Disney World Survival Tips?

My wife and her sister will be taking five children (7, 6, 4, 4, and not quite 2) to Disney World next month on a day-trip. None of us has ever been before. Any of you Dopers have any suggestions on the best things to see for kids that age (and/or things to avoid!)? Any way to get cheap tickets? (Note: they won’t be staying in a hotel in Orlando, so getting them as part of a trip package isn’t an option). Other suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

ok first off make sure you buy waterbottles before going. Water there is NOT cheap, but they do have water fountains by the restrooms so you can very easily refill the bottles. For little kids the best park is of course the magic kingdom make sure that you take them on the teacups! its wonderful, this is also one of the best places to get autographs and they have a wonderful parade and i think a show at noon in front of the castle. This part of the park is overall the most kiddie and the one with the most activities. Epcot is a little too grown up, but is wonderful, and they may like some of the shows. If the kids don’t like animals, I’d avoid the animal kingdom. In there they have a couple rides and a safari, along with a bugs life film where they shoot all kinds of things at you and poke you in the back, its really cool, but it can be jumpy. At MGM there are all sorts of shows to go to like indiana jones, little mermaid, the muppets and others. Your kids may also be able to meet some characters here as well.
At every park you can meet characters. In the magic kingdom the best time to meet the characters is early in the morning or during a show or parade. check your pamphelt map for showtimes and character sightings. The best place to look for them in the magic kingdom is in the big tent in toon town. In Epcot, go to the mouse works shop and you should be able to find them somewhere in there, i believe there is a back place where they are and you can go through. As for MGM and the animal Kingdom, I’m not quite sure where the characters usually are. Since your taking your kids only for one day, I personally would not spend much time in one area. If they want autographs and pictures, make sure you have something for them to sit in, cuz they will probably be bored. Also, to go from one park to the other (only with the hopper pass) I would ride the monoral. It’s easier. (although this only goes to magic kingdom and epcot) To get to the other parks I believe you have to drive or take a bus.
Before leaving get the maps to all the parks and try to plan your day. This will save a lot of time, and the maps will also tell you different things that are going on in that park that you may not have known about otherwise. If you want tickets you can always go to http://www.disney.com and then click on themeparks and disney world. The website pretty much explains itself and has some interesting facts about the park and some good tips (like for instance the fast pass, which is not available with everything). Thats about all I can think of to tell you right now, but if you have other questions, post 'em and maybe I can help. :slight_smile:

OK… I have lived in Orlando for the past 13 tears. I even went to Disney last week. Magic Kingdom of course.

[li]Firstly, see if you can get a sitter for the two year old. They wont make it through the day. They wont remember it either.[/li][li]Arrange for a nap time! At 12:30 pm every child under the age of 8 turns into the fussiest thing you will ever see again.[/li][li]Save up the good rides. They are leverage for good behavior. The one I saw used most by parents in the park was Buzz Lightyear.[/li][li]Bring your own snacks and drinks. A coke in the park is $2.75.[/li][li]If your eating at a restaurant in the park, stop at guest inforamtion at the front of the park and make reservations. I recommend Tony’s.[/li][li]The big rides have “baby-swaps” so that the adults can go on the rides on at a time, while the other watches the kids.[/li][li]Remember where you parked. I parked at Goofy 113 last week. Don’t forget it![/li][li]To skip paying parking, tell the gate attendant that you are going to the Contemporary Hotel. Veer left to the main parking. They will never notice. Just be slow.[/li][li]Bring two strollers to switch between the 2 year old and 4 years olds.[/li][li]Wear thick socks, and comfortable shoes.[/li][li]It will be hot. No matter how cool it is in the morning, it will be scorching later in the day. Bring sun tan lotion and have them wear tank tops.[/li][li]Haunted Mansion might be too scary for the young ones.[/li][li]Hall of Presidents is closed because GW didn’t like the wax figure they did of him. Closed till October.[/li]Good Luck to you wife and SIL. I want a ful report of how they fared afterwards OK?

Is this serious or are you funnin’ us?

Did the audioanimatronic Dubya look more intelligent than the real thing?

The irony is truly stunning.

