7 Tips for the Best Disney Trip Ever

Can you believe it is already May?  Summer is beating on our very door, and with summer comes…wait for it…vacations!  And where do hordes of families head for those vacations? I will give you a hint.  It involves a rodent.  A black one.  Wearing red shorts and yellow shoes and a big ol’ grin.  Yep, you guessed it…Disney World.

Whether you are a Disney newbie or a seasoned veteran, there’s always something new to learn that can make your family’s trip to WDW fabulous.  Here are a few tips and tricks from yours truly for the absolute best Disney trip ever!

7 Tips for the Best Disney Trip Ever | Houston Moms Blog

1} Book at Least Six Months in Advance

This is so important, especially if you are planning to visit WDW at a popular time of year or if you are seeking one of those coveted impossible-to-get dining reservations {I’m looking at you Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table}. If that’s your thing, you will need to book at the earliest possible moment.  Dining reservations open up 180 days prior to the date you want the reservation, and you can begin booking online at 6:00 am EST {5:00 am for us Houstonians} or by phone beginning at 7:00 am EST {8:00 am for us Houstonians}. But as a heads up, the Disney website isn’t known for its reliability, so while you lose an hour booking by phone – sometimes it’s your only option.

I’m all about sleeping until my kids start licking my face and waking me up, but on Disney reservation booking day, take my advice and set the alarm.  Don’t wait to book these if you are hunting for some of those hard-to-find reservations.  Your kids may be tired and miserable today, but they will thank you for it when they get to eat inside Belle’s {or Cinderella’s} castle.  Well, okay, they’ll probably forget to thank you, but whatever, parenting isn’t about gratitude.

{Searching for a complete timeline for booking a magical Disney vacation, including a helpful printable so you don’t miss a thing?  There you go.  You’re welcome.}

2} Make Use of the Character Dinners

Why book character meals when they’re usually insanely over-priced, the food is often mediocre, and I’m going to have to set my alarm {and miss out on the morning face licking} to get a reservation there?  I will tell you why…waiting in line to see Mickey, then waiting in line to see Donald, then another line for Sleeping Beauty, and another for Snow White… You get the picture.  Huge time suck.  If you book a character meal, your kids are getting fed, and they will also get to meet and have personal conversations with several characters during the course of one meal.  No more waiting in 10 different lines to meet ten different characters. It’s all done at once.

Our favorites are Chef Mickey’s {the kids love dessert for breakfast there!}, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Crystal Palace for character meals.  If you can’t get a Cinderella’s Royal Table reservation, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot is a great back-up plan because you can meet several princesses there too.  The exception to this suggestion is Elsa and Anna.  Currently, they do not participate in character meals, so you will have to wait in those unholy lines if your kids are Frozen fans.

7 Tips for the Best Disney Trip Ever | Houston Moms Blog

3} Stay on Property

This is a question I get a lot, and I always strongly suggest to people that if your budget and family-size allow, stay at a Disney hotel.  Transportation will be taken care of, there’s no parking or traffic to worry about, you’re already close to the parks, and nobody really wants to be schlepping overtired kids through a parking lot at 11 pm if they don’t have to.  There is also a booking benefit both for dining reservations and for FastPass+.  If you are staying on property, you will be able to book dining reservations at 180 days plus up to 10 days of your stay, so you can book for all days of your trip {up to 10 days} on the first day your reservation window opens.  This is a big deal.  You will also be able to book your FastPass+ reservations at the 60-day mark rather than the 30-day mark.

Okay, so you’ve agreed that you both see the benefits of staying on property and have the budget for it, so where should you stay? My short and sweet answer is that if your kids are quite young, you’ll spend most of your time at Magic Kingdom, so it would behoove you to stay on the Monorail line {Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, and Bay Lake Tower} for the super-fast, super-easy, and stroller-friendly transportation that is provided by the Monorail.

