Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Disney Tips.

Take these or leave them. I'm not going to agree with everyone and not everyone will agree with me, but this is how WE did Disney and this is what we learned while we were there. Eddie hadn't been to Disney since he was a pre-teen and I had been numerous times but never with kids. My parents had never even traveled there with little ones - when we went for the first time my youngest sibling was in kindergarten so no stroller was necessary.

* If you have small kids, take a stroller. You'll do a TON of walking. Magic Kingdom alone is ENORMOUS. You WILL have to park your stroller in a "parking lot" for lines, but it's worth it between rides.

* That said, make your stroller noticeable. You will walk into a stroller lot with a MILLION strollers and often times they'll get moved around. You want to be able to spot your stroller quickly. I wrapped our stroller's handlebar with ribbons. You can sort of see it here:

* Fast Passes are your friends - know how to use them. You can get a Fast Pass for one ride at a time (not all rides have them). They're changing over to a system called Fast Pass Plus so you may want to be sure they haven't switched before you go. I'm not sure Disney has released all the info on this yet, but it sounds like they may be allowing you to reserve Fast Passes ahead of time and you'll be issued a certain number depending on how much you're spending (i.e., are you staying on or off site, are you staying at a high end hotel or a value hotel, etc.). Please note that Fast Pass machines aren't always next to the ride itself. Just ask where they are!

* We waited in lines that were about 20 minutes or less. Disney keeps their lines moving and for the most part there's a lot to see. You won't stand still for long in a line.

* Buy a backpack cooler to carry your things in. Poor Eddie wound up carrying a backpack AND a backpack cooler and sometimes a baby as well. But the backpack cooler came in handy. We kept water, apple juice for sippy cups, and squeezy fruits for the boys in there.

* If you don't know what squeezy fruits are you are missing out! :) We buy the Buddy Fruits or Mots for Tots or another brand but they're pouches of apple sauce that you really just squeeze. My boys go through these like CRAZY. They were particularly practical for the kid who still eats mostly baby food.

* Go at your child's (children's) pace. Don't try to rush through an entire park because YOU want to see it. We took a lot of time to stand in line for characters and sit and wait in prime spots for parades because that's what JAMES wanted to do. We rode those crazy, just-go-in-circles rides (Dumbo, Magic Carpets, Triceratop Spin) because JAMES loves those. We did ride a few grown-up rides when he was sleeping or when he hopped on the train with Poppy and Cacky, but overall we went at his pace and really tried to do what he wanted to do.

* We didn't do it, but there is a system called Ride Switch. You can google it to read more about it, but it works out if you have a few riders that either don't want to ride OR are too small to ride. One parent can go with the bigger child and then they can switch off and the other parent can ride with the child. You have to tell them that you're doing it.

* We really enjoyed the reservations that we made. We had lunch each day at a sit-down, air-conditioned restaurant inside a park. They're more expensive than the quick serve and the food is nothing just FANTASTIC, but it was TOTALLY worth the break that it gave us. I downloaded two apps on my phone before we left - Disney Parks and Magic Guide - and I actually made reservations from my phone one day while we were standing in a line waiting.

* Speaking of the apps, I thought they were VERY helpful. They had maps on them and wait times for rides. They weren't always accurate, but they were pretty close! They also gave opening/closing times, parade times, and fireworks times. If you don't have a phone that you can use these apps, you can pick up a map and times guide at the front of each park.

* Get to the park WHEN IT OPENS. This was vital for us. It's cooler and it's WAY less crowded. We headed to Fantasyland first both days at the Magic Kingdom and were able to ride Dumbo with NO wait and the Barnstormer with NO wait both times. Later when we passed through the line for the Barnstormer was wound around to the outside. (Dumbo has a glorious waiting experience - that we didn't have to use. They give you a pager and let you play on an indoor playground while you wait.) We also met Minnie and Daisy IMMEDIATELY when they opened. We were the second family to go through and we were able to take our time. At Animal Kingdom we went straight to Kilimanjaro and were on the first round of safaris to leave the station. The animals were out and walking around and we've heard that they're usually more active in the mornings. We did the Pangani Trails after that and the guide told me that the gorillas are VERY active in the morning and then nap most of the afternoon. We enjoyed seeing some move around!

