We just got back from Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida and before I went there was so much to plan, especially with two kids, that I thought I’d write a post about what to do before you go. The accommodation and flights are just the start then there’s where to stay at the airport, car hire, what to do about car seats and then navigating all the attractions Disneyworld has to offer, as well as wherever else you might want to visit. I know I found posts like this helpful in working out what I needed to arrange so hopefully you’ll find it useful too. There’s also links to other blog posts at the bottom if you want to read more advice about enjoying Disneyworld with children.
Airport Hotel & Parking
If you’ve got an early flight, make things easy on yourself and book an airport hotel for the night before. We stayed at the Premier Inn Manchester Airport and booked parking with it. I like Premier Inns and went for this one because I knew what I’d be getting, the family room is just the right size- we even had a spare bed because they provided a cot for Evan. The parking was included so we got a good deal for a hotel plus 2 weeks parking but to be honest I wouldn’t use Jet 3 again, it was too much hassle with the bus transfers. I’ve just seen that they do a meet and greet service at the Premier Inn Manchester Airport, I’ve no idea why I didn’t notice that when I was booking but it would have been ideal!
We booked a car through Atlaschoice and found them via a search on TravelSupermarket.com – I used all the search options on the Money Saving Expert webpage about car hire and this worked out the cheapest. To add carseats for the two kids would have cost over £170 which is ridiculous – you could buy them for that! You can check carseats in at the airport at no extra cost so that’s what we did and at least with them being our own, we knew how to fit them ourselves. After reading all the info on Money Saving Expert and making sure that we got ‘full to full’ on petrol, Stu went up to the desk while I entertained the kids and got upsold a full tank – the moral of the story is whoever does the research / booking needs to go to the desk!
If you’re hiring a car you’ll need to pay for parking to get into the Disney and Lego parks, it was $20 a day when we were there. Worth bearing in mind when you’re working out a daily budget – although my sister managed to get in for free twice by singing a Disney tune at the window!
We had a look to see which of the parks we wanted to visit and decided on the Disney parks and Legoland, it was cheapest to buy the combined ticket through americanattractions.co.uk and that gives entry for the full 14 days along with memory maker – that’s where your photos are uploaded to the Disney account which you can access through their website or the app. We also had transport included to get to Legoland, we didn’t use it but it would have been handy if we were staying in a Disney hotel. My Mum booked her tickets through orlandoattractiontickets.co.uk because they worked out cheapest for what she needed – Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens. It’s worth shopping around as the prices do change and if you’re just doing the Disney parks it might be cheaper just to book direct through Disney Holidays – it was when we were looking but we decided to add Legoland on too.
Fastpass and Reservations
Once you have your Disneyworld tickets booked, you can start making reservations for Disney restaurants – you can do this up to 180 days in advance. I totally forgot about this and when I tried to book Cinderellas castle 4 months in advance I could only get a reservation for 2 people so we did the princess lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall instead. This is in Epcot right next to the (amazing!) new Frozen Ride so we spent our morning in Norway visiting Anna and Elsa, then on the ride before having our lunch with the princesses. Some reservations are less hard to get, we booked the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom and The Boathouse at Disney Springs while we were there. The Boathouse was my favourite meal by far, there was a wedding party out on the terrace at the same time which tells you how nice the food must be, if I go back I’ll definitely be eating there again.
Fastpasses can be used 30 days before (60 if you’re staying at a Disney hotel) – use this for things like the Frozen Ride (Epcot), Meeting Rapunzel and Peter Pan’s Flight (Magic Kingdom), these had the longest queues when we were there, fastpass gets you almost to the front of the queue. Most of your fastpasses can be made while you’re there via the app but if you’re the super organised type I’m sure you’d be able to get it all done before you went. If you use all three passes you can make another so ideally make them morning ones.
