By Jennifer L. Nelson
A vacation is a time to kick back and relax, but a Walt Disney World trip isn’t exactly akin to a week lounging around on the beach at a tropical resort. From the long days on your feet to over-stimulated, cranky kids, a Disney trip can quickly take its toll on just about anyone’s sanity.
Don’t get me wrong; Disney is, without question, the most magical place on Earth, and my number one choice of vacation. But with all there is to see and do, it can be easy to start stressing over a missed FastPass+ reservation or feel overwhelmed by the throngs of people fighting to snag a seat for Fantasmic.
Here are 7 easy ways to ensure that you get the most magic out of your next Walt Disney World vacation — and all while keeping your sanity intact!
- Have a Plan. These days, it’s becoming more and more difficult to experience the Walt Disney World resort without a plan. From the need for advance dining reservations to the new FastPass+ ride reservation system, those who show up without any plan in place may find themselves disappointed over and over again.
Don’t be the family that gets turned away at the Crystal Palace or has to wait in a two-hour line for a ride on Soarin’. Make at least a loose itinerary in advance and book the experiences that mean the most to your family to avoid the frustration of not getting to do what you want to do on your own vacation.
- Set a Budget. Secret’s out: a Disney vacation is expensive. And nothing can make even the most level-headed person panic faster than watching all of those unexpected purchases start to up, from parking fees at the theme parks to pricey buffet dinners to the Vinylmations your kids just have to start collecting.
All of the Disney magic can add up fast — and without a clear budget in mind, it can be easy to go overboard. For the sake of preserving your sanity, take some time to set a daily spending budget (those Dole Whips and Mickey pretzels add up, too!) and be sure to talk to your kids before you leave about just how many Frozen souvenirs they’ll be allowed to take home with them.
- Get Some Sleep. From the excitement of the theme parks to the nightlife at Downtown Disney, it’s easy to fall off your normal sleeping patterns while vacationing at Walt Disney World…which can lead to exhausted, irritable travel companions. It’s hard to thoroughly enjoy a classic attraction like The Hall of Presidents if you simply can’t keep your eyes open, and a lack of sleep is inevitably going to lead to meltdowns…and not just from the kids!
Be sure to schedule ample downtime during your trip, whether it’s a mid-afternoon swim at the hotel or a casual dinner at the resort the night before an early wake-up call for a full day at The Magic Kingdom.
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- Dress Comfortably. This should go without saying, but one of the fastest ways to lose your mind at Disney World is attempting to make it through a full day at the parks in uncomfortable shoes, or showing up overdressed for a scorching 95-degree afternoon in August.
Don’t underestimate the physical impact of touring the Walt Disney World resort, and be sure to always choose comfort and utility over fashion — think broken-in sneakers or supportive flip-flops, and sweat-wicking workout gear for the hottest summer days. There’s nothing worse than missing out on the fun when your blistered, achy feet force you to spend the afternoon sitting on a bench, and it will be hard for your daughter to thoroughly enjoy her ride on Dumbo if her favorite Belle costume is making her feel too itchy or hot.
- Plan For All Weather Conditions. Florida’s weather is the definition of unpredictable, and rain in the forecast has caused many excited Disney goers to fear that their pricey family vacation will be ruined by less-than-sunny skies. Instead of losing your mind and compulsively checking your smartphone’s weather app, remember that the forecast changes almost hourly, and that rain can seem to be in the forecast almost daily. When it comes time to pack, plan for just about every weather contingency, as the forecast can — and will! — change during your trip.
You can’t control the weather, but you can be prepared; depending on the time of year that you visit, it’s likely that you’ll get caught in at least one storm, so be sure you and your travel companions arrive with the basics (like an inexpensive poncho) to avoid the discomfort of walking around the parks in a soaking t-shirt and shorts. Bring a long-sleeved layer in the cooler months when temperatures can plummet in the evenings, and remember that it is the Sunshine State…and the threat of severe sunburn or heat exhaustion is always a very real concern. Pack plenty of sunscreen and be sure to drink lots of fluids to help beat the heat.
- Stay healthy. Trekking the massive theme parks for days on end can be demanding for even the most physically-fit Disney fan. If you plan to tour the parks from morning until night, you’ll have to make sure that you’re well fueled, hydrated, and rested…especially since the germs you’ll be exposed to at the theme parks can only increase your chance of illness.
Nothing can make a magical Disney day take a turn for the worse faster than a hungry, dehydrated six-year-old and an endlessly long line at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. Come prepared with healthy snacks to give your family the energy boost they’ll need, and consider toting around refillable plastic water bottles to help keep everyone hydrated.
- Manage the Crowds. There are certainly less busy times of year to visit Walt Disney World, where you’ll be treated to shorter waits in line for attractions. But if your family’s schedule only allows for a mid-July or spring break trip, you may have to be a bit more strategic when it comes to managing the crowds.
Securing FastPasses for your favorite attractions and making dining reservations in advance can help reduce your time in line, but there will still be a fair amount of waiting around — think long lines for certain character meet-and-greets, or the need to navigate the mass exodus of people attempting to leave Epcot after Illuminations.
Fighting your way through thousands of fellow Disney guests or suffering through 90+ minute lines for rides all day can certainly take its toll on your sanity. Consider taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours if you’re an on-site guest, or arriving early to the parks to enjoy your favorite rides with minimal waits. Come armed with plenty of distractions to keep little ones busy while waiting in line for the bus to Hollywood Studios or for the 3 o’clock parade to begin, and as adult travelers, know that things may not always go exactly according to your timetable…and be okay with that.