I didn’t visit a Disney park for the first time until I was 25. I was a newlywed, married to a Walt Disney World fan, and I found the experience magical – transformative, if you will. While I’d been a Disney fan from my earliest memories, this new-to-me vacation destination solidified my love for all things Disney. I’m now 50. My husband and I have been to Disney World many times (with our two children and without) and have many more Disney vacations planned in the future. Mistakes were made along the way and we learned a lot about how our family likes to vacation Disney-style. I’ve put together a short list of tips for you today – things we learned over…
- Research & Plan in Moderation – You DO need to do some research and advance planning. In fact, if you’re reading this, you’ve already found a great website for tons of excellent Disney travel tips and reviews. At least make some advance dining reservations (ADRs) if eating at certain restaurants is important to you. For the most popular eateries, you’ll want to book 180 days before you go. (Check here for early morning ADR tips.) DO book FastPass+ for popular rides and character meet-and-greets to save potentially hours of your precious vacation time. There’s a lot of grumbling going on among Disney fans these days that there’s so much planning involved in a Disney World vacation, there’s no room for spontaneity. This simply isn’t true. Yes, planning will help your trip be more enjoyable. No, selecting a few dining and attraction experiences in advance will not keep you from having fun. Speaking of spontaneity…
- Be Flexible – There’s fun all aound you at Walt Disney World! Don’t feel pressure to stick to your touring plans if something more exciting comes along. We’ve skipped FastPass+ bookings in favor of riding a different attraction or watching a parade. We’ve passed on trying a new attraction in favorite of riding an old favorite multiple times. Be ready to change course for rain, tired feet, hunger, and heat. You’ll still have a great time if you’re flexible.
- It’s Okay NOT to do it ALL – You’d have to kill yourselves to try to fit in every fun attraction, ride, show, and nighttime spectacular. We favor an early start and prefer to squeeze as many attractions as we can into the morning hours. After lunch, we tend to take things more leisurely before enjoying a sit-down dinner. Rarely do we make it to more than one or two evening attractions per vacation – and we’re okay with that.
- No Two Vacations Will be Exactly the Same – If you’re planning to visit Walt Disney World more than once, you can revisit first-trip-favorites and add things you previously missed. Having happy memories from earlier trips does not mean you have to reproduce all the same experiences to have fun again. Poll the family to find out what attractions and restaurants were everyone’s favorites and revisit some of those while leaving plenty of time to try new things. Remember, height requirements often dictate which rides little ones can experience – the bigger your kids get, the more attractions you can experience together!
- Embrace Change – This is one of the toughest things we had to learn. Rides, restaurants, and shows close temporarily and permanently and it’s hard not to miss them. I was so distraught about the closure of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Magic Kingdom, I didn’t ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (its replacement) for years. That was silly! Winnie the Pooh is a fun attraction. The newest afternoon parade in Magic Kingdom (Festival of Fantasy) is one of the best parades we’ve ever seen (I almost didn’t watch it because I was not a huge fan of the previous parade). We’re very much looking forward to new, extended hours and upcoming additions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios is undergoing major changes, we believe it’ll be even better once its transformation is complete. Change is going to happen – sometimes it’s how we deal with it that can have more effect on our vacation than the change itself.
- Five Days for a First Visit – I get asked this question a lot: How long should we plan to spend at Walt Disney World. I think a day per park if traveling with little ones is a good start (with an extra day in the middle to relax and hang out at the resort pool). Things at Walt Disney World are far apart – lots of walking is involved. Climbing on and off of monorails, busses, and boats, plus the transport times, can make you tired all on its own. The Florida sun can be tough. The ideal trip means everyone has a great time, but goes home still wanting more. If you’re planning on being repeat visitors, add days as your children get older and can see and do more in a single day.
If you’re planning your first vacation to Walt Disney World, shout on out! We’re here to help if you have any questions. What kinds of plans are you making and what are you looking forward to the most?
Until next time…Darlin’ Diva.