Disney World is such a great experience for parents and kids alike and it’s one of my favorite places to visit with my family. Over the years, I’ve picked up on a trick or two to make the process smoother, especially with little ones in tow.  I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite tips for families making the journey to the most magical place on earth so that you don’t have to learn these things the hard way like I did!

16 Tips & Tricks for A Disney Adventure

Tips and Advice

Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom in Disney world comes into focus surrounded by Mickey Mouse ears.

Disney World is such a great experience for parents and kids alike and it’s one of my favorite places to visit with my family. Over the years, I’ve picked up on a trick or two to make the process smoother, especially with little ones in tow.  I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite tips for families making the journey to the most magical place on earth so that you don’t have to learn these things the hard way like I did!

Arrive When the Parks Open

I can’t over-emphasize the importance of this one!  Arriving when the parks open allows for the shortest lines you’ll see all day.  This alone makes it worth the early wake up call.  However, getting there at opening also means allowing for travel from your lodging to Magic Kingdom, and factoring in 40 to 45 minutes once you’ve arrived so you can pay for parking, ticketing, security, and handling all the things before you actually get into the park. 

During our most recent trip to Disney, we were able to ride Buzz Lightyear, Fantasyland, the teacups, The Barnstormer, Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, and the carousel all in the first hour!  You just can’t beat the 5-10 minute wait times; in this case, the early bird truly does catch the worm.

A  large family approaches the entrance for the Magic Kingdom monorail as they start their family vacation.

Creating Your Schedule 

There are websites available (like this one) where you can look to see what special attractions are happening in the parks.  You can decide which one you want to hit for the day based on this info. Magic hours usually equate to more people in the park and longer wait times, so you may want to weigh it out and choose what’s most important to you. 

Don’t Forget Your Cooler

When we go to Disney, we prefer to use either a 31 bag or a backpack cooler. One of the kids bring it as their personal item on the trip down to Florida. When we get to the Air BNB, we empty it and use it as a cooler for the park. To keep things cold, we freeze 2-4 water bottles and use them in place of ice packs. We pack lunch and snacks the night before so they’re ready to go in the morning. Doing this saves both money and time you might spend waiting in line, as it can get really busy during dining hours!  Our go-tos are sandwiches, yogurt,  fruit like  Mandarin oranges, apples, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, granola bars, nuts, cheese sticks, & summer sausage. 

Stay Hydrated

Remember to bring at least one water bottle per person.  You can save a small fortune by getting free tap water from any food serving restaurant versus paying upwards of $5/bottle of Dasani in the park. 

Two young boys smile as they wait their turn on an attraction at Disney World.

Decide if Meal Plans are Worth It 

Something to keep in mind if you’re looking at potentially purchasing a meal plan is that dining in the park is a bit of a time suck.  It takes a significant amount of time to make the reservations, get to that area of the park, have the meal, and on top of everything else, it gets expensive. Especially if you have multiple children with you,  it’s easier to just bring your own lunch and set aside a day or so where you get to have a dining experience in the park. The wait times are long, the fast food style restaurants in the park are overpriced and overrated in my opinion, and it’s just so much faster.  When you  consider the amount of time you’re going to be spending waiting in lines for rides (the whole reason you’re there in the first place) and the travel time to get to that section of the park to eat, refer back to my cooler tip and thank me later.  

Genie+ 

At midnight the day of your park admission, you can buy the Genie+ ticket to get on the bigger attractions with a short ride wait time.  The cost varies from what time of year you go, but we paid $29 per person over spring break for Magic Kingdom and the time it saves you is well worth it.  We used it for Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear, Barnstormer, and It’s A Small World.  There’s also an option for single ride Genie+ on certain rides, and for Magic Kingdom it was for the Seven Dwarfs. This was an additional $12 per person and they sold out within an hour or two of us being at the park. (The standby time for that ride was always at least 70 minutes). 

Keep in mind, you can’t pick your first Genie+ ride until 7AM the day you’re going to the park.  I recommend setting an alarm a few minutes early. I forgot at one point so it was closer to 7:30 when I finally remembered, and it delayed Space Mountain for us until 11:50AM. That being said, you can also look on the app & it will tell you when you can pick your ride!  

Strollers

If you are bringing kids ages 5-6 or under, bring a stroller! They are lifesavers, not just for little legs but for toting all of your stuff around the park.  We use it to store our cooler, sweatshirts, and anything else we need to bring with us.  If you rent a stroller at the park it’s, $30 per day for a double stroller. Spend that money on Genie+ instead!  

A photo of an orange Jansport backpack covered in Disney-themed pins during a family trip to Disney World in Florida.

