Disney planning for newbies – A cautionary tale

So, Nate and I decided, God help us, that our holiday gift to the kids would be a big trip to Walt Disney World. As he reminded me, they’re 4 and 6, and this is the time that the Magic Kingdom will still be magical. That said, we’re going during the arguably not-so-magical President’s Week, and as the extremely crowd-averse Nate–and uh, every guide book ever–reminds me, on a crowd scale of 1 to 10, that’s about 487.

We are practicing our yoga breathing. Mostly Nate.

Disney also has a special sort of significance to me, because the last time I was there was when Nate and I first started dating. I still remember the moment that, overwhelmed by all the sweaty frazzled parents with their hot, cranky babies everywhere, I collapsed on a bench nearly hyperventilating and told Nate that I didn’t think I could ever have children.

Disney World: Birth Control for the Maternally-Averse

(Think I could pitch it to their ad agency?)

And yet, here we are, all these years later, happy with our spawn, and excited to introduce them to the joys of monorail rides, dancing fountains, and ice cream shaped like mouse ears. Only this time we know that when they say the wait for Peter Pan is 20 Minutes From This Sign, what they really mean is THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Yoga breathing.

This weekend, I remembered the wonderful advice in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, about how for kids, the planning of a big event is often as exciting than the actual event. So I gathered the girls around me and the MacBook this week, and systematically, park-by-park, attraction-by-attraction, we clicked through everything while they screamed and squealed and bounced up and down too excited to contain themselves.

That plan turned out to be smart. Mostly. With one exception.

Here’s what you should show your 4 year-old about Disney.



Here’s what you should not show your 4 year old about Disney.

999 HAPPY HAUNTS:  The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom, home of 999 Happy Haunts, is one of the most popular Disney attractions in the world.

[photos via WDW]

Especially when you prematurely tried to introduce her to Young Frankenstein the very same week promising that it was funny and not scary.

Also, mayyyybe you don’t show your 4 year-old the unauthorized ride video of Tower of Terror on YouTube which starts with creepy music and ends with a little girl on the ride holding back tears.

Now, I’m trying to convince them to go to sleep having beautiful dreams about princesses and safari animals, and not about falling elevators in haunted hotels.

Any other advice you Disney experts would like to offer would be more than welcome.  Clearly we need it.


62 thoughts on “Disney planning for newbies – A cautionary tale”

  1. Good for you Liz!

    My husband just can’t get his head around us spending that much money on a “Disney” vacation. He would much rather just go to the beach and let our four year old play in the sand. Poor kid. Anyway, I hear that it’s a great experience for kids that age. We’ve got friends that have been there five times over just a couple of years and swear by it.

    Hope you have a blast and hope the Yoga breathing works out! 😉

  2. We were just there in early December and are rather frequent visitors. My best advice for going during a busy time is:

    1. Have a plan for touring the parks. I’m happy to help you with that if you’d like (I can email it to you), but even if you take me up on the offer, I strongly advise buying a subscription to touringplans.com (about $10) and downloading their iPhone app with wait times, etc.

    2. Don’t try to do everything. It’s impossible – there’s too much to do. Pick your priorities, your personalities, your kids (I have two girls, ages 4 and 8), etc etc.

    3. Build in time for relaxing. It stinks to come home needing a vacation from your vacation.

    4. Don’t be afraid to throw the plan out the window. We once walked into Hollywood Studios and left an hour later to take the girls swimming instead. I never want to be that mother saying, “this is the happiest place on Earth, damn it, stop screaming and have fun…”

    5. I’m assuming you booked through a Disney travel specialist. If not, you might consider contacting one now (I use Travelwiththemagic.com and they are great). Disney travel agents (there’s no extra charge) will do things like make dining reservations for you and they’re filled with detailed knowledge that can help make your trip great.

    Hope you have fun!

  3. Try to come back to your hotel midafternoon to relax, swim, etc. Before heading back out for the evening. It makes everything so much more relaxing, and kids often love the hotel pool as much as anything else.

  4. We got a lot of helpful information from tourguidemike [dot] com. Was totally worth the fee to get the report that told us how to avoid the worst of the crowds even at a busy time (Thanksgiving week).