Buying / hiring a buggy
We already have a Mountain Buggy Urban Jungle but needed a travel buggy to use in the airport and around the parks so we bought a Silvercross Zest. It was perfect for Evan, seemed comfortable and a really good size. Annie hasn’t used a pram / buggy since before she turned two, she did the whole arched back thing until I finally stopped trying so she’s got a lot of stamina when it comes to walking. Walking in the heat is very different though, especially when you’re queuing a lot as well, so we tried to convince her that she needed a buggy. The first few days she refused – even when she saw her older cousin in one – but finally she was exhausted enough to admit defeat, even having a nap in one towards the end of our holiday! They cost around $15 dollars for the day I think and we saw lots of very old children in them.
Surviving the flight
Flying long haul for the first time with a toddler was not the best experience for us, Evan was just under 2 so we got his flight for free but that also meant he didn’t get a seat. It was such hard work, he’s an active child and so being forced to sit down for so long made for a very unhappy boy. I let him run up and down the aisles to burn off a bit of energy, I tried to keep him entertained using the KidloLand app and his favourite toys but really he was just tired and couldn’t sleep. We were luckier on the way home, it was a night flight and we spent the day exhausting him so he slept on me most of the way home. Annie was really good on the flight – she was almost 5 and it was her second time flying, we flew to cyprus when she was 2 and she was more excited than anything. I think some kids fly well and some don’t and I’m just glad that next time we fly, Evan will get his own seat.
Advice from other bloggers
It’s good to read about other families experiences of Disneyworld too, just to get an idea of what they did and help work out what you need to do before you go. Especially when you’re going with children, there’s a lot more to think about. I asked a few of my parenting blogger friends for advice for making the most of a Disneyworld holiday with the little ones:
Char and Monica both have blog posts full of tips for flying with a baby which might help you relax about taking a baby on a long haul flight. Honestly, even though Evan was awful on our flight out it was still worth doing. Next year we’re going to Cyprus for a friends wedding but I won’t hesitate to book another long haul flight with the kids. I want to explore the world with them and the more they fly the better they’ll be at it. I will admit that I did look enviously at a family of four with two older children who were both happily entertaining themselves while I was trying everything under the sun to keep Evan from screaming, but they were probably in my position 5 years ago!
Karen writes about how they saved money around the parks because they spent their budget on character meals. She has tips for saving money while making life easier with the kids in the parks. You don’t have to tell me twice that bubbles are the answer to everything!
Jodie wasn’t all that impressed with her first Disney experience at Disneyland Paris when she went earlier this year but advises to pack comfortable shoes, be prepared for tired legs and having no money. She also didn’t really get the feeling of that magic that everyone talks about – I’m glad our experience was a little bit more magical than hers but it’s worth a read if you’re on the fence about booking. I have wanted to visit a Disney park since I was a child and getting to go for the first time with my own children made it extra special for me anyway.
It was nice to hear from Joanne that the queues aren’t actually that bad in October. I’d heard September / October is a good time to go and as Annie had only just started school I didn’t feel too bad about taking her out for a couple of weeks. This won’t affect her GCSE results! The weather is a little more unpredictable in September with it being rainy season, we were actually there during Hurricane Matthew. We were all fine, though we did need to stay in the villa for a day while it passed by. I think when we visit again it would be nice to go nearer to Christmas, it was still very hot when we went and it’d be nice to go at a slightly cooler time of year.
Fiona shared a two week itinerary from her trip to Walt Disney World, this is always a good starting point to creating your own. I planned my own itinerary on the Disney World website, you can add reservations on there too and share it with friends / family if you’re travelling in a group. It helped us to know what everyone was up to and to reserve fastpasses for things we wanted to do together.
Maria covered pretty much everything else you could think of about bringing a baby or toddler with you into a Disneyworld park.
I hope this has helped you to feel a bit more prepared for Disneyworld and got you a lot more excited. Let me know in the comments if you’re going soon or if you’ve already been what tips you’d give to other families planning to go.