So, you and your life partner have decided to take your Mickey obsessed kids to Disney World? Let’s talk about how to plan a trip without needing therapy after!
First: Fall down the Disney Black Hole.
When planning our trip, I fell hard. Disney Facebook groups, Disney message boards, podcasts, hour long convos with friends who had gone before me. Before I knew it, I was hiding in the bathroom live streaming a Disney Expo via a bootleg Facebook live feed… Now, you absolutely do not have to do this to enjoy yourself at Disney, but I wanted the most bang for my buck and that meant learning every in and out of Walt Disney World. There are a ton of resources out there to figure out what best suits your family’s vacation. I strongly suggest wdwprepschool.com and wdwinfo.com.
Second: Book Early.
Disney is popular guys. “Must do” restaurant reservations are booked 180 days in advance. FastPasses for rides are booked 60 days out. And offers for hotel rooms? Gone in milliseconds after being announced. We booked in January for a September trip. That gave us plenty of time to book the experiences we knew we wanted. Disney doesn’t require that your trip be paid off until 30 days before check in, so that is a big bonus of booking early as well.
Third: Stay on property.
Disney offers several different price points in their hotel rooms and the trade offs are well worth it. Staying on property allows for several perks like free transportation around the resort and pickup and drop off from the airport. If you make a purchase at the parks during the day, Disney will shuttle it back to your room at zero cost to you! As a mom who travels with everything but the kitchen sink in the bottom of our stroller, the extra space from not lugging souvenirs around is crucial. Disney also gives its hotel guests early entry into the parks on certain days and special perks like booking rides earlier than regular visitors.
Fourth: Consider visiting during “off-peak” time.
For most, this typically means when school is IN session. Disney is always more crowded during school breaks and it can really affect how enjoyable your vacation becomes. Who wants to pay a ton of money to stand in line all day? Some of the most recommended times to visit Disney are mid-September, late January and early February. These times often feature deals on rooms or dining plans also.
Fifth: Expose your kid to the process.
Now, I know this is controversial and absolutely depends on the kid BUT we told our 3 year old about Disney the day we booked. No, we won’t have any cool surprise video but I will have a toddler who is informed about all our plans. At 3 years old, it was really unpredictable how he would react. We tried our best to prepare him for the excitement to come. YouTube was our biggest tool in this process. We showed him the fireworks show, the rides, the characters and even our hotel. I am hopeful that this will help him (and all of us) have a truly awesome time on our vacation.
Sixth: Prep for A LOT of walking.
Disney is intense. Most guests walk 10+ miles A DAY in a Disney park. For us this meant training like it was a half marathon and walking long distances in the months before our trip. This is also why I recommend bringing or renting a stroller, even for kids as old as 5 and packing the best shoes you own for support. The last thing you want is to be in pain in THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.
Seventh: Don’t forget the EXTRAS.
These can bring you peace of mind and comfort in the parks. Sometimes I feel like we bought more to prep for our trip to Disney than the trip cost but a lot of these items were a MUST HAVE. At least for me. First, for the kids we bought temporary tattoos with our telephone numbers and backpacks with tethers. Judge me if you want but my kids are wanderers and I wasn’t about to lose one in Disney. For us, we bought TILES for the big things we planned to take into the park, like our backpack and stroller. We also packed refillable water bottles for everyone and a battery operated stroller fan to keep the kids cool. These little conveniences gave my mom anxiety a little bit of a reprieve.
September is here y’all and we leave so soon! You can bet I’ll be excited to share some of our favorite parts here when we get back. I know one thing for absolutely certain. I’ve had fun planning this trip. But we are going to have so much more when we get there!
Images by Allison Fay Chewning