help! We’re going to Disney World!

true love disney style

I want to be all New Years-y and goal-setting-y and fresh start making. But that is just going to have to wait until another post because we are taking the kids to Disney in the near-ish future and I have no idea what I’m doing. My sweet husband has done all the planning for the past six months and now my part is fast approaching: the packing.

I’ve never been to the Magic Kingdom so I’m really looking forward to the castle and the princesses and all the magic. The girls are looking forward to meeting Ariel but they very much expect her to be in a tail. Not sure how that’s gonna work. But first I have to pack. And I am filled with anxiety about the whole thing.

Have you been with your kids? What would you say is the number one must have thing that I may not think of? Or perhaps your top three must have things? We will be flying, if that changes anything. It makes a big difference to me as I am super anxious about flying. But that’s a whole nother post.

I would appreciate any Disney advice you would like to offer: packing related, ride related, anything really. Ready? Go.


  1. says

    We’re only an hour from Disney and spend quite a bit of time there. Definitely pack clothes for layering as it’s been pretty cold here. It might start out chilly in the morning, but after walking around for a while (and by mid-day) it’ll warm up. We usually do hoodies over t-shirts this time of year. You can bring drinks and food into the parks, so a small cooler back-pack with bottled water is a good way to save money (if you don’t mind carrying it).

    If you go to Epcot (highly recommend it!!) the kids can stop at different “KidCot” stations in all the countries and decorate masks, complete with stamps from each country. “Club Cool” is a fun spot with free samples of soda from all over the world. It’s a great break for thirsty kids (and parents) who might need a little pick-me-up. My kids love it since it’s the only time they are allowed to have soda and it’s portion controlled in little sample cups!

    Have FUN!

  2. Kristin Saine says

    Hi! I actually just got back yesterday from my semester of working at Disney, so I can help!

    I echo what Beth said- bring food into the parks! It is ridiculously expensive and lines tend to be extremely long for lunch from 11:30-almost 2. Plus, you’ll save money!

    Also, since I worked at Magic Kingdom, most of my knowledge is centered there. Ask cast members working at rides for a rider switch pass. This is like a fast pass that works immediately instead of having to use yours at a certain time. Definitely comes in handy!

    You HAVE to see Dream Along With Mickey- my absolute FAVORITE THING in all of Disney World. It’s a show on the castle stage with all the characters and great music- your kids will love it. Think of me when you see Peter Pan! (He’s my favorite).

    In the Move it, Shake it, Celebrate it Street Party, the kids will be able to dance in the street with the characters- something they will love :]

    In terms of parades, especially at Magic Kingdom, do NOT line up for the parade where it starts. For example, the day parade and SpectroMagic all start from Main Street and make their way into Liberty Square and Frontierland. People seem to think you can only see the parade from where it starts, so it is a LOT more busy up towards the beginning, and honestly, kind of a nightmare. Definitely watch from Liberty Square and Frontierland.

    Also, I heard from Facebook that you recently celebrated your girls’ birthdays. Get “Happy Birthday” pins from the front of each park for the girls to wear. We as cast members shower those people with attention and lots of times give out free things. I’m sure they would love the attention- wouldn’t we all! :]

    Don’t go to Magic Kingdom on a Sunday, Monday, Friday, or Saturday if you can help it. People tend to start and end their vacations there, and it’s the most crowded on those days.

    I could go on and on, but I hope this helped! You guys are going to have SO much fun! Can’t wait to see pictures! :]

  3. Kristin Saine says

    Oh yes! Forgot to mention- Ariel has her own meet and greet area at Magic Kingdom called “Ariel’s Grotto”. It’s in Fantasyland right behind Cinderella’s Carousel. She is in her fin! She sits on a big rock and it’s so cute!

  4. Kristin Saine says

    Sorry for the million comments, but I just wanted to let you know I just Facebooked you my info if you need anything! :]

  5. says


    We have been to Disney in several different seasons. I agree with BethPie. You need layers that are not too bulky so they can easily be carried or tied around the wearer’s waist. BACKPACK!!! Don’t carry a purse. Just throw it all in a backpack and take turns carrying it. Keep your water bottles and refill at the water fountains because a drink is around $4. I always have small snacks in the bag because my boys are always hungry. Always wear socks and good sneakers. I wore sandals one day and ended up with blisters. Sunscreen- even in the winter when it is cooler you’ll need it.

    If you belong to AAA, you can get a free diamond parking pass which will allow you to park in diamond parking and not have to ride the tram through the parking lot and remember whether you parked in Dopey 15 or Goofy 12. Also go to guest relations and tell them it is your first visit. You get a button saying so and sometimes there are extra perks that come with wearing the button.

    If you can get reservations, the character breakfast in castle is awesome for little girls because it is the princess characters that walk around and sign autographs. The character breakfast at the Polynesian resort is also very good.

    Have fun and take lots of pictures!!!

  6. says

    Oh how fun! We’re going to Disneyland in a week & a half so I’m in planning mode as well. Can’t wait to hear how Disney World went for you guys and how it compares to our Disneyland experience!

  7. says

    -Pack plenty of clothes for layering. Cold in the AM. Warmer mid day this time of year.

    -Food and drinks are EXPENSIVE!!! Pack quick breakfast type foods along with whatever snacks you can pack from home. They say no food/drinks but no one has EVER taken them away from us at bag check. You’ll be glad you have them.

