I can't believe it has already been a few months since our trip to Disney World this past summer. I am already wanting to plan another trip. We went in June of 2018, right before the Toy Story Land opened. (I was so bummed! We'll have to go back I guess!)
All during our trip Nick and I would say, "This was a life saver!" or, "We need to remember for next time!" I wanted to put it all in a post so that if when we go again, I don't forget the things we learned. These are just my personal opinions and thoughts reflecting on our own family vacation. If you find them helpful for you, too, have at it! If our way is not your way, that's totally cool! There are so many ways to make the trip magical.
14 Things We Learned Our First Time
to Disney World with Kids
1. Camelbaks We filled these up with ice at our resort, added some water, and then headed to the parks. We would empty them at least once a day, refilling at our rest time. The boys, not as quickly, but it sure saved waiting in line for a cup of water at the parks!
2. Double Stroller If you've researched anything, you know the recommendation is to just get one for kids under 8, even if they have well advanced out of the stroller stage. We debated, price compared with renting vs. buying, and bought a used double stroller from some friends. It was worth it! Almost every night our youngest would fall asleep while waiting in line at the bus. As soon as we got back to the resort, we could push him all the way back to our room. And our oldest? He didn't want to walk anyway! 8-10 miles a day, people! 3. Popcorn Bucket This is Nick's contribution that he said I needed to add here. We ended up getting this halfway through the trip, but Nick wished we had gotten it earlier on. It's cheaper for refills, so if you love popcorn, get it!
4. Spray bottle On one of the days due to staying longer at a park and having an early dinner reservation, we ended up at the parks mid day. That overpriced spritzing spray bottle was absolutely worth it to us! And we used it the remainder of the trip.
5. Autograph T-Shirt Tips I thought it would be neat to do autograph shirts for the characters to sign. One thing I didn't realize until after our first character is that if you want them to sign it, you need to hold it with both hands and stretch it TIGHT. Maybe it is something common sense that my mama brain lost, but that was one thing that caught me off guard at our first character. It was slightly awkward, but we turned pros at this process by the end of our trip.
6. Shoes I packed 3 pairs of shoes for everyone, but honestly I think we only ever used two. We had decent quality sandals that we broke-in the months before going, and thankfully we didn't need to use tennis shoes. And honestly, who wants to wear socks in Florida during the summer?
7. Disney Photo Passes I love taking photos. I really wanted most of our photos to be the ones that we took. But I am SO GLAD that we chose Disney Photo Passes too. At all the characters I didn't have to fumble for my camera. All ride photos we could keep. And there were several times that they had "magic" photos that the boys LOVED! I had my camera mostly for candids, my GoPro for video on roller coasters and water parks, and then photo pass for characters and rides. To me, the photo passes were worth it!
8. Down times and rest days This is more for just transparency. We went for a long time. 11 nights. I know. We are crazy. BUT, we planned to be at the parks at rope drop, and then after lunch time we all went back to our hotel and rested. Sometimes we all napped, sometimes only one of the kids napped, but it was worth it! We were able to go back to the parks a little more refreshed, and a little less cranky. There was one day that we missed our nap, and after dinner we could just feel it. We were exhausted. We went back to our resort early, and it was what we needed.
We also did NOT spend every single day at the parks. Days that we were traveling we spent at the resort enjoying all their amenities. We also built in "rest days" where we did not go into the parks but enjoyed our resort or neighboring resorts, or slept in and went to the water parks. Plan in down time if you can!
9. Park Hopper vs Park Hopper Plus There is a difference. And this was my slip up that I didn't figure out until I was at the parks. In my defense, I may have THOUGHT I took care of it, but I didn't. Well, the park hopper allows you to go to different parks in the day. The Park Hopper Plus allows you to go to the water parks. I must have thought I had the plus, but only had the original. It led us having to wait an additional 30 minutes outside a waterpark while they upgraded our tickets. It ended up being fine, but it was a hiccup I could have avoided had I planned or double checked. (This is from Summer 2018. Be sure to check the website yourself for any new changes).
