Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the kids to Disney World for the first time, and everyone is thrilled! The excitement is palpable, but it’s mixed with some minor apprehension, an iota of anxiety and a twinge of the “wonder-whats.” No worries! We are here with everything you need to know about taking the kids to Disney World and not only surviving, but thriving and making treasured memories at every turn!
10. Remember that you are the only one to decide whether your kids are old enough.
One of the most frequently asked questions about Disney World among moms is this—“Are my children old enough to enjoy Disney World?” And we get it—you’re about to spend a pretty penny on the vacation of a lifetime, and you don’t want to look back and realize that your kids don’t remember any of it because they were too young. Go ahead and ask your friends at work, church and school and get their take on it—how old were their kids when they went, etc. But ultimately, the decision is yours. Another woman’s child might be mature enough at age 4 to enjoy Disney and remember a lot of it. Another child might be seven and not really ready. You are the expert on your kids. You know them better than anyone. The only guidance we will give on this one is this—children ages 3 and under will most likely not remember too much about the experience, and if yours scream and kick when they meet Santa at the mall, chances are they will do the same when they meet Mickey. Still—it’s your call.
9. Plan everything you can as far in advance as possible.
If you’re staying at a Disney World resort hotel, know that you can book your stay up to 499 days in advance. That may sound excessive, but if you’re visiting during the summer or around holiday time, you’ll be jockeying for position with a lot of other families, and if you wait too long, you might not get to stay in the hotel you have your heart set on. If you’re hoping to enjoy some dining experiences, know that those can be booked up to 180 days in advance. Again, it may sound excessive, but many restaurants book full only days into the reservation window.
8. The My Disney Experience app will save your life.
The minute you know you’re headed to Disney, go to the App Store or Google Play and download the My Disney Experience app. It is an invaluable tool for you when you’re planning and when you get to the parks. The app allows you to make dining reservations, reserve FastPass+ times and modify those reservations and FastPass+ times. When you get to Disney World, the app is great for finding your way around the parks, checking wait times and more. The app is true to its name—it really does help to tailor-make your personal Disney World experience.
7. Meltdowns and tantrums are a part of the experience, sadly.
Depending on how young your children are, you may find yourself working through a meltdown or tantrum. Or two. Truth be told, even older children can become overwhelmed with everything there is to see and do. It’s really a perfect storm for such an occurrence—excitement at a whole new level about their first time at the parks, waking early, staying out late, a lot of walking, nap schedules out the window, hunger, fatigue, elements of the weather and shops, carts and kiosks full of every possible kind of souvenir a child would love—all at once. We won’t guarantee that every one of your children will absolutely have a meltdown, but if you know that it’s a possibility, you can be better prepared for the situation. And it can alleviate some of your stress if you know that other moms are dealing with the same scenario, and you’re not alone.
6. A park bag will also serve as a lifesaver.
If your children are very small, you may already be carrying a diaper bag into the parks. If your children are older, be sure to carry a backpack into the parks with you every time you go. (I have four teenagers and a husband and I refuse to go through the gates without my backpack!) What are the most important things to put in the bag? Rain ponchos, snacks, bubbles (these are great to use as a diversion when you’re waiting in line or when someone starts to get fussy), sunblock, extra socks (when yours get wet from the rain or wet rides), Ziploc bags (they’re perfect for lots of things), comfort items—a favorite toy, binky, etc.—and anything else that you might need in the parks during the day with your kids.
5. Take breaks.
Magic Kingdom park alone is often open sometimes for 13 to 15 hours in a day, and many families will stay at the park for the entire day. Again, you are the expert on your children, and you know when they need breaks, a quiet time, a rest time, nap, etc. How do you take breaks while at Disney World? It can be as simple as planning to enjoy calming, quieter rides during a part of your day. Or picking a shaded spot in the park where you and your family can take a few minutes to rest. Some families even choose to head to the parks in the morning, eat lunch, then head back to their resort hotel to take a nap, go swimming and just enjoy some down time. Then they go back to the parks in the early evening. Remember that it’s your experience, and you are free to enjoy Disney in the way that best suits you and your family.
4. Pace yourselves.
There’s so much to see, do, experience, taste and watch at Walt Disney World. You won’t be able to do everything in one trip, so tell yourself that from the beginning and don’t put too much stress on yourself. Yes, you’ll have to plan around your dining reservations and your FastPass+ selections, but outside of those, do your best to make family togetherness your goal—not how many attractions you can experience in one day. Remember that the most memorable and magical moments happen on their own. That’s what makes them so memorable.
3. Talk about the trip with your kids.
Before you leave for Disney World, talk with your children—if they are old enough—about what they think the trip might be like. Ask them what they’d like to do, what they hope to see, etc. You can watch online planning videos from Disney by visiting www.disneyplanning.com/destinations. Watch videos with your kids to give them an idea of what Disney World has to offer. Make a list together as a family of some of the things you’d like to do at the parks. That way no one feels left out—everyone has a say in what the trip looks like, and that’s very magical indeed!
2. Take advantage of Memory Maker and the PhotoPass Photographers.
You are about to embark on the most fun and memorable trip you’ve ever taken with your kids. You will have experiences you’ve not yet had with them. You will see things and hear things and experience things you never thought imaginable—and yes, in a good way! You’ll want to capture every moment on film—but doing so means you might miss out on the actual experience. Don’t worry—Disney has you covered. Memory Maker is a phenomenal digital kit that captures your on-board ride photos, as well as photos taken by Disney’s PhotoPass photographers. The kit keeps them safe in a digital format until you’re ready to view them, download them to your phone or computer, edit them and share them. Purchase Memory Maker before you get to the parks for around $170 and leave the picture-taking to the experts. This will give you more time to experience Disney World with your family instead of staying behind a camera lens for the whole trip.
1. Cherish every moment.
Congratulations! You’ve planned. You downloaded the app. You’ve made your reservations. You’ve got your park bag ready. You’ve made all the FastPass+ selections. You’ve really thought it through on this trip and now it’s time to enjoy. A trip to Disney World is a getaway unlike any other, and you will treasure this time with your family for years to come. So make the most of it—slow down, enjoy every little thing, every detail. Stop by one of the shops on your way out each night and buy a postcard from the park you visited. Take it back to your resort hotel room, and after the kids are in bed, jot down a few memories from your day with your family. Then mail the postcard to your home address. And when you get back home—surprise! You have a trip journal of sorts that you can read through with your family. It’s a great way to relive all of the wonderful memories you made while you were at Disney World!