Taking a trip to Disney World (or Land) with your kids can be a nightmare if you are not properly prepared. Here is a list of tips to ensure a stress-free week at Disney for you and your family.
Things to keep in mind while planning your trip
Plan in advanced
- It is recommended to plan your Disney trip over 6 months in advanced. Obviously not everybody has that much notice on their trips, which is still ok. That just means that you will be more rushed with the planning and my not have as many good deals on hotels and reservations.
- 6 months before your trip you need to pick the dates you will be going and the resort you will be staying at.
- The recommended amount of time to stay is a week or a week and a half to ensure you are able to do everything you planned to do.
- As of right now, there are 32 Disney Resorts you can stay at and there will be some new ones opening soon as well.
- The prices for these resorts vary all the way from $53 a night to $574 a night. Each of the resorts has its own original theme as well as location.
- 180 days before your trip, you will need to start making dinning reservations if you are planning on making any. These reservations fill up extremely fast. If you are staying at any of the Disney resorts, you have the ability to make your reservations 1o days prior to normal timing.
Best and worst times to go
- Most people that go during summer are faced with sweltering heat, extremely long lines, crowds everywhere. The bigger the crowds, the more likely for your family to get separated and the longer you will have to wait in lines for each ride.
- The very worst times to visit Disney are: the first and third week of January, the last two weeks of February, weekends in May, June, July, the two first weeks of August, the week of Thanksgiving, and Christmas through New Years.
- The best times to visit Disney are: the second and fourth week of January, the first, second, and third week of February, the second half of August, most of September, most weekdays in October, weekdays in November (minus Thanksgiving), and weekdays in December (minus the week of Christmas and New Years)
- According to Undercover Tourist, the best time to visit Disney in terms of crowds is in September because most kids have just started school again. The problem with visiting in September is that time is the hight of Orlando’s rainy season.
- Another great time to visit Disney with less crowds is the week after Thanksgiving. If you go after Thanksgiving, the park already has all of their Christmas decorations set up and it looks really pretty.
- Taking kids out of school might be a better alternative to going during the summer. Most younger children won’t have too much work to make up if they go during the school year, but make sure to talk to your children’s teachers and make sure they will not be missing anything important.
- When planning a visit to Disney, keep in mind that there are height requirements on many of the rides for the safety of your children. Most of the rides have a minimum height requirement of 44″ with the exception Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Primeval Whirl where the height requirement is 48″. It would be a good idea to make sure that your children pass the height requirements before going to the park, or else they will be very sad if they can’t go on the ride that correlates with their favorite movie or TV show. This will also make it easier on you and your significant other so you won’t have to do the child switch-off routine.
Staying on the property
- The reason it is best to stay on the property is if your younger kids get tired you can always take them back to the room to take a nap while the bigger kids go swimming in the resort pool and take a break from walking. Downtime is CRUCIAL to avoid meltdowns and cranky children. Even if no one needs to take a nap, it is a good idea to take a break in the middle of the day. If you wear yourself out too much on the first day, then you will be too tired the rest of the week.
- If you do end up staying on the property, you can now make Fast Pass+ selections 60 days ahead of arriving to the park. That makes staying on the property a lot more worth it.
The weeks leading up to the trip
Ways to help save you money:
- Buy some Disney Lanyards on Amazon for half of the price then when purchased at Disney.
- Buy trading pins on Amazon for your kids before going to Disney. If you buy them beforehand, you can get 25 for $17 rather than paying $7-$15 PER PIN at the park. Your kids are probably going to trade the pins anyway so who cares what they start with?
- Buy light up toys or glow sticks ahead of time. If you plan on being in the park after dark, you may want to consider purchasing light up toys on amazon or a pack of glow sticks for your kids. Glow sticks are so inexpensive and they come with so many in a pack so you can even pass them out to other kids near you– on the bus, in line for a ride, or at the parade.
- Bring your own autograph books. Kids love having these books and allowing them to look through the book in the weeks leading up to the trip might even help them not be afraid of the characters when they meet them.
- Bring your own ear hats. Many kids in Disney are wearing the classic Mickey Mouse ear hats, you should buy some that are different so you will be able to spot your child in a crowd. For example, this R2D2 ear hat and stitch ear hat would be much easier to spot.
- Set a spending amount for each child. If you set a limit on the first day, make sure they know when they want to purchase an item how much of their money it will cost them and how much they would have left. Make sure they know that once it’s gone, it’s gone.
