Once you’ve booked your hotel, made dining reservations, and picked out your Magic Bands, just thinking about your upcoming Disney World vacation can sometimes be daunting. Will we manage to do everything? Will my kids be able to handle all the walking? Are they going to be a nightmare to wait in line with? What should I pack? I have narrowed all of my Disney advice down to these ten tips that, if you choose to follow them, should help ease your mind and make your vacation more enjoyable.
1. Arrive at the parks at least 30 minutes before they are scheduled to open. I know this is your vacation. I know you’d really like to sleep in, but trust me on this. Arriving early gives you time to get tickets, rent strollers or wheelchairs, have your bags checked, etc. You’ll have time to ride several attractions with short lines before those who chose to sleep in even make it through the gate.
At the Magic Kingdom, you’ll get to see your favorite characters arrive at the Main Street train station via the Walt Disney World Railroad for rope drop. It’s a lot of fun.
2. Have a plan, but be flexible. It is best to have a general idea of how you’d like to approach the park, but if you’d rather ride The Haunted Mansion twice and skip The Hall of Presidents, do it! This is your vacation.
3. Wear comfortable shoes. I know that sounds like obvious advice, but trust me. Don’t buy a new pair of Chaco’s and break them in walking around Epcot – 300 acres of pain. Not that I know anyone who’s done that. Pack your most comfortable, broken-in sneakers. Your feet will thank you. If you decide to ignore this advice – pack band aids and blister pads.
4. Carry a backpack, especially if you have children with you. You can pack it with sunscreen, sunglasses, bottled water, hand sanitizer, cameras, ponchos, snacks, etc. Make sure everyone is comfortable wearing it, so you can take turns.
5. If you are traveling with young children, I highly recommend hitting up the dollar store, or the dollar section at Target, before your trip and stocking up on things that glow. Disney sells these during the parades and fireworks shows, and they can get pretty expensive…especially when you compare it to 12 glow bracelets for a dollar. Just be careful how you pack them. I opened a tube of live bracelets in the Magic Kingdom one evening and passed them out to all the kids around me in line for the Tomorrowland Speedway. I may or may not have embarrassed my husband. Those were some happy kids, though.
6. Bring your own costumes. You will see kids wearing them all over the parks, and you will pay a pretty penny to buy the same dress you saw at Target last week if you wait until you’ve arrived in Florida to purchase it. You can bring your own costume if you have an appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, too. It will save you a lot of money, as the package that includes the princess dress is quite pricey. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers a knight package for boys, but if your little guy doesn’t want to be surrounded by fairy godmothers and glitter, you can take him to become a pirate at Pirates’ League in the Magic Kingdom. Another fun, free option is to sign the kids up for Jedi Training Academy in Hollywood Studios if you’ll be spending a day there. You’ll want to go straight to the ABC Sound Studio to sign your little padawan up when you enter the park, because Jedi Training Academy fills up quickly.
7. If you don’t want to spend the money on a package at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or Pirates’ League, there are a few places in the Magic Kingdom where your child can be sprinkled with pixie (or pirate) dust for free. This is available at the Main Street Barber Shop, Sir Mickey’s in Fantasyland, or you can just ask for the sprinkling of pixie dust at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
8. Hidden Mickeys. These are a lot of fun to look for while you’re waiting in line for rides, exploring the park, etc. I married a man with low theme park endurance – this wasn’t covered in our pre-marital counseling. 😉 On our first trip to Disney World, I bought Steven Barrett’s book Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets. We carried it everywhere, and his favorite part of the trip was hunting for the hidden Mickeys. This would also be great to take along if you have visited Disney World several times and want a new perspective as you’re in the parks.
9. The best, best, best way to see your favorite characters is to make a reservation for a character meal. Why? Because they come to you! When you find them in the parks, you have to wait in line. When you dine at a character meal, the characters make rounds in the restaurant while you enjoy your food. If you’re collecting autographs, be sure to have your autograph book ready with one of the big, fat pens (they’re easier for most of the characters to hold). If you want to see a list of available character dining experiences, check out this post from a few weeks ago.
10. Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Commit to have a no-complaining trip, and stick to it. Focus on being together and enjoying yourselves, and your vacation will be memorable no matter what.
Ready to plan? E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org