Going on a Disney World vacation can take months or even years of planning and saving. So, what should you do when the kids are crying, your favorite ride breaks down, and you’re stuck in the middle of a Florida downpour?
Well first, let us say, we’ve all been there! As wonderful as Disney World is, that doesn’t mean everything is always perfect! But don’t worry, we have some strategies to help you navigate the bumps and get your vacation back on track!
We’re pulling together the top problems we’ve experienced at Disney World and our best suggestions for how to fix them!
When Your Family Fights
This one is more common than you might think! You’re walking miles a day (in the Florida heat!), and you’re getting up earlier and going to bed later than you might at home. Everyone’s overstimulated, and you’re trying to do a million things in a short amount of time. All of these things can contribute to an inevitable squabble! The key here is giving everyone some time to cool off — both literally and figuratively.
Head Back to the Hotel
We all want to get the most out of our vacation, but sometimes a break is necessary! If your family is bickering, it may not be worth it to soldier on. Head back to the hotel and take a quick nap or relax by the pool.
We know telling your kids “naptime!” isn’t always well received when there is so much going on; so for us, the pool has always been the ultimate reset button for a bad day. So many disagreements at Disney World are fueled by exhaustion, so taking a few hours to recharge (and cool off!) everyone’s batteries can do wonders!
And remember, even if you KNOW Timmy and Susie are going to LOVE Slinky Dog Dash and Mommy got up at zero dark thirty a million years ago to get that FastPass…sometimes things just aren’t the best timing. Be realistic in your expectations before you go that THIS. WILL. HAPPEN. You don’t know when, you don’t know how, but you know somewhere along the line your perfect plans will be derailed. Be prepared to let go of your dreams and keep your family whole. It’ll be worth it.
Stop for a Quick Snack or Drink
If a trip back to the hotel seems a bit extreme, even just giving your family a quick breather can help get things back on track. Again, Disney World will wear you out! Stop in a counter service restaurant like Columbia Harbor House at Magic Kingdom or Sunshine Seasons at Epcot and grab some snacks or drinks to refill the tank.
Having a few minutes to sit down inside and enjoy the air conditioning has worked wonders for us many times in the past! Taking these few minutes can help salvage the whole day!
Plan Ahead — Find Out Everyone’s Must-Dos Before the Trip
Is there a restaurant you’ve been dreaming of trying for years? Does your kiddo NEED to ride Splash Mountain for their vacation to be complete? Make sure you talk to everyone in your travel party when you first start planning to find out what must-do rides, restaurants, and experiences are on their list.
It’s important to find out everyone’s preferences up-front and plan accordingly. For example, if you do have a Splash Mountain enthusiast in your family, it’s best to avoid planning a trip in January or February, since water rides like Splash Moutain and Kali River Rapids typically go down for annual maintenance in the winter months. Or, if you’ve been dreaming of enjoying dinner at a popular restaurant like California Grill, you’ll need to jump on getting your Advance Dining Reservation as soon as they open up 180 days in advance.
By finding out everyone’s must-dos (and must-don’ts!) ahead of time, you can make sure to prioritize these when the family is fresh and rested.
When Someone Gets Sick
Another reality that hits us more often than we’d like — illness exists even at Disney World! Luckily, there are resources available to get you and your family the help you need.
First Aid Centers in the Parks
There are First Aid Centers available in all of the theme parks and water parks. You can find the nearest First Aid Center in your My Disney Experience app. They can help if a member of your family gets sick or experiences a minor injury while you’re in the park.
Nurses at the First Aid Center are available during the park operating hours. They are able to provide over-the-counter medication, bandages, and other quick remedies to help get you back out into the parks.
Find a Cast Member
If you experience a more severe illness or injury and aren’t sure you can make it to the First Aid Center on your own, find the closest Cast Member. Even if that Cast Member isn’t able to provide direct assistance with a medical issue, they will be able to reach out to someone who can.
Disney takes safety very seriously, so Cast Members will make it a priority to provide the assistance you need!
Getting Medication at Your Hotel
The Disney Resort hotel retail locations sell various over-the-counter medications and first aid supplies. They don’t have as wide of a selection as a grocery store or pharmacy, but you can find many of the basics if you’re in need!
There are no pharmacies on Disney property, but if you’re in need of prescription medication, or can’t find what you need in a gift shop, there are several options. You could take a ride-share or taxi to a nearby pharmacy — CVS, Walgreens, and Publix pharmacies are all close. Or, Turner Drugs offers prescription delivery to all Disney Resort hotels, as well as the theme parks.
Despite Florida’s nickname of “The Sunshine State,” Disney World DEFINITELY gets its fair share of torrential downpours!
Tough Out the Rain if You Can
The one benefit of rain in Disney World — it can clear out the crowd! Often the storms that hit the park don’t last long, even if they are intense. This is especially true in the summer when afternoon thunderstorms are common!
Pro tip: it will seem like EVERYONE rushes into the nearest store to get out of the rain, so try to avoid gift shops unless you like to feel like a sardine in a can! Grab a poncho and keep on truckin’! (You planned ahead and brought your own, right?) During rainstorms, ride queues shrink and you might be able to get on Peter Pan’s flight after a 10 minute wait!
Some of our favorite Disney days have been full of non-stop showers! If you keep a positive attitude, you might be surprised by how little the rain bugs you. Plus, usually the rain will chase some of the crowd back to their hotels, so when the weather does clear up, you’ll probably get to enjoy some shorter wait times!