  5. I second the recommendation of getting a good travel agent. I have used Dotti at MouseEarVacations.com for dozens of trips. You should also know you are getting a late start. It will be difficult for you to eat in the most popular sit down restaurants as they start booking priority seating requests 3 months out.

    I love Disney but you have to do it right to really love it. It makes me sad when people already disposed to not enjoying it go at the absolute worst time with little planning. We usually take our daughter (9) out of school during MLK, Veteran’s or Columbus day weeks. The parks are EMPTY the rates are low and we plan ahead for months to get into our favorite restaurants.

    If you go knowing you won’t be able or see or do it all you will have fun. Pick one or two must do rides in each park and be sure to spend some time at the hotel pool midday during the height of the crowds. For this reason hotels on the monorail are best for easy access to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Boardwalk and Beach and Yacht Club are both walking distance from Epcot and Hollywood Studios so that is a good area as well. Being at a hotel with only bus service to the parks will add a lot of travel time to your day esp if you are heading back to the hotel midday.


    1. We’re already booked, and really happy with our choices. We have dinner reservations but may switch some around. Any recos on the best food (since I’m traveling with Nate and all) would be appreciated. Majorly.

      1. A couple of my favorites, The California Grill on the top of the Contemporary (great during the MK fireworks), Le Cellier in Canada at Epcot, Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge, Boma and Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge. For this kids the dinner at 1900 Park Faire at the Grand Floridan is great the theme is Cinderella and Prince Charming’s anniversary party. Also fun but hard to get is the Castle princess meal. We always do breakfast with the characters at the Cape May Cafe.

        Rides I would not miss are Soarin’ at EPCOT and Toy Story at Hollywood Studios.

        Have fun!

  6. I can’t lie, a trip to Disney scares the shit of me. My son is only two but my sister has been dying for us to take him as a family “vacation”. We are headed back to my home state of California next summer so we’ll probably go in June. I predict you are going to get lots of advice from your readers and I’m looking forward to coming back and reading what they have to say. Good luck and most of all, have FUN!

    1. Best advice I got…don’t take them until they’re four. Otherwise the characters scare th e crap out of them and they won’t remember it anyway.

      1. You know, that’s a really good point. I’ve had a couple of friends say the same thing. I think this is a sign from God. My son freaked at the whole take a picture with Santa thing so waiting a couple of years might not be a bad thing. Okay, San Diego Zoo and Sea World it is!

  7. We did the same thing last year – surprised the kids at Christmas with a trip for Feb break. They were 6 and 9 last year and it was their first time at Disney. Here’s another planning tip: we maxed out after a half day at any one park. My kids were set to go back to the hotel pool after that (the weather was really great last February) or they wanted to get to Downtown Disney or we were ready to move on to another park (we had Park Hopper passes).

  8. The best advice I can give, if you are staying at a Disney resort, is to go to the park that has early arrival for Disney guests. We always stay in our RV at Fort Wilderness, but that is considered a resort. Last year, on our final day (Thursday before Easter, OMG), we arrived at the Magic Kingdom at 6:45am. I am not even kidding. We ran around and went on all of our favorite rides with very little waiting. By 9:30 the park was filled to capacity and we then slowed down and used a few fastpasses. By 1pm we were heading back. The crowds were too much.

    Utilizing fastpass is awesome and one of us in our party was always going and getting our group our tickets for the big rides.

    Also, if you want to ride Soarin in Epcot, make sure you get fastpasses for it the minute you get to the park. It is usually a 100 minute wait and fastpasses are all gone by noon.

  9. There are apps for assessing the lines, which rides have Fast Passes available, and even maps of the park.

    Take breaks. Go in the morning, then go back to your hotel and relax – nap, swim, etc. Go back to the park late afternoon-early evening. Meltdown avoidance is key.

    And….anyone in your family get kinda sick on rides? We went to DL last spring and my husband, who likes roller coasters, got all green & icky on….NEMO. The submarine ride. “You ok, hon?” “Just keep them entertained. I need to look down and concentrate.”

  10. Liz,

    I have such fond memories of taking my kids to Disney World at that age! Even though it is really true that “you will need a vacation from your vacation” when you get home. One of our now funniest family memories is the time our youngest daughter, who was four at the time, decided very dramatically after waiting in line for Splash Mountain for over an hour that she was terrified of the ride and WOULD NOT get on it. This was despite my husband’s best efforts to convince her that it was “just a little old boat ride” – she wasn’t buying it.

