Last month my family and I made the first of what I expect will be many trips to Walt Disney World. I had only visited the World of Mouse once before, when I was 10 years old, so I had a million questions about how to navigate a trip with my kids. I consulted numerous friends and blogs and received a ton of guidance. Here is some of the best advice I received on visiting Disney with kids.
Make your FastPass and dining reservations as soon as you can:
Thirty days before your trip you will have the opportunity to make FastPass+ selections via the My Disney Experience app. Do. It. I was up at midnight on June 1 to ensure I had my pick of Magic Kingdom’s best attractions in the time frames I wanted. You are allowed three FastPass+ reservations a day, and they must all be in the same park regardless of your park hopper status, but once you have completed your three options you can add more FastPasses at kiosks around the parks.
Dining reservations open 180 days before your trip and some can be quite hard to come by. If you want to dine at Cinderella’s Castle for example, you better make that reservation as soon as you can and be prepared to have the full cost of your dining experience placed on your credit card at the time of reservation.
Buy your Disney souvenirs outside of the park:
Mouse ears, fans, light wands, and pins are going to cost you two to three times as much within the park. Amazon, eBay, and even the Dollar Store are great resources to stock up on those goodies your kids are going to beg you for.
Wait to buy your child a gift:
On day one, we told our 4-year-old daughter that she could choose ONE special toy to take home, but we would not actually buy that toy until the last day. All week long we visited different toy stores in the parks where she had the opportunity to search for her gift. On the final day of our trip she was super excited to return to Arendelle (Norway in Epcot) and purchase her Anna doll.
If you are not staying on site and will be driving to the parks, take a picture of your parking spot:
You will forget where you parked, guaranteed.
Also, if you are driving to the Magic Kingdom, give yourself a little extra travel time as you have to take either the monorail, which can be unpredictable, or a ferry boat to the park.
Check wait times in person and on your My Disney Experience app:
If you arrive to an attraction to use your FastPass+ reservation and the standby line is short, get into the standby line and open your phone to try to change your FastPass+ reservation to something else.
Give your camera to a cast member:
Since my children are 4 and 1, we spent more time meeting characters than actually riding rides. We opted out of the Memory Maker packages (a collection of your pictures taken by the Disney World photographers) because cast members took our phones and graciously snapped away for us.
Do not pack bottled water, but do pack a collapsible cooler:
Skip the bulky bottles and take advantage of the free walk-up food counters that will give you a large cup of ice water for free. A great way to save money at Disney is to bring your own food into the parks. Even with a dining plan, chances are your kids are going to want to snack in-between meals. Having a small cooler full of fresh fruit and snacks is a great way to save a little dough.
Wear comfortable shoes:
This seems like a no-brainer but I cannot tell you how many people I saw wearing flip flops sitting on a bench rubbing their aching heels. You may walk upwards of 6 miles a day at Disney, so you need good supportive shoes. Also pack some mole skin in your Disney bag in case of blisters.
If your child is under the age of 6, bring a stroller:
You are going to walk, A LOT, and odds are your little one cannot keep up. Bringing a stroller will make your life so much easier and allows your littles the chance to take a much needed rest.
While strollers are not allowed in the ride ques or restaurants, there are attendant run stroller corrals all over so there is no worry about your belongings being taken. You should also tie something bright to your stroller to help easily identify it in the sea of black.
Utilize a Disney Travel Agent:
Planning for a trip to Disney is A LOT of work. I do not even want to think about the hours I spent painstakingly researching every aspect of our trip. Because we were staying with family on a house offsite, I did not use a Disney Agent for this trip. However, I did seek out the advice of my friend who is a Disney World master and has since become an authorized travel agent specializing in Disney World and Disney Cruises. These individuals are a wealth of knowledge and can provide helpful tips to made your trip so much easier to plan and execute. Often times these services are FREE too! Check out our list of consultant-run businesses which included several authorized agents ready to help make your trip a success!