Going to Walt Disney World is a magical experience, but vacation can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Changes in routines, conflicting ideas about what makes the “perfect” trip, and other stressors such as fatigue and crankiness all contribute to the possibility of one (or more) members of your party having a meltdown. Here are some tips to help you keep your sanity and enjoy your magical vacation.
15. Expect rain, and try to enjoy it.
It’s more than likely that you’ll have some rain during your trip. The afternoon rain is often just enough to cool the temps and empty out a park. If you try to leave, you may find yourself waiting in a very long line for the bus. If you decide to stay, ask a cast member what rides remain open in a storm.
14. Set pre-determined souvenir limits for kids and teens to minimize arguments.
You may even consider letting your kids “earn” extra money toward things they want to buy if they keep complaining to a minimum. Kids will learn and be happy if they are praised for great behavior and surprised with a treat. “Wow Ethan, you were really patient today, even when we were waiting for a long time for a ride. I think you’ve earned that Mickey doll you were looking at earlier.”
13. Strollers are your friend.
Even a child who is able to attend elementary school all day will become tired from extensive walking in the parks. Bringing or renting a stroller will help minimize whining. A stroller also provides shade as well as a personal nap space for your weary child.
12. Bring activities and favorite snacks for little ones.
Small activity pads, electronic games, or books might help distract your child from a long wait, “boring” activity, or other potential irritant. You might also want to bring a bag of Goldfish or other favored snack.
11. Do your own thing, if possible.
Be open to the possibility of people splitting up if circumstances allow. Obviously, if you are traveling as a small family unit, the adults may not have the flexibility to just “do their own things.” However, if you have (responsible) teenagers in your group or adults with differing interests, I don’t think there’s any harm in breaking up the party sometimes. Is dad a die-hard pin trader? Maybe he wants to spend a few hours doing that while mom and the kids take a swim in the pool. Are your teenagers looking for some thrills? Consider letting them check out the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster while the rest of the group meets characters. Have Mom and Dad been given a break by Grandma and Grandpa? Why not stroll the World Showcase, or get a spa treatment?
10. Alternate busy park touring with more relaxing activities.
After two straight days of hitting every ride and attraction possible, your family might like some time to swim, shop, play mini golf, or sit in the lazy river at a water park. Try mixing the more relaxing activities throughout your trip.
Even the adults need sleep. Whether you get your 8 hours overnight, or shortchange your rest in favor of a few-hour siesta mid-day, you need to sleep. If you don’t, you’ll be running on a low battery. That usually leads to less patience, more illness, and more moodiness.
8. Use the pool.
There’s very little that a refreshing dip in a pool or a trip down a waterslide can’t fix. Pool time is relaxing, yet kids won’t complain that they’re “bored.” Even a very cranky child usually perks up at the suggestion of swimming. Regardless of how amazing the parks may be, most kids will list swimming as a top vacation priority. Take advantage of this and enjoy the opportunity to cool off and ease your muscle aches!
7. Have one nice sit-down meal each day.
I prefer doing this at lunch or dinner time, when a break is most appreciated. Having a relaxing meal in one of Disney’s delicious restaurants is a great way to have a break to recharge for the rest of the day. Scheduling one per day also gives you some structure around which to plan the rest of your activities. If you know, for instance, that dinner will be at the Coral Reef at 5pm, then you may plan your FastPasses at Epcot for that afternoon and evening.
6. Take a mid-afternoon break at the resort.
It is very unlikely that your party will be able to hit the parks all day from morning to night for more than a day or two in a row. The lines are shorter in the morning, so get to the park at rope drop and see your favorite attractions. When the park gets really hot and crowded, make your exit. Go enjoy the amenities at your resort, and return to the parks at night to enjoy their nighttime offerings. If you’re against the idea of a total mid-day break, then consider the next suggestion.
5. Slow your pace mid-day.
If you haven’t left for your mid-afternoon break yet, or don’t plan to, at least slow your pace mid-day. Take in the attractions that rarely have much wait, find something to do in the air conditioning, and have something good to eat.
4. Plan down-time for the morning following a late night.
This is especially important if you are traveling with children. If you want to take advantage of nighttime Extra Magic Hours, or simply want to catch all of the evening entertainment, plan for your next morning to be less intense. Enjoy some relaxing activities or a trip to the water park (where arriving first-thing isn’t as critical). Or, make FastPass + selections for mid-day and arrive then.
3. Have a plan.
“We’re here! What does everyone want to do today?” You’re never going to hear that coming out of my mouth. Figuring out what to do once you are already on your vacation might lead to disagreements and wasted time standing in the park or resort room. Before your trip, you’ll want to have an itinerary and a general idea of what activities are on the priority list. For help with this, check out “How NOT To Wait In Lines On Your Disney Vacation: 7 Time Saving Tips” and “10 Steps to Help You Plan the Trip of Your Dreams!” Remember, you don’t want to waste time, and minimizing family in-fighting is a key to maintaining sanity! That being said…
2. Realize that plans don’t always work and try to roll with it.
The rides you tried to FastPass broke down, and now it looks like it’s going to rain every day. You have to be okay with the idea of things not going according to plan. I still think a plan is a good idea, but you have to be flexible and make the post of it. You can have a great time frolicking in a rainy park. If everyone in your group is exhausted by day 3, then by all means, ditch your plan and enjoy a pool day.
1. Find a balance!
Balance plans and reservations with spontaneity. Whether you like it or not, making advanced dining reservations is important. But that doesn’t mean you should be planning every bite you’ll eat six months before your trip. Mickey bars for lunch? Why not? It’s vacation. Feeling tired and want to see a movie one night? Head to Downtown Disney and do just that.
I hope this list will save your sanity on your next trip! Remember, a Disney vacation is an investment of time, money, and planning. You don’t want the magic to be dampened by stress and sour moods. Remember these tips so you can make the most of your vacation!
Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart and works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, dog, and parrot. Meredith's hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, and "talking Disney" with anyone she knows who is planning a trip to Disney or has just returned.