Thursday, March 21, 2013

Disney Tips and Tricks

Evie was passed out from all the excitement!

Lots of people spend copious amounts of time planning their Disney vacations. I am a BIG planner but did not put much thought into our trip. Yes, I pinned lots of Disney related stuff and I read a book or two but we did not have a spreadsheet outlining our days at the park. Some of you may laugh but there are lots of Disney spreadsheets floating around and people using those spreadsheets at the park.

I get it! We all want to maximize our Disney experience because it is an expensive vacation - more expensive than our honeymoon to St. Lucia. I think that over planning the trip takes away some of the joy that comes with discovering Disney. Granted, I had no idea, what Disney World was going to be like and compared it to a Six Flags or a big Carowinds. It's really so much more than that!

My advice is to focus on planning for your families needs and everything else will fall into place. Does it really matter if you ride something at 9:00 AM or later that afternoon? Not really and your children will have more fun if there is less of a schedule. Evie spotted attractions as we walked through the park and we followed her lead. Even if the idea of one more time on the Barnstormer seemed pointless to us, it mattered a lot to Evie. I overhead lots of discussions on schedules and listened to disappointed kids that really just wanted to ride their ride while mom wanted to stay on track. 

I am far from a Disney expert and most of these tips and tricks are our adaptions of things we found through the minimal planning that we did. Hope they help you plan your Disney adventure.

Packing for the Park: There are a lot of packing suggestions for Disney World and I followed the list for the first day. After one day of lugging around a backpack filled with band aids, extra clothes and snacks plus the kitchen sink - we ditched that idea. The less stuff you have with you the better! It's a lot just keeping up with two kids and better not to have a backpack too. We put our necessities inside our stroller which had tons of storage - this helped in two ways. We were able to skip the "bag check" line to get inside the park and it allowed us to get on the riders quicker without lugging the backpack. My Disney essentials: juice boxes, water, diapers, snacks and a few little distractions such as glow sticks. I kept my camera in the stroller too and had no issues. Occasionally, I'd take my camera on a ride but felt it was safer in the stroller than on the ride. My phone even stayed at our hotel most of the time - one less thing to keep up with inside the park. 

Hydration: Every book pointed out the Florida heat and how important it was to stay hydrated. I took a package of juice boxes and we received mugs with our dining plan that were refillable at our hotel. None of us were any thirstier than normal but I can see this as a problem when it is warmer. Children under three are free with a dining plan purchase and it would have been smart to purchase an additional mug for Henry

Stroller: We rented a stroller through Kingdom Strollers and it was the best money spent. It was delivered to our hotel and we dropped it off at the front desk at the end of our trip. Even older children are in strollers. There is lots of walking and I mean lots of walking. Carl and I both had blisters.There are stroller parking lots all over Disney - your stroller will probably be in a different spot from where you left it. Use something to identify your stroller. We used this pink pom pom from the craft store. Balloons work well too except they bang into your face as you traverse the park. 

Clothing: Matching outfits make your pictures look so much better. Evie and Henry had coordinating outfits - two Disney shirts and then a matching short all and sundress. Carl wore polo shirts and khaki shorts every day - that is his summer uniform. I wore shorts and shirts although I would have loved a few casual dresses. There are some moms wearing flip flops and they look so adorable but I am sure their feet were hurting. Your shoes are not going to be in the pictures! I did see a mom wearing a Lilly dress with tennis shoes. Workout clothes might be a good choice too for comfort but again the pictures might not be as cute.

Meal Plan: We had the Disney Deluxe Meal Plan and really liked it a lot. It was "included" in our package. Advantages to the meal plan are that your meals are paid for in advance which helps with budgeting. Disadvantages are that drinks and desserts come with every meal. There is not a ton of choices for children beside milk and apple juice. Evie discovered that she really likes sprite! Dessert is always popular with us but we tired quickly of the desserts. Eating them twice a day plus a snack seemed like a lot. Plus, the desserts are the same in most of the quick service restaurants so there is not a ton of variety. Deluxe Meal Plan includes one sit-down meal, one counter-service meal and a snack each day. That was plenty of food except eating at Cinderella's Royal Table counts as two sit-down meals. Then we paid out of pocket for our other meal which is fine - just something to think about. We would get the meal plan again if it was included not sure if we would purchase it separately especially if our children are older. It would be fun to sample food at Epcot from the food carts rather than eating large meals. It's just personal preference!

