Growing up in Orlando I honestly can’t even tell you how many times I have been to Disney World (I have lost count along the way). Because I grew up with Disney World and we still have family in Orlando, we get to give our kids the same experience with lots of trips to this magical place. I say magical for them, and it is, but it is also exhausting for us parents. Being that we are sort of experience pros over here, I thought I would share some of my Disney tips and tricks to try and help make your vacation a little more magical and less overwhelming.
Tip One: Don’t try and fit everything in one day
You will not be able to successfully conquer two parks completely in one day, its just not possible. Magic Kingdom itself is hardly doable in one day without pushing yourself to the limits. Even if you only have one or two days in Orlando for Disney, don’t try and cram more than one park in a day. You will be missing out and rushing around trying to see and do it all, which is just not possible. Focus on one place and take your time to truly enjoy it.
Tip Two: Maximize your Fast Passes
So fast passes weren’t around when I was growing up… you just had to wait in line (my poor parents!!) Some people don’t like them because it involves more planning, but I LOVE them because if you plan properly, than you don’t have to wait in more than one or two lines in a day! That is worth it to me, especially with young kids!
In case you don’t know what a fast past is, it is a smaller line for a ride where you get to bypass the regular line for a ride. Rather than waiting the posted 50 minutes, you might only have to wait 5-10 minutes. Every person gets three fast passes a day, BUT when they are all used, you can add more on. And that is a planning tip right there! (schedule them for the morning!)
You can sign up for fast passes 60 days out from your arrival date if you are staying at a Disney resort, and 30 days out if you are not. My first tip would be to know your sign up day, mark it on the calendar, and sign up ASAP. The most popular rides go fast, so to get the ride you want with the time you want, be one of the first people on the website or Disney App to sign up.
My second tip with fast passes is to get fast passes for the most popular rides. Do not get a fast pass for a ride like Ariel, Barnstormer or the Tea Cups. Those lines are usually never longer than 30 minutes. You want to use your fast passes for rides that have long waits. In my experience, these are the lines with the longest wait times and ones I try to use fast passes on first:
- Snow White’s Mine Train
- Peter Pan
- Thunder Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Meeting Mickey at Town Square
- Meeting Disney Princesses
I would also recommend not getting a fast past for Dumbo. The wait time is 30 minute usually which might sound long, but during your wait, they have a kids playground so they are free to play for some of it during the time, which is an area my kids love. So, not worth wasting a fast past in my opinion. I will say if you are absolutely sure of a ride you must take your child on, than you might just want to get a fast pass for that ride even if it has a shorter wait time. If I know my kids will loose their mind unless with do ‘X’ ride, than you better be sure we are getting on that ride, so I use a fast pass for it.
My third tip for fast passes is to get them in the morning. Once you use all of your fast passes, you can sign up for more right from your phone with the Disney App (make sure you have downloaded and linked your account BEFORE arriving to the park!). So if you are able to get your first fast pass at 9am, your second at 10:30am, and your third at 12pm, then after 12pm you could sign up for a new fast pass for the afternoon. Once you use that one, you can sign up for another! And it goes on….if your lucky and can get your 3 fast passes done before noon, you could probably snag another 3 or 4 for the afternoon/evening. It has worked for me, which is how we have avoided waiting in lines most of the time.
My fourth tip would be to hit refresh! Using the app on your phone, you can sign up for fast passes in advance or on the day of at the park. When you select your choice, it will show you if it is available, and if so, the time options to choose from. If you do not see the ride you want or the time you want, swipe down the refresh the page. It will reload, and some more new options will come up. You might get lucky and the selection could get better. I typically do this several times before I give up and try again in an hour. I can’t tell you how many times this has worked in our favor and either a ride or time that wasn’t available became available to us!
Lastly, my final tip is one to be used at your discretion (how comfortable you are with playing the system). As mentioned before, every ticket gets 3 fast passes. So when we go to Disney, that means myself, my husband and my two kids all get three fast passes. When it comes to meeting the princesses, my husband and son could care less. So what I have done in the past is just get a fast pass for my daughter (so we are only using one of hers). My daughter and I will go and do the meet and greet while my son and husband ride the carousel or get a snack. I haven’t had trouble going with my daughter even though I don’t have a fast pass as I usually just say I am escorting my daughter in and they let me proceed.
When it is time to go on another ride, say Thunder Mountain, and my son, husband and I have a fast pass for it but my daughter doesn’t, they have never stopped her from joining our party and coming along. Now, this is not a full proof method. I have done this about 4 or 5 times and it has always worked, but you might get a cast member that is a stickler and won’t allow it so just know going into it your taking a risk 🙂 But so far, so good for us.
Tip Three: If your child naps, bring your stroller that lays down
Sure, you can rent the Disney strollers at the park and not deal with the hassle of bringing your own, but be warned that these Disney strollers are fixed in the upright position. When we took Easton to the park a nap was necessary, so we always brought our own so she could lay down straight. I don’t know how he would have recharged without a nap, and I personally needed that quiet time to recharge and reset! (Disney can be exhausting!)
Tip Four: Bring your own snacks and water
Disney lets you bring in your own snacks and water, so if you have a backpack or have some space in your stroller I highly recommend it. Sometimes you just need to give your kids a distraction in the line with a snack, or maybe you just want to save on the outrageous cost of a water bottle. Either way, we always bring a few of each and end up going through them. We definitely still buy Disney lunch, treats and drinks, but we save a little by starting off with some of our own.
Tip Five: Don’t schedule more than one sit down meal a day
I rarely schedule a Disney dining experience unless it is a character meet and greet that I know we will want to partake in. I also would never schedule more than one sit down meal during the day. There are several reasons behind this.
One, I don’t want to be limited to a schedule even more so. You are already trying to manage time with fast passes and getting the the park when it opens to beat the crowds. Scheduling a dining reservation is just another time you have to factor into your schedule. I like having more flexibility during the day in case we just want to enjoy an area some more or if my kids want to call it quits.
Two, Disney is exhausting, and you soon might realize that 7:00pm dinner reservation sounds awful as all you want to do is go to your hotel, get in your bed and order room service. After 12 hours spent around people in a highly congested area, you might just want to get away from it all. Unfortunately most Disney restaurants have strict cancellation policies and you won’t be able to change your plans.
And third, I don’t know about you but my kids would rather run around than sit down at a restaurant, even a Disney one! That is why I perfect quick eats on the go. As mentioned before, I will make reservations for the character meals as they offer entertainment and excitement for my kids so it is worth it. The only other restaurant I would make a reservation for (and I love it for lunch!) is Belle’s Castle in Disney World. The surroundings are beautiful, its enchanting for a 6 year old, and they do a quick meal service so it isn’t long. These reservations are hard to come by though, so try and be early if you want one!
My last piece of advice would be to try and enjoy the day! It can be a lot of scheduling and you might feel pressures to rush it to see everything, but try and practice patience with your kids and allow them to soak in the experience. This took years of practice for me (as I like to go go go) but my kids would rather enjoy it and maybe miss one ride than be rushed from one thing to the next because we have to make it in time. So while I know I gave you a lot of scheduling tips in this post, use those with some caution as you don’t want to over schedule your day and miss your chance to enjoy the moments with your kids! Have fun!!!