1) Arrive as close as possible to opening time. There are several reasons to get to the Walt Disney World parks early. First, if you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll have some time for fun before the Florida heat gets too unbearable. Second, the lines are shorter early in the day, so you can get a lot more done. Many of the best attractions for young kids, like the Fantasyland rides in the Magic Kingdom and Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, have very long lines. You minimize your wait by rushing to those popular attractions ahead of the big crowd that gets to the parks a little later.
Getting to the parks early also allows you to leave for a midday break or to head back to your hotel or vacation home for the day if your family’s had enough. Younger kids in particular can only take excitement in small doses. Once you’ve had your fun at the parks, you can head back to your lodging for swimming, playing, and other low-key activities, or for a nap to refuel so you can head back to Disney later.
2) Start your visit in Fantasyland and New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Fantasyland and New Fantasyland are the epicenter of the Magic Kingdom for young kids. That means long lines for the rides, starting early in the day and building throughout the afternoon. You’ll avoid some of the crowd if you make this your first stop. Head to New Fantasyland first because it’s the most popular spot, since it’s the “new kid on the block.” Do the Dumbo ride last because the wait isn’t bad, even when the line is long. This ride uses a virtual queuing system. You get a pager and relax in an air conditioned play area while the kids run, climb, slide, and generally have a great time until the pager goes off when it’s your family’s turn to ride.
3) Know the location of the Baby Care Centers. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, the Baby Care Centers at the Disney parks are a lifesaver. They offer a cool, quiet, private place to feed or nurse your baby, plus spacious changing facilities, kid-sized bathrooms, and a nice spot just to kick back and relax when you need some down time. Check your park map to find the locations at each of the four theme parks.
4) Bring some snacks to the park. Kids often get hungry and need quick snacks to sooth their tummies. The parks at Walt Disney World sell a variety of items, including healthy snacks like fruit, but their prices are high. Bring small snacks like dry cereal, cookies, granola bars, or fruit snacks with you, and hand them out when your children get hunger pangs. You’ll save a lot of money. You can also carry water bottles and fill them at the many fountains.
5) Rent a stroller from an off-site company. All four Disney parks rent strollers, but there are certain inconveniences to getting strollers at the theme parks. First, although it’s not a frequent occurrence, it’s possible for a park to run out strollers on a very busy day. Second, all of the rental strollers look the same, so it’s often hard to find the one that belongs to your family in a sea of identical strollers outside a show or attraction. Third, the hard plastic strollers aren’t particularly comfortable for kids. Fourth, you can’t leave the theme parks with a rental stroller. If you’re park hopping, you have to leave your stroller at the first park, then pick up another one when you get to the next park.
Renting a stroller at an off-site company is a great alternative that actually ends up cheaper than doing daily rentals at the Disney parks. Your stroller stays with you, and you can choose from among several comfortable models. The big stroller companies all deliver your stroller right to your hotel or vacation home and pick it up at the end of your trip.
6) See shows later in the day. Popular rides are best done early, before the crowd grows. Reserve shows for later in the day, once the lines get long and the kids are getting tired of waiting out in the sun. Many great shows for youngsters, like Mickey’s PhilharMagic in the Magic Kingdom, Voyage of the Little Mermaid in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, are held inside, in dark, air-conditioned theaters. Youngsters enjoy the music and action, and those who are getting tired might even dose off for a quick nap.
7) Book a character meal. Sure, you can see the characters for free at all the Disney theme parks, but you often use up a big chunk of time waiting in line. Book a character meal to ensure your family will have at least one laid-back character experience. There are meals at every park and most of the Disney resorts. Call 407-WDW-DINE for details and to make a reservation. Featured characters include Mickey and friends, the Disney Princesses, and Winnie the Pooh, depending on which meal you book. The characters come right to your table to frolic with the kids, giving your the opportunity to get some of the best photos of your trip.
You’ll find great packages for your family on www.orlandovacation.com, or call 1-800-641-4008 if you need some help from a live agent to choose the perfect options for your Walt Disney World trip.