We just returned from our first trip to Disney World with two kids, and it was perfectly magical. But, when I told my friends that we were going to Disney World they told me I was way behind. I was shocked and had no idea what they meant! They were right. There are literally books written about how to navigate and plan your Disney vacation. I borrowed some books and began reading that day. To save you some time, I made a quick guide with the most important tips.
Everything is pretty slick and you can plan as much or as little as you want. Obviously if there are specific things you want to do you need to plan in advance. If you just want to people-watch and eat a Dole Whip while you listen to the band on Main Street, you will be fine to figure it out at the park. But if you want to maximize your day and avoid the long lines for rides, you’ll want to plan ahead of time.
First, book your tickets. Then, create a Disney account and download the Disney World app. Then, begin making your plans.
Disney then mails you a ticket for everyone in your party. DO NOT LOSE THIS. Not only is this card your ticket into the park, it is also your Fast Pass. If you are staying on-site at a Disney Resort you should look into getting Magic Bands.
One thing the Disney World app allows you to do is make reservations for meals. If there is a specific place and time you want to eat, reservations should be made well in advance of your trip. You can book your dining reservation and FP 30 days in advance if you are not staying in a Disney Resort and 60 days in advance if you are staying at a Disney Resort. We were a little late to the game on this. We ended up with a reservation at The Plaza Restaurant that overlooks the castle. Good, but not great food. The best ones were already full.
Through the app, you can also request Fast Passes (FP) for three rides of your choice. Why do you need to do this ahead of time? Because, believe it or not, there are long lines at Disney World! After selecting your three rides, the app shows when the FP are available for those rides. You should select all three of your FP for early in the day. The reason for this is you can’t get any more FP at the park until you have used those up.
Once you get to the park and use all three of your pre-arranged FP, you are eligible to get more FP. You can only hold one of these FP at a time for each person in your party. There are kiosks in every “land” where you can request your next FP. Sometimes there is a line for the FP kiosks, which is sort of ironic. You’ll need the park admission ticket for everyone in your party that wants a FP for the ride. Employees are there to guide you through everything, so don’t panic. When it’s time to use your FP, you simply scan it at the entrance of the ride you are going on. Again, your card that was mailed to you before your trip is also the card you scan to use your FP.
Rider Switch Passes
Also, since my one-year-old couldn’t ride everything, (although, she could ride a lot more than I thought she could), we took advantage of the rider switch passes. These allow one parent to ride with the older sibling while the other parent waits with the baby, and then afterwards the other parent can go through the FP line with the older sibling to ride it again. Just talk to the Cast Member at the front of the line. Those Disney people really have thought of everything. My three-year-old could ride almost every single ride–another big surprise.
My husband thought we would only be able to ride a few rides due to lines but this FP system combined with the rider switch pass made it possible for us to wait in line for a maximum of 20 minutes per ride. We used FP for every single ride we went on. We ate in between while we were waiting for our FP time window. A win/win if you ask us.
If you want to meet Mickey, I would suggest you do it FIRST. I say this for a couple reasons:
- Your child isn’t tired.
- Your child still looks super cute. He hasn’t spilled anything on his Mickey shirt yet.
- The line is short–people want to get on the rides!
- You know the character will be there–if it rains or something you never know what can happen. You don’t want to miss meeting Mickey!
We took our stroller and I am so glad we did. Initially I was worried about it getting stolen or being too inconvenient. No. There are designated areas throughout the park for strollers. There are also employees whose job it is to stay by the strollers. If you have small children they will get tired from walking and need a place to sit down. Disney has this magic ability to zap all their energy and your non-napping child, may surprise you with a short nap, which gives everyone a chance to take a breather. Not to mention the number of passed out Mickeys and Minnies on the way out of the park at the end of the night. A stroller is a great idea.
These are the tricks that we learned along the way that really made our experience unforgettable. Oh, and get the Mickey cake pop. Just trust me.
Ashley Bardsley traveled around the world working as an event coordinator before becoming a mother. Now she explores the East Coast and beyond with her husband and two children. Her favorite travel destinations include St. John, New York City and Switzerland.