We’ve got the tips you need to keep your visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth as stress-free as possible!
From next-level attractions to incredible dining, there are so many of wonderful things to enjoy in Disney World. But, with as many happy memories as we’ve made in the parks, it’s still possible to run into a stressful — or even downright BAD — experience in Disney World. Here are three proven ways to avoid negative situations on your vacation!
Don’t Overschedule Your Vacation
If you’ve been following Disney Food Blog for a while, you’ve probably heard our warnings against packing your vacation itinerary too full. Hey, we know that can be easier said than done sometimes. After all, it takes a ton of saving and planning for a Disney vacation, and for some people, it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The desire to cram in ALL in is real.
Keep in mind that Disney World is HUGE — there are over 170 attractions between the four theme parks and two water parks, and over 400 dining experiences around property. That’s more than most normal humans can pack into a week (if you’ve got superpowers though, give us a call. We have some questions. 😉)
The vast majority of guests simply can’t “do it all,” and attempting to can lead to burnout faster than you can say “bibbidi bobbidi boo.” This is why we suggest asking each member of your party what their must-dos are well before you travel! Figure out which rides, restaurants, shops, and other experiences are at the top of everyone’s lists. Organize them by theme park, hotel, and Disney Springs, so you can plan your days around prioritizing these activities.
Let’s take Magic Kingdom for example. Say mom’s must-do is taking some special photos in front of the castle and maybe picking out a new pair of Minnie Ears, dad is determined to ride all the thrill rides, little Susie really wants to see Buzz Lightyear and is finally tall enough to ride Space Mountain, and grandma and grandpa want to see the Character Cavalcades. Plan your day around THESE things that matter most, not necessarily trying to check off every single ride. Everyone will end the day having accomplished what mattered most to them even if you miss out on a ride or two. If you plan to visit the same park more than once, spread things out over those days allowing even more flexibility.
In addition to the number of activities on your itinerary, it’s also important to make sure you have enough time in between activities to get from one place to the next. It can take a while to get to and from the parks (and from one park to another now that Park Hopping has returned), so leave some buffer time in your plans to allow for travel.
And even once you’re inside the park, you might be facing a long walk from one activity to the next. For example, if you have a dining reservation at Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion at EPCOT, it could take you 15 to 20 minutes to walk there from Spaceship Earth, especially if the park is crowded. This is a case where leaving plenty of buffer time will make your day far less stressful than trying to squeeze in one extra ride! Check Google Maps to determine walking distance from point A to B so you know how long things should take.
Make sure you leave enough time for your family to rest and recover on your vacation. Again, this one is easier said than done when you’re looking to squeeze every second out of your trip. For example, if you’re planning to have a late-night in Disney Springs one evening, avoid making early dining reservations (or FastPass+ reservations, when the service returns) the next morning so everyone can sleep in and wake up rested. It’s far better to not plan that early morning activity than it is finding yourself begging your family to crawl out of bed while they’re still exhausted so you can hit the parks running.
One of our favorite ways to avoid burnout is to plan a resort day in the middle of the trip. That way, we can sleep in, rest our feet, and enjoy a relaxing day to recharge for the rest of our park days. If you’re staying at a Disney World resort hotel, we recommend getting some mileage out of the price your paying to stay at these hotels. Enjoy some time by the pool or exploring the grounds to see what your resort has to offer. Most resorts offer complimentary activities, like pool games or movies under the stars, that are fun ways to keep everyone entertained without shelling out big bucks for a park ticket.
We understand the impulse to want to see and do everything in Disney World — we’re right there with you! But avoiding an overscheduled itinerary is a huge key to keeping your family happy and healthy throughout the vacation. No one wants to walk away from Disney World with a bunch of memories of their family being exhausted and grumpy!
Take Screenshots and Photos of EVERYTHING
Many of the tools you’ll need for planning your Disney World vacation are housed in the My Disney Experience app. As with any technology, the app can sometimes experience glitches, which is why we suggest you take screenshots of ALL your plans!
In the past, we’ve made Advance Dining Reservations that have later mysteriously disappeared from the app. Showing a Cast Member screenshots of our initial reservation has made it much easier for them to correct the situation and seat our party. We’ve experienced similar situations with Rise of the Resistance boarding groups and FastPass+ selections! A screenshot and kindly speaking to a Cast Member can typically resolve most technical issues.
Outside of screenshots of your plans, it’s also helpful to take photos of things like your parking space for your car AND your stroller. After a long day in the park, or even just a long wait in line, it can be easy to forget exactly where your stroller (or car) is in a sea of similar models! Keep in mind, Cast Members might move strollers to maximize space in stroller parking areas, so your stroller could move from where you left it. Again, having a photo of it handy can help a Cast Member identify it with you. Cast Members can also help determine where your car is based on your arrival time.
Another one of our team’s favorite hacks is helpful for those with kiddos that tend to want every souvenir they spot (same!). Instead of buying an item on the spot, take a picture of them with the item and let them review the pictures later in the day. If they still really want it, then they can get it. You’d be surprised how quickly that “I gotta have this NOW!” mentality fades away with most kids once they aren’t standing in front of the item in the gift shop anymore! 🙂
One caveat here — if it’s a limited edition item, like something from the Main Attraction Collection or a hot new pair of Minnie Ears, it will possibly sell out quickly. You might not want to wait on those items since they could be gone before you have a chance to reconsider!
