Tips on dominating Disney World

I’m sure you’ve picked up that we had the very best time possible our week in Disney World. There are a few factors you all wouldn’t necessarily be able to control:

-Age of my kids (7, 7, 8, 9, 10)

-Greatness of Zach. Zach was at his very best that week. For a man who loves leisure, Disney World is anything but and he didn’t complain once. Oh, and he had to keep track of the kids and me being that I was relegated to a motorized scooter.

-Greatness of my parents. My parents are in really great shape, they managed to keep up with my motorized scooter and exciteable children, calm fearful Binyam kids and appoint themselves manager of the large task of not losing Binyam anyone. Not only did they pay our way there, but they bought each of my kids souviners. If there’s a way for you to get parents like them, I would highly recommend it.

-The weather was perfect. A bit warm, yes, but because we didn’t wait in lines it never felt insufferable.

-The time of year we went (September 7-12). Yes, we took the kids out of school for a week, yes that’s bad but it was worth it. I have little lovies with IEPs and some in TAG, some who didn’t blink being gone a week and some who are now working double time to catch up. The thing they all have is 2 parents who who are willing to work their asses off to make sure they are as successful as humanly possible. Clearly we knew all of this ahead of time but we also knew it was the beginning of the school year and that a) no one else would be at the parks and b) the kids would have the rest of the school year to catch up-worst case scenario.

-Having a motorized scooter. I’ll admit when I first broke my foot I was pretty devestated at the thought of exploring Disney sitting down. It ended up being quite the asset. Turns out when you’re on a scooter you can get a handicap pass that allows you (and up to 6 other people) to go to a different line. Though we didn’t have to use this every time (due to the already short lines) it still came in really handy.

The good news is, there are things you can control and really should!

-Once you have booked your trip, start looking at Undercover Tourist, particularly their crowd control tab. I used this to figure out which park to go to on which day. I happen to believe it played a roll in not waiting in line. I also bought a book about Disney and Universal that I did flip through but in the end probably could’ve found all the same information online.

-After you have loosely figured out which parks you’ll be on which days, check Disney World’s website for the restaurants that peak your interest at that park then book them. We tried a few days to walk in to restaurants without a reservation and it didn’t work. Granted we had 9 people, but the reality is it’s so much easier to have reservations. I ended up calling Disney and a helpful cast member booked them all for me right there-the process took 5 minutes (actually 10 minutes but we ended up bonding over children, generous grandparents and broken limbs). We all agreed it was the most relaxing part of our days. There was no guesswork, we just walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal.

-My parents bought the dining plan for our week there. I know there are mixed feelings about the dining plan but I can’t tell you how often we commented on how much easier it made our lives. They give you a really cool bracelet (see the cutting edge technological arrows I used below), you enter a password, scan the bracelet and voila! no money exchanged. Trysten was able to eat 2 prime rib dinners (each typically costing over $30) on this plan. Word of advice on the plan: eat a counter service breakfast, snacks for lunch and then a sit down dinner. All of this is included on the plan but we were a little confused the first few days what exactly was included. If you eat it that way- bigger breakfast, snack lunch and big dinner-you won’t be as miserably stuffed as we were the first few days.

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-Park hopper-get it. My understanding is this is an add on to a regular ticket. Park hopper refers to the ability to go to whatever park you want whenever you want. Normally you get to go to a specific park for a day and then a different park the next day, park hopper allows you to go wherever you feel like going. 🙂 As mentioned before, we ended up going to Hollywood Studios 3 times and Epcot twice. Had we not tried to go to water parks (again, not worth it in our opinion) or Universal Studios (totally worth it) we would’ve hopped even more. Can’t really picture our week without the park hopper.

-Fastpasses-genius. Download the Disney Experience app on your phone and you’ll be able to create 3 Fastpasses at a time. Disney created Fastpass for their biggest attractions to cut down on wait times for rides. You can get on the app, figure out your top 3 rides and assign times to come back to those rides at a specific time while visiting the lesser populated rides/attractions. When you come back at your allotted time you walk right on the ride, as opposed to waiting in the “standard” line that could range from 15 minutes to hours. Once you’ve used your first 3 Fastpasses you can create 3 more if the need arises. Take advantage of this, it might have you going across the park in seemingly random ways but we set up our Fastpasses and then decided where we were going the rest of the day. If our Fastpass was in Adventureland in the morning and Tomorrowland a few hours later, we would go on the ride in Adventureland then see the rest of Adventureland before heading to Tomorrowland to that ride, so on and so on. Genius.

