Disney World: Top strategies for a great family trip!

We will wait in line for Mickey but not for any old character!

We will wait in line for Mickey but not for any old character!

Our family took a quickie trip to Disney World during the Memorial Day Weekend. We figured a lot of schools wouldn’t be out yet, and we hoped to avoid some of the long lines. Plus it wasn’t as hot as later in the summer. (I think our theories worked out pretty well. The longest line we waited in was 45 minutes and the heat wasn’t bad.)

We agreed to listen to a song and dance from a large Vacation Club (essentially a time share) in Orlando and as our reward we got to stay at a very nice hotel inside the Disney park for only $99 for three nights! It was worth listening to their sales pitch for such a great deal, and I will share on a later post how they try to sell you the time share so you can be prepared.

We also got a great deal on our tickets into the park through Michael’s father! Michael’s father retired from the U.S. Army after 29 years of service. Disney World is currently offering active duty soldiers and retired soldiers a free 5-day pass for themselves and the ability to purchase five more 5-day passes for $99 each.  Here’s the link to read the deal.

Dad's Treo is a good thing to play with while waiting in line.

Dad's Treo is a good thing to play with while waiting in line.

I swore after having a terrible trip to Disney World when Walsh was 2 that I wouldn’t go back with another 2-year-old. (Here’s the story I wrote for the AJC’s Travel section about that trip with lots of tips for taking toddlers.) But we did, and Lilina was great!  She was super patient most of the time and the lines weren’t terrible.  My father-in-law sat with her when she fell asleep in her stroller for us to take the big kids on some fast rides. And when all else failed I pulled out my bag of lollipops and gave her one.

I always feel like a soldier attacking a hill when we go to Disney. I want to be efficient — have the kids wait as little as possible and see everything they want to see. So let’s talk about ride strategy and tips for a wonderful trip to Disney.

It was only a short wait to meet Sulley and Mike. Their new show in Tomorroland is hilarious!

It was only a short wait to meet Sulley and Mike. Their new show in Tomorrowland is hilarious!

1. What’s your ride strategy inside Disney? Where do you head first inside the Magic Kingdom?

We fully believe in using the Magic Hours (extra time in the park for those staying on the property). We flipped days and went to the Hollywood Studios first purely because it had an early Magic Hour and the Magic Kingdom had late ones the next day. Our plan worked out well because we got a late start the second day due to the time share talk.

Michael says not to watch any shows during your Magic Hours. He thinks shows waste valuable riding time where you can just jump on and off of rides. I disagree a little bit in regards to the Hollywood Studios because many of their attractions are shows.

In the Disney Studios we rode the Star Tours first thing during the Magic Hours, but then Michael wanted to cross the park to go to another ride. I’m a big believer in working a geographic area. Would you cross the park or just ride in one area at a time?

My Mr. Incredible!

My Mr. Incredible!

We are also big believers in the strategic use of the FastPass but see the next question for more on that topic.

We couldn’t decide if we should head to Fantasyland early and try to get a jump on the crowd, or wait until all the babies went home after dinner to do that area.  We decided Lilina had been so patient during all the Hollywood Studio rides that we went straight to Fantasyland and quickly did a FastPass for Peter Pan while riding other stuff.

A Disney PR person told me for the story I did a few years back to always head LEFT when you enter the park. She said studies showed people always head right when they first enter.

2.  How and when do you use your FastPass?

The baby loved Pluto and Minnie!

The baby loved Pluto and Minnie!

We used the FastPass for anything over 30 to 45 minutes. We used it on Peter Pan and Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, although we probably should have used it for the Jungle Cruise. We used it for the new Toy Story ride in the Hollywood Studios.

The PR person for my earlier Disney story offered this strategy: Head to Fantasyland first thing in the morning. Get a FastPass for Peter Pan’s Flight or the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. (She also likes to FastPass Mickey’s PhilharMagic show, but I’ve never experienced a long line there.) Then get in line for Dumbo. Next, ride Cinderella’s Carousel (which typically does not have a long line), and then your FastPass time should be up. If it’s not up, she says hit It’s a Small World.

3.  Do wait in line for character autographs and photos?

Clearly, we did not wait in line for this picture with a Star Wars guy. Be sure to read tomorrow about Star Wars Weeknds at Disney. I have video!

Clearly, we did not wait in line for this picture with a Star Wars guy. Be sure to read tomorrow about Star Wars Weeknds at Disney. I have video!

We think this depends on the character. We did wait in a short line to see Mickey Mouse but refused to wait to get photos with Star Wars characters.

You can also be strategic by seeing the characters in less busy places. For example, please don’t stop at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom to see characters – very long lines! We found a very secret character area in the Disney Hollywood Studios. When you take the animation tour it ends in a character meet and greet area. (You don’t even have to take the animation tour, you can walk in backwards through a gift shop near the Disney Playhouse stuff.) We saw Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Mr. Incredible, the whole cast of Up!, Pinocchio and the evil queen from Snow White. We waited no more than five minutes for any of them.