I went once. It was okay; enjoyed Epcot especially–and made a special detour for Haunted Mansion–but once was enough. Very small children will absorb just so much and then it’s just gruelling.
By all means, carry your own sunscreen and water bottles. I toted along my own apples and gorp. Other than water fountains, everything in the park costs out the wazoo.
Don’t try to take in everything. The place is based on greed; more to do, more to see, more to buy, etc. Set your own pace and remember the idea is FUN, not a Disney Death March. If the idea is to delight little ones, check out the “impromtu fountains”. (Get a map and/or ask employees.) There are several–that arc water, play to music or just bubble and jet out of pavement. They’re moments of genuine, whimsical joy. Sit down and watch the kids frolic. Or kick off your shoes and splash along.
There’s NOTHING that’s “gotta do”. If there are killer lines, pass on. There are plenty of other things around. Little ones can have a blast w/ almost anything–but they’re preternatually aware of adult tension, fatigue, etc. Determination to by-god HAVE FUN and “get your money’s worth” can kill fun faster than anything.
Tip: stroller rental can be a bitch. Bring your own if you have 'em. Stores are blessedly cool and dry–and ruthless money traps. Seek out shade instead. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes. Sit down when you’re tired. Watch people. And the “strolling charcters” are wonderful.


I believe the essential guidebook is Holidays in Hell by P.J. O’Rourke. Don’t leave home without it.

Amen to that! Having been there twice with kids, my advice to you is: Don’t go! Don’t go!

Magic Kingdom is great for all ages but with heat etc we were absolutely shattered at the end of the day and we didn’t even wait for night time. For all the theme parks near Orlando we found it best to be there for rope drop at 9 AM and thus we were able to go on the busier rides without long waits. If you are only going for 1 day I suppose it is different and you can afford to spend a full day there and bring exhausted children home in the evening. We were doing theme parks day after day.
Must confess we didn’t enjoy Epcot as a family and found it all a bit corny. Having been to Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Island of Adventures, Busch Gardens etc Epcot was deemed the most boring by my clan. Most of it was themed on other countries and living in Europe we simply didn’t think it managed to make us feel that we were anywhere other than in Florida. My kids described Epcot as an experience as exciting as watching paint dry with a few exceptions for the rides near the entrance such as General Motors Racetrack.
With the ages you mention I reckon the parents will be at the end of their tether before too long. The kids will enjoy the characters etc but a day in the heat is a long & expensive time.

I think you’re dead right about younger kids not enjoying Epcot that much. I mostly enjoyed the science stuff. We breezed through a few “country” pavillions and just popped into the rest for the air conditioning. It was interesting talking to the people working the pavillions, but it would bore little kids to tears. It’s also very spread out; no matter what, Epcot requires a helluva lot of walking. With little ones, go straight for the gusto: Magic Kingdom.


Amen! We stayed at one of the park hotels and still barely dragged ourselves back to the room by late afternoon. Maybe it was just the heat, crowds and humidity but after two days I was dying to leave.

Whatever you do, pack your own water bottles to refill (and keep drinking water! you’ll sweat more than you ever have before). Bring sunscreen. Make sure the kids have hats, etc. to shield from sunburn. I toted along a collapsible umbrella and it was a lifesaver. We went offseason when the lines were very short, but the “portable shade” made a huge difference.

I highly recommend investing in an unofficial guide to the place. The Disney-provided maps and info suck, especially when you’re frantically jostling crowds, tickets, etc. at the gate. It really helps to know in advance what you want to do, without relying on the relentless “everything’s WONDERFUL” Disney hype. Consider the series a sort of Consumers’ Reports for the parks.

I doubt anyone can have enough on-demand magical, whimiscal fun to justify the godawful prices. It’s probably worth doing once, though, especially for the kids.


Wow! This is all great stuff; thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences (some of it hard-earned, obviously). I’ll get my S.O. to give me a full report and will share that with you when (if?) they return (and if she ever forgives me for not having enough vacation days saved so I can go along and help). Again, many thanks. Guess we’ll have to catch “W” on another trip…

