The first time we went to Disney World with our son he was 9 months old. We stayed two nights in a hotel in Orlando. We drove up on a Friday afternoon, ate dinner at Downtown Disney, spent the night, visited Magic Kingdom on Saturday, spent the night again, and went home Sunday morning. We had a blast, but we were beat.
Getting an infant to sleep in a flimsy pop up crib with paper thin cushioning, in a hotel with other kids screaming and running up and down the hallways and slamming doors, is a tall order. At the time, he typically went to bed at 7:30pm. That first night, I don’t think he passed out until after 11:00pm. The second night wasn’t much better.
Now, unless we’re doing multiple parks in one weekend, we day trip it. We can all sleep in our own beds the night before and the night after we visit the park. We save a chunk of money by not paying for a hotel. And we’ve figured out a way to get the most bang for our buck in the park. You can do it too. Here’s how:
Disney Tips for a Magical and (Mostly) Meltdown Free Day
If you haven’t already read Tara’s, Disney Tips for a Magical and (Mostly) Meltdown Free Day, that covers how to prep and what to bring with you into the park, start there. I follow her suggestions to the letter. Tara is a fellow Sarasota Moms Blog contributor.
Pick a Low Crowd Day
I use the Undercover Tourist Orlando Crowd Calendar to pick a low crowd day that works for my family’s schedule. The calendar ranks the crowd level each day from 1-10 and assigns color codes of Green for Low Crowd, Yellow for Average Crowd and Red for Highest Crowds. It also displays special events happening at each park, historical average high and low temperatures for each day, and a big red NO symbol on days they don’t recommend a visit to that park. I’ve found that days rated 6 or higher should be avoided, as they’re pretty much unbearable.
Download the MyDisneyExperience App
The MyDisneyExperience app is essential. You can purchase your tickets ahead of time through the app, skipping the long lines at the ticket windows and zipping straight to the will call window instead. You can also make your FastPass+ selections through the app, which I’ll talk about next. If you’re going to the park with other friends or family, you can add them as a guest to your FastPass+ party, so all of your FastPasses will be scheduled for the same rides at the same times. You can book dining reservations through the app, and check the wait times for all the rides. The app also allows you to collect all the silly photos captured of your family on the rides, or by park photographers at character meet and greets.
Maximize your FastPasses
The app allows you to make 3 FastPass+ selections in advance of your visit. Don’t wait to pick your FastPasses until the night before your trip; schedule them as far in advance as possible. You’ll get better selections. It’s important to schedule your first 3 FastPasses during the first 3 hours the park is open (ex: one at 9:00am, one at 10:00am, one at 11:00am). You can use the app to pick additional day-of FastPasses, but not until after your first 3 have been used up. So if one of your first 3 selections isn’t until 7:00pm, you won’t get to pick any more FastPasses until after that time. Not ideal. Here are the attractions you should try to book for your first 3 FastPasses:
Peter Pan’s Flight
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh have very few cars, so the lines tend to get long rather quickly. Toddlers don’t have the attention span to wait in line for over an hour, and you’ll be pissed that you waited so long for a 2 minute ride. Yes, they’re literally that short. Although, I have to say that Peter Pan is actually one of my favorites – you ride a flying ship high in the air at night and all the scenes and characters for the ride are lit up beneath you.
For Big Kids
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Haunted Mansion
Splash Mountain (if you want to get wet)
All of the above, besides Pirates and Haunted Mansion, have height requirements from 38″ to 44″. So make sure your kiddos are actually tall enough to ride before you book them as your FastPass+ selections. You can get more info about all of the Magic Kingdom attractions here.
Don’t Waste FastPasses on These Attractions
These rides typically don’t have long lines, or you can hit them early in the day before the lines develop, and therefore don’t need to burn your FastPasses on them.
Mad Tea Party
Magic Carpets of Aladdin
It’s a Small World
Skip These FastPass+ Attractions All Together for Toddlers
Pirates of the Caribbean
Require Longer Attention Span
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
Character Meet and Greets (Can Be Terrifying for Little Ones)
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Mickey Mouse Meet and Greet
Start at Adventureland
After walking down Main St. USA, most people turn right to go to Tomorrowland, or head straight to Fantasyland. If you go against the grain and turn left into Adventureland, you can usually knock out Jungle Cruise, Pirates and the Magic Carpets while they all have a 10-15 minute wait. If you have a FastPass booked for 9:00am – 10:00am, don’t use it right at 9:00am. Use the first part of that hour to hit a few rides that have shorter wait times, then use your first FastPass. There’s also a 15 minute grace period with FastPasses, so you can really use that first FastPass until 10:15am. The lines will never be shorter than in the first hour that the park is open, so take advantage. After Adventureland, I recommend swinging through Liberty Square and riding It’s a Small World, Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel and the Mad Tea Party. If you play your cards right, between FastPasses and walk-ons, you should be able to hit at least 5 rides before lunch, with minimal wait times.
Coming up in Part 2 – Eating in the Park, Where to Nap and How to Get the Wiggles Out