I skipped over the actual start of our 2018 Adventure, which was (of course) Disneyworld. We love Disney and have taken the kids numerous times. I have friends who don’t get our fascination and why we go back so often. I even have one friend (who shall remain nameless) who doesn’t enjoy Disneyworld. The horror! But we love it and we have gone to Disneyworld without kids, with babies, pregnant, with toddlers, and with teenagers. Each time it is a little different as they grow and change but we still enjoy every stay. So, I thought I’d back up to that stay plus give you some of my best tips for Disney.
Why do we go so often? In truth, we are not really that adventurous. I know that might seem strange considering our current state of affairs, but we really aren’t. We like to know where we are going, what we will do when we get there, what and where we will eat, and we like it to be easy. With four kids, you need things to be easy!! Disney fits the bill. We know the ins and outs; we have our favorite places and our favorite restaurants; we stay on site and rarely go anywhere else. See! I told you – not adventurers. But the other reason is, Disney is truly the happiest place on earth. You just feel happy when you walk onto Main Street. The cast members are polite and happy. It is impeccably clean, and best of all, they thought of everything. One of the things we love is for things to run smoothly and efficiently. Disney thinks out the details and they rarely get it wrong.
When to go? We are diehard Disney but we also have ‘rules’ and strategies for our trips. We do not like to vacation when the rest of the world is vacationing. That’s probably why we are in the mountains in March! So we like to go when the crowds are generally lowest. In my opinion, best times of year to go to Disneyworld are February, October, November *(except Thanksgiving week), and December before Christmas. I think my absolute favorite time is November when the Christmas decorations are up and we love the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas night. Jay’s favorite is October when the Halloween decorations are up and they have their Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party. Both are worth the extra ticket. If you go during the peak season, it is CRITICAL that you download a trip planner and follow it TO THE LETTER. Do not deviate, do not pass GO, do not think for yourself. Just do what they say. My sister-in-law and her family generally go in the summer because they do not like to miss school (that piece doesn’t bother us), and she followed my advice and said they had a great time and never hit outrageous wait times.
Planning is everything for a Disney vacation. The trip planners, early meal planning, and Fast Pass reservations can all improve your trip immensely. We generally plan 8-10 months in advance and I book all of our dining reservations and our Fast Passes as soon as our booking window opens up. Some people think it is better to be spontaneous and just go where you feel like going for the day but in my opinion this is a recipe for disaster at Disney. I usually have a schedule typed up and color coded with where we will be each day. But we have flexibility within that so sometimes we’ll head to a different park if we missed something and want to go back, or we’ll head back to the resort early and just have a rest day. But planning it in advance keeps things moving smoothly.
Where to stay? We love to stay on site because it is the essence of easy. They’ll pick you up from the airport, deliver you to your hotel, get your baggage for you, drive you to each park while you are there, and then take you back to the airport when you are done. You get the benefits of being a park guest and you never get lost. But it is not the cheapest way to go so if you are doing Disney on a budget, you might check out the Mousesavers.com page for some tips on other places to stay. One criticism (gasp) I have of Disney is they do not have as many options for larger families. We typically stay at the Fort Wilderness cabins because they will sleep six and they are nice and quiet. Other options for bigger families include family suites at Disney Music resort and Art of Animation, and then some of the deluxe resorts.
Disney with a baby? Oh my yes! I think this is the best way to vacation with babies (other choice might be a cruise). But Disney caters to families so they have baby stations all over the park. They have options for family swapping so you can stand in line once and then swap out the baby while each adult rides, and baby items for sale throughout the parks. We have tried all configurations of strollers (thankfully we are out of that stage), and generally find the small umbrella strollers are the best if baby is big enough. I like the ones that will also lean back for a nap. Once they are toddlers, we started paying for the Disney double strollers and those are fantastic. They roll super easy and you can pack kids in. We had times when we would stack all 4 kids in there like sardines to get somewhere faster! We usually required little ones to be in the stroller if it was crowded, if we needed to get somewhere fast, or if they were grouchy. Strollers are like baby containers. I guess maybe I’m not always thankful we are out of that stage. Could someone make a teenager container?
Here are some tips I have collected off message boards in the past and a few of my own.
- Disboards.com – great news boards and discussion boards for Disney tips
- Mousesavers.com – great discounts for Disney and other parks
- WeGoShop.com for groceries – a great website that will deliver to your hotel
- There is also a pharmacy that will deliver to the hotel. Call the front desk
- Never go to MK on Monday
- Never go to Downtown Disney on Saturday
- Get there early (rope drop if you are short on time)
- MK, head straight to Fantasyland
- Epcot, head straight for Soarin’
- HS – head straight to Toy Story Mania
- AK – head straight to Pandora or Safari ride first
- Take rain ponchos. This is true year round
- ID’s on kids – we found something called Safety Tat which are temporary tattoos you can get with your cell phone number on them
- Make dinner reservations ahead of time – consider reserved seating for Fantasmic
- Book later flights back home – you have to leave the hotel 3-4 hours early to get to the airport if you take the shuttle so do not plan for much on your travel day
- Can get free ice water at restaurants with soda fountains
- Take bubbles for long lines. I have never tried it but was a suggestion I saw once
- Try Dole Whip – everyone raves and lines can be long (Adventureland in MK)
- You can use a Fast Pass after deadline expires
- Find out about pre-purchase discounts for Photo Pass – 60 days prior – in the parks there are photographers that will take pictures for you and you can pre-pay for a photo pass to get copies of all of your photos. Its cheaper then paying for each on it’s own.
- Get hair done in MK instead of boutique – there is a barber shop that will do the fairy glitter in girls hair for lots cheaper (may be free) than the Bibbity Bobbity Boo Boutique
- All parks have a baby station where you can rock, rest, change diapers and buy baby/toddler items if needed.
- They have a pin trading at all the parks. If you buy the pins at the park, they are like $25 for a starter pack of 5. I buy them off eBay for cheap. I’ll buy a bag of 50 and take them with us. As long as they are official Disney pins, you can trade with the cast members (staff) for free. My kids love this and it is a pretty cheap entertainment. They all have lanyards and they can go up to the cast members and look at their pins and trade for ones they want. I’d also order some locking pin backs though because otherwise they fall off. We lock all the kids’ pins on with silver backs that you can still get off pretty easy.
Those are just a few of my tips. My biggest recommendation? Just GO! Well, first plan a little and then go! Planning a Disney trip soon? I have copies of my packing list, dining recommendations, and other tips I am happy to send!