by Renee Durand
Want to do Disney World like a pro?
We recently asked 29 Disney World experts to give us their best piece of advice. 5 cast members, 19 Disney bloggers, and others, including AJ Wolfe of Disney Food Blog and KennythePirate gave us some pretty great advice.
We’ve distilled that advice, and we are passing on to you.
Here are 10 things every mom should know about Disney World, along with the resources you need to make use of them.
1. You have to plan the details in advance, or you’ll waste your trip and your money.
It might sound overzealous, but it’s true. Disney World requires planning. A lot of planning.
We have friends who went down to Disney World over the summer without planning. They couldn’t go to the restaurants they wanted. They were stuck waiting several hours in line for most rides. In fact, they spent their first 3 days in line and they were so miserable, they decided to cut the trip short.
That is not how you want your vacation to go!
You can – and need to – make those plans in advance. That means a having a plan for each day that includes:
- Where you will eat each meal
- What park you will visit
- Which rides you will ride
With this plan, you can make your restaurant reservations (called Advance Dining Reservations or ADRs) up to 180 days in advance. You can make ride reservations (called FastPass+) up to 60 days in advance if you are staying on property, or 30 days in advance if you are off property.
Disney World Planning Resources for Moms:
2. You can beat the crowds!
You might think of Disney World as being inevitably full of crowds. But, it doesn’t have to be!
You can use a Crowd Calendar to plan your trip during a period of low crowds. Or, at least, you can avoid the periods when there are extreme crowd levels.
Another advantage of visiting during low crowd periods is that resort and park ticket prices will also be lower. Both resort and ticket prices are variably priced, depending on demand and season. Disney also usually offers special incentives, like free dining, during the slow season.
Several sites use a number of methods to forecast the crowds at Disney World.
Disney World Crowd Resources for Moms:
Touring Plans Crowd Calendar (only free up to 60 days out)
3. You can take your baby or toddler (or your teenager) and have a blast!
Disney World is great for preschoolers and school age kids, there’s no doubt about it. My favorite age is school age around 7 or 8 years old.
But, contrary to what some may say, there is no such thing as too young or too old for Disney World. Kids of any age can have a blast at Disney World, and so can their parents!
The key is planning your trip details around the age of the your kids. But, that’s really no big deal – planning around the ages of our kids is what we do every day as moms, right?
If you are bringing your baby or young toddler, there are a few simple things you can do to make your trip go smoothly:
- Don’t skip nap time
- Bring your good stroller (or rent one)
- Know where the Disney World Baby Centers are
Or, if you are bringing your tween or teen, here are some tricks to help them get immersed in the experience:
- Involve them in the planning
- Go to the water parks
- Give them some independence in the parks
Disney World Age Related Resources for Moms:
#4 Staying on property is totally worth it
When you visit Disney World, you can stay “on property” at one of the Disney resorts, or “off property” at a 3rd party hotel, such as the Hyatt.
Staying on property costs quite a bit more, but it’s still a better value. How’s that possible?
When you stay on property, you become immersed in the Disney magic. When you leave the parks, the magic extends back to your resort. Getting in and out of the parks is simple, and less stressful.
The result is that you get more enjoyment and relaxation out of the dollars you’re spending.
Plus, staying on property comes with a ton of perks:
- Complimentary MagicBands
- FastPass+ booking 60 days out
- Magical Express shuttle from airport to resort, including no-touch luggage transfer
- Airline check-in at resort, including luggage drop
- Access to Extra Magic Hours
- Access to Disney Dining Plan
#5 You can (and should) ship things to your resort before you arrive
Disney resorts will receive shipments to guests up to 10 days in advance of your reservation. They will hold it for you, and deliver it to your room when you arrive.
Travelling with a baby? Don’t lug formula in your suitcase through an airport. Use a service like Amazon Prime or Prime Pantry to send it to your resort free or cheaply, and have it waiting when you arrive.
I recommend using Prime and Prime Pantry for your nonperishable goods. But, you can also order groceries online and have them delivered to your resort from a site like Garden Grocer or Orlando Grocery Express. They are kept in a cooler at your resort until delivered to you.
By having groceries and other items delivered instead of buying them on property, you’ll save a lot of money.
#6 You can get the Disney Dining Plan for free
Every year, in the spring (in fact, it’s going on right now as of the time of publication) Disney announces dates for free Dining Plan. The dates are the following fall, and you must stay at a Disney resort.
By booking a fall trip during the spring, you can usually secure a free Disney Dining Plan.
Who doesn’t like free food, right?
I am a big fan of the Dining Plan, because it converts Disney World into an all-inclusive experience, and turns this into one of the best all inclusive resorts for kids we’ve ever tried. And if you get it free, you don’t have to worry about whether you’re getting your plan money’s worth.
Disney Dining Plan Resources for Moms:
Disney Dining Plan Ultimate Guide and Tips (how to get it free)
Disney Dining Plan (official site)
#7 Bring the right gear
This is related to #5, because some of the gear you’ll want to bring can be shipped to your resort. But some of it you probably already have, and will just want to pack.
What you don’t want to do is have to buy it at Disney World, or be caught without it.
Here’s a short list of some essential gear to bring, that you might not think of:
- Ponchos if you are traveling during wet season
- A good park bag
- Cooling towels
- Misting fans
- Extra magic delighters for the kids: glow sticks, glow bracelets, toys, etc.
- Stroller shade
- Autograph book & pen
Of course, there are lots of other essentials that you probably would think of: a good diaper bag, sunscreen, and sun hats, to name a few.
Check out these resources for more essential Disney World gear.
Disney World Gear Resources for Moms:
#8 If you still own a stroller, you’ll probably want it
If your kids are still in a stroller, then obviously you’ll need one.
If they are out of the stroller age, but close enough that you haven’t given yours away or sold it yet (think 5 years old), then you’ll probably want one too.
It’s hard, exhausting, and overwhelming for kids to trek around the theme park all day. A stroller can prevent melt downs and speed up transit.
I like to bring our own stroller, because the kids are more comfortable in it. It creates a sort of mobile safe-haven for them.
You can also rent strollers from 3rd party providers. I don’t recommend renting from Disney in the parks because they aren’t very nice strollers.
Disney World Stroller Resources for Moms:
#9 Plan down time
Planning adequate down time is the key to a successful Disney World trip, regardless of the ages in your party.
If you are staying 5 days or more, I recommend doing a “resort pool day” in the middle of your trip. Sleep in, relax by the pool, avoid crowds and generally recharge.
If you are traveling with babies, toddlers, or preschoolers, I recommend half days in the park during the mornings, and coming back to the resort in the afternoon for naps.
If you are traveling with older kids and decided to stay late at a park, for fireworks or Extra Magic Hours, plan to sleep in the next day.
#10 You can double your FastPass+ reservations
As a reward for reading to the end, we saved this little treat for last.
Disney World offers a Rider Switch Service (also known as Rider Swap and Baby Swap).
This allows members of your party to stay with a baby or other member that can’t ride, while the others ride. They can then get on the ride with no wait — even if they didn’t have FastPass+ reservations for the ride.
Rider Switch Service Resources for Moms:
Rider Switch Service (official site)
About the Author:
Renée and Carson Durand founded Disney by Age to help parents make age-specific plans for Walt Disney World, after being disappointed with the quality and quantity of age-specific Disney World advice available online. We were bringing our 18 month old to Disney World for the first time, and needed better advice. We knew we weren’t the only ones with this problem.
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