I’ve been to Disneyworld twice as a parent. Once with a two year old and a four year old and most recently with my six year old and now four year old. There are definitely people who know more about Disney than I do, but I did manage to pick up a few pieces of wisdom for anyone planning a trip. So here it goes:
1. Do bring a Stroller.
a. There are so many people there that it is hard to keep up with everyone. When the kids were walking, I was all panicky checking to make sure that everyone was there every two minutes. It’s far more relaxing to know they are in the stroller.
b. It keeps the sun off of them. My little Irish boys really can’t take Florida sun for several hours a day four days in a row. The cover on our Bob stroller kept them protected.
c. You can stow a lot of stuff in the bottom of the stroller. I brought snacks, lunch and water for the day. It was so handy. Also if you buy anything, it’s nice to be able to put it in the stroller. I never worried that someone might steal my stuff, everyone is too focused on getting into the Splash Mountain line.
d. It keeps them from getting overly tired and grumpy, though they will be exhausted.
e. It’s a nice break from all of the stimulation. They will definitely need it.
FYI: Disney does rent strollers, but they look incredibly uncomfortable. They are hard plastic. Also, you have to return them before you leave the park. This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is then you don’t have to deal with the stroller anymore. We rode the boat every day and almost always had to fold up our double bob when we boarded. That was a pain, but it was a long walk from the boat to our hotel, so we were glad we still had the stroller. Did I mention that my four year old is not fond of walking?
2. Do pace yourself.The first time we went, we didn’t even ride that many rides and that was totally fine. The boys were young. At 4 and 2, they could ride the same things like Dumbo, Peter Pan and It’s a small World. That year, we got to the park when it opened and left around lunch time. Then we just played in the pool all day. We never went back for the fireworks or anything. This time we went back and I think we would all agree it was a mistake. It ruined us for the next day which was Hollywood Studios (so not that big a deal).
3. Do put a large, preferably laminated, name tag on your stroller. They have stroller parking near the rides, but while you are in line or riding, the workers move the strollers around. So it is almost never exactly where you left it and inevitably someone will have the same stroller as you. Make it easier on yourself and label yours. I didn’t do this. Wish I had.
4. Don’t do the Meal Plan.This is if you have kids 6 and younger. It really seems like more of a hassle to me with that age group. I’ve crunched the numbers and I don’t think you really save much money with the meal plan. We got a room with a kitchen, so we made breakfast and packed a lunch most days. Even without a kitchen you could order pizza or make PB&J in your room. We always ate out once a day though and that was more than enough time in a restaurant with excited young kids. At those character meals (which I totally recommend. It beats waiting in line to meet a character) they don’t eat because they are too amped up. Definitely plan some meals (like Crystal Palace and Whispering Canyon), but I wouldn’t want to attempt to eat in a Disney restaurant for every meal.
5. Do bring LOTS of water!!! Don’t leave your water bag/bottle on a ride. Our beloved Darth Vader water bag was left somewhere between Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan. Sigh.
6. Do take cell phone pictures. Don’t bring your fancy camera to the park.I saw several people with really nice Canons and Nikons at the park. What a headache to have to carry it around and worry about your $700 camera. And really, you will be totally sweaty. You don’t want 8×10 glossies of those photos. Cell phone pictures will serve you just fine. If you want a really nice one, just grab one the photopass people. They will even take photos with your cell phone for free if you ask.
7. Speaking of photopass. Do use Disney Photopass Tutorial to get your photopass pictures for free! I was not able to get high res pictures with this tutorial. So I’m not sure if Disney has fixed the loophole or not. I was still able to download them for free, but they are only good for web use.
9. Do take a ride on the people mover. It’s a great palette cleanser after all of the fast moving, action packed rides. So is “It’s a small world” (actually one of my favorites).
10. Do bring Purell. This is a great distraction in the Winnie the Pooh line. Disney is brilliant because they have included all of these entertainment spots for kids in line for “winnie the Pooh” and “Peter Pan” etc. The kids love it. So do the adults. They all wipe their hands all over it. So yay – that was fun. uh oh, you just got Ebola. Purell it away :).
11. Do the pirate treasure Hunt in Adventureland – especially if you have a 6 year old boy. OMG IT IS THE BEST! Here’s one of the maps.There are 5 hunts and they are masterfully laid out in Adventureland which is very easy to move around in. You don’t have to do it all in one day either. Here is information about the Pirate’s Treasure HuntAlso there is a “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” hunt that you can get at the firehouse on Main Street. In it, you become an apprentice of Merlin and fight the disney villains like Ursula and Scar. I’m so sad that we didn’t have time to do that one. It goes all over the park.
12. Do set up some expectations or limitations for your child ahead of time.We told our boys that we would buy them one souvenir and that they could spend $20 of their own money to buy another souvenir. We also told them they could have one treat a day – be it ice cream in the afternoon or a dessert after dinner. So they had to really think about it when they wanted something. They also didn’t ask us for things every time we turned around. If they did, we just reminded them of the limits. It made it much more pleasant not to have to say ‘no’ all the time.
13. Do get a personalized souvenir.They are delightful. When I went to Disney at age 5 (I think) my mom got silhouettes made of us and they still hang on her wall. So I got one of the boys this year (one for her too). They are so sweet and inexpensive ($16 with the frame – which is plastic, but still). It doesn’t take that long either. They can be found in Liberty square just before the bridge. There are lots of other personalized items to get (the mouse ears, of course), but be sure to allow enough time. I wanted to get a parasol for my goddaughter (they are so cute. They paint their name on it and flowers or a character. And they have mini ones). I went to the booth the day we were leaving and she said it would take four hours. I asked if I could get it in two and she said ‘no’ (not very Disney of her IMO). Still, wish I had gotten it the day before. Most of the items you buy in the park can be sent back to your hotel if you stay at a Disney resort. If not, I think they will hold them for you until the end of the day.
14. Do eat in any of these restaurants if you can: Cape May, Crystal Palace, Whispering Canyon. They are fun and have good food.
15. Do enjoy your Disney resort.
16. Do visit Tom Sawyer Island while in Magic Kingdom.The kids will love exploring there. It gets you away from the crowds. Done.
17. Do the Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios. We didn’t do it, but wish we had. Carter was very tired that day (it was the day after the fireworks) and he just couldn’t muster up the energy to get on stage. We watched it though which was really fun enough! Darth Vader comes out. It’s very cool.
18. Do get a pressed coin.It’s a cheap and easy souvenir. It give the kids something to do in line and it beats collecting those pins. You can get a different type all over the park and resorts.
19. Do see the Electric Light Parade at Magic Kingdom.We enjoyed all of the parades, but this one is worth staying up for. It’s at 9, so not too, too late. It’s not nearly as hot as the ones in the daytime (which are awesome to watch nonetheless).
20. Do remember these sweet moments forever.