Long lines and missed naps can often times be a recipe for parental disaster. If you happen to be considering a trip to Disney World you may be concerned with how to keep your cool when it is not always certain a sleep deprived young one will keep theirs. I just returned home from Disney World a week shy of my third trimester with a two year old, a five year old and a seven year old. It was nuts. It was also wonderful. Our party consisted of 17, with nine of our group ranging in ages from 2-8. I loved seeing the look on the employee’s faces when they asked us the size of our party because I don’t think they are used to seeing groups that size very often.
With all of this being said, I am sooo happy that we went. It was worth all of the back aches and stressful moments because Disney is magic, pure magic and I would do it all again. Perhaps after taking a few months break. I did learn some things from this trip that I would do again and things that I wish I would have known before going…so here you go!
Anticipation is half of the Fun
When we told our kids that we were surprising them with a trip to Disney World for Christmas their reaction was a little lack-luster. They didn’t really understand what to expect or how exciting this actually was. To help prep them for the trip we watched videos on YouTube, had a Disney movie marathon, and made a chain count down. It was so much fun to see them process what to expect. Here are 50 ideas for a Disney countdown from All Things with Purpose and a Disney movie countdown from DLR Prep School.
You can also download Disney apps that are free that will help you “explore” the park so your kids can get excited about the events that are available.
I also took time with each of the kids in preparing what we would wear. One of the days we had matching shirts, but most of the days my daughter wanted to be in her special princess dresses and I love that! My nieces prefer not to wear princess dresses so my sister in law made them matching princess t-shirts for every day that we were at the park.
Make the prep special, it sets the tone for a magical vacation.
It is always a good idea to take a picture at the beginning of each day at Disney World. It is a great way to capture the memory of the day before kids are too cranky for a group shot and if your child is lost you can easily identify what they are wearing and what they look like. You can buy temporary tattoos with your contact information on them or even write your number on your child’s arm if you have a wanderer!
Prepare a Special Bag for Travel
Each child was allowed a free carry on for the flight. The kids were allowed to pack a few special things from home. My daughter chose her tiara, twilight sparkle pony, and a few princess books. I thought it was a little silly to travel with a tiara, but she wore it multiple days and really used it. She also loved having her daddy read to her at night and snuggling with her pony for sleep. Each item meant something to her and it made her travel experience much more comfortable.
My older son packed his 3DS, books, games, and his teddy bear that he didn’t want anyone to see.
It is important for children to have a few comfort items even when things seem a little tight.
One of the best things we did, and when I say we I mean my husband, he downloaded new games and apps to our ipads and phones for the kids to play while we traveled or for moments we needed the kids to be quiet and entertained. This is an awesome article to help you find some your kids will love. 14 Best Travel Apps, Games & Toys for Preschoolers
In each individual bag we also had their own bag of snacks and treats. One of the best tips my friend gave me was to pack an empty water bottle that you could fill up with water once you passed through security. We packed SmartWater bottles with the flip top and used these traveling to and from home.
Prepare to be delayed
If you’re traveling with a preschooler know that things may be slower than you would like. Depending on your “traveling personality” this may be a good thing for you or a bad thing. Explain to your preschooler that there will be long wait times that they will need to wait their turn. This concept can be a little hard to swallow for little ones so have snacks, smart phones, and distractions ready!
You will have to wait in lines, your child may need a break to just sit, you may find yourself stuck in a bathroom stall with a child taking his/her sweet time. That is life with a preschooler, which you probably already know. Just stay fed and hydrated and make sure to get yourself some snacks. 🙂
Prep your Snacks
We prepped snacks to bring with us to the park as well as when we traveled to and from the park. One of my husband’s favorite parts about being at Disney is trying all of the amazing snacks: Dole Pineapple ice cream, a mickey pretzel, funnel cake, a turkey leg, popcorn, and more. He really did try each one of these. It was when time stretched into the afternoon and we had eaten through our goldfish, cutie oranges, apples, and frozen gogurts that we found actually buying a snack could be a game changer.
Its amazing what a soft serve ice cream cone, cotton candy, or popcorn can do for a kid’s mood. So if this is within your budget, I would say go for it.
If you are packing from home these are some of our favorite snacks:
Goldfish, apples, individual chip bags, oranges, frozen gogurts, peanut butter sandwiches, and grapes.
Freeze water bottles in prep before you go to the park to keep your lunch cold and offer a cold drink through out the day. Disney will always give you water, but they may or may not give you enough for your entire group.
Take time to enjoy the small, unexpected moments
Some of my children’s happiest times at the park were doing things that were simple.
Children need time to run and around and play and this is why I was somewhat shocked when my kid’s favorite moments would be watching a duck waddle by with it’s mate, feeding a squirrel a cracker, or running around a play area on Tom Sawyer’s island. Yes, the rides are amazing and fun, but there is magic in the tiny in-between moments too.