If you have the dough, the character meals are fun and an easy way to see a bunch of characters at once. But they’re not fooling around about booking those 90 days in advance. They were all booked when we called – even the crappy ones.

They loved playing in Minnie's house during a downpour! That darn tea pot just wouldn't move for Lilina.

They loved exploring Minnie's house during a downpour!

4. Do you watch the parade or ride really fast while the other people watch?

I am a huge believer in riding while the other “suckers” are watching the parade. We always did this when were little. It was a game to see how many rides we could get on while the parade or fireworks were happening.  We’ve got three days left on our passes maybe we’ll stop to watch it one of those day.

5. Do you bring in your own stroller or rent theirs?

Since we were not park hopping, we used our own. If you plan to switch parks during the day, it’s better to rent from them because you just leave it at the door of the one park and pick it up and the next door. You don’t have to collapse it down for the bus or monorail. But I did worry all day about someone stealing my good stroller.

The baby is done! It is time to go home -- soaking wet but happy.

The baby is done! It is time to go home -- soaking wet but happy.

6. How late do you stay with kids?

Since it rained two hours during the day and since the baby had taken a very long nap (2 to 3 hours) in the park, we stayed until 11:45 p.m.. We rode a bunch of rides after  9 p.m. By the end the baby was done but she was pretty happy throughout the rides.

Contests on AJC.com that can send you on a free trip!

Win a family getaway by sharing your family vacation stories!

Tell the AJC about the special joys of a family vacation and win a free trip.

Win a trip for 4 to Universal Orlando Resort!

You don’t have to write anything on this one, just enter.

Great travel links on AJC.com that help save you money!

Star Wars Weekends at Disney Rock!

Disney on a dime

Tips for saving money at amusement parks

Orlando parks pack plenty of new attractions

Gallery of new amusement park rides for 2009

Check back in tomorrow for a look at Star Wars Weekends at Disney! I even have video!

54 comments Add your comment

Erica

June 4th, 2009
6:56 am

Thanks, Theresa!!!! We ‘re off to Disney for Labor Day week, with a thought process similar to yours related to Memorial Day (less crowds, shorter lines). We’re also staying on a Disney property for the first time and we are really psyched about using those Magic Hours, so your tips will definitely come in handy. I think we are going to rent their stroller this time, simply because our daughter is a little older on this trip, and frankly their strollers look more comfy for a 3 year old. Plus, less drama when trying to get in and out of the park.

In terms of Magic Kingdom, we will take your advice! We normally go straigt to Fantasyland when we get to the park, as our daughter, whose three, goes nuts every time she sees Cinderella’s castle. We usually end up on It’s A Small World at least three or four times because it’s her favorite. My husband and I will typically take turns on the bigger rides, so that’s when we use our Fast Pass.

Anyway, thanks for the tips! Don’t you just love Disney World?????

CJ

June 4th, 2009
7:54 am

We were there the same weekend – but me and my hubby. We left the kids with the grandparents on the farm.

I bought the “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World” and follow that. They have all sorts of great tips including touring plans for each part with different scenarios. Following one of their plans really cuts down on the waiting and you get to se so much! My DH was not so sure it would work and at 1 on Friday when the rain was pouring down, he wasn’t the least bit upset because we had done over half to MK. We went back to the hotel and went back at 6 that night and finished everything else up! The rain kept so many people away that it like being there in the off season rather than a holiday weekend.

Anyway, I would highly recommend the book. I met two different families who had it with them just standing in line. The longest we waited was 20 minutes. It was great!

I also recommend if you can ever get away from the kiddos for 2 days, WDW is so fun with another adult. We saw it from a totally different perspective and found treasures we never would have seen with our three daughters like a beautiful butterfly garden in Epcot. We also watched every show we could find which the girls get bored with. It was really a lot of fun. Luckily, the farm with the grandparents was a super vacation for them too. They probably had more fun getting dirty and being doted on.

pws

June 4th, 2009
8:13 am

I love Disney World, and this past December we went when my youngest daughter got out of college for the winter break. The week of December 14 was the best week we have ever gone, because there were people, but no crowds. We had park hopper passes and took advantage of the extra magic hours, but we also stayed inside the park for the least cost ever, because of the “deals” they were running to attract more people to come. Plus the parks were decorated for Christmas, and that’s an experience on it’s own.

I also have enjoyed going in October, and going to Mickey’s not so scary halloween party. It’s the one time where adults can go in costume, and last year I made myself a fairy godmother costume. The disney employees were walking up to me and asking me if they could have a wish, I heard that my costume was better than their actual fairy godmother. I had such a good time embarrassing my daughters, who are now 20 and 24. They love to look at their pictures with all the characters when they were little, and I have put some in frames of them with their old picture and their new ones with the same character. It’s neat to see them all grown up!