    My biggest advice is to “get in and get out” – get to the park EARLY and be back to your hotel by mid-afternoon for some rest and rejuvenation. There is a lot of stimulation and everyone will need a break. You can then venture back in the evening if you would like. Also, depending on the weather forecast, you might want to pack some rain ponchos. One year, we went to Disney during spring break and it poured rain every day. We ended up buying some very overpriced Disney rain ponchos so we wouldn’t get soaked while waiting in line for the rides.

    Have fun!

    1. I’m hearing this advice a lot. I think we’ll take it!

      And oh lord that Splash Mountain story is my biggest fear. Sage is insisting on going on the Haunted Mansion. Not sure how well that’s going to go. Then again, she is asking to watch more Young Frankenstein. Mostly she just wants me to skip to the Puttin’ On The Ritz scene.

  11. Holy crap. We are going to Disney next week, with a 4 & 6 year old, at my parent’s instigation. We haven’t even looked into park tickets yet much less planned anything. Time to shift my butt off twitter and get going. Love the suggestion of involving them. Will be sure to steer clear of the haunted pics! Thank you for the wake up call- I guess it’s upon us!!

  12. But, but, but. . .can’t you just pull them out of school for a week and go when the crowds aren’t so bad? It’s not like Thalia will miss too much homework (I hope!). I just really, really hate crowds (really! you saw me at water fire in Providence, right?) and we went in October (when it was supposed to be quiet) but it was PACKED b/c the UK was on holiday (and the dollar sucked)—it totally colored my vacation b/c the crowds—oy, the crowds. Plus, I think if the crowds are nasty, Nate will snark the entire time and you will throw him off the Small World ride (or out the Tower of Terror, at the top).

    But, if you still go when it’s crowded, I have one word for you: Epcot (the country side)—it was lovely and fun and had great character meet & greets (even with the crowds) AND it serves alcohol. Win/win all around. (I understand the whole “get there reallllly early” mentality and yet we could NEVER do that. We just move too slowly in the AM).

    1. Oh we’re going to be allll about the early thing. I was the Early Police in Spain and I’m not afraid to do it again!

  13. The trick to getting your 4 year old to look forward to the Haunted Mansion is to take her when she’s two months old and every 6 months after that.

    I guarantee success.

  14. We’re taking our kids in September, a few weeks after Labor Day. I don’t mind saying I’m scared shitless about spending this much money on a vacation, but you’re right — I want to take them when it’s still Snow White they’re meeting, not a lady dressed up as Snow White. I guess that’s why God created income tax refunds.

    Also, I mentioned to my oldest daughter that I really wanted to meet Maleficent. She was incredulous. “But, she’ll be mean to you!” “I know!” “Well, can you tell her to be nice when I’m around?”

  15. You got your character dinners booked, which is great. And I think that getting there early and coming back to your hotel early to swim/relax is good advice. I have two other minor tips for you, since we went to Disney two years ago during February break, when my kids were 4 & 6. First: a stroller is key, even if your kids have outgrown using strollers. My boys took turns just sitting in it instead of standing while waiting in the hour-long lines. And it’s the best way to carry all your stuff around the parks. Second, Orlando is cold in February! We ended up spending huge $ buying hoodies for all of us in one of those overpriced Disney stores.
    Take lots of pics and have a great time!

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with the stroller. We went for the first time this past October. My girls are 7 and 4, and I rented a double from Magic Strollers. If you rent at the park, you can’t take the stroller with you to your hotel. By renting a stroller you eliminate any complaints about the long walks to and within the park. I believe it saved our trip.

      Also, because I’m an anal-retentive planner-type, I asked everyone about how much we could ride in a day. Turns out, it was about 1 ride per hour we were in the park. Because my youngest tends to be grouchy when she’s hungry and tired, on most days we went back to our hotel for a break from about 2pm-4pm. We’d head back for an early dinner and then be on rides by 6 pm when everyone else is eating. It worked great for us.

      In two days at MK, we rode everything we wanted and we used our fastpasses wisely. Two things to know about fast passes. You can’t just send someone around to get a FP for every ride in the park that has one. Not only does the FP print a return time for you to ride that specific ride, but it also prints at the very bottom the next time you can get ANY other FP (which is usually about 1 hr later). What they don’t tell you is…the printed return time will read “1pm-2pm” but what that really means is any time after 1pm. The attendants don’t bat an eye.

