Living in Florida definitely has its perks— and Disney World is high on the list. With the generosity of family and friends, we were able to spend two days at Magic Kingdom and one day at Animal Kingdom. It was the first vacation we took as a family where we actually felt like we were on vacation.
I wanted to share some things that I learned along the way and hope will help you out if you get the opportunity to take your family to Disney World or Disneyland.
1. BYOF: For some reason, there are rumors going around that you can’t bring food or drinks into the park. Totally wrong! You can bring all the food and drinks you want! We packed two large water bottles and lots of healthy snacks to help sustain us all through the day and in-between meals (almonds, apples, whole-wheat pretzels were big hits).
2. Arrive early. Plan to be at the park at 8:15am, which realistically means more like 8:45 to any family with young kids. The gates open at 9am and you can be one of the very first families in the park. There are no lines for characters, rides and no crowds to maneuver your stroller around. If you wait until 9:30 to walk through the gates, it’s rush-hour down Main Street.
3. Tattoo your phone number on the kids. With the insane amount of people at theme parks, I get a little nervous about losing a kid. You can buy bracelets with your contact information on them for the kids to wear, or you can just take a sharpie and write your phone number around their wrist and save a few bucks.
4. Snag a shaded spot along Main Street for the afternoon parade. Get there at least 15 minutes before if you want to sit curbside and cool off. Ryan stayed with the kids and I ran to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and got us all children’s cones with chocolate mouse ears ($2.75 each, which is a steal in Disney World). The portions were HUGE and it was the perfect treat to enjoy while watching the parade.
5. Fast Pass, all the way. For the rides you really want to go on (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Peter Pan, etc) just get a Fast Pass and save yourself some time and frustration. Fast Pass is free and let’s you shave off 75% of the line wait. When you have little kids, waiting in line is a very stressful job, so save it for the rides that don’t have Fast Passes.
6. Pay attention to days of the week at each theme park. Hit Magic Kingdom on a Sunday, Wednesday or Thursday. Animal Kingdom on a Sunday, Friday or Saturday. Those are the lightest days and will make your trip much more enjoyable. Check out this site for more info on days of the week traffic.
7. Plan your days strategically. Day one is exciting and the kids are full of energy. So take lots of pictures on Day one! Day two will be rough. They will be exhausted, sleep deprived and occasionally collapse in lines. Smiling for pictures is absolutely out of the question. And day three is even worse. If we could go back, we would do Day one at Magic Kingdom. Day two at the hotel pool. Day three at Magic Kingdom, Day four at the pool. And then Day five at Animal Kingdom. (We had a 3-day Florida Resident Park Pass).
8. Autograph book with picture space. Spend the $18 for the autograph/photo book combo and the $6 for the Mickey/princess pen. It’s worth it. Your kids will have fun adding signatures to the book and meeting all the Disney characters. Make sure to take pics at each character signing, because when you get home you can print out the pics and add them to the book. (And if your pen breaks or you lose it while at the park, just head to any store that sells them and show them your receipt. They will gladly replace it.)
9. Entertainment bags for the kids. Make waiting in line a lot easier with travel size tubs of play dough (Clementine Art modeling dough is our fav), coloring books, stickers and when all else fails, the iPhone.
10. Do the Baby Swap. It’s not really advertised, but this is perfect for families with kids that are too young or don’t want to go on a certain ride, yet others want to. For example, some rides our daughter was too short for, while our son was fine. What we would do is my husband and son would tell the Cast Member at the entrance that we wanted a Switch Rider Pass and take it with them on the ride, while I hung out with Clare. Once the ride was over, they would come out and get me. Then Ryan would stay with Clare, and I could ride with Jackson. By getting a “Rider switch pass,” we wouldn’t have to wait in line again.
Disney World with Kids: Our Experience
Here are some pics from our two days at Magic Kingdom. It was a lot of fun and the kids cannot stop talking about it.