Insiders’ Tips for a Family Vacation to Disney World
Updated: Jul 12
As a native Floridian and seasoned park-goer, I can confidently tell you that Disney World is indeed a magical place. But after witnessing many first-timer families struggle in the parks I have found a few helpful tips to make this magical time as smooth as possible. The trip is definitely worth the time and money but here are a few ways to navigate the park like a pro!
Choosing Where to Stay: When visiting Disney World, there are tons of options when it comes to where to stay. Staying on property is the best, but also the most expensive; staying off-property is cheaper, but going to and from the parks can get overwhelming (and tiring quickly!). Here are the pros and cons of each to help make the decision easier.
Staying on Property
There are tons of hotels and Airbnb options that are still in close proximity to the parks. Prices vary during the time of the year but you can still find great deals!
Busses and/or monorail are available to take you to and from the parks every 15 minutes. Great for families with young children who could benefit from a midday nap!
Cuts out the cost of paying for parking at each park, it can cost $25 per day to just park!
Food is all within walking distance, so no need for the last minute Yelp scramble to find a restaurant.
It is very expensive to stay on property.
There are tons of hotels and AirBnB options that are still in close proximity to the parks. Prices vary during the time of the year but you can still find great deals!
Overall a cheaper experience because you will be closer to local non-Disney restaurants that won’t hurt the bank account as much as eating Disney food prices for 5 days.
You have to park at the parks each day, the commute is a little more taxing if you are traveling with younger children.
Central Florida traffic can add frustration and cut into the fun day.
Download the App: Each Disney Park has their very own app, the app allows you to check wait time for attractions, make dinner reservations, see photos cast members took throughout your trip, and best of all make fast pass reservations! Before you even arrive at the parks you can make up to 3 fast passes per day at every park you plan to visit.
Check Ticketed Events: During the holidays Disney hosts special ticketed events, this means that a park may close earlier and required a separate ticket. It is cheaper to buy the tickets beforehand rather than day of, double check to see if there are any special events during your vacation.
Choose Your Top Must-Do Attractions : Before going to a park look at all the attractions and choose your top 5. Disney is the happiest place, but it can also be the busiest place. Don’t try to do every single thing at the parks, you will get frustrated by overcrowded lines very quickly. Try to pick the top attractions you absolutely want to go do and hit those first when you hit the parks!
Plan the Days: You won’t need to plan out every single ride and every snack during your trip but having a loose idea of which parks you want to visit and where you want to eat for dinner will be helpful when your trip comes around. Schedule breaks and down time during the trip so everyone feels rested and ready for each activity.
Bring a Backpack: Try to bring a small backpack during the day, but don’t bring too much stuff because it can get tiring lugging around a huge backpack all day!
Bring Water: Disney allows you to bring a closed water and food to the parks. If you forget a water bottle, don’t buy water- go to any stand that has a Coke machine and ask for a cup of ice water and they will provide one for free!
Check Fast-Passes: If you didn’t get a fast pass for the ride you wanted there is still a chance! During the day families will give up their fast passes if it conflicts with their dinner reservations and they will be offered again for the public. If you check your app randomly you may come across an available fast pass.
Bring a Rain Jacket: The Sunshine State rains ...a lot and at the most inconvenient of times. Bring a small rain poncho or jacket to the parks just in case a 15 minute downpour comes over you (don’t buy the Disney rain ponchos….they are very expensive plastic bags that you will throw away after the day).
Stay for the Fireworks: Disney’s firework show is truly a sight you won’t want to miss. Each park has their own firework show, times vary depending on the season and when the park closes. Check with a cast member or the app to plan for the amazing show (my favorite is Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After firework show!)
Rushing from one line to another, in the heat or in the overcast Florida winters, can get exhausting; especially if you will be doing all the parks during your vacation. Don't try to overdo your vacation to get your money's worth, more is less at Disney sometimes. Take your time and do only as much as you want to do each day. If you overstuff your day with activities the whole family is going to be tired and cranky. Take a nap, enjoy a walk around the park over a ride, travel at a comfortable speed for a more enjoyable time!