    -You can order bottled water online through Staples and have them deliver it to your hotel in Orlando when you arrive. Much cheaper than bottled water in the parks

    -Bring screw on bottle tops that turn a regular bottled water into a sippy type bottle. You can buy them at Toys R Us or One Step Ahead.

    -A backpack is a HUGE necessity. Take turns wearing it between you and the man. Compartmentalize everything in gallon size zip lock bags so you know exactly which one to pull out (snack bag, diapers/wipes/handgel/first aid bag, change of clothes for kids bag). That keeps the daily back pack from being in chaos every time you open it. Throwing it around and all of the rides can really put your bag in disarray. The last thing your kiddos will want to do is wait 5 min while you dig around the bag for handgel.

    -If you have a stroller, especially a side by side double stroller, bring it! J (who was 6 last time we went) needed it when his little legs were tired. He was SO GLAD to ride in it after all the walking (airport/parks/walking to bus stop). Bring something gaudy to tie onto it so you can easily locate it in stroller parking. They move them around while you are in the ride so where you leave it is not always where it will be when you come out. You can rent strollers by the day at WDW but they are pricey. Just pack the “something gaudy” in the backpack and retie daily.

    -If you have thin ponchos, pack them. You never know when you will need them b/c of the pop up rain showers in FL. If you end up buying them when the rain starts at WDW, you’ll pay a pretty penny for them.

    -I printed little pieces of paper with our name/cell number/hotel and cut them into small strips. I tucked one into their clothes every day. I told J if he was separated from us to find someone with the WDW tag on and give them the piece of paper. J is apprehensive of crowds so that helped him feel safe knowing he had the info to find us in his pocket.

    If I think of anything else I’ll email you… HAVE FUN! We LOVE LOVE LOVE DISNEY! Can’t wait to take MeiMei!

  8. says

    One more thing…

    -Pack at least one princess costume for the girls and something Disney costume like for your little man. They have so much fun wearing it, great photo ops and where else can a kid dress up in public like Buzz Lightyear or Cinderella on a regular winter day.

    Ahhhh…I covet thy trip to Disney…

  9. says

    You got some great advice and I am by no means an expert. The only other cost-savings ideas I have are to buy Disney-type stuff ahead of time to give to your kids instead of buying super expensive stuff at the parks.

    I bought shirts from before we went on sale for $5 a piece which was way less than the shirts they sell (Walmart and other stores obviously carry Disney clothing too:). I would also recommend buying some glowing-spinning disney item elsewhere (party stores have them for way cheaper). Because when the parades start the kids are going to want something that glows and spins around and you aren’t going to want to pay $20+ for 1 of them (at least I didn’t want to but my kids talked me into buying them and then of course they broke the next week!).
    I told my neighbor to buy them ahead of time and it worked well for them:)

  10. says

    I’ve been twice – once as a fifth grader and once as a sophomore in high school…two very different experiences just because of the age difference. It seems like you’ve gottten great advice so far, and I’m not sure what I can add. But I will echo the character breakfast. We went to one during my fifth grade trip, and all these years later, it’s one of the few things I remember!

  11. says

    I was going to offer you advice (not on kids, I have none), but I was reading and realized, you’ve gotten a TON. Instead, I’ll just say HAVE FUN! And take lots of pictures for us to see. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures with your kids!

  12. says

    you have a lot of good advice here. I was going to tell you that Ariel does have her tale at the grotto–but someone already did. I’ll just say that once she put my little guy on her lap (fin?) and kissed him. He wore red lipstick lips on his cheek all day. :)

    If you can stay awake…the nighttime shows in every park are worth it. The fireworks at Magic Kingdom are wonderful. I recommend the bridge to the right of the castle (towards tomorrowland). You can see the castle well (they light things up there) and tinkerbell will fly overhead.

    As far as food goes–if you don’t bring any in–we have found it works pretty well to eat before or after normal meal times. Light breakfast in the hotel (like granola bar or something) and then lunch at 10:30ish, dinner at 4, etc. just a thought. Also, look into making reservations at a character meal. Just one during your trip–characters come to you rather than waiting in line for them. If you go to Disney Studios, there are a few restaurants that you can eat at for dinner and they give you preferred seating at the nighttime show. Beats waiting in line for a long while to get in. One restaurant is reasonable.

    When you first arrive…go to the gift shop and get autograph books and big disney pens…the characters all sign them and they make great souveniers.

    This is what we tell our kids each day at Disney–we may not be able to see everything this time–the important thing is that everything we do will be fun! We will have a fun time! Take the pressure off of yourselves to see it all.

    If I think of anything else…I’ll be back. Have a wonderful time!

  13. says

    Emily —

    We went two years ago at approximately the same time of year (Valentine’s Day) … Hubby did all the prep, then I, too, had to pack. I want to second (or third or whatever) the idea of getting the cheap-o throw-away ponchos at WalMart (probably Tarjay, too) that you can toss in your backpack for the pop-up rain. We used them possibly every day?? (For just a bit, then rolled ’em back up and threw them back in the bag.) And yes, even for Big Boy – take at the very least an umbrella stroller! There were times we had kids three deep sitting on ours – and they were 5×2 and 2 at the time. Just a life saver!

    Have a wonderful time! I gained about 15 preggo pounds eating the frozen Mickeys on a stick. To this day, I remember how grand it was to be snarfin’ that ice cream down without a care in the world. What a wonderful vacation!


