5 Tips for Planning a Magical Disney Vacation

A Disney vacation can be magical--and often, for families with small children, overwhelming and exhausting. Mighty Mommy has visited Disney 20 times (many of those with her 8 kids in tow), and shares her 5 best tips for preparing for a low-stress Disney getaway.


Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #290

Tip # 4: Pack your Family's Favorite Breakfast Items

One of the best time and money savers that I've found has been to pack breakfast items--such as cereal, granola bars, pop tarts and bagels--in a separate suitcase, so that we can eat in our room before heading to the parks each day. It is much less expensive to eat breakfast in your room, and eating before venturing out for the day will save your family a lot of time.

Tip # 5: Have a Plan

You absolutely need a plan of what attractions you want to see and when. That's why it's important to follow my advice in Tip #2, and familiarize yourself with the parks before you arrive at your magical destination. Unless you have weeks of vacation time lined up at Disney World, "winging it" is not a good strategy. 

A few weeks before your Disney vacation, make a list of the top 8 attractions you'd like your family to experience. (Vary this number depending on the amount of time you're going to be on vacation.)  Our recent vacation gave us 6 full days in the parks (I know--we're gluttons for punishment!), and since several new attractions, like the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Mine Train, had opened since our last visit, we wanted to make sure we saw some of the new things we hadn't seen before.  My kids are older now (they range in age from 8 to 21), so they definitely contributed input as to what were the top 3 things they wanted to do at the parks each day. 

Once you have a game plan on what top attractions are important to your family, you can take advantage of Disney's Fast Pass to select times that will allow you to literally walk right on to these rides. Disney allows 3 Fast Pass selections per day. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can even schedule your Fast Passes a month in advance--pretty much guaranteeing you your top choices.

We have always had a similar plan for our Disney days, regardless of our kid's ages and stages. We arrive at the parks as early as possible and spend a full morning exploring, then have lunch in one of the parks. We then return to the Disney hotel for several hours in the afternoon to enjoy their spectacular pools, or to simply "lay low" and rest in the comfort of our air conditioned rooms. This ensures time for our entire family to refuel and get ready for a return to one of the parks at about 5 PM. We have a light dinner there, and enjoy the parks as they come to life at night, with the breathtaking lights and spectacular firework displays. The evening is also a wonderful time to do a little shopping in the many unique gift shops scattered throughout the parks. 

By pacing ourselves, having realistic expectations, and breaking up our day with an afternoon swim or rest period, we have always been able to head off meltdowns and cranky kids (as well as us parents!) And we return from our vacations feeling excited and magical, not overwhelmed and exhausted.   See also: How Routines Can Simplify Your Life

To build excitement and help plan your trip, request a free Vacation Planning DVD from Disney and also free customized park maps.

Join me next week as I share 5  more fabulous tips on enjoying a low-stress, fun-filled Disney vacation with your family.

Do you have a Disney vacation tip that has been helpful to your family?  Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT..

Photos of Disney World sign, family at breakfast, and ferris wheel courtesy of Shutterstock. Family at Disney photo courtesy of Mighty Mommy.


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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