Learn how to create a plan of magical attack during a trip to Disney World with littles, tweens, teens, parents + grandparents, ensuring ample fun and minimal arguments for all.
The crew during our longest trip to Disney World was composed of two-year-old Hudson, Eric, and my mother-in-law. I had low expectations, fearing it would be impossible to ensure all ages had a good time. With someone who only likes slow boat rides with repetitive songs, another who gets sick on the "spinny things," and the other who prefers attractions that send his stomach into his throat, we were in for a challenge.
But by following the suggestions laid out below, our trip was filled with bonding, renewed childlike wonder and only-kind-of-disastrous sugar-highs. We ended our trip exhausted, but sad to leave.
1. Select flights strategically
An ill-timed plane itinerary - like a red eye - can sour the beginning, or end, of your trip. It is worth the money to book flights that will maximize your time at Disney World and, if possible, have you in the air during your child’s (or nana's?) naptime. Your best bet is to choose non-stop flights (if possible) that are in the air in the afternoon, ensuring you can all get a full night of zzzs before hitting the park, and flying home.
2. Post up at a Disney Resort
With over 25 accommodation options, Disney World offers something for every variety of traveler, whether you prefer camping, luxury hotels, or something in between. While there are seemingly endless non-Disney lodging options in Orlando, the perks provided at Disney Resorts makes this option well worth it. These perks include, but are not limited to…
Disney Magical Express: Complimentary transport to and from the airport in cushy buses playing videos that get you pumped up for Mickey Time.
Magic Bands: These aptly named bracelets provide personalized access to the parks, the Magical Express, FastPass reservations, and your guest room door, in addition to allowing you to charge food + drink to your account, or access your Disney Dining Plan credits.
Themed accommodations: Kids, and Disney-lovin'-adults, are suckers for rooms with their favorite characters plastered across the walls, sheets, shower curtains, and more. While the higher end resorts have more subtle themes, resorts like Art of Animation go big.
Family style suites: Most resorts offer suites that accommodate five or more peeps. This option allows your entire gang to stay together, which may or may not be a perk, depending on your family...
Complimentary transport to and from Disney parks: Shuttles leave on the regular to and from the various Disney Resorts.
Extra Magic Hours: This is a fun chance to feel a bit smug, as you get to stay in the park longer than guests who aren’t staying at a Disney Resort. This option was ideal for our multi-generational group, as mother-in-law and toddler would go to bed, and Eric and I would roller coaster it up until the wee hours.
Option of purchasing a Disney Dining Plan: This pre-paid meal plan is especially helpful if you have such a large group that you may be separated for some meals. For example, if Little Johnny goes off with Aunt Patty's fam for some thrill rides, you don't have to send him with $ to lose, just his magic little band that's preloaded with food and drink credit.
Heated pools, and hot tubs. I mean, come on.
You can find the full list of Disney Resorts' perky goodness here.
3. Map out your trip at MyDisneyExperience
The snazzy MyDisneyExperience site allows you to research the attractions each park offers, learning more about height restrictions, ride descriptions, locations, and more. Once you make your selections (with or without the input of your fellow travelers - we don't judge), reserve your FastPass+ - you can reserve three per person, for each day you’ll be visiting the parks.
Next, download the MyDisneyExperience app to access GPS enabled park maps, your itinerary and constantly updated wait times for each ride. And it accomplishes the life-saving task of showing your where the nearest bathrooms are.
4. Don't overfill your days
When my family visited Disney World we walked twenty miles in two days. Thank you little baby Jesus for strollers. Word to the wise, stagger rides with shows and pool time so you’re not on your feet all day, and so tired you want to proverbially kill your loved ones.