  14. Sarah says

    I second the poster who said to set resonable goals for the trip- enjoy your time, not just rush through the park. We went Disneyland last summer and followed alot of the tips you got here, I especially like buying all of the t-shirts and souvenirs in advance, I found the same shirts the same toys for a fraction of what they would be in teh park. You have to pack it all to bring it home right so if you take it then you know you have room in your luggage. We also would leave the park during the hottest and busiest part of the day and go take a nap or go swimming at the hotel. Then we could go back for the evening and really enjoy it. We packed food and water into the park and the only thing not allowed was glass bottles (luckily we didn’t have any) and weapons (none of those either but a man in front of us was turned away for carrying a large pocket knife). If you bring your own snacks you have less of a chance of getting sick from eating too many sweets and junk foods, we ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and string cheese, tube yogurts that froze in the little hotel freezer kept everything cold too. There are a lot of disney websites that have insiders guides and hot tips, I looked at a lot of these and make tenative plans or found the “cool” place to be, and worked that into our plans. Hope your trip goes well, we had a blast and the kids ask often when we will go back.

  15. Jena says

    You can make reservations to have breakfast/lunch with Cinderella at her castle…every little girls’ dream! I believe you can do this through the Disneyworld website (under reservations).

  16. says

    Oh my! I’m overwhelmed and have only read the 1st seven comments! I’ve been to the parks before but never with kids – my mom has taken the older two (each by themself) during Fall Break (September) the year they were in Kindergarten and had a great time. But her best advice is “Chill!” Don’t worry about not getting everything in; it’s not possible. Let the kids pick their two top things they’d like to do most and get those done and then the rest is gravy, baby.

    Enjoy your trip! I’ll be praying for warmer weather.

  17. says

    The best advice I have is from a woman’s magazine. A mom wanted to buy special things for the kids but knew the prices there were OUTRAGEOUS. So, she bought Disney presents ahead of time,some even at the thrist store, wrapped them and brought them along. Each day, the kids got some little surprise in the morning and were so happy, they didn’t ask for the $25 mug at the store at the park.

    I would carry a little notebook along with your camera to write down those precious kids’ comments you might forget later.

    If you don’t already have one, I recomend a FLIP! An amazingly easy to use video camera…and is so tiny.

    Have fun!

  18. says

    We JUST returned from Disney World on the 1st and it was the BEST vacation EVER! Here are my pieces of advice (for what they’re worth!)…#1. Pack an extra set of clothes for everyone in a carry-on. My 2 y/o puked everywhere on the plane, then we were stranded in Chicago for a night — the extra change of clothes came in VERY handy! #2. Pack plenty of warm clothes. It was much cooler than we thought it would be. #3. Did you get the Disney dining plan? If not, check maybe it isn’t to late. It saved us a TON of money! #4. Schedule your daily routine so that you can spend time at the parks later at night. We found that the absolute best time to go on rides was during the parade/fireworks. Everyone is watching these and hardly anyone is on the rides. Take advantage of it! Having 3 kids 4 and under, we really we’re willing to wait in lines for too long, so the late night thing worked well for us OR #5 get fast passes! #6. Take a light weight stroller or rent one for any child under the age of 5. It is a LOT of walking!

    Ok, I think that’s it. Just had to get it all down while it was fresh in my mind. Have a MAGICAL time!

  19. says

    We took our kids 3 years ago and they loved it, but it was exhausting. All i can say is make sure you have scheduled nap times and catch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom at least once…HAVE FUN!

  20. says

    You’ve got some great tips already. It’s been 1987 since we were there, so mine would be outdated anyway. HA! My timeless advice would be to make time to rest. Mothers are the only ones who really don’t get a vacation, even when they’re on one, so insist on some downtime for yourself. Oh… and have fun!

  21. amy says

    Great tips. We took our almost 2 year old in October, he still talks about “Animal Kingdom” Make sure and visit, it’s really great and the Finding Nemo show is AMAZING!!

    My best tip is to pack a zip lock bag with snacks/entertainment for the RETURN airplane trip home. I am always so prepared for the going trip, and end up scrambling without snacks and entertainment on the plane home. I solved that by just planning ahead.


  22. says

    you need to call my sister. she did it by HERSELF (of course because that’s who she is…wonder woman, i tell you!) but she had a lot of “should have” thoughts about it. and you know how she is…always thinking of better ways to do something! ; i know y’all will have a BLAST! btw…happy bday to the girls 2 days late. we love you!

  23. Sissy says

    I haven’t ever been with kids, but I have been many, many times. The park is so big that there is a ton of walking and little legs get tired. I do remember that Jon and Kate talked about how the strollers you can rent were more manuerverable than anything they could have brought from home, and seemed to stay really light, even with the kids in them. And that might be a good tip, so you don’t have to worry about bringing the stroller from the hotel.

    If you are going to be there multiple days, then I would say you want to plan on only being there for a couple of hours each day, and hitting the highlights for that day. It’s going to be overwhelming, both for you and the kids with so many people around and you might want to ease into it.

    Misty had great ideas, and of course, the inside scoup from the girl who worked there was awesome. Oh, and bring gum for the plane. Helps little ears when they need to pop from the altitude.

  24. amy says

    we took our kids when they were 2 & 4. it’s a big deal to collect autographs of the characters. we took blank notebooks & sharpies for that. although you’re not really supposed to take snacks in we did keep snacks in our backpacks. that saved us a few dollars. we also took strollers for both kids. the 4 y/o walked alot but the stroller was a big help when she was ready to relax.
    there’s a lady that runs a website called (i think). she has lots of info on disney.
    enjoy! don’t let your anxiety about flying ruin your trip. i just went to africa & i am an axious flyer too. i prayed alot.