      If you are going to Hollywood Studios, the wait is RIDICULOUS for Toy Story Mania. But it’s worth it. If I was to go again, this is what I would do. You and the girls go to get in the standby line for the ride at 9 am when the rope drops. Give Nate your park passes, and have him get in the FP line for the same ride. He will probably have to wait about 30 minutes to get your FPs…when he’s done, he can meet up with you in the standby line. When we went, we got to HS by rope drop 9am, followed the crowd to Toy Story (9:15 in line), rode standby and immediately walked out to get in FP line (10:30 am – and they were closing up the FP kiosks…meaning all gone). I got some of the last FP for the day at 10:30 am. It’s NUTS and ridiculous…but your kids will thank you!

      Also, if you have FP that you know you won’t use, give them to other people in the park. We had someone give us Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FPs after they saw my four year old get off the ride yell “THAT WAS TOTALLY WICKED” (like kid in Incrdibles movie). She rode 6 times in 2 days. 🙂

      Also, write down everything at the end of each day. You’ll forget it all if you don’t.

      1. I bow down to your anal advice. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

        I’m still iffy on the strollers…but it’s interesting to hear so many people give this advice.

        1. GET THE STROLLER! Seriously. In fact, spring for the double. I’d be shocked if you regretted it. There are several reputable stroller rental companies in the area, but the only one I remember off the top of my head is orlando stroller rentals. My understanding is that they drop them at your hotel in advance of your arrival (We live within driving distance, so we take our own). I saw BOBs, CityMinis and other nicer brands.

          Also, you can take your own food/water in the park. Bring a soft-sided cooler in your suitcase and then buy a case of water at publix or another grocery store. Bring it in with you and save yourself $2.50/bottle.

          I’d also recommend a backpack – you can use it for wallets, snacks, extra clothes (jackets?), etc. And if a kid isn’t in the stroller, you can throw the backpack in it.

          websites w/good advice sections: allears dot net, mousesavers dot com

          Our key to staying zen was to take the attitude that we’d do what we could do and not worry about what we didn’t. We reminded ourselves that our kids had no clue what they were “missing” so anything and everything was great. We didn’t worry if it took 40 minutes in line for Dumbo if that made them happy. And really, our happiness was mostly in experiencing the whole place through the child’s eyes.

          Have fun!

          1. Okay–I need someone to explain to me what it is with everyone and the strollers.

            I feel like, my kids walked around Spain for two straight weeks without once asking for us to pick them up–and that includes Toledo which is pretty much a 180-degree incline, both ways. And there’s no monorail there.

            What am I missing?

            (Also I love the Zen advice; thanks Julie)

      2. They’ve changed their fast pass rules. Now you can only return in your hour window or they will not let you on. Bummer!

  16. I bow down before you all, you intrepid disneyites. The whole thing makes my stomach churn. People and noise and crowds, ohmy…I’d be the grumpy lady at the bar snarling at the mouse and those damn princesses. My husband–a far better person than I–is thinking of taking our kids on his own due to his wife being anti-social, anti-American, and probably a communist amusement-a-phobe. But from what I hear, yes, it’s all about pre-planning, fast-passes, early reservations, and a willingness to be completely flexible and spend the day at the hotel pool if that’s what the mood dictates. Or at the bar, as the case may be. Maybe, just maybe, your posts about Disney can convince me. Or at least I can send them to Husband as he plans HIS trip!

  17. Oh, please, when you come back, help me plan? The in-laws want to take us and the kids to Disney in either late spring or early fall. I think the kiddoes are at the perfect age, but something about planning The! Big! Family! Vacation! fills me with terror. I hope you have a blast.

    1. Definitely get yourself a disney travel agent! They are great with large groups. We went once with 11 people. There are a couple of recommendations above in the comments.

  18. I took my kids last year during Feb break. They were 3 and 5. IT WAS AWESOME!!!! We had no real plan. We went on the rides with the shortest lines. We had ice cream and lemonade in absurdly gigantic, plastic, mermaid-shaped cups. We played in the playgrounds set up between rides (see Pirates of the Caribbean). We got pretty good at the fast pass thing. But, oh the parades! Best part of the trip, hands down! Have a great time and don’t stress. It will be magical for Sage and Thalia. Magical.

