Its name is famous. Its rides are endless. And you’re finally, finally taking the kids to the one place they’ve been talking about for the past five years: Disney World.
Booked the tickets already? Fabulous. Found the hotel? Amazing. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re well on your way to creating unforgettable memories for the whole family.
But before you kick back and think you’ve got everything in the bag, make sure you’re following these five Disney World travel tips to make it the best experience it can be – while still keeping a hold on your sanity.
1. Don’t underestimate Disney World’s complexity.
Were you thinking you could wing it, show up and grab a map and just find your way around? Meander? Leave the details of your trip to the unexpected wonder of fate?
Well, think again.
Disney World is huge. I mean, huge. If you’ve never been there, chances are you don’t quite appreciate its hugeness. According to Walt Disney World News, the entire park takes up almost an entire forty square miles. They say that’s the same as Manhattan island… twice. That’s a lot of amusement park.
And chances are you weren’t planning on just winging your trip, anyway, but be sure to research the different areas within Disney World and the attractions each of them has to offer. That way you won’t come home and realize you (or your loved one) totally missed out on a really cool part of the park.
You can find the map here, where you can explore the Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and everything else the place has to offer.
Make a game plan, but a loose one. Don’t forget to leave room for flexibility.
2. Get the mobile app.
Once you’ve figured out the spots you want to see, look into the average wait time for rides by getting the My Disney Experience app. You may think you can fit 10 different rides into a single morning, but you could be overlooking wait times of a half an hour or more.
The mobile app is also a good way to maneuver the park, make reservations, find where Disney characters will be, and look into purchasing FastPasses. All right there on your cell phone! You will have everything you need to know about Disney World tucked into your pocket, and you won’t have to worry about cumbersome maps or guide books.
3. Prepare your kids in case they get lost.
Not everyone that goes to Disney World is taking kids with them, but this advice can apply to you and whoever else is on the trip.
With so many reservations to make and transportation to figure out, it’s easy to lose track of what it will be like actually being inside the park. There will probably be a lot of people with their own crying children, making lots of noise and being very distracting. It’s not so hard to lose track of each other in that kind of crowd.
If your kids can’t find you, make sure they know to look for people who clearly work at the park. They can go to any restaurant or storefront and ask for help. Just keep the plan simple so that your kids remember it.
And make sure they know not to panic. They certainly won’t be the first child to lose their parents at Disney World.
4. Bring extra cash – more than you think you need.
Look, Disney World isn’t cheap. And with all the money you’re already spending on food, lodging, and airfare, you might be reluctant to spend on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.
Once you’re inside the park, however, your kids will see the cute dolphin stuffed animal or the cotton candy treat or the picture from on top of the roller coaster, and they’ll want that souvenir. You shouldn’t give them everything they ask for, of course, but the whole point of Disney World is to have an incredibly fun time, so you might find yourself giving in to some of your kid’s superfluous desires.
That’s why you should plan ahead on needing more than your initial budget calls for. If you can, try to save a little extra for those unexpected moments.
Set out a “Disney jar” for the whole family to contribute to with extra change or a few bills here and there. It will get your kids excited, and you’ll be happy you have it when the time comes.
5. Know that something will go wrong.
A Disney World vacation can sometimes feel like a lot of pressure for perfection. Beware of this instinct, because if you work too hard at controlling every aspect of the trip you might find yourself breaking down at the first thing to go wrong.
And believe me, something will go wrong.
Mishaps are a part of every travel experience, along with family quarrels. But leave the meltdowns to your kids. If you let things roll off your shoulders instead and learn to go with the flow, your kids are more likely to mirror that attitude.
We already established that planning is important. But don’t forget that enjoying yourself is more important. Try to relax, to push worries aside, and appreciate what all of your hard work has accomplished.
It’s not every day you get to go to Disney World, so enjoy it while it lasts!