider Switch Pass
This came in handy so many times- definitely take advantage of this! Our youngest son wasn’t tall enough for some of the rides. One parent/adult waited with our youngest son while the rest of our party went on the ride. When the other parent/adult returned, they then stayed back with our youngest, so the waiting parent could enjoy the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again.
6. Make Fastpass reservations in advance
Mark your calendars! With the purchase of a ticket or Annual Pass, you can make FastPass+ selections as early as 30 days before you arrive. If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay. The best part? There is no extra charge!!! WHAT!? You are allowed 3 FastPass+ selections per day in advance by booking either online or using the mobile app. Some of the more popular rides will book up quickly so make sure you book as soon as you’re eligible.
7. Make dinner/lunch reservations in advance
Luckily, we had a Disney Pro Vacationer with us. My husband and I like to plan to an extent but not to the extent of every minute of our day we had to follow a schedule. If you want to sit down for a meal, DO NOT make the mistake of winging it when you get there. When the staff asks if you have a reservation and you respond no. Don’t be surprised if they laugh in your face. Lunch/dinner reservations should be booked way in advance.
8. Bring your own First Aid kit
Yes, Disney Parks have First Aid Centers but I still recommend you carry your own travel first aid kit. We had an incident happen at the airport when we were just starting our vacation. We were making our way through security when my bag was pulled to the side to be investigated. While I waited for my bag, my husband waited with our boys. In a split second, our youngest son fell backwards and hit his head on a screw. As we frantically searched for someone to help to no avail I remembered I packed a medical kit. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally arrived. My point is accidents happen and it’s better to be prepared.
9. Download MyDisneyExperience app
This app is so AWESOME! Some of the features they offer to help you plan your stay:
Explore the Resort
- Explore Walt Disney World Resort on the interactive, GPS-enabled map.
- Get attraction wait times as well as showtimes for fireworks and parades.
- Find Character Greeting locations and times.
- Browse restaurant menus, make dining reservations and place mobile orders at select quick-service restaurants.
Keep reservations and activities organized in My Plans.
- Select and modify your party’s FastPass+ experiences..
Preview your Disney PhotoPass photos on your mobile device throughout your vacation.
10. Stand out in a sea of strollers
When you get off a ride, the last thing you want to waste your time on is looking for your stroller. Believe me, they all look the same! Staff members are constantly rotating and moving strollers to keep a clear path. So chances are, even though you left you stroller in one spot, when you return it’ll be relocated. Try using glowsticks (at night), a balloon, neon ribbon or make a fun and bright family sign that you can hang from your stroller so you can easily find yours. Be creative!!!
11. Stay Cool and Dry
This was a huge concern of mine as we were going to Disney in August! One of the hottest months of the year! Insane I know. I found these cooling towels https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HF0YBFW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 on Amazon that definitely helped take the edge off. Also purchased this Mini handheld fan (that could also clip to the stroller) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01HGI0S6O/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 . Don’t for get the ponchos! You never know when a passing shower will hit.
A few places to stay cool:
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
Country Bear Jamboree
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Pirate’s of the Caribbean
Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid
Muppet Vision 3D
12. Dress kids in bright neon colors
This may help keep track of your kids in crowds
13. Prepare for the worst
They say you can never be too careful. Listen, we all know how quick a blink of an eye can be and we’ve all ‘lost sight’ of our kids before. And if you haven’t, you go Mama! It’s sheer panic…and I hope it never happens to you. I came across these Kids ID shoe tags. If they were to get lost, these ID tags can help facilitate the process a bit faster. Disney personnel are highly trained in these situations.
14. Play the Hidden Mickey game
I didn’t really have to pull this little trick out of my sleeve as Disney does such an amazing job at entertaining kids but if you find yourself struggling with your kids and need an quick and easy activity to distract then you should know about Hidden Mickeys.
15. Bring a portable phone charger
This is essential especially if you plan to take a lot of photos and use the my Disney experience app. We found that the app drained our battery. Nothing worse than your phone dying right before a character meet-n-greet.
16. Buy less tickets than days you plan on going
Use the off day as a pool day or take a bus to Disney Springs. If you have little kids they’ll appreciate a day by the pool.
17. Dress comfortably
This one seems so obvious but you’d be surprised how many people I saw wearing flip flops, sandals, jean shorts etc…NO, NO, NO! Go for comfort here. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
18. Bring your own chewing gum
Gum is not sold in the park, if you like having it you’ll have to bring your own