The only thing that I don’t like is that you don’t just “happen” on to the characters, they are now all mostly in reserved places where you wait in line to see them. The spontinuity is gone, and the surprise on the kid’s faces when the characters just walk up to them.

It’s still the best amusement park around for families, Six Flags is no comparision. Let us know, Teresa, how you feel about Six Flags this summer after going to Disney.

HB

June 4th, 2009
8:35 am

The go left advice has been around forever, but I disagree with it — the person who told you to hit Fantasyland first has the better plan. It’s probably true that no one goes left first, but in my experience, that area gets pretty quiet in the afternoon. By around 3 or 4, I’ve often been able to walk right on to Pirates and Haunted Mansion and had around a 20-30 minute wait for Big Thunder Mountain RR. Fantasyland gets worse as the day goes on, and I’ve been able to get on Peter Pan with a 5-10 minute wait many times by going there first. I haven’t done Magic Hours, but Michael’s plan of avoiding during that time shows and hitting as many rides as possible sounds like a good one.

Andrea

June 4th, 2009
8:45 am

Those tips sound great. I would love to follow CJ’s lead and take a trip without the kids. Now that would be a vacation!! How old is too old for WDW? My son will be 14 this year and I am wondering if he is too old to enjoy it now. We did do Universal last year and he had a blast. For those of you that are Disney saavy, would a 14 year old still enjoy Disney?

new mom

June 4th, 2009
9:01 am

Hi y’all!

I’m sorry I haven’t been around the blog much lately, we have been so busy. We had our own trip to Disney earlier in May, then everyone was sick…and it seems like it’s been 10pm at night before I have a chance to check in and see what’s going on here. And by then, all the good conversation is over, and what I would have said has been said. Hey JJ, I saw you asked about me, that was so sweet! :)

I have some Disney tips too, but I will do them on another post….but I do want to mention to Erica about the Ride Share program, which allows two parents to wait in line together, then take turns waiting with the child while each parent rides by themselves. So it cuts the line time in half! I haven’t personally done it, since I couldn’t ride anything much this past time anyway, but I think you have to make sure a cast member is aware you want to to the ‘ride share’.

CTG

June 4th, 2009
9:03 am

My husband and I took our two girls to Disney in late April. We too did the time-share thing. We got 4 days and 3 nights for $99 plus tax hotel stay on Disney property. We upgraded to a larger room and paid $175 total for the entire stay. Plus the time share folks threw in 2 FREE tickets to any Disney park so we only had to buy two tickets. Totally worth it for the 2 hours we had to spend listening to the Time-Share presentation. The presentation was actually very nice and in a different economy I probably would have made a purchase.

Laura

June 4th, 2009
9:03 am

My son will be 3 in July and we were thinking of going this summer – maybe Labor Day weekend. Are we nuts? Is 3 too young and will it be too hot? My husband has bever been and I don’t want his first time to be miserable. I also have a 14 month old, but we will probably leave him with Grandma for the weekend.

new mom

June 4th, 2009
9:29 am

I have been going to Disney world since I was a baby, and went every year growing up—some years, two or three times. So I would say that there is ALWAYS something to do for every age, especially as you explore all four parks. In fact, it was an adjustment to think ‘little kid’ this past trip, because we usually fly by fantasy land to get to the good stuff. But I will say, seeing Disney through our little girl’s eyes is priceless! (She is 20 mths old)

I think the first thing to do is try to plan your trip as off-peak as you can. Our first week of May trip was the closest to peak season that I can remember, and as crowded as it was, it was still nowhere near the craziness as spring break or Christmas. In fact, when I hear someone complaining about their horrible trip, usually in has involved going over spring break, thanksgiving, or Christmas.

The next thing I’d recommend is deciding what rides/attractions you want to do, and map out your plan. Before you leave your house! You can research online. Then, once you arrive, grab as many fast passes as you can, and ride the popular things as early as possible. Save the inside rides/shows for the hottest times of the day.

One thing we did different this trip was the Dining plan. I honestly wouldn’t recommend it, unless you are a huge eater. But we did the character lunch at the Crystal Palace, where our daughter met Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore. It was really refreshing to have a sit-down lunch, air conditioned, in the heat of the day. Even though we won’t do the dining plan again, we will still splurge for the character meals so you can relax and not have to wait in lines to see the characters, get their autographs, and those great photos.

