After a week full of too many (frustrating) phone calls, I'm back to share tips to help make a Disney trip magical.
Disney is either something you are totally into or totally don't understand. It's a place to feel like a kid again and let go of your worries. Anyways, without further ado...
These tips are likely pretty silly, but we implemented them throughout our trip and they really helped us to enjoy our vacation.
See that camera in Jake's hands? We got that on clearance at the Disney Store outlet near us for a few dollars and it was one of Isaiah's favorite toys the whole trip. (As a matter of fact, it still stays in his diaper bag for when we are out and about because he loves it so much.) Buying that, and other souvenirs, t-shirts, etc, prior to our trip saved us quite a bit of money (as compared to buying them in the parks) and really surprised Isaiah. We also bought Disney gift cards every so often over the last year before our trip. We used them, instead of a credit card, to pay for the majority of our room charges....and that way the trip was basically prepaid for. (And if you are a member of a big box store like BJs or Costco, you can get the gift cards at a slight discount, saving you a few dollars.)
Make sure to get lots of family pictures on your trip! You can easily do this without a selfie stick (I can't believe those things are real, and by the way, are banned from Disney parks, so just don't bring one). Just ask the photopass photographers that you see throughout the parks to snap a few pictures with your camera/phone for you. They'll likely snap some with their camera too and then give you a card if you want to access/buy them, but there is no obligation to buy photopass. (But if you know you'd want it, look into it at least 3 days before your trip because you can buy it at a discount.)
Also, lots of Disney Cast Members offer to take photos for you. We'd often stop and I'd go to take a picture of just Dave and Isaiah, or Dave would go to snap one of Isaiah and I, and a Cast Member would see us and offer to take a family shot for us. If they offer, say yes! Having those photos to look back on is just wonderful.
It can be complicated, but Disney lets you schedule things at least 6 months before the date. If you have rides, some character experiences (like the Character Spot in Epcot, Anna and Elsa in Magic Kingdom, etc), or restaurants that are priorities for you, schedule them as soon as your window opens because things do fill up fast. A fastpass (which does not cost anything extra) is wonderful because you book it for a certain time.
Say you got a fastpass for meeting Mickey in Magic Kingdom. You would have gotten it (for each member of your party) for a certain hour. You need to check in within that hour timeline by scanning your magic band or park ticket at the fastpass entrance. If it glows green, you're good to go in! You wait in a short line (much shorter than standby) and meet the mouse himself...he talks in Magic Kingdom, FYI, and it's awesome.
Fastpasses save a lot of time. Also, you can change them using the App on your phone (My Disney Experience) while on your trip, it just depends on availability.
When it comes to meals, we always schedule asap (Dave seriously sets an alarm for midnight 6 months before the day). One new thing we learned this year was that you can even schedule the food for your meal ahead of time (about one month ahead) for lunch at the new Be Our Guest restaurant in the new Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom (holy run on sentence). At the time, I thought it was the weirdest thing ever that I had to decide what sandwich I'd want a month later, but then we got to the restaurant and saw the line of people waiting to put their orders in....and we just checked in, walked right by that line, found a table, and waited for our lunch/dessert to come right to us...yup, not so weird. Awesome is more like it. (Also, you can change your order...if you want to wait in line.)
Midday breaks are my life saver in Disney. In case you didn't know, I can be a giant whiney pants, and when dealing with the heat and humidity of Florida summers, everyone who doesn't know that I am a giant whiney pants finds out rather quickly. ;-) So we've learned that the best way to make it through the day, especially with Isaiah, is to start as early as possible (bonus: rope drop shows!). This trip, with Isaiah, we typically went from 8:30 until about 11:00am. We'd grab lunch and then head back to our resort for a nap. We'd rest and then head back out around 5 or 6, grabbing dinner, and stay out until about 9. This helped us to avoid the majority of crowds and the highest temperatures of the day.
Some people believe that you need to stay in the parks the whole day because tickets are expensive (gotta "get your money's worth")....but we believe in enjoying our time in the parks...and it wouldn't be enjoyable for us without that midday break. ;-)
I feel like this last tip is corny, but it can be an important one: let the magic come to you. Maybe you've heard about people being selected to be in a parade, group shots of characters occurring, or a resort room upgrade (one family we met this last trip got upgrading from Port Orleans to the Grand Floridian!!). My suggestion for you is to be happy for those people. Enjoy your trip with every ounce of your being. Act like a kid! And it's possible that magical moment will fall right into your lap.
Dave and I were once chosen to be a part of the Jingle Jungle Parade in 2010...and you know why? Because we were completely immersed in what we were about to do- get pictures with Winnie the Pooh and Friends (seriously). We were excitedly walking down the path when we were casually asked if we were enjoying our trip, when we replied "oh yeah", the Cast Member asked us if we wanted it to get even better.
We said "of course".
It got better.
Not every magical moment will be that big, or include such a fantastic wardrobe, but it will feel that big if you let it.
Disney World is huge and there is a lot to see; don't expect to see it all. Take your time. Soak it all in; the atmosphere, your company, the experience. Don't worry about what to do next; focus on the moment you are in. Put your phone away, put your camera down, and just be there.
Our favorite magical moments of this past trip were of Isaiah's reaction to rides, meeting characters, and the interaction we had with Cast Members throughout the park.
If you have a trip planned for Disney World, we hope you enjoy every moment with your friends/family.
Have a magical weekend! :)