Family Disney Trip Tip #1: Establish a routine while on vacation.
Kids do well when they know what to expect. If they know that after lunch you head back to the resort for a swim, they are more likely to be cooperative during lunch (and eat quickly too). So try to create some sort of “schedule”. It doesn’t have to be rigid or extensive..make it simple. Our family’s plan usually consists of: Park, Swim, Rest, Park, Bed.
Family Disney Trip Tip #2: Go in with a plan.
For most Disney goers, every day of the vacation will have been meticulously plotted with dining reservations and Fast Passes. However, if you have not planned your trip down to the second, or perhaps you are taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours and are saving your Fast Passes for later in the day, you will need to go in with a plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You can even do it on the bus on your way to the park.
Get out a park map (this is where My Disney Experience app comes in handy) and list all of the things that are a “must-do” for for family for the day. We have each kid pick the one thing they just have to do that day and then that is what we plan to do in the morning at the park. This allows everyone to have a say in what happens that day and if children know there is a plan to “do what they want” they are more likely to be cooperative when they are doing something they don’t really want to be doing.
The other benefit to making a plan is that you are not wondering the park aimlessly or trying to put together some sort of plan while there, in the crowd and heat. Not that you have to have a plan that is set in stone, but having a general idea of what you want to see that day saves time and your sanity!
Family Disney Trip Tip #3: Get Up Early
When staying on site, utilize the extra magic hours. If you are staying off-site, plan on arriving at the park about 20 minutes before opening. I cannot even begin to tell you how this has dramatically changed our vacations for the better. Why? Because most people, while on vacation, opt to “sleep in” which means the parks are not as crowded. This is good news for you because while most guest are still snoozing, you get first crack at ride. You can probably ride most, if not all of the rides on your list before the crowds arrive-usually around 11am. By the time everyone else is arriving at the park, in the peak heat of the day, no less, you’ll have checked off most, if not all, on your must-do list, and will be ready to cool off back at your resort.
Family Disney Trip Tip #4: Mandatory Rest Time
Now, I know what you’re thinking “my child hasn’t taken a nap in years. Why would I waste my time going back to the resort”. Here’s the thing….Disney is not like your everyday routine. Little bodies are up early, walking great distances, staying up late….it takes it’s toll-usually in the form of whining, crying, or meltdowns. We instituted family rest time years ago and it has dramatically DECREASED the number of meltdowns on our trip (No, it won’t get rid of them completely..sorry).
After a full morning at the park, we will leave around or after lunch time. We head back to our resort to swim and rest for a few hours. We then head back to the park around 4 or 5pm. Our kids are older now and of course haven’t napped in years. However, let me tell you they ALL look forward to afternoon rest time now. Most of the time all five of them will sleep, but every so often it’s just an hour to two watching tv quietly. After this rest time, the kids (and you) will be ready for round two.
Family Disney Trip Tip # 5: Skip The Night Time Extra Magic Hours
Now, this is a personal/family choice and I know my very dear friend would disagree with me on this point….but for our family the extra magic hours in the evening just do not work. First, everyone and their brother will stay up late, so it is waaayyyy more crowded. This translates into longer lines and less attractions checked office list. Plus, at the end of the night, when you are exhausted and ready to head back to the resort….so is everyone else. This makes the wait times for buses and monorails long. Now, they really might only be a 30 minute wait or so, but when you have over-tired little ones, 30 minutes can seem like an eternity. Even now that my kids are older, with the youngest being 6, we still do not utilize nighttime Extra Magic Hours. My kids are all early risers, so it makes more sense for us to hit the parks early and head back to get a good night’s sleep. Again, you know your kids best, but my advice is that with little ones, skip it.
So, that is my advice. While this is not meant to be a complete list, it can be used as a general guideline when traveling with children of all ages. It may not create that “perfect” vacation the commercial depicts, but it may cut down on the “less desirable” moments while on vacation.