I’ve been meaning to write this since I got back but here are my top tips for holidaying at Disney World and staying sane!
1. Drink lots and lots of water. Take it to the park with you as it gets very expensive, or refill from the water fountains dotted around the park. Florida is very hot especially in the summer months and you and your little ones will need all the fluid you can get.
2. Either go for 9am and leave at lunchtime for some pool time and food, have the afternoon off, a nap and go back for the evening festivites. Or if you have older children go mid afternoon and stay through to the evening. Either way it saves you and your family getting burn out and over exposed to the sun.
3. Set a daily budget for your children for how much they can spend, preferably saved from their own pocket money before they go. Disney merchandising is like crack for children under the age of 12 even for Miss L who had no interest in Disney at all before we went!. We gave her a $5 (£2.50) a day budget saved from her own money. She could then buy whatever plastic rubbish she wanted. Once it was gone, it was gone. She soon learnt that if she wanted something bigger like a cuddly toy then she had to merge days and not buy anything. It saves on arguments and the ‘I wants’ if the rules are set from the beginning.
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE SHOPS AT DISNEY AND PESTER POWER!
4. If you go to the parks in the morning, grab a map at the entrance and walk straight to the back of the park. 80% of people go for what’s straight in front of them so it takes a good couple of hours for them to reach the far side of the parks. It’ll give you plenty of time to explore and have fun without the crowds.
5. If you forget your camera or want a group shot take advantage of the Disney Photo Pass which gives you access to a professional photographer who’ll take photos of you and your family and then post them to a private account online for you. You can make up photobooks etc when you get home from them. I think they are a little on the expensive side, but you are paying for professional photos and they are of a good quality. But it’s for more of a treat or an emergency IMHO.
6. Read online reviews of the park restaurants and then book reservations in advance. We lost out on going to several restaurants because we hadn’t booked. The Canadian Restaurant in Epcot was booked solid for 2 weeks straight!
7. Fast Pass system, it was amazingly good years ago but this trip it just seemed broken. On some rides it worked really well (Soarin’ – 2 hour stand in line wait or Fast Pass come back in 3 hours – a no brainer) But the Peter Pan ride seemed to ‘sell out’ and the time to attend the ride moved to the evening by 10am. And you can only have one fast pass on the go at once, so don’t depend on it you will have to do some queuing.
8. It rains in Florida and when it rains, it rains a *lot* especially in the summer months. Expect to get wet and hot!
9. Take lots of breaks, sit down enjoy the view and people watch. It makes you less grouchy and gives you time to just step out of the rush
10. If you’re taking babies and toddlers, make sure you have something to mist them with or protect them from the sun, I saw so many distressed toddlers and babies there due to the heat. However if you are taking a baby there are great facilities buggy rentals (I’d probably take my own lightweight one though) baby changing in virtually all the bathrooms, and breastfeeding areas although I think it’s allowed in the park anywhere as long as you are discreet. I saw lots of women breastfeeding and it didn’t seem to be a problem.
11. Take a photo of where you have parked, seriously not as stupid as it sounds. Sometimes it’s hard to remember if you are in Pluto 49 or Goofy 20! Everyone else does it so you won’t feel silly. Oh and parking is $12 a day all day and you can transfer between parks either via the internal transport or by driving between them. But the parking ticket is good for the whole day at all the parks so remember to keep the ticket incase you go back.
12. If you want a photo or an autograph with a character check the park map the areas where they are and what times are clearly posted. They used to just wander about, but not anymore, it’s also much better orgainised and handled than at Disneyland Paris.
13. When the parades are on the queues for the rides drop substantially, so try and get on the big rides then.
Other than that dress light, wear and take lots of sunblock with you and have fun! 🙂