Whew, what Disney heavy week! For all of those that aren’t into mouse ears, regularly scheduled program will return next week where I’ll be back to writing way too many words (per usual) about the Whole7 we are finishing up, budget changes we are implementing, and other thoughts on my mind like how is it that my baby demanding to sleep in a bed now??
But today I’m finishing up Disney week by answering all the questions I’ve received in one spot. Many overlapped so I combined them. I’ve heard from so many of you that are soon to be first timers and I’m hoping this can be a helpful resource, but read the comments on posts too. So many of you are impressively savvy with Disney advice and have really added so many good tips, so thank you!
To the Q&A!
I noticed you brought a stroller, how much walking around did they do and if quite a bit how did they handle it?
The girls did not walk around the Magic Kingdom much at all. It was too crowded most of the time. So actually instead of their legs being tired, we took them over to Tom Sawyer’s Island to run and explore (which they LOVED).
How were they during the waiting in lines for rides? Did you bring some sort of entertainment for them or play some games to keep them distracted?
We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride. There were certainly lines that went up to 75 minutes, but between fast passes and rider swaps, we chose waiting longer would not have worked well for us. Strollers aren’t allowed in lines, but I hear people use this as a great time to snack/eat lunch. Surprisingly I did not see many kids in line with entertainment beyond looking around or playing with the stickers that Disney cast members hand out like candy.
Did you take breaks during the day such as go back to hotel for naps or rest periods?
The day my mom arrived we did. We were early at the park for the Cinderella breakfast then came home by 2:00. We put the girls “down” but neither slept. In my family the girls are largely phasing out of naps (we still do rest time most days but sleep is hard to come by). On our 5th day we finally got them to take a nap in the stroller at about 4:00, but that took work!
Did they have any serious melt-downs I’ve been hearing about, what caused them and any suggestions on how best to circumvent them?
Besides a whining spat here and there, I’m actually really impressed by the way the girls handled everything. What worked for us was not rushing, listening to what they wanted to do (the carousel), and keeping plenty of snacks and water readily available.
How did K do?
Really awesome. I didn’t know how she’d hang, but she did great keeping up with the family. Even sit down meals (which are not our forte) went rather smoothly over all. I guess that will happen when they are starving and visually overwhelmed 😉
Don’t mind her face– she fell off a chair at the luau. #parentingwin
How much down time each day did you schedule?
Most days, nada. Well, we didn’t leave the parks. Usually after lunch and a ride, we’d call it “rest time.” That meant the girls were in the stroller with the shades pulled down and David and I would chat and walk the park (thus why we loved the beer option at Animal Kingdom- it was a great time to sip and wander). I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but we never woke up early (just naturally got moving around 7:30 am) and most nights we all went to bed together by 9:00 pm, so it worked well for us.
Do you recommend the food/dinner package (if you even did that)?
I can’t speak from experience since we opted not to. It worked out really well for us to not sign up for it, but it can save money I’ve heard based on your eating habits, so definitely look into it. You can find pros and cons here.
Where did you stay and do you recommend for little ones (my son is 6)?
The Polynesian. Any kid will love the Polynesian and I personally would place it ahead of the Floridian (especially with boys). However, I have heard good things about a lot of the resorts not on the monorail too. Check out the Animal Kingdom Lodge too- it sounds awesome!
What are your thoughts on the ideal age to visit with kids?
I thought Hailey was at the PERFECT age for it all (5 years old). I’m so glad we went at this point. She was tall enough to ride almost everything, could listen to directions, was into the shows, was completely enamored by the characters- perfection! Kaitlyn hung in there and enjoyed it too, but I would see us maybe going again in about 3 years when Kaitlyn is 5 and Hailey is 7/8.
How did it seem to go with the double stroller? When we go next October we will have a 4 year old and a 13 month old so I’m already starting to think about what will be best for us. Renting one there? a side by side or the one with one in front and one in back?
We brought out Indie Double Twin (side by side) and sung its praises the entire time! We had no troubles getting through any doorways and pushing it was so easy. I heard some people like a sit and stand for the ages you have, but for our girls (5 and 2), they both needed a place to sit. I also loved that ours lays down so they both had the option to nap (which they did only one day). If you can’t bring your own, I’d rent from an outside company and get a nice side by side. Or if your 13 month old does well in a carrier, make things even easier by bringing a single stroller and an ergo. Wearing the baby would probably be even easier!
How did you like the fast passes that you got to reserve?
For the most part, they were great for us! Our favorite fast passes were: Soarin’ at Epcot, the Safari at Animal Kingdom, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at MK and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at MK, Barnstormer at MK (because it’s a roller coaster Kaitlyn could ride too), and Peter Pan (because it is cute and the girls liked it but I couldn’t imagine waiting in the long line it always has).
Best character experiences?
The Fantasmic Package at Hollywood and Vine was a definite highlight! It had Minnie, Micket, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy. HUGE hit. We met Tiana in the princess hall at MK (got in early with no line) and she was incredibly engaging. And the one surprise to me, meeting the beast at dinner at the Be Our Guest restaurant. The girls really loved it! For princesses, check out Akershus in Epcot. I hear it’s preferred to the castle.
