Tips & Tricks for a Magical Trip at Disney World with Little Kids


Believe it or not, we just spent two months at Disney World and didn't even do everything Disney World has to offer.  Most of the things we did not do had more to do with interest level.  Vacationing with 3 under 6 will is a bit different than no kids and/or older kids.  However, in the two months we spent I did learn a valuable lesson---  Ready for it...

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You DO NOT have to do it all, nor will you.
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And honestly, it took me quite a large portion of our Disney World vacation to understand that concept!   I grew up with this "Do it all the first time, because you may never come back" mentality and while I understand why, I also see that mentality doesn't make for a very relaxed vacation-- and is definitely not do-able with several young children.  You will burn out very quickly!  My very first trip to Disney World was in high school and honestly I don't remember much of the trip, I just know that my mom worked hard and saved to take us on this "Once in a lifetime trip."   Well, we did make it back to Disney World, albeit 10+ years later, but I was still bound by this "we have to do it all... we have to do it all" mentality.  And I didn't relax somewhat until I was bolting to our reservation at The Tusker House, several feet ahead of everyone else when my dear hubby called after me to "Slow Down.. walk with the rest of us."   Oh yeah... I'm with family.... Somehow the memo got lost.

Fast forward to just a month ago, and we had the opportunity to spend two MONTHS at Disney World.  Now I understand, a majority of people may not have this opportunity, but it doesn't negate my #1st Tip:  You Do Not Have To Do It All to have a magical time.  You may not have a chance to go to Disney World in the next year, or in five years... but plan knowing you can and will go back.  Knowing that will definitely help you sort through the things that you absolutely want and should see while visiting, and rides/ shows that are not high on your priority list.  For my toddler daughter, that meant meeting {almost} every single princess.  For my 6 year old car loving son, that meant heading to Test Track at Epcot and Lights! Motors! Action! stunt show at Hollywood Studios more than once.  Baby brother was just along for the ride : )
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Tip #2:  See the Characters!  This should be a no-brainer, but I just want to point out that there are several ways to meet one or all of your favorite characters.  You can do Character Dining where the characters come and interact with you while you eat or you can visit them at their Character Spots at the Parks.  I believe Epcot to be the most under-rated park as there are not a ton of rids for the little ones, but there are plenty of opportunities to meet the Characters, so it was definitely one of our favorite parks to go to.  
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My most favorite characters to meet were Ariel at Ariel's Grotto, Alice, Tinkerbell, Cinderella and Snow White.  Our favorite Character Dining experiences where Tusker House and 1900 Park Palace.  I personally liked meeting the human characters as they were much more interactive, but my character loving daughter loved them ALL!   

Tip #3:  Pack Extra Snacks!  You would think that spending as much time there as we did, I would have had this tip mastered, but it never failed that I for whatever reason did not pack enough food.  Bringing extra will help keep costs down, avoid the cranky's because of empty tummies, and help pass the time if you are waiting in line.  But feel free to splurge on a Pineapple Whip and/or Chocolate Covered Mickey Mouse Ice Cream!
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Tip #4:  Take advantage of Rider Switch!  For us this worked out perfectly for the rides my oldest son could ride, but my two littles could not.  When my son and hubby would get in line for one of those rides, he would simply ask for a Rider Switch ticket so that after they rode, I would get a chance to go with my son, too!  The Rider Switch is good for the rest of the day, so you can always come back to the ride later.  I believe that it is policy that the other parent need to be present when asking for the Rider Switch, but it wasn't always necessary.  But to ere on the safe side since you never know strict the employee is to the policy, be present when asking for Rider Switch. 

Tip #5:  Bring a stroller with plenty of storage underneath AND if you have a baby/ one year old, I would *highly* recommend bringing a baby carrier, too.  A baby carrier would have been a big help while navigating Hollywood Studios and while waiting in line for Character Greetings.  It would have been nice to have a free pair of hands to handle the camera and/ or just not have to lug someone else on my hip while walking.  Definitely should have brought my Ergo baby carrier.
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Tip #6:  Do something right when you get to the park; i.e. Have a plan!!  Our experience was a bit different because we were able to come and go as we pleased during our two month stay near Disney, but I an tell you that our best days were when we planned what we were going to do before hand.  Otherwise, you walk into the park and it is/ was all so over-whelming that it is easy to let panic sink in and start rushing, rushing and/or you end up waiting in line and the excitement quickly dies down.

Tip #7:  If possible, go during Off-Season and avoid the weekends.  You can definitely tell a difference from a trip in January vs. a trip in May, June, July.... And you can definitely tell more people were around on the weekends vs. the weekday.  

Tip #8: Extending on Tip #6-- Pick a Few "Must Do's" for the day and know that everything else is a bonus. Here's some of our favorites:

Magic Kingdom: People Mover {seriously, the kiddos LOVED this.  It's also a great "take a break" ride and/or "ride for the littles while waiting for the big kids"}-- Princess Meetings-- Storytime with Belle-- Thunder Mountain-- Tomorowland Speedway-- Under the Sea with Ariel-- and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.

Epcot: Character Greeting-- Test Track-- Kidcot Stations-- Mission to Mars.

Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safari-- Primeval Whirl-- Finding Nemo on Stage

Hollywood Studios: Lights! Motors! Action!-- Disney Jr.-- Honey I Shrunk Kids Play Area-- Toy Story Mania-- Beauty & the Beast on Stage.

Just an extra note: With little ones, I think it is best to keep your expectations low

Tip #9: Download the Free Disney My Experience App for your phone. It was great for staying up to date on wait times and for those with Magic Bands, you are able to make/ change your Disney World Experience Fast Passes.
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Tip#10: Bring good shoes, umbrella, and extra clothes for the little ones.  Remember Disney is a big place, with lots of walking so do not buy new shoes right before the trip.  Pack a poncho and/or umbrella-- Florida weather can be wet!  And unless you are looking to buy your little one a new outfit at Disney, pack an extra outfit; Yes, $50ish dollars later, I learned the hard way!

Tip #11: Keep a Souvenir.  The majority of people had autograph books, but we did something a bit different. We had the characters sign a T-Shirt instead.  The kids LOVE wearing their special shirts and I know they'll get plenty of wear.  To make it easier for you and the characters, bring along a Click able Sharpie.  Another neat souvenir would be to collect/ trade pins with cast members-- we'll be doing this next time!
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Tip #12: Take a break during the day to extend your fun in the night; the Magic Kingdom is especially magical at night when the Castle and Main Street is glowing with lights.  The Electrical Street Parade is pretty awesome, too!  {And if it's been a rainy evening, the park will be deserted-- so if you don't mind getting wet, stay a while}.
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Tip #13: For young children old enough to walk, make sure they know what to do in case they get lost.  We had one moment at the Animal Kingdom where my oldest followed me to the restrooms, but I did not know,  so when I returned without him, a bit of panic swept over us!  All ended just a few minutes after, but we made sure he had our phone number and knew what to do after that little episode. 

Tip #14: If it's your first time to Disney and/or your birthday, stop by the Service/ Information Desks and get a free pin!  The "First Time at Disney" and "It's My Birthday" pin make the day a little extra special as other guest and staff give you well wishes!  My sister in law and nephew also joined us for a week and were able to get the pin at one of the shops, so don't be afraid to ask!

Tip #15: Have fun! Be silly!
Take lots of pictures-- Moms and/or Dads-- make sure you are in the pictures, too.
And remember, you do not have to do it all.
Do you have any magical tips to add?
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