Let’s just come out and say it, I love Disney Parks. If you were to say to me, “Sarah, if you could be any place on earth right now where would you be?” I would have to say, watching Wishes at Magic Kingdom, or riding Toy Story Midway Mania, or Expedition Everest, or trying some new food in the World Showcase…bottom line I’d be at Disney World. It’s my happy place. I’m one of those “Disney People” you hear about, and I’m totally cool with it. That being said, I’ve come up with my Top 10 Tips for having an Amazing Disney World Vacation, and I want to share them with you today!
- Stay on property- Trust me that it will make your stay so much easier. Not only does it save you the trouble of driving through the property to get to the park you want to go to on any given day, but it also lets you take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. I love Extra Magic Hours, especially the late night ones. At night the Disney Parks turn into something truly out of a fairy tale. They’re just stunning, not to mention less crowded.
- Take advantage of the dining options- Unlike most theme park food, Disney World food is actually delicious. Of course you can get the typical fare, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries etc. but there is a whole other side to Disney food too. Depending on what restaurant your dining at you can get anything from Steaks and Shrimp & Scallops at Be Our Guest, to Gourmet Pizzas and Pasta at Via Napoli. Don’t even get me started on all the delicious sweet treats—Premium Mickey Ice Cream bars just might be my favorite food. All I’m saying is definitely plan on eating at one of Disney’s amazing restaurants at least once every day. Also look into Character Meals, so worth the price in my opinion.
- Book those ADR’s– Speaking of dining, if there is a restaurant that you really want to get into, for me on our next trip it’s Be Our Guest, book your self an advanced dining reservation. You can start booking them 180 days (six months) out. You’ll need a credit card to hold your reservation, but as long as you show up or cancel (at least the day before) you won’t be charged anything. My advice is if you think you’re going to want to eat there, book it, if/when you decide you’ve spent to much money, or you’ve changed your mind just cancel it. You’d rather cancel a reservation that you don’t want anymore than to not have an ADR to a restaurant you really want to dine at.
- Book your fastpasses- The new fastpass+ system is still getting mixed reviews, but I don’t know why, I love it. If you’re staying at a Disney owned hotel, you can book yours up to 60 days in advance, if your staying at Shade’s of Green (where we usually stay) or a non-Disney owned hotel you can book yours up to 30 days in advance. This cuts down on your ride wait time so much. We were able to basically walk on to rides that had extremely long wait times, by using Fastpasses. You can book three in advance, then once you use them you can visit one of the kiosks to add another, and once you’ve used that one, repeat indefinitely. If you show up to a ride that you’ve had in your advanced FP+ reservations and the stand by time is short, you can change it to something else as long as you don’t scan your Magic Bands!
- Download the My Disney Experience App– It’s fantastic! Remember I said you can cancel ADR’s you don’t want any more? You can do it in the app. Want to change your advance FP+ because the stand by line is short, you can do it in the app. You can even view your Memory Maker photos in the app now. Seriously, download it now, and thank me later.
- Add extra time to get where you need to be- This is the major one I struggle with, it takes so much longer to get to where you want to be than you think it’s going too. Example, when we went to Akershus for breakfast last August, we were about 15 minutes late because I didn’t realize the monorail was going to make so many stops on it’s way to Epcot, and we didn’t leave in time. Save your self the trouble and the disappointment of missing something you had planned because you fail to think about the transportation time.
- Take a stroller– If you have small kids, you absolutely 100% want to bring a stroller with you. It’s seriously so much walking. Last time we had four park days, and we walked over 39 miles. That’s a lot of walking for an adult, but it’s an overwhelming amount for little guys. Just trust me, and bring a stroller, okay.
- Buy Disney Gift Cards at Target- If you’re a Target Red Card card member you can buy Disney Gift Cards at your store before you go to Orlando at a 5% savings. It might not seem like it’s a whole lot, but 5% saved can add up when you think about how much you’ll be spending. You can use these gift cards to buy pretty much anything Disney, including your park tickets, meals, and even your hotel stay. See what I mean? That 5% will add up to some serious savings!
- Set a souvenir budget- My kids (actually, most kids) are famous for asking “Can I buy that” 4,000 times per day. On our last trip I bought each of my big kids a Disney gift card (at Target) before we left and that was their souvenir budget for the trip. As you can guess, Kolton used up a large chunk of his budget on the first day (on a design your own lightsaber) but I stuck to my guns, and he only got what he could by with his card the rest of the week.
- Have Fun!- Yes you can plan (and plan and plan) your Disney World vacation, but the most important thing is for you to have fun and make memories with your kids. Don’t let the planning overwhelm your trip. Don’t overcommit to things, if you need to cancel something, do it. Take a break in the afternoon for a nap, and go back after dinner. If you don’t have a good time than it was all for nothing. Accept the fact that there is no way you’re going to be able to “do it all”, it’s just not possible, and have fun! That’s the most important tip I could give you!
**Bonus tip- Matching Shirts for family’s and Princess Dresses & Pirate costumes are highly encouraged at least for kids 🙂
So what do you think, fellow Disney Moms? Did I cover everything a first timer should know? Got anything to add? Let me know in the comments!