So here you are, as any dad has been at some point. It’s time to take the kids to Disney World. And, like most of us you’re sitting there asking yourself the following: Are they old enough to really enjoy it? There are so many options what will work best for us? I haven’t been since I was a kid, how much has changed? My wife and I want to have some time to ourselves, is that even possible there? And guess what, we’ve all been there and you have nothing to be worried about. If I’ve learned anything about my times spent at WDW it’s as long as you’re honest with your expectations up front you’ll get exactly what you want. You can always get something new out of every visit.
So where do we begin? The best place to start is to get an idea as to what you want from your visit. These are good questions to ask yourself before you begin the planning process along with some tips and thoughts:
Are we wanting to see everything?
Let’s be realistic, the chances of riding all the rides and seeing all the shows are slim unless you’re planning on spending some extended travel time there. Don’t be disappointed! The best part of any trip to WDW is discovering something you didn’t plan on and loving it. For me the first time I had that experience was when I walked into the Grand Floridian just before Christmas. I won’t spoil that experience for you with an elaborate description but needless to say it’s the first time I’ve ever wanted to just sit in a hotel lobby. Everyone can and will find some experience like that.
How much relaxation time do we want?
You’re going to be on the move…a lot. WDW is huge and just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean it’s relax time. Well at least unless you plan it that way.
Tip: If you’re planning on adventuring out and exploring every nook and cranny there is to offer you’re going to get much better travel value for your money with one of the value resorts(All-Stars, Pop Century). Why spend lots of money on a hotel room you’re not planning on spending time in? Use the money on an alternate activity.
Do we have any can’t miss items?
For me no trip there is complete without a ride on Big Thunder Mountain and Soarin’. But everyone has their favorites. My wife is still partial to seeing Journey into imagination. (I can hear you asking, and yes we do have Figment art in the house). The Fastasmic show at Hollywood Studios is a great way to finish the night but if you want a prime seat get there early. Same goes with the parades. Remember you’re there to have a good time and if you say something is can’t miss then it’s can’t miss.
Tip: Plan around those items that you say are can’t miss and look at attractions adjacent to that. Many times, especially early you can get a fast pass for the ride you can’t miss and then see 3 or 4 other things close by with shorter lines before your fast pass return time. But knowing a bit ahead of time can help stop that conversation of “well it’s a 45 minute wait for test track what now?”
Do we need a car there?
Short answer….no. If you’re staying on property there are busses that will take you around. And transportation to and from the airport is available if you’re flying. However, if you are driving and staying at a WDW hotel you won’t have to pay for parking at the parks and packing a stroller and your daily supplies into a trunk rather than on a crowded bus can be convenient.
Tip: If you’re driving in for the day and still want to save a few dollars on parking drive to the Downtown Disney area, park there is free and you can take on of the Disney buses to a resort hotel. Choose a resort that’s close to the park you’re visiting and then ride the monorail or bus to the theme park of choice. Be careful to check the bus schedules, but for the most part the buses to downtown run later than the ones to the parks.
Well how do I get to vacation on my vacation?
Take a look at some of the other offerings life Golf, fishing, horse back riding, boating, jet skis, mini-golf or driving a race car or exotic super-car. There is so much available you can have a great time at WDW and never step foot into a theme park.
Tip: Adding a day to explore the other options is a great idea. I like to throw in a big post lunch nap in there. If you’re light on must sees between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios you can realistically get both of these done in a day if you’re willing to save some of the other items until the next visit. This can open up a rest/exploring day in most itineraries.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
Steamboat vs. Monorail at the ticket and transportation center? It doesn’t matter. There is something very nostalgic about the steam boat but the Monorail is just fun. However, If the line for the direct monorail to Magic Kingdom is really long take a look at the one that goes to the resort hotels. The line is next to nothing and it stops at the Magic Kingdom also. Be sure to tell one of the cast member’s that you heard a rumor that you can sit in the front with the conductor.
Look at the Extra Magic Hours. The late night ones are great but the early A.M. ones are your best bet to skip the lines. Most of the attractions with the longest queue times are tailored towards younger kids and groups traveling with them tend not to arrive until after breakfast. If you see the A.M early magic hours use them! You can go back and take a nap later the afternoon.
Send your purchases to your WDW resort hotel. This way you don’t have to lug bags around all day and your purchases will be waiting in your WDW hotel the next afternoon. Just be careful not to go overboard.
There is a babysitting service. It’s not available in all the hotels so check ahead of time but yes is does exist. Dad’s I’m telling you a night out to Downtown Disney with a great dinner and Cirque Du Soleil tickets is an instant get out of the dog house free card.
Check the weather ahead of time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people travel down thinking its Florida and shorts are a way of life. I’m telling you it does get cold here from time to time and you don’t want to be that guy in December in the shorts and Donald Duck hoodie watching the Electrical(some of you might remember this as Spectromagic) parade. It’s not a great look and all it says is you didn’t plan ahead.
There are smart phone apps that show the park hours and line times. My favorites are WDW Waits and WDW Hours. Check these while your planning and you’ll get a much better idea of what you can expect for queue times. This will allow you to note some of those fast pass first choices.
Don’t be afraid to ask. The cast members are there to accommodate you. When you have a questions ask away and I’m certain you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the result even if it’s a secondary suggestion.
And my own personal tip: When you’re entering the main entrance area off the express way have a song ready on the stereo that just puts you in a good mood. Don’t forget to sing along and TURN IT UP!
Mike Nash – Guest Writer