These tips for planning a Disney World vacation with kids will help you have the best family vacation ever! And they may even help save your sanity and maybe even a little money.
My family was able to travel to Disney World as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. We were able to stay at a discounted rate. But we learned some things during our stay that helped make our vacation enjoyable for all of us and we found ways we could save some money too.
With spring break right around the corner, I am so wanting to plan a fun vacation with my kids. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a HUGE Disney fan. Living in AZ we have had the opportunity to visit Disneyland almost every year. Disneyland is always fun and I feel like we know the ins and outs pretty well. I never pass up a trip to Disneyland. However, being that we are in AZ, a Disney World Vacation doesn’t happen every year. In fact, the first time I ever went to Disney World was for my honeymoon. My husband knew how big a Disney geek I am and surprised me! It was so much fun that I couldn’t wait to go back when we had kids. (And I’d like to go back with out the kids sometime too! Haha!)
Technically you could say that I’ve been to Disney World 3 times now. The second time was for one day as a port of call on our Disney Cruise. Which is another trip I recommend everyone take at some point in their lives. But taking my 3 littles last year was a high light for sure! I researched and planned for the 6 weeks leading up to our trip so I had a plan of what we needed to do to get ready.
My first tip when planning your Disney World vacation would be to stay on property. There are so many amazing resorts to choose from when planning your trip. I have actually stayed in a value, moderate and deluxe resort. They all have their own themes and positives but they all have Disney Magic, so choose the one that fits your budget. You can also stay at two different resorts during your stay if you want. The resort will even move your luggage for you. Each resort is unique and fun to explore with the kids.
We planned our trip for 6 days. Half the week we stayed in one of the All Star Resorts. A budget resort that had a fun pool, a great food court and a comfortable bed. The second half of the trip we stayed at the Yacht Club. It really is a beautiful property. The pool was nice, there was a beach for night time movie watching and it was with in walking distance from Epcot. I took this picture early one morning when I was out for a fun run coming back from Epcot.
What makes staying on property a major plus when you are traveling with kids is the transportation between the resort and all the parks. You can also get transportation from the airport to your resort on the Magical Express. Make sure and book your reservations on the Magical Express at least 2 weeks before your vacation. They will send you luggage tags for you to put on all your checked luggage and you don’t have to pick up your luggage from baggage claim. Just head to the Magical Express to take you to your resort and your bags will be delivered to your room a few hours later. Take advantage of all that free transportation and not having to pay for parking everyday. Sometimes there is a bit of a wait time to catch the buses, but it’s a time to rest and plan your attack for the next park. Our kids usually would fall asleep. It’s a good idea to keep snacks handy so everyone will be happy on the ride. Just note that you have to fold up your strollers when you are riding on the bus.
Which brings me to my next tip. Strollers. I totally recommend a stroller. Even if your kids are older like my 4 and 6 year old. Now I didn’t want to drag my big double stroller through the air port with all our luggage. Plus they are big enough to stay with us and help carry their own luggage. But I knew at the parks they would get tired with all the walking and get cranky. Having a stroller helps little legs last longer so you can spend more time in the parks. I decided that instead of renting a stroller everyday at the park, I rented one from kingdomstrollers.com. I ordered it about 3 weeks before our trip and had it delivered to our resort the day we were arriving. We switched resorts half way through our trip and so I had them scheduled to pick up from the resort we were leaving from. Delivery and pick up went smoothly, the stroller was clean, it folded up super easy and it was a life saver. (I’m sure there are other places to rent strollers, this is just the one I found to use.)
Take a break during the day. Visit the pools at the resort. Staying in the parks all day can be a lot for little kids. In the afternoon when the parks are busy and it’s hot, head back to the resort and take a break. Let little ones nap while the big kids check out the resort or cool off at the pool. Our kids loved swimming at the pool. They probably could’ve just played at the pools all day and been fine.
Head back to the parks about dinner time after everyone has had a chance to rest. If you happen to be in the Magic Kingdom when it’s dark, make sure and check out the electric light parade. I think a kid on their dad’s shoulders watching the parade is what a day at Disney is all about. My kids love the parades. They love seeing their favorite characters and my girls can’t help but dance along to the music. So make sure and catch a parade, no matter the time of day. They will love it.
