Friday, May 16, 2014

22 Vacation Tips and Tricks (Including Disney World!)

It's been a week since my family of five came back from Disney World.  We had a really good time, but I came back one tired mama! On the flight back home, between my two-year old's temper tantrums, I composed this list of tips for vacationing with kids.

1. Look for coupons in your hotel room. A lot of times you'll get an information packet about your hotel and the town you're staying in.  In this packet, there will usually be coupons.  We saved 20% on dinner one night and got a few dollars off our ice cream.

2. Pack fruit snacks and applesauce pouches for the flight.  They are quick, not too messy, and most kids love them.

3. Bring a couple empty water bottles through airport security. Then you can fill them up once you get through.  Otherwise you'll be paying a few bucks for a small bottle of water on the plane.

4. Give each child a set amount of spending money for treats and/or souvenirs. That way they know once their money's gone, they can't ask for anything else.  They'll be much more careful how they spend it.

5. If you know you're going to be visiting a local restaurant you love, check for coupons online before your trip.  A lot of restaurants will email you a coupon if you sign up to be a member of their e-clubs. We got a FREE appetizer at Joe's Crab Shack!

6. If your hotel doesn't have Continental Breakfast, visit the grocery store at the beginning of your stay to pick up some fruits, vegetables, and dairy.  We packed cereal, single serve fruit cups, and pop tarts in our suitcases.

7. Think about your kid's ages before you buy your tickets. I really wouldn't recommend taking kids under 3 or even 4 to Disney World.  There is a lot of waiting and it gets hard on young ones and their parents.  Plus, when you're standing in line for a ride, you are NOT allowed to bring your stroller.  You have to hold your child or try to keep them from running away while you wait.  There is stroller parking near the entrance of most rides and restaurants.

8. Buy a current Walt Disney World Travel Book. We bought Fodor's Travel Intelligence, and it was some of the best money we spent for our trip.  It is packed full of tips!

9. Utilize Disney's new FastPass +.  This allows you to "jump the line" at three attractions or entertainment each day.  You can choose your attractions up to 30 days before your trip, or 60 days if you're staying at a Disney resort.  Go HERE to learn more about the program.  Make sure your FastPass selections are for popular attractions so you don't have to wait in line.

10. Rent a stroller if you have kids 8 or younger. Yes, I said 8.  I have three kids ages 7 and under and they fought over who could sit in the stroller.  We probably walked 7-8 miles a day in very hot temps, so our kids got tired. We rented a double stroller from Magic Stroller Company, and we highly recommend it!  It costed us about $80 for the week.  Disney rents strollers in each park, but they are $31 a day, and they are hard plastic.  Ours was a comfortable jogging stroller.

11. Get a five day pass to the four main parks. The four main parks at Disney World are Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom.  It only costs about $10 more for the 5th day, plus you could easily spend two days at Magic Kingdom.  We did!

12.  Plan one day to relax at your hotel.  At Disney World, there are lots of lines, people, walking, and heat.  If you're doing 4 or 5 days at the parks, include a day in the middle to recharge.  We loved getting to sit by the pool and relax in the middle of our trip.

13. When planning which days to go to which parks, choose wisely. Avoid Magic Kingdom on Mondays.  For many reasons, it's the busiest day.  Also, don't go to the parks with Extra Magic Hours unless you're going to go during the Extra Magic Hours.  Parks are more crowded the days they are open longer. Go HERE to learn about Extra Magic Hours.

14. Before your trip, buy your kids a couple Disney shirts at a department store or online. I found Disney shirts at JCPenney for 5 bucks!  When we got to our hotel, I surprised the kids with their new shirts.

15. While packing your kids's clothes, coordinate colors. I had my kids wear the same color each day orange, one day green, one day blue, etc.  That way it's easier to look for them in a crowd of people, and you don't have to remember what they're wearing.

16. Bring a couple water bottles and healthy snacks to eat in the park. You can find drinking fountains to refill the bottles. And again, the fruit and applesauce pouches make a great, semi-healthy snack. If you're really motivated, you can pack your own lunches to bring into the parks.  They just don't allow hard coolers or glass.  

17. Make a flexible game plan for the day. I researched which rides were popular for different age groups, and planned our day accordingly.  I used the information found HERE to map out a lot of our days. Ride the popular rides first thing in the morning.

18. Plan to arrive at the park about 15 minutes before it opens. This will allow you to get on quite a few rides before the lines get long.  Also, Magic Kingdom has an awesome Welcome Show at 8:45 each morning.  Mickey, Minnie, and bunch of other characters arrive by train to welcome guests to the park.

19.  Eat an early lunch at the park.  By early, I mean about 10:30am.  You'll avoid crazy crowds and blood sugar crashes.

20. Go back to your hotel in the afternoon to rest. This is especially important if you have young kids.  Afternoons are very busy at the parks, so go enjoy some AC and recharge before going back in the evening.  We enjoyed our evenings at the park.  The weather was cooler and the lines were usually shorter.

21. Eat supper before going back to the park. Since we ate lunch early each day, we ate supper early, too. Order pizza to your room, pick up some fast food, or make some sandwiches.  This will save you a ton of money!

22. Make memories and smile.  Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on earth, but I witnessed a lot of meltdowns from children AND parents.  Take a few deep breaths and savor the moments!

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