I did a lot of research before our Disney vacation, much of it on Pinterest. I also bough the Unofficial Guide toDisney, which was SUPER helpful. So here are my top 10 Tips for making your Disney Vacation the Happiest Week of Your Life.
10. Arrive at the Magic Kingdom before the opening time.
The Magic Kingdom may officially open at 9:00 am, which is when all the rides and lands open up, but the gates themselves open at least 45 minutes before that! Arriving at the park at 9:00 means you'll be wasting precious park time. You’ll have to walk from either the parking lot or the bus to the gates, then go through security. And once you’re inside, you’ll need to get maps, orient yourself, go to the bathroom, etc. Plus, Main Street and many of its shops and restaurants are open before the opening time, so it’s not like you’ll be bored!
9. If you want to meet characters, book the character meals.
On our arrival day, we met seven princesses, five of them during our dinner. What a great way to use our limited park time! Instead of standing in seven individual lines, we waited in 1 line (for Anna & Elsa), and sat comfortably at a table while the other 5 came to us. Some people find the character meals to be chaotic and rushed. It is definitely not a restful meal, as you do have several interruptions. On the other hand, at least you're sitting down. Also, the servers were all very helpful in telling us when characters would be coming by our table. And they never pushed us to finish up and leave in a hurry.
8. Don’t buy an autograph book.
I bought wire bound index cards (in pretty colors) and tore out the autographs every night in my hotel room. That way, if I had lost the book, I wouldn’t have lost the autographs we’d already gotten. What I did do was buy a Disney photo album, which I can put the cards and pictures in to create a keepsake for her.
7. Bring AT LEAST two pairs of walking shoes.
On our second day, we were caught in a torrential downpour that thoroughly soaked us, even through our raincoats. Our shoes took 3 days to dry out. And this is Florida – it rains all the time. All of us were very grateful for those second pairs of shoes! In addition, if you blister (and I did, even though both my shoes were well broken in), switching shoes can relieve the pain. Final point: you may want to bring a pair of shoes to bum around the hotel room in, as you see with my flip flops above. In fact, my blisters were so bad that I bought special tabu socks (from Epcot Japan) and wore socks with flip flops the last two days. It was divinely comfortable.
6. Pay attention to your potty.
I know it's gross, but especially with kids, you need to think about poop. Bring medication to speed up or slow down intestinal flow, and make sure you know what your kids are doing with the potty. Vacations are a common time to have issues, and that can ruin the whole trip!
5. Bring extra battery power for your phone.
I needed all my battery power because, like most people, I used my smart phone as my camera. In addition, I managed our plans with the free My Disney Experience app. That allowed me to make/adjust dinner reservations, Fastpass reservations, etc., all from my own phone. I invested in a case that had a built in battery, but you can also buy portable charges, or bring a charging cable to use at various plugs in the park.
4. Know your "why."
We went to Disney World to give my 5 year old daughter an incredible vacation. Whenever I had to make a decision or a plan, I thought about my "why." So when my daughter turned down a fastpass to ride something else, I said yes. When she wanted to ride a certain ride over and over, I said yes. I also made her rest during our daily nap times (although by the second day, she fell asleep the minute her head hit the pillow). I skipped some events that I wanted to do, because this wasn’t about me or my goals. Besides, skipping one show to attend a different one gave me the gift of watching her face light up, or hearing her delightful giggles. At the end of the day, the trip we took was wonderful, although definitely different from the trip I would've taken if it had just been me and my husband going.
3. Let people take care of themselves.
I had planned to go back to the hotel daily to rest, and we did exactly that. One of my party members didn’t join us in the daily nap – instead she chose to stay in the parks and just sit or ride gentle rides while we were gone. At first I was worried about her. Could she really get the rest she needed without going to the hotel? But she is an adult, and so I let her do what she knew was best for her. When my husband overslept on the morning of one of our breakfast reservations, I let him sleep and left without him, because I knew that was what he needed. He thanked me for it! If, like me, your group includes more adults than children, then don't try to control the vacation for all of them! Let people pass on rides, or choose other rides, etc.
2. Leave one day unplanned.
I left Wednesday completely open: no fastpasses, no dinner reservations, nothing. When we talked about it on Tuesday, our group was in agreement about which park to visit, but even if we hadn’t been, that would’ve been the perfect day to split up so people could do their own thing. Once we picked a park, I was able to book fastpasses for the best rides by using the Disney Experience app. I also kept our plans minimal for Thursday and Friday, in order to give us time to ride some rides a second or third (or fourth) time. What with Fastpasses and dinner reservations and parades and shows, you could easily schedule a 12 hour day every day. And you'll be absolutely miserable!
1. Take a nap EVERY day!
Yes, it can take up to an hour to travel from a park to your hotel room. Yes, it can then take up to another hour to get back. Yes, that means you are sacrificing at least 3 hours of park time just to rest. It is worth it. The only day we didn’t take a nap, two adults in my party literally were falling asleep at the dinner table, and my daughter was a total mess. On the days we took naps we were able to go back and have a nice dinner with no meltdowns, watch the sunset, and on some nights, watch the closing ceremonies. I can't stress this enough: TAKE A DAILY NAP! Because even if you invest 4 hours in the nap and your kid only sleeps for 30 minutes, that's still 4 hours of downtime for you and the kids. Four hours without stimulation, four hours to process and consider and rest. I didn't even sleep during our nap time, but everyone else did!