Over the past 6 years of planning vacations for my family to Disney World I have read thousands of tips. Some of them have been great. Some of them might be great but just not at this time in life for our family. And others I think could be skipped all together.
Here is some of my favorite advice and tips for a Disney World vacation:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan before your trip begins. I think the people who have bad trips to Disney World just didn’t plan properly.
2. If you are going for more than 1 day (which you absolutely should) stay on Disney property. There is something “magical” about not having to drive to the park in the morning and find your car at the end of the day. We get to our hotel and then never get back in the car until our trip is over and we are headed home. Less stress and less travel time wasted each day. Plus each of the resorts we have stayed at has been amazing!
3. Bring your own ponchos and if you have a stroller bring a cheap dollar store clear shower curtain to cover it in the rain. This has been a life saver for us.
4. Take a break midday and go back to your hotel. I never want to do this but I am always thankful that we did. And we enjoy our Disney hotel almost as much as the parks!
5. Get the dining plan. Every trip but one has fallen during free dining, which has been awesome. The one trip that didn’t, we paid for the dining plan. If money is tight, I do believe that you can save money by not using the dining plan, but if you can afford it or it is free then do it. I love relaxing on my vacation and not having to worry about money. I don’t usually like spending money, so, if we didn’t have the dining plan I would always pick the cheapest option to eat. With the dining plan I can actually look at the menu instead of the prices and choose something I want. Food is one thing I really enjoy about vacationing so I find it is always better to plan ahead financially so I can enjoy myself on the trip.
6. Buy some special things before you leave home. I can usually find glow sticks and things like that at the dollar store before we go on our trip. My daughters can use them in the parks at night and we don’t have to spend a fortune on the ones that they sell in the parks.
7. Budget for souvenirs. How can you go to Disney and not come home with a few extra things. We always set a limit and plan before we leave so the money is there and we know when to stop.
8. Make a list of what is important to your family. We always know at the start of the day 1 thing that each family member really wants to do for the day. It might be a certain ride or a special snack and then we make sure that each person gets to do their 1 thing. There just isn’t time to do everything that we want to do, so if everyone gets at least 1 special thing they pick then everyone is happy in the end.
9. Memory Maker is totally worth the money. Again let me remind you: I don’t like to spend money. BUT, when it comes to a trip to Disney there are some areas that it just makes sense to me and Memory Maker is one of them. Disney has photographers all over the parks that will take your family’s pictures, but you have to pay for them if you want to have them in the end (and they are expense when purchasing them one by one). If you purchase Memory Maker beforehand, it includes all of the pictures that are taken on your trip (even the ones on the rides – think Splash Mountain). A little extra money is worth it to me when it means we get tons of pictures with all 5 of us instead of me and the kids or my husband and the kids. Just make sure that if you pay for it that you take the time to stop and have your photo taken, otherwise you are just wasting money.
10. Enjoy the atmosphere. Disney World is about more than rides and attractions. The atmosphere and details are amazing if you take the time to enjoy them.
11. Go to Tom Sawyer Island. I can’t explain it all the way but there is something awesome about going to Tom Sawyer’s Island and sitting in the chairs at Aunt Polly’s overlooking the water. You can see the busyness of Magic Kingdom in the distance but it is so peaceful on the island. And, if you get to Tom Sawyer Island earlier enough look for a paintbrush. If you find it and return it to a cast member you just might get something back, like a free fastpass!
12. Don’t be afraid to act like a kid. Disney is made for adults and children, but I promise you that you will enjoy it much more if you think like a child on some things. The first time we went as a family and I saw Cinderella Castle my eyes started to water. This might sound silly, but I felt like a little girl again and there was all the magic and amazement of princesses and fairytales! Don’t worry about people around you judging you. Who cares what they think? And most of them are enjoying themselves too and they aren’t concerned about what you are doing, so have fun and try to pull the sword out of the stone.
13. If you bring a stroller find a way to mark it. We have always brought our sit-n-stand stroller and there are thousands of them in the parks each day. We tied a red bandana around the handle of ours and it makes it much faster for us to spot in the crowd.
14. Go to the special events. We have loved Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I think they are worth the extra expense. For each of these you pay for a separate event ticket and it gets you in the park at 3:00 pm even though the event doesn’t officially start until later. On event days the parks close earlier for everyone else and then only those with the tickets get to stay and play. The lines are short and it is so much less crowded. Some restaurants and rides are closed, but this hasn’t been much of a problem for us. At Halloween you get to trick-or-treat around Magic Kingdom. The kids got tons of candy. At Christmas we got hot chocolate and cookies (the hot chocolate was amazing). There are special fireworks, special parades, and some special characters that aren’t always at Magic Kingdom. We like to buy tickets for the event and then spend the first part of our day either at Downtown Disney or at the hotel pool. It is a great way to relax in the morning and enjoy the festivities in the evening.
15. Bring some of your own snacks and water bottles. I found on clearance at the store a few years ago the water bottles that have their own filters in them. We take these into the parks with us and refill them at the drinking fountains. The water taste good, it’s cold, and keeps us hydrated even on the hot days. We also bring in some of our own snacks like trail mix, goldfish, apples, and things like that to keep us going. We get a snack included with our meal plan, but we like to use those for special treats (like Mickey ice cream) and we make sure to have other snacks to help keep us going.
16. Character meals are worth the time and money. If you can get a reservation at a character meal I would recommend it. They book up early so you should try to get your reservations 180 days in advance. You get to sit and eat and the characters that are at the meal come to your table and get pictures with your family. This has saved us so many hours waiting in line in the parks to get character pictures. If you go to Chef Mickey’s or Donald’s Safari Breakfast you can usually see almost the whole Mickey gang without ever waiting in a line. My youngest loves all the Pooh friends at Crystal Palace, but wasn’t crazy about some of the others on her first trip.
I could go on and on, but will wrap it up for now. What tips have you learned along the way to make your Disney trip smoother and more enjoyable?