* I cannot imagine trying to do Magic Kingdom in one day. I just can't. It took us two whole days to see it all. I also can't imagine arriving later in the day. First thing in the morning was the least crowded time and lines were empty. Later, it was way more full.

* Utilize your Photo Pass. We didn't use this as often as I wish we had. You get a Photo Pass card the first time a photographer snaps your picture (for us it was with Pluto on Main Street). TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR CARD. If you lose it, you'll still have the numbers later! I don't think I'm going to purchase any (they're not cheap!) but I was glad to have peace of mind in case my own pictures didn't turn out great!

* I absolutely do NOT recommend that you travel to Disney during the summer. Are you from the southeast? Have you ever been in our humidity? We went the second weekend in May and it was already 88-90*. We really have a tropical climate. The humidity is oppressive. The air is sticky and heavy. And when you're in one of the parks, the pavement makes it feel even hotter than it actually is! Also, guess who else goes during the summer? Everyone who is out of school! I know it sounds crazy, but Eddie and I really think we'll go in January - February next time we go.

* Stay close! We stayed off-site because Sonny's conference was there. The hotel was RIGHT across from Downtown Disney and not all that far away but it took us an hour to get to and from the parks. It was just not very convenient. We thought about driving to Animal Kingdom (parking was $14) and in hindsight, we probably should have. Climbing in and out of a bus with a stroller (and the panicky feeling of maybe NOT getting on a bus you've been waiting 20-30 minutes for because it might be full!) was a little stressful. Also, our hotel did not get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours so if this is important to you, stay on site!

* We did not do Park Hopper passes and I am SO glad we didn't. Our kids are just too little to hop from one park to another. Also, because of our bus situation I mentioned above it would have been tough to do it. It would have taken too long. We would possibly do them when our kids are older (no stroller!) and if we were staying ON so that we could easily hop from one to another and visit all four parks.

* A lot of the things that I read suggested taking kids back to the hotel in the middle of the day. To me, this is a BIG mistake. My kids sleep in their stroller and honestly if we'd have tried to get back they would have fallen asleep on the bus and then been awake and ready to go once we reached the hotel!

* Allergies! I could write an entire post on this but I won't. When you make reservations at Disney they will ask if you have any allergies or food issues. TELL THEM. All three of our reservations we marked that we had a food allergy and they brought the chef out to our table to tell us what to avoid every time. It was fantastic. At the Tusker House buffet the chef walked around with Eddie and me and pointed out the things to avoid. They were so kind and helpful about it!!! When we stopped for a mid-afternoon snack Eddie asked to see a wrapper to see if James could have a Mickey Mouse ice cream and the man pulled out a whole BOOK to look up his allergy. I cannot say enough about how accommodating they are. Disney has done this before! Use this feature if you need to! Don't be scared!

* Take a towel if you have a baby in diapers. I had NEVER used a baby changer in a public restroom before but there's no choice at Disney. Lay down a towel so you're not putting him/her on those other icky germs.

* Book restaurant reservations. These were fun to us and while they're more expensive than picnic-ing, you're paying for cold drinks and air conditioning! ;) We ate at the following places:

- Tony's Town Square Restaurant - food was good; it's in the front of the park so it wasn't all that convenient and a bit of a hike but overall we enjoyed it!
- Tusker House - fabulous! Definitely my favorite.
- Liberty Tree Tavern - food was good and it's right in the middle of the park so it was convenient.
- T-Rex Cafe (Downtown Disney) - loud and crowded; food was just okay. Nothing fabulous. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here.
- Rainforest Cafe (Downtown Disney) - same as T-Rex Cafe. There's also one at Animal Kingdom and if it was this or Tusker House I would DEFINITELY pick Tusker House.

* I'll come back and add to this list if I think of anything else or if my family reminds me of anything else. Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments! Also feel free to email me with questions. We had a great time on our trip but I got lots of advice from friends who had already been. There's a LOT to learn before you go!

1 comment:

The Morrows said...

So helpful!! Glad you shared. We will be planning a trip in the next few years.
Love the ribbon idea for your stroller.
The reservations for meals and fruit squeezes sound like a must for us!
Glad you had a good trip :)