  19. We just made the trip in Oct with our 4 yr old twins. We used a guide book called Walt Disney World with Kids 2011. It’s updated every year and gives more info than you could ever digest but was tremendously helpful! I agree that a stroller is invaluable and recommend you reserve one now. We used an outside company (Kingdom Strollers – but there are several others) and they delivered it to our resort so it was waiting when we arrived, along with 2 cases of water (also invaluable!). The double stroller was huge – we jokingly called it The SmartCar – but it reclined fully and had a big retractable hood so the kids could nap in a quiet, shady spot or crash out on the way back to the resort after fireworks.

    We were pleasantly surprised with the food choices just about everywhere we went. The grandparents feared they’d be eating chicken fingers and hot dogs every day on the meal plan but we found great salads, wraps, etc., at most of the places we stopped in the parks. But, most importantly, don’t forget to let them have a Snickers for breakfast just one day while you’re there. 😉

  20. When my nephew was in college, he went to DW with a bunch of his friends. On the way to the park, one of the guys fell and twisted his ankle and was truly unable to walk so he rented a wheelchair. People in wheelchairs (and up to 5 companions) are escorted to the front of every line.

    1. Ha, I’ve heard stories like that. I recently read that they’ve cut down on that because of so many people abusing the system. Also, we’d like to see as many rides as possible, but not at the expense of maiming one of my family members.

      Then again, Nate does have bad heel spurs…

  21. We’ve been to DisneyWorld and DisneyLand. You have gotten a ton of great advice–getting an app for your phone is key and it really helped us. We also did a lot of divide and conquer–but we have a boy and a girl so this was more a necessity for us. I waited with my little girl (she was 2.5) for the princesses and fairies while my husband too my son (he was 4) to ride the matterhorn and buzz lightyear rides.

    I was worried about waiting in line–but the kids did far better than we adults did waiting–it was just so amazing.

    The biggest advice I can give is to not try to plan everything. Split the time–take advantage of the magic hours–each park has an early open time on certain days if you are staying at a disney property.

    Have fun. It will be just as magical for you as it is for the kids.

    1. It will be crowded and there will be lines — you will survive. I carried suckers to keep my kids happy in long lines. Don’t miss the Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a 4d movie in Disneyland/Fantasyland. We only went in to dodge the rain and it was one of my favorite moments of our trip! Disney truly is magical. Enjoy it!

  22. We went with my 5 and barely-3 year old in August, along with my sister and her 4 & almost-2 year old, and our parents. My only issue with touringplans.com and their book is that your kids may not actually be obsessed with Dumbo, aka the longest line for the shortest amount of fun ever. If they will skip it — and really, with so much other stuff, why wouldn’t they — skip it.

    Otherwise, the book was AMAZING. The “extra magic” hour, fast passes, and the lowest crowd level park info meant that we got on some top priority rides with almost no waiting. We rode the Small World boats 3x with no more than a 5 minute wait each, and had a blast on the Toy Story ride, twice.

    If the 4 and 5 year old had not been terrified, we also could have re-ridden the new and completely awesome Star Wars ride several times. My son “loved it” but flat out refused to ride again.

    We also celebrated Josie’s 3rd birthday with a Princess breakfast at Belle’s castle in Norway/Epcot, which was fantastic. They do “official” pictures with Belle, and Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, and Snow White visited our table.

        1. Cat’s restaurant is actually on the Boardwalk not downtown disney.

  23. Thanks for the very funny post.

    The memory of our trip to Disney World has mercifully receded with the years. What I remember is feeling exhausted and 1) wishing I’d brought along more sugar-free snacks to hold us together between the waits in long lines for real food. 2) the sheer endurance necessary to face all the *happy* faces 3) the self-control (and stamina) necessary to not haul off and hit somebody when everyone in your ‘party’ is taking turns having an episode — cause we experienced something like the worst of post-birthday party behavior only it lasted all day long.

    As I see it, it comes down to blood sugar control and (as you so rightly put it) yoga breathing. Helps if you get some sleep the night before. (And the nights during if you prolong the agony.) We fled after one day. Good luck. Will look forward to the report.

