We got home from our first Disney trip as a family just over 12 hours ago! Minus a few travel errors, some expected meltdowns, and sunburns we really tried to avoid I have to say our trip went well. I feel very rejuvenated after some much needed Vitamin D and the ability to take my mind off of the every day tasks that I get way too wrapped up in. Throughout this trip I realized a lot of what we would do differently next time and what we really wouldn’t change. So, here I am to share those things!
Let’s start with Travel….
First and foremost, this is an important aspect of your trip and likely tends to be the most stressful for some people such as myself. I agonized over getting our kids through the airport with suitcases and carseats in tow. This is probably what I prepared for the most. I honesty spent multiple hours of several days researching how to best navigate the airport with small children. Here’s what I realized and also what I bought:
- There is no clear cut answer as to how to do this. You have to figure out what is going to be most functional and also affordable for you. There are tons of products out there and I did most of my shopping on Amazon for the quick shipping and reading product reviews. I picked up 2 VolkGo car seat bags and also 2 VolkGo suit case straps. The suit case straps give you the ability to hook your convertible carseats on to your suit case by the top tether hook. We actually didn’t end up using the straps but most certainly used the bags. They had backpack straps on them with padding and it made it tolerable. This only worked for us because we did not have connecting flights, just one direct flight. If we had had multiple flights I’m quite certain my back (and also my sanity) would not have been able to take it.
- Prepare for delays, especially with kids, but of course hope for the best you won’t have to deal with them at all. We were so lucky our kiddos handled the delays well, consider me impressed. We got to experience both weather related and mechanical delays. If you are lucky enough to be on a flight with the option of movies you are probably good to go. Our first delay had us sitting on the runway for a total of 3 hours with a break to get back into the terminal and reset. Our 3 hours on the plane turned into 6. We were also packed with some new books and also snacks but we knew in advance we would have access to movies so we didn’t prepare too greatly for things to do.
- Depending on where you are staying you may need to rent a car. If you are staying at a Disney Resort you do not need to worry about this. You will be bused from the airport to the resort and they have shuttle service to and from the parks. We did not stay at a Disney Resort so we rented a car. This worked well for us however because our last 2 days were spent in Daytona Beach. I personally recommend staying at a Disney Resort to remove this hassle but we also liked the freedom to come and go without waiting in a line. Total personal decision based on what you want your vacation to be like.
If you are like me a good meal is important to you. This is one aspect of our trip we did not necessarily plan well. Many of the Disney restaurants require reservations because of the mass amounts of people there. It’s not that you can’t walk in if there is availability but there likely won’t be (heavily depending on the time of year). This is the first time I am going to mention the Disney app. As soon as you book your Disney vacation download that bad boy. Here you can do everything to set your trip up, including making dining reservations.
To save little money we picked up breakfast items to eat in our hotel room before heading out of the day. Cereal, muffins, fruit and yogurt go a long way! We only ended up going out to eat for breakfast twice and one morning was taken care of with a breakfast voucher. We also brought our own reusable water bottles which we filled at the hotel bar with ice water before we left. From my understanding you are not limited to what you can bring in to the park in terms of your own food and drink. So pack the snacks and save yourself some dough!
There are so many fun things to try once you are in the park and I encourage you to indulge. My favorite treats were….
- Chesire Cat Tail from the Chesire Cafe in Magic Kingdom (Right by the Teacup Ride)
- Dole Whip Cup from Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom
- Churros in Disney Springs
- Ice cream from anywhere because it was HOT for these Minnesotans
- Minnie and Mickey Whoopie Pies from the Harbour House in Magic Kingdom
I wish I had taken the time to take pictures of all these items because not only did they taste good looked just as good! I do have evidence of the Cheshire Cat tail though (picture below).
In the Parks
Now, from this specific trip I can only speak for Magic Kingdom as this was the only park we visited this time. However, this is more of a general overview of how to make the best of visiting any of the parks included in Disney World.
First of all: HAVE A GAME PLAN. I am the absolute worst at this so we waltzed in there having no agenda for the day. Wrong. Don’t do this. We pulled it together quickly (and quite honestly our day went really well) but I would have liked to be more prepared and we might have actually done less walking.
Don’t feel like you have to jam it all in (cue me sticking my foot in my mouth) because we spent 10 hours, you read that right, 10 hours in Magic Kingdom. Do I recommend this? NO. We knew this was our only park day, the kids were still enjoying themselves, and we were so caught up in the excitement of it all it literally just happened. So future trips park time for one day will be cut in at least half. I have heard and read it is impossible to do an entire park in one day and I can attest it is indeed fact. Create a format for your day and fill in the blanks as you go.
Probably one of the most important things you can do if you plan to go on rides is hop onto that Disney app I told you about and get those fast passes booked. Unfortunately you only get 3 a day so make them count. If you are staying at a Disney resort you can book these up to 60 days before your visit and non Disney resort patrons can book up to 30 days before your visit. We did not book in advance at all (as we bought our park passes the day of) but we were still able to use our passes. Our options for what we were able to to use them on and times were of course limited but as I said we were still able to find attractions to use them on. I would also like to mention this app shows you wait times for all the rides and attractions in the park which is very helpful when planning where to go next and what you are willing to wait in line for.
Lastly, if your children are young they are probably going to get the most out of meeting the characters. Don’t get me wrong our kids loved the rides they went on but the most joy came when we met all the Princesses, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, and also Mickey and Minnie.
Little to no explanation needed for this one: stay hydrated and apply that SPF on the regular! (I threw gatorades in the freezer the night before to use as ice packs in our cooler and also so we would still have ice cold drinks several hours into our visit once we had gone through everything else.)
I’ll make this quick. I have to recommend the preferred parking. It is $50 compared to $25. If you do not have small kids save the extra $25 and make the last tram ride. If you do have kids this saved time getting back to our vehicle as we were all completely wiped out. We didn’t have to walk nearly as far and did not have to wait in line for yet another tram to the parking lot.
In the amount of planning I did for this trip what I kept reading what bring your own (t-shirts, small character toys, or whatever else is cool or fun for kids) which doesn’t exactly make sense to me except from a financial standpoint. Trust me I get it, each time we went into a store in the park we walked out and wondered what we actually even left with. However, I am totally ok with that expense because walking into the stores is like an exciting explosion of Disney things and its so fun to get to pick our something that is meaningful to you regardless of your age. So, my personal view on that is ‘spare no expense’ but you have to do what is comfortable for you and won’t cause you undue stress. You do you!
We certainly know what will we do differently the next time we go and as I said what we wouldn’t change. There was a pretty relaxed vibe to our total vacation as we also included 2 pool/beach days. Next time we will be making much more reservations and buying our park passes earlier for even more Disney experiences. Overall, it was a great trip and I highly recommend taking your kids there, heck, take yourself as an adult there without kids! We will certainly be returning and are enjoying the memories we have collected.