Know me for more than 10 minutes and you’ll know that my family is a Disney family. We love it. We love all things Disney. Our house is covered in the Mouse. From potholders and silverware to salt shakers and throw blankets.
We just got back from our annual trip a few days ago. And since we love Disney so much, we get a lot of questions about Disney and the trips we take. I get about 3-4 messages a week. So I figured it would be a great idea to share all the advice I give for every one. I figured it may save me a little time ;) Plus at the end you can see my awesome iPhone pictures of my trip. I don’t take my professional camera. Not only is that thing a beast to carry around, but I want to give my family my full attention by not bringing work.
Here is MY best advice for planning and going to Disney!
- Book with a travel agent. With everything at our fingertips now in regards to planning, this may seem a little outdated, but I assure you it’s the best thing you can do. You tell them what you want and they’ll give you all the options you could ever want or need. Plus when you book with an authorized Disney travel agent, you get several cute perks like coupons, luggage tags, etc. I love the little things we always get. Plus you are able to book your trip with just $200 down. This is not credit, but kind of like a layaway program. You can throw money at your balance anytime you want, or you can wait and pay until 30 days before you leave. We love this option so it doesn’t hit our wallet all at once. I also can’t say enough about the travel agent we use. Jerica with Cupcake Travel is amazing. She gets back to me sometimes within minutes when I have questions. She does all the legwork for me. She calls Disney when needed and even makes our dinner reservations. Best part?? She’s free! Disney pays her when people book through her. So yes, you could do most of the same things she does, but why when it doesn’t cost you a dime. I let the professionals do their job :) Make sure you check Jerica out! https://www.facebook.com/izzybtravel/
- Check out ALL the airports for the best deal. LAX isn’t your only option. Check Orange County, Ontario and Long Beach. We always find great deals just by price shopping!
- Pack your bag light! This is strictly because you need room for all your awesome souvenirs. In my opinion, Disney has the best shops and souvenirs. I don’t feel like it’s just a bunch of junk that a lot of parks sell. I also have a list of things that I always take that I consider musts for our trip. I buy it all on Amazon! ‘
Ponchos-I am not a fan of getting soaked on some of the water rides. Disney ponchos are expensive!
Parade blanket-HOLY moly I love this. LOVE LOVE. They are the size of your palm and actually go back to that size when your done with them. The corners are weighted to help it stay in place and people are generally respectful of your area so you don’t have to worry as much about your spot being taken.
Sunblock-it’s sunny there people!
Child ID Tattoos
First Aid Kit-This one is awesome. It’s super small and light!
- Pack smart! I am totally that person that makes my family wear matching shirts and some kind of Disney themed outfit every day. I have no shame. I also use ziplock bags to put each child’s outfit of the day in them labeled by the day they will wear it. It’s complete with shirt, short, underwear and socks. Mornings seem so chaotic especially when you’re with a large group. This way the kids just grab their day of the week and their good to go!
- Avoid summer! This is tricky and I highly suggest you talk to your child’s teacher and school to see if it’s even possible they miss. My kids are young enough right now that taking them out isn’t as huge of a deal, but that’s not the case for many. But you also know what’s best for your family. Since I work so much in the summer, it’s very hard for me to have a free week. Plus the crowds in the summer are INSANE. But I’ll give you some tips a little later on about that. My favorite times to go have been the very beginning of November, April and the beginning of May. There’s a great crowd predictor site that will give you a fairly accurate picture of the crowds on the days you want to go.
- Food! Disney really has some amazing food and snacks. DO NOT leave Disney without a churro or a Dole whip. This is absolutely not negotiable. They also have the best candy apples you’ve ever had and you can get a turkey leg the size of your head! But if you don’t want to spend a ton on food you have options! Disney will allow you to bring snacks in. We took granola bars, apple sauce packets, beef jerky, candy, etc. It’s so handy when your standing in a long line and your kiddo is crashing. Disney doesn’t allow you to bring a cooler in, but they do have areas right outside the front gate where you can bring one and place it in a locker. Then you can go sit at a somewhat quiet area and enjoy a much cheaper meal. Also, you can get a FREE class of ice water at any quick service restaurant in the park. We love that option! Plus we always take our water bottles and refill them. I do recommend at least one sit down awesome meal and the Blue Bayou really is the best in my opinion. It’s right in the Pirates of the Caribbean and although it’s pretty pricey, it’s amazing food. Plus the ambiance is incredible. People ask me a lot if it’s kid friendly. EVERYWHERE in Disney is kid friendly. C’mon guys is Disney!
- Fast passes! These little pieces joy makers are a necessity. You have to be smart about it though! Most rides that will have long waits in Disneyland have fast passes. A fast pass is a piece of paper that you get with a time to go back to a ride and go through the much shorter fast pass line. Rides like Big Thunder Mountain can have standby wait times for up to an hour. Who has time for that? But you can get a fast pass and wait about 15 min at most. How do I get a fast pass you ask? Most of the rides that have them have the machines right by them. You take your whole parties ticket and put it into these machines and you’ll be given a fast pass. On the fast pass you’ll see a return time. It gives you an hour window in which you get to the ride. You must do it within that time or you risk not riding. You can only hold one fast pass at a time (well kinda). Usually you don’t have to wait very long for your return time, but some times will have you coming back many hours later. So in cases like that you can get another fast pass. Just check your ticket for when you can get another one.
- Don’t hop around the park! Disneyland/world is HUGE. And when you factor in crowds, it can be difficult to go back and forth. We usually start in one land and make our way around the park. So don’t go to one ride in Tomorrowland and then go over to Frontierland and then back. Your feet will hate you and it’s just a lot of wasted time.
- Get your parade/fireworks spot early. If you want a good spot, an hour is minimum. I hate to say it, but some people get there a couple of hours before for the prime spots. Get your blankets out and sit and people watch. There are certain places you can’t put blankets down, so make sure you check with a cast member when you see the spot you want.
- Hit Downtown Disney. I really love it! It’s such a wonderful area with the most beautiful ambiance. They have some fantastic shopping and one of our favorite restaurants is down there. Tortillas Jo’s has the most amazing table side guacamole. Ugh, now I am craving it! It’s also a little cheaper to eat in Downtown Disney than the park.
You know how I said I don’t take my professional camera? Well, I still wanted great pictures one year so I hired a professional. And I couldn’t have been more pleased with my friend Melissa! She’s amazingly talented, but one of the sweetest people you’ll meet in California! Make sure you check her out and hire her for a session at Disneyland! I was so excited that she came and spent the day with us while we were there this last time :)
Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have any other questions :)