We have just come back from the MOST amazing trip to Disney in Florida, where we travelled with American Sky. The holiday was fantastic, from start to finish, but we planned it meticulously to make sure this happened. When you have kids, gone are the days when you can walk into a travel agent, book a holiday, and be there is under 48 hours without having to think to hard. Disney holidays with kids require considerable advanced thought if you want to get it right from day one. So we’ve put together some Disney tips for you, so you can have a wonderful time too.
If you follow these – the trips to the parks will be so much better for everyone, with a lot less tantrums, and a little bit of forward planning.
Top Disney Tip – Download the Disneyworld App
This is a fantastic resource for any Disney trip. It is available in iOS, and Android, and a must for everyone that goes to Disneyworld. There is Wifi in the parks, so you are use the app on the go, but it also provides an excellent planning tool, as you can use it to see which rides, shows or character meets get popular, and see therefore which ones you and your kids will want to book Fastpasses for.
Measure the height of your kids
There are a lot of rides within Disneyworld that are designed for the older rider, and so little ones won’t be able to go on them. Make sure you know the height of your kids before you go so that you asre able to tell what works for your childremn, and what doesn’t. There is nothing like the tantrum of a two-year old who discovers they can’t go on Dumbo because they are too small when they have been queing for the ride for 20minutes….
Book your Disney park tickets in advance, and get Fast Passes; doing them all before lunch
It is a must to get your tickets for the Disney World parks in advance, so you have them when you go, and you can book on to some of the more popular rides before you even leave the country. If you are staying on the parks, you can book your Fast Pass tickets 60 days in advance. Fast pass allows you to queue jump for specific rides, character meets, and shows. It is well worth doing for some of the more popular rides within the park, which can get very busy, particularly during the middle of the day. For example, it wasn’t unusual while we were there to see the Tower of Terror, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and Space Mountain with standby queues in excess of two hours!
Check the locations for the rides that you book in advance
There are some excellent Disney World maps on the Disney World website. Use them. You don’t want to book a Fastpass for one ride, and then another one right at the other side of the park with only a few minutes between them, do you? The parks are MAHOOSIVE, and your children probably have little legs. Don’t tire them out too much. Plan rides that are in the same areas of the parks together on specific days. For example, all the Dinoland rides within the Animal Kingdom, or all the Fantasyland ones within the Magic Kingdom, etc. There are other ways of getting from park to park than walking; the train in the Magic Kingdom is an experience for most kids in itself, so give yourself a little time to enjoy these too without having to rush about. You are on hliday after all.
Work out which rides you think your kids will like well in advance
The touring planning Disney World website is a fanastic resource to use before your trip for working out in advance whether your kids are going to be interested in specific rides throughout the park as it has reviews for all the rides, across all the parks! It is, in fact, a great resource for Disney tips generally. They also have an excellent unofficial guide you can get on Amazon too – which is even specifically designed for those with kids.
We used this to check out all the rides we thought that the kids would like, and booked fastpasses where we were happy with them. Don’t leave it to the last minute to plan which rides you want to use your fastpasses for – whatever your window (and check what it is above), make sure you think well ahead and write down what you want, when, and even have reserves, just in case the first choice rides aren’t available.
Every child is different, so it really helps to have a detailed list of what will work for your kids, and it is easier to do this with a good view of what the ride is, some sections of this site even include a video tour. Obviously, if you have been before, you may know. However, we have been, when the kids were 1 and 3, and we couldn’t remember, so its always helpful having a little aid memoire too! ;-)
Use the Disney planning sites to find out the busier days in the parks
There are a few crowd calendars around for the Disney World park on t’interweb. We loved The Dibb (Disney with a British Accent) the best as it was easy to understand, and most importantly, it was free!
Planning which parks you visit on which day can be a bit of a lottery without a tool like this, but we allocated the fourteen days we were away to each park depending on the advice on the site, and the only day we thought things were a little much was caused by a life broadcast from the BBC of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway; which was hadn’t something that the site could have predicted…
Work out how you are going to carry lots of water around the parks
Florida gets very, very hot. We are not kidding. We went at Easter, and temperatures touched over 30 degrees centigrade (100 degrees fahrenheit). You will need to keep yourself and the kids hydrated otherwise you will get very tired, and very grumpy; and there should be only one Grumpy in the Disney World parks, and he’s old, three foot tall, and sings far too often about mining.
We took a Platypus water container, packed flat in our suitcase without water, and bought bottles of water when we arrived. The Platypus is amazing, and it carries 2 litres of water, which will means you don’t have to spend ages in queues refilling your water. The parks do all have water fountains in them, which is an enormous help, but you do need to think ahead about how you are going to carry all the water you need around.
If you have younger children or a wee baby, that is formula feeding, it is important to make sure you have means to carry cooled bolied water, or take a bottle sterliliser, sterilising tablets or steriliser bags with you so you are able to make up formula on the go. Disposable bottles are another option of course. You can also get the bottles of ready to feed formula milk too, which could be very helpful, if you can keep them cool.
