- Go early! The parks open around 9. Sometimes there are “magic hours” and they are open earlier or later an extra hour. When you get a head start you will avoid some crowds and the heat. It is tempting to sleep in on vacation, but if your kids are anything like ours, they will be up EARLY. It will take some time getting out the door and to the park. Depending on where you stay, I’d allow around an hour. If you are buying tickets at the gate, it will take an extra 10-15 min. It’s nice to get those pictures in front of the castle before it’s super busy and you are all sweaty and tired.
2. Take a break mid-day. I know some people power through nap time. I think this is a decision you have to make based on your own kids. One day we left the park around 3 to go back to our camper at Fort Wilderness to nap. Another day we let the kids nap in the stroller. We ate lunch on the earlier side and then we were ready for a break in the afternoon. If you want to avoid a toddler meltdown, then take some kind of break! I know it seems like you want to get your money’s worth, but if your kids are miserable then you will be too!
3. Pack meals and snacks. Disney World lets you bring a cooler and food into the park! This is amazing! We would eat breakfast at the camper and I’d pack snacks and a lunch. This saved tons of money!! Food lines were long even just for drinks or snacks so it also saved time. There is also mobile ordering at Disney restaurants but it can still take close to an hour to get your food. We just wanted to make the best use of our time and waiting at a restaurant wasn’t ideal. We did splurge on a few things in the park- Dole Whip..yes please!
4. Use fast passes. This can get confusing, but it really is a time saver and worth the time and energy! You get three fast passes for the day. You can reserve them very early before your trip so go ahead and book your favorites! Not all of the rides allow you to use a fast pass. I suggest booking them early in the day. As soon as you use all three of the fast passes then you can book one more. Use that one and then you can book another. It was very helpful! I booked my passes for first thing in the morning. The only ride that we ended up waiting a while for was Peter Pan. I think we waited an hour and a half. Everything else was no more than 30 minutes. Sometimes we walked straight through to the ride!
5. Rider Swap! I felt like I was part of some secret Disney club once someone told me about it. If your baby is too small to go on a ride or asleep, then your spouse can go through the line and ride with your toddler. Then you can swap and you can take your toddler back through the ride and go through the fast pass line. You have to tell the cast member at the beginning of the line and they will give you a rider swap ticket. Just make sure it’s a ride your toddler wants to do twice! I got a rider swap ticket for Buzz Lightyear and Amelia didn’t really like it! Oops!
6. Buy souvenirs before you go! You can pick up some Mickey and Minnie treats at the Dollar Store or Wal-Mart before you leave for vacation. Give your toddler a souvenir the morning of Disney or at the beginning of the trip. This helps save a lot of money!
7. Strollers I think a stroller is a no-brainer with a baby and toddler. I know once kids get a little bit older is when it’s questionable. I found that it was so nice to have one to hold all our STUFF (especially if you are packing food). Since we drove to Disney we decided to bring our own double stroller. There are options for renting strollers at Disney. They can even have strollers delivered to your room if you are staying at a resort. If you are on the fence about bringing a stroller then I’d say rent one. You should know that you can not take strollers through the ride lines. This is a pain, but understandable. There is stroller parking everywhere. It is VERY organized. We were impressed. There are cast members in the park that do nothing but organize strollers in parking areas. (And believe me it was necessary!) Disney goes above and beyond to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience.
8. Extra clothes and shoes There are many water rides and always chance of rain in Orlando. This may seem excessive to pack, but I would rather be prepared! We did not end up needing them but I think if we had a dinner reservation in the park or stayed later for another event we probably would have used it. I would definitely bring ponchos and a cover for your stroller.
9. Use the My Disney Experience App! We used this ALL day long! Our fast passes were through the app. It was also super easy to locate restaurants and bathrooms. The best part was the app would tell us wait times for rides. We wouldn’t have to walk across the park to find out Cinderella had a 80 minute wait!
10. Have fun! This is what every kid dreams of! You are making forever memories so try to go with the flow and enjoy it! All our two year old can talk about is going back! We loved our trip and hope you have the best time!