- Bring a cheap stroller. Even if your kids don’t usually use strollers, it is a good idea to bring one. A day at Disney consists of A LOT of walking. Kids that aren’t used to walking that much every day are going to complain that their legs are tired and hurting. Instead of having to rent a stroller for a lot of money, bring your own cheap one. You may not even end up using it, but if you do it could save you money then renting one.
- Bring your own food. Many people don’t know that you can bring your own food and water into the park. It would be a good idea to stock up on granola bars, chips, pretzels, fruit cups and other things that are small and healthy. You can save all of the yummy treats for the candy and snacks they have in the park.
Do research by letting the kids watch their favorite Disney Movies
- Let your kids watch different Disney movies so they will know and connect with all of the different attractions and shows.
- If they are able to make connections with the movies and rides/shows then they will have a better appreciation for the overall park and trip.
Pack the right clothes
- Make sure to check the weather before you go to ensure that you bring the right kind of clothing. If you’re going during September, make sure to bring rain coats or ponchos. If you’re going in November or December, it can be cold in the mornings and warm up throughout the day and then get cold again at night. If you’re going during this time make sure to bring sweatpants and sweatshirts for your kids to make sure they keep warm, as well as a backpack to store them in during the warmer time of day.
Be prepared for anything
Be prepared to hold your children if they get tired of walking. Younger children that are not used to walking as much might complain that their legs are tired and hurt so be ready to carry them on your shoulders for a while. For kids that are too heavy to be carried on shoulders and too old to use a stroller every day, you can rent single and double strollers in the park for a day or two if you need to.
- Make sure to create a basic ID tag for children that might not have as good of verbal skills or may not be able to remember your phone number. This ID tag should have your child’s name, your cell phone number, and your name on it. This is a precaution in case if you somehow end up separated. This could be kept in their Disney lanyard or you could have a metal pet tag made and attach it on a necklace. The metal tag is waterproof, will not peel off like a label, and can be worn on an item that your child is most likely going to be wearing every day (like a pair of sneakers).
- Prepare your kids. Make sure to talk about the lines and all of the walking, so they know what to expect when they get there. Remind them that the walking and the waiting in lines are all part of the fun and the wonderful experience.
When you get to the park
Avoid the lines with apps
- Download the apps on your phone that tell you how long the lines are at specific rides/locations/shows throughout the park. There are probably going to be lines at most places, but at least you’ll know ahead of time rather than walking across the whole park just to find a two hour long line.
- The best app for Disney World is called My Disney Experience- Walt Disney World
- The best app for Disney Land is called Disneyland
Get a PhotoPass
- There are plenty of professional photographers all around the park, you should take advantage of those opportunities and take some great family photos. As your children get older, there are very few opportunities where your whole family is present for a good quality picture with a great view as well. You can even ask the professionals to use your own camera. Who knows, maybe one of the pictures could be your next Christmas card.
- As soon as you enter the park, make sure to pick out a tall and obvious piece of architecture where you can meet if you get separated. For example, the globe/golf ball at Epcot, the hat in Hollywood studios, the tree in the Animal Kingdom, and the castle in the Magic Kingdom.
Keep important things accessible
- Teens and adults can wear lanyards with IDs, park tickets, room keys, etc. in them. Make sure to keep everything important close to your so someone can’t reach into your pockets and take whatever they want. This could ruin your whole trip.
Watch the nightly fireworks by Space Mountain
If you’re going to stay to watch the fireworks at night, make sure to stay by Space Mountain for a great view. If you stay in this area, you have an incredible view, seating, and you won’t have to deal with a big crowd. Once the fireworks are over, you will even be able to race up to the front of the ride to avoid the rush of people coming from Main Street.
Take advantage of the a la carte options
- Sit down a la carte restaurant dining is a very quick and easy way to eat. There are no characters around, no buffets, just a reserved table for you and your family, as well as a much calmer environment to eat.
Make your Magic Kingdom reservations far in advanced
- Reservations at these restaurants fill up around 180 days in advanced of the reservation. There are some cancellations, which are snagged very quickly after they come available. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can book an additional 10 days earlier than normal. In order to make a reservation, a credit card is required.
Consider the dining plan
- If your children are big eaters, you may want to look into the dining plan. Some people think it’s a great deal, but others think its a waste of money.
The most important thing to remember while you’re at Disney, is that you can’t do it ALL every single day or you’re going to wear yourself out. Make sure to spread everything out and if you can’t fit it all in a week, then you’re just going to have to come back another time.