Now let’s talk Disney food. I LOVE Disney food. And there are so many options and fun foods to try. However, it can get a little expensive to pay for all meals and snacks or treats for your family. I have done 2 very different options when it comes to food at Disney World. When we went on our honeymoon we had a dining plan. I LOVED it! We just made sure we were sticking to our plan and we could choose different restaurants to eat at each day. When we traveled last year with the kids, I decided I wanted to only purchase one meal in the parks daily and then one treat for everyone. Since we would be staying on property with no way to get to a grocery store while we were there, I ordered food from gardengrocer.com. I went on-line about 4 weeks before our trip (the earlier you order, the more you can save on your order) and looked at the items they had so I could plan what my family would need while we were there. I ordered milk, bread, fruit, yogurt, a big case of bottled water and anything else that I knew I couldn’t bring in my luggage. The food was delivered to our resort the day we arrived. From home I brought peanut butter, plastic ziploc bags to put sandwiches into and some prepackaged cold cereal in bowls. We would have breakfast in our room before heading out to the parks and I would make sandwiches and pack fruit and snacks for our lunches. The case of bottled water was so nice to have. It was warm while we were there, so we used up that case of water. (I’m sure there are other options for grocery delivery to Disney resorts, but this is the one that I used.)
If you need diapers and wipes and don’t want to pack those, you could always order those to be sent to the resort too.
Here are some other basic tips to remember during your Disney World vacation. Make sure if you are thirsty and need a drink, your kids are drinking water too. My baby was 2 and there was one day I felt really bad because she looked so hot and tired and I realized I probably wasn’t giving her enough to drink. She was just too little to ask me to give her a drink. The next day though, I made sure she was drinking enough.
Also sunscreen. Make sure you are wearing it. Even coming from sunny AZ, we needed to do better at applying our sunscreen. You just forget when you are having fun in the parks.
If you plan your Disney World Vacation far enough in advance here are some things to remember. Walt Disney World now have magic bands that act as your ticket to the park, your room key and even your credit card for purchasing things inside the parks. They will send these to you before you leave home if there is enough time. You can choose the color for each member of your family. So everyone can have their favorite color and it will put their names on them. If you don’t have enough time, you can pick them up at the park and they will just be the basic grey. Either way, they will work just fine.
Along with those magic bands, you can go on-line and plan some of the rides and attractions you want to do while at the park. If there is a specific ride you know you want to make sure and do while there, reserve your fast passes before you ever leave your house! You can also make reservations for meals, character dining experiences and character meet and greets. We love doing at least one character dining experience while we are in the parks.
My daughter was so excited to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and it quickly became her favorite ride. Luckily we had fast passes because the wait was really long. For some of the fast passes, I had to check back several times a day to find fast pass times available that would work for us. But I was so glad I did. Moments like these make the trip so worth it!
Another purchase you might wan to make before you leave is the memory maker. If you’ve ever been to a Disney Park you know they have photographers all over the park ready to take your picture. Well the memory maker allows you to go on line once your trip is complete and download any of those pictures from your trip. That means less selfies, no more asking strangers to take your picture, and the whole family can be in the pictures together.
Plus you can get awesome pictures of your family riding the rides together. How else would we have captured moments like this?
As far as souvenirs go, at all the parks in Disney World you can have your purchase sent directly to the hotel so you don’t have to carry it around all day as you go from place to place. Just know that it takes time for them to send it over there. Make sure to check with the sales team at the time of purchase to verify there will be enough time for delivery to the resort. The resort will let you know where they keep in park purchases for you to pick up. And if you want to save some money on those souvenirs, shop for Disney items or glow in the dark items, before you leave and purchase them on sale and pack them as surprises for your kids while you are on your vacation. That may help them refrain from wanting everything they see at the parks.
I was really reluctant to travel with my kids on an airplane. My 2 older kids had flown before, and have done great. It was the baby that I was most concerned about. On the flight there, they all did great! I made sure they each had enough to do both on an electronic device or in their carry on back packs. I love these ideas for traveling with kids. Make sure all iPads, iPods and phones are charged and even bring those power packs for charging them on the plane. We had snacks, blankets and neck pillows. Also make sure and have gum or chewy candy for the altitude changes to help their ears. We had that problem with the baby on the flight home.
Make sure and pack all your important information, paper work, trip confirmations, birth certificates, plane tickets, magical express confirmation, money, credit cards, drivers licenses, magic bands or park tickets in your carry on. You don’t want to not have that when you are trying to get your family to your destination. If you are taking advantage of the magical express, you will probably not have access to your luggage right away. You will need your magic bands to check into your room at the resort. You may want to pack swim suits in your carry on if you want to take advantage of the pools before your luggage arrives too.
Now if you are one of those crazy moms like me, and likes for everyone to match when you’re on your Disney World Vacation, don’t forget all those matching outfits and shirts to wear at the parks each day! 😉
We had such a magical time at Walt Disney World. It really was a great family vacation that I hope we can do again sometime.
Planning a Disney World vacation takes just that, planning. Hopefully these tips will help you as you figure out all those details, so your family will have the most magical vacation possible!