Walt Disney World is dubbed the happiest place on Earth and that is mostly true. I have been to a bunch of theme parks and WDW is definitely on the top of the list. The staff is beyond friendly and there are so many little things that may go unnoticed for many such as the scents that are put into the park, the staff that give crying kids a sticker and even the phenomenal app, but as with all things, there is a but! This place is truly magic and all of these great things but it usually takes a few trips to learn how everything works and learn the inside tips. As a dad, and a relatively frugal person, I don’t want others to have a less than perfect trip if they are spending all of that money so I am here to let everyone know the low down, from a dad’s perspective.
First of all, it is expensive! This shouldn’t be news to many people but it is worth saving up to do it the right way and plan as much as possible. Maybe I cheated a little but a good friend of mine Michele became a Disney Vacation Planner after visiting the parks about a hundred times, and she was a life saver on both of our trips. There is so much to know when planning one of these trips and if you’ve never been, it is impossible to wrap your head around. Michele came through and planned everything from lodging to tickets, to meal plans and which would be best for us, planned character meals and she even stayed up until midnight 60 days before our trip to get us the best Fast Passes available at the exact moment that was available. This isn’t just a plug for her, but without her, our experience probably would’ve been dreadful! So when you want to start thinking about a trip or get prices, give Michele a shout at Michele.Smith@mickeyvacations.com or https://www.disneytravelcenter.com/msbd49329f/
Dads have a different perspective on things many times and WDW is no different. It should be pointed out very early that WDW itself does not serve alcohol unless you are lucky enough to get reservations to Be Our Guest, which is usually booked up about a year in advance even though Michele got us in. Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and the water parks all serve beer which is good to note, especially when planning. My kids were relatively young at 5 and 3 for our first trip which made WDW and Hollywood Studios ideal because Lilly was too short for most rides at Epcot. Our second trip, they were a little older so Brennan could show Lilly his favorite ride, the Test Track at Epcot. We were lucky enough to have some of our friends come and meet up for a day at Epcot so we warned the kids that the afternoon was going to be adult time and we walked (and drank) our way around Epcot and the world for that matter. Planning a fun time for adults is key in keeping your sanity, yes the happiest place on Earth is mostly for kids but slipping in an afternoon of adult fun is a must! Some of the higher end hotels actually have babysitters available so that you can enjoy a nice meal or night out but we just brought our tiny humans in tow!
We learned on our first trip that if your kid will physically fit in a stroller and you have a decent one, bring it! They are available to rent as well but they all look identical, so it is best to bring something to make yours stand out from the millions parked all over the parks. Bring comfortable shoes, yes shoes! We went both times where the weather was much warmer in FL than our home and I wore sandals to let my piggies be free but also brought comfortable shoes because the amount of walking those days was unbelievable! I believe my FitBit told me that I was averaging 25,000 steps per day so having good shoes and a stroller to keep the kids from having to walk that distance was clutch. The stroller is also good because it is a good storage facility, even when Brenn wanted to walk, it was nice to have somewhere to put your drinks, souvenirs and spray bottles.
Our first trip, we got a meal plan that included a breakfast snack, a refillable cup, a quick meal for lunch and a sit down meal for dinner. It was a good deal and for those of you with kids who eat mostly anything, it is a great idea. You can just touch Mickey to Mickey on your Magic Band (we’ll get into that later) and you grab your food and move on with your day. My kids don’t eat anything and we learned that you can bring food and drinks into the parks, what a deal! We started each day with the kids eating pop tarts or something like this on the way in and we would pack snacks and sandwiches for lunch. We also learned that the kids usually became hungry when they were bored, when we were in a line waiting for the next event or ride. Having a sandwich or snacks handy saved many a meltdown! We usually bought dinner in the park somewhere which isn’t cheap but the food is a lot better than what I think of as theme park food.
Planning out your days may not be your forte, but it is almost a requirement here. Michele set up our Fast Passes for early in the day so that we could go to the kiosks and get more around lunch time or we could decide to go to another park in the afternoon. Knowing where you are going is crucial in keeping everyone happy. The app is fantastic with a GPS feature and ride wait times up to the minute. Also the Magic Bands are really cool because the kids can get food, unlock the hotel room door and if one of them wonders off, it is GPS enabled and they are trackable! Again, the little details are so good to have and know about early. Parking can be expensive but if you’re staying at a WDW resort, they have busses constantly running and almost never a wait of more than 15 minutes. We did a Typhoon Lagoon one morning when we were there and we had a blast, it was a good change up from the norm and we were able to change and head over to a park afterwards. The fireworks and light show at Cinderella’s castle is a must see! As an adult, I was amazed at how it was done and just the spectacle of the whole show. A lot of things are well documented in Disney tricks and tips like sunblock and best places to eat, but as a dad, some of these tips could have saved us many meltdowns and wasted time and energy on the first trip. We aren’t pros yet, but we hope to be soon!
Stay strong out there dads and always be magical!