Sunday, February 2, 2014

7 Tips for an Extra-Magical Disney World Vacation

My family and I spent last week at Disney World.  It was our first real family vacation and definitely the best trip I’ve ever been on.  At ages 4 and 5, it was the perfect time for our kids to experience Disney for the first time.  They were old enough to really get into it and still young enough to believe in all the magic that Disney holds.

I’m lucky enough to have a bonafide Disney Nerd for a friend.  We spent our time at the Disney Parks with her and her family and she was so was hugely helpful while we were planning our trip.  We followed her advice and stayed on Disney property, had the Disney Dining Plan and took advantage of the FastPass+ program.  Because of that, we had a worry-free, no cash needed trip.  We shared most of our meals with Disney characters and we were able to breeze past the line-ups for all the rides that we wanted to go on.  We would have had no idea about any of that stuff had I not consulted her at the very beginning of my planning.  If you’re planning your own first-time trip to Disney World, my advice to you is to find yourself a Disney Nerd to help you out.*
Knowing all about the Disney resorts and dining plans are certainly important things to know before you go, but there were a few other things I learned last week that I thought might also be helpful advice for someone planning a trip to Disney World with small kids.  So, here it is, my 7 Tips for an Extra-Magical Disney World Vacation:
  1. Rent a stroller
    It doesn’t matter that your kids don’t use a stroller when you’re at home.  My kids don’t either but, trust me on this one, you’re going to use it.  There is a lot of area to cover and the stroller just made everything so much easier.  We stayed out late a couple of nights to see the fireworks and the kids fell asleep in the stroller as we headed back to the bus.  It was an easy transfer from the stroller to the bed on those nights and again, it just made everything so much easier.  We also had a couple of rainy days while we were there so the rain-cover on the stroller certainly came in handy.

  2. Pack in Ziplocks.
    I learned this sweet little tip from Pinterest.  Packing complete outfits for each day in Ziplock bags made me feel so organized before we left and they were pretty great to have while we were there.  I just tossed each kid their bag at the beginning of the day and they got themselves dressed and ready to go.  Since I knew which parks we would be visiting each day, my daughter had her Belle t-shirt for a day in the Magic Kingdom, my son was in his Star Wars t-shirt while we were in Hollywood Studios and so on.  Each day’s outfit was perfectly planned ahead of time, which turned out to be really fun.

  3.  Get your glowy things at the Dollar Store before you go.
    I spent $5 on glow bracelets, butterflies and swords before we left and it was probably the smartest $5 I may have ever spent.  The kids loved them when we were out after dark and we didn’t have to spend a fortune on the over-priced Disney light-up junk.

  4. Start collecting Disney swag long before you leave.
    As soon as you decide you’re going to go to Disney, keep an eye on any sales and clearance items.  Just after Halloween is a perfect time to pick-up any Disney character costumes at a great price - my kids loved wearing their costumes while we were in the parks.  My local Disney Store was closing for renovations the week before we left and they were selling a lot of their stock at crazy clearance prices.  I was able to pick up a bunch of stuffies at just $3-$5 each.  We secretly packed them in a suitcase and had them waiting in our room each night when we arrived back at the hotel.  They kids didn’t ask for anything while we were there.  We spent $20 for each kid on Build-Your-Own Light Sabres (which was more for my husband than for them), and that was it for the whole week.  

  5. Don’t play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom unless you have plenty of hours to kill.
    My son saw this interactive game highlighted on the bus from the airport to our resort and didn’t stop talking about it until we went to Magic Kingdom.  It’s a fun game that takes you all over the park to find secret portals and use spell cards to defeat the villiains.  Like I said, it’s fun but we spent 3.5 hours playing it over two days and it still wasn’t finished.  My son loved every minute of it and could have kept going for hours more, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.  It’s just a lot of time spent on one thing when there is so much to see and do.
  6. The food all week long was awesome.  Not one complaint on any of the meals we enjoyed at any of the parks or resorts.  The best food though, in my opinion, was found at Epcot.  We had an amazing lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway (and were joined there by Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White and Ariel), which I would highly recommend but the best food and meal experience of the whole trip was at Biergarten Restaurant in Germany.  It was so good that we went there for dinner twice.  The German buffet was deliciously filled with sausage, sauerkraut, schnitzel, spatzel, strudel,  and plenty of other German fare all while a live band entertained with polkas, waltzes and, of course, the Chicken Dance.  The kids gobbled up their food and then made their way to the dance floor for two unforgettable nights of fun.

  7. Look out for people not looking where they're walking.
    Seriously, they were everywhere.  People of all ages looking one way and walking another, right into our stroller.  We experienced this several times a day.
Our trip was so amazingly fun that I’m saving all my dollars so we can go back next year.  I want to go again while they are still the perfect age for it.  I know they’ll have fun as they get older too, but there was something about this age that just added to the magic of it all.  I can’t wait to start my planning all over again.
*If you can’t find an official Disney Nerd, I would be happy to share all I know about staying on Disney property, the Disney Dining Plan and FastPass+.  I’m by no means an expert, but definitely learned a thing or two last week.  

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