Heading to Disney World? THIS will save you money, time and sanity
It's the trip all parents dream of being able to bring their kids on – at least once in a lifetime. Or twice. Or again and again. So start saving; it's worth it. Trust me.
Disney World in Florida, sprawled over an area twice(!) the size of Manhattan, has no less than five theme parks, three water parks, thousands of rides, shops, eateries and FUN for the whole family, and will, no doubt, be a holiday that will live in all your memories forever more. And you will ALWAYS want to go back. (Because, as it turns out; Walt Disney was right; it really IS the Happiest Place on Earth!)
But if you are heading stateside and Disney-bound for the very first time, be aware of this: It will be overwhelming. There is just SO much to see and do, SO many people, (most often) SO hot and your kids will be SO excited. It can all get a bit much, just so you know.
But, as with most other things, preparation is key when you are getting ready for some fun-filled days in Orlando. And if you arm yourself with some of these brilliant tried-and-tested Disney Hacks (some from the mouths of those who really know what they are talking abut; namely Florida mums who go all the time!), you are guaranteed a slightly less stressful holiday.
Are you ready?
1. Wear runners
There will be walking. A lot of walking. Don't even think about heels. And sandals can give you blisters. So runners is where it is at, OK?
2. Stock up on Disney before Disney
Head to your some local dollar store and supermarkets (the supermarkets over there are HUGE, by the way!) before you go into the parks, and do a total Disney haul (clothing, pencils, stickers, teddies, the lot!) – and then bring the goods with you for your kids. You'll save money, and your kids will still have "souvenirs."
3. Bring your own snacks
Disney World allows guests to bring in food and drinks. Stock up, and you'll save a ton of dough and your sanity when your toddler (or tween!) starts to think about having a food meltdown.
4. Remember where you parked
No, seriously. The excitement of arriving to the happiest place on earth ends in a very unhappy way for anyone who forgot where they parked. Snap a shot of your location with your phone immediately, and you're set.
5. Download the Disney World Wait Times app
The free Disney World Wait Times app is a great tool to have. It's not always 100% accurate, but it at least gives a good idea of what rides have really long lines.
6. Get there EARLY
Be one of the first to arrive and you'll not only get to watch the opening ceremonies, you'll also enjoy the shortest lines you'll see all day.
7. Use extra Magic Hours
If you are staying at a Disney resort, definitely take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. These let you enter a little earlier or stay a little later than everyone else, meaning less waiting time for rides.
8. Make reservations
Most restaurants in the parks (and Downtown Disney and the hotels for that matter) will be fully committed, and you usually can't just walk in. So to avoid everyone being utterly starving before you get to have something to eat, reserve a table somewhere in advance.
9. Make sure kids use the toilet before getting in lines
Cast members are typically very helpful in getting a little one to the potty stat, but it does mean you'll need to swim against the stream of a crowd, and that's just not fun. Go first and save yourself the stress.
10. Use your "Rolling" FastPass
Before arriving, you can book up to three FastPasses online, then once you have used them all, you can locate a FastPass+ kiosk and make one more FastPass reservation. Once you use that one, head back — and repeat. You can do this all day long. There are lines at the kiosks, but those lines are way shorter than the lines for the actual rides.
11. Use your FastPasses wisely
In other words, don't book FastPasses on rides that don't usually have long waits or rides that you don't really care about riding.
12. Bring a stroller or rent one elsewhere
If you're not bringing a stroller, think about renting one locally instead of in the actual Disney parks. The benefits are threefold: you save a ton of money, they deliver directly to your hotel room, and you don't have to leave it at the park (getting out of the park and back to your car or hotel room with an exhausted child and no stroller is not ideal).
13. Make your stroller stand out
Imagine trying to locate your own stroller among 5000 others as you are stepping off a ride or out from a restaurant. It can be hellish to say the least. By adding something (a sticker, colourful rubber bands, anything at all to make it stand out) to your stroller, you will save yourself a ton of time and frustration.
14. Bring a stroller for kids who no longer use a stroller
Yeah, of course your 2-year-old (and 3-year-old and 4-year-old) definitely needs a stroller at Disney, but your bigger kid does, too. Even if your 6-year-old absolutely does not ride in a stroller any other time, you'll all be happy you have one for him at Disney. It's a lot of walking! Trust me on this one.
15. Bring or buy a clip-on stroller fan
Florida can get HOT – especially for us used to a far less sunny climate. A clip-on fan will keep your little one cool, and you can take it off and give yourself a breeze every once in a while too.
16. Buy themed gifts and trinkets when you see them
Telling your kids 'ah, sure, we'll buy that later' can prove a bit of a nightmare when you realize that all stores are not created equal at Disney. For example, you will find the best selection of Star Wars themed stuff outside the Star Tours ride in Hollywood Studios, and same goes for many of the others figures and rides. Having to walk all the way back because your children had their hearts set on one particular item is going to feel very taxing at the end of a looong day...
17. Bring an autograph book and pen
Who wouldn't want Elsa's autograph is you happen to bump into her?!
18. Bring your own princess dresses
Buying Disney princess dresses in Disney World is pretty (crazy) expensive.
19. Bring a rain cover for the stroller (and rain ponchos for everyone)
A sudden tropical downpour is almost to be expected in Florida, so just be prepared.
20. Utilize the baby care centers
If you're heading to a Disney park with an itty-bitty baby, don't forget about the Baby Care Centers, where you can find some nice quiet time away from the chaos. Let your baby cool off from the heat, take a moment to feed or nurse, rock in a rocking chair, eat in a high chair, change a diaper, warm a bottle, or simply just hang out. There is also a little store that sells necessities if you forgot something.
21. Have a "Lost" plan
Kids get lost at Disney all the time and every day, but you and your child can be better prepared for it if you have a plan in place.
22. Take a siesta
Consider taking a break from the parks in the late afternoon for an hour or two. It's when they are the most crowded and hot (and when children are the most tired). Resting allows everyone to refuel (perhaps even nap), and it also ups your chance of your little ones making it to the fireworks.
23. Let restaurants know about food allergies
Disney is by far the most food-allergy-friendly place on the planet. If you or your child has a food allergy, tell them. Someone (usually a manager or chef) will come out and help you every step of the way. Plus, there are allergy lists of ingredients at all the carts. Kudos to Disney!
24. Pick ONE parade
Unless you really, really love parades, you only need to pick one parade to get a good spot for and watch. Once you've seen one, you don't really need to see another.
25. Go on Dec. 10
Apparently, and according to those in the know, December 10th is the best day to visit a Disney park. Word on the street is that this is a truly magical date —and if you can make it work, you will not be disappointed.
Have YOU taken the trip to Disney with your littles? Or have plans to do so? Have you got any good Disney tips to share? Send me an e-mail at Trine.Jensen@HerFamily.ie
(Sources: Babble, Popsugar, Visitorlando.com and Visitflorida.com)