It’s still winter in Ohio. The holidays have come and gone and yet spring is so, so far away. I’m starting to dream about summer vacation and escaping to somewhere warm. Maybe you are too?
If you’re a family like us then perhaps you’re considering a trip to Disney World some time in the future. We took our kids to Disney World for their first trip this past Christmas break. It was an amazing trip for us all, one that we spent some time planning. We learned a lot in the planning process and on our trip and I’m sharing my 8 tips for how to have a great first trip to Disney World with your kids.
Tip 1: Go during an off-peak time of year. You may not have much choice in this based on your work schedule or your kids’ school schedules but if you do have some choice then do your research. Online you can find information about room rates, crowd levels, and special events. Room rates at the resorts vary throughout the year so if you can go during one of those off-peak times then you can save some money and avoid some of the crowds. If you do have to go during one of those busy times then you can still have a great trip. We loved our trip at Christmas (the busiest time). We just knew going in that we were going to have to have a little extra patience for the big crowds.
Tip 2: Stay on property. You can stay off-property or on-property. The convenience of the Disney transportation and the perks like extra magic hours make it well worth it to me. When staying on property Disney provides you with transportation to all of their parks and Disney Springs. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge on our last trip and early on Christmas morning I took my sister to the airport. On my way back to Wilderness Lodge I had to drive past the gates and parking lot for the Magic Kingdom. At 6 AM there was already a line to get into the park. Now, Christmas Day is the busiest of the year so it’s not always like that but I feel that driving in from an off-property hotel, having to park, take a shuttle, then take the boat or monorail over is just a big hassle.
Tip 3: Take the stroller. If you have older kids clearly this doesn’t apply. But if you’ve got a kid under the age of 5 then take the stroller. Even if your child doesn’t use it any more at home, you should still take it. Our 3 year old really had not ridden in the stroller for some time before the trip but I liked having it on this trip. One day going back to Magic Kingdom he fell asleep on me on the boat and when we got there I could lay him in the stroller and not have to carry him. Your kids will wear themselves out with all the walking so the stroller will come in handy. I will also say that it’s nice for times like when it gets really crowded and you can put your kid in there and not have to worry about your child getting lost. They do have strollers there for rent at each of the parks if you do not wish to bring your own from home.
Tip 4: Bring some trinkets. Ahead of our trip my sister-in-law recommended that I bring my kids some Disney toys and trinkets to cut back on the amount we would spend on souvenirs. We did let our kids pick out a few souvenirs that they adore but I also brought some little surprises from home. Each morning they woke up to a little something. I had gotten them some Mickey Mouse Club pajamas, shirts, a few small toys, and some stuffed animals ahead of time and they loved it.
Tip 5: Bring a big bag and a little bag. Here’s where the stroller comes in handy. Take your bigger bag (like a book bag) and put non-valuables in it. This is where you stow a change of clothes for your little ones, the sunscreen, ponchos, etc. Keep the bigger bag in the stroller. You can park your stroller somewhere when you’re busy and no one will bother it. Then keep your wallet and phone in a small bag that you can wear on the rides. This way your valuables are safe and you have everything you could need but you’re not lugging around a big bag.
Tip 6: Research and plan out your park times. Do some homework and figure out what attractions your kids would be interested in. This will help you decide where to spend your time. Don’t feel like you need to make a strict schedule or anything but figure out what you want to do so you can make some fastpass reservations for a few things, meaning you can skip some lines.
Tip 7: Build some rest time into your schedule. There is so much to do that it’s tempting to just go go go. But take some time to enjoy the pool at your resort and rest. You will all need a little down time.
Tip 8: Be sensitive and flexible. My son didn’t want to meet Buzz Lightyear at first. The big costumed characters freaked him out a little but later that same day he gladly met a different character. Disney World can be a little overwhelming for kids. There’s a lot going on and it’s hard to tell how they will react. So just be ready for your over-excited, over-stimulated, over-tired kids to get overwhelmed and need a break at some time. Little breaks will help everyone have a more enjoyable, relaxed trip.