After a full year of saving and a lot of research and budgeting (and a tremendous amount of help from my parents) we did it. We took the kids to Disney World. I went to Disney World several times as a child, but neither of my kids nor my husband has ever been. It had also been 18 years since I myself had been. A LOT has changed.
After doing tons of research, Pinning everything Disney related, talking to my Disney expert friends and budgeting EVERYTHING, I was in information overload. Not all advice was practical for our situation (we avoided character dining due to our budget) and admittedly I blew off advice (read: ponchos) because I thought I knew better. There were also some things that I wish someone had told me (Breakfast in the Magic Kingdom? Good Luck!)
So below is what I learned and what I would want to know before visiting Disney World:
- All Disney souvenirs can be bought off Disney property and online, usually for cheaper. Buy most of your souvenirs before you go and surprise the kids each day. If you do buy in the parks, buy Disney Parks branded items, you are less likely to find them discounted elsewhere.
- You can bring a back pack into all the parks. This was a great budget helper for us as we packed bottles of water, snacks, sunscreen, camera batteries and so much more. If you don't mind the back back, it is so worth it.
- Bring ponchos. They are $8.50 in the parks. It will rain. We've been to Florida and knew it would rain and planned to just duck in and wait out the showers. It rained half the day each day we were there. Disney World does not slow down for the rain. Bring the ponchos.
- Do not plan on eating breakfast in the Parks, unless you have reservations somewhere. Seriously, the only place we could find for breakfast in the Magic Kingdom was Starbucks. None of the other parks looked promising either. Eat at your hotel and then go, full kids are happier kids.
- Just because your child meets the height requirement does not mean they should ride the ride. The very first ride we got on was Stitch at Magic Kingdom. It never occurred to me that it would be scary, we found out the hard way what the (!) means on those handy maps.
- If you have a princess, get the Anna and Elsa FastPass+. While we were there the line was never under two hours.
- If you have the time, take two days to do the Magic Kingdom. This is the biggest park and has so many awesome things to do both early in the day and late at night. I reccomend arriving at park opening one day and doing Frontier Land and Fantasy Land. On the second day, arrive mid or late afternoon and do Main Street, Tomorrow Land and Adventure Land. Stay for the fireworks and electrical parade.
- If you need to cool off or take a break, there is an inside air conditioned play area inside the line for Dumbo in Fantasy Land.
- Likewise, the Laugh Floor in Tomorrow Land is also a nice place to cool off and enjoy a few minutes of comedy.
- Have a small kid who wants to ride roller coasters like the big kids, but you aren't sure? Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It looks like a big roller coaster, but there aren't any large drops and it regularly slows itself down.
- The best "big" rides are Space Mountain and Splash Mountain
- Best ride for little kids: Peter Pan
- There are tons of character spots. You could devote an entire day to Characters in the Magic Kingdom and I'm still not sure you would meet them all.
- If you have a day that looks like it will rain all day, plan on going here. Most things are inside and won't close for rain.
- You won't want to miss the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, your little kids won't want to miss Disney Jr. Live on Stage
- The Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area is fun for kids and adults, even if your kids have no idea why it is so cool.
- This is where you want to meed Woody and Buzz. It is set up really well with lots of photo opportunities while you wait in line.
- Best rides for big kids: Tower of Terror and Rocking Roller Coaster
- Best rides for little kids: Toy Story Mania
- Has the best authentic food. If you can, eat lunch or dinner in your favorite country. You will not be disappointed. (Note: This is usually pricier than the other food at Disney World, but is sooooo worth the splurge)
- When you get to Epcot, go and walk the countries first, then do Future World. Future world usually clears out by early afternoon.
- Use your FastPass+ on Soarin, Mission:Space or Test Track
- There is an awesome Character spot in Future World where you can meet some of your favorites.
- This is the hardest place to meet the Princesses. They only come out at certain times and only for about 30 minutes at a time. The lines are usually long and you will have to wait quite a while.
- Epcot has a spectacular fireworks show if you are there at night
- Epcot can be done in half a day.
- Go in the morning. All but the tigers are most active in the morning.
- When you arrive, go to Africa, Discovery Island, Dino World and end in Asia. The tigers are in Asia and aren't active until 2 or 3PM in the afternoon. The tigers are on the jungle trek in Asia.
- Don't eat lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. It does not hold up to my Tennessee standards. There is better food to be had in the park.
- Use your FastPass+ on the Safari, Everest, Kali River Rapids or DINOSAUR
- This park will likely not take you all day.
I hope these tips help in your planning. If you have any questions about how things work, please ask. I'll be happy to answer any questions. Next week, I'll tell you the things Disney World does very well, and the things they got very wrong.