If you are pregnant, do make sure you take plenty of water too, you’ll need it in the heat!
Disney tips top hack: A hack to keeping your water, and your food, cool in the parks is to half fill a bottle with water, and put it into the freezer overnight. Add water to top it up in the morning, and the ice form the freezer will keep that water cool, and pretty much anything else it touches cool all day. Even in the 30 degrees heat, the ice only melted late into the evening, so water stayed very cool for us all day.
Make sandwiches to eat during the day to keep costs down
Days in the Disney World parks tend to be long, which means that you need to eat two meals with the kids while you are in the parks. No matter what you do, the price of meals within the parks are expensive. Disney can, and do, charge far too much for the food in the parks, and even the snacks will set you back a pretty penny. You also don’t want to be missing out for two whole meals either while you are in the parks, right?
A simple solution is to bring your own food into the parks. We made sandwiches for one meal a day to keep costs down. If you are staying at a hotel with a buffet, you may even be able to take a few nibbles from there for later on in the day. Our water hack (above) meant that the food stayed cool, and we were able to maximise the time in the parks because we weren’t eating for long periods during the day either.
This is an easy, but effective way of making your days more productive, and a whole lot cheaper.
Add the odd rest day into your schedule
Depending on how long you are going away for, try and give yourself some downtime in your holiday schedule. If you must go to a park everyday, use the Water Parks as a little bit of a break, both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are fantastic in their own right, with much to appeal to both you and the kids. Not least a cooling spot of water to stop you melting in the heat.
If you are travelling a long way, the Water Parks are also a great place to go on your first day when you might be a little disorientated from a trans-atlantic flight. The lazy rivers in both parks could even give you the chance to chill out with the kids actually near you….something that doesn’t happen too often unless you manage to sneak off to the loo on your own.
If you have the time, don’t plan anything on a day or two within the holiday, and chill at your hotel/villa. We all need a break, and you won’t be missing out on anything that you can’t do the following day, we promise.
Find and book YOUR kid friendly restaurants
There are so many restaurants in Disney, its hard to know where to eat with your kids, but one of our key Disney tips has to be to take a look at all the options before you go, and decide well in advance which you would like to do with the kids, what you can afford, and the kind of experience you are looking for.
Do you want character dining?
Are you looking for an experience or just a simple meal?
Do you want healthy options, or will chips and burgers be fine?
There is something for everyone, but if you want something specific, it is best to book it. For restaurants, if you are staying on site, you can book 180 +10 days in advance ONLINE, and for some popular places, restaurants can be sold out FAST. For example, booking breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Dining Table in the Disney Castle is often sold almost as soon as the tables are released! You really do have to be totally on top of your dining reservations to get the complete Disney magic working for your family….
All these restaurants take advance bookings, and the popular character dining, and themed restaurants go really fast, so make sure you book as soon as you can, depending on where you are staying.
We have stayed off park, and the 30 days advance booking isn’t enough for some of the most popular character dining, and themed restaurants. So much so, that we would consider staying on the park, and using a Disney Dining Plan in the future so we can get the complete Disney World experience next time – though that’ll be a while given the costs of getting there! ;-)
Night time shows book up fast; make sure you have a plan for them
Each park now has its own night time shows to take in – and if you learn nothing from this Disney tips article other than that you need to spend a little time thinking about the night time shows; my job is well done. If you think your kids are going to be OK staying up that late, and won’t be worried by the fireworks or the lights, they are well worth taking the time to plan to attend.
For each park, the key night shows are:
Animal Kingdom – Rivers of Light
For the Rivers of Light, Fantasmic, and IllumiNations you can book fastpasses, and we did for all of them as this reduces the amount of time before the show you need to arrive to gurantee getting a seat BUT it also means that you can’t book any other fast passes for the days that you do your night time shows, as you won’t finish your allocated three in time to do another ride.
You need to decide before you book your passes whether you are keen enough on the shows to:
(a) Arrive far enough in advance to get a good spot without a fast pass; we would receommend at least an hour in advance and possiblty more, as we missed the Rivers of Light because we were too late 30 minutes before it started.
(b) Give a fastpass up for being able to see the shows. Personally, the night time shows ARE Disney World, and they are done so superbly that we’d pretty much do anything to get to see them properly.
You call of course, but they would never be a waste of a fastpass, I promise you.
Finally, you are ON HOLIDAY, so relax, enjoy and feel that Disney magic. Yes, these Disney tips are going to help you enjoy yourself, but not if you are too stressed out by everything. There really is nowhere else on earth like Disney. So…step back. Take it in. And give yourself up to it. Its worth every. single. penny.
Do you have any Disney tips for us all?
Note: We were given a press discount on our holiday to Disney by American Sky. However, all opinions on the resort are our own.