{Did you know that the time of year you go will make a BIG difference in how much you spend?  It’s true! Get the insider scoop on how to get the most bang for your buck here.}

4} Make Use of the FastPasses and Kiosks

An entire book could be written on FassPass+, but my biggest suggestion is that if something goes wrong with your FastPass reservations or Junior barfed Dole Whip on his shoes and you need to go back to the hotel to get fresh ones but “OMG – we have to ride Winnie the Pooh in ten minutes!”, find a FastPass kiosk where there is a Disney employee holding a tablet and ask for help.  The Disney employees have options for moving and rescheduling FastPasses that are not available to the public, and they can be incredibly helpful in making sure your family gets to ride what they planned to ride.  Be nice to them; they are your friends, and they have Disney Magic.

My suggestions for key FastPasses that you should absolutely book in advance are as follows:  In Magic Kingdom, book Peter Pan if you think you want to ride it.  The nature of this ride and its perpetually long line severely limit FP availability {even with Disney Magic kiosk help}.  In Epcot, book Soarin’ to avoid a potential 2 1/2 hour line, and in Hollywood Studios, book Toy Story Mania to avoid a potential 2 1/2 hour line. In Animal Kingdom, book Kilimanjaro Safaris because you just can’t leave AK unless you’ve ridden it.  It’s the law.

5} Go Early and Go Home

The earlier you get the park, the lower the crowds will be.  You can knock out several rides with low wait times before many people have ever finished brushing their teeth.  Have an early-ish lunch with your sweet family, and then get the heck out of the park during the afternoon when the shiz starts gettin’ real and Grandpas start throwin’ elbows.  Come back in the late afternoon and early evening with well-napped children and ride a little more, maybe catch a parade, and turn in early so you can do the same thing tomorrow.  If you’re staying on the Monorail line, we like to have the kids back at the hotel and in their pjs ready to watch the MK fireworks from the hotel, and then it’s off to bed.  Nobody’s over-tired, everyone’s happy, fireworks for all, and you avoided the worst part of the day at the parks.

7 Tips for the Best Disney Trip Ever | Houston Moms Blog

6} Have Groceries and Diapers Delivered

I have three kids.  Packing for Disney can be an absolute nightmare and can require several days of advance preparation.  I’ve learned to make this task easier on all of us by having several things shipped straight to the hotel using my Amazon Prime.  This includes diapers, wipes, sunscreen, Cinderella costumes, tiaras, and anything else you can find on Amazon.  The Disney hotels are perfectly happy to hold your packages for you, and you can pick them up when you check in.

We also use grocery delivery {Garden Grocer, but there are others} to have things like bottled water and breakfast and snacking items delivered to the hotel.  Bottled water/drinks can be pricey in the parks, and after blowing all that dough on character meals, we need to pinch a few pennies where we can, right?

7} Make Use of Alternative Transportation for a Break from the Rat {Mouse} Race

The Disney bus transportation system is great but can be crowded, and between my husband’s wheelchair and our strollers, we can sometimes get a little worn-down from fighting the bus fight.  The crowds, noise, and stimulation can occasionally be a bit much, so we try to escape a little by using monorails, boats, and walking paths where available.

We use monorails between Epcot and MK {you will have to transfer at the Transportation Ticket Center}.  There’s a lovely little boat that goes between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, so in the afternoons, we will grab a coffee and a special Mickey sweet treat for the kids and take the boat between the two parks.  It takes about 20 minutes.  There are also a few walking trail options at WDW that can be peaceful little sojourns.  You can walk between Magic Kingdom and Contemporary/Bay Lake Tower {if you stay there, or if you are dining at Chef Mickey’s which is located in The Contemporary}.  There’s also a walking trail between Hollywood Studios and Epcot that takes about 30-40 minutes and goes by several of the other hotels and enters in the World Showcase entrance of Epcot.  It’s pretty and quiet, and we sometimes stop for ice cream along the Boardwalk because, well, ice cream.

Hopefully you will find these tips useful in making your next Disney World vacation a little less stressful, a little more efficient, and a lot more fun! Let me know in the comments of you have any questions.



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