  24. So much good advice here already, but I will add a comment about having 2 kids at the parks. If 1 child wants to go on a ride the other one does not, that is a great time to split up and get some 1-1 time. My husband and I did that with our girls when they were young and it was great! Especially with long lines! When do you ever get 30 minutes to just look in your daughters eyes and chat? we talked about what we saw, what we still want to do. they told stories about school and we just…. chatted like old friends. Best. Time. Ever.

    A good time to split up is late morning and agree on a spot to met for lunch so no one has to just sit around waiting.

    Oh — and budget for a couple of souvenirs. We get ears with every trip and my girls have some of them in their rooms. There was the pink princess hat with ears stage, the pink pirate ears, the Jack Skellington ears, the sequined ears with the Minnie Mouse bow… there are so many different sets of ears and it is so funny how the different stages of their personalities shine through.

    The other item I budget for is a sweatshirt. Yes, they are crazy expensive for a sweatshirt, but the quality is very good. This is importnat as my girls wear their Disney sweatshirts constantly until they outgrow them. Just this weekend we retired a hoodie my daughter bought when we spent New Years Eve at Disneyland ’07-08. Nothing else she owned survived that long!

    I will also echo the Character meal – we did a dinner with characters instead of breakfast. Great break from the park.

    Have a great time!

  25. Ah, the most magical place on earth! My kids were just a couple of years older than yours when we took them to Disney. Our first stop was the Magic Kingdom, and our kids LOVED it – the characters, the rides, the shows, all of it – so much so, in fact, that when we then went to the other parks, they were not nearly as exciting. (Epcot was a bit of a snooze, and even Animal Kingdom, to our surprise, did not ‘thrill’ them the way MK did.)

    If you are planning to park hop, my two cents of Disney advice would be to try to resist the temptation of going to MK first, saving it for a little later (I know; it’s hard to do!), and then, plan to go back to it again, the very next day. We spent two full days at MK, and the kids would have gone more, if we’d had time. Just something to consider….

    1. Thanks Christy. I keep hearing this about animal kingdom. Hm…
      We’ve got a half day first, then we’ll do MK the next day. I like your advice!

      And THANK YOU everyone. I’m saving every single one of these.

  26. If you haven’t found EasyWDW.com yet, please go do so. Josh has free info on crowds that were wonderfully accurate for our trip in December, plus snarky blog posts that I think you and Nate would appreciate.

    With Thalia, I will warn you that the Kim Possible missions in Epcot’s World Showcase ate our 7 year old. She loved it, but wanted to look at/do NOTHING ELSE while doing this. The fact that she believed whole-heartedly that she was helping a girl super hero save the world made it worth it to us.

    Have a great trip!

  27. Just thought you might like to see what we actually were able to do on our trip – versus what they say you can do. 🙂 I used the Unoffical Guide to WDW with Kids…to plan. We went the week of Thanksgiving.

    Up at 7am
    Bus by 8 am
    Got to Magic Kingdom by 8:30…breakfast in stroller
    Rope drop 9am
    Rapunzel meet & greet – #3 in line. Done by 9:15 am (we skipped Dumbo)
    Ride Winnie the Pooh
    Get fast passes for Peter Pan, ride It’s a Small World
    See Mickey’s PhilharMagic
    Use FP to ride Peter Pan
    Ride Mad Tea Party
    Snack at Cheshire Cat (about 11 am)
    Get FP for Jungle Cruise
    Walk thru Swiss Family Treehouse
    Lunch resrv at Crystal Palace 1 pm (eat 15 coffee mouse desserts)
    Ride Jungle Cruise
    Ride Pirates of Caribbean
    Catch show at exit and kids go up on stage to be dubbed “honorary pirates” (3ish)
    During show, send adult for FP for Big Thunder Mtn RR
    Back to hotel by 4pm
    Dinner at 6pm at Whispering Canyon (our resort, seated dinner)
    7:30 back to Magic Kingdom because it’s open til midnight (EMH)
    Ride BTMRR – stranger gives us 4 more FP
    Adults take turns riding with 4 yr old
    Ice cream for everyone – sit right by cart for parade 8:30ish
    9pm Watch Electrical Light Parade. Moved closer to castle to see fireworks…still in Liberty Square.
    Immediately went to Haunted Mansion – no wait. 7 yr old chickens out (don’t do it the first time at night…go during day…doesn’t feel as creepy outside)
    Bus to resort at 10:30, quick bath, asleep by 11:30pm.

