Our kids are young. 6 year old, 4 year old, and an 8 months old baby. But pretty well travelled for being that young. I would say they have more stamps in their passports than many adults. So, when we decided to spend Holidays at Disney World, we thought it would be just another great adventure of ours with much spontaneity. Until we started discussing and then googling things like “parking, dining, nursing”, and so on, in Disney. After first couple nights of each of us doing our little researches, we looked at each other with a deer in a headlight look, realizing we were about to take on something we know absolutely nothing about. Except for we were about to go to the “happiest place on Earth”…
With thousands of Disney blogs and opinions out there, I really hope to help someone out even a little. Because, oh man, do you need to be prepared not to lose your mind in that happy happy place of Mickey’s.
I will jump ahead right now and tell you the most important thing about Disney with kids. If your kids are anywhere under 12, do yourself a huge favor and get a stroller. You will remember my words and be forever grateful for bringing a stroller along. We figured out we needed a double stroller for older boys literally one day before our trip. Thank goodness for Craigslist. No one in Cleveland area replied to me the day I sent my teary inquiries, so our only hope was to buy one in Orlando. Someone just happened to be selling a double umbrella stroller not far from where we were staying in Orlando, and we picked it up straight from the airport. The picture below explains exactly why you will need a stroller there:
There is a stroller rental at all Disney parks. A single stroller is about $15 a day, a double is around $30. If you are going for just one day, it might be a good option. We went for 6 days in Disney, plus a day in Legoland. Our double umbrella cost us $45, and it’s our to keep, vs $180 we would have paid for a 6 day rental. On top of that, a Disney rental is all plastic, doesn’t recline and doesn’t look very comfortable at all:
I do believe there are some rental companies around the parks, so if you do not wish to buy a stroller to take it home, you might want to check out those companies. Your kids will thank you, but mostly you will yourself.
Let’s go back to planning a trip. We took kids out of school 3 days before the official Holidays began, and what a difference it made in fighting the crowds! We used undercovertourist.com to purchase tickets (buy 4 days, get 5th day free), and bought Mickey’s very special Christmas party tickets directly from Disney website. Undercover tourist is a great source of information, including crowd calendar, plus you can save a few bucks on the admission.
And now I will tell you what everyone else who was in Disney along with us would: if you are at all able to go outside of Christmas time, please do so. Also, do so if you have any degree of crowd phobia. If you are reading this and you have already planned your trip for one of those crazy times, do not worry too much, they do sell beer in most parks (have to look for it in Magic Kingdom though). Also, there will be plenty of places to hide if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Here we go:
1. Magic Kingdom.
An absolute must if you are going for just a day or two. Magic Kingdom is what Disney is all about! As soon as you get in, just start taking it in, because this is it, this is where it all happened (whatever “all” you want to define). Our very first time we went to Magic Kingdom happened to be at night, and as soon as we reach Main street, the Castle lit up. I have to admit, I got butterflies in my stomach, how beautiful and magic it was! Later we found out there are a few shows at night where they turn the lights on the castle off, and then Elsa and Ana (from Frozen of course) light it back up. There are plenty of other shows in front of the castle, we didn’t get to watch any of them because of the crowds. But I hear they are all good 🙂
I am a total waste of an admission ticket, since my favorite rides are Winnie the Pooh, Mermaid, Peter Pan and It’s a Small World. In other words, I sit safely and comfortably in a three person shell, which glides along a little stream, and stuff is happening around me. Yeah, my kind of ride.
If you happen to be a normal human being who gets a thrill out of ups and downs and forwards and backs, this place is for you. Based on Connor’s reviews, the absolute best ones in Magic Kingdom are the following: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and then the rest of them. We went to Magic Kingdom 3 days out of 6 possible, and still haven’t done everything. Partially because we haven’t stood in any lines at all (cannot imagine waiting for more than 15 minutes with young children just to get on a ride that’s 3 minutes long), we only used fast passes, and because there’s just so much stuff to do besides the rides.
Check the height requirements! Maddox at a time was 43.5 inches, and many rides have a minimum height of 44″. So we did what many smart ass parents do – glue an inch foam cut out to the bottom of his shoes. We haven’t been caught, even though the shoes adjustment was too obvious. Some rides are 48″, and most likely rightfully so. We haven’t done any of those.
We have done a massive research about Disney World before the trip, and after reading multiple sources about how expensive and how bad the food is, had made a decision to bring food along. The reality is, there are many options for dining, and unless your children eat exclusively organic food or fresh sushi you will be able to feed them (and yourself), and pay the same price for your lunch as you would at any other amusement park (or a zoo). We still packed snacks, but again, that’s pretty much a given requirement on any trip. I was very tempted to get one of those giant smoked turkey legs they sell on every corner, which smell oh so delicious, but I have become someone reluctant to the idea biting meat of the bone. I bet those turkey legs were very very tasty.
