Meeting all the characters, oh my word my favorite!
I've answered the questions I intend to ask other moms about a trip to Disney. Hope you find these helpful tips!
- When did you go to Disney World last? When did you go the first time with your kids, how old were they? Who went with you? We went last week- February vacation (3 days before break into the break week). This was our first time with kids. They were ages 8, 5 1/2 and almost 17 months. It was just us at the parks, then on the last few days of the trip the grandparents joined us. I work in a school so am limited to vacation weeks for trips. It would not be my first choice to go during school vacation week again, so busy! But getting there a few days earlier the week before was great. The weather was perfect though.
- How did you tell your kids you were going to Disney? We wrapped up a big box of different questions how, what, where, when, etc. answering that we were going on a trip. It was cute!
- What did you do to prepare financially before the trip? My husband scored some deals on an off site property, discounted tickets from his work place, along with saving money in a jar. Every week he would put cash into a jar $10-20 or so at a time. I had no clue he was doing this. He did this for a few months to have spending money on the trip. It was hundreds of dollars, such a cool idea!
- About how long before your trip did you start planning, booking hotels etc.? Not soon enough! We booked 3 months in advance, but started really planning and talking about 5 months in advance. We were thinking we'd go in another two years when our baby was older and more manageable on a trip. But in the summer we took our oldest (7.5 years old at the time) to Story Land and he just was not as mesmerized or into the theme park like he'd been the year before. We were worried if we waited longer to go on his first trip he'd not see all the magic. SO glad we went when we did-he LOVED everything, even if he said originally he wouldn't want to meet Mickey Mouse. He ended up asking for Mickey ears and everything Mickey :)
- What are some ways you tried to save money on this trip, got discounts, etc.? Saving cash. Cutting down our groceries the month before, eating simply. Asking for gift cards for birthday. Cutting back on some character meals. Packing lunches every single day and eating breakfast at the condo. Staying off property allowed us to save money with food too. Going before baby was age 3 = free, no park ticket needed. I bought tons of souvenirs and shirts ahead of the trip so we didn't waste money in Florida. I also bought night time fireworks glow wands and things ahead of the trip also.
- Where did you start researching for this trip? Any helpful sites, videos, books, etc.? My husband did all the planning as far as our flights, condo stay (he asked friends on Facebook) and tickets for parks. I asked friends for ideas on character meals, park rides etc. I looked in Facebook groups, read the Birnbaum's book about Disney- such a great easy read with good ideas. I looked at You Tube A LOT. I work out in the mornings in my basement so would just type in various videos about Disney, whatever I was researching that day- rides, meals, what to pack, etc. It was awesome. My favorite is Disney Food Blog You Tube videos. They cover everything, are super friendly and easy to follow, as well as follow a budget.
- Best places to eat at Disney World, and where exactly is that restaurant (which park for instance)?
We LOVED Chef Mickey's first at the Contemporary Hotel. It's right near Magic Kingdom. Such a fun morning with the fab 5 of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald. We loved their breakfast! We got there at 7:10 a.m. and by the time we left it was packed. So nice to start out early, get to a park early too. We went to Akershus princess fairytale lunch at Epcot. It was delicious food and a good time seeing Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White and Aurora. The princesses change so you aren't sure who you'll see. It was our most expensive meal and we'd already seen all of those princesses except for one (and the one we hadn't see, we could have stood in line to see an hour after our lunch in Epcot). We would just recommend going to MK first to see princesses, free, instead of paying for this lunch. BUT it was super cute, my daughter dressed up and did a princess march around the place with other girls. So cute. We also ate at Crystal Palace inside MK. It was adorable! We met all the Winnie the Pooh characters. It was sweet. We love those guys! Otherwise, we ate at Paco Bill's Taco place in MK over near Frontierland. We also ate at Pinocchios in MK for delicious (and large) flatbread. We loved a quick service place right inside Mexico in Epcot, too. I'd like to try Tusker House, Ohana, Be Our Guest and Cinderella's Royal Table next time we go.
- Did you stay on or off Disney property? What are pros and cons of where you stayed? Please share where you stayed if possible. Where are other places you’d like to try staying in the future? We stayed off property in a condo. It was cheaper than staying on property. We originally wanted on property but couldn't get a spot cheap enough since we booked only 3 months before our vacation. The condo was PERFECT! We had our own private pool and hot tub, which was nice once kids went to bed we could hang out right there and relax. We made our lunches every day and saved tons of money having a few dinners at home too. We absolutely would return here in the future. Cons were we had to get a rental car, but even that wasn't terrible as it allowed us to not have to wait for busses or be in more crowds. I'd love to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge someday, as we visited my family there this past week and it was really cool.
- Best character meals? See answer to #7.
- Best things to do besides visit the parks? Go to the beach! We didn't do that this trip, but it's so nice there. Swim and keep a regular routine lowkey pool day where you do NOTHING. That's so key with kids.
