We love Disney! Mostly we love Disney because our kids love Disney. We have been to both Disneyland and Disneyworld many times and have even had the yearly passes. Some parents are hesitant to take their kids because they worry they are too young or the crowds will be a nightmare. Some have tried Disney and had a bad experience. The most common complaint was that they waited in lines all day and only rode a few rides. Through all our trips to Disney, we have learned a few things about what to do and not to do to ensure a fun trip for kids and parents!
With Disneyworld announcing their reopening on July 11th, It’s time to get excited about planning a Disney Trip! Coronavirus regulations have forced Disney to control crowd size and create room for social distancing. Please note that currently, Disney is only allowing Passholders and those who already had purchased tickets to enter the park when opening in July, but will soon open to everyone else.
What Age should you take your child?
A common misconception is that my child is too young to go to Disneyworld. They aren’t. Most rides are geared towards families and even infants can ride. The lights, colors, and music are fascinating to children under 1 and toddlers (Plus they are free!) We have a tradition in our family that the year someone turns 3 we take a trip to Disney. They will not remember it, but the look and amazement on their faces as they see their favorite characters is worth every penny! As they grow older they may start to understand that this isn’t the REAL Peter Pan or Ariel, but they still LOVE seeing them. They enjoy the rides more and now will remember their trip. There is no age that is too young or too old for Disney!
The All-Important FastPass
Kids hate lines! And you will hate lines too if you are trying to keep your kids entertained in them! Some lines can be 2-3 hours long! That’s a no go for us. Fortunately, Disney created the FastPass that allows you to join a line with only a limited number of people per hour. This is free service to each guest, but you are limited to how many or how often you receive them. Disneyworld and Disneyland each do their fast pass differently so I will go into each specifically.
Disney World FastPass +
Disney World’s FastPass+ program allows you to reserve your rides before your trip. If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can reserve your fast passes up to 60 days before your trip. For everyone else, they are opened up 30 days before the trip. It’s important to reserve the very first day you can as the most popular rides and times go first. We have never had a problem getting the rides we wanted when we reserved 30 days in advance. The best time to schedule your fast passes is the afternoon unless your plan to leave the park and come back. I will explain why later.
The benefit of the Disney World option is that you can plan right from your phone ahead of time without an additional cost. The downside is that you are limited to reserving 3 passes before the day of your trip. You may be able to obtain more at the kiosks on-site if any are still available the day of.
Disneyland FastPass and FastPass Max
Disneyland’s fast pass program only works the day of the visit. Each hour you are allowed to go to a fast pass kiosk and order more tickets. For an extra $20 per ticket, you can get the MaxPass. This allows you to reserve your fast passes from the Disney app. This saves you the hassle and frustration of someone having to leave and miss out on a ride each hour as they hurry to obtain the next FastPass.
The benefit of the Disneyland option is that you can have FastPasses all day long. The downside is that you will either have someone miss out on a ride per hour as they chase around the park for the next fast pass or have to pay extra money for the MaxPass. For our family, this is an added expense of $120 per day.
Planning the Day
To have a fantastic Disney experience go when the park opens! Even if you are not a morning person, (I am not!) It’s worth it to be one on a Disney day!
The early hours are the best time for rides! The park is not full yet and many rides have a wait time of 5-10 minutes! Make sure you have the Disney app with ride wait times. We like to hurry and get on as many as possible before the park fills up. Instead of eating at a Disney restaurant, eat a quick meal before you go or bring something to eat while walking (This is also cost-effective.) For those staying at the resorts, they are allowed on the property an hour earlier than other guests.
This is the filler part of the day. By the afternoon the park is full. The wait time for rides will make you and your kids go crazy! This is the perfect time to have scheduled your FastPass options. This is also a great time to have a good sit down meal, ride the least favorite rides such as the carousel of progress or people mover,(these rides never have a wait time and may help a child needing a nap to nod off,) take a tour of Tom Sawyer’s adventure Island, watch parades and shows, or even leave the park for a nap!
The tragic part for many families with young kids is that even though the evening hours at Disney are the most magical, the kids are so exhausted that they will be too tired to enjoy it and many families eventually give up and go home before the magic even starts! If you are staying close to the Disney parks and have young children, consider leaving during the afternoon busy hours. This can give your children and you a break during the chaotic hours and be able to come back refreshed for the magic!
*Some days and weeks are much busier than others. There are great sites to check for crowds such as https://www.isitpacked.com/disneyland-crowd-forecast-predictor-calendar/. Spring break, Summer, Christmas and Thanksgiving are usually the busiest times of the year, while January, February, September, and early November and December are some of the best! Some days of the week are busier than others. Disney World Magic Kingdom is busiest on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, while at Disneyland weekends and their low fare days tend to be busiest in the week.
*ALWAYS bring a stroller! Even if your kids don’t normally use a stroller, you will be walking several miles and they will be exhausted. Disney has strollers to rent, but they are expensive.
*Disney allows outside food. Packing your meals can save you a lot of money! Even if you plan to eat a meal or two at the park, it’s a good idea to pack a few snacks!
*Consider a Resort, vacation home, or hotel that is near the gate entrance to allow for breaks during the day.
* If you are doing more than 1 day of Disney, consider breaking it up in the week. One year we chose to buy a 5-day pass for the week. Our kids LOVED the first day. They were less enthusiastic by day 2 and on day 3 our mickey obsessed 3 yr old begged, “Mommy, can we not see Mickey today?” They were exhausted and it wasn’t even fun for them anymore. If you will be in the area for the week, take a break and have some down days so they are refreshed for another marathon day.
*Find rental properties that bring in the Disney experience. We have tried all types of lodging near Disney. Our personal favorites are Disney themed vacation homes. Here is a link to our top 3 picks just 5 miles from the Disneyworld entrance! These rentals have a private pool, themed rooms, full kitchens, activities for adults, and most importantly toys for kids! They are most cost effective and fun when enjoyed in large groups of family or friends! Being in a hotel room is boring for a child, and adults during naptime and bedtime, but these homes let everyone enjoy the Disney magic even when they are not at the parks. Kids can play while parents relax. At bedtime, parents can enjoy the hot tub, pools, or have a movie night! These houses also contain strollers, ponchos, etc. for your Disney days.
*Don’t skip the parade! Even though the crowds look enormous, our kids’ most magical moments were watching their favorite characters glide through the parade (Sometimes they even wave at my kids!)
*If you have already stayed a night to see the fireworks, consider going on the rides the next time the fireworks take place. Ride wait time goes way down during this time.
*Wear comfortable shoes!
*If rain is a possibility, bring a poncho. Disney has them, but they are expensive!
I hope this list is helpful to ensure your Disney Vacation is absolutely Magical! Happy Travels!