Mobile Magic: This ap made park planning a breeze! It listed wait times for attractions, maps of the park, reservation information and a daily agenda. LOVED this and referred to it multiple times per day. Best part is that the ap is free!

Lines: We never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride. Sunday was the busiest day at the park but even then it was not completely overwhelming. Take advantage of the Fast Pass, this system provides you with a window of an hour to come back without waiting in a line. Fast Pass is offered for the most popular rides. Think outside the box a little, try hanging out at the hotel earlier in the day and then going to the park after naps if you do not want to spend the entire day at Disney. Crowds really thin out in the late afternoon and evening, that's one of the best times to maximize your time without all the people. It can waste a lot of time navigating through the park during a parade or fireworks, spend that time away from the action instead of getting stuck. We arrived at the park about 9-10 and would stay until after lunch. Then, take naps and hang out at the pool before heading back to take advantage of the "lighter" crowds. We'd stay until the park closed even though that was way past bedtime. Everyone did just fine.

Souvenirs: We will set more parameters on souvenirs the next time. Evie really did not want too much but it still adds up. We allowed her to buy one or two things a day but nothing expensive. She wanted a stuffed Minnie Mouse and that was her most expensive souvenir with the exception of her new Belle. Encourage family members to give your children gift cards to use at Disney World. Evie loved having her own "money card" to buy Belle. We purchased a few items to take with us to distract from large purchases inside WDW. Take glow sticks - they are super expensive at WDW and inexpensive at home. We brought our own for two nights and then let the children choose one special glow stick for the last night. Both kids are still playing with their lights.

Cast Members: We were amazed at the staff known as Cast Members. Incredible! Everyone goes above and beyond - from parking attendants to characters and the cleaning crew. Carl lost his wedding ring on the slide at the pool. He mentioned this to the lifeguard and they shut the slide down and found the ring. Now, that is service!

Photo Pass: We bought a photo pass meaning that all of our photographs were pre-paid. We only had about 30 pictures taken but they are really good and all four of us are in the picture. Use the photo pass even if you do not buy the package. There are photographers all throughout the park - hand them a card and all your pictures will be ready for viewing on the Photo Pass website. Most of the pictures in this post are from Photo Pass!

Travel Agent: We used a TA and found it to be a wonderful experience. I had no clue what I was doing while planning and planning a WDW trip is a huge undertaking. Our TA worked with us on budgeting, making reservations for us and worked out a few issues that we had along the way. Disney pays the TA and the customers reap the benefits.

Hope my tips and tricks for surviving Disney World help you make the most of your Disney adventure. It really is a magical place. Enjoy your visit!


  1. That's awesome about the ring! I know we will do disney one day but it overwhelms me.

  2. Love, love, love! You make such a great point about over-planning. I can see us trying to walk by one of the things Avery is already so excited about just because I planned something else. I have been reading about the photo pass and love that idea, especially since that might mean I get in some pictures. I know I'm going to have to ease on on bedtimes, especially for Sam. He will not be at the best age to go, but I want to get Avery there while everything is still magical to her.

  3. I love reading about different peoples Disney adventures. I love Disney World and hope one day to take my niece and nephew.

  4. Please tell me about the photopass and the strollers! You didn't take your own?! What was the advantage in renting one? Is the photopass the thing that costs like 160? I saw that, but didn't know if there was a smaller package too. Thanks for the informative post!! ;)

    1. Photo pass is expensive but worth it! William will be fine with taking pictures. Evie was too busy riding rides to take pictures. You may be fine with your stroller. We needed a double and our double is a Joovy Caboose. Not ideal for Disney with no storage and the seat does not recline.

  5. Jennifer,
    Thank you so much for the Disney tips and tricks...I'm looking forward to taking our boys in a few years and will definitely be referring to your list!


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