Disney World Tips and Tricks - The Basics

Monday, October 14, 2013

Our family just returned from our first trip to Disney World, and let me tell you, we picked up some info that is DEFINITELY worth sharing.

I have an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to Disney Travel, we've been planning this trip since last December, and we still learned a few tips and tricks while on the trip. So, I'm more than happy to share them with you. 

I will break the info up into a few posts that I will link back to this post as I post them.

Disney World Tips and Tricks - What to Wear
Disney World Tips and Tricks - Freebies
Disney World Tips and Tricks - Halloween

This post will cover the basics, and I think you'd be surprised to find out that Disney has been trying to prepare you FOR YEARS via their songs and movies:


Preparation

Even YOU can't be caught unawares.
So prepare for the chance of a lifetime.


  • Even after months of research and reviewing packing lists, and reading books, and downloading apps, and creating an itinerary (color-coded no less)! The BEST advice that I can give here is to be informed but to be prepared to change those plans.
  • We found out that the boys liked Animal Kingdom far more than we thought they would and we ended up spending more time in that park than we had planned. So, we ended up changing our color-coded itinerary - and nobody died.
  • park-hopper pass will allow you to be more FLEXIBLE. It will also allow you to eat at some of the better restaurants at Epcot on multiple nights of your trip if you're interested in that. And after a few days of quick service veggie burgers, the nicer Epcot restaurants are quite enticing, I must say.
  • My personal opinion is to not try to do everything "like the pros" on your very first trip. First of all, this is a vacation (or it's supposed to be) and trying to tackle absolutely everything is just going to suck the fun out of it. Secondly, I'm sure that people who go every year ARE masters of everything that they blog about, but baby steps will get you to their level. Don't try to tackle it all at once.
Size of the Parks

There's more to see than can ever be seen,
More to do than can ever be done.
There's far too much to take in here,
More to find than can ever be found.


And here you thought old Elton was singing about "everything the light touches". . . . 
  • Anyhoot, we estimated that we walked AT LEAST 5 miles per day and that was with a 5 year old and 8 year old in tow. I would imagine that many people walk more than that each day.

  • Many will tell you that if there is any way to wrangle your child into a stroller (at any age) to do that. I would recommend differently. There are so many strollers at Disney World (we even saw a pre-teen walk up and start lounging in one), what we saw is that a stroller will likely slow you down if you don't need one.

  • They looked hard to maneuver around the 100 million other strollers that were on the property.
  • "But my children are not used to walking 5+ miles per day!" you exclaim. Well, in the months prior to your trip, I recommend that you start taking longer walks with the family dog at night. We also opted for some "adventurous" outings such as day long trips to the zoo and hiking in state parks to get the entire family prepared.
  • Now, if you opt to have your children walking along with you in the parks, be prepared to take them by the hand to move them along in the crowd.
Sleep

A dream is a wish your heart makes,
When you're fast asleep.


This is a tricky one.
  • Disney parks offer "Magic Hours" on certain days. Each park will either open early or close late on certain days during your visit.

  • Some people may lead you the misguided notion that you should head to the park that is opening early and then use your park hopper to "hop" to the park that is closing late and keep up that same pace for every day of your trip - squeeze every ounce of Disney out of your trip!

  • If you are capable of keeping up that pace - more power to you! I, on the other hand, need sleep. (Most people need sleep to keep up with an above average amount of walking . . . in above average temperatures . . . all day . . . every day.)

  • So, you can also plan to convince your kids to take a nap mid-day. If your kids are hip to the game that that plan equals not quite the same amount of fun as staying in the park (as mine quickly figured out), then switch to plan B.
  • Plan B is that nobody will die if you don't take advantage of Disney's Magic Hours. GASP!

Saving Your Trip on the Fly

Poor unfortunate souls
In pain, in need


I mean, I guess you could call on Ursula if things should go horribly, terribly awry with your trip, but your best bet is to try to think logically. First off, some things are completely preventable. 
  • If you or someone you are traveling with gets motion sickness, start each day with a dose of Dramamine lest the Teacups send your trip spinning in a direction you hadn't planned. 

  • Did you know that there are two types of Dramamine? One type has Dimenhydrinate as the active ingredient. The other has Meclizine as the active ingredient and these pills are a non-drowsy formula. If one type does not work for you, try the other type.