If I can add my .02 (opinions and experiences); [ul] [li]Keep the vacation low-keyed. The "We're going to Disney!" every day gets the kids all revved up and over excited. Yeah, it's the 'happiest place on earth', but sometimes the expectations don't match the reality of long lines for rides and to get a picture with Mickey. Actual quote I heard: "Dammit, we're here on vacation and we're going to enjoy ourselves whether you like it or not!"[/li] [li]Call Disney ahead of time (Walt Disney World information - 407-824-4321 - sorry, no toll-free number to The Mouse) and find out what the park operating hours are and which attractions in each park are down for maintenance. This saves some headaches when the kids are looking forward to a ride and it's not operating.[/li] [li]Bring something for a headache: the first aid stations can only give non-aspirin, so if you have a preference, [Advil, Nuprin, BC, etc.] bring your own.[/li] [li]Bring a change of socks. I am not kidding: change into fresh socks halfway through the day and your feet will love you.[/li] [li]Buy new sneakers for the kids now and let them wear them every day to break them in. You will be doing lots of walking and a full day on concrete is not the time to break them in. Disney is not the place to "be seen": no one will notice that the children are wearing brand-spanking new sneakers, but they will notice the children whining and crying because their feet hurt.[/li] [li]The kids are going to get tired. This is reality. If the parks are opened later than 6/7 pm, consider taking a short break during the day. Get everyone's hand stamped before you leave and keep the tickets in a safe place: you will need both for later re-entry. Take a break during the day and have lunch at a nearby restaurant. Sometimes, you just need a short break from all the excitement. Keep the parking receipt: you will not need to re-pay for parking unless you lose the parking receipt.[/li] [li]If you are bringing a camera, purchase your film or video cartridge BEFORE entering the park. A four pack of film at the parks costs about TWICE as much as purchasing the same film at Wal*Mart, Target or KMart on Rte 192 (one of the main entrances to Disney). (Prices may be a little higher on International Drive, another part of the tourist corridor.)[/li] [li]Check the local weather report ahead of time for rain: if so, purchase rain ponchos at one of the above stores ahead of time. A poncho with Mickey on the back can run you about6 bucks at the park, versus .99 at the discount stores. (Note: we have been having a severe drought and a lot of the locals have been hoping/praying for rain. Sorry, but we really need it…)[/li]
[li]Make sure you have everything before you leave the car in the parking lot. Trust me, it is a real pain to have to get back on the monorail/ferry, disembark, take the tram back to the car, find the car, get the camera, catch the tram, get back on the monorail/ferry and meet your party at the front gate again. Repeat to get the film that you forgot in the car. Repeat for the Advil. (I kid you not - I spent about 30 minutes going back and forth to the car to get something that we forgot.)[/li]
[li]If you decide on the Magic Kingdom, you can take the monorail. On the monorail, up to four people can ride in the front ‘nose’ of the car (with that many kids, you may have to ride a couple of times). Ask the transportation attendants if you can ride in the front car: if there is no one else waiting, they will direct you to a white bench. Sit on the bench and stay there. You will see people running up to the gate expecting to get in the front car: Stay where you are - the transportaion people will not forget you. The people sitting on the bench are the ones who get to ride in the front.[/li]
[li]You can also take the ferry (if it is running) to the Magic Kingdom. The ride is a little longer but is still a lot of fun. (We saw Goofy waterskiing one day- I kid you not.) The ferry does NOT run on rails, so the bumps on docking are real.[/li]
[li]Plan a meeting place if you get split up. Do NOT plan to meet in front of a popular landmark - Magic Kingdom’s “Cinderella’s Castle”, EPCOT’s “Spaceship Earth”, Animal Kingdom’s “Tree of Life” or MGM’s “Great Movie Ride (the “Chinese Theatre”)” - everyone seems to meet there, and the area gets very crowded, especially about an hour before and during the parades. Check the maps ahead of time, choose a shop or attraction and make sure everyone knows where to meet. Disney does not page guests, except in an extreme emergency (family illness or death at home).[/li]
[li]No matter how careful you are, someone can easily get lost in the crowds, especially at parade crosswalks and in front of popular attractions. The minute you realize one of the kids is lost, find a Disney employee and tell them. Give them a full description of what the child is wearing, and word goes out over the radio to all staff. Each adult should have a written description and current picure of each child - height, weight, hair color, clothing, shoes (and not because of the urban legend about Disney kidnapping). I have worked at one of the other theme parks and have dealt with panicked adults who have given wrong information about the child (“Bobby was wearing a blue, no green striped tshirt and jeans, no, white shorts” - the kid was wearing something completely different).[/li]
[li]When you first get to the park, find a Disney employee and point out a Disney nametag to the children. Explain to each child that if they get lost, ask someone with a nametag to help them find “mommy”. Again, from working at the park, it was very frustrating to try to help a lost child, only to have the child running and screaming in panic because everyone in uniform and a nametag was a ‘stranger’.[/li]
[li]Check out the FastPass system - it reserves a time for you on the more popular attractions and you can bypass the lines. I do not know exactly how the system works, but I believe you can have only one FastPass at a time.[/li]
[li]Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.[/li]
[li]Re-apply sunscreen frequently.[/li]
[li]Sunglasses, sunglasses, sunglasses.[/li]
[li]Hats for the kids and the adults.[/li]
[li]Put on more sunscreen.[/li]
[li]Ex-carny lecturing here: for godssakes, stay in the ride seat until the ride comes to a COMPLETE stop and you are told it is safe to disembark. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, LET THE KIDS GET OUT OF THE RIDE WHILE IT IS MOVING OR EVEN STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIDE, EVEN IF THEY ARE SCARED AND WANT TO GET OUT. Most of the injuries on mechanical rides occur from patron disregard of rules and medical advisements. (Most of this thread deals with travelling carnival rides, but most of my advice can be applied to permanent attraction rides like at Disney. According to reports, the death at Splash Mountain was attributed to the patron getting out of the boat while it was moving and getting hit by another boat.) If the ride is stopped, do not panic. Yes, there may be a mechanical glitch (they happen), but many times the ride is stopped or slowed so a person needing assistance (wheelchair or elderly patron) can safely disembark. The ride can start up at any moment and if you are not completely seated, you can get injured. By the way, there are cameras and ‘panic mats’ (sensors that immediately shut down the ride if someone tries to get out of the car in the Haunted Mansion) everywhere on the rides, especially in the dark areas, so they can see what you are doing.[/li]
[li]Above all, relax and have fun. You are not likely going to see everything in one day (and kudos if you do). Do you want memories of a fun vacation, or memories of everyone screaming and bitching at each other?[/li][/ul]
Some of these may seem retentive, but believe me, after working tourist attractions, I’ve seen my share of screaming, yelling, panic, and violence (yup, parent slapping a kid repeatedly in the middle of the park because the kid was crying for whatever reason (security took care of the situation).

