We went to Disney World right before Christmas and it was SO much fun! I wanted to share a few planning tips that helped us have such a fun and happy time together. When it comes to Disney World, planning and being prepared really does make all the difference when it comes to NOT stressing, so I wanted to compile all of my thoughts here for any of you who are planning to take your family to the happiest place on Earth, too!
We used a travel agent when planning our trip and it’s probably my BIGGEST recommendation for a Disney trip - if you take no other advice from me, please please please have someone help you plan your Disney trip. Alyson Pitzer of Magical Moments Vacations helped us tailor our trip perfectly to our family and I would highly recommend her to anyone! We didn’t have to pay her either - she is compensated by Disney so when you purchase your tickets through her or reserve hotels, she is compensated by Disney. But she does SO much more than book things - she truly helped us tailor the trip perfectly for my kids’ ages, character preferences, height requirements, EVERYTHING - she helped us schedule our fast passes, make dining reservations for character meals, and explained how to actually execute a Disney trip - everything from transportation to meal planning to where the best hidden places are in the parks to grab a bite to eat, change a diaper, etc. She is a wealth of information and I hope everyone uses her because gosh, we certainly will be using her services again! #disneycruiseupnext
Park Hopper! This is so helpful to have along with your ticket if you want to move around a little bit. It’s really fun to spend a morning at Magic Kingdom and then head over to Epcot to eat in the afternoon. I didn’t utilize our Park Hopper much this time, but my extended family did and they really liked being able to move around! I feel like this is helpful if you have multiple park days and older children who are a little more mobile).
Rider Swap - It’s hard for me to explain how this works but it is SO helpful. Since Daxton is still too little to ride roller coasters, Stevie and I could utilize the rider swap to switch off taking Everett on rides and not have to wait in line each time. Like I said, hard to actually explain but it is so worth utilizing!
We used the My Disney Experience app to organize all of our fast passes (you’re allowed to plan up to 3 per day and continue to add more as you use them up), and our dining plans (reservations are required for sit-down meals, and booking 6 months in advance for some restaurants is a must!) Again, our travel agent was absolutely amazing in helping us get all of this set up, so we just had to show up on our trip and our app told us what was happening. It was literally amazing.
If you can swing it, the Disney Meal Plan is evvvverything. You pay ahead of time for the dining plan and then your Magic Band is automatically loaded with daily credits for meals and snacks at the parks and hotels. It is a total gift to all the mamas! A true vacation for me is one where I do not have to cook. Can I get an amen?
All that being said, I wish I had packed my kids some pb & j sandwiches (and a few healthy snacks) as an extra during the days. They love something simple like that and they didn’t always eat the chicken nuggets or whatever it was that we got for them that was on the dining plan. However, Stevie and I always used their dining credits, so I still think the plan is totally worth it!
Just so you know, you can get Starbucks coffee on the dining plan - it counts as a snack credit and it is the BEST to grab one in the early morning when you get into the park. It gave me a little extra motivation to get to the park right when it opened! Which is also the time when the park is least crowded.
Magic Kingdom- Be Our Guest (I like breakfast here best), Sleepy Hollow (get the waffles!), Casey’s (get the corn dog nuggets and don’t think about the calories), Aloha Isle (get the Dole Whipped Treat!!!!), and Starbucks on Main Street (I personally like to grab an early coffee here and walk very slowly down Main Street - it’s perhaps the cheeriest place I’ve ever been and I always want to soak it up!)
Animal Kingdom - Tusker House (my favorite character meal!)
Epcot - Oh gosh, I ate everything here! This is the best place to walk and munch literally all day long. Christmas Tea in England, tacos in Mexico, kettle corn in Canada, crepes in France, mac’n’cheese in Germany, orange chicken in China and mulled wine in Germany!
Hollywood Studios - 50’s Prime Time Cafe
You have to wear Mickey ears at The Magic Kingdom! I got this 12-pack on Amazon, which had both Mickey & Minnie ears, and we wore these the last time. This time my sis Lauren also snagged a pair for me from Claires (that look similar to this) and I loved having a fancy glitter pair!
We wore Mickey and Disney gear the entire trip because its fun to be so festive! I shopped at Target for a few months before hand and just picked up things here and there that would coordinate well for the days we were at the parks.
Wear comfy shoes. Do NOT wear flip flops. Just trust me on this one, friends. I’m on your side!
Pack an extra layer for yourself and your kiddos if you are going to stay for the whole day into the evening - the temperatures definitely drop at night!
I personally loved renting a van and driving to the parks everyday. Even though the monorail and bus system is super efficient, our hotel didn’t have a monorail option and sometimes the buses can take a while to arrive. With little kids (and nap times and the need for urgent potty breaks!), I just really liked having the control of leaving when we needed to. However, this is totally a personal preference thing and I have lots of family that really liked using the bus system!
I will also highly recommend arriving at the parks 15-30 minutes before they open. I know, that sounds crazy, but just hear me out here. Many of the parks actually open their doors 30 minutes prior to actually opening and beginning the rides, so if you are able to get into the park, grab a coffee, and have a leisure walk to your first ride, then when the park officially opens you are already standing in front of your first ride. It can be hectic trying to get to the park that early, but it is much less crowded in the mornings and it’s easier to jump on rides. Trust me on this one - the park is the most crowded at 11am because that’s when most people manage to get there after eating breakfast, etc. Just trust me here! Get to the park early and enjoy the peace and quiet! You will ride 3x as many rides this way!
If you have a child that naps, you can either stay in the park and hope that they nap in your stroller, or you can head back to the hotel in the early in the afternoon and give them a proper nap. We have done it both ways, and we really make the decision the day of, depending on how late the park will be open that day. For example, if Magic Kingdom closes at 5pm, then we will probably try to stay at the park for the day. But if it closes at 10pm, we would try to get to the park at 7:30/7:45am, ride rides and have fun until about noon, eat lunch and then head back to the hotel for rest time and naps until about 5pm. Then we would grab dinner and enjoy the park in the evening - making certain to catch the fire works!
We brought our Double Bob Stroller and we LOVED having it. They boys could ride around in it when they got tired, we could keep them contained (which is a big deal, because otherwise we were holding their hands while we walked with them in the crowds). It was also helpful for letting Daxton nap in the afternoons. Overall, it was just SO convenient to have it and Disney has tons of stroller parking everywhere (with people keeping an eye on the strollers!) when you couldn’t take the stroller directly to the rides. It was so helpful to have a hub for all our STUFF. Because man, we brought a lot of stuff.
Speaking of stuff, I packed my diaper bag each day with the following: an extra pair of clothes for each boy, a full refillable water bottle for each person, lots of snacks, diapers and wipes, hand sanitizer, sun glasses, chapstick, tissues, a little toy for each boy (to play with while we were in line, but honestly, we didn’t need these), and when its really hot, I would also recommend a mister fan, a hat and some sunscreen.
I would also recommend packing a portable phone charger (you use your phone SO much at DIsney, between taking photos and using the My Disney app to keep up with your Fast Passes - this is helpful if your phone battery isn’t great!)
I think that’s all! Goodness, it looks like a lot of info, but this was our second time taking the boys to Disney and it was an even better trip! I truly think having a travel agent help us make an amazing plan made all the difference - we have never used a travel agent for any other trip, including international travel with the kids, but I feel like at Disney is it completely necessary! We absolutely LOVED our time there this year and I even made a little Travel Diary on IGTV, which you can see here.
I hope this was helpful for you! Please leave your fave Disney tips and tricks in the comments section so we can all learn from them! xx