Honestly the one thing that we have stressed the most about on this trip is taking the kids to Walt Disney World. The happiest place on earth is a very intimidating place to take three young children especially in the heat of a sweltering Florida summer. At over $90 a ticket just to enter the Magic Kingdom we felt like we couldn’t afford any mistakes. So after three months of reading every Disney tip on the Internet and getting our plan of action down pat we were finally ready to let the magic begin. Turns out that all of our hard work paid off. Here is an overview of what worked for us.
Lodging: Originally we were going to camp at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort but after realizing that we would need advanced reservations we decided to stay at a campground just outside the park. This way we weren’t locked into particular dates and we could keep our car right at our site which you can’t do at Fort Wilderness. At only $25 a night camping also allowed us to save a considerable amount that we could put towards visiting the Magic Kingdom.
Kiddie Transport: One thing that we knew that we would need for Disney is an effective way to move our three young children around the park. We are not traveling with a stroller or carrier so that meant we would need to rent something. A double jogging stroller would work great for the boys but we didn’t want Five of Hearts to be left out. Many Internet searches later we found the Orlando Stroller Rental company which rents glider board attachments. These looked great but many reviews online said that the glider board wouldn’t work with every stroller. The great thing about Orlando Stroller Rental is that they have a store where you can view all of the strollers and test them out. After settling into our campsite we headed just down the road to Orlando Stroller Rental where a very helpful clerk assisted us with selecting a glider board and stroller. After some fiddling around we figured out that the glider board worked great on the City Mini GT Double if you adjust the handlebar all the way down. At only $65 for three full days it was the best money that we spent in Disney. The stroller allowed all the kids to ride in comfort and gave us extra room to carry our belongings. It also gave the kids a place to take a nap out of the sun. It turned on a dime and with the two of us pushing on either side of the glider board it worked superbly. We made sure to park close enough to the Transportation and Ticket Center so we didn’t need to take the tram or any buses. If we had used trams, trains or buses we would have needed to fold the stroller but the monorail allowed us to keep all the kids in the stroller which worked great coming back late at night.
Disney Kitsch: As soon as you get near Orlando the signs begin advertising the multitude of Mickey themed products to be purchased. The younger Fives’ Nana had given them each some money to use while in Disney and they were hot to go shopping. Since we didn’t want to spend our time in the park dealing with souvenirs we decided to get this out of the way early on. On our first night in town we took a trip to Downtown Disney which is pretty much just shops and restaurants. The kids purchased their princess and pirate goods and we were able to try out the stroller in our first Disney crowds.
Special Treats: Since we weren’t staying inside the Disney World itself, we wanted to give the kids some of the little extras that they might be missing out on. We didn’t have Mickey shampoo or soap but we could pick up a couple of little things to get the kids in the Disney spirit. We were able to find some great Disney themed cups, plates, and outfits outside of Orlando that we presented to the kids at the campground. We also picked up Disney themed coloring and sticker books to take with us to the Magic Kingdom. These worked as a great distraction while we waited in lines and during longer breaks in the park.
Rested and Relaxed: The day before visiting the Magic Kingdom we prepared like athletes the day before a big race. We relaxed by the pool, ate lots of good protein, and were in bed before dark. While trying to keep the kids calm we packed up the stroller, set the alarm, and triple checked that we had the tickets.
Early to Late: We arrived at the park an hour before opening and it honestly took that long to actually reach the park gates. After parking the car, boarding the monorail, and presenting the tickets we made it to the gates in time for the opening ceremony. Once in the park we were prepared to spend the entire day bringing our own lunch, dinner and snacks. By staying for the whole day we were able to take our time and get our money’s worth. As the crowds in one area of the park swelled we could move to less crowded areas knowing that we had the time visit that area later on. Being there all day also allowed us to watch shows, ride our favorite rides multiple times, and see the late night fireworks. It really took the stress off the day and made it very relaxing knowing we had fourteen hours to experience the park.
What We Learned: Prior to visiting Disney we read so many great tips from sites like mousesavers.com, allears.net, and thisfloridalife. While we were in the park the advice we learned helped us make the most of our day.
***We definetely agree that using the Fastpass is one of the best ways to minimize your wait time. Having a Fastpass for Buzz Lightyear saved us considerably everytime that we rode.
***Definitely pack snacks, water and distractions in a bag to carry with you while waiting in line.
***Try to plan on staying all day to make the most of everything the park offers and to slow down the pace of your day.
***Be aware that you need to get in line to interact with the characters at all and there are not that many walking around the park. Five of Hearts waited in line for over 30 minutes for a 2 minute photo opportunity with Stitch. If you want a character interaction we recommend getting a Fastpass at the Town Square Theater right as you enter the park. While waiting for the Main Street Electric Parade at 11pm we found that the line here for a visit with Mickey and Minnie wasn’t so bad. However, it is still quite a wait for just a photo.
**We found a great place to eat and nap was to the right of Space Mountain and in the square near the Hall of Presidents.
**We also hit the rides in Adventureland one last time while the crowds were in front of the castle waiting for the fireworks. Then we stood next to the Mad Hatter’s Teacups and Cheshire Cafe to watch the fireworks. We could hear the music from here, had a great view, and didn’t have to deal with crowds.
***One final tip is to hit the rides during the early morning and late at night when lines are less and it is cooler. Then during the busier, hotter part of the day watch the shows like Mickey’s Philharmagic in the air-conditioning. And overall remember to breath, slow down and make sure to check in often with your kids. If they aren’t having fun there is no point in being in the park.