Just kidding. It is another Disney blog.
I wish I could explain the aggravation I felt about blogging about Disney. Not because I dislike Disney, but because everyone blogs about Disney. I mean do you really even have a travel blog if you don’t blog about Disney? Disney speaks for itself, it is the happiest place on earth. Period.
Anyways, I’m done whining. So here goes nothing.
The first state my family decided to travel to was Florida and to no surprise at all, Disney was the top attraction.
So I gathered up all my matching Disney shirts, most of which were made by a local girl in my hometown, and ordered my son’s autograph book. I thought I was ready, but boy was I wrong.
To all my moms that like to go with the “flow” or be spontaneous, please hear me clearly: DISNEY WILL CHEW YOU UP AND SPIT YOU OUT. You can’t go to Disney without a game plan, which we will get to later in the blog. Families spend thousands (literally) to take their children to Disney, so personally I wanna squeeze out every bit of happiness that I can from the happiest place on earth.
Therefore. I did what I do best and I planned.
There are millions of blogs, Pinterest ideas, and even books about conquering Disney. I have read and researched a great deal of them and I have experienced Disney first hand so the following list are what I found the most important in planning your trip to Disney.
1. Become best friends with a Disney planner
Even the master of trip planning (me) needs a sidekick every now and again. I had a hard time letting go because of the control freak that I can at times be, but it was worth it in the end to let a professional Disney planner help me along the way. All I had to do was give the dates of when I wanted to go and how many people were going and my planner did the rest. Ahhh-mazing. I use TIGGERIFIC TRAVELS. Ask for Jolene! There are tons of Disney planners out there but I used Tiggerific Travels and I will continue to use them for future trips. Your Disney planner can reserve dining for you and schedule your fast passes also. Disney planners also know a lot of trade secrets so utilize them.
2. Call Disney home.
Stay onsite at one of the resorts/hotels. It is worth it in the long run because the extra amenities and incentives you get for staying inside Disney World. Disney resorts and hotels offer free shuttle buses to and from the parks. Trust me, you will be walking enough. Just saving the extra steps from the car to the front of the park will matter to you at the end of a long day. You also get fast passes if you stay onsite and Disney offers dining plans specials and discounts for families who stay onsite.
3. Be present in the moment.
Spend the extra $169 for the memory maker. I did not have to take my camera or phone out once while at Disney during our last trip because I bought the Memory Maker. There are photographers set up in numerous places around the park. They take your picture and scan your armband and when you get back to your hotel the pictures have already been uploaded online to your WDW account. It’s so convenient. Great quality pictures. Moms, we all know we get the short end of the stick when it comes to pictures. With the Memory Maker, moms can be included in the picture. Also, you don’t have to be concerned about memorializing every moment and live behind the screen of your phone constantly taking pictures, Disney will do it for you.
4. Do you research.
As I said earlier, I read a lot about Disney before I went. Maybe too much. I wanted to be an informed traveler so I could get the most out of the experience. But every family is different, therefore, the things we wanted to do and see might not be the same for your family. I recommend making a Pinterest board of all the activities, rides, show, and sites you don’t want to miss out on while at Disney and incorporate those in your daily game plan. I also read from front to back the Unofficial Guide to Disney World. They have an edition for 2018 that will have the newest and most up to date information. You can get a copy on Amazon. I went through my whole book and highlighted what I needed to remember for the trip. Go to Disney knowing that you will not be able to see and experience all Disney has to offer regardless of how flawlessly you plan.
PRO TIP: If you are taking a toddler with you to Disney that has not had their first hair cut yet, there is a Barber Shop on Main Street in Magic Kingdom that will give the child his/her first haircut for $20 and sprinkle on a little magic fairy dust at the end and send you home with a keepsake 🙂
5. There’s an app for that?!
Disney has apps that can make your trip easier. The two that I used during our trip was the WDW app itself and WDW Lines app. On the WDW app you can see details of your trip, reserve dining, and most importantly schedule fast passes. You get 3 fast passes to start out with BUT after you use your first 3 you can immediately pick another one so having the app there makes the process quicker. I was in line for one ride and planning my next Fast Pass while I was waiting. The WDW Lines app tells you in real time the wait times for each ride. The Lines app was accurate during our trip and helped me avoid the rides that had super long wait times. The worst and most rookie move you can make is walking half way across Magic Kingdom to a ride that has a two hour wait and pass by multiple rides that you could have walked straight onto. Our family did not wait longer than 30 mins for any ride or character meet and greet during our entire trip.
6. So many Mickeys
There are a ton of chances to meet Mickey Mouse inside the parks at Disney world. The best Mickey in all of the parks is in Magic Kingdom on Main Street as soon as you walk into the park inside the Town Square Theater. This Mickey’s eyes move and he can say certain phrases. Most characters that are in costume are not allowed to talk. So this Mickey is extra special.
Use a crowd calendar when deciding what month to go to Disney. You can find multiple calendars online that will show you which months have the highest and lowest crowd levels. Rule of thumb is the crowds will be higher anytime children are out of school. Obviously, summer months, spring break, winter break, etc. Think outside the box when picking dates for Disney. I recommend going throughout a weekend and into the week so that you get some days when kids are in school and crowds will be less. If holidays or events are something special to your family then pick dates that fall on that holiday/event because no one throws a party quite like Disney World.
