My last visit to Disney World was for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party a few years ago, just a couple of moms with one toddler each. This time around, visiting the theme park was a whole different ball game. My own family had expanded by one and this time my in-laws were joining as well. In total, we had 6 adults, two teenagers, a 6-year-old and two toddlers. I thought our trip would end up a logistics nightmare but quickly realized that whether you’re a party of four or a party of 11, the planning goal is essentially the same: keep the toddlers from melting down.
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Use the App
Be sure to download the mydisneyexperience app. With it, you have the park at your finger tips with tools like:
- Set your Fastpass times
- View a map of the park
- Check attraction wait times
- Get directions to your next ride
- Find dining options, events, restrooms and baby centers
The most useful feature we think is being able to set your Fastpasses directly with the app instead of having to visit the kiosks. If your tickets have already been purchased, you can make up to 3 Fastpass reservations up to 30 days in advance. Once your three Fastpasses are used, you can set one new Fastpass at a time per ticket.
Tip: You only need to make Fastpass reservations for those with tickets. Children under 2 ride for free.
For example, lets say you set up FastPass reservations for Toy Story Mania from 9-10AM, Tower of Terror from 10AM-11AM and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride from 11AM to Noon. You must wait until your Mine Train pass is either used OR expired, whichever comes first. Once that happens, then you can make one Fastpass reservation at a time from that point on. That reservation must be used or expired before you can set another – and so on.
Bring the stroller.
Even if you haven’t touched your stroller since your last family vacation and you think that your kid is old enough to walk the parks, they aren’t. Excitement, the Florida heat and long hours at the park will wear your kiddo down faster than normal. Those little legs can only do so much and at some point your kid is going to absolutely lose control. It’s not their fault. Refer back to heat + excitement + long hours. So take the stroller! It offers the kids a break, some shade and is also great storage for souvenirs, the backpack and extra gear.
Pack a backpack.
Disney World trips are not the time for diaper bags or cute satchels. Pack a serious, utility backpack with multiple pockets and sections. The more pockets the better, since it will allow you to stay organized and avoid searching the dark recesses of the bag for small items like hand sanitizer, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Pack Smart. Now isn’t the time to skimp on necessities but it’s not crucial to bring a lot of extra baggage either. For our one year old and six year old we packed the following:
- Enough diapers for about 10 hours plus one extra.
- A package of wipes (you will use this for far more than just wiping bums!)
- SPF 50 sunscreen
- A change of outfit for the baby and an extra t-shirt for my six year old.
- Sunglasses for all.
- Hats for the kids.
- A few band-aids
Bring snacks & beverages.
Disney is great about offering a variety of food items throughout the park. In fact, we ate most meals there. However, kids aren’t always hungry when it’s time to eat and they inevitably end up “starving” in the middle of a very long line. Which is why it’s so awesome that Disney allows guests to bring in food and beverage items with few exceptions (ie glass containers). We like to pack the following in a small cooler:
- Gatorade and water in bottles (one per person and we then refilled them as needed using water fountains)
- Snack items such as crackers, granola bars, cold PB & J sandwiches, and fruit chews
These items are perfect because they could make a meal by combining everything together, or individually serve as a quick snack to tide us over until lunch or dinner. Bringing these saved us money, time and prevented a meltdown or two.
When it does come time to eat your meal, consider eating a little early to beat the lunch rush. Some eateries get very crowded and it’s hard to find a place to sit. Bonus, while everyone else is busy eating during the regular lunch/dinner times, wait times for the really popular rides drop!
Set a loose plan for the day.
Between wait times, crowds and kids, trying to follow a strict itinerary is actually going to make life more stressful. Instead, use the Disney Experience App to determine which rides are on your “must do” lists, check height requirements and get an idea of where you need to be when its time to use your Fastpasses. By planning ahead and knowing which rides we wanted to do, we actually realized we could skip one whole section of Magic Kingdom and ruled out a few rides that the kids weren’t tall enough for.
Realize that kids and adults alike both have limits. Chances are, you won’t get to see and do everything on your lists and that’s okay. What’s really important is enjoying the moments you have together and the memories you’re making.