  25. says

    The good news is that January is a great time to come to Orlando. Lines are not long and the crowd is small.

    You can bet that at some point there will be tears – the kids, yours, your husbands. Just take a deep breath and remember, this is normal!

    You can & should have a flexible plan for each park. But the truth is, when you walk through the gate your main focus should be remembering the looks on your kids faces. Take those mental snapshots all day long. I’d rather watch my kids watch the parade….it just brings me joy to see them filled with wonder!

    Have a great trip. It is a little cold this week, but the sun is shining!


  26. says

    Holy cow – I think these commentors have it covered. WOWZA!But yes, we do know how to do Disney without spending much money and zero in the park. :) You will see these crazy flea market signs everywhere. They are huge, but my friend, I got the girls matching pink Disney princess shirts for $3.50 (they barter :)before we went for the day. :) I saw someone mentioned it,but that’s where I went.
    Do you already have your tickets?

  27. says

    I am SO excited that you’re going to WDW. It is SERIOUSLY my favorite place on earth. We’re going in October, and you better believe that my count down is rolling!!

    So some tips, huh? WOW there are so many…. where to start…

    Ok first, check out some of these websites:

    There are some GREAT tips on those sites.

    As far as what to pack and other things like that, here are some commonly missed, but welcomed items:

    *Ponchos for everyone in your family. Pack these into big ziplock bags to carry with you.
    *Mini Umbrella. Each adult should have one, packed in a big ziplock bag to carry with you.
    *Blister Block, Moleskin, or a TON of bandaids. These will help your feet.
    *2 pairs of tennis shoes per person. There is nothing worse than sore feet when you’re walking around the parks.
    *Extra socks- 2 pairs per day unless you’re planning on doing laundry.
    *Snacks. Bring snacks with you to the park because they are expensive. I have packed things like Larabars, Almonds and Organic Cereal in baggies, Apples, Oranges, Bananas, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches (packed in our checked luggage), Packs of Organic Applesauce (also packed in our checked luggage), or whatever snacks you typically have at home.
    *Purell. LOTS of purell. Just think about everything that you’ll be touching that everyone else will be touching, too.
    *Extra batteries/camera cards for your camera.
    *Pills you take normally- they are VERY expensive at the parks.

    As far as how to tackle the parks- the best thing to do is to arrive at the park at park opening and do whatever attractions you are dying to do first. The lines will be much shorter than if you went at 1pm. Grab some Fastpasses for your favorite attractions so you can visit them later.

    That’s all for now! I hope this helps your planning. Check out those websites- they’ll help a LOT.

  28. Meredith says

    We just got back from a very long adventure to Iowa by plane. You have a lot going for you…you don’t have a baby aged child. The kids will be so excited and love their snacks etc. I have to admit I really don’t like to fly but at one point on our trip when Braxton was acting horrible (he did not sleep for 12 hours straight) I looked at Pete as I was standing in the aisle holding the babe and said “if our plane went down I would count it as a miracle”…. so I think your focus will be so on the kids that if you do have flying anxiety you will be okay and a glass of wine can’t hurt…… Have fun… it will be an adventure!

  29. says

    I did not read through all the other comments- but wanted to post what advice I was given when we prepared for our 1 day stop to Disneyland a few summers ago.
    A couple of things-
    “Your kids will still be kids at the happiest place on earth.” (I really think this helped all of us keep in mind that our kids will still be moody, tired, cranky, unappreciative at times, need to go to the potty, hungry etc.)
    “talk about what one thing each person wants to do on the visit- and make sure everyone gets their thing done.” Very helpful for our one day family of six trip, may be less of a big deal if you are going for multiple days.
    “take something to do for those waiting in line, or waiting for those to finish a ride.” This was a lifesaver because we had kids multiple ages and riding interests.
    ENJOY the trip!

  30. says

    Okay, the next time we go to Disney, I’m totally coming to your site and reading all these comments!

    We went to Magic Kingdom when our girls were 4 and 3. Then Animal Kingdom last New Year’s Eve–we had added a girl, and they were 8, 6 and 3.

    Do you have all girls? That definitely helped us, because they all wanted to see the same characters. They loved meeting them–especially the Princesses.

    And Animal Kingdom had much shorter lines for meeting them.

    Oh, and don’t know if anyone mentioned this yet, but Ariel sits on a rock and definitely has a tail. :)

    HAVE FUN!!

  31. Christi says

    I would definatly have chewing gum or earplugs for the kids for the flight, sometimes the pressure hurts their little ears. The drugstore sells Airplane ear plugs in the pharmacy section. The first time my step daughter flew she was in tremendous pain so after that I always purchased her some for the flight!

    Have a wonderful trip!

  32. says

    Wow. Everybody is really excited about your trip to Disney. I can’t say that I’m not, though. We went for Thanksgiving, and I’d go back tomorrow if I could. I agree with whomever suggested the dining plan. We did that, and it was awesome. We packed some Pop Tarts to have for breakfast in our room and used the dining plan the rest of the time. It was nice not having to worry about how much we were spending since the money was already spent.

    The only other thing I can say is most definitely take advantage of all the fast passes. We fumbled around our first couple of days and didn’t use them, and when we finally got a system figured out, we realized how much time we’d wasted by not using them.