As far as the parks, growing up, we’d do the same thing—skipping the parades and doing as many rides as you can. But make sure you don’t get trapped somewhere you don’t want to be! And keep up with the time, so you can start busting toward the exit, behind the crowds, about 15 minutes before the fireworks. Then you don’t have to wait 45 minutes for your bus back to the resort! (Can’t believe I’m sharing all our secrets! Ha ha)

One more thing—my favorite website is allears.net, an unofficial Disney site. It has tons of advice, reviews, menus for restaurants, etc etc. I relied on it heavily when planning our last trip—since going with a little one was such a new experience for us!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

June 4th, 2009
9:30 am

Make sure you take note of our 2 travel contests – I put the links at the bottom!! The AJC is giving away to free trips so read the details!! Doesn’t get any cheaper than free!!

no thank you

June 4th, 2009
9:31 am

The ubiquitous family vacation photos thrown in from someone who thinks we want to look at pictures of her kids. How is the AJC paying for this? Fewer and fewer comments each day.

DB

June 4th, 2009
9:34 am

We used to live in Florida and would only go to Disney in October and February, their “off” months. I wouldn’t go near Orlando over a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Easter for all the money in the world! Summer is way too hot, and too full of tourists :-) I haven’t been down in a while, so no tips, here. Glad you had a fun weekend!

Stan

June 4th, 2009
10:07 am

Andrea,

I went to Epcot/Disney @ 13 or 14 on a school trip and had fun. My Mom went with and I remember having a very good time. I don’t think 14 is too old to enjoy it.

TnT's Mom

June 4th, 2009
10:42 am

Our boys were 14 and 10 the first time we went and had a great time. We went in August, bad idea… to0 hot. We are planning another trip next year. They will be 17 and 13 and are looking forward to it.

sd

June 4th, 2009
10:51 am

I find nothing amusing about amusement parks. I will take my son if he ever expresses a desire to go, but just don’t like anything about amusement parks. I would much prefer to visit a National Park and get away from lines, traffic, crowds, and headaches.

Gale

June 4th, 2009
10:57 am

We always go sans kids in the winter. Early January is good because most people just got the kids back in school after the holidays and so there are fewer kids in the parks. Call me a carmudgen if you like, but I prefer the park without as many children. It is a marvelous place for adults who want to be kids again. It is so much harder to do that with children in the party. The weather is usually warm without being too hot. It sometimes rains, so pack a few disposable ponchos. Buy a few at home cheap because the park ponchos are expensive.

We have crunched the numbers several times on the dining plan and it is just not cost effective for us. We would have to eat a lot more than we normally do to make it worthwhile. The dining plan has made it imperitive that we plan sit down meals far in advance of the trip. Don’t expect to walk into a restaurant in the parks and get a table. The Crystal Palace is one of the best places to eat in the Magic Kingdom. Pricey and requires planning, but lots of fun. I have great photos of Pooh and Piglet hugging me from behind when I didn’t know they were near.

Lori

June 4th, 2009
11:22 am

Having a great Disney vacation is all about planning. I’ve been there 4 times this past year (season pass) and if you don’t plan, you won’t make the most of your vacation. The best week is during September fall break (if you live in a county that has one) since no one else is out of school that week, the place is empty. I can say, the only way to do Disney, is with the Park Hopper. When the kids get bored, you can take a break during the middle of the day at one of the water parks, or switch to another park. Utilize the morning hours for the hot rides (what ever is new that year). Like this year for example, if you want to ride Toy Storia Mania, you get their early and go straight there. Tip, get on the ride first thing, then when you get off, you can pick up a fast pass to ride it again later. Never stop for a fast pass during the extra morning hours, it wastes time, and then you can’t get another fast pass until that one runs out. On some rides, if you don’t get a fast pass by 10am, you don’t get a fast pass at all!!! Ride those first, even if they are in the back of the park.

The dining plan for us really wasn’t a cost savings, but if you watch for deals, you can catch the dining plan for free with a stay at the resort, then it is totally worth it. Tips on getting the deals, sign up for the emails from the website, and when you get the emails, CALL THAT DAY. The special rates will be gone if you don’t. You can make dining reservations 90 days in advance, and I highly recommend you do that. Keep in mind where you might be. Plan your vacation around the extra magic hours to figure out which parks you’ll be at which days and make your reservations based on that. The dining in the parks is not as good as at the large hotels, so do consider dinner at one of the resorts. The new TREX restaurant in Downtown Disney has really good food and is themed really cool.

Characters do “pop up” from time to time. Best place to see Mickey Mouse, at Hollywood Studios in the area with the art classes. If your kid loves Pluto, he pops up in Epcot all the time. Don’t wait in line at the big stations, not worth the wait. If your child really wants to see a specific character, reserve a character dining experience.