- What time did you arrive to parks typically? About 45-60 minutes before opening for MK, other parks we aimed for 30 minutes before because we weren't rushing to rides and didn't care about opening show. You want to be there earliest for MK because you park, then take the monorail or ferry, which has lines. It's also least busy in the morning hours.
- Which rides do you suggest getting Fast Pass for at Magic Kingdom? Epcot? Hollywood Studios? Animal Kingdom?
Depends on who you are, what ages your kids are. For us though we got for MK two days: Peter Pan, Splash Mountain, Pirates, Meeting Mickey at Town Square, Dumbo, Thunder Mountain, etc. For Epcot: Frozen then later in the day Soarin, Spaceship Earth, and Nemo. For Hollywood Studios: Star Tours, Toy Story Mania, Disney Jr. Live on Stage. For Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safari, Kali River Rapids, and Navi River in Pandora. The only thing we wanted that I could not get was 7 Dwarves Mine Train- they went on it but had to wait in line first thing in morning for 1.5 hours (that's a short wait apparently).
- If you packed lunches or snacks, what types of things did you pack for kids? Peanut butter sandwiches. Ham and cheese sandwiches. Lunchables. Salads for me. Wraps for my husband some days. Crackers and cheese with fruit. Cheese sticks. Granola bars, graham crackers, Goldfish, craisins, peanut butter crackers, Cheez-its, apple sauce pouches, apples, grapes, strawberries, yogurts, etc.
- What is your advice for what to pack for the parks? What to put in your bag? Hand sanitizer, wipes, sling bag for in the rides, lollipops for kids for rides. Water!
- Top 3 tips for traveling with kids (getting to and from, flying, driving, using iPads or other things to entertain, etc.)? Use iPads. Our kids don't use them often, but on this trip we were totally fine with it while traveling. They are lightweight and work well to keep them entertained in one place. Pack tons of snacks. Remind yourself that traveling is the worst, it'll be over soon.
- What did you dislike on this trip? What would you do differently if you went on this trip again? I did not like the crowds. It was really really busy. It overwhelmed me having to constantly watch my kids, get through people and not get run over, rush to lines etc. I would next time take breaks more often and let rides go. I felt pressure to get the kids on everything we could since it was our first time, it was like we'd never go back. I should have told myself it's OK to miss things.
- What was your MOST favorite part of the trip? Seeing my kids' faces. Watching my oldest too cold big boy skip down the sidewalks. The food- oh so yummy all that food everywhere! The castle and the sunshine. The fireworks are incredible. Animal Kingdom safari was the BEST thing ever. I'd ride on Frozen at Epcot and Peter Pan at MK over and over if I could.
- What is something you would tell others NOT to do at Disney World? Spend a zillion dollars on trinkets they don't care about and don't spend tons on Mickey ears. I bought $3 ears for my daughter and she wore them two days for about 30 minutes each. I wore mine all day long, totally comfortable. Worth the price, did not need to spend $50 for us on something fancier. Do not think you can do everything. Let things go.
- Misconceptions: Something you think people don’t know about Disney or are confused by when making plans to travel to Disney World? That it IS stressful, chaotic, busy and overwhelming planning and attending this trip. I think everyone talks about the positives, which is amazing. It is magical, for sure. It's worth it, yes... but some parts of it are hard and not fun with kids in the heat, tired, walking so much etc. So just brace yourself for that part, or else you'll be very disappointed or shocked. I also think the Fast Pass process is confusing at first, but SO easy once you use it. You have to use up all 3 of your daily allotted Fast Passes per person before you can add ONE more Fast Pass at a time.
- How were the ages of your kids on this trip? Do you think it was a good age span to go, or is another age better, why? Our oldest was 8 years old. Our middle was 5 1/2 and our youngest was almost 17 months. The baby didn't know any better, is super easygoing anyway, so didn't mind waiting and being in lines, napped in the carrier no issues. I think a toddler 2-4 would be really hard with all the waiting. Age 8 was perfect, he walked totally fine and didn't complain, he could go on most rides, and he wasn't too old to find it all magical and dreamy. Our 5 1/2 year old was PERFECT age as a girl especially, she loves princesses and had a blast dressing up. I wish we'd taken our 8 year old two years ago, I think that's the perfect age 5-6. They can handle walking more, but are still so innocent and young and into the magic part of characters. But our 8 year old wasn't too old, like we feared. He loved every second. It was very sweet.
- Who is your favorite Disney character and why? I love Pocahontas, Joy from Inside Out, and Snow White. I love them all really, but those were really fun to meet. Jasmine and Aladdin were so cool to meet also.
- Anything else you want to add? Remember why you are there... not to get on every single ride, not to buy a zillion trinkets. You're there to show them the magic and the fun of being a kid, of believing in dreams, and smiling at being carefree. You are there to be a child again, so get into the spirit. But I want to say publicly it's OK if you are stressed and not liking some parts of this trip, you don't have to smile through all of it. Just like having a newborn: it's the most amazing experience of your life, but you still don't like waking up in the night or a screaming baby changing diapers or getting peed on, and that's OK to admit. It's OK to admit Disney is similarly not perfect the entire time.