Friday, October 25, 2013

15 Tips for Surviving Disney World with Kids

Here are some tips we learned on our last trip to Disney World as a family of five (with kids ages 11, 5 and almost-two):

1. Plan, plan and plan ahead.

Check the park's website for hours, times of shows and events of the day. For character meals, call and make reservations 180 days in advance. Check the weather before you go and keep an extra change of clothes for each person in the car. We spent four days at different Disney theme parks, but three would have been ideal for our family.

2. If you need a stroller, rent one before you go. 

For our 5-year old and 22-month old, we rented the city mini double stroller from Orlando Stroller Rentals and it was great! They delivered the stroller right to our hotel, and we could use it anywhere we went. (Compared to Disney strollers that you have to rent and turn in at each park as you go.) We paid $95 for an 8-10 day rental - well worth every penny spent. (This one holds 50-pounds each and fully reclines too.)

3. Make your own family Disney t-shirts.

Cheaper than buying one there, plus it's easier to spot little ones. [Tutorial found here.]

4. Spend two days at Magic Kingdom instead of one.

No stress or rushing around. You'll thank me later.

5. Wear comfortable shoes.

I loved my Skechers go-walk shoes the best.

6. If a family member needs an electric scooter, rent one as soon as the park opens.

Each park has a very limited number of electric scooters, and they're on a first-come, first-serve basis. We found it's best to rent one in the first hour after the park opens. After that, the waiting list is so long you'll be lucky to get one at all!

7. Skip the character meals and opt for quick service dining or eat on-the-go.

With a 22-month old in tow, long meals weren't even an option for us. We did one character breakfast at Magic Kingdom, but Scot had to skip most of the meal to take care of Connor outside. I canceled our other character princess dinner (which we were so thankful for) and opted for quick on-the-go eating the rest of the time. It's nice to see a few characters in one place, but I'd rather spend those 2-3 hours on rides or doing fun things instead.

8. Bring lunch, dinner and sippy cups for little ones.

After spending a fortune on kids meals that our youngest two never ate, I started packing peanut butter and honey or Nutella sandwiches, pretzels, grapes and yogurt drinks in a small cooler, and our days were so much easier!

9. Bring snacks and water-filled insulated cups for everyone.

To fill those cravings in-between rides or on-the-go...plus, it saves money on drinks.

10. Get the FastPass for as many big rides as you can.

11. Bring snacks, toys and blankies for little ones with you during long waits on rides.

Let's face it, waiting in line with a busy toddler for 60-minutes can be a nightmare. But, with fruit snacks, go-go squeez applesauce pouches and dum-dums, long waits are a little more manageable.

12. Buy autograph books, pin lanyards and personalized Mickey or Minnie ears for your kids. 

They will love them, and it gives them something fun to do. Those Mickey ears? They'll save them forever.

13. Go on your favorite rides or shows at night during the parade and fireworks show.

By 8pm, everyone heads to Main Street for the parade and fireworks show, which means a lot of the rides are deserted. On several nights, we walked past hordes of people and got on our favorite rides without any wait at all.

14. Alternate big theme park days with plenty of "free" days.

We didn't want to be on-the-go every minute of the entire week. Our family needed some downtime, and those "free" days were glorious for everyone.

15. Be flexible and have fun!

Don't worry about what your kids are eating or if the weather doesn't cooperate. Your family will have fun together no matter what (tantruming two-year-old, torrential downpour and all) - and you'll have plenty of magical memories to last a lifetime.

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