Disney done right: How to enjoy the ‘Magic’

Yes, that’s ‘Magic’ with a capital M, because ultimately, we’re paying (and hoping)  for nothing less when we book a Disney vacation with our kids. Instead, what we often experience (or witness others experiencing) is exhaustion, over-stimulation, and even outright disappointment. Every family (and Disney park) will have their good days and bad days, but 99% of the time, it doesn’t have to be difficult. The following are Pit Stops for Kids tested and approved tips for enjoying a Disney theme park and Disney resorts with your kids.

front car, Disney monorail

The Pit Stops kids ride ‘shotgun’ on the Monorail.

1. Slow down. There is so much to do. There is (relatively) little time to do it. The result can be a frantic sprint through the happiest place on earth, during which you and your family are spending every minute rushing to the next thing instead of enjoying where you are. Take a deep breath, relax, and come to grips with the fact that you cannot see it all. Instead, pay attention to the details…Disney certainly has. Beautiful, fully imaginative theming is all around you. While waiting in lines, look for Hidden Mickeys with the kids. While on Tom Sawyer Island, stop for an impromptu game of checkers in the shade. If you take the Monorail, queue into the busier front line, even if it means passing up a few trains before you can board: your kids will get to sit up front with the driver and get a view of Epcot and the Magic Kingdom seldom seen.

Tip: take the time to look for magical Disney touches. Read about special Disney surprises in store at the parks!

2. Take care of yourself. Seems obvious, but given the number of sunburn and sunstroke cases Disney paramedics see every day, it bears saying: carry water bottles, put on sunscreen, and wear shades and hats when necessary. To off-set the cost of beverages in the parks, we carry individual packets of powdered drink mix. Just add to drinking fountain water, and you’re hydrated without paying $.595 an ounce (ok, it’s not really that bad). Consider staying on-site to allow kids (and adults) to conveniently take afternoon breaks or naps.

Nate and Calvin take a break on Tom Sawyer Island.

3. Come prepared. There’s no need to study Disney park maps as though you’re preparing to invade Poland (or so my family tells me), but there are a few key things to know before you go: the park’s daily schedule (when are the parades or shows? Are there character appearances?) and hours (does this park offer Extra Magic Hour today? Is it open late?) Even if you’re not interested in a park’s given entertainment, it’s good to know what areas to avoid (and when); the rest of the park will be less crowded during those hours. Likewise, if a park is open late for a show or event you don’t plan to attend, consider clearing out in the early afternoon, when event-attendees are just entering. If your park is hosting Extra Magic Hour in the morning, it can be a good idea to arrive right at rope drop and then leave to hit a different park around lunchtime; most EMH guests stay put, causing crowd levels to rise substantially when the off-site guests join them at regular park opening.

4. Ask questions. Most Disney Cast Members genuinely enjoy their jobs, and all are a wealth of information. Not sure if the line you’re standing in is for the ride or the Dole pineapple float (worth any wait, by the way)? Ask! We’ve asked employees whether there’s a better place to stake out for a parade, whether there’s a short-cut to the ‘land’ we’re walking to, whether a show is right for our toddler, and more, and all have appreciated our confidence in their expertise. And if you’re a few minutes early to use your Fast Pass…just ask if you can head on in…often the answer is yes.

5. Utilize Disney’s crowd control devices. In other words, for the love of all that’s holy, use Fast Pass. I am continually amazed at how many Disney guests seem to have no idea what this is or how to work it: it’s really easy, and saves so much time. Consider sending one family member (usually it’s you, Dad) with all the tickets to gather the Fast Passes for the group, so that little ones don’t have to log extra Disney miles across the park. Likewise, if you plan to a) eat dinner and b) watch a featured evening show at one of the parks, consider a Priority Seating dinner package such as this one for Fantasmic. You’ll take all the stress out of getting good seats, give yourself more time in the park to enjoy the attractions, and you had to eat anyway, right?

More Disney Done Right articles are located on our Family Vacations page.

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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