We’ve been to Disney three times with our daughter and though we aren’t experts we consider ourselves 3 time survivors! It really is the ideal trip for our family. My husband is quick to mention that it’s not a vacation for the adults. So true. But it’s worth it to see the look on your kid’s face. Priceless. We plan on having more relaxing vacations when we aren’t bringing the under 5 crowd. I’ve put together some Disney tips we’ve learned along the way:
Tip #1: Pre-order the photopass. If you buy it ahead of time, this entitles you to order the cd sent to you when your vacation ends and you can get the photos printed from anywhere. (And it’s 30% off ahead of time). We ended up with 120-150 pictures on this cd. It was great for large group shots, family shots, even a few of Avery that we weren’t able to get. The photo people are everywhere. You just give them your photo card after each photo. These guys aren’t experts and there is overuse of the flash for sure. As soon as you get your card, take a picture of the number on the back with your cell phone. That way if you lose the card you can still access the pics or get a new one printed. I am a photography hobbyist so I love taking my own photos but it’s nice to make sure someone else can get that hard-to-get-shot.
Tip #2: The best quick place to eat at Magic Kingdom – the bakery on mainstreet. They serve other items beyond baked goods and most of them are “healthy” in comparison to the rest of the park: carrots/celery sticks, sliced apples, yogurt/granola and my favorite the mozzarella/tomato/pesto sandwich. Most people don’t know this so it’s never crowded and it’s air-conditioned. IMO the best quick place to eat in Epcot w/ the “healthiest” food is in the Land in future world. Lots of variety and again yogurts, chicken/rice, noodles etc. If you are going to have access to car/grocery store you could pack a cooler and bring cheese sticks, snacks etc. We brought granola bars, Stretch Island Fruit strips, and cereal for snacks during the day; it was very helpful. I used resealable snack bags from this etsy store – easy to carry around the cereal.
Tip #3: Sit down restaurants are a nice way to get some air-conditioning; the food is pretty good too. In the Magic Kingdom, I really enjoyed the salad at Liberty Tree Tavern and the Plaza on Mainstreet makes a mean Rachel (it’s not on the menu but ask for it – if you like your Reuben’s with turkey). At Epcot I’ve eaten at the Coral Reef Restaurant. The group as a whole enjoyed their food; mine was a bit salty – but you can expect that from a low-sodium gal like me. We have not done a character breakfast, yet. If you want to see Mickey & the Princesses there is a “fastpass” to see them on mainstreet/Magic Kingdom. Many of the “princess” characters are at Epcot as well: Snow White is on almost every hour in Germany, Alice & Mary Poppins are in England (as well as Pooh and Tigger), and Aurora and Belle are in France. The indoor character greets have very little natural light – keep that in mind if you want a really nice shot!
Tip #4: Tomorrowland Tram. Do not underestimate this fantastic ride and a sure kid-pleaser. We simply rode this when we were tired and needed to rejuvenate. Be aware as my father-in-law can attest to – even though it’s slow moving you do need to move quickly into the car. It took him 3 tries to get in a tram. Other sure bets at Magic Kingdom with “never” a wait: Mickey’s Philharmonic, and Carousel of Progress – real cute and air conditioned.
Tip#5: Napping – If you are early risers you can do the parks early and go for a swim/nap in the pm. One day we did not make it out of Magic Kingdom. There is an outdoor – but covered eatery in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom that is currently not in service. We were able to go there and Avery took an hour nap – in her stroller. It was semi quiet and near restrooms. The place is called: Tomorrowland Terrace.
Tip #5: Wear shirts with sleeves covering the shoulder and bring hat/sunglasses. As the sun is beating down on you midday, your pale, white northeastern skin is taking a beating. My sunscreen tip is to strip down before applying sunscreen. Doing this before dressing is key. I then brought sun face sticks and sunscreen spray for legs and arms in the park – to re-apply. Be sure to check the EWG’s skindeep sunscreen guide.