As far as inexpensive tickets, you may be able to find some at the hotels, tourist information centers or the local AAA office. Be aware that some of the ‘discount tickets’ require a 1/2 day tour through a timeshare, complete with high-pressure sales pitch (been there, done that).

Check out the official Disneyworld website for more information on the rides, attractions and dining at each park.

Have fun and keep the expectations realistic.

I’ve been there several times over the past few years with class trips. I liked Epcot best, but the kids will probably find it dead boring. Let’s see…

-Things like the shows or the Tiki room are great places where you can just sit and be entertained. They’re great if you’ve been walking around a lot. Plus, they’re designed for little kids.

-Epcot has the best food overall, IMHO.

-If you get a park hopper pass, they can be great fun, although transit in between parks can take some time. The Animal Kingdom is very entertaining, however. It’s extremely kid-friendly, and has that “ooh…animals” thing going on. It’s also much less crowded than the magic kingdom.

-Eating at odd times makes things quicker.

-Use Fastpass on the big rides. It’s a lot easier and much quicker. Just get the fastpass, go on a less crowded ride, and then go through the fastpass. Good stuff.

-If you press the little button in the back of the fastpass machine, you can get more fastpasses. :wink:

-Employees generally will know where characters are- they all have hours. I believe that there are special arrangements to go through if one wants to meet Mickey, but I don’t recall them exactly.

-Figure out a few rides that you really, really want to hit. get to them before peak times. During the parades is a very good time to ride the big rides, if the kids don’t mind.

-Get a map, use it frequently. Nobody plans on going to the first aid station.

-Keep in mind that it’s not going to be perfect. It can be damn cool, though.

Buy a set of cheap walkie talkies so you will be able to reunite if you get seperated.

If you’re going to see the Magic Kingdom and other areas, do the Magic Kingdom last. It’s the most child-oriented park and kids will enjoy the other parks more if they’re not comparing them to the MK.

I haven’t been to the park, but I was reminded of a suggestion I read in an article on this subject. The author said that in preparing for a trip to Disney she spent some time at yard sales picking up souvenier-type toys. She found all sorts of things like character key chains and figures that must have seemed terribly important to own at the time they were purchased. She was able to avoid the very expensive gift shops at the parks by pulling out these little trinkets throughout the day. If your kids have favorite characters and you think they might want these type of toys, buying them ahead of time, even in your local toy store, will probably save you quite a bit of money.

You could also try avoiding the whole souvenier thing. It depends on your kids’ temperments, but we have had great luck sitting down with them in advance, discussing the poor quality and high price of park souveniers, and suggesting that they decide on some other treat. We use a similar tactic with restaurant desserts-rather than ordering a dessert, knowing that they will eat even less of their entrees, we decide ahead of time to have “dessert at the bookstore.” Our kids will choose, 9 times out of 10, a new book over an ice cream.