10. Amazon Prime Now Where we live, this is not an option for us. What a luxury we got to experience in Orlando! I made a shopping list the day I needed things, picked a two hour window for them to drop it off, and voila! Groceries at our door! Items that were cold were delivered in insulated bags. I would highly recommend this! We ordered mostly breakfast food, snacks, and water.
11. Ditch the Disney Dining Plan This was a big debate that took a lot of research. There are pros and cons to both, and it all comes down to what is best for your family. For us on this trip, the boys still eat relatively little if they eat anything, and Nick and I typically split meals when we eat out. In our resort they did not have microwaves in the room, so even if we "saved" the food we would have to eat it cold. Or have to carry it to the dining hall - I think I MAY have seen some there.
Plus, one of the difficulties of choosing dining plans was it felt like it was either quick service or dining reservations. We didn't have enough dining reservations to merit going with that plan, and I didn't want to deal with just the quick service. Paying as we went with a mix of sit down restaurants and quick services is what worked for us. We typically ordered two kids meals and one adult menu, with water, and it turned out cheaper than the quick service dining plan!
We just wanted to spend our money on the food we wanted to eat, and not feel obligated to get extra food or to have left over food credit. We still enjoyed appetizers, desserts, and snacks on the go! No skimping on the delicious treats! This worked for us, but not sure if it would work for everyone. One day when they are eating us out of the house I know the dining plan will be better!
12. Disney Gift Cards You've probably seen that buying Disney Gift cards through Target or Sams Club gets you some discounts (check out all the other blogs out there who are up to date on it!). This came in handy for us not using the dining plan, too!
When you are at the parks you can charge things through your magic band back to your room. If you wait until the last day, those charges go to whatever payment you used to make the resort reservation. If you want to use Disney Gift cards, all you have to do is go to your resort desk and pay a day or two before you leave! Be sure to check with the front desk about that!! It was another way we saved!
A heads up, if we wanted to do Mobile Dining, it would not charge to the room, but to our room's method of payment directly. We did Mobile dining just a few times (loved it!) but those purchases would not end up on the gift cards. Maybe that's something that might change, but check into for next time.
13. Disney Earport and Balloons Did you finally cave or splurge and buy that iconic Disney World Balloon? Yup, guilty over here. Well, when it comes time to fly home, guess what? You cannot take inflated balloons on the airplanes. They can pop due to cabin pressure, just like that bag of chips you thought would be okay for the ride. Disney is prepared and has their "Earport" store at the airport. We had them deflated in the Orland air port, and then re-inflated at a local party store when we landed back home. It was a great way to savor the magic just a little bit longer back home.
14. You will survive without all the souvenirs I promise we're not crazy penny pinchers. Okay, I'm not, Nick might be! We planned to let the kids choose a set amount of souvenirs at the parks, and we even planned to have extra impulse purchases. All in all, leading up to the trip I thought that they would NEED to have pin lanyards, exchange pins, get all the pressed pennies, have all the autographs, and have "Tinkerbell" leave gifts every night for them. It's just so much to keep up with!
They did have shirts signed, but not all characters sign. Olaf doesn't have hands or a brain! They did press some pennies, but only a few towards the end of the trip after they found the penny presses. And you know what? They never were told anything about the pin trading, and I don't think they ever even noticed or asked! So if you are sitting on the fence about what souvenir traditions to embark upon, know that no matter what you choose, your kids will still make awesome memories regardless of the tokens they bring home. They will still talk about the trip forever!
Would we do it all again? Yes! But let me be frank: I feel like it took me two weeks to recover from our trip. Thankfully it was summer and I could do that! And for those few weeks after returning, I wanted to go back again on a shorter trip with just Nick and me. If When we go again, we might do a trip closer to a week rather than 2 weeks. So yes, we'd do it again!
What tips do you have for Disney World?
Did you know we have a youtube channel? Check out our Disney Videos below for a recap!