    Regardless, have a MAGICAL trip! 😀

  33. says

    The best tip I can give you is USE THE LOCKERS!!! They are to the right in the Magic Kingdom, just as you come in. They are big enough to store a duffle bag with jackets and change of clothes, snacks and drinks, and also any purchases through out the day. You don’t have to lug all that stuff around. Get a locker when you get there. Store your duffle and then ride Railroad from Toontown or Frontierland back to Main Street once or twice a day to pick up and drop off things in the locker. Also, bring a stroller and a bike lock. Park it and lock it, along with 800 other strollers everywhere, and come back when you need it. We left ours (free of any stuff of course) for 4 hours and there it was waiting for us when we needed it. Just a thought. :)
    Have a blast!!!!!!! It really is a wonderful family vacation! Especially when it’s not so hot and crowded! (We will be there next month!!!)

  34. katie says

    take your own food into the park, get the fast pass as soon as you can, do the parent swap for rides that are too scary for the kids yet you still want to go on, sleeeeeeeeeeep and don’t try to cram too much into one day. sea world (although not disney) was one of our favorites. :)
    i left you a little bloggy award over at my blog. :)

  35. says

    While I don’t have many tips on the parks, I have a “packing” suggestion. This idea came from a friend of mine that has 7 (yikes) kids.
    Pack an entire outfit, including socks, hair bows, underwear, into a gallon size zip lock bag, per child, per day. This eliminates taking too much stuff, plus, you can squeeze the air out of the bag and it lays nice and FLAT in the suitcase. It also eliminates the “what should I wear” and “what goes with what” dilemma while on vacation. We tried this, and it was awesome! I did pack an extra zip lock bag with extra undies (ya never know) and one with extra socks. It requires some extra effort ahead of time, but sure is nice once it’s done.

    Oh, one more suggestion, coming from another friend of mine that is a Disney travel agent. If you are using a stroller and you don’t want anyone to walk off with it while you are enjoying a show, tie a walmart bag to the handle with a dirty diaper in it. Who wants that, when there are plenty of “clean” strollers to choose from for their thievery? The trick? Soak a clean diaper in a little root beer (won’t attract bees) and it looks like a poopy one.
    Now you’ve heard it all, right? :)

  36. says

    Hi Emily — I didn’t have time to read through all the comments, so my advice has probably already been covered. But here are a few tidbits: the fireworks at night and the light parade are awesome. Be prepared for mega, mega crowds (of course, we were there the week of Christmas — silly us), but we let the kids stay up till 11 and it was worth it! Tinkerbelle flies — totally cool. I have boys and even they were totally in awe! The only bummer is that after the fireworks show, everyone herds back to the monorail, so the line to get back on the rail to our hotel took forever. The kids were dying…and so was my back, as I was carrying one of them. I don’t know what to tell you about that — the fireworks were still worth it.

    Also, bring snacks. They are a good distraction to keep the kids busy while they wait in the lines. The spinner toys are a good distraction, too. You can buy them at the nightime parade ($15 ouch — but worth every penny for the entertainment the toys provided in the lines).

    Also, perhaps pack light ponchos or raincoats? My boys LOVED the water flume ride — we rode it like 3 times…and got totally soaked. We also went to Animal Kingdom and rode the water ride there, too — that time we purchased ponchos — again, they were expensive, but worth not having to sit in wet pants the rest of the day!

    I think I mentioned the FastPass to you in an earlier email — if you are staying in a Disney resort, you are eligible for a Fast Pass.

    When we got to Disney we made for the far side of the park — where It’s a Small World is. A lot of the crowds start right at the beginning and slowly make their way towards the back of the park — we did the opposite. We didn’t plan it that way — it just worked out.

    And speaking of planning…I didn’t plan one iota. I totally flew by the seat of my pants, which is so. not. like. me. But I think in not hyper-planning, I didn’t go overboard in my expecations.

    We had SO much fun, which absolutely amazed me. Truthfully, I was dreading it. But it was a total blast. I was literally skipping and twirling through the park — my husband thought I was a complete nut ball.

    Have a great time!

  37. Jessica says

    OK, so i have been like 21 times…..there may be a problem there, but thats a different story. my suggestion is a dinner show…HOOP DEE DOO! The food in Dis is yuck…but not at the Hoop Dee Doo. Fantastic entertainment, fantastic food and my kids (6, 5, 3 and 1) still talk about it! That counts for something!We have never been to Disney without doing the Hoop Dee Doo!

  38. says

    Oh…one more thing (like I didn’t already write a book) — have your girls wear princess costumes if they want to. I saw tons of little girls wearing them, and I was dying for a girl!

    Also, go back to your hotel in the afternoon — then back later to MK after dinner for the fireworks. We ate dinner at our hotel in the early evening (slightly cheaper, less crowded for sure), then took the monorail back to MK for the fireworks and parade.

  39. says

    Just don’t plan too much into one day. With small kids, it can be overhwhelming. Stay in one of the Disney hotels and you can use their transportation. The best time to go is the month of December but you should not have a crowd if you are going soon. Our family use to go camping every year down there. My son is 15 yrs. old but we took him when he was 5 yrs. old and again with our church. About flying….just go with the flow. Don’t overpack and take snacks for the kids. Have a good time.

  40. says

    Wow, you have gotten a lot of great tips! I’m not sure if someone said this, but Ariel is in a beautiful, sequin-y tail, and she sits down the whole time. So your girls should be pretty happy. :)

  41. Erika says

    Hey Emily!