-If at all possible-rent a car. Though we only used our (15 passenger!) van a few times, in hindsight we should’ve used it most days. If you rent a car, you can park free anywhere in Disney. A few hours of our time each day was spent waiting and riding Disney buses. Obviously there’s cost associated with renting a car but if you’re short on time (or even if you’re not) it would be worth it.

-What to wear. I am not ashamed to admit I googled “What to wear to Disney World” before I left. I didn’t know what backpack/purse to wear every day, what shoes, etc. Look back at my posts if you’re interested in what I wore, it mostly consisted of loose shorts and tank tops. I was fascinated to see the range of outfits consumers of Disney World were wearing all week. I went for outfits that were comfortable, would dry out quickly if we went on water rides and were (loosely based) fashionable. I wore these shoes, more accurately I wore this shoe and a boot:

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It was such a good idea. Love Clarks, they are so comfortable and incredibly cute. I also wore these Crocs (I know, I know, Crocs fashionable? Yes and comfortable) and didn’t regret it. My mom carried a smaller purse and I carried, not so much “carried” as “put in my scooter basket”, a small Nike backpack.

*If you have any questions about our time in Disney, ask in comments and I’ll do my best to answer!*

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Day 4: Epcot/Blizzard Beach

My parents had bought the Disney package that included the water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Hard to believe in the 7 days we were there we had a hard time figuring out when to fit in the water parks, but we really did. We ended up only going to Blizzard Beach for a few hours on this day. In hindsight, we all agreed there wasn’t any need to get the water park add on. Blizzard Beach was cool, and the kids enjoyed it, but it wasn’t worth only getting half day at Epcot. Plus, we took the Disney buses which was 2 hours just for transportation alone. Made the day super long and rushed, unfortunately. If you rent a car, it might be more doable otherwise skip it.

Started out well, though. Love our family pictures from Epcot!

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We decided to tackle Future World East and West in the morning because we had reservations at the Biergarten Restaurant for dinner so we knew we’d tackle the World Showcase then.

We started at Test Track which we all LOVED! Loved creating our own car and then testing it out. Hilarious seeing the children of hippies choosing a gargantuan truck that got about 1mpg and would’ve surely put a gigantic hole in the ozone every time it started out. That’s neither here nor there.

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We went through the Innoventions East and West but it didn’t thrill anyone, though I did enjoy that the boys chose this area:

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and Dailah chose this, because, of course:

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Rides/Attractions we loved in Future World East/West:

Mission: Space (Zach, my dad and Tariku chose the Orange team-super intense journey, the rest of us went on the Green team which was completely doable), Advanced Training Lab, Soarin, Captain EO, IllumiNations (must see!)

Ones we didn’t: 

The Seas with Nemo & Friends (seriously lame even for little ones), The Circle of Life (kind of boring, old stats but the moral of the story is good-humans can affect change in our environment either for good or bad)

After Blizzard Beach we came back to Epcot for dinner and the fireworks show IllumiNations. Biergarten Restaurant was really good as well! We thought we’d expose the kids to all of their heritages (African/German, you get the idea) while we were there. Kids loved the food and we adults loved watching our Ethiopian children dancing to the German music.

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After dinner we walked around the World Showcase a bit but didn’t get a chance to go into most countries. I remember loving it as a kid though, so if you have time check all of those out! Definitely get yourself some beer in German country though, not to be missed!

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Again, IllumiNations was really, really good but it’s just 10 minutes long. I recommend getting a spot about an hour early near the exit so you can be some of the first on the Disney buses. We did that and left about 2 minutes before it was all over so we could get the first bus back to the resort (you can see the fireworks decently as you leave). By the time the bus came there was a huge line for the buses so I would highly recommend doing that as well or you can count on not arriving back to your hotel until after 11pm.

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All that said, I love Epcot, it’s one of my favorites but I have a thing with being obsessed with other cultures and inventions and the like. If you do too, plan on a full day at Epcot!