The things not to miss & tips for rides:
Hollywood Studios: Toy Storia Mania, hands down the best ride at Disney World in any park. Watch the night time show, it rocks (get there at least 45 minutes early). Jedi Training Academy, get there early and up front and eye ball the guy to pick your kid, it’s a real hoot (be carefull with little ones, they have to “defeat” Vader and might get scared). Take the Animation class.
Epcot: Soarin’, get their first thing for this and don’t miss it, it’s awesome. Mission Space, the mild version is very mild so you won’t get sick.
Magic Kingdom: Peter Pan is the only kiddie ride that gets really full, so get a fast pass for that one, then ride all the other stuff. Start the day with the “grown up” rides during the extra magic hours. If you have teens, stay late at night.
Water Parks: Typhoon lagoon has the maddest wave pool ever, those waves knock down full grown men!!! Don’t miss the awesome slides at Blizzard Beach.

Tip: If your family loves Disney, the season pass is only a little more than a 7 day pass. If you know you might want to go back, even for a quick weekend sometime, it’s worth it. You get discounts on stuff by being a passholder, and get dibs on special room rates.

CPT

June 4th, 2009
11:39 am

I would only buy the Dining Plan if I planned to do a lot of character dining. Character dining was great fun, but really expensive. We paid about $160 including tip for 2 adults and 2 children – the dining plan for 1 day was about $100 for the 4 of us. On the days we didn’t do character dining, we only spent about $50/day on fast food meals.

JJ

June 4th, 2009
12:19 pm

Disney, been there, done that, got the tee shirt and the autographs. Don’t care if I ever go back……..I’ve also done DisneyLand in California…….

Too expensive, too hot, lines too long, traffic is horrible.

However, the one bright side to our trip when my daughter was 5, was we got to “drive” the Monorail. We stood in line at the very front, and we had two 5 year olds with us. The “conductor” allowed us up in front with him, and let each of the kids “drive”. That was a thrill for them. My daughter still remembers that, 13 years later..

Other than that, I honestly don’t care if I ever go there again…….

CPT

June 4th, 2009
12:39 pm

Disney during off-season/low crowds == Great fun.

Disney during peak-seson/high crowds == Would rather have a root canal. You’re paying a lot of money just to be uncomfortable. Everyone is stressed, cranky, and just plain miserable – especially little kids.

FCM

June 4th, 2009
1:02 pm

I worked for Disney for YEARS….You have some good strategies and I am not going to spill on me….Yes, I am mean that way.

I will say that the “soldier attacking a hill” is not my approach with small people. When I took my then 4 yo all she wanted to do was meet characters and ride some rides…so we attacked the how do you meet a million characters without boring M & D (I was married then) and still have fun. Now that her sib has joined the crew, they want rides…and characters…so I find a balance for them.

lynn

June 4th, 2009
1:38 pm

Theresa, I think your children are darling. No thank you must have some ugly kids to make that kind of comment. Keep posting the pictures…you have every right to be proud of those children.

nurse&mother

June 4th, 2009
1:53 pm

We went recently, and while it was relatively busy, it was not hot. Someone else mentioned the small kid pass off (not sure the real name). My daughter loved it because she got to ride twice (once with my husband and once with me).

We took a CHEAP umbrella stroller for the 3yo. We figured if it got lost or stolen, we were only out 10-15 bucks. Also, it was much cheaper and more convenient to carry along.

I’m not exactly sure when the off seasons are (obviously, we have never hit those times).

We generally avoid parades. I will say that I was extremely disappointed that MK’s night time parade and fireworks show makes it almost IMPOSSIBLE to leave the park through Main Street and around the castle. I was a little miffed one particular night when folks just crammed into the walk ways and wouldn’t move out of the way. They were stopped in areas that were designated walk areas. It was a little frightening actually. All I could think about was a stampede because we couldn’t go any further. We only had an umbrella stroller, which is smaller than a large person.

I just love Disney. Such warm fuzzy feelings. I love the customer service, especially.

April

June 4th, 2009
2:12 pm

Laura: I believe any age is the perfect age for Disney if you approach it the right way. Our first trip was for our 4 year old and 8 month old. Yes, the 8 month old was too young to remember the trip, but that is not the point – she had a ball. Also, it would not have been a family trip without her. We have been 5 times since then and took my son when he was 2. He was awesome. We took our own stroller, and he had a ball riding and looking at things. He enjoyed the rides and the characters. IMO, 3 and 4 are magical ages. They believe with such wide-eyed wonder that I don’t see how you can not have a great time. The first time my daughter saw Cinderella brought tears to my eyes. She was so overwhelmed seeing one of her idols in person. In all the trips we have made, I have never regretted taking a small one or regretted one dollar we spent. We have had truly magical times and made magical memories.

JJ

June 4th, 2009
2:31 pm

April, what a sweet post……

Lynn – AMEN!!!

Theresa – you keep on posting those pictures!!!!

lwa

June 4th, 2009
2:43 pm

I love Disney. Last year we went right after the kids were out of school here in Atlanta (school was out on Friday, we left Sunday). Like Theresa noted, the lines were not long and it wasn’t that hot.