I have to mention the water situation in Magic Kingdom. We had this great idea of refilling the bottles with water from the water fountains, but it was so disgusting to the tastes that we ended up just bringing water along and then buying more if we needed. And yes, you can bring any kind of food, snacks or beverages you please (besides alcohol, but no one is checking).
There will be lots and LOTS of walking, try to take as many breaks as you can, otherwise it’s easy to burn out. If your kids still nap, or just need an hour of quiet time, here’s a perfect little secret we have discovered. Right in the middle of Frontierland, there’s Tom Sawyer Island. You can get to it on a little boat that goes back and forth every 5 minutes. Strollers are allowed, but aren’t very practical on the island, since there are some steps and not ramps (at least I haven’t sen any). Once on the island, first check out a few mines and caves that are too cute to pass, then find yourself a spot at one of the picnic tables situated throughout and take a break. By the way, a perfect place to bring your lunch to, if you don’t wish to eat like this:
What to wear.
Seemingly obvious answer to this one, but I still managed to stroll about 10 miles on our first night in Disney in my little fashion flats. Needless to say, my feet didn’t like me the next day. Fashion over function simply doesn’t work there. Save your feet and please put your tennis shoes on, or sporty sandals (Teva, Merrels or any other “hiking” type), on a hot day.
Remember, you will probably be taking many pictures, and even might end up being in a few of them, so still try to wear something public appropriate. I have seen a few cases of THE most stretched out t-shirts and sweats…yeah.
Take rain covers (from your Niagara Falls trip for example). Some rides can get very wet!
These are awesome, and this comes from someone who is really not into parades. Get your spot early, or you won’t get to see anything. We learned that all parades start out of the gates next to the Splash Mountain, and that area is a much less crowded that the Main Street. Plan parades and fast passes accordingly. For example, if you want to watch a noon parade and are in Frontierland area, but have a fast pass for Space Mountain in Tomorrowland between noon and 1 pm, you might miss your ride. So, try to not plan anything too far away from where you are if it’s during the parade time.
My Disney Experience App (and Fast Passes).
I cannot stop raving about My Disney Experience app. Absolutely the best and the most important app during your trip (beside Facebook of course, to show off your kiddos hugging Tigger or Buzz. Make sure to bring your phone charger or a battery pack along, as the app does drain you battery eventually. Look up wait times, directions to anywhere in the park, and of course Fast Pass. Sometimes the app has glitches and won’t allow you to create new FP, in which case you need to go on Disney website, login and create FP there. But it will always let you rearrange the times and the choices of rides (if available). We found Seven Dwarf Mine Train to be almost impossible to get FP to, and the wait times are always beyond 2 hrs, so if you see one available, grab it. In the app, go to “Fast Pass+”, and choose second option from the top, if you want to change just one or two rides or times of such. If you want to change the whole selection (each person gets 3 fast passes a day), choose the top option and go from there.
Here’s a couple tricks I have learned. Let’s say you have a FP for Peter Pan’s Flight between 10-11 am. You get there, and the wait time is less that 10 minutes. Do not waste your Fast Pass, get on your app and change it to something else later! Then, use a “switch rider” option if you travel with an infant. That means if your older child loves the ride and wants to do it again, once they get off the ride, your switched with the adult who had just been on the ride and there, that happy kid gets to go again 🙂
I also made all of the Fast Passes for different rides for all 4 of us. When I come to a ride and scan one of my kids’ card, the attendant can see he has a FP, and then I ask if his brother can ride along. I have never heard “no”. You get a lot more rides that way 🙂
2. Animal Kingdom.
This is the very next park you might want to visit if your admission is for 2 or more days, and your children are under 12.
The absolute best thrill ride is the Expedition Everest. It even looks super cool! Gordon and Connor admitted that it even beats the Space Mountain. A good place to take pictures of those who ride would be at a little observation area right where you can see the main drop.
Safari is super cool. Fast Pass it for sure, as it will get pretty crowded fast. Even with a Fast Pass we were in a 15 minute line. You get to see many animals, some of them I have never seen or knew of before. The driver tells your lots of fun facts, and I would say it’s a definite must in Animal Kingdom.
Dinoland and Africa are other areas worth spending lots of time in, along with Discovery Island.
If you are tired of walking around and want to take a break, head over to “It’s tough to be a bug!” show. It’s cute, stinky, and super hilarious, everyone’s favorite!
This is it for now. A report on Epcot and Hollywood is coming up soon! Maybe I will squeeze a little something about Legoland in there as well 🙂
PS Here’s a couple pictures from the trip: