Last month I wrote about my deep and abiding love for all things Disney. I shared with you a few of my general takeaways from my previous trips, but I thought that for Part Two, I’d dig a little deeper and enlist the guidance of some friends to help me share a few practical tips and tricks that help you get through the parks, particularly with little ones in tow.
I’m all about efficiency and economy, so I hope you find something in these tips that allows you to have a stress-free adventure at the Happiest Place on Earth. So let’s get right to it!
Before you even get to Disney, there are so many ways to save yourself time and money by packing wisely. There are several items on my Disney packing list that don’t appear on any other vacation prep list. Here are a few:
–$1 ponchos from the drugstore. Florida is rainy, but it comes and goes really quickly, so I pack a few cheap, compact ponchos in my bag so I’m not carrying an umbrella, or worse, buying rain gear in the parks.
–An inexpensive power strip. Disney hotels seem a little skimpy on outlets, and the ones they have seem inconveniently located. So I like to bring my own strip to give myself more outlets all in one place.
–Along those same lines, I like to pack a cell phone power bank. If you’re going to be using the Disney app, or even just handing your phone to the kids while waiting in line, you’ll want to be able to recharge without sitting down and wasting time at a charging station. Many are no bigger than a tube of lipstick, so it’s easy enough to bring along.
-My friend Greer had the fantastic idea of purchasing a Disney character encyclopedia before you leave instead of the typical blank autograph book. It’s right around $10, so less expensive than the ones in the parks, and what I love about this idea is that it makes the experience of getting autographs more like a scavenger hunt or a matching game. Here is the one she likes.
–Finally, I like to bring Tinkerbell surprises. There are probably as many stores as there are attractions at Disney, so I like to give my son a little something every morning before we hit the parks so that the focus stays off of shopping while we’re there. The surprises are usually under $5 and can be carried through the park that day because it’s new, and if your kid is anything like my kid, his latest toy is his favorite toy.
-As I said in Part One of this little miniseries, my family stays in Value Resorts on property. I mentioned that the theming is great for little ones. I don’t have much advice on this topic except to say, run the numbers. Don’t assume that staying on property is going to be more expensive than staying elsewhere in Orlando and driving to the parks. When you stay offsite and drive in, you’ll have to pay to park, which is $20 per day, but is complimentary when you stay at any Disney resort.
-I’m gonna start off with a bummer, but what I think is a really important tip. Take a picture of your child as you set out every morning. In the event that you get separated, you can alert park staff quickly with an accurate description of your child in what he/she is wearing that day. The thought of having to use this tip makes me sick, but I know that it’s necessary. I’ve also seen temporary tattoos with contact info that I might consider trying this year.
-To stroller or not to stroller, that is the question. I am an outlier here because my son hates strollers, and always has. So we don’t take one. I’m gonna say that the general consensus on this one, though, is definitely to stroller. Whether you take one or rent one, that’s really up to you and your needs in terms of how you’re traveling. And there are loads of choices for renting. You can rent inside the parks, but beware, the strollers there are not as comfy, so if your kid can fall asleep anywhere, I say go for it. If not, you might want to use an independent company. Many of my friends have had great success renting from companies like Kingdom Strollers or Magic Strollers, who both deliver and pick up, making the process incredibly convenient.
-My friend Mari’s tip is to remind everyone of the wonderful resource that is the baby care center. Each park has one, and each is equipped with areas to nurse or feed little ones, and they sell essentials like baby food, diapers, wipes, OTC medication, etc. They have microwaves, changing tables, rocking chairs, high chairs, and other resources for when you need to give your little one time to nap, eat, or just take a break from all the stimuli that is Disney.
-My friend Samantha recommends buying an official Disney Mickey Bubble Glow Wand because for her, having it for her daughter during longer wait times was a lifesaver. It makes a great souvenir that can be used practically when you get back home and not just forgotten, plus she said that cast members even refilled hers for her when it got low, which is an added bonus!
Oh Disney dining, why do you stress people out so much? Is it because you want me to know where and what I want to eat six months from now? Again I’m going to be an outlier here. We don’t do the full dining plan. I’m sure one day I will want to rise at 6am on the 180 day mark, but for now I have a four year old boy who just wants to eat yogurt and goldfish for every meal, so for us it’s just not worth it quite yet.
–What about character meals, you may ask? What I have chosen to do is opt for the quick service meal plan because we want our trip to feel all-inclusive, and that way we won’t get upset if our son just wants to drink a danimal for dinner, cause that meal was paid for long ago. Then I book one character meal and buy a Disney gift card before the trip that will cover the estimated cost, so we still get to have a little extra magic, but the majority of the time, we can eat quickly and get back to the attractions. Is the dining plan necessary? Absolutely not. Pay as you go, or pack all your meals (which it totally allowed), just choose whatever makes the most sense for your family.
-My final tip is perhaps the most important of all. Each park has a Starbucks, and drinks can be purchased with a dining plan snack credit. And ALL the drinks have the SAME snack credit value, so take that tall and turn it into a trenta, baby (okay, they may not have trenta size in the parks, but you get what I’m saying. Upsize that drink.) You’re welcome.