But first, before you get there...
Tips for the Planning Stage
- Be sure to understand ticket purchase. See Magic Your Way: park admissions are sold as a base ticket plus options.
- Consider which itineraries suit your kids' ages. The official Disney World website helps you find fun for Preschoolers, Big Kids, Teens, etc.
- Check out age and height requirements for attractions: you don't want your child to look forward to a ride he/she can't go on!
- Check ride refurbishments: if your child has a favorite attraction, make sure it isn't closed for maintenance.
- Study the park calendars for parades, live entertainment, and fireworks, so that you get the most from each day. Remember, distances between the parks are considerable, so if you want to end up in a particular park for fireworks, plan accordingly!
- Pick your time of year with care. You need to balance four main factors: crowds, heat, park hours, and special events. During busy times, parks stay open late and you may find extra parades and fireworks.
In the Theme Parks
1. For parents with kids too small to ride an attraction: Use the "rider swap". First, parents and kid(s) all line-up together; Parent A rides first with any older kids, while Parent B stays to one side with baby or under-height kids. Once the ride is over the parents change places, and again one parent rides while the other one waits.
2. Pick your park according to "Extra Magic Hour". Which park will you go to today? Keep in mind that, every day, one of the four theme parks opens early for Disney World resort guests only. Either rush to the early opening yourself if you're staying "in the World", or avoid that park for most of the day.
3. Get to the theme parks early. This advice is especially important for Disney's water parks, which can be packed by noon at peak times of year, and for the Animal Kingdom theme park, which closes early.
4. Take a break in the afternoon . Go early to the park of your choice; take a break and return to your resort or hotel when the day is hottest; then return to the parks in the evening. Three of the theme parks have special night-time events.
5. Use Fastpass . Fastpass compares favorably to sliced bread as a great invention. It's free, it's simple, and it saves you from standing in line for the most popular rides. Get the most out of Fastpasses-- and your whole Disney World vacation-- by using them strategically.
6. Bring snacks and drinks. These tips can save you money on hot and humid Florida days when your kids need to drink liquids all day long.
7. Eat for value and fun. Food is expensive in the theme parks, unquestionably. You can scout some bargains, but sometimes spending more on a full buffet is a better option-- and more fun, if Pooh Bear or Cinderella is in attendance. A giant late breakfast buffet can serve as lunch; a giant late lunch can fuel the family right through dinner hour. Also, some a la carte restaurants specialize in fun theming, and these can be good choices too.
8. Use Advanced Reservations for restaurant meals. This system is easy, it's free, and usually entails no commitment -- yet you get seated quickly instead of waiting in line.
9. Use the Disney Transportation System . Every hour of the day, and well into the night, blessedly cool Disney buses ferry people, for free, from one park to another and to and from the Disney resorts. The monorail and several boat shuttles are other excellent and free ways to get around.
10. Keep Cool. How to keep cool, on a hot and humid day? By using cool clothes, cool shoes, and cool-down gadgets, by eating in air-conditioned restaurants.
Where to Stay
The big question is whether to stay at one of the 22 themed Disney World resorts: these range from a campground to Value, Moderate, and Deluxe resorts and Deluxe Villas, and from rooms that sleep four to suites that sleep up to twelve. All the Disney Resorts confer a set of great perks, such as a free airport shuttle, free Disney Bus system, and Extra Magic Hours in the theme parks. Families also need to factor in convenience in getting to the parks, cost of meals, and more -- head to Where to Stay at Disney World.
More Disney World Tips
The book Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is reissued every year and has park touring plans and details about absolutely every attraction, including evaluations for different age groups. Alternatively, the nicely packaged Disney World Passporter has fold-out maps, handy pouches, and extensive advice about attractions and resorts.
For tips online, AllEarsNet has details about all aspects the theme parks and resorts -- it even has restaurant menus. Meanwhile, Mousesavers.com is dedicated to saving money on all sorts of Disney World vacations.
Buy Direct: purchase theme park tickets at Kijubi.com
-Check prices for nearby accommodations, at Kayak.com
-Check flights and car rentals