    The kids are going to love this! I think that everyone has covered the actual trip to Disney World part really well, I’d like to offer some advice on the flying part. I want to echo the ear popping that will happen because of the plane ride it can be pretty painful because the kids eardrums are so little and don’t allow as much air through to equalize the pressure in their middle ears (learned that this past semester!). Also, I know that some kids can even get motion sickness from the planes, like my brother did one time when he was little, so you might want to prepare for that. Oh and comfort things like dolls and blankets are always a good too. My sister still insists to this day on taking a pillow with her while flying and she is 17. Also, in the airport wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off because of the security check point and laces become a big pain especially if you are running late for a flight. Comfortable clothes are a must too; I used to fly in my jammies when I was little. Also, things to do on the plane and while waiting in the airport like coloring books and toys are great distractors. Also, the best thing that my mom did when I was little and we flew was that she told me what to expect, that way I didn’t get nervous when something little happened or I heard an odd noise. I hope that helps a little!

  42. says

    I’ve been over 30 times. Every year since I was born. Layer your clothes and carry one backpack for the family. The meals can be kind of large, especially if your doing the dining program, so share and that way you get more meals. Make reservations early…they are hard to get. The princess breakfast in Norway at Epcot is wonderful. Eat warm chocolate chip cookies on Main Street. Take advantage of the photopass. A great way to get pics of your whole family together. And at Disney Studios make sure you do Toy Story Mania first thing. The line is long and the fast passes run out. Have a great time.

  43. deb stone says

    Love, love Disney. I recommend eating at the the Sci-Fi Drive in theater at MGM for dinner- it will be the most relaxing time you have and the kids are happy and entertained.
    ALWAYS rent their double stroller – worth the $$ and an easy place to put tired kids and stuff. Buy the multi-pass if you’re going for 2 or more days.
    PACK lunch and snacks and save yourself a bundle.
    MAKE the kids ride in the stroller as much as possible: you always know where they are and it reserves their energy.
    Surpringly, the Winnie the Pooh ride and the Bugs Life shows are scary for little ones (among others).
    Go to Ariel’s grotto for a nice show if they like Ariel- it’s a live show but doesn’t last long.
    The Dinosaur part at Animal Kingdom is so fun!There is the “boneyard” where the kids can run free which they need to do througout the day and there are few places to do it. Also the Safari ride at Animal Kingdom is a must – do it first thing in the am while the animals are def. out.
    FAST-PASS: take full advantage of this. Send your husband off to get the fast passesn (or you) for the rides you really want to go to.
    Have a great time!! The best advice is to decide in advance what you want to see and then let the rest go…so you don’t wear everyone out.

  44. says

    Clearly you do not need another comment but I must. We go to Disney every few years with my husband’s family. My in-law’s are Disney Vacation Club members and therefore we mooch off of them. I heart Disney more than I can say. {I even wrote a post about it at one point after our last trip.}

    I really recommend getting one of those Birnbaum guides. They come out every year. The books have great info on how to make the most of every park, where to meet & greet characters, a map of each park, and lots of worthwhile tips. I skim through it ahead of time and take it with me in my bag while there. You can get them at most any bookstore I think (if you don’t already have one.)

    A fun splurge that makes the BEST pictures: getting your face painted at Toon Town. It’s pricey: $15…but this is not your average face painting. Last year my sister-in-law got ours painted along with the kids and it was the MOST fun $15 I ever spent. Plus the pictures last forever. I hope you and your family have one magical day after another at the happiest place on earth. Can’t wait to see pictures!

  45. says

    I feel like you should now make some kind of downloadable book available with all of this advice in it! Really great stuff.

    Have fun, act crazy and get a profile picture of the girls watching the parade! The best….oh and next time, come to So Cal Disney so me and my girl can meet ya!

  46. says

    We use to go to Disney every three years when I was a child and oh how I miss all the memories we shared there as a family! No matter what you end up doing you will have a blast and remember it for a life-time.

    One of my favorite things is getting to watch the parades, and the fireworks each evening. No other fireworks show will EVER beat Disney!

    Meeting characters is ALWAYS fabulous… and make sure you take one of those notebooks for each child to have so they can get signatures from Mickey and EVERY one else they see. So fun!!!

    I’m sure every one above me has offered a ton of helpful advice so i’m done!!! Hope your family has a blast together at Disney! It’s a wonderful place!!

  47. says

    I didn’t take the time to read through all of the comments, so I’m not sure if this advice was already given or not, BUT . . . when we go, I always make sure we pack a few of our Disney toys to take with us. The dolls, the light up toys, etc. I hide them in the stroller before we get going. That way when we pass all the gift shops and kiosks that draw in my girls, and they beg to buy a toy, I can pull out a Disney toy. They’re happy having something Disney to play with, and I’m happy not spending any extra cash!!

  48. Nancy says

    Hi Em! We’ve taken the kids to Disneyland twice now and here’s what I’ve got for you (in addition to all the other great advice I’ve read in your responses!)
    1. Don’t go on Snow White’s Scary Adventures. It’s in Magic Kingdom where the rides are all tame, but it was too scary for young kids and the rest of the day mine kept asking if every other ride was going to be scary.
    2. Don’t try to do it all. I read all the Disney books and had a written gameplan for packing as much in as possible. We went early in the morning and did two rides, then the kids wanted to do Winnie’s Honey Pots a second time – not on the agenda! With Tim’s help, I threw my plans away and just let the kids have fun doing what they wanted.
    3. Have some down time in the middle of it all. We sometimes left the park after a few hours and just came back to the pool to swim and the kids loved that.

