After a long time of waiting (try 32 years!) and a little bit of planning, we just wrapped up our first family Disney trip. We had such a good time. I was a little nervous about taking the kids and navigating this by ourselves, but they did SO good.
I thought I would share a little recap and what we learned/experienced as first-timers. Our kids are 8, 4, and 2, and we chose to do 3 days at the park. We did Magic Kingdom the first day, and just as I was told, it was MAGIC. Seriously. There must be something in the water 😉 We did Hollywood Studios on the second day. Then we took a rest day, and wrapped up our Disney fun at Animal Kingdom on the 4th day.
I have to say, for our kids at their ages, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom were, by far, the best. We went the week after Christmas, and it was PACKED. I thought I was prepared for it, but I’ve never seen that kind of packed before. We were able to get to Magic Kingdom early, and enjoyed some of the park before it got too crowded, and did the same with Animal Kingdom. We didn’t get there super early for Hollywood Studios, and maybe that’s why we didn’t like it as much. I didn’t really feel like there were tons of rides for the kids, and the rides they did have were slammed with 2+ hour waits.
I was SUPER anxious before we went, mainly because I had NO idea what to expect. And honestly, every time I googled Disney stuff, or looked on Pinterest, it totally overwhelmed me. The BEST thing I did was book our trip through a friend of mine, Kelly Higgins, a Pixie Planner. She planned our whole Disney experience, got our tickets, booked our fast passes, and gave me suggestions on restaurants and snacks. She MADE our trip, and I would highly recommend her and her services. Did I mention that you DO NOT pay for her Disney planning services?
We chose not to stay at a Disney resort because we used our credit card reward points for our hotel. So I’m sharing from that experience only. I’m sure there are definitely perks to staying at a resort, but this was a cheaper option for us. Plus, we are total beach bums, and we planned to use our ‘off’ days exploring and staying at nearby beaches (which we did! more on that later). So, we were not eligible for a meal plan. I was a little nervous about that because I had heard how crazy expensive the food is, but honestly, it wasn’t too bad. I packed a large cooler bag with ice and plenty of drinks and snacks each day at the park. We did wind up eating meals at the park, but with so much snacking in between, it wasn’t that bad.
I would totally go back again. I feel like we only saw half of Magic Kingdom, so we would definitely do that one again. We really liked Animal Kingdom, and I would like to try Epcot the next time, too!
It’s funny, but Disney is one of those places I think you just have to experience to figure it out. Kelly was phenomenal with her recommendations and suggestions, and planned one heck of a trip for us.
So after experiencing it for the first time, here’s a few things I learned:
- Get there early. Period. We got on our hotel shuttle at 7 a.m. the first morning, and I only wished it could have been earlier. We got to ride so many rides without it being too busy.
- Order meals through the Disney app. The Disney app was a lifesaver, and gave us access to a map, fast pass schedule, menus……literally everything Disney related. We ordered our meals on the app, and then picked them up. It saved us a lot of time.
- If you get the Memory Maker, take advantage of it. So I added the Memory Maker late (literally the day we got there at the check-in), and basically it gives you all of the Disney PhotoPass photos and videos. We paid $200 for it. And in my mind, I thought I would be perfect because I wouldn’t have to worry about taking pictures, I could let them do it for me! And that is partially true. But you have to seek them out to take pictures, and that’s not something I understood. They have photographers stationed all around the parks, and basically, you can wait in a line (if there is one) for them to take your photo, scan your card, and then it will be connected to your app. We had probably 30 pictures taken. And it was super handy when it was just one of us with the kids and we needed a picture (like when Rhyan and I met the princesses) and it was great for family pictures, but we were so focused on rides that we rarely felt like waiting in line for a picture. I would probably do it again, but for that price, I would be more conscientious and diligent in getting them.
- Pack a cooler. Seriously. I was afraid we’d look like a bunch of bumpkins walking in Disney World with a cooler, but I’m so glad we did. And I saw several other families doing it too. We had a stroller to store our cooler in, and that helps! I packed juice boxes, small cans of soda (for a sugar high ;), crackers, gummies, packaged fruits, yogurt sticks, waters, and fruit pouches. My kids ate us out by the end of every day (they are chronic snackers).
- Dress/prepare for comfort. This is the place to let the fanny packs fly. The first morning I woke up and showered and put my makeup on and curled my hair. Bye Felicia. Never again. The rest of the days I kept my hair braided and my makeup minimal. I wore tennis shoes, leggings, and a sports bra. And it was the best decision considering we logged over 8 walking miles per day.
- Lower your expectations. Several people told me this before I went and I’m glad they did. They warned me of the long lines and the pricey food and the crazy chaos that was Disney. So I prepared for the worst and was pleasantly surprised. We rode more rides than I anticipated and coupled with our own snacks the food wasn’t too bad.
- Book your trip through a planner. I would HIGHLY recommend ours. I would have been lost without her, and like I said, we didn’t pay a penny for her services. I texted her throughout our trip and she gave me the scoop on the best places to eat and sights to visit.
If I went again, I would go 2-3 days to the parks, and spend the rest of our time at a beach. We’re not fans of traffic, and Orlando had some pretty insane traffic. Once we finished Disney, we were ready to jet from Orlando and we found a little peace driving down the Gulf Coast 🙂
I’m so, so thankful we went when we did. I was so afraid that the ‘magic’ would be gone in our oldest, but he enjoyed it so much, and surprisingly, our littlest guy hung in like a champ too. I can imagine there is something for EVERY age at Disney, and I don’t know that there is a ‘right’ age to go. I think it has something for everyone. I cried when I saw the castle. And I caught myself singing those old familiar Disney songs as I was walking around the park. I even caught Ben singing along to a few 😉
Have you been to Disney? What were your favorite parts/lessons learned?