For a lot of us, a Walt Disney World vacation is a family affair. This could be a large family affair with your immediate family plus Grandma, Grandpa and old Uncle Orville or this could be an immediate family affair with just you and the kids. Either way, you will want to tailor your vacation and vacation planning to ensure that you are equipped to make the most of your vacation as a family. Here are a few tips that I put together to help ensure that you have the BEST family vacation:
1. Plan Together:
Ask family members of all ages what they look forward to most in their Disney vacation, and make sure this is included in the plans. It could be a particular character or attraction, pool time, shopping, etc. It’s important to get everyone’s input so that you can make sure there is something planned for each person. This planning can also be with other fun aspects of a Disney trip. Does your family do “Mousekeeping” envelopes to leave for your “Mousekeeper”? Maybe make these together and make a family night of it. Maybe make t-shirts for the trip together. They may not be perfect, but they are yours and lots of love went into them. Building anticipation for the trip together sets the tone for a fun, magical family trip!
2. Try a Special Event/Experience:
Families save and plan for Disney vacations and some of the special events and experiences can be costly, especially depending on the size of your family, but try to work one in that works for your family. This could be as simple as the free (yes, I said free) even that it done most nights at Fort Wilderness known as “Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long”. You can make s’mores over the campfire if you want (kits available for purchase at the location) or just join in the singing and fun around the campfire. It’s a nice break from the busy parks and a unique experience to enjoy with your family. You could also look at other events depending on what is available during your stay. There are cruises you can book, carriage rides, fishing, miniature golf, etc. Pick something that would suit your family’s interests and get a bonus experience that you can’t find in the parks.
3. Explore the Resorts:
Start with your own resort. Look around at the décor, the arcade, the views, etc. Spend time playing together in your pool or lounging. It is good to relax and take a break mid-vacation. The pools at Disney resorts are amazing and a lot of fun. A lot of them are almost like their own mini waterparks. Getting that chance to rest and still spend time as a family helps to make the busy park days less stressful for everyone. If your family is interested, take a trip to other resorts and explore what they have to offer. Pick a couple that seem interesting to your family and go explore. Maybe try to have lunch at one of the other resorts for a little different experience. You’re spending time together and getting to relax. It’s a win-win!
4. Character Dining:
All ages can enjoy character dining experiences, and it’s even more special as a family. This is also an opportunity to get pictures with the characters and autographs without waiting in the lines in the parks. You may have multiple people in your party who want to do different things, so this is an opportunity to get character interaction while you are dining, accomplishing two things at once. It’s a good use of time and creates memorable experiences. You tend to get more individual interaction and time with the characters at the dining experiences than you do in the parks where there is a line watching and waiting for their turn. A lot of these experiences are covered on the Disney Dining Plan or are buffets so you can budget a set price for them. We like to do a couple of these on our trips and they are an amazing time. Determine which characters you prefer to meet and choose your selection based on what characters are available!
5. Be Flexible:
I consider myself to be an over-planner. I could probably go through and plan what everyone is going to eat at each meal if I let myself, but I have learned that it’s better to leave some flexibility in our plans. It is good to allow room in your schedule for spontaneous moments or to go with the flow of the day. Planning 3 table-service reservations for one day can be pretty rough and leaves less room for going with the flow or deciding that a particular show looks really great, but times for other events make it hard to fit the show in. I do think that planning is important and should be done where it make sense, but just don’t plan every minute or even every hour of the day. Plan ahead for what park you will visit on a particular day, get fast pass+ lined up and schedule a dining experience. Then go with it. You don’t have to plan which attractions you will do in exactly what order. It would almost never work out to that plan and then you find yourself missing the spontaneous moments with your family that you can’t predict!
6. Have Fun!:
This may sound like a lame tip, but sometimes we need to be reminded to just cut loose and have fun. As a society we get too caught up in what others think about us, what other people think may be silly or weird, how many calories are in that or that, etc. Try not to get bogged down with any of these types of things and just enjoy your trip. You have saved and paid good money to have the most amazing experience with your family, so don’t waste a thought on trivial matters. Take a silly picture in front of the castle, wear goofy hats and matching shirts, dance like crazy with your family at various street performances in the parks or even just because and do it without care. You’ll likely never see these people again and the release that you feel when you actually just let loose and let the fun takeover is indescribable. Your kids will love seeing that side of you, too!
The best part of the trip is the memories that you are making with your family, regardless of how large or small the family is. Focus on making the best memories and enjoying each other’s company. Use as many of these tips as you can and take lots of pictures! (Especially of the moments you when you can Dad to dance in the streets with Goofy ears.) You’ll be sure to have a great family trip and make new experiences each time that you visit Walt Disney World.