Let’s just be honest… taking kids to Disney World is a labor of love.
Yes, it’s exciting and it’s full of memories but it also requires a lot of preplanning, effort, time off, LOADS of patience, and money.
The good news is that it’s totally worth it, and the other good news is that we have some tried and true hacks for making this trip a little easier on parents and caregivers alike!
There are a number of hacks we’ve learned taking our kids to the parks, but here are the top three hacks we’d recommend. The first is to bring entertainment for the lines. The next is to keep track of water, food and bathroom usage so there are no upset stomachs or bedtime snafus. Lastly, plan a large afternoon break, either at the parks in a shaded quiet area, in one of the many shows available, or at the resort.
Beyond that, there are an additional 12 sanity saving hacks for your trip to Disney World with the kids!
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Pictures in the AM (or park entrance!)
Looking back at my Disney World photos I can see a significant difference between the pics we snapped coming in the parks (we look fresh and happy!) and those we took later in the day and evenings.
Y’all, my kids are pooped in the afternoons between the excitement, the sun and the stimulation.
If you want some really nice pictures for your memory books, or your social channels, plan them out in the mornings. This includes the iconic scenes, the character images, the birthday celebrations and the multi family pics.
Bring your Own Stroller for kids 9 and under
One of the most asked questions in forums and groups is the time old stroller debate.
Now, I’m not going to assume anything about your kids or parenting styles, but my kids need a stroller.
And yes, my kids are used to walking at theme parks (we go monthly), have hit the trails with their dad whose training to do a thru-hike, and spend hours outside in the Florida sun each day as part of our home education curriculum.
Come late afternoon ALL the kids are so tired, cranky, and really need to be pushed around to finish out the day.
You can rent a stroller at Disney World for bigger kids (not infants, these are clunky plastic strollers for 2 and up), but I really recommend you bring your own stroller or rent one to have delivered to the hotel.
There’s a ton of stroller rentals, so go with one you trust that has good reviews. I recommend Kingdom Strollers, mostly because of how reasonably priced they are and how easy it is to pickup at the airport or have delivered to the resor.
Whatever you do, plan for a stroller as you will be walking 10+ miles a day!
Two Pairs of Shoes
Speaking of walking, have you ever had a blister from your shoe?
That ish is uncomfortable at best and down right debilitating at worst!
While you can head over to the First Aid Center in any of the parks, and the shops at any of the resorts to get bandaids… what you really need is a second pair of shoes!
Disney does sell kids shoes, most of them are crocs! ( They also have a Native Shoe Collection.) And that’s also what we bring for our kids when we go. We always pack their crocs and a pair of sneakers. This way we have a back up option in case one pair gets wet, causes blisters or… oops, gets lost on our trip (you know it happens!)
Purchase Souvenirs Ahead of time
Some would call this a budget hack, and I do list it in our ways to make Disney more affordable…
But yall, this is a SANITY hack for me.
I cannot be bothered with the kids asking for something every 5 minutes and me having to tell them no every 5 minutes. It’s a mood killer and grates my nerves.
Kids will be kids, its fun to look at cool new stuff and they don’t actually understand that time is traded for money to buy these cool toys that they’ll play with for a week before being discarded in an evergrowing pile of junk for me to sort through.
So I repurpose. I bring toys they already have, I purchase toys that I can use later at home (like in their sensory bins) and I grab items that they can use and then give away/throw away before coming home. *we do get souvenirs at the parks, but I limit these to themes (like ‘socks’, or ‘wishables’, or ‘stuffies’) so that way they have expectations and I can budget accordingly.
Things we bring with us to the parks: Glow Sticks in bulk, Disney Wishables (some used, some new, I like multipacks online), Disney Themed Coloring Books and Stickers, Small Trinkets like the Mystery Princess Boxes from Target.
Have a List of Rides so there are no surprises or disappointment
There is nothing worse than disappointment when you’ve paid a lot for your trip, so skip the meltdowns and have a list of rides so that there are no suprises!
The list is actually quite long, so head over to one of these posts to learn more about ride options and which ones to plan for your vacation. (likewise you can spend a few hours in the MyDisney App as it provides ride heights as well!)
Pack lots of Water and Snacks
Here’s the hack that has saved our hineys more times than I care to share!
There is something about kids not being able to drink anything during the day, and then they turn into water deprived terrors at bedtime and wake several times at night for water.
Yeah, that’s called dehydration my friends. Over at Childrens Hospital of California they recommend the following for just water (NOT juice or milk).
It is important to note that children should drink the number of 8 ounce cups of water equal to their age, with a maximum of 64 ounces of water for children over the age of 8. These amounts do not include other beverages they may consume in a day such as milk and juice.https://www.choc.org/programs-services/urology/how-much-water-should-my-child-drink/
We avoid that nighttime dehydration (Through learning trial and error the hard way!) by bringing our own reusable water bottles and keep track of how much each kid drinks. I keep a little note in my phone for how many I want them to drink, and how much they have drank so we can evaluate if they ‘need another snack’ or just really need some fluids!
We use a stainless steel water bottle, as we’ve had the plastic ones break when dropped on the hot asphalt at the parks.
According to the above quote by CHOC, my 6 year old needs to drink his individual 10 ounce water bottle 5 times a day (minimum in the Florida Heat while sweating) to stay hydrated. There are days he drinks 7 or 8 when the temps outside are really high!
While I’m blessed with good healthy sleepers at home, going on vacation is another story.
And as fate would have it, being a Disney World Blogger, I go overnight every 4-6 weeks and sometimes bring the kiddos along.
Call me a ‘master in trying random sleep hacks’ if you will, but we’ve found a few things over the years that we can’t live without when it comes to sleep.
