How I Plan My Walt Disney World Vacations
I’m a Disney girl, always have been and always will be. I started going to Walt Disney World before I could walk, and Disney is truly my happy place. I have spent birthdays, spring breaks, holidays, anniversaries, and everything in between here, and I wholeheartedly knew that I wanted to raise my children with the Disney magic that I hold so dear to my heart.
I touted myself to be a Disney pro by the time I became a mother. Traveling there without kids was a breeze. Late night dining? Sure! No nap times to coordinate Fastpasses with? You bet! No breastfeeding schedule to think about...the list goes on and on. But my goodness, the tables turned once my first son was born. For the first time ever, stress started to creep in while planning our trip to Disney - I quickly realized that there was so much to contend with when mixing baby’s schedules and needs into things.
Our first multi-day trip to Disney with my son left me feeling exhausted - a feeling I rarely experience at Disney. This was a foreign feeling to me, because when I leave Disney, I usually feel nothing but peace, gratitude, and inspiration. Not this time. I planned every day to a T - working in naps, quiet times, so many dining reservations - you name it. While there, I felt that there was no time to actually vacation, a feeling I did not want to feel again, so I did some reevaluating. The next few vacations have flowed so much better - from the planning to the actual vacation itself. Here are my tips for a stress free Disney planning experience that will lead to a vacation leaving you feeling nothing but sprinkled with pixie dust.
Don’t book too many. Huh? I know. I had dining reservations planned every night on my first “official mom” trip, and it was just too much. Not only was it a lot of food, but our days varied as life with kids does, and sit down meals weren’t necessarily how we wanted to end every day like I had planned. On our next trip, I chose one restaurant that I wanted to try, snagged that reservation, and left the rest of our dining options open, jotting down a few places we might want to try on any given day. It took the pressure off, we ate well, spent less on food, and were very happy campers!
Disney’s Fastpass+ system is wonderful, and we take advantage of booking our experiences way before we go. I use Fastpasses to map out our day. I try to group them all in the morning, because that’s when my kids are at their best. I also try to reserve attractions that are within close proximity of each other which is helpful for travelers with little legs. Then when the Fastpasses are finished, we are usually ready for a snack and can gauge if the kids need to go back to the hotel for a rest or are able to stay in theme parks for more fun. Having the rest of the day open, in my opinion, is a freeing feeling.
It’s necessary for survival, right? However, sometimes, my kids can be so overstimulated from the theme parks that going back to the hotel for a nap doesn’t always jive. That’s when I take advantage of Disney Springs as well as Disney’s Boardwalk. These destinations aren’t as crowded as the parks ; they’re wonderful places to stroll while the kids hang out in the stroller, and there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the ambiance and have a snack or sip on a drink and relax if the kids end up falling asleep in the stroller. I also love resort hopping if a break from the theme parks are needed but we don’t necessarily want to head back to our hotel room. The Deluxe resorts all have beautiful lobbies to explore, a place to grab a drink, and a quiet atmosphere. I can feel myself relaxing just thinking about lounging at these beauties!
Theme Park Free Days:
In my opinion, there is just as much magic outside the parks as there is inside them. Planning a day by the pool or just exploring is something I would highly recommend adding to your plans. I promise - the kids won’t be bored. If you choose to stay at a Disney resort hotel, I guarantee you can spend a day fully engrossed in the goings on there. Also, knowing you have a day planned to have no plans can give you time to reset, rest, and really soak in your vacation.
Call me old fashioned, but when I plan my trips, I pull out a pen and paper and draw a calendar with the days I’ll be at Disney World. I stagger my park days and non park days, write down my Fastpass+ reservations as well as any dining, and lastly jot down a few things that I’d like to do in addition to our reserved experiences. I keep this list small and am okay if nothing or all of these things are crossed off at the end.
Lastly, I remind myself that I’m not going to experience all that Disney has to offer in one trip, and that is completely okay. You are going to have a wonderful time even if you don’t get to ride all of the rides you have on your checklist or try all of the trendy snacks and treats, and that is just fine! Your family isn’t going to remember the things they missed - they will cherish the moments they experienced!
I hope these tips help you plan your perfect Disney vacation - perfect doesn’t mean that there won’t be meltdowns or missed parades or rain free weather, and that’s okay. The magic is everywhere, and just being at the Happiest Place on Earth with the people you love is more perfect than you already know! So start from there, and let the magic begin!