Plan, but Be Flexible
It is a good idea to know what park you want to go to each day and have a general idea of what it is you want to do. Do your research so you know what rides are age appropriate for your child. Some rides have certain height requirements while other rides can be too scary for sensitive children. You can also download apps to know which rides have the longest wait times and you can plan your day accordingly. Fast passes can be a life saver in this scenario as well.
If your kids are excited to meet characters remember that this can be a great use of your fast passes as those lines can be just as long if not longer than the lines for rides.
One of the things I really have to be careful of is trying to not pack too much in any given day. Depending on the age of your children you may want to take a break mid day and come back later to catch the fireworks/night time shows. You may even want to schedule an “off” day in between your visit to go to the beach or swim at the pool.
There are so many fun, amazing things to do at Disney World and it can easily be overwhelming. Take time for down time and you’ll be much better off!
Make time for water
When I say make time for water I mean it in so many different ways. Stay hydrated. If you are taking a preschooler to the park it is so important to make sure they are getting enough liquids as well. It could be a good idea to bring their favorite water bottle or buy a fun character water bottle along to fill up and sip on all day long. Chances are it is going to be hot and you’ll all need more water than you’re used to.
PLAY IN THE WATER. Whether you are taking time to swim in the pool, the ocean, or the bathtub make time for your little one to splash around. This was one of my kid’s favorite parts of the whole trip. We stayed at Saratoga Springs, which is a Disney facility at Disney World and the kids LOVED the pools there. The bathtub fit all three children easily and I found they seemed to recharge when we took time for them to play and get wet.
Utilize a stroller
One of my best pieces of advice is to bring a great stroller. We love the Sit and Stand stroller that allows for children to get in and out easily. For ease of travel we opted to buy the stroller from amazon and had it delivered to our hotel to be ready and waiting for us when we got there.
*Make it stand out:
Find some way to personalize your stroller. When at Disney you will find rows and rows of strollers. So if you buy a special balloon that will help you spot your stroller out in a crowd. You could also decorate the handle with a ribbon or lace streamers through the wheels. Employees at Disney will move your stroller around when you are in line so it isn’t always in the same place you left it which can be frustrating!
*Use it as a stool
If we were watching a parade or fireworks we would let the kids stand in the seats to give them a little better visibility. Make sure that your wheels are in the locked position and you can stand next to them for stability and a little extra snuggle time!
*Nap time must
We also used our stroller for a cruising nap machine. Because we were in such a big group we never made the choice to go back to the hotel. In the late afternoon we would find a window of time to go for a nap walk. Make sure your child is well fed, shaded, and comfortable and see what a long walk will do. Depending on the temperament/age of your child a nap may be a must!
Fast Pass Smart
Fast passes are done differently at each park. At Disney World you can schedule your fast passes way in advance and up to three per day. These can be hard to sync with a large group through the app service, but when we did have trouble we found the customer service chat to be extremely helpful.
If you are in Disneyland you are best off splitting up at the beginning of the day sending a “runner” to gather up the fast passes you will need as you wait in line for another attraction. I could write an entire post on this topic alone.
My best advice is to look at wait times and the rides you can/want to do ahead of time so you use your fast passes wisely. There were a few we used that felt like a waste because the wait time only ended up being 10 minutes or so.
This page of FAQ’s for fast passes should help you with all the questions you may have.
You will access these fast passes through your wristbands so make sure you keep track of them through your entire trip!
What to buy ahead of time
I always take a trip to the dollar store to buy an autograph book for my children ahead of time. I have also bought souvenirs for them beforehand as well. For example, on this trip I bought my son this Chewbacca jacket for $15 from target ahead of time.
I also like to shop Disney’s sales to purchase dresses for my daughter. This year I bought her this darling fairy dress that she wore her first day of Disney.
I do allow for my children to pick out one special prize to remember their trip by.
Jayne chose a “Frozen” music box, Jackson chose a 20 figure Star Wars set, and Jett chose a light saber.
We also bought this cute BB8 cup for my kids to keep their water in next to their beds and we like to buy the popcorn in the bucket that you can keep as a souvenir that we use all year long. It is the perfect size to split a microwave bag in two and a fun memento from the trip.
No matter how long you are staying at the park make sure to ENJOY yourself. It is so easy to get caught up in the to-do’s and worrying about doing just the right thing. Some of my favorite days at Disney have been when I have lived in the moment and was pleasantly surprised when a spontaneous show, character, or parade popped up in front of me. The music, the bubbles, the smells, make for such a memorable experience. I hope you enjoy your trip!
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Disney. The opinions and text are all mine.