Wow! I just survived 4 full days in 97 degree heat for 13 hours each day, walking on average 13 miles a day with a wife, and three children ages 11, 8 and 4 at the Disney Theme Parks. Crazy you might say, but it was the best vacation ever!
If you are wondering how my family did it, without any major meltdowns from the kids, I have some tips below that are sure to make your Disney experience magical with minimal issues with your children.
The earlier you plan your vacation, the better. Disney is popular world-wide and booking hotels, dining, and fast passes fill up fast! You are able to book dining plans up to 180 days (6 months) ahead of time. You can also schedule fast passes 30 days before your arrival, or 60 days if you stay at a Disney resort. You will want to do both as soon as possible because the popular rides and meals go super fast! You’ll avoid meltdowns at Disney no problem if you’re able to plan enough time for those much anticipated rides.
Do Fast Passes!
Fast Passes were a lifesaver. We did not wait more than 30 minutes in line at any park, and we went on at least 6 rides per day! If you have children 40″ or taller, there are certain rides that are sure to be a hit. At Epcot we did a fast past for: Frozen Ever After, Spaceship Earth, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. But we also were able to get on Journey Into Imagination with Figment, Test Track, and the boat ride in Mexico. We also were able to get through all the countries and enjoyed sampling food in many of them as well.We spent two days at the Magic Kingdom so we had 6 fast passes. We did Peter Pan, Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean. But we were also able to do the following rides with minimal wait: Country Bear Jamboree, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Hall of Presidents, It’s a Small World (two times), The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mickey’s PhilHarMagic, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland Speedway, Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, and the Walt Disney Railroad Ride.Our final stop was Hollywood Studios. We did Fast Passes for: Star Tours-The Adventure Continues, Toy Story Mania, and The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. We were also able to sign our children up for the Jedi Training which was amazing! For that you need to get to the park when it opens and go all the way to where the Indiana Jones show is to register. Other rides we were able to do with minimal wait were: The Great Movie Ride, and Muppets in 3D. We also were able to have VIP seats for Fantasmic due to our character dining plan for the day which will be discussed next
If you have young children, character dining has to be a part of your Disney experience. Instead of having to wait in long lines all over the park at different times during the day, we could schedule sit down meals were the characters. We were able to do three meals for character dining. We did supper at the Magic Kingdom Crystal Palace were the kids met Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tiger and Eeyore. The food was buffet style which was perfect for being able to eat and meet the characters as they came around. Then we did Cinderella’s Royal Table that was actually in Cinderella’s Castle on the second floor! It was amazing. It takes up two table service meals but is worth it. The princesses that were in attendance were: Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White, and Aurora. The food was outstanding. The final character dining we did was at Hollywood Studios. It was at Hollywood and Vine. The characters that appeared were: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse. It was buffet style again so we could get food and be back in time as the characters made their way around the tables for pictures.
Snacks from the Dining Plan
If you have a Disney meal plan, you will be given a set amount of snacks each day reflective of the number of people in your party. We had five snacks per day. If you stay at a Disney resort, there is a food court where there is an abundance of choices for snacks. You can get hard-boiled eggs, pineapple chunks, assorted fruit, muffins, doughnuts and so much more. On our first few days we were able to get a few of these items and ate a quick breakfast in the room instead of using up quick service meals or spending money.Another way to redeem snacks is at the theme parks. There are many street vendors that have snacks as well. We were able to redeem ones for: hot pretzels, fruit smoothies, popcorn, and desserts. These helped prevent meltdowns when the kids were hungry between lunch and dinner, or as a special treat towards the end of the night.We did not waste our snacks on bottled water since you can bring that into the park on your own. We also did not waste it on soda since we had all the free soda we could drink at the resort and drinks are included in meal plans as well.
All Disney Theme Parks allow you to bring in water and snacks. This was a lifesaver for us. Since we started early in the morning each day, we brought granola bars and apples with us if the kids didn’t want to eat before we left. Water is a must. It is extremely hot and humid in the parks in the summer, so be prepared to sweat the moment you arrive. There are water fountains throughout the park that you can refill your bottles at. If you are on a dining plan, you can also use your snack portions at the park as well for beverages and snacks.
Stick with a Stroller
If you have children that can fit in a stroller, either bring one of your own, or rent one at Disney. Since we were in the park for four days, we rented a double stroller. It cost us $116 but was well worth the money. Our four year-old boy and eight year-old daughter rode in it pretty much the entire time which definitely saved meltdowns from occurring when we averaged 13 miles a day on foot. If you can bring your own, even better!
Wear Comfortable Shoes/Clothes
This is probably a no-brainer when reading this, but we saw tons of people wearing flip flops or uncomfortable shoes. I saw people complaining about blisters and having sore feet. Tennis shoes or comfortable sandals are key. Also, wear breathable clothing if you can. Dresses and tank tops for girls, and dry-fit, breathable shirts for boys if possible. Hats are also a good idea to keep the sun out of your children’s eyes.
Find Shade/Air Conditioning
The hottest part of the day is probably from noon to 5 PM. We tried to plan our meals around noon and supper around five in an air-conditioned venue. During this time we probably spent close to an hour or more each time just to recharge ourselves by rehydrating and getting food in our stomachs. When you are walking around the parks during the intense heat, try to find rides or events that have shade for the lines. It is more than OK to take a break just for 10-20 minutes in the shade and talk. Hot and sweaty kids is a recipe for a disaster.
Stay on a Resort
If you can afford it, I highly recommend staying at a Disney resort while you are in Orlando. Below are a few key reasons why.
All Disney resorts have busses that run to all the theme parks every 20 minutes or so. It is the best way to travel. You don’t have to worry about a thing. You just show up to your designated bus pick up area and hop on the bus that you need. No driving, parking, or dealing with long walks to your car!
2. Refillable mugs
When you stay at a Disney resort, each member of your party gets a refillable mug that can be used for water, soda, iced tea, and even coffee! We filled our cups up every night after coming home from the parks and then put them in the fridge so they were still cold in the morning.
The pools at the resorts are amazing and a great way to cool off after a long day at the parks. We never left the theme parks in the afternoon to swim, but did take advantage of swimming when we came back. Most of the pools are open until 11PM.
4. Information desks
A great benefit of staying at a Disney resort is there are information desks where you can ask any questions you want about any of the theme parks or other Disney properties. Our experiences have been great with the staff at these locations. If you have any questions, they will find the answer for you!
The resorts are unbelievably clean. The staff at the resort can be seen all over the place cleaning areas.
Budget for Toys/Souvenirs
You are going to the most magical place on earth for your kids. Of course they are going to want to pick up some souvenirs to bring home. We had a daily spending budget for our three kids. Our four year-old is at the age where he loves toys, so he was able to get a toy each day, and most days it was under the budget that we had set. Our oldest eleven year-old boy was wise with his budget and only spent a portion of it, and is saving the rest for things he wants back home. Our eight year-old daughter was able to get a Minnie stuffed animal, a parasol from France in Epcot, a charm bracelet, and a few other fun things too. Having a souvenir each day made them happy and took away the “I want this,” chant from occurring all over the place. We are glad we included this in our budget.Now these are my top 10 ways to avoid a magical meltdown, but I am sure it is not an exhaustive list. If you can even do a few of these during your stay at Disney, it is sure to help you have a magical time!
We hope these tips help you avoid meltdowns at Disney so you and your kids can make some lasting memories!