Sunday, January 29, 2017

Best Tips for a Successful Walt Disney World Vacation

So you're going to's overwhelming right?  I've been there over 40 times throughout my life, from my parents taking me as a kid every year to me taking my kids every year.  Disney is expensive, exhausting and confusing.  There are different ticket options, dining options, dining plan options, Fast Passes to set up and hotels to consider.

We didn't even talk about transportation or the Magical Express.  

Overwhelming indeed.

I wrote a book about all the personal data I've collected while traveling to Disney with kids. While much of my advice will always be relevant (as long as kids need naps, snacks, routines and sunscreen we're good), Disney is always changing.


In no particular order, here are my best tips for a successful vacation. These will never expire no matter how many times Disney updates its tickets, systems or parks.

1.  Go during the off season.

This can be tricky if your kids are in school.  We pulled our kids out of school until work was tough enough to make the crowds and extra expense of going over a break worth it.  Every year we cleared the trip as an educational absence, which is completely true.  A Disney vacation can teach you much about money, budgeting, patience and time management.  

There are countries to tour in Epcot and the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom.  Educational experiences are all over at the Walt Disney World resort.  I promise.

I found the best months to travel to Disney (I'm considering weather here) are September, October, November (before Thanksgiving) early December, February and May. 

Crowds are lighter, the sun is still shining and you won't be battling for a seat on the bus as you ride to the parks.

2.  Stay inside the parks.  

Yes, this is expensive.  But Disney has definitely made vacations more affordable with the sales, packages and deals throughout the year.  They also have pretty reasonable resorts such as Art of Animation and Pop Century.  The Disney service is still there, you can get to and from the parks easily and there are usually plenty of little kids at these resorts.

As long as you don't mind cafeteria style food and corny decor you'll save a bundle using a value resort.  

Staying inside the parks makes Disney feel more like a vacation.  You don't have to battle with driving or parking, they send packages back to your room from the parks and you can utilize Magic Hours if you choose.

3.  Use Magic Hours, or COMPLETELY avoid them.

There are two ways to go about Magic Hours (the days parks open early or stay open late for resort guests).  Either you use them to your advantage or you stay away.

We use them.  If a park opens at 7am, we are there at 6:50.  We usually ride at least 5 rides in the first hour and we hardly wait at all.  We are back at our resort by noon swimming and enjoying the pool.  If you go to a park that has Magic Hours and you don't arrive early, you're looking at bigger crowds.  People very often pick the park that will stay open late or they get started early and stay all day.  

We don't, but many people do.

Crowds are typically more manageable extremely early in the day or at the park without Magic Hours.

If you're crazy enough to get up and get to a park by 7am, do it.  You'll get more done and you can grab an afternoon siesta by the pool or in your room.

If you have an infant or toddler YOU SHOULD BE GOING BACK TO YOUR ROOM FOR A NAP ANYWAY.  This is a tip in my book, and you best live by it or battle tantrums.

4.  Use your Fast Passes wisely.

When you book your Fast Passes, book them for around 10am at the earliest.  If you go to a park when it opens (see #3) you will ride several rides without a wait.  A FastPass at 9am is a waste.  Plan your Fast Passes for those times of the day the lines will get long.  

5.  Bring your own snacks.

Even if you opt for a meal plan (they are costly but worth it if you don't bring any of your own food) you will still need snacks.  A hot pretzel is about $6 in Disney.  If you're a family of four, and you need a snack, every stop will cost $25 without even getting a drink.  Do yourself a favor and pack granola bars, dry cereal and other grab and go snacks in your luggage.  Bring a small backpack to the park with your extra drinks and snacks.  If you have a stroller this extra bag is no problem.

You'll thank me. We have never entered a Disney Park without a bag full of drinks, snacks and sunscreen in all of our forty plus trips.

Wishing everyone a wonderful trip - and peace of mind while planning!  For more in-depth practical and easy to follow planning tips grab my book on Amazon.  It's a well spent 99 cents!

Happy Trails!

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