Excerpt 5: Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (2011)
Update: Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (2011) has been released and is available from Amazon.com.
What’s a Walt Disney World travel guide without tips? The excerpt below has two sets of tips; the first are general tips for visiting Walt Disney World while the second focuses on successful vacationing with preschoolers.
Top Six Tips
Have a Plan. There are an incredible number of attractions and recreational activities available at the Walt Disney World Resort. Research the park attractions and jot down your family’s must-sees. Download theme park maps and calendars to familiarize yourself with each park’s layout and hours prior to your visit. The Disney theme parks may close up to three hours earlier in the off-season. Park hours will influence your touring plans and dining times. See “Resources” for website addresses.
FASTPASS®. Walt Disney World ticket holders may take advantage of FASTPASS, a means of bypassing the standby line for a much shorter FASTPASS queue. Using FASTPASS can dramatically decrease the time you spend in line and increase the number of attractions your family will enjoy. Refer to Chapter 4, “Touring,” for more FASTPASS details.
Start Early. It’s tempting to sleep in at Walt Disney World. After all, you are on vacation. It’s important to know that crowds are lighter when the parks first open, and during the warmer times of the year the weather is more hospitable early in the day. Get an early start to minimize the amount of time you spend on lines. When the crowds become heavier and the weather warmer, take a break and return to your hotel for a swim and a nap.
Make Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). With the many table-service restaurants in Walt Disney World, it’s difficult to imagine not getting a seat at the restaurant of your choice. However, this routinely happens with the large crowds visiting the resort. It is best to make your ADRs, guaranteeing a table, well in advance of your trip by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
Ask a Cast Member. Walt Disney World staff, or Cast Members, have been trained to provide an exceptional level of service and to make your vacation even more magical. If you have any problems, concerns, or questions, do not hesitate to ask the nearest Cast Member for help.
Wear Comfortable Shoes. This may seem obvious but I cannot tell you the number of people I see in very stylish but impractical footwear. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of walking you’ll be doing at the theme parks. Walking 5-10 miles a day is not unusual when visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.
Top Six Tips for Travel with Preschoolers
Be Flexible. The single most important thing you can do to have a successful Walt Disney World trip with preschoolers is to have a plan and then be willing to deviate from it. When the kids get hot, tired, or over-stimulated, slow down the pace of your touring, have a snack, or take a break in your hotel room. Yes, you may miss the afternoon parade or the next showing of Festival of the Lion King but the whole family will be happier if your little ones are content. On the other hand, your preschoolers may surprise you and may be able to tour longer than you thought.
Use a Stroller. Visiting Disney World is not like a typical day at your park or local zoo. Chances are you’ll be out of your hotel room for hours at a time and your family will put in mile after mile at the theme park and at your resort. Even the most energetic four- or five-year old who would never consider sitting in a stroller at home will likely be asking for one by mid-day. See Chapter 4, “Touring,” for more information.
Don’t Force the Issue. Preschoolers are a funny bunch. They sometimes have difficulty communicating a fear or just plain discomfort with a ride or situation. If they resist a particular attraction, don’t force the issue; it’s easier to find a ride they do enjoy than having to coax them on future rides if they have a “bad” experience. See Chapter 5, “Attractions,” for a list of attractions that may scare little ones.
Ship Bulky Items. Times have changed and airlines charging their customers for each checked bag are becoming the norm. Travel with toddlers includes lots of bulky items such as diapers, wipes, sippy cups, and toddler utensils. If you need to bring disposable items, ship them to your Disney resort. The shipping costs will likely be less than baggage fees for a round-trip flight and you’ll have less baggage to juggle to and from the airport. See Chapter 1, “Preparing,” for more information.
Pack Snacks. There’s no doubt about it, you may very well suffer from sticker shock at the Disney World snack stands. Pack some healthy, dry snacks, and water in your theme park bag. A little pick-me-up may be just the thing for your child. You won’t have to worry about a sugar high or your child not eating the next meal because of the super-sized park snacks.
Try a Lanyard. When at the parks, I try to travel light – that means minimizing the number of bags I bring. My husband I switch off carrying the backpack we bring to the park and sometimes divide and conquer the attractions and food; this means I cannot rely on putting my park pass, room key, FASTPASS, PhotoPass card, credit card, I.D., and a little bit of cash into the backpack. I’ve found the easiest way for me to carry all my cards is using a lanyard with an attached card-holder. I throw it around my neck and go. Mine was purchased at the local Walmart.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.