When we first planned our trip to Disney, we did it on the fly I guess you could say! We were still living in Virginia Beach at the time and while we knew we going to plan a few things: where we were staying, visiting friends and of course the whole reason to go Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party; we actually didn’t know a whole lot about the “Disney Experience”. We came and we just went with the flow! We also learned a lot from our friends who were living here and also from the kindness of strangers! While it worked out for our family (Linc was 3) there are 5 definite things I wish we had known and I want you to know before you arrive! These are simple things really but whenever we get e-mails asking us about any helpful tips… this is what I always say… because I wish someone had said them to me!
- There is No Perfect Way or Right Way to Do Disney!!!: There is only the “perfect way” for YOUR family! What works for some families and what delights some families, will not be the best adventure for your family necessarily so the best way to plan for your Disney trip is to do your research and make it specific to your family and your needs! There is a TON of information out there when it comes to researching your trip! There are blogs designed just to help you and make the most of your experience monetary and adventure wise. There are travel agents and of course, friends and family that have come and gone and want you to share the same magical experience they had! While all this information is amazing, ultimately you need to decide for yourself what your own adventure will look like, especially depending on the ages of littles in your family. Check out all the rides, check out the experiences and add-ons and then determine what realistically are the most important items on your list! Walt Disney World is huge and it’s incredible but also understand that there is no way you can possibly do it all in one trip! So keep that in your mind when you are planning… there is no right way to do all of Disney!
- Plan- To Be Flexible!!!: It’s great to have a plan for your trip but everyone who has little ones understands, you need to be flexible and take cues from them! We are still learning this one to be quite honest! We always have an “idea” for the day but to be truthful, that “idea” never happens the way we plan it. I think that’s probably the one thing we did right as a family when we first came to Disney. We didn’t really plan at all other than we were going to head to the park and see how the day unfolded! It’s easy to over schedule yourselves here at Disney; I mean there is an incredible amount of magic to experience! My biggest advice to you is to remember that it’s your kiddo’s trips too, so take their cues and follow their lead some times! Disney is supposed to be happy and when you try to pack everything in, over schedule and go go go… it tends to be not so happy and full of melt downs! Take rests when needed, take advantage of the areas that offer “breaks” for little ones (I am going to share a separate post on just this). If your staying on property, take advantage of the transportation system and come back after everyone has had a chance to relax a bit! Even if you have a day pass, you don’t have to stay all day! You can enjoy your time, head out for a rest or for nap time and then come back to that same park for fireworks if that is what will suit everyone! It’s great to plan, but understand that those plans will change quickly and more than likely for the better!
- Include a Rest Day!: This all depends on how long you plan to visit! We stayed for quite a while and we had 4 day hopper passes. Initially I had wanted to spend time at each park and I couldn’t wait to get to Magic Kingdom every single day. I love all the magic, however, Tuck and I soon realized that after about the second day (and especially the third) everyone is exhausted! We decided to skip out on our “third day” and ended up taking full advantage of all the amazing activities our Disney’s Resort had to offer (We stayed part time at Caribbean and the the other half in a condo off site)! We woke up at a leisurely time, we swam in the incredible pool for hours and Linc participated in the dance off, the crafts and even the movie night! The day we spent together as a family at the resort was honestly one of my favorite days!
- Not Every Park Needs a Full Day with Little ones!: This item might get me in a bit of trouble with Disney lovers, but we found and we still do now living here, that we only need a half day for Hollywood Studios with Linc. This all goes back to understanding and researching what Disney has to offer that will be perfect for YOUR FAMILY! Even now that Linc is 4 and we live here, we only spend a brief morning at Hollywood Studios because there a few attractions he loves to see and then he’s out! The same went for us when we first visited the park and Epcot. I love Epcot and so does Tuck, but by the time we got around to visiting the park, Linc was wild! It was also during Food and Wine and on the weekend, which for us meant a lot of adults and college students touring around the world just for drinks! We ended up taking advantage of kid-cot that day and spent just about a half day there as well! One piece of advice I have for every family with little ones, please do not forget Animal Kingdom! We adore AK and we could spend all day walking around, eating and exploring! For us: Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are our two big parks where we plan to spend all day at each one! Epcot and Hollywood Studios while beloved just don’t hold a lot of excitement for our little guy yet. Once he gets a bit taller it might be a different story!
- My Disney App: If you walk away from this list only learning one item, let it be to download the My Disney App! We didn’t learn about it until we were riding the bus with a family to Disney Springs and we sure didn’t take full advantage of the app when we visited the first time. Now that we live here, this is our life! You can make reservations, you can schedule your fast passes, you can check the locations and times of character appearances and you can see how long the lines and wait times are for your favorite rides. This is also where any pictures that you have taken by Disney will show up! It’s free to download and as soon as you know you are going to be making this magical trip, go ahead and download it! If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can schedule your fast passes 60 days in advance. If you are staying off site, or have passes like we do, it’s 30 days out! This is great for certain rides that are more popular than others. I will be writing a post soon on which rides we think you need a fast pass for and which rides you can hang out and wait in the line! We used the character tab the most when we visited our first time and it made our experience! Linc was 3 and honestly all he wanted to do was walk around and meet as many characters as he could! That was the best experience for him and for us so Tuck and I would schedule our fast passes for rides around the character meet and greet times! Some days we would end up canceling our fast passes or switching them around (which you can do) because Linc saw a random character that needed a hug! It was great to be able to move about the park and get in line for specific characters before they got too crazy!
Those are the top 5 things that we wish we had known before we came down for the first time, but here’s a bonus one for you that is equally important!
Make Your Reservations ASAP! If you want to include a character breakfast or eat a special restaurant while you here, please please please go ahead and make that reservation the second you even think about coming to Disney! These reservations, especially character and princess dining, can book up to 180 days in advance and trust me… they do! There are so many wonderful dining experiences not to miss and so if you can’t quite get the one that you want, please don’t hesitate to ask, research or see what else is out there! There are many opportunities and places to dine with the Princesses or certain characters! There are also character breakfasts at different resorts and hotels in the area. There are some incredible restaurants where you can enjoy a show or watch the fireworks too which shouldn’t be missed! Talk with your family and find out what might suit them best and then book it asap!
I hope that this is helpful and I can not wait to share more with you! All in all, when you come whether you have planned or not planned, you are going to have an amazing time! Disney is magical and there is absolutely nothing in this world like seeing your child experience that magic! I promise you, you will cry and laugh and it will change you in the best possible ways!