8. If it’s free it’s for me.
Disney does offer some freebies. There are actually quite a lot, but I am not going to list all of them. Trust me, there is a blog post that lists all of the Disney freebies that you can google and easily find. But here are the ones you will actually use; water. Disney offers free cups of water through the park. I took full advantage of that. I grabbed multiple cups of water and put them into a bottle that I brought into the park. Staying hydrated is key in the Florida heat. Disney offers buttons that celebrate whatever reason you are visiting; birthdays, anniversaries, first trip, etc. Be sure to tell your hotel what you are celebrating and they will get you a button that matches the occasion. My son also came back to the hotel with a free stuffed Mickey on his pillow after telling the hotel staff that it was his first trip. Disney does it’s absolute best to make sure your kids have a magical time. Disney will also give free desserts at many dining locations if you tell them it’s your birthday. And it’s always your birthday if it means free cake 🤣
9. Lets eat.
If you stay onsite and buy a dining plan there are many options to choose from. You will get to decide how many quick service and table service meals you want. Quick service will be your chicken tender and fries type restaurants. Table service is sit down meals that typically include characters and have higher quality food. Disney has historically offered free or cheaper dining plans in September. Which is why September was the most appealing month for my family to go. We are all about the food. The character dining meals are worth the money even if you go during a month you have to pay. Your child can see multiple characters, get pictures and autographs all at once without having to wait in line at the character meet and greets. I did notice that a lot of character dining options were buffets, but it’s still Disney so the food is better than your run of the mill Golden Corral. You also get a few snacks (2-3) per day. Don’t skip out on the Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream or the dole whip. They are both amazing. Once again, there are plenty of blogs that list the best foods to eat while at Disney. Utilize all the lists that you can when deciding when and where to eat. Printing out a list of the best snacks, drinks, dining experiences or food at Disney and seeing how many you can sample is a fun adult activity that a lot of people take advantage of. Google Drinking or Snacking around the World in Epcot for more information!
10. Take a break.
Disney is big, it’s the size of a small city. I had read before I went that it was so important to take a midday break. Well, I didn’t listen. I was stubborn and tried to make it the entire day in the Florida sun. Disney will win that fight every single time. I ended up throwing in the towel everyday around 4pm. So, my family missed out on the fireworks and parades every night. The breaks are important. If you don’t want to go all the way back to your hotel at least find a place to sit and rest for a couple of hours or enjoy a show that has AC.
11. Find a loophole.
The most successful Disney hack that I personally used was about breakfast. The parks will get crowded fast so if you can get a leg up on the competition it could save you hours of wait time. Reserve an early morning Table Service breakfast. This will ensure that you are already inside the park before it opens and you will be able to be first in like for the most popular ride in the park. Disney isn’t going to be a vacation where you get much sleep/rest, admitting that to yourself is the first step, so waking up the next 1-2 hours for an early breakfast will be worth it in the long run. I suggest Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom for breakfast!
12. Age is just a number.
I have two opinions on this. I have a lot of my mom friends tell me that their kid is just “too young” for Disney. You cannot be more wrong. The majority of all the rides at Disney do not have a height requirement. For example, out of the 30 or more rides at just Magic Kingdom alone, there are only 7 that have a height requirement which ranges from 32-44 inches. On the flip side of that coin, I do feel like children can “age out” of Disney world. I feel like Disney is geared towards children ages 10 and under. Most of the rides are not thrill rides and some can be rather repetitive. Riding through scenes of movies on a slow motion ride can get boring after a while. I recommend once your children reaches 10 and up you start reading up on Universal Studios and what they have to offer.
13. What do I wear?
Dressing for the week was never as simple for me as it was the week we were at Disney. Everyone had a matching shirt for that day that fit the theme of the park. Throw on some shorts and comfortable shoes and you are ready to go. Don’t forget your Mickey ears once you get inside the park though! To save money, find a local person that makes Disney shirts instead of going online or on Etsy. Online you will be $10-15 per shirt. You don’t want to be broke before you even walk inside the park.
14. Take a piece of Disney home with you.
There will be souvenirs as far as the eye can see. Take something home with you to remember the trip. We went the cheap route and took a bag of pennies and quarters and made multiple pressed pennies throughout all of the parks. And, of course, we got our t-shirts, but that’s just standard.
15. Have a game plan.
Lastly, but most importantly. Plan your day. I used TouringPlans.com and my Unofficial Guide to Disney for my itinerary. The book offers some schedules to follow in the very last pages. Touringplans.com offers step by step plans for the day, even adding in times for a midday break and snacks along the way. You can even customize your trip to the ages of your children and other members of your party. I printed hard copies and took them with me inside the park. Don’t over complicate something as simple as following a list and if you trip is anything like mine, it should go on without a hitch.
Random closing thoughts:
Strollers will be a life saver and an aggravation for you during your trip to Disney if you have smaller children. Think of it as a necessary evil. Most rides require you to leave your strollers at a designated location but then the park attendants move your stroller while you are on the ride. Tie a ribbon or something colorful around your stroller so you can spot it quicker.
Don’t even try to take a selfie stick into Disney World. They will take it and give you the side eye. And no one likes the side eye.
Bring a bathing suit or swimming trunks for the kids because there are many places inside the parks for kids to play in the water and it gives them a chance to cool off.
It is worth noting that Disney allows you to bring food and drink inside the park. I don’t see why anyone would want to when you are surrounded by hundreds of new and exciting food options and snacks, but to each their own.
Buy an oversized Sharpie for the characters to sign autographs. Most have gloves on that are big and can be hard for them to grip the smaller pens.
I could write another 10 pages on tips and tricks for Disney. But honestly, its already out there. Google will guide your way. If you have any questions or anything I need to clarify and elaborate on feel free to comment and let me know! Us moms have to stick together!
For future posts, Florida is the only state that we only visited one attraction. Due only to the magnitude of Disney there was just not enough time to do much else. I wanted to devote this post to helping you plan a successful trip to Disney. My next state I blog about will be more broad.