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 1: Hollywood Studios

Originally I had planned our week to get more and more exciting as the days went on (with Magic Kingdom and Harry Potter world being our last 2 parks). I hadn’t heard as much about Hollywood Studios so I thought it’d be a good place to start. Interestingly, it ended up being the kids’s favorite Disney park.

A few notes about Disney parks: we went at the perfect time of year so we honestly had no lines. The longest we waited in a Disney line was probably 15 minutes. We scheduled Fast Passes-more on those later as well-but didn’t end up using most of them just because the standard lines were so short.

First spot we went in HS was Animation Courtyard. My scooter broke down soon after entering the courtyard so Zach took the kids on Voyage of The Little Mermaid, which they enjoyed, while my parents and I tried to fix the scooter (didn’t work-had to get a new one later that day).

My kids were at perfect ages for this kind of trip, I kind of loved that they were past the age of wanting to meet every character and get their autographs. Character lines were the longest in the parks so we ended up just getting a picture the first day with two of my favorites.

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Next was the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Let me say now, we thought it was supposed to be a tame ride. It was a bit more than that, which was evidenced by Binyam’s facial expression in the photo they took during the ride. Hilarious. That said, the ride is fast, has loads of turns and is mostly completely dark. It definitely made all of the kids skeptical about the rest of the rides, assuming they were all equally terrifying. That said, it was thrilling and Tariku actually decided to go on it again.

Everyone went on the Tower of Terror-and loved it-except Dailah and me. She was beyond over the scary rides at that point so it was just easier to skip it altogether with her.

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We also went to The Magic of Disney Animation which was so-so.

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But everyone loved learning how to create their own animated animal-Winnie the Pooh for us.

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Other rides/events we loved:

Toy Story Midway Mania-this ended up being the favorite of all the kids, a ride we came back to time and again. (Even multiple days!)

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Muppet Vision 3D, Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage. And of course FANTASMIC! Which is a nightly show that is not to be missed!

Rides not worth the time, particularly if there’s a line:

The Great Movie Ride and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Food:

We ate lunch once at Studio Catering (good!), Pizza Planet Arcade (ok) and Rosie’s All-American Cafe (great veggie burgers!).

We had dinner reservations that night at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, this was the best meal we had all week! Really, really amazing food! If you go to Hollywood Studios, get your reservations here (more on dinner reservations later).

Bean chose a cupcake as his dessert-which came in the form of spaghetti for frosting and a cherry meatball. So fun!

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I had a cappuchino with my dessert, Mickey Mouse ears? Fuggetaboutit.

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It also rained for a few hours that afternoon but my ‘rents just bought us all ponchos and we carried on as usual. Those ponchos came in handy the rest of the week as it sprinkled a few days and we were able to continue on our adventure no problem! So plan on bringing your own or buying some there if there’s a chance of rain, the rides stay open so there’s no need to get down.