The short answer is “anywhere else.” However, this is not an option when you want to make your children smile and have fun. A Disney vacation is a dream come true for them, and being at the “happiest places on Earth” is often considered a rite of passage. Still, a vacation is a time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. Going to this gigantic amusement park can be anything but. Expect long days on your feet, hyper kids who may easily get bored or cranky, and big crowds. Don’t fret if this doesn’t sound like “the best time of your life” because you can maneuver your way around it.
Don’t go when the kids are out of school in July, around Christmas, Thanksgiving or Spring Break. Check out the crowd charts before you start planning a trip. Bonus: Non-peak times at resort hotels are usually around 20 percent cheaper. You can save even more because Disney offers free transportation to and from their on-site hotels.
There is no way around it – go as early as you can if you want to get on Space Mountain or the Pirates of the Caribbean without waiting. If you want to see some castles and their princesses, go there first before the crowds pile up. Get to the park about half an hour before it opens; keep in mind that parking and getting to the gates will take time as well. If you booked a character breakfast, you’ll be let into the park before it opens to get to the restaurant.
This is one way to make sure that everyone in the family gets entertained. The kids may have different preferences in terms of rides and attractions. Splitting them up and having, for example, the older ones with you for rides, and the little ones with another adult for the Dumbo, will also ensure that they won’t have to compromise. This is especially helpful when crowds are huge and the wait lines are very, very long.
Decide how many days you’re going to spend on your Disney dream vacation and buy a pass for as many days. Don’t buy one ticket at a time because you’ll spend more and possibly wait in line a lot longer. The price per day drops with every extra day you add up front. One day at the park is going to cost around $102. A third day is down to $95, fourth to $81, fifth to $68, and so on.
The kids and you will get hungry. All that walking, waiting, and riding will tire them out. Feed them before they throw a tantrum. Either make some easy snacks or buy a few before you enter the park. This way you’ll save money and time wondering where to go for a quick pick-me-up. You are allowed to bring in food. You can save a lot by avoiding eating meals at the on-site restaurants or vendors.
Weekends are a bad idea. Prices are higher and crowds are enormous. Stay Monday through Thursday if you can. Don’t put in for days off from work before you book your vacation at Disney. Be flexible with the dates you can visit so you can make the most of any discounts being offered.
Imagine you enter the park and it starts to rain. Now you can’t go on many of the rides. Unfortunately, you won’t get your money back or be able to use the ticket some other time. Don’t be caught unprepared in case it rains. This will also prevent you from having to buy an overpriced rain poncho from the park’s stores.
Skip the lines, but make sure you’re on time. Many people are waiting to eat with their favorite characters and if you’re not there, somebody else will take your spot. Also, your credit card will be charged if you don’t show up. Tip: Dinners cost more at any eatery. If you absolutely must have a sit-down meal at a Disney restaurant, save money by booking lunch instead of dinner. Book a meal during non-peak eating times and the characters will visit your table more often.
Jump the line at your favorite attractions. Each person can book three FastPasses ahead of time per day. Some of the most popular rides which your kids will definitely want to be on are Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the Kilimanjaro Safari Expedition, and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
A roller coaster ride is probably more entertaining than a carousel, at least for teenagers. Do your research in advance and mark down all the attractions you absolutely want to experience. Do those first and then spend some time, if you have any left, on everything else. Do you want to ride or have dinner with Disney characters more? The Magic Kingdom will probably take a full day; but half a day may be enough for other places such as the Animal Kingdom.
It’s unrealistic to believe you can experience everything at this mega-park in one trip. Make a time chart of which rides are a priority to you and your kids. This will save you time looking for them while being distracted by other attractions that can cost you extra.
Save time wondering around and getting lost looking for your next adventure. There are tons of free apps you can download to help you during your trip. They show maps, schedules and even wait times for rides. Use the park’s free Wi-Fi to save your data.
Your kids may be 5 years old or older and prefer to walk than to be pushed in a stroller, they will quickly change their minds in the park. Don’t underestimate how much walking you’ll be doing, even if you take the tram or other transportation from one park to another. Add the sun and warm temperature to your walk, and wheels suddenly become a great idea. You can also get a stroller at Disney, but play it safe and bring your own.
Get out of the heat for an hour or two. Go back to the hotel for a power nap and come back energized for the evening festivities. Otherwise you risk running out of fuel just before they begin; your choices are going home then because you’re too tired and missing them completely or staying but being cranky because your feet hurt or you have no energy to even keep your eyes open.
It’s no secret that kids get bored very easily. You have to entertain them somehow if you expect them to wait in line for an hour or so to ride their favorite rollercoaster. Take their favorite small toys, stickers, bibles, colored markers…anything they like to do and that fits in the stroller.
Write every expense you’re foreseeing down and set a limit. This includes meal costs, gas prices, snacks, parking, drinks, and passes. Seeing what you are about to spend in black and white will help you decide where you can cut down so you don’t ever go over budget. Nothing is more frustrating than spending money you don’t have by mistake. Paying cash also helps you keep track.