From screenshots to photo reminders (oh yeah, and using it to get LOADS of pictures of your family on vaca too, obviously!), there are tons of ways that your camera roll can save you some stress on your Disney World vacation!
Do Your Research Before Your Trip
This is obviously a pretty broad tip, but in our experience, the three most important things to research are hotels, restaurants, and rides — typically in that order!
Here’s what you should look into before your vacation to cut down on potential stressors!
Make sure that your hotel has all of the must-haves based on your needs AND that your hotel fits within your budget. (we’re not even covering the “I paid way too much for this vacation now I can’t really enjoy it” stressor, but that’s a BIG one to avoid!) For example, if a quiet stay is important to you, it might be best to avoid hotels that often host large groups, like the All-Star Resorts. Since it’s one of the more affordable hotels on property it often plays host to larger school or travel groups.
You can also make room requests in My Disney Experience to increase the comfort of your stay. If you have a light sleeper, you might want to request a room that’s not located near amenities like the pool, lobby, or an elevator. Likewise, if you have kids anxious to swim in the pool or want to be closer to your resort’s quick-service food option, scope out a map ahead of time and find the closest room in your chosen category before you book. You can typically make a room request with your reservation, so when in doubt check with Disney and see if they can note your request before you arrive.
Proximity to transportation is also an important factor to consider. For example, at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, if you requested a standard room in the Raratonga longhouse, it would place you closest to the bus stop at this resort as well as the Great Ceremonial House, putting you close to the Monorail when it’s running AND close to all the dining in the resort. Other longhouses have a (pretty) but longer walk to transportation.
Some of the Disney hotels are pretty massive, so long hauls to transportation can be a bigger deal than you may think. For example, you’re staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, those The Little Mermaid themed rooms are super cool, but they’re also the farthest from the main lobby — meaning food, transportation, the main pool, etc. If you’re set on these fun themed rooms, go for it — but you’re looking at about a 10-minute walk to and from the lobby and bus stop each day.
Do your research ahead of time so you can spot any potential deal-breakers instead of ending up with an unpleasant surprise!
There are a LOT of choices at Disney World when it comes to dining. Not only do you have to think about WHAT you will eat but also what kind of experience do you want to have? Disney offers uniquely themed sit-down restaurants, quieter romantic locations, quick fast-food style eats, and practically everything in between!
Look up the restaurants you’re interested in visiting. We’ve spent years eating in all of these places and have loads of reviews to help you decide what experience is right for your family. Check out our look at ALL the Disney World dining options here. Be sure to take a look at restaurant menus ahead of time, especially if you’re traveling with picky eaters or people with food allergies. That way you can pick a few options in each park that you know will work for your party before you even get there. You won’t waste time and money picking a restaurant that you don’t like anything on the menu!
If you have kiddos, it’s also helpful to have them take a peek at the menus ahead of time so they’re prepared with some go-to choices as well. Many table service locations’ kids’ menus are set up very “choose your own meal” style where children can pick their entree and sides, so it’s good to get those extra choices out of the way before you even step inside. You can even have a copy of all your family’s picks at each spot listed out on your phone each day to make things easy! This can help you head-off potential hunger-induced meltdowns during your park day.
All Disney World restaurants do have information about ingredients and food allergies on hand, so Cast Members can help you if you’re in a pinch. Disney is incredibly accommodating with food allergies or dietary concerns, so if you bring it to their attention, often the chef will come out and discuss options with you directly!
But checking out those menus ahead of time can give you a serious leg-up, which is super valuable when you’re ravenous after walking 20,000+ steps around Disney World! You don’t want to find out too late that the restaurant you picked is too pricey or you don’t like anything on the menu!
Look into the rides and attractions at each park to get a feel for which ones your family might — or, just as importantly, might NOT — enjoy. Keep in mind it’s not just about speed or thrill level. For example, if you’re traveling with someone who’s terrified of heights, Soarin’ in EPCOT might be too much for them, even though it’s not a thrill ride.
If you think there’s an attraction that a member of your party is unsure about, you can have them watch a ride-through video of the attraction on YouTube. This can give them a clearer picture of whether or not they might be able to handle it. If they do decide to ride, the attraction will usually seem less scary since they have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
Don’t forget to look into height restrictions as well! Measure your kids in the shoes they plan to wear to the parks so you know their exact height. See which attractions you kids don’t meet the height requirement for and break the news to them ahead of time to set their expectations early. It’s better to discover at home they can’t ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster instead of at the entrance with your kiddo’s eyes full of tears!
Also, take a look at the park maps when planning which attractions you want to hit. That way you can avoid a situation like booking a Tower of Terror FastPass at 10AM, a Millennium Falcon FastPass at 11AM, and a Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass at noon (again, when FastPass is available!) — which would have you running back and forth across Disney’s Hollywood Studios instead of batching rides in the same land together and saving steps!
Smartly planning a “route” you want to tackle — with all of your family’s must-dos and restaurant picks included — will save your feet and possibly your sanity.
Yes, Disney World is magical, but it takes some planning and prep to make it that way! Most stress on your Disney World trip can be avoided with a little preplanning and research from home. The next time you head to Disney World, use these tips to help avoid stressful situations on your vacation. We’ll see you in the parks, friends!