I cannot tell you how much it pains me to watch family after family pass me, pouring over a map and discussing next plans to go to an attraction clear across the park. If there’s one thing I can say is consistent of all four WDW parks, it is that they are big. Even Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the smallest park, has lots of alleys and dead ends which create long walks. You should have no problem getting those steps in for the day. And to my personal dismay, Florida is hot and humid more often than it is not. A certain recipe for exhaustion is coming to a Disney park unprepared.
But I understand- a lot of visitors who come to Walt Disney World are first-timers. It can be hard to know what to anticipate of Walt Disney World when its only media to be found is full of pixie dust and perfection. That’s not to say that your experience won’t be, but there are definitely some considerations to make when planning your visit to prevent stress or exhaustion from taking the reins:
- Have a plan!
Seriously, just having a plan is so important. I have nothing against spontaneity, but I don’t recommend it in the parks. Most people will spend months picking out Fastpasses, skimming menus for dinner reservations, and plotting their daily schedule. You can go in blind, but chances are you won’t be accomplishing much. Disney parks are packed with so many things to do that it is nearly impossible to accomplish it all. But the more planning you do, the more satisfied with your day you will feel. Trust me on this one. Really dig through the maps and the website. Buy your tickets ahead of time and find a consensus on the most important things to do. This way you don’t waste your time in lines for things that your party is just “meh” about. Prioritize and choose the path that’s most magical for you!
- Use Fastpass!
One of the coolest things (I think) about Disney is that their Fastpass system is free to all who purchase a ticket. You never find that in amusement parks, not even from our theme park neighbor down the street. Something to consider with that perk though is that everyone has access to Fastpass. I’ve seen some guests get incredibly worked up about not being able to get Fastpass for their favorite attraction, to the point of even exclaiming, “Well then what am I paying for?!” To which I always try to politely remind… you’re not. With making something free, there has to be some limitations. A Fastpass line wouldn’t be faster if literally everyone could use it. So Fastpasses are distributed for specific increments throughout the day on a first-come, first-serve basis. The best way to secure the ones you want is to hop onto your My Disney Experience account 180 days before your visit. Now you can still get on and make plans a few days before, or even day of and make some as well; it’s just that what will still be available at that point is much less likely to match up with the times and attractions you want. So plan ahead and book them as soon as possible!
- Think geographically!
Don’t waste all of your precious time running back and forth between Frontierland and Tomorrowland, not actually accomplishing anything. Plot out your day geographically! You want to see certain shows? Start from there. Shows only have certain start times and they’re only in one location. Now start thinking attractions and character meet and greets. From one side of the park to the next, what are the highlight must-dos for you and your family? The number of things you want to experience geographically before reaching the stage for your must-catch show will indicate what show time you should aim for. And last but not least, don’t forget food! Now that you have a general idea of where you’ll be at certain times of the day, you’ll know around what time you should make reservations for that restaurant you’re dying to try. I would recommend staying in the park to eat. The amount of travel time required to leave and come back can take a big chunk out of a day of playing. If your map’s connect-the-dots end up looking like more of a circle/spiral than a scratch pad, you will be thanking yourself when you’re actually out in the heat.
- Be realistic!
The downside to planning is that you can have the most beautiful itinerary in the world, but life will still happen. There’s no way to account for attraction downtimes, inclement weather, or densely packed walkways. On the upside, planning allows you to get through as many things as possible, as quickly as possible, so that should things arise, you can circle back later in the day and try again!
- Have Fun!
There’s nothing worse than arguing on vacation. Usually the culprit is simply too many hands in the pot. Jot down everyone’s top 3 things to do in the park, so that you can ensure each will have a secure place on the itinerary you’re constructing. When it comes to day of, in my experience, it is best for one person to be the leader. My family has always expressed sincere gratitude to me for leading them through the park in the most leisurely, stress-free way possible. I do this by sticking to my first four steps, and leaving decision making day-of out of the equation (at least as much as possible.) When it’s hot, loud, and crowded and everyone has different opinions things can get a bit tense. I’ve experienced it myself with our bigger family vacations. If you go in knowing what everyone is hoping to do, you can lead them confidently through a magical day for all.