Come Prepared

Be sure to bring sunscreen, Band-Aids, hair ties and ibuprofen.   Don’t forget to check the weather the night before and plan your wardrobe accordingly.  If it’s going to be chilly, make sure to bring a jacket. Early mornings and late evenings can get brisk and it’s nice to have those things with you so that you can stay comfortable.

We like to go to a nearby Dollar Store to pick up cheap ponchos.  This is so much less expensive than buying them in the parks (as is the case with most things, to be honest) and they come in handy not just for rain, but also if you want to avoid getting drenched on water rides. 

Don’t forget to bring a bag that you can actually wear rather than something that you have to carry on your arm.  I love backpacks and fanny packs! 

Schedule Break Days 

If you’re planning on going to multiple parks over a few days, make sure to include a day of rest in between to rest.  Use that time to go to the beach or do something that requires less walking.  You’ll 100% get your steps in at Disney!  While it’s a ton of fun, it can be exhausting and going back-to-back is not something that I recommend especially if you have little ones traveling with you.  You’ll burn out really quickly.

Lodging

 In recent years,  we have opted for an AirBNB nearby rather than staying in the Disney Resorts themselves. Staying in Disney was something that we had done in the past but the rooms are so much smaller & it can get really pricey.   It’s also nice to be able to leave the park and come back again later in the evening after you’ve had a little break for a nap, especially if you get there when the park opens.  

Given, staying in the park does have its perks. For example, they sometimes have magic hours in the park but it’s not always worth it.  I recommend taking a look to see what the special attractions are for the day to determine if it would be worth it. 

A senior girl wearing a blue dress and pink Minnie Mouse ears poses during her senior Disney session.

Take a Photo of Where You Parked

Be sure to get a photo with the number and the character to make your vehicle easier to find at the end of a long, hot day. I have a horror story from when my kids were little when we did not do this and I learned my lesson the hard way.  We walked around exhausted in the dark for over an hour trying to find our car with sleepy kids in tow.  I don’t recommend that approach!  Heed my advice and take the photo.  Actually, take two just to be sure!  

 

Walking Shoes

When you’re choosing your shoes for the parks, I HIGHLY encourage you to wear socks and tennis shoes.  Like I mentioned, you’re going to be doing a ton of walking, so remember that whatever shoes you choose, you’ll be in all day.  Flip flops may be cooler but I promise you’ll be feeling the lack of arch support by evening.

Outfits

Cute, Disney-themed shirts for the family serve multiple purposes.  Yes, it’s cute and fun to match, but it’s also easier to keep track of your kids.  Should one of them wander off (which has happened to us, and it’s the WORST feeling in the world) it’s easy to describe their outfit to Disney staff if you can simply point to your shirt to show them.  

On that same note, to keep track of kids I buy clear address return labels and put all of our contact information on them.  I place the labels on a part of the shirt that’s little ones can’t reach and I also write this information on their arm in pen.  These steps take little effort but they have come in handy in the past!  (P.S.-   Before the trip, talk to your kids about the process to go through in case they’re lost.  For example, how to spot and approach a Disney employee to ask for help.)

A mother and son enjoy an attraction at Disney during a family vacation.

Photo Hacks

If you get a photo pass, you can also ask the staff to take a photo with your camera or phone in addition to the professional picture. They do this all the time and I’ve never had any issues!  This way, if you decide not to buy the professional photo you still have one of your own.

Souvenirs

When it comes to shopping for souvenirs, we hit up Disney Springs. We like to make an afternoon of it as part of a break day. It’s free and they have nice shops like Kendra Scott, Sephora, Lululemon, Anthropology, & Free People. We like to go there at least one afternoon and walk around to do some shopping. If it’s in the summertime and it’s really hot, this is a nice reprieve from the heat.

As far as Disney themed merchandise, Etsy’s a great place to look for t-shirts and Mickey ears.  You’re more likely to find a unique piece that’s way less expensive.  

Scheduling Your Trip

If I had a choice, I 100000% recommend going to Disney during off season.  It saves you a ton of wait time, you can get more rides in, there’s less standing in lines, &  it’s less expensive. Actually, the trip as a whole is less expensive if you’re able to go during off season including lodging, plane tickets, and admission.  Disney’s busy seasons correspond with traditional times for school breaks so it isn’t always feasible, but if you can make it happen, DO IT! 

If you liked this post, check out my other travel related blogs for more tips:

Why Book A Travel Senior Session

Choosing A Travel Session Wardrobe

share on

Reply...

I can't wait to hear from you! 
Whether you are a couple, family, senior or someone traveling -- documenting all of your special moments is something that is important! 

Ready to work together

Inquire Now

MEMORIES YOU CAN FEEL.
ENOUGH TO LAST A LIFETIME.