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Planning a Disney World vacation for your family? Are you overwhelmed with all the information that’s out there? Not sure where to even start? I know just how you feel. I was completely overwhelmed when planning my first trip too. So, to help keep you sane and on the right path, here are my best tips for your Disney World trips!
Make planning your vacation easier with these planning tips for your Disney World trips. For more planning tips, see my step by step guide.
#1: Start planning at least 6 months in advance if possible.
To give yourself the most options and to take some of the stress out of planning, start at least 6 months in advance. This will give you plenty of time to decide on the various elements of your trip without having to worry about your choices being booked up before you make your reservations.
For instance, you can make dining reservations 6 months prior to your trip. If you wait until 2 or 3 months before your trip to start planning, you risk not being able to get reservations to the restaurants your family really wants to try.
#2: Plan on spending at least 4 days at Disney World if you can.
Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco. So, it is impossible to see it all in one trip. You can easily spend a full day or more in each of the four theme parks. So, I recommend spending at least 4 days at Disney World. This will allow you to devote a full day to each park without feeling like you have to run nonstop to fit it all in.
#3: Don’t get the park hopper if you will be there for 4 days or less.
Unless you are planning on spending 5 or more days at Disney World, don’t bother getting the park hopper. Instead, just focus on going to one park per day and do as much as you can in that park. I promise you won’t run out of things to do!
If, on the other hand, your trip will be longer, get the park hopper. Then, after you have spent a full day in each park, you can use the park hopper to bounce between the parks to do the things you missed or that you want to experience again during the rest of your trip.
#4: Download the My Disney Experience app to your phone.
Before your trip, download the My Disney Experience app to your phone and create an account. This app not only will keep track of your reservations, it will also give you park hours, wait times, and lots of other information about your trip.
#5: Avoid going at Christmas unless you have no other choice.
If you are deciding when to go to Disney World, avoid the week of Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Years if at all possible. These are the two busiest weeks of the entire year. You will find wall to wall people in the parks during these two weeks.
If you can go during another time of year, you will avoid these crazy big crowds.
Tips on Where to Stay
Next on this list of the best tips for your Disney World trips are tips on where to stay.
#6: Take hidden costs into account when deciding where to stay.
When deciding whether to stay on or off property, take all hidden costs into account when comparing prices. These hidden costs include resort fees, parking fees, and transportation to and from the parks. Also, take into account how much time you will spend getting to and from the parks each day.
For more information on whether you should stay on property, see if it’s worth the money to stay in a Disney resort.
#7: If you stay on property, you can take Disney transportation to and from the parks.
Remember that Disney World has its own transportation system. So, if you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can use this free transportation to get to and from your hotel and the parks each day. This can save you from renting a car on your trip.
#8: There is a Disney resort to fit every taste.
If you decide to stay on property, remember that there are quite a few Disney resorts to choose from. You can find one to fit every budget and every taste. So, take some time to explore them all before choosing where to stay. For more information on the Disney resorts, see where to stay at Disney.
One of the best parts of a Disney World trip is the food! So, to help you plan your dining, here are my best dining tips.
#9: Look at menus of all the restaurants in advance.
There are more than 60 restaurants at Disney World covering a wide variety of prices, cuisines, and themes. So, take a look at the menus of those restaurants that interest you prior to your trip so you can pick out the best restaurants for your family.
You can find the menus of every Disney World restaurant at allears.net.
#10: Make dining reservations in advance.
Many of the table service restaurants at Disney World fill up, especially during busy times. So, to make sure you get to eat where you want, make dining reservations in advance of your trip. You can begin making reservations 180 days prior to your trip.
You can make reservations on the My Disney Experience app, on Disney World’s website, or by calling (407) 939-3463.
#11: See popular characters during character meals.
You can spend a lot of time waiting in line to see characters during your Disney World trips. To save yourself some time, kill two birds with one stone by seeing some of the most popular characters (or your kids’ favorite characters) while eating one or more character meals during your trip.
At these meals, the characters will come by your table for a visit while you eat, so you can avoid waiting in line.
#12: Check out the restaurants at the Disney resorts.
A lot of the best restaurants at Disney World are actually located in the various resorts and not in the parks. So, be sure to look at these resort restaurants when deciding where you want to eat. If not, you could miss out on some amazing dining experiences.
These packing tips for your Disney World trips will ensure you have everything you need during your trip.
#13: Take a good pair of walking shoes for each person.
You will do a lot of walking at Disney World. On average, you can expect to walk between 8-10 miles per day. So, to prevent blisters, pack a good pair of walking shoes for each person in your party.
This is not the time for cute sandals or heels. Function is more important than form in this case.
#14: Pack two outfits for each person for each day.
I recommend packing two outfits per person per day for your trip. During the warmer months, it can get very humid in Florida. So, you will want to be able to change into a fresh set of clothes during the day.
During the winter months, it may be cold one day and warm the next in Orlando. So, having a cold outfit and a warm outfit for each day will make sure you are prepared no matter what the weather does.
Additionally, if you have more than one outfit for each day, you can change out of wet clothes if you get soaked on a water ride during your trip.
#15: Take a lightweight but durable park bag.
There are a few things that you will probably want to take with you into the parks each day. These include phones, sunglasses, pain reliever, band aids, and sunscreen. To make things easy, pack a lightweight but durable backpack to use as a park bag while you are in the parks.
