If you’re considering a family Disney trip, you may have already googled “Disney trip planning” and fallen down the rabbit hole of Disney advice websites. When that happened to me, I quickly became overwhelmed and put the computer away. Take heart, my dear friend: you don’t have to do ALL THE STUFF the planning websites say. In fact, in my opinion, the less planning/perseverating you do beforehand, the better. Focus your planning effort on the list below for items that have a low planning/high reward ratio. We recently enjoyed a minimally-planned Disney vacation with no meltdowns from either kids or parents, and you can too! Here’s how we did it:
- Enlist the help of a Disney travel agent. You do not pay the travel agent an extra fee–Disney pays them a commission for what they book for you. We used points for our hotel stay, but had the help of a Disney travel agent for buying our park tickets and booking our Fastpass+ reservations. We sent her the list of our Fastpass+ choices and I woke up the morning of the 60-day Fastpass+ window for our trip and she had already booked them all for us.
- If you have a warehouse club membership, check and see if they sell Disney gift cards. You can purchase the gift cards there (with a minimal discount, but better than no discount) and use them to buy your park tickets. We also bought some to use while at Disney, for food and souvenir purchases. If you buy multiple gift cards, use www.disneygiftcard.com to combine them onto one card to make it easier to keep track of.
- Making family/group shirts? Select shirts made of breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. On our trip in mid-October the average temperature topped 85 degrees, but we saw groups in long-sleeved BLACK shirts. Save yourself some heat stroke and make shirts that can help keep you cool rather than heat you up.
- Your kids want autographs? Buy them a hat before you go and have the characters sign the hat. Your kids will see and enjoy the autographs on the hat while at Disney, as well as once you return home. Also, be aware that character meet and greets have some of the longest wait times. Some characters have extremely short hours each day, so check the daily guide if your child has a “must-meet” character.
- The Starbucks in each park has the best-tasting drinking water (for free). And they also sell caffeine…a magic elixir for parents at Disney. Plan ahead and bring a water bottle to refill throughout the day.
- Magic bands=super convenient and amazing. Until they fall off your arm and you don’t realize it. We used a small hair binder on each of our bands on the section near the clasp. We didn’t have a single incident of a lost magic band.
- Use the app to check wait times, or to add additional Fastpass+ reservations after you use the first three. We ended up with a second riding of our favorite ride at each park because we either snagged another Fastpass, or watched and noticed a short wait time and took advantage of it. It helps if you download the app before you go and familiarize yourself a little with how it works (a great task for passing waiting time at the airport en route to Disney).
- Bring food with you so you can snack while you wait in line. We ate our lunch while waiting in line almost every day we spent at a park. We also purchased a treat or snack at the park each day, but having food ready to eat while passing time in line felt really efficient and also prevented our group from getting hangry.
- Pack a USB charging stick. Using the app and taking a bunch of pictures drains a phone battery quickly. You can recharge your phone on the move with a USB charging stick.
- Go with the flow. Do not bind yourself to a rigid schedule. Give yourself the gift of wandering into a ride or show that catches your eye…something you wouldn’t do if you need to speed-walk the park on a set schedule. My kids still randomly break out into the song from the Enchanted Tiki Room, an attraction my daughter randomly noticed as we walked by and asked to go check out. We headed over and enjoyed a enchanting bit of air conditioned comfort.
Now, obviously you need to plan things like transportation and where you’ll stay while you’re at Disney. And you do need to do a little thinking/reading before figuring out which Fastpass+ choices will work best for your group (especially take special note of height requirements). But based on my own personal experience, you can have a great time at Disney without spending a CRAZY amount of time planning every detail.