Ready to Do Disney? 5 Tips for Families Planning Their First Disney World Trip
Living in Florida has its issues. The intense heat, the reputation our state has for attracting less-than-intelligent criminals, the palmetto bugs (who are we kidding with that name – they're giant, flying cockroaches). But there is one thing about living in Florida that I can't ever imagine giving up: our proximity to the most magical place on Earth.
To say I'm a fan of the magic of the mouse would be an understatement. I'll take on any Disney trivia quiz and my children sometimes have to ask me to stop reciting every line from my favorite films. One of our favorite family activities is a trip to Disney World, whether for a day or a little longer vacation. We live close enough that we can head out on a whim, but realize that for most people a trip to Disney means a lot more planning. As such, I'm sharing some of my best tips for making the most of your time at the parks.
Spend some time researching.
You can head to Disney with no plans and have a good time, don't get me wrong. But if you want to make the most of your time and money, it's worth spending some time learning about the parks, the hotels, the restaurants, and all the extras that add to that Disney magic. If you want to eat in the castle, avoid the worst wait times, and get the most bang for your buck (because it isn't cheap!) you'll benefit from some advance planning. Depending on your time, budget, and interests, you can customize the trip to suit your needs and preferences.
These days you can book dining reservations, rooms, and even rides far in advance of your visit. How can you know what you want to do before you even get there? That's where the research comes in. And in case you're already feeling overwhelmed – I'll be following up this post with some more specific suggestions based on age and interests, so be sure to visit again for more suggestions for what to do with your baby/toddler/preschooler and more!
Get the app!
Disney offers an app called My Disney Experience, which allows you to view maps, character locations, ride information, restroom locations, your scheduled plans, and much more! Download the app and spend some time exploring before your visit. You can also use it via your desktop or laptop while at home, which makes planning really convenient and simple.
Additionally, consider picking up a portable phone charger to take with you on your visit. Using the app can drain the battery, but you'll find yourself using it often!
Take advantage of all the extras you can.
Recent years have brought quite a few updates to the park-going experience. Disney operates what they call Fast Pass+ in all the parks. What this means is that every park-going guest has the option to schedule 3 fast passes in the park they're visiting that day. By doing this, you can skip the majority of the wait time for the ride, show, or character greeting you choose. This option is available for any guest with a ticket at the park on the day you arrive, but special consideration is given to those who purchase annual passes (they can book with FP+ 30 days ahead) or those who stay on-site at a Disney hotel (they can book with FP+ 60 days ahead).
Want to know which Fast Passes are best to choose? Come back and see my suggestions!
Weigh your options when choosing lodging.
There are no shortage of lodging options in the Orlando/Kissimmee area, but don't just look at cost when looking at options.
Disney offers quite a few bonuses to their on-site hotel guests in the form of free transportation to and from the parks, hotels, and shopping locations; extra magic hours; and a chance to be immersed in the Disney magic.
You can ride a bus, boat, or monorail all over the Disney property (or opt to drive your own car, with free parking at the resorts and parks). My children view the monorail as one of the best rides at the parks! You can also take advantage of extra magic hours – a few hours before or after the park's posted hours that are only available to on-site guests.
Despite the fact that we can easily drive back home, it's often worth it to us to spend a night or a few in a Disney hotel. Why? The magic doesn't end when you leave the park. All the resorts, from deluxe to value, offer incredible theming, making them worth visiting in their own right. (And you can visit the resorts, even if you don't choose to stay there!) You can see giraffe roaming the savannah, be entertained by performers along the boardwalk, or feel like one of Andy's toys next to giant-sized Toy Story decor.
Let yourself believe.
Part of the fun of a visit is the chance to delight in the joy and wonder of it all. Join in on the fun with your kids. Squeal with abandon as you take flight with Dumbo. Pose for pictures with the characters. Give yourself enough time to just look around and revel in the wonder of it all.
What do you want to know about visiting the Disney parks?