  49. says

    if you go to Ariel’s grotto in the Magic Kingdom she has a tail. I’ve always had to wait in line to see her but there is a water pad right next to the line so I always had my kids play in that while they waited.

  50. Laura says

    Where to start?? We love Disney and go at least once every 12-18 month.

    (1) Ice water is FREE in the parks. Bring in one water bottle per person and fill them up with free ice water as the day goes on. It will save money and energy if you aren’t lugging around multiple water bottles for each person.
    (2) bring extra socks and change in the middle of the day when your feet get tired. It’s an amazingly easy pick-me-up. Plus you have dry socks if you go on a wet ride.
    (3) Definitely visit Ariel’s grotto in Magic Kingdom for those Ariel-with-tail pics. The line is *long* so one parent can wait while the other deals with the kids elsewhere.
    (4) Take advantage of the playgrounds in each park. You’ll be amazed how much better behaved the kids are after they burn off some adrenaline “off the leash” for a little while (some time not ina stroller or holding someone’s hand or glued to a parent’s side to avoid getting lost). It’s hard not to feel like it’s time wasted, since it’s “just a playground,” but it really does make the rest of the day more enjoyable.
    (5) If you do want to eat a meal in the parks, do so at off peak times. Eat lunch as soon as lunch starts at 11am and you’ll be able to eat in 30 minutes and be back to rides. Wait until noon and youmay stand in line nearly that long. Likewise, think about eating dinner at 5 to 6 at the latest (or eat a big snack and plan to eat late, though that nevers works for my little ones).
    (6) Do know that you don’t have to do *every* ride. If the line for Dumbo is too long in Magic Kingdom, skip it and walk around the corner and ride Alladin’s Magic Carpet ride which is nearly identical.

    Have a great trip!

  51. Tatiana says

    Hi Emily!

    I work at Disney and grew up in Orlando and I have a few tips for you!

    – Definitely take snacks and jackets!
    – Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios is a great show!
    – Chef Mickey at the Contemporary is my absolute favorite character breakfast. Its Mickey and the gang and it’s buffet style–anything you can possibly imagine they have. I also like Ohana at the Polynesian.
    – For a more restful day, you may want to go to Downtown Disney. There is a playground at the Lego store, lots of stores, and some nice places to eat. Check out the Earl of Sandwich for a less expensive lunch.
    – Circle the places your kids really want to go to on the map. That way you can at least make it to those and if one child doesn’t want to do a certain ride you can reassure them that the attraction they want to go on is on the “must do” list and won’t be forgotten.
    – Definitely put business cards with numbers in your kids’ pockets and if they have bright shoes, let them wear them (Much easier to find them! lol)
    – Not sure if it is your first visit, but everyone should get a button–either a We’re Celebrating or First Visit or Happy Birthday for the girls.
    – Relax and enjoy it. Don’t expect to get everything you want done. Do expect to have a blast and see your children smile a lot!

  52. says

    I didnt read through all the comments since I last commented…so someone else may have shared this–but I have thought of one more thing…

    EVERYONE is a kid at Disney. I know you will have to be all mommy-ish too…but have fun being a kid too. Take your picture with the characters, wave at them in the parade, skip through the park, put on mickey ears, and completely let your mind wander to enjoy all of the magic. It’s your trip too–

    Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  53. says

    Oh, how exciting!!!! We live about an hour and a half away and just went in November to celebrate my daughters birthday! Make sure you get the pins that tell why you are there celebrating. The castmembers make a big deal of it to the kids and they love it! My suggestions would be to take advantage of the fast passes! They saved us a ton of waiting in line times for the most popular rides. We also divided the park in half and covered one half one day and the other half the next, this made it much easier in making sure we covered everything! Definitely bring snacks and drinks in they will save you a ton of money!! Also, if you plan on eating meals in the park the Starlight Cafe (in Tomorrowland) has some larger family size meals at a GREAT price!!
    A great place to get Disney souvineers is at Downtown Disney…they have this little breezeway store (can’t remember the name of it) that everything is $10.00 and under and they have great stuff!

    Have fun, oh and don’t forget the sunscreen!!!

  54. says

    FYI from a Floridian…

    It’s FREEZING here right now. Where I am it’s supposed to be in the teens sometime this week, though it usually warms up a little in the afternoons and Florida in general doesn’t get as cold as typically predicted. It’s a different cold than in the mountains though. Northerners have described it as, “cold to your bones,” because of the humidity. Heavy coat and layer, layer, layer with a short sleeved shirt underneath (in case it warms up)… you’ll be so glad you did.

  55. says

    how fun, Emily!!! I remember when we went as a family my brothers and I all had a fanny pack (super cool back then…maybe not now) and in my fanny pack my mom packed a couple of snacks/treats and maybe hand sanitizer or chapstick or something…who knows. I thought it was fun and exciting, maybe your kids would too!

  56. says

    We were just there on Monday! In winter coats no less, but the sun was shining and we had a glorious day! Please tell me you weren’t there on Monday, I would have hated to missed you. Hope you have a wonderful time!!