A change of socks for everyone is a great idea. I do a 20 mile walk-for-hunger every spring and do this. It really makes a difference.

Obviously, you want to carry your own snacks. Try to make some of them high in protein (nuts, cubes of cheese in an insulated bag, peanut butter crackers)-it will help to keep their blood sugar levels in check and their moods sunnier.

It’s easy to get caught up and forget to drink enough water. You don’t want the kids, especially, to wait until they are actually thirsty. You might want to schedule water breaks-have everyone stop and drink after each activity or on some other cue.

They won’t be able to see/do everything in one day and it is important for the kids to understand this in advance. I would go over the guide books with them and have each child decide which rides/attractions are most important and plan a day that hits their highlights.

And lastly, on the sunscreen issue, if your kids are fair-skinned I would suggest short sleeves, not tanks. The shoulders burn so easily, even with protection. (My green-eyed redhead does not own a single sleeveless t-shirt.)

I hope they have fun!

Plan ahead–look through a show schedule and pick the things you want to visit (I especially recommend the Tiki room and the show with the singing bears, the name of which escapes me, for little kids). Spread the indoor shows out–they provide a much-needed break from all the walking and sun, without causing the kids to have fits about “wasting time”.

The best food is at Epcot (I particularly recommend the Moroccan restaurant), but you may have trouble finding something young children will eat. I have found that when kids are in a strange, exciting place, they want normal, familiar food as a stabilizer. You may want something exotic, but they want chicken nuggets.

Things to do at Epcot: the best “ride” the last time I visited was (IIRC) the “XS Corporation” show. The warning signs aren’t kidding though–don’t take children in. Even a few adults in the crowd freaked, although the rest of us found it hilarious. Fortunately, my niece (tough-minded child that she is) was in the “amused” category.

My sister in law, who works there told me that. Supposedly all new presidents have to approve of the wax personification of themselves before it goes in the show. He didn’t approve of the one they made of him so they have to remake another one. Supposeldy the ride is down till October.

Go early, leave back early and come back later.

We had great success by getting there first thing in the morning, and then bailing out at lunch time (you save on the restaurant prices, too!) Take the kids back to the hotel and let them nap or swim during the heat of the afternoon. You’ll need the break as well. Then come back late in the afternoon and treat the kids to dinner at the park. They’ll be MUCH fresher and with a little luck,awake enough for the fireworks display. Then go to bed early and do the same thing the next day.

You’ll find “discount” tickets all over the area. Often they are multiple-day passes with one day left on them. We didn’t trust them and bought our multiple-day passes as part of the trip package.

Mrs. Rackensack is an ex-Magic Kingdom employee and True Believer in all that is Disney. Even though she insists that everything’s always perfect when you’re in the park, I’ve heard her recommend many of the tips already mentioned to prospective visitors. One of her favorite Magic Kingdom tips that hasn’t been mentioned yet is to get there early (before opening), and when the gates open make your way directly to the far side of the park. Most people work their way along stopping at each attaction on their way through, and naturally when you start out in a crowd this way you’ll likely stay in it. By starting at the far side, you’ll be at the most distant attractions well before most people get there, and once you make it back to the attractions nearer the main gate, the initial wave there will have crested and subsided.

I just went to Epcot (for the who-knows-how-manyeth time) last month with my husband and my 4 year old. It was great. Sure it would be boring if you did the countries, so we didn’t. We stayed in the front half of the park and did Imagination!, Ellen’s Energy Adventure (dinosaurs), Body Wars, Test Track (like a roller coaster in “test drive cars”), and of course the Living Seas… and the fireworks/laser show at closing was really a blast.

I was a little peeved to note that the park-hopper tickets start at 3 days… so if you’re only going for one day you are screwed.

To add on to what rackensack said, I have this to add: when you head for the back of the park, do it clockwise, to the left. Usually everyone heads straight for Space Mountain, which is to the right (I haven’t been in years, and there may be something new on the left side, though).

Go get an unofficial guide at a bookstore at least a week before you go. Most of them will have a route mapped out for you based on the ages of your children and highlight the rides that will most interest them. It will be updated on whether you should go left or right (from the above paragraph). Also, someone else mentioned eating at an odd time. That’s completely right on. Its tough to compete with the entire park at noon for a hamburger.

Good luck, and remember that you’re there to have fun.