We only take the kids once they are 6 or 7 so they can enjoy the park. Everyone must be able to walk and carry whatever they bring or buy in the park. I love Disney and I want to enjoy my time also. For me, and only me, it is not a vacation if I have to carry a large bag, stop and change a diaper, pull out a bottle, push a stroller, etc. Again, this is my opinion.

One time a few years back, my husband and I snuck away for 4 days and drove to Disney without the kids. We didn’t tell them a thing. We had so much fun. We didn’t take any pictures b/c we didn’t want any evidence. That was one of the best trips ever!

HB

June 4th, 2009
2:45 pm

“I’m not exactly sure when the off seasons are (obviously, we have never hit those times).”

No kidding! My mom and I went in mid-October once thinking it wouldn’t be so crowded and hot. The place was packed to the gills with preschoolers and 95 degrees. We went once the week between Christmas and New Year’s and were surprised to find it really wasn’t too bad — one of the less crowded times we’ve been. We nearly froze, though. Weather forecasts were for 70 degrees, and somehow without any weather guys seeing it coming (still can’t figure that one out), a cold front blew through and the high was like 45. No one there had adequate clothing (including the poor staffers), the gift shops were overrun with people trying to get sweatshirts, and there were no warm hats left at the MK. I think my mom and bought the last 2 fleece hats at Epcot.

So here’s my new theory: early-to-mid November. September right after school starts is probably a good time to go without kids or with preschoolers if you’re willing to pull them out of school, but it’s probably still pretty hot. But November, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, is probably pretty slow. School’s in, a lot of people have holiday travel planned for a few weeks later — may be worth a try.

nurse&mother

June 4th, 2009
2:50 pm

I definitely agree with April. 3-4 years is truly magical. We took both my children at age 3 and it was wonderful.

I kept the children out late (maybe a little too late). But we left when the boy started melting. Almost very night, he fell asleep on the bus back to the resort. No regrets, though. We got a lot of time in the park. I felt bad for this one baby on the bus that kept crying. The mom said that she was just really tired and hungry. Well, then FEED the baby, mom! I really can’t imagine being so scattered that you can’t plan ahead with a baby. Either nurse right then and there or bring a bottle.

nurse&mother

June 4th, 2009
2:54 pm

IWA, the guilt would get the best of me. lol

Thanks, HB for the tips. I really hate taking my 12yo out of school. But I may consider keeping her out for a couple of days and do a long weekend.

jack5656

June 4th, 2009
3:13 pm

I took my kid one day during the week prior to Memorial Day. I get it when I see it through my kid’s eyes, but can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would go there without kids. There is a Disneyland for adults…it’s called Las Vegas.

new mom

June 4th, 2009
3:26 pm

Here’s another website that’s got TONS of questions answered by moms: http://disneyworldforum.disney.go.com/home.aspx You can search by topic or keyword–chances are, your question has been answered by a mom from their panel already!

A few more thoughts: Before you commit to the dining plan, check to see if your character meals require one table service credit or two! Yes, they can be expensive out of pocket, but also they can eat up (no pun intended) your meal credits before you know it. And some character dining meals aren’t as expensive, you have to do some research.

The first two weeks of December can be a great time to go, it’s less crowded and there are some beautiful decorations to enjoy. Every resort usually has a unique theme and also some Christmas activities. We like seeing the Osborne family lights at Hollywood studios. My parents still go every year, usually just the two of them, just for the Candlelight processional. They say it’s not Christmas without it! We’ve gone once, and from what I remember, it was very good. I got violently sick that trip, during the program, and had to be hospitalized, but it had nothing to do with the program or what I ate, I promise! :) But if you go that time of year, bring a pair of jeans and a jacket, it can get chilly in the evenings. Still throw in your bathing suit–when I was in college, I came home from disney world w/ a sunburn 3 days before Christmas!

Robert

June 4th, 2009
3:30 pm

We have been to Disney just about every year for the past 7 – 9 years and I thought I had it all figured out until i tried a website called http://www.TourGuideMike.com. I do not work for this webiste or stand to gain anything from mentioning it, just passing on helpful information. We have used it for the past 3 trips and it works out great. Basically for a $25.00 fee this site will plan your itinerary based on age groups you are taking. It contains very detailed information regarding busiest times of the year, what rides to hit first, when to fastpass, what parks to hit on what days and everything else you may need to help maximize your visit to Disney. The first time we used this service we were skeptical, but after hitting EVERY ride in Fantasyland inside of 90 minutes with 5 – 10 minutes being our maximum wait time we were sold. Hope this helps with anybody planning a trip down there.

Becky

June 4th, 2009
3:40 pm

I’m with you jack5656, been once with a kid..Not sure if I want to go without one..I have two young ones that we will be taking either this year or next..I think the girl is more into going than the boy..Like someone else said, she will probably scream bloody murder (with delight) if she were to see the Cinderella…

I will not go though during the middle of summer..No amount of money could make me..Someone mentioned while the Christmas lights are up and that sounds like a good time to me..

Photius

June 4th, 2009
4:07 pm

Adults who go to Disney World without kids = coo-coo. They either have a Child Fetish and can’t wait to pop one out or they are just plain weird.

jack5656

June 4th, 2009
4:37 pm

I wouldn’t go so far as to bash adults who go to Disney without kids, I just don’t happen to get it. I kind of view achieving adulthood as earning my right to have an R-rated vacation when the kids aren’t around. I can get cartoon characters and endless loops of Pixar films in my normal day to day. I don’t really want to relieve my childhood…but I LOVE to revisit my college days!

jack5656

June 4th, 2009
4:47 pm

Before I get blasted for bashing Disney, I will admit one Halloween my wife dressed up in a “Sexy Snow White” costume and I was suddenly interested in all the other female Disney character costumes that were available for the following Halloween! Walt Disney, I SALUTE YOU for inspiring those memorable Halloweens!

Lori

June 4th, 2009
4:49 pm

My husband and I went for our anniversary without my son. It was great. There are tons of things to do for adults. You can ride the adult rides, for one. The Animation class at Hollywood studios. We saw more shows, like Finding Nemo (45 minutes long, so my 5 yr old wouldn’t sit through it). Epcot is generally known as the “adult park” so we spent some time there. There are plenty of other things at Disney World besides the parks too. Drive a Tom Petty race car, relax at the spa, go fishing, play golf.

I wouldn’t recommend going at Christmas though, it’s one of the most crowded times during the year. We went in January. All the holiday stuff was taken down, but the weather was beautiful (60 – 70 degrees). It’s totally different without kids, you can take it easy, relax, and do what you want to do. For Disney lovers, I highly recommend it, even if it’s just for a long weekend.

Lori

June 4th, 2009
4:51 pm

Oh, and by the way, if you go during the winter months, you have way less chances of getting rained on. I gotta tell you, getting rained on while walking around Disney really bites.

April

June 4th, 2009
6:10 pm

I know I would enjoy Disney without the kids – but the guilt would be hard to deal with. When mine are out of the “magic” ages, I will take a trip without them. For now though, I would spend the entire time thinking of how much they would enjoy it. :)

Steph

June 4th, 2009
6:27 pm

Theresa and CTG,
Can you say the name of the Vacation Clubs you went thru? I will listen to their presentation for a $99 vacation at Disney! Compared to the $3000 I spent the last time, sounds worth it!

fk

June 4th, 2009
7:06 pm

We we’ve been to Disney a couple of times. When my son was younger, (his first trip to Disney was when he was 4 and it was Sept.), we went to the park early in the a.m., then headed back to the hotel (we stayed at a Disney hotel) for an afternoon break, and went back to the park in the late afternoon. Definitely pack ponchos for the rain. They worked great and the rain did not hinder us one bit. After our 4 day/3 night stay at Disney, we stayed at a nice resort in Orlando for 2 days, just to relax.

We had a great time when we went with a larger group…we were able to split up, go to where you wanted to go and skip anything you did not want to do. At one point, my niece was whining to her mother that she wanted to go back to go the condo to go swimming. Well, my sister wanted to get her money’s worth and wanted to do a few more things before leaving the park. She was trying to appease the 5 y/o when the little one turned on her and announced, “I hate this place.” It’s a quote that has gone down in the history books of famous family one-liners. She’s almost 17 and has not lived it down yet.

Nice memories.

Matt

June 4th, 2009
7:43 pm

Just to add a few tips:

1) Although it may be difficult with kids, the *best* strategy you can employ to avoid lines is to be at the parks when they open. Most people like to sleep in during their vacation, and so do I, but the crowds are always smallest first thing in the morning.

2) Especially with kids (but not just for kids), considering taking an afternoon break. This is particularly important if you’re following my first tip. The parks are the busiest (and it’s usually hottest) shortly after lunch. If no one is down with napping, consider going for a swim, or maybe even to a water park.

3) Staying on-site doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and comes with several advantages: free transportation to/from the airport, eligibility for the Disney dining plan, Extra Magic Hours, and more.

Matt

June 4th, 2009
7:48 pm

By the way, anyone who would bash adults going to Disney World without kids doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Disney World isn’t for kids — it’s for everyone, of every age. There’s a reason it’s the honeymoon capital of the world.

Becky

June 5th, 2009
8:13 am

Matt, if I sounded like I was bashing adults for going without kids, I’m sorry..I just don’t think it’s in me to go without kids..

teeincsg

June 5th, 2009
9:18 am

Great tips!
Do you sit for the timeshare presentation when you get to Orlando? or is it given somewhere else?