Tip #6: Bring empty water bottles on the trip, BPA free ofcourse. Last year my husband developed kidney stones due to dehydration. That was an unpleasant trip home. This year we brought Nuun tablets. Since we drank a lot of liquids there was a lot of potty use. All the places were clean and well kept so that was a bonus. We brought an extra pair of underwear just in-case.
Tip #7: If you have non-swimmers bring a set of water wings. Though Avery takes lessons I was stunned she thought she could just jump in the pool at the hotel. I had a heart attack when she jumped in the 4ft deep end without me. Avery never wore water wings before but at a large pool I felt much safer knowing she had them on. And she wasn’t clinging to me every sec in the pool. On our third trip she used her inner tube to float around and she was much more conscious of the deep waters. She’s taking a boot camp style swim lesson this summer.
Tip #8: For hotels, we are by no means, Disney “pro’s.” On the most recent trip we stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside – moderate hotel on Disney property. I really enjoyed our stay there. The rooms were recently renovated (past few months) and the grounds were immaculately kept. We loved the main pool and after a few days we figured out the food situation – what were the healthier choices – we mostly had breakfast there and I think one lunch/dinner. I would not hesitate to stay again! Previously we stayed at the Dolphin/Swan while technically not a “Disney” hotel, it’s on the Epcot property. There are several eateries and while 3 of them are mostly kid friendly (Dolphin side) they will set you back some $$$. We ate mostly cereal and fruit in the morning so the café was perfect for us. Twice we splurged for the buffet since there were mickey waffles. And you gotta do it once. On the days we stayed pool side, again we did the café and Scott and I split a sandwich – they were huge. From Dolphin/Swan you can walk to Epcot or take the ferry and go in the back entrance (very cool). We stood near the entrance to watch the light show at night and it was so easy to leave when we were done. There are shuttle buses to Magic Kingdom. You can imagine sometimes there is a long(er) wait. This never bothered us since it gets you to MK door to door. But if you have reservations for a character breakfast – this can be hairy. We’ve witnessed adult meltdowns. True story. The previous year we stayed off property. And while a suite was super nice – it was a nightmare to get to the parks. Nightmare. Drive car to parking lot of ticket center. Unload stroller. Get on tram w/ stroller and kid. Get off tram and walk to ferry or monorail. Fold up stroller. Ride monorail. Open stroller again. You get the picture. It was approx an hour time frame to get to MK.
Tip #9: Wear sneakers. Sure, no one likes a farmers tan. But picture me with flip flops throwing the camera and stroller in the bushes while my kid takes off down the crowded Disney path, all the while laughing (Avery, not me). And no, bystanders were not laughing. I saw mostly people shaking their heads, been there done that. Scott was standing in line for lemonade. Lesson learned. This year I invested in some very comfy TEVA’s. Yes, I actually sprinted around the store in them to try them out.
Tip #10: We brought our umbrella stroller which had an arm strap; sometimes we used it, other times, Avery rode Scott’s shoulders. In lieu of renting one at the actual parks, a friend actually rented a stroller for $15 a day and they brought it to her hotel room! Perfect! There are stroller parking sections everywhere at Disney. We carried a nylon backpack to fit everything in and Scott mostly wore it (Hehe). It was so much easier to have your hands free.
Tip #11: Disney Dining Plan no go. I priced the differences before hand. There is no way we’d eat our worth per meal with the disney dining plan. We did it ala carte and we easily saved $200-300. The best was stocking up on Florida oranges in the morning to bring in the parks. A great refreshing treat midday. And the worst deal of all – the refillable mug. Absolutely the worst IMO. The only thing offered is soda and juice (and water) but who’s going to get the mug and get water? I saw kids drinking this for breakfast. I almost had a heart attack. Stay away from this. Buy lemons at the store and just drink water with lemon!
** This is not an inclusive list of tips, just things we’ve learned along the way. Enjoy your trip!!