I would love to know your fav places to eat and fav rides for the girls. We go in May! Woohoo!
I’m so excited for you! I have limited experience so check the comments for others’ favorite restaurants! For us, the best food was at Be Our Guest restaurant. Favorite rides 7 Dwarfs Mine Train (huge hit), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The People Mover, The Safari at Animal Kingdom, Spaceship Earth (inside the big Epcot ball)– I thought it was super interesting but Hailey was a little unsettled by the darkness, the Royal Carousel (I don’t get it but the girls loved it), and for adults only, David and I loved the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios—
What made you choose the resort that you did?
All those details here! Next time I’d also be interested in checking out the Animal Lodge and the campground option!
What is the perfect age?
In my limited experience, 5! Hailey was at the PERFECT age. She could ride almost everything, was in awe of the characters, could hang really well– perfect!
Did you use any resources to plan or a travel agent?
We used one for our cruise and it was helpful, but did not use it for this trip. For us, the planning was part of the fun and we wanted to search for the deals, but I have friends that have loved working with an agent (they work for free since Disney pays them, not you, so I think it’s totally worth checking out!) Agent friends- feel free to leave your contact info in the comments so interested people can reach out to you!
How far in advance do you have to plan?
Personally I”d get the train rolling about a year in advance to allow for a smooth process and plenty of time.
My girls are petrified of characters in person – princesses and all – still be a fun trip for us?
I think so! For the most part, you have to seek out characters, so you can mostly avoid them if you prefer. If they are into Disney, they’re going to have a ball between the shows, overall energy, etc. Plus there are other cute things to check out like Dino-land at AK and Winnie the Pooh area at MK.
Should you book all fast passes and dining ahead of time?
All fast passes, yes. You can always change them at anytime, but if you are staying on property you get access to booking them 30 days before people off property, so definitely take advantage of that to snag the ones you want. For dining (for us), we picked 3 experiences we really wanted and booked those, the just winged the rest. It worked perfectly for us to not be constrained by dining reservations for every meal or every day.
How did you handle exhausted kids and nap time (if they still take any).
This stressed me out prior to our trip, but it ended up that our girls only took one nap the entire time- in the stroller in the late afternoon on our 5th day at the parks. Since we all went to bed most nights together at 9:00 pm and woke up at our leisure around 7:30 am, they did surprisingly well. We made sure to keep a slow pace or wander off to a quieter area when they became overstimulated.
Please notice Hailey’s yawn and Kaitlyn’s tired eyes! LoL.
Photopass/Memory Maker- would you do it again?
I’m torn. On one hand, it was really nice to just watch the girls’ interactions with characters instead of stressing about taking pictures, plus I loved the extra photos that showed up from rides. However it is expensive and I feel like I got a handful of ones I really love, so the cost for me ended up being about $25 per picture I love. Still feels a little pricey to me, as someone that usually has a camera glued to my hand. However, it did help guarantee the entire family got into pictures (important!) and if you don’t snap a lot on your own typically, then I definitely think it’s worth it. How is that for an inconclusive answer??
We want to stay for fireworks but my son is 5 and I worry it will ruin the next day. Thoughts?
If you can swing a nap, go for it! Otherwise it’s completely child dependent. We stayed at the park for fireworks on the day the girls napped and on a day we knew we didn’t have to get up early the next day (no breakfast plans). For us, that worked out really well that way!
Did you spend a lot of time waiting in lines?
Though long lines existed (for the popular rides, 60-75 minutes), we never waited more than 10 minutes. This was by choice and design as we only rode the popular rides if we had a fast pass/rider swap. We also utilized Extra Magic Hours (David and I went solo to the extra 2 night hours at Epcot and fit in Soarin’, Test Track, and the silly little boat ride in Mexico). For our personal enjoyment, waiting in longer lines would have hampered our fun. We would prefer to ride less rides and wander more rather than wait for an hour+.
Would you recommend the Disney Cruise or Disney World?
I feel like our experience with a Disney Cruise was Disney put into a well-contained box (in a good way!). Speaking strictly from personal opinion, I would do a Disney cruise first, while the kids are young, then hit up Disney world when the kids can hang a bit more, like ages 4 and 6. I know people that swear by the opposite too, so take my opinion with a grain of salt!
Did parents like it as much as kids?
We had a ball because we were there experiencing it through our kids eyes. David and I are a bit more isolationists and would typically spend our vacation money on visiting a deserted island somewhere, but for being a special family vacation, yes, we loved the experience just as much as the girls.
Best/most efficient way to get there from Charlotte? Do you need a car if you fly?
We drove and it worked out fine. It was just under 10 hours. The girls watched movies and David and I had lots of time to chat. I would drive again. If you fly, you can take the Magical Express to your hotel then you won’t need a car, though I hear some people prefer having one.
Was it really expensive?
I think so.
Was it worth it?
Yes. We had a really fabulous trip and made some awesome family memories. We won’t be annual Disney people, but could see returning again in a few years. Seeing the video we took and combing through pictures is something I’ll enjoy for years to come. The magic in the eyes of a child is indescribable!
Did I miss anything?
Disney experts out there– thanks so much for leaving such great tips/advice!!