Don’t forget to bring your rain gear! Having an umbrella, poncho, stroller cover, and extra shoes (and socks!) will definitely come in handy. And be sure to pack them in your park bag before you leave for the day!
They do sell these items in the park if you find yourself in a pinch, but they’ll be WAY more expensive!
Check My Disney Experience
This is a hot tip, especially if you experience bad weather during an extra-ticketed event like Villains After Hours or Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. While it’s not guaranteed, you might end up with a rain check provided by Disney! This happened to us at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party last year.
This was a super nice surprise provided by Disney BUT we didn’t receive an automatic notification that we had a rain check voucher in My Disney Experience — so, just be sure to check your My Disney Experience app if you experience bad weather during an event and you might just have a rain check available! If not, you can always speak to a Cast Member for assistance as well!
Your Favorite Attraction is Down
Not getting to experience your all-time favorite attraction can definitely put a damper on things! But there are ways to minimize the odds of this happening.
Check the Refurbishment Schedule
Similar to what we said about checking with your family about any must-dos for the trip — be sure to check the refurbishment schedule before booking your vacation! Planned closures are listed on the Disney World calendar.
Some attractions like Splash Mountain need annual maintenance, and sometimes rides are given extensive overhauls that put them out of commission for longer than usual. Take the upcoming Spaceship Earth reimagining, for example. This ride will be closed for a lengthy refurbishment, and if guests are unaware before their trip, they might show up to a closed ride and face disappointment.
Check My Disney Experience if Your FastPass+ Ride Goes Down
Sometimes rides will go down without warning. If you have a FastPass+ reservation for a ride that is currently unavailable, be sure to check My Disney Experience for your replacement FastPass. Usually, guests are given a Multiple Experience FastPass for any other ride in that same park, with exception of a few popular rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom or Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom. The pass will list available attractions, so be sure to check.
You can use your Multi-Experience pass any time during the return timeframe on your ride of choice. If you happened to have a FastPass for one of those mega-popular rides, you’re not out of luck.
Your “redo” FastPass will include the option to ride that ride if it opens at a later time that day. So if you don’t get to use that FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash because it starts pouring, come back once the rain stops and you can use it then!
Be Careful with FastPass+ Reservations for Outdoor Attractions
Speaking of your FastPass+ ride going down in the rain, be strategic about when you’re booking FastPass reservations for outdoor attractions like Slinky Dog Dash and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. If a storm passes through the parks, outdoor attractions will often temporarily close. So, try to avoid booking FastPasses for attractions that are exposed to the elements at key times of day.
So, when is this most likely to be an issue? Try to avoid booking FastPasses for outdoor attractions during the afternoon in the summer months. Again, daily afternoon thunderstorms are common, so there’s a chance you might not get to experience the attraction if that’s when your FastPass falls!
The Parks Are Too Crowded
Crowds are almost inevitable at Disney World. And while some months like September, January, and February do tend to be less crowded, it’s important to manage your expectations and plan to share the parks with thousands and thousands of other guests.
Head to the Parks Early, Or Stay Late
The parks tend to be the least crowded in the morning when they’ve just opened and at night when they’re getting ready to close. So, depending on whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, try to be at the park right when it opens (known as rope dropping) or stay until they close.
That way you can enjoy shorter lines for a few hours while everyone else is still filing in, or out, of the park!
Extra Magic Hours
One of the benefits of staying in a Disney Resort hotel is access to Extra Magic Hours. This is a perk that allows hotel guests to access a park either before it’s open or after it’s closed to the general public. Each day at least one park will participate in either morning or evening Extra Magic Hours. These are listed in the Park Hours section of My Disney Experience and on the Disney World park calendar.
If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, be sure to check out which parks have Extra Magic Hours each day and plan accordingly! This is a great opportunity to practice Park Hopping, if you’re so inclined! Plan to spend the majority of your day in one park and hop over in the morning or the evening to the park with the extra hours!
Look For Same-Day FastPasses
We highly recommend you pre-book your FastPasses either 60 days out, for Disney World resort guests, or 30 days out if staying off-site, but you can still often snag great FastPasses on the day you plan to use them! You can search for FastPasses in My Disney Experience, and you might be surprised how often they pop up, even for top tier attractions. If something better than what you have is available, swap them out!
If you don’t see any FastPasses that interest you, keep refreshing the page. New reservations become available when other guests cancel throughout the day, so you never know what gems might pop up! We’ve scored same-day FastPasses for Slinky Dog Dash. It can happen!!
Ride During Parades and Fireworks
Another tip for shorter lines — try riding attractions during parades or fireworks. Since lots of guests choose to watch the entertainment, there tend to be fewer people waiting in line for rides during this time.
This is a great way to experience a popular attraction you couldn’t get a FastPass+ for, especially if you’ve already seen the parade or fireworks and don’t mind skipping it!
Get In Line for a Popular Attraction Right When the Park Closes
Guests are able to get in line for any attraction right up until the posted closing time of the park. So, if a park is closing at 9:00PM, as long as you’re in line by 9PM on the dot, you’ll be able to ride!
Hop in line for a big, headliner attraction like Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train right before the park closes. That way, you’ll often have a shorter wait and still get to ride a top-tier attraction!
Even though Disney World is a magical place, it’s not an entirely meltdown-free zone. Be sure to manage your expectations, especially if you’re traveling during the busy, hot summer months, or the intense, crowded holiday season. Approach your trip knowing that you can’t possibly do everything, and have a plan to focus on the must-dos for your family. As long as you pack the right attitude, you’ll create memories that are well worth the months of anticipation!
What problems have you run into during your Disney World vacation? Let us know in the comments!