Disney has a monopoly on sensation, magic and entertainment. They know how to deliver an experience that delights and makes a lasting impression. Honestly, if you get nothing else from this article, the only thing that can truly ruin your vacation is if you have a bad attitude about it. So don’t worry, even if things aren’t exactly as you pictured it, it’ll still be remembered fondly as long as you stay calm and enjoy the moment. Now, I know you’re here for some serious Disney Tips, so allow me get on with it….
Disney Tips: If I had a Do Over
But first, these tips are not for a seasoned Disney World fanatic. You know, the pros who have the maps memorized and know all the tricks to avoiding long wait times? So if that’s you, get outta here! This is for the first timers who are wanting to make the most of their first time. Let’s get into this!
Arrive on Sunday for Check-In | Enter the Parks Monday to Friday | Check Out Saturday
We arrived on Saturday, left our stuff in the car and went straight into Animal Kingdom. By the time we got there we’d missed the early morning lull and it was fast approaching lunch time. It was packed. People were going in all kinds of directions, separating each others parties trying to get where they were going. By the time we entered the resort, the Disney dining refill mugs were gone, we discovered a broken refrigerator and we were exhausted and completely lost.
Instead, I would arrive on Sunday and use that day to get my stuff in my room, find the dining locations at the resort and check out the amenities of the resort. It’ll be a nice evening to get acclimated and explore. There’s lots to do at the resorts. You can also visit Disney Springs or the Boardwalk. You’ll get up on Monday rested and ready to hit the park early.
Go in February
I thought October would be lower crowds and cooler. I was wrong. It still got up to 95 degrees at the beginning of October. It was Columbus Day weekend so there were plenty of people. Even when Columbus day was over, the crowds didn’t seem to die down much. Avoid President’s Day weeks and the Disney Princess Half Marathon but look to February if that’s an option.
Look Into Partner Hotels
In particular, check out the Disney Springs Area Hotels. These hotels are close to Disney Springs. They include the well knowns: Wyndam, Hilton, Best Western, and Holiday Inn. They have great access, great amenities, and come with a lower price tag. You can also get vacation packages including your Disney tickets through the My Disney Experience website with these hotels.
Magic Bands can be Sized Down for Kids
I didn’t know this! It’s in the instructions that came with them but I honestly didn’t take them out of the box until we arrived at the resort and everything was so fast paced. Yes, the grey part peels off to reveal a smaller, more fitting magic band for kids.
Be Prepared AND Let It Go (Lion King and Frozen References Intended)
It’d been 18 years since I’d entered the parks and a lot has changed. Fast passes, magic bands, memory maker and dining credits all took some getting used to. There were new attractions woven in with older attractions. I wanted to do everything but even with 6 days admission, there wasn’t time for it all. With crowds and cranky kids, I had to remind myself that my kids really didn’t know what they were missing so it’d be okay to let them go back to the room to rest. It’s better than forcing them to experience it all. Prioritize what you really want to do but be willing to let it go. If you’re planning to ride Pandora but your kids just want to look at animals. Look at animals.
Consider Extra Magic Hours
If there’s a new attraction open at the park and there’s extra magic hours at that park on the day you plan to go, then consider investing in that extra ticket. Other people will. They will already be in the lines when you attempt to run there at rope drop (that’s Disney lingo for the time when they drop the rope and allow guests to enter). We learned this the hard way and a little too late to do anything about it. So unless you’re really willing to Let it Go, then consider the extra magic hours.
Memory Maker is Totally Worth it
I am so thankful that I didn’t have to stress about my cell phone working for good pictures of our trip. My phone never died at the park because I wasn’t using it extensively for pictures. And I didn’t tote a heavy camera around to take pictures. Take full advantage of memory maker. Consider how much you’d pay for family portraits anywhere else.
The Jury is Out on the Dining Plan
We did the dining plan because we didn’t want to worry about the price of food during our trip. We were looking for an all-inclusive kind of experience. If you do it, remember that tips are not included at many of the Table Service restaurants, so you’ll need to budget for tips. Also, some table service restaurants cost two credits (Cinderella’s Royal Table and some meals at Be Our Guest) so you’ll need to know this as you plan. We ended up with a bunch of snack credits left over and used them up at Zuri’s Sweet Shop and Creature Comforts (Animal Kingdom) on our last day. As a side note, I appreciated table service/character dining more than our quick service experiences but our kids could have easily survived on snacks because they don’t eat enough to justify a full meal. Also, when you’re hot and busy, you don’t tend to want to eat as much. So it’s up to you. The best meal plan would be a combo of table service and snack credits without the quick service but that doesn’t currently exist. You may be better off bringing your own snacks into the park and budgeting for meals.
The My Disney Experience App
Download it and get used to using it in advance. Once you’re in the park, there’s a feature where it can give you directions as you’re walking through the park. I found it easier to use a paper map. But the app helped me investigate wait times, signup for fast passes, make dining reservations and view my memory maker photos as soon as they were uploaded.
Ponchos Save Your Vacation
DO NOT ignore this tip. It rained. Almost every day. We found our ponchos at Ace Hardware for $1 a piece. I kept plastic zipper bags in my little backpack to store the wet ponchos. Every night, I hung them up in the resort to dry and every morning I folded them back up into the backpack. And we used them, almost every day.
Guest Relations is Your Lifeline
If you have trouble with anything during your visit, you can go to Guest Relations and they’ll give you the help you need. It’s usually located near the entrance to any park and you can get it done prior to rope drop.
Buy Surprises and Treats Outside the Park
The best thing I did was purchase little trinkets and surprises for the girls before we left home. I shopped Disney online clearance, walmart, and target and I wrapped them so they’d have a present to open each day. This kept their attention on the little gift they were going to get and away from all the balloons, bubble blowers and shop windows in the parks. It did take some pre-planning but they loved it. Here’s a list of some of the things I included:
Glow in the dark bracelets/necklaces
A small clipboard with cardstock and a pen for character autographs
A Character Search (I’m Sharing it With You Here)
Binoculars for Animal Kingdom day (Target)
***This is the dress we got for my oldest (only $23)! She loved it and if you use this link to find a dress for your little one and make a purchase from Amazon, you support me as I continue encouraging connection. Thank You!
Invitation to Cinderella’s Royal Table (Sharing it with You Here) if you’re able to get a reservation
The Reality of Disney World
The reality of the magical world of Disney is that it’s popular (crowded), it’s in Orlando (hot and rainy) and it’s huge (too much to do it all). If you go with that in mind and slow down a little, you’ll have a great time. Remember, it’s not about doing it all, it’s about being together when you’re doing it. That’s the best of all the Disney tips I can give you.