  • Remember all that walking you'll be doing? And perhaps even in tennis shoes every day (which you may not be used to)? I'd rate this trip a four Band-aid per day trip. However many Band-aids you plan on packing, pack more. Your blistered feet will thank you, and you'll be able to motor through the remainder of the trip much more easily.

  • And finally, and probably most importantly, if illness should befall one of your family members while on the trip, leave the park and head to the closest Urgent Care. 

  • Jaxon, our youngest son, woke up one morning throwing up. And rather than making him "soldier on" or trying to spend all day in a hotel room trying to figure out what was wrong with him with nothing more that the few medicines we had packed, we Googled the closest Urgent Care, and it happened to be a mere 10 minutes away from the hotel. (Alternately, you can ask the nearest Disney Cast Member or your hotel concierge for directions to the nearest Urgent Care.)

  • Yes, we lost a half of a day in the parks, but he was up and at 'em in no time and the rest of the vacation was not lost. And, we left with a diagnosis (virus), a prescription, and instructions for the rest of the trip (keep going as long as he wants to keep going). We felt better hearing this from a professional.
Food

Soup du jour,
Hot hors d'oeuvres,
Why, we only live to serve.
Try the grey stuff -
It's delicious.
Don't believe me? Ask the dishes.


  • We opted to travel with the standard Disney Dining Plan, which includes one quick service meal (standard theme park food), one table service meal (at Disney's better restaurants), and one snack per person each day of your stay.

  • When traveling with the Dining Plan, Disney does a great job of tracking the meals and snacks for you so that you know how many you've used and how many you have left. However, I don't think we knew when we signed up for the plan JUST HOW MUCH FOOD this plan included.

  • I have come to the conclusion that Disney is trying to kill its visitors with the sheer amount of food on the dining plan. ;-) The trick that we used for the quick service kids' meals (which come with the main meal plus two sides) was to always order a cookie as one side. The cookies are individually wrapped and can be tucked away in your backpack for a snack later. 

  • Of course, then you have a ton of extra snack credits to use at the end of the week. And to use those, we purchased items that we brought back home on the last day of the trip.

  • If you're lucky, you can slide your vacation into a window when Disney offers their standard Dining Plan for free, and then you don't feel so bad if you can't eat all of the food. Note: Free dining plans are only available to guests staying in select resorts and during certain windows of availability each year. All reservations for Table Service meals should be made 180 days prior to your trip.

  • Keep in mind that Disney World will also allow you to bring food and beverages into the parks if packed in soft-sided containers. We packed water each day in small, insulated lunch boxes that were small enough to fit into our backpack to keep from having to find vendors when the kids were thirsty. This also contributed to our overage of snack credits at the end of the trip (we weren't using them throughout the week on boring things like water).
Timing

I'm late, I'm late for, 
A very important date.
No time to say hello, good-bye, 
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late.


So, if you put a lot of these tips together, you get to one very important tip - TIMING.
  • Once you are in the parks, they are so large (everything the light touches, remember?), that it will take you much longer to walk from one area to another than you might think.

  • AND, you might want to take advantage of those Magic Hours.

  • OR, at least some of the scheduled parades, shows, or character appearances . . . .

  • AND if you made reservations at Table Service Restaurants, you'll need to make sure you get to those on time.

  • SO take into account that the buses that shuttle you from park to park often make a couple of stops before landing you at your desired destination. Make sure to leave plenty of time if you have a scheduled event.

  • IN CONCLUSION, I'll leave you with my very first tip: be prepared to change your plans and be flexible.
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2 comments:

Paige said...

A great thing to prevent blisters is BandAid brand's Blister Blocker. It's found at Walmart and Target in the Pharmacy section. It looks like a little deodorant stick, the packaging is a teal color. It is clear and smells citrusy. You rub it all over, wherever your shoe might touch or rub. Then slide on your shoes and go about your day.

I used it for my wedding, and had no blisters or irritation from my glitter shoes that on other occasions without the balm gave me blisters.

Donna Walkush said...

Thanks for the tip, Paige! I will be on the lookout for this product - seems like it could come in handy for many a summer outing with the kids.

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