The first and most important thing is a noise maker. We used to use our phones (and there’s an app for that!) but ended up getting a portable one to keep the noise away from our heads and more at the foot of the beds.
Between guests next door, people walking the halls, doors opening and closing from 5 am to 11 pm, and proximity to the pool… the noise maker drowns it all out for relaxing sleep for our kids!
The other things that we use occasionaly but always have on hand are:
>Water/Snacks for the Room (cuz your SOL if a kid is hungry and the shops are closed!)
>Eye Covers (my preschooler has grown to love his)
Bring Entertainment for the Lines
There are lines everywhere! While the majority of these lines tend to be quick, some of them take longer. It’s a part of the vacation that sometimes things dont go as planned.
One of the last times we stayed at Caribbean Beach, we ended up having a 45 minute wait for the Skyliner on our return back from EPCOT. It wasn’t that there was a mad dash of people (we left before the fire works) but that there was a technical glitch causing the line to be shut down.
Technology is great and all, but it doesn’t last long in the Florida Heat and the constant use.
Here’s what we bring for lines:
- Phone/Tablet (with case, extra charging block + consider overheating/losing them/or getting stolen)
- Stickers/ Sticker Books
- Disney Books (also double as autograph books when those come back! I grab mine at Target )
- Playing Family Games like Eye-Spy or ABC matchup
Ziploc Baggies for Everything
These baggies are SO handy! While I do use a number of reusable options (like these small wetbags for dirty clothes) I also pack a few reseable bags for the parks.
We use them for:
Clothing Sets so everything is organized and easy to grab
Keeping our Phones from getting wet on water rides and in the rain
Premake Snacks to keep the kids satisfied. One Bag of grapes from the store is the same price as what you’d pay in the quick serve! Even with the dining plan I always recommend you bring snacks!
Embrace the Off Day
The Off day, or the Rest Day, or the Non Park day, is quickly becoming popular among parents. And for good reason! It’s one of the best decisions we’ve made with our kids and I know many parents who feel similar.
The Off day allows for a number of things. For one, it gives you the freedom to explore and be kinda lazy. Watching TV in the room, going for a swim, utilizing the Disney Transportation to Resort Hop, and checking out some of the smaller things like Mini Golf and Disney Springs.
It also gives your budget a break when it comes to park tickets, while still enjoying the beauty and fun of Orlando and Theme Park Travel!
Disney Rest Days are so Popular in fact, that I have an entire guide about things you can do and places we highly recommend you visit on your trip away from the parks (and almost all of them are accesible from the Disney World Resort!)
Plan a Midday Break
Right in line with the Off/Rest Day at Disney World is prioritizing your rest during the theme park day!
For those staying on property, head back to the resort and take some time to freshen up and rest. For those staying off property, find an area to relax and take an hour or two to recharge.
If you are in the parks, there are several places and things to do to take some time off in the afternoon.
Ideas for a Midday Break in the Park:
- Catch a Show (or two back to back) Prioritize those shows that are in the A/C
- Plan a Character Meal for a late lunch or early dinner.
- Head to the Baby Care Center if you have younger children
- Find a shady spot or slow moving ride (this is a list of Nursing Spots, but can also be used for families to take a break!)
Don’t loose your Kid at Disney World!
True Story, I’ve lost my oldest at Target and LEGOLAND. While both of these events lasted only 5 minutes and involved an incredible adrenaline/panic dump, I’m forever thankful for my kid’s safety!
Realities aside, it’s possible that kids just wonder off, get lost in the shuffle, or if your like me with 3 young kids, get accidentally left behind as they straggle along.
So here’s three ideas for keeping track of your kids:
- Write your name and number on their arm and cover with liquid bandaid (or get a temp tattoo online)
- Get them a Tracking Device. I tested several of them for Disney World.
- Write your name, their name and your number on their magic band (please secure with a rubber band or magic band holder so it doesn’t fall off!)
- Write your name, their name and your number on their celebration button (one of the many free things you can get at Disney World)
Plan a Bucket List
Planning a Disney World Vacation comes with a lot of excitement, especially for the kiddos!
Do yourself a favor (and your kids) and list the top 3 items each person wants to experience!
This will help you know where to go and what to do, because Friend, you can’t do all of Disney World in a single trip (or even two or three trips!). My kids, who are spoiled Central Florida Natives, haven’t even done all the things at Disney World yet!
By Planning a Kid’s Bucket List, you’ll make your trip easier and more memorable as you know what to prioritize when you get distracted or set back by all the options for your vacation.
Consider the Weather
Repeat after me, “It will rain on my trip, and it will not ruin my vacation”
If there is *one* thing that irks me, it’s that people expect the weather to be perfect on their trip. While no one can control the weather (that we know of), there’s some common sense when planning your trip.
It can rain during any of the 365 days in Florida (most common from June-September).
There is a high likelyhood of a cool breeze in the evenings (great for light sweaters!)
It’s *super*common in the fall/winter/spring to have a colder below 60 degree day followed by an 80+ day.
And holidays are wacky because some Thanksgivings we are wearing shorts and sweating, and other times we need to light the fireplace.
If planning for the weather just makes sense, congrats your on the right path! If you’d like some gentle realities about what to expect, there’s several things to learn!
Expect the Unexpected
There was a time I stood in line for 25 minutes for a Starbucks Venti Coffee, and then promptly spilled it right on Main Street USA because I was rushing while pushing a stroller.
Ahh, the harsh realities manging your needs and those of your kids.
Part of vacationing is knowing that things will go haywire *somewhere*. Do your best to pack for those unexpected events, and consider what you would do if there was a minor or major emergency.
Here’s some things to get you planning for the worst while hoping for the best: