There’s no doubt: Disney World is a magical place. But with four theme parks (and two water parks) there’s no way you’ll be able to see everything. Accept that and move on—and consider these 10 tips that will make conquering this massive property a little bit easier.
1. Grab Multiday Tickets
Since there are four parks, a multiday ticket is a must. Determine how many of the parks you want to go to and add a day for each. Don’t bother spending the extra money for the park hopper add-on; you will want to spend sufficient time at each park. My suggestion is to do all four parks in four days. But don’t hesitate to insert rest days if your vacation allows for it.
2. Stay on Site and Factor in Transportation
Disney World is a huge place so it would probably be easier to stay on site. As a Disney hotel guest, you have access to complimentary transportation on the resort’s buses, ferryboats and the Monorail. It’s a good idea to create a plan of attack ahead of time, not only so you know if you need to make any connections to reach your destination, but also to figure out how long it will take you to get there.
3. Bring a Stroller
It may sound silly, but don’t head to Disney World (or any Disney park, really) without a stroller if you have little ones. Their feet will tire easily and they will be begging you to carry them. That will be a rough task while your own feet are aching. While they do have stroller rentals at the parks, they charge between $13 and $15 per day on top of a $100 credit card deposit. If you don’t want to lug a stroller all the way to Orlando, consider renting one from a local company called A Baby’s Best Friend. You can rent a stroller for $60 a week and they will deliver it right to your Disney hotel.
4. Take Advantage of FastPass+ and Rider Switch Passes
You can grab FastPasses at certain rides throughout the parks. Each pass lists a time to return and essentially cut in front of those waiting in the standby line. The newer FastPass+ system allows you to reserve the passes online before you go (if you’re staying at a Disney hotel). Getting as many of these as possible will ensure that you have shorter wait times and therefore less cranky kids. Another system helpful to families is the Rider Switch Pass. If there are rides that are a little too mature for your kids but you still want to ride them, have one adult ride first with the Rider Switch Pass and the second adult will be able to ride afterward without having to wait in line again.
5. Come Up with a Code Word
This is something my dad always did with my sister and I when we were little: before you get to the park, come up with a code word with your kids. Tell them that if you get separated from them for any reason, they aren’t to talk to or go anywhere with anyone that doesn’t know the code word unless they are in a Disney uniform. We had fun brainstorming over the word, and my dad could rest assured that we wouldn’t be tempted to leave with a stranger if we got separated. Safety is definitely important in such a huge, crowded spot.
6. Cool Off at Cinderella’s Royal Table
This tip kills three birds with one stone: eating lunch, getting out of the afternoon sun and mingling with Disney characters. Cinderella will welcome you and your family to this special dining event, located in the Magic Kingdom, before you ascend a spiral staircase. At the top, you will enter a banquet hall straight out of a fairytale with stone archways, stained-glass windows and plenty of little ones in ball gowns and tiaras. Lunch includes salad, cheese and dips before you choose an entrée and a dessert—and there are plenty of princesses to greet your kids.
7. Go On Major Rides During the Fireworks or Parades
If you’re not interested in seeing shows like the fireworks, parades or Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic!, that can be the ideal time to rush over to some of the major rides. Since crowds of people will be busy lining up to watch, the lines for attractions will be quite a bit shorter. Sometimes you can get on in five or ten minutes, if you time it right. (Use an app to help you see wait lines all over the park!)
8. …Or Watch The Fireworks From a Ride
If you do want to see the fireworks, but you don’t want to miss out on some perfect riding time, combine the two with Thunder Mountain Railroad. Seeing the fireworks light up the sky over the castle is magical, but seeing them from a roller coaster is a different experience entirely. Feel the cool wind in your hair as the rustic train flies over the rugged mountains and mines of an Old West town. It has a different emotion to it at night anyway, but when you combine the colorful bursts of fireworks in the sky above, your child will be in awe. It’s definitely a fun way to experience the Disney World fireworks show.
9. Send a Package to Your Hotel Ahead of Time
One thing that can make your child’s trip to Disney World especially memorable is sending a box of goodies to your hotel before you go. Hotel workers are eager to make children’s dreams come true—so arrange for different pre-sent treats to be delivered to your room each night, with notes from Mickey or their favorite Disney characters. You can even pick up treats in the park for the same purpose: Mickey-shaped cookies or Rice Krispies treats. No matter what the surprise is, your child will love it if only for the fact that it was “sent by” one of the characters they love.
10. Embrace Your Inner Child
Parents deserve to have just as much fun as children wandering the magical worlds of Disney. Embrace your inner child and get some Mickey (or a variety of other characters these days!) ears. They have cute hand band ears too, which make a good alternative to the hats. You can even get matching ears with your little one! Whatever you do, just make sure you are having a blast—it will improve your child’s time exponentially.