Erika's Top 5 Tips for a Stress-Free Walt Disney World Vacation
I've been visiting the Walt Disney World Resort since I was a child - my first visit was at age 2 - and I have experienced a grand total of 35 visits in my 28 years. There is a reason I keep going back, and that's because Walt Disney World holds hundreds of amazing memories for me, as a child, then as a teenager, then as a college student, and finally, as a parent. My daughter talks about Walt Disney World endlessly - just yesterday she was telling an audience of 6 adults at the pool all about the "Tigger Ride" (also known as "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh") and the different ways you can get to it from Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. It makes me smile to hear her talk about it, because I know I've been fortunate enough to provide her with the chance to have those memories, and that she will tell her children all about her time at Disney as a child and want to make those memories with them as well.
Everyone wants to get the most out of their Walt Disney World Vacation, so I thought I'd provide you with my top 5 tips to make your vacation a bit easier. The fewer details you have to worry about, the more time you have to spend time making memories with your family!
Tip #1 - Magical Express
If you're flying into the Orlando area, and staying at one of the many Disney resorts, Magical Express will make your life so much easier! Just call Disney before you leave home with your flight information, and they will send you special "Magical Express" luggage tags. When you arrive at your home airport just check your luggage as you normally would - the next time you see them will be in your room at your resort. When you arrive in Orlando, Disney-themed charter busses pick you up at the airport and wisk you away to your resort hotel. When it's time to return home, they will pick you back up at your resort, and bring you right back to the airport. Even better, most airlines allow you to check in for your flights right at your hotel - so you won't have to worry about your baggage until you are home again! My daughter absolutely loves the Magical Express experience - she calls it the "Mickey Bus"! Check out my home video for an insider's peek at the Magical Express experience.
Tip #2 - Stay at a Disney Resort
Staying at a Walt Disney World resort puts your right in the center of the magic. Towels in the shape of Mickey Mouse on your bed, numerous pools, waterslides, children's activities (and at some resorts, kid's clubs), Mickey Mouse wake up calls, and Mickey Mouse waffles for breakfast? Yes, please! Not to mention, you won't need a car while you are staying at one of the Disney resorts - busses, monorails, and boats will bring you everywhere you want to go! I cannot say enough positive things about staying at one of the many Walt Disney World Resorts (I love it so much that I became a Disney Vacation Club member!) - be sure to check out my personal favorite, Disney's Beach Club Resort. The pools are my favorite of any of the resorts - my daughter especially loves the giant sand-bottom kiddie pool (and mommy loves the hot tub that is right next to it!) and the waterslide that looks more like a shipwreck than anything else. Oh, and be sure to order the "Kitchen Sink" at Beaches and Cream - a fun, if not huge, treat to share with friends!
Tip # 3 - Take Advantage of Rider Switch
If you're in the parks with little ones that are too small to ride some of the "big kid" rides - don't feel like you need to skip them - take advantage of Rider Switch! To obtain a Rider Switch pass approach the Cast Member at the front of the line with everyone in your party that is intending to experience the ride. Once you indicate to the cast member that you would like to use the Rider Switch option, the first adult, or group of adults stands in the regular standby line (by this I mean not the FastPass line) and experiences the ride. When they get off of the ride, the cast member will allow the remaining person, or group, to ride by bypassing the regular line and standing in the FastPass line. This is a great option for families that have a wide range of children or might be visiting with other family members in addition to infants and small children.
Tip # 4 - Try the Dining Plan
The last thing I want to do on vacation is struggle with a food budget, so I absolutely love the ease of the Disney Dining Plan. All of your meals are paid for in advance, and you have over 100 restaurants to choose from, including Character dining! Your "Key To The World" (also known as your room key) also contains your credit card information as well as your Dining Plan information, so it's the only thing you'll need to carry around - no fussing around with cash or credit cards required! The receipts that you get at the end of each meal helps you to keep track of what dining plan options you still have available, so you always know where you stand. Our favorite restaurants are Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary and Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom - both character dining meals. If you want something a bit more grown up, try Citricos in the Grand Floridian, Le Cellier in Canada in Epcot, or Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian. Yum! Just be sure to plan in advance and make reservations as early as possible - some restaurants will book up months in advance!
Tip # 5 - "Plan" to be Flexible
Whether you are a first time visitor, or a long time visitor, it never hurts to roughly plan out your vacation. Meal times, nap times, and park highlights are all things worth penciling in so that you can make sure not to miss out on the things that you absolutely want to see. However, my favorite phrase when it comes to planning a Disney vacation is to "plan to be flexible" - make your plans, but be prepared to change them when needed - it is vacation after all, and the point is to relax! I love to hit the parks right as they open, then around 1 we wander back to our hotel and have a late lunch, followed by a nap, before hitting the parks again in the late afternoon or evening. Sometimes we skip the return to the parks and spend an afternoon by the pool, which is always a welcome change of pace! There are no rules, so make sure you plan the vacation that best suits you and your family!
So there ya have it - my top 5 tips to make your Walt Disney World vacation even easier! Have fun, and be sure to bring me back some Pixie Dust!