We’re taking our kids in September for my daughter’s 5th birthday. It falls on a Tuesday, so we’re hoping the fact that school would have started and it’s the middle of the week will mean a decrease in crowds and an increase in fun!
This will be her and my 2-year old son’s first Disney World experience. I think I’m more excited to see their reactions than anything. Of course we haven’t told them or we’d be harassed from now until September! (LOL)

teeincsg

June 5th, 2009
9:23 am

I’ve done Disney without my kids. I see nothing wrong with it.
If you’re still a child at heart and like that kind of stuff, I say go for it.

Mouse World Vacations

June 5th, 2009
12:40 pm

Why not let a Disney Certified Travel Agent help you do all that planning??? It saves all your time and energy for your actual trip!

They can help you make all the arrangements, plan all the itineraries and offer helpful advice. They will know more, will have seen more, and booked more situations then any “regular” person could ever deal with. Even someone with an annual pass that goes everyday to WDW will not have booked hundreds of hotel reservations, help hundreds of families, newlyweds, guests with specials needs, family and group trips and more like a Disney Certified Travel Agency.

Best of all if you find the right one (like at MouseWorldVacations.com) they won’t charge you extra for those services. They just do it ’cause they love Disney too!

Peachy

June 5th, 2009
5:16 pm

I recommend a few things, having gone several times myself (both before and after having kids):

Bring your own bottled water, and granola bars (w/o chocolate) or fruit snacks – one (refillable) bottle for each person, and granola bars/fruit snacks b/c they can get bent or squished and kids will still eat them if they want a sweet treat. I actually saw someone dragging around a rolling cooler once!!!

Make sure your cell phone has a still/video camera and has removable memory; makes for fewer things to carry and a lot more room for pics and videos.

Bring your own journals and colored sharpies if your kids want autographs – WalMart sells journals of several colors and styles with unlined paper in their office supply section; let the kids decorate them, and paste pics of the characters inside after you develop your digi-prints. Sharpies come in a myriad of colors now.

Magic hours and fast passes are KEY. Take advantage of them.

I second the motion to bring your own ponchos all year round (walmart, 99 cents, package the size of a deck of cards).

Bring hand wipes (get a plastic ziplock bag and put baby wipes in it) – they do everything from cleaning hands before dinner, to substituting for TP, to wiping off sweaty painted cheeks when they fall alseep in your lap on the bus…

If anyone has special dietary needs, plan your meals in advance. You can call Disney (407-W Disney) and tell them what you need, and they can direct you to the best places. If all else fails, you can leave the park, grab a bite at the hotel, recharge, and go back!

Hats/sunglasses/sunblock – use all three, you won’t regret it. (And you won’t look like a tourist!)

Bring a jacket/sweater if going anytime between October and March – it may be warm during the day but it cools off quickly once the sun sets.

Bring a little extra cash than you expect you’ll need, just in case, but make a commitment to stick to your budget. Each person gets one special souveneir, and take advantage of the (sometimes free) delivery to your Disney hotel room.

Pace yourself and listen to your body. If you’re hot and tired, and your 4yo says, “Mommy, can we go back to Gramma’s house/the hotel?” your answer should be, “Sure honey.”

Most importantly – have fun! We always make a list of all the rides/attractions we want to hit in priority order, and we make sure to do our top 3 or 4 first so no one feels left out.

We were at Mickey’s House as well over Memorial Day Weekend; it was funny, we saw alot of people from Gainesville there. Dreams…come…TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE!

Sorry for the long post! :o)

Peachy

June 5th, 2009
5:27 pm

P.S. My hubby and I are Disney NUTS! It’s our kids’ favorite too. We *have* to go every year and our favorite times to go are early to mid November – they deck their halls right after Hallowween!; and mid-January to late February, since it’s still relatively cool, before spring break, and not quite into the rainy season. We booked a hotel room at the last minute and got over 50% off the regular price.
As Far as bringing vs renting strollers – I love my double stroller, and the “stoller parking” areas are always manned (even though they don’t control who takes what) so I get a shopping bag and put the phone/camera, wallet, and other valuables in it. They usually let you take small bags on rides, or leave them with the attendants as you board.

I’m giving away all my secrets too! lol

t-bone

June 6th, 2009
8:18 am

As someone who worked at WDW during my college years the best time to visit from a temp and crowd perspective is November(except Thanksgiving week) and early December. January will be slow as well but it has the potential for some pretty cold days. As for the ride strategies, pretty typical stuff presented in the article. I am always struck, however, by the objective in visiting WDW that riding the most rides is the epitome of a successful visit. To me, WDW is so much more than just rides. If you want maximum ride experiences there are a ton of amusement parks that pack in the thrill rides. Stop and look at the attention to detail Disney packs in the parks. Enjoy the beauty and cleanliness of the place. Enjoy a parade, guarantee it will be the best parade you ever see. Enjoy the fireworks, again some of the best you’ll ever see. I know doing these more mundane things with kids can be a challenge but Disney does offer things for all ages, if you bother to look for it.