  57. says

    I would go to the Barnes and Noble travel section and get the 2010 Disney handbook. (Can’t remember the exact name) It will tell you the most successful times to visit each ride and each princess/character. For instance, there is a very specific time that you can see Ariel without having to stand in a crazy line. It really helped us plan how we went around the park; even where we stopped to eat and get snacks. The book even has restaurant details and reviews. It will even go so far as to suggest which shows or rides might frighten young children. It was VERY helpful.

    You will also probably want autograph books and a pen for all the princesses and characters to sign. Some people bring their own with them to save money. BUT, when you first enter the park, there are some shops with adorable princessy ones with spaces for autographs and photos. I thought it was worth the splurge, but then again, I only had to buy one. The other thing you’ll see a lot of kids with is the mickey mouse ears with their name embroidered on the back.

  58. Kimberly says

    Hi Emily!
    I stopped reading through the comments so if you get a repeat…sorry!

    We have gone several time with our kids, at all different ages and here is what I have found…

    Try to get a park map at your hotel (even the off-property hotels have these in the lobby) the night before you go into the park. Look it over together and try to come up with a plan for the next day, based on what you MUST SEE and Maybe/kinda/sorta/wanna SEE. It helped us prioritize especially in the Magic Kingdom, where you are in different “lands”. You could waste a lot of time standing in line for something that you didn’t really want to see.

    Every night as we were waiting for the bus or on the ride back to hotel, we pulled out our kids autograph books and starting in the back and moving forward had them write or dictate their favorite memory from that day. I have done this since our oldest went the first time at age 2 and it is so neat to see her “journal” of her vacation and how it has changed. She was 9 the last time we were there.

    Without shame, I will also tell you that I planned their outfits to somewhat coordinate so that my pictures would look great. AND THEY DO! Every time, when we go on the day to stand in line to see Mickey, we are all in RED! My friends tease me for this, but it matters to me! And did I say my pics look great! I will also throw in that it was easy for me to remember what my kids were wearing because I had put so much thought into it. Which by the way, comes in handy when your 4 yr. old wanders off and you have to describe him to a cast member. Never fear, he was located in less than 90 seconds!

    Lastly, I think this was already said, but DO NOT miss the WISHES fireworks in front of the castle! Even if you need to go back to the hotel and let the little ones rest earlier in the day, come back. It was worth every penny of our vacation fund! It completely encompasses the *magic* of Disney!

    Have a blast and try to take it all in, and plan some down time when you get home! It takes a lot to recover!

  59. says

    My BIL and SIL just went to disney world and the surrounding parks for a week. They don’t have children, but pretty much act like children themselves (ie: they like to have fun). They posted a series of blog posts with their experiences, recommendations, ratings of rides, food, etc… They posted them from Sep. 2009-Dec. I’ve never been, but their blogs look very useful for planning. Here is a link to their first post on their trip.

  60. Donna says

    We did a character breakfast at Animal Kingdom that was pretty amazing. It was a buffet with lots of choices. The kids had time to eat before the characters arrived. The characters went from one table to the next so no one had to wait in line and they spent lots of time taking photos with us. We also did the Hoop de do Revue. I didn’t expect my kids to like it that much, but they did ! We also took our regular babysitter with us. We have three children so each adult was responsible for one child. Not many of the Disney hotels cater to families of more than four, so we rented two connecting rooms at one of the lower price resorts and had four beds and two bathrooms. That way, our sitter didn’t feel awkward sleeping in the same room with us, and the kids could roam back and forth between room without going outside. Have fun!

  61. :: holly says

    I’m so excited for you! We are going to Disney in February (our first time) so I’m soaking this all in. The only advice I have is that we always take a picture of the kids with a digital camera when we enter an amusement park. God forbid if something happens, I have digital images of them and what they are wearing. :) Also, a friend recommended the bippity, boppity, boo salon in downtown disney & at cinderella’s castle. I haven’t really looked into it yet but I thought I would mention it. have fun!

  62. says

    we’re going too! we leave Saturday morning. we are not flying though. when are y’all leaving? anyhoo, the thing that i find most helpful when packing (which is hard to do since my girls are older now) but i pack their clothes in the gallon size plastic bags and let all the air out. makes more room in the suitcase and it easy to find clothes once you get settled.

    i’ve not read through all your comments so you may have already seen this. you can take your own snacks into the park, as well as lunch. oh, rent a stroller! it makes it so much easier than having to carry yours around. you can also buy the autograph books down there. on our first trip i had no clue they did that. the girls enjoyed standing in line and meeting the characters. Oh, y’all are gonna have SO much fun!

  63. says

    I’d say rent a stroller too as opposed to taking your own. It’s not worth the hassle getting it on the plane and they’re bigger and more manuverable than anything you’d have yourself. Tie something to it so it’s easier to locate when parked up. Have a great time!

  64. Deborah Hutton says

    We took our 4 kids (ages 5,7,9,10 )
    1. We bought a hot pink umbrella-ish stroller at Walmart with a carry bin underneath etc. Best money we ever spent(then I sold it when we got home) . You can spot that thing in the sea (and I do mean sea) of strollers.
    2. We took 2 strollers and needed them/used them. We put gear and kids in them. 5 and 7 year olds were tired.
    3. Bring your lunch. We packed ours every single day. Saved a small fortune. Bought ice cream or hot pretzel for fun snack.
    4. Princess breakfast at Norway castle in Epcot. Easier to get into. Loved it. 4 or 5 princesses there. Great food.
    5. Fast pass. yes.
    6.Buzz Lightyear ride. great.
    7. Animal Kingdom waste of time.
    8. AAA Diamond parking pass from Ebay. great.

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