When I read trip reports on other blogs or watch YouTube videos, I realize that we “do” Disney differently than the average family. Waiting in line for character meetings? Planning every day around table service restaurant reservations? Scheduling entire days without setting foot inside a park while staying at the resort pool instead? These concepts were all unknown to me.
Disney World has always been all about the rides, probably the result of visiting for so many years when Disney was essentially in our back yard and those trips per year were only 2-3 days long. Disney wasn’t a time for relaxation in those days as it can be now that more time allows on the usual week-long vacation! We squeezed every hour out of the parks in those days – the more rides, the better! So, before I dive into writing Disney tips and trip reviews, I’ll provide a little more detail about how we “do” Disney.
- Visit in winter when the weather is coolest and crowds are lightest.
- Arrive for rope drop daily and go on as many rides as possible.
- Eat mostly quick service meals and snacks.
- Drive to Orlando and stay on Disney property. The Disney Bubble must be maintained at all times.
WHEN WE VISIT
I spent so many summer days at Disney parks growing up, searching out shade, standing and sweating outside in hot lines in the relentless Florida heat. It was inevitable and necessary as annual passholders visiting year-round, but that’s not what I want to experience during once-a-year trips as an adult!
Time of year selection revolves around two main factors: cool weather and low crowd levels. Both are easily attainable thanks to our kids’ year-round school schedule which gives them breaks during Disney’s desirable off-seasons in the fall and winter. November and February are fantastic times to visit Disney World!
Five-minute wait for the safari at opening time? Yes, please!
START EARLY AND STAY IN ONE PARK
An average Disney park day begins early at rope drop. We’re not huge breakfast eaters and our boys are fairly early risers so this is easily attainable. We eat a simple breakfast in our hotel room and then arrive at the park of the day before opening time. The first hour or two is always the best time to enjoy the most popular attractions while lines are shortest. This way, we are able to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Toy Story Midway Mania, or the Kilimanjaro Safari first without using one of our three reserved FastPasses.
Our kids grew out of naps early so even when they were youngest on our first trip, we didn’t plan our days around an afternoon rest period per so many recommendations. We simply stop for a snack, enjoy a leisurely ride, or watch a show to get off our feet for a while and recharge in the afternoon.
We also stick to one park per day. Park hopping would be more tiring with kids and unnecessary since there’s plenty to do in each park in a full day. We never have a problem filling the day with rides, shows, and food.
QUICK SERVICE MEALS
I love planning our daily itineraries, but planning the day around dining reservations doesn’t sound like fun. Making sure we arrive at a precise time at a particular area of the park, waiting to be seated, waiting for the meal … we don’t have time for that.
Our food recommendations sway towards quick service meals and snacks rather than table service restaurants that require reservations. We do have a few table service favorites, but usually only make reservations on special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries or on park days where we know our plan will be relaxed allow more time to devote to a longer meal. Expect much more talk about quick service and snack favorites here!
WHAT WE DON’T DO
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned characters or parades yet. We don’t make either a priority. The characters we have met in recent years have mostly been out of convenience (we happen to walk by when the line is short) or accidental, like finding Belle in her yellow gown randomly greeting outside Imagination in EPCOT. We really enjoyed the characters we have met but don’t modify our plans to include a character meeting and would never use a FastPass that could otherwise be used for a ride. The boys are only interested in meeting Pixar characters and those are few and far between in the parks anyway. I met characters as a child when they simply roamed the parks, but now that meet and greets all require long lines and even FastPasses, they’ve lost their appeal.
Our indifference towards parades is probably an extension of our disinterest towards meeting characters. And there are simply too many rides to enjoy than to sit around and wait for a parade to begin!
STAY ON SITE
While my family never stayed on-site as a kid, we have ONLY stayed on-site since returning to Disney in 2013 and will never go back to off-site lodging again! Staying within the Disney Bubble is now of prime importance.
We stick to the value resorts since we only use the room as a place to sleep, so the resort’s restaurants, pools, and even room size don’t really factor into our decision. We just enjoy staying close to the parks where Disney theming continues even after we’ve left the parks for the day.
TRAVEL BY CAR
We have driven to Disney World every time since I was five years old. I have no experience flying into MCO or taking the Magical Express, and don’t ever expect to. Disney World is a 9-hour drive from home so it’s easily doable in one day and significantly cheaper than flying for a family of four.
We also enjoy the flexibility of using our car to drive to the parks each day rather than wait for Disney transportation and parking is even free as Disney resort guests.
What about you? What are your priorities when planning a Disney World vacation?
NEXT WEEK: 4 Parks 1 Day