By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein
1. Strollers: Every single one of my friends told me to leave the double stroller at home and bring single umbrella strollers for each of my kids. This was great advice considering how often my 3 year old and 5 year old split up to go on different rides. Even older kids who said goodbye to their strollers years ago will be happy to have a seat when the expansive parks and hot sun take their toll. Navigating the airport with strollers is also surprisingly easy – we hooked the handle to our wheelie carry-on luggage to the stroller and pushed our kids right up to the gate!
2. Fast Pass: You’ll probably never experience Disney World Wally-World-style – it’s pretty much always crowded there. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that lines were not an issue. Granted, we went the third week in April, an unusual time for Spring Break but we never had to wait more than 10 minutes for any one ride. We got to the parks early (between 9 and 10am) and fast passed the biggest attractions. There were a few rides we would have missed or would’ve had to do at night if we didn’t fast pass it first thing in the morning (i.e. Toy Story at Hollywood Studios) but otherwise, long lines weren’t too much of an issue. If you go in peak season though, you might want to look into a private tour guide (they’re expensive but I’ve heard totally worth it).
3. Phone Charger: Splitting up to go on different rides, sending my husband to fast pass a ride while we got on line for another, taking iPhone pictures and video, making reservations after being on hold for an hour, opening up (and not closing out) 500 apps for your kids to play while waiting in line…needless to say, my phone lost power after only a few hours in the park. And of course I lost power while trying to find my husband amongst the throngs of people lining the streets of the Magic Kingdom in anticipation of the Electric Parade. For less than ten bucks, you can buy an external mini battery pack and not have to worry about this unexpected stress.
4. Random Things to Pack: There’s pretty much nothing Disney hasn’t thought of to have on hand in one of the many shops and stands peppering their parks. From autograph books to water spray fans, to diapers and sunscreen, there’s almost no need to bring a diaper bag to the park. That being said, it definitely helps to have purchased all of those things at home before hand, if only to avoid meltdowns and missed rides. You’ll also learn some fantastic ideas from Disney regulars (or those who did their research) a day too late. For instance, I loved the photo mats or T-shirts signed by all the princesses at the coveted Cinderella Royal Table (keep calling and you might just get a reservation a week instead of 6 months in advance). Bring that Sharpie and you’ll be set with a fabulous and unique keepsake. On very crowded days, tie a balloon to the stroller and don’t waste precious minutes searching for your Maclaren in sea of thousands. Pack the sunscreen, a change of clothes and the pedialyte and have the best time!
5. Remember that you’ll be back: This is perhaps the most important tip and the seemingly easiest and obvious one at that – and yet, it was the most difficult for me to follow. On the first day of our trip, I arrived at the Magic Kingdom at 8:45am in time for the big countdown to opening. It was totally worth the rush…for me. My kids were happy and excited to see Mickey and hear the fireworks but did they have the same tears of joy that I had? Nope. Not in the slightest. Truth is, the kids wouldn’t have known any better had they missed it and they’re probably so over-stimulated and overwhelmed by this experience, they’d be happy going on It’s a Small World and calling it a day. You may remember how awesome Pirates of the Caribbean was when you were a kid, but if the line is too long and your 4 year old is about to melt down from exhaustion or has been begging to go to the hotel pool all afternoon, just leave and catch it the next time you’re in Disney. Ideally, you’ll take advantage of the “pay less the more days you go” deal and be able to take your time at each park, do half days or a park every other day of your vacation but if not, no worries!
If the weather report says rain everyday (and it will), keep an open mind. Scattered showers (it’s rarely anything else in Florida) just mean less crowds, shorter lines and cooler weather. And if your child passes out minutes before the Electric Parade starts (as mine did), don’t worry about it. He’ll see it next time – and believe me, there will be a next time.
Enjoy your trip!