In February we went on the Ultimate field trip to Disney World. I shocked a very organized friend of mine with the relative little preparation we made. We didn’t have reservations made for restaurants 3 months out. We didn’t make our fast pass reservations ahead of time. No, our organization was limited to reading a few guides ahead of time, and finding an awesome hotel to stay in.
Preparing yourself for a Disney World vacation ahead of time
I went by the library and checked out every book they had on Disney World published within the last few years. There was quite a variety of them, and to be quite honest most of them were not that useful. The official guide made every ride sound AWESOME, and strongly implied you needed to figure out how to use a fast pass every single time.
My favorite Disney World guide is the The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2016*. Buy this book or find it, whatever you need to do, get it. I found their advice to be generally spot on and helped figure out a lot of great details.
Next get your kids involved. This became a homeschool assignment for my kids, and as part of their writing they went through each of the different parks we would visit and wrote down the rides they most wanted to go on, shows to watch, and shops they wanted to visit. Each kid ranked their top 3 rides and or shows they wanted to see at each park. There was a fair amount of overlap so everyone was virtually guaranteed to make their favorite ride.
You should also check out homeschooling at Disney World if you want to plan learning opportunities ahead of time.
Disney World tips: Things to buy before your vacation
As we planned our Disney World vacation Jeff and I knew a couple of things: our kids need/want to eat often; they like to get souvenirs, but don’t want to carry them; snacks and drinks at Disney World are expensive. So we planned for those.
Snacks for Disney World:
Little known fact, but you can bring food within reason to Disney World. They don’t let you bring a cooler full of food, but you can stuff your purse or backpack full of snacks. We chose to bring lots of protein bars with us in all sorts of flavors so we didn’t tire of eating them.
Backpack/purse for Disney World:
We knew if the kids had a backpack there was a very good chance they would take it off and forget it, or they’d stuff it so full of things they don’t need it would be too heavy for them. Instead I made each of them a small belt pouch. It was the perfect size to hold their wallet, a small water bottle, and 3 protein bars. Jeff and I each had a backpack we kept several protein bars in, along with our wallets, and a few helpful things. Because we went to Disney World during February when it frequently rains we picked up a couple of slickers to pack away that we used once or twice during the week.
Souvenirs for Disney World
Since our kids knew about 2 months beforehand they had that entire time to work and save money for the trip. They’d each earned at least $40 to spend. If you’re on a budget for souvenirs than you could pick up a toy offsite for a fun souvenir or you could go by Downtown Disney (a giant mall) and stop at the toy store there.
Throughout the different kingdoms they had various different penny presses that could make for a fun cheap souvenir, I got several of them I intend to make into a fun necklace. The kids were mostly responsible for their own souvenirs, but we did keep them in our backpack as we had to.
General tips for all of the Disney World parks
I’m going to write a complete post on each of the four main parks, but here’s a few tips that don’t matter which park you’re at.
- Pick your top 3 rides, head immediately to the one ride you must get on, that guarantees one of your rides will not have a long line. Try to get a fast pass for the other two.
- Anywhere that has a fountain drinks if you ask for a cup of water will give you a cup of ice water for free. That’s a quick easy way to refill your water bottle.
- Pick one place to eat for a sit down meal between 3-4:00. It won’t be too busy then, and it gives you a nice rest. Most places you can split the meal between two people. Do not order kids meals, they are not a good buy for the amount of food.
- You can change your fast pass while in the park using the Disney Experience app.
- Use the Disney Experience app to check wait times.
- Find out from your kids if they care about meeting Disney characters. My kids didn’t care one bit. So that aspect became instantly unimportant, however my friend’s daughter loved that, and would skip rides to meet another character.
- Take a picture of where you parked. Each aisle has a name or character and a number at the end of the day having the picture to refer to as you argue where you parked is a huge help.
For more great series go check out the iHomeschool Network hopscotch.
The rest of the posts in this series:
Disney World for the Unorganized Mom
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
All excellent advice. We did Disney a few years ago with as much organization as I could accomplish. With three special needs kids there was some organization required but not as much as some people do. I love the snack belt pack idea.
That would add in a few extra bits of organization, but you’re right I’m amazed sometimes with how much people organize beforehand.
We have used the snack belts a lot since I made them.
Natalie PlanetSmartyPants says
Great tips! It’s strange, but my daughter has 0 interest in visiting Disney Land even though almost everyone of her classmates has been there. She is asking to go again to Legoland. Perhaps next year!
My kids had mixed feelings on it, I think the boys liked Legoland better.
Natalie PlanetSmartyPants says
PS – I loved your homeschool assignment for kids, so clever and not at all boring.
They loved it too!
maryanne @ mama smiles says
I am not very intrigued by Disney, and nor are my kids. I think they would enjoy Legoland…
They’d probably love Legoland and they’re the perfect age for it because it’s not lots of big roller coasters, it’s perfect for younger kids.
I love Disney, it makes me happy just being there. Jeff on the other hand is rather indifferent to the place.