    No one moved when the alarm went off at 7 am…luckily we had breakfast with princesses to get to….otherwise we would have slept in.

    Day 2 at MK
    Rope drop at 8:50 (a little early)
    9am – Pooh
    Peter Pan
    9:45 – Haunted Mansion (this time, everyone loves it)
    get FP for BTMRR, and ride standby
    10:30 Lunch at Pecos Bill
    Used FP for BTMRR
    See Tiana Meet & Greet, no line, get autograph/pic
    Got FP for Space Mountain
    See Stitch- short line, get autograph
    Ride Tomorrowland Speedway (kids drive cars)
    1pm ice cream
    1:30 bus back to resort
    4pm – dinner at hotel
    5pm bus back to MK
    Use FP to ride Space Mtn
    6pm – Ride Peoplemover
    6:20 – Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
    7:00 – Haunted Mansion again
    7:30 BTMRR again 🙂
    8:00 Snow White – for me…we tried to ride it earlier and they were fixing something
    8:30 Bus back to resort (no fireworks this time)
    9:00 Bath and kids to bed.

    Animal Kingdom was awesome…it closes early 5pm animals/6pm rides – always…so get there early and plan to stay all day…no rest in middle. Do the safari first. Take the train to the Rafiki’s Planet watch – we saw an animal getting shots, got to pet a snake, went outside to the petting zoo, and even got to meet Rafiki and Jiminy Cricket. Eat at Pizzafari – one of our favorite meals of the week. Try to see both the Lion King show and the Finding Nemo show – I’m sure someone has posted some of the show on youtube for you to preview. My girls also did a scavenger hunt throughout the park – where they learn a little about various animals and got a stamp in passport book…they are still pissed at me that we couldn’t stay to get the last one. Try to find the little books when you enter the park.

  28. I like staying on a monorail resort on property. I think it is worth the extra cost for the convenience. Make a few dining reservations during the day and at night, you will want the break and to sit down. Try, if you can, to have one nice meal just the two of you. Put the girls in camp or call the baby sitter disney offers. And don’t try to do it all, you can’t. Take down time at the pool, and it is ok to go back early. Michael was done by 3 or 4 most days, take a break and then go back at night.

  29. Skip the jungle cruise too. We thought it was totally lame and wish we hadn’t wasted time standing in line when we could have been doing something else more fun/neater.

  30. Yes re the stroller. We just did Disney in late November with our 7, 5, and 3 year old daughter. The best part was that they would push each other. We just ordered cheap-o strollers from Amazon and had them delivered to our hotel. Best investment for getting through crowds. And, while not city folks, we don’t use strollers otherwise.

  31. The stroller is great for schlepping all the crap you’ll buy.

  32. Your post made me laugh precisely because my daughter (about to turn 4) who was sitting beside me as I was reading pointed at the Haunted Mansion and said, “I want to see that!” My hubby is fan of classic horror and has already introduced her to the Universal monsters and she loooooves them. But she’s also a Disney princess fan and, well, that leads to things like Snow White turning into a “Bampire” Super.

    We used to live outside LA so we’ve been to Dinseyland with her when she was younger (2) but I can’t wait to go back now that she’s old enough to really take it all in (We’re thinking Disney World this time now that we’re back in NJ) . Now I’m going to read all of these comments for everyone’s advice so I know what to do when we’re ready to go!

  33. We have taken T twice in the last two years and both times we had a blast. Make sure to get the Disney wait times app. It’s so worth it. It will tell you how busy the parks are that day (so you can choose which one to go to) and how long wait times are (it generally over predicts the wait times). I also recommend the tix with the option for “fastpass.” This lets you bypass long lines on popular rides – well worth it for Peter Pan and Pooh, among others. Also, a character breakfast, lunch, dinner is well worth the $. The girls will experience great joy in a Princess meal. And if you want pics with the traditional characters (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy) then go to Epcot when they first open. They have the “character spot” and if you get there early the wait is short and you meet them all. Have a blast!! Everyone says there’s no perfect age to take kids, but honestly, I think if you keep expectations low, any age is magical!!

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