Top 10 Disney Tips

We love Disney. We have Florida resident annual passes and we are also DVC members. We've lived in Florida for all of five weeks and have been to Walt Disney World twice. Prior to moving here, we visited the Orlando parks two separate times (once pre-kids and once with 3.5-year-old Agent E and 1.5-year-old Agent J). We have visited Disneyland Paris two times (once with two kids and a pregnant Momma and once with all three Agents) and taken a ten-day Disney cruise. It's safe to say it's our favorite vacation spot (for right now, anyway).

I think we may have finally figured out what works and what doesn't when planning and executing such a venture, so today's post will share some of what we've learned.

Group hug for Daisy
1. Choose where you stay wisely. On a recent trip we booked a room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's beautiful, it's peaceful, and it has safari animals outside your window. It's also pretty darn far from three of the four main parks, even before factoring in time waiting for buses. Probably not the best choice of hotels for us with the Agents at the ages they are currently.

2. Get the dining plan. Seriously, do it. It is totally worth it if you plan on eating one "nice" (read: sit-down, table service) meal a day. The best part: character meals are included! (We did one a day. Agents loved it. Okay, Momma did, too.) You also get drink mugs you can refill anytime at your resort and one snack a day per person. The "snack" could be something as simple as a bottle of water or a diet coke (or a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, ahem), but it also includes some pretty substantial dessert treats, smoothies, and even fresh fruit.

3. Don't plan anything too early if you're not a morning person. Yes, it is possible to schedule a character breakfast first thing. But can you manage getting everyone up and out and to the parks (or another resort) in time? Keep in mind that most restaurants where reservations are recommended also charge for no shows ($10 a person).

Snuggles for Tigger
4. Use the Fast Pass option. I cannot even tell you how many times on our most recent visit we walked past rides where the wait time was 60 or 80 minutes. Guess what? Children don't like standing in line. They get fidgety, they get bored, and they drive you crazy. Avoid it. With Fast Pass, you can get a receipt with a specific time block (a one-hour window) to come back and board the ride with little to no wait. Granted, you can only have one at a time, but if you plan it right you can just keep picking one up every couple hours all day long and hit several major attractions that way. The longest we ever stood in the Fast Pass line was about ten minutes.

5. Use rider swap. If a ride is not suitable for all members of your party, everyone can still go on it without having to wait twice. Just tell the cast member at the entrance to the line that you have a small child that someone will need to stay with, and they will give you a pass so that when the first person is done, the second can go right up without waiting again. You can also use this in combination with Fast Pass, and the ticket they give you is good for up to three people. So if you have, say, two little girls who absolutely love Soarin, you can grab Fast Passes for it, come back later at your designated time, have Dad take them on while Mom entertains the baby, and then pass the baby to Dad and have Mom immediately take them on a second time.

6. Let your children lead the way. Depending on their ages, they may be simultaneously fascinated with and terrified of what you find to be perfectly benign. Some dark rides may creep them out; others they may beg to go on. (Oddly, Agent E found the dark parts of Splash Mountain scary, yet we went on Pirates of the Caribbean three times.) One child may get off Big Thunder Mountain yelling, "that was awesome!" while one is repeating over and over, "I am never going on that ride again. I hate that ride." (Not that it happened to us. But it happened to us.) Just go with it. If they want to see the same show more than once, who cares? We have lost count of how many times we've sat through Disney Junior Live (beginning with when it was still Playhouse Disney Live on Stage).

With Toy Story friends
7. Respect your children's personal space. We never forced any of them to interact with the characters. The first time A saw a costumed cartoon mouse he clung to me so tight, I'm pretty sure if I had a pouch he would have crawled right in. By about the third or fourth time, he became every character's best buddy. (And at the end we were physically prying him away from them while he muttered things like "I want Tigger.")

8. Consider whether the stroller is helping or hindering. Every visit I cannot help but wondering, at what point during the Disney vacation planning does one think, "I know what would make this week even more magical: pushing my ten-year-old around in a stroller." (If you think I'm exaggerating, clearly you've never visited Disney.) We personally find it easier, with two adults and no ambulatory or back issues, to carry Agent A or let him walk in the less crowded areas. We made an exception and took the stroller when visiting Epcot; it seems a lot more practical there, especially if you visit the World Showcase. In the Magic Kingdom, however, we would have been parking it every five minutes. (You cannot take strollers in line queues for rides or characters, into shows, into most restaurants, etc.) 

9. Accept that you cannot do everything. I know for many people going to Disney on vacation is a huge financial commitment, and that one visit may be their only one. Disney is BIG . . . four main parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney, the boardwalk, countless restaurants, shows, rides . . . you need to prioritize. Because we know we'll be going back in a few months, we don't stress if we "miss" something, and neither do the Agents. But if you only have limited time, definitely do some research beforehand and know your own "must do list" in advance. 

Agent A and Piglet
10. Find your breaking point, and try not to push the limits. I'm talking total time you can be out and about (including travel to/from the resort and meals) before someone loses it. For us, this is about 10 hours. This means we can be really motivated and leave the room by 8:00 a.m., but only if we commit to being back by 6:00 p.m. Or if we want to stay for the 9:00 fireworks and not make it back to the room until 10:00, we shouldn't even consider heading to the parks before noon. Our typical day that worked well tended to be around 10:00-8:00; not too early of a start, and still back at the resort to do bath time and bed time at a reasonable hour. When we stepped outside these parameters, things (and people) fell apart.


  1. Awesome tips (and I totally agree)! We took the kids for the first time last year and we're planning to go again this year. (Although I've had to promise that we'll wait at least three years to go again after that.)

    1. We just left three days ago and we already have another trip tentatively planned (although not until late February). We figure that while we live so close, we're going to use every DVC point we have (including borrowing ahead) for WDW, although in the future we'll likely take advantage of some of the other timeshare options. Plus, for the next 1.5 years, we don't have to pay anything for Agent A (hotel, park tickets, or food) so we can get more bang for our buck (or point), so to speak.