#16: Don’t forget your hats and sunglasses.
It’s very sunny in Florida, so don’t forget to pack hats and sunglasses for each person in your party. You will be grateful you have these items when you are standing in the blazing sun in the middle of the parks!
On a tight budget? These money-saving tips can help.
#17: If you only plan to visit Disney World once, go before your kids hit their “Disney milestones.”
At Disney World, kids are charged adult prices once they reach the age of 10. And kids under 3 are free. So, if this is a “once in a lifetime” trip for your family, try to go before your kids turn 10 or 3. This will allow you to enjoy your trip with a much lower price tag.
#18: Skip Genie+ if your budget is tight.
If you are trying to stick to a tight budget for your trip, don’t pay extra for Genie+. This is a service which will allow you to make reservations for certain rides during your trip. While it is a nice perk, it is not necessary. You can always stand in the standby lines and save yourself some money.
#19: Remember that breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day.
Breakfast is, by far, the cheapest meal of the day. So, if you would like to eat at some of Disney’s sit down restaurants, but you are trying to stick to a budget, head to these restaurants for breakfast. You can even eat breakfast at some of the character meals on property.
#20: Buy souvenirs before your trip.
Another way to save money on your Disney World trips is to buy souvenirs for your kids before your trip. You can get glow sticks, t-shirts, and autograph books before you arrive and save a ton of money.
You can either give these to your kids prior to your arrival or surprise them with these gifts during your trip.
#21: Popcorn buckets can save you money on snacks.
In all of the Disney World parks, you will find popcorn buckets for sale. While these buckets cost anywhere from $12-25, you can get unlimited refills of popcorn during your trip for about $2 each. So, over the course of your trip, they can save you some money on snacks.
Here are some time-saving tips for your Disney World trips.
#22: Get your touring plans.
The folks at touringplans.com put together step by step plans that tell you the exact order you should do each attraction in the Disney parks. These plans are designed to save you hours of waiting in lines. They study crowd behaviors and use complicated math equations to create these plans.
I have used touring plans on most of our trips. I can tell you they work! I highly recommend them!
#23: Get to the parks early or stay late (or both).
Most people don’t want to get up early while on vacation. And people with young children don’t like to stay up late, even at Disney World. So, the crowds during the early mornings and late nights are much lower than they are during the middle part of the day.
So, to knock out a lot of attractions without waiting in long lines, get to the parks early (preferably when they open) or stay until closing each night.
#24: Have a plan before you enter the park each day.
Even if you don’t use touring plans, you need to have a plan about what you will do in what order before you enter the park each day. This will prevent you from standing around trying to make a decision once you are there.
#25: If staying on property, take advantage of early entry.
If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can take advantage of early entry. This allows you to enter any of the parks 30 minutes to an hour prior to park opening. Early entry is available every day. During this time, select attractions are open for guests to enjoy.
Additionally, if you are staying at one of Disney’s deluxe hotels, you can enjoy staying in the parks after official closing on select nights during extended evening hours.
Both of these options are great ways to ride some of the popular rides without having to spend a lot of time waiting.
#26: Ride the popular rides early in the morning or late at night.
The last of my time-saving tips for your Disney World trips is to ride the most popular rides either first thing in the morning or late at night. Because these rides are so popular, they get the longest lines during the busy parts of the day.
To save time waiting in line, ride these rides as soon as the parks open before the crowds arrive or jump in line for them at the end of the night right before park closing. These are the times when the lines will be the shortest.
Tips for Trips with Kids
To make your Disney World trips with kids smoother, take advantage of these tips.
#27: Take time to rest each day.
Include some rest time in your plan for each day of your trip. There are a variety of ways you can do this. You can sleep in or stick to your normal at-home bedtime. Alternatively, you can head back to your hotel in the middle of the day for a nap.
Daily naps are mandatory for everyone in my family while we are at Disney. We always stay on property, so it is easy to head back for a nap after lunch each day. This allows us to catch up on sleep while the parks are the busiest.
#28: Set clear expectations in advance.
Before your trip, have a conversation with your kids and set clear expectations for them regarding souvenirs, spending money, and daily schedules. This will help avoid meltdowns once there.
If you are going to go back to the hotel for a nap everyday, tell your kids this before your trip. If they will be limited to one souvenir for the whole trip, make sure they understand this before you arrive.
When your kids share your expectations for the trip, they are less likely to throw a fit. For more tips like this, see how to avoid meltdowns while at Disney.
#29: Teach your kids what to do if they get lost.
Because there are so many people in the parks, it is easy to lose a child. So, teach your kids what to do in the event they get separated from you during your trip. And if you need help, see how to keep your kids safe at Disney.
#30: Check out some hidden gems for a break from the crowds.
Sometimes, the crowds at Disney World just get to be too much for you and your kids. When that happens, go check out some of the hidden gems. These are wonderful attractions and experiences that are off the beaten path and therefore not crowded.
These hidden gems will allow you to take a break. They will also allow your kids to burn off some energy without bumping into other people.
The hidden gems at Disney World include Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom and Rafiki’s Planet Watch at the Animal Kingdom.
Taking your family to Disney World should be fun, not overwhelming. These tips for your Disney World trips will help you plan and enjoy the best trip ever! Enjoy Disney!