We just returned from Disney (for our 1st time), it was also our first time traveling with 3 kids…and it was such a blast! Yes, it was HOT and EXHAUSTING (what vacation isn’t?!?), but worth it (especially for the kids!!). All of my insights below are from my own experience and I’m sure there is WAY more info out there, but this is what helped me plan and enjoy our trip! Read more below!
We have family who live right outside of Orlando, so we were fortunate to work with an awesome Disney planner from the start – Smart Moms Travel. We worked directly with Jenna Marsh and she was SO helpful. We ended up adding on an extra night about a week before we left and she was able to secure that for us. When planning your Disney trip, give yourself a few months. I say this because food reservations open up about 2 months before you leave and they go FAST. We reluctantly didn’t book any dining reservations because we didn’t know what our days would look like traveling with the baby, but looking back I wish we had booked at least one meal at the park.
Everything you will book for Disney you will do so by going through their website – Disney World. Everything from your hotel reservations, park tickets and park reservations and dining reservations are through this website / app. I highly recommend downloading the app to your phone before you travel. If you use a travel agent service, they can link all of your reservations onto the website easily for you. Magic Bands – You also have the option of buying Magic Bands for when you are there. You’ll use these as your “tickets” to enter the park and your “ride tickets” for Lighting Lane. We didn’t get these and I was still able to do everything from my phone. In my opinion you can do without them, or get them for convenience.
Disney Parks – you need to purchase tickets for the park per family member AND make park reservations. Don’t forget this part!! Park reservations should be done no later than 2-3 weeks before you go or you could potentially miss out on a park as they book up fast (even earlier during high season). We opted to do one park per day, but a lot of people do Park Hop. There are also so many transportation options to bring you back and forth to your hotel, and to transfer you to the different Parks. Bus times are posted at your Hotel (and on the app) every morning, but usually run every 15-20 minutes.
Hotels – We ended up having a rough start to our trip but in the end it all worked out. We had a reservation for 3 nights at the Disney Caribbean Resort (which is located near Epcot). For some reason, either staffing or miscommunication, our hotel room was not ready by 7pm even though we had checked in at 3pm. Traveling with 3 kids (and one having a bedtime at 7pm), this did not sit well for us, but the staff was SO helpful. They switched us to a new hotel right away and we arrived at the Disney BoardWalk Inn at 9pm. Our kids were exhausted, and we had a full day ahead of us, but we made the best of it. The Disney BoardWalk Inn is BEAUTIFUL, the rooms were super clean and we even had a little outdoor deck with seating. We really enjoyed staying there and we also loved strolling the boardwalk after the parks and getting some coffee at the BoardWalk Bakery each morning. The very popular Italian restaurant Trattorio al Forno is also right there, but we weren’t able to get a reservation.
Park Rides – There are so many great resources out there, but this is what worked for us. On the day of your park reservation, you are able to plan “My Day” and book Genie+ for the Lighting Lanes (if you want to). If you don’t want to use Genie+, you can just get to the park and see what rides are available and what the wait times are. You will still want to use the Genie on the app because it helps plan your day for you and gives you tips! If you purchase Genie+ for the Lighting Lane, you can log in at 7am and book a new ride every 2 hours. For Magic Kingdom, I was able to book us on 4 rides throughout the day and this was a LIFESAVER! The Genie+ is $15 a person for the day, but in my opinion it is 100% worth it. We went on 8 rides / attractions and waited no longer than 20 minutes for each of them (some with no wait at all). I would set my phone alarm for every 2 hours so I could get the best rides – and the app is great because you can see what time you’ll get, what the wait times are if you don’t book, etc. We did the same for Epcot and it saved us so much time! The lines are LONG, and my kids were not going to wait in line for 45-60 minutes for a ride.
Another great thing the Parks offer is called Rider Switch. We would go through the Lightning Lane (or the standby lane) and tell the employee that we would like to use Rider Switch. Cliff was able to take the older two kids on the ride while I waited with Hudson, and when he got off, he found me and then I was able to go on the same ride (skip the line) with both kids. A win for both of us as the kids got to go on the ride twice and we each got to enjoy it with them!
Magic Kingdom was really so much fun – yes it was beyond hot, but the kids were such troopers and had a blast. We went on a few rides (and the baby did too), saw the parade at 12pm which is a MUST because every character is in the parade, stopped for some hotdogs at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (you place your order through the app), more rides with the kids, a meet and greet with Cinderella and then we were DONE! We wanted to stay for the fireworks, but we were honestly so tired and the kids didn’t mind to miss. We headed back to the hotel, ordered some food and went to bed! The next day, we took a boat over to Epcot. I booked Genie+ again and we were able to go on some awesome rides including the new Test Track. Frozen is located at Epcot (if you have a child who is as obsessed as our daughter is) and this was an awesome Meet and Greet, as well as the Frozen ride. We also had a chance to walk around to see some of the different countries, went to La Cantina for a late lunch and then it down-poured on us haha. We were at the end of our day, so it was perfect timing, so we headed back to the Hotel to swim and relax by the pool. Epcot in my opinion was OK, but not as fun as Magic Kingdom. When we do go back, I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the other parks!
Things I would do differently (next time) – I would book 2 days at Magic Kingdom. There were so many rides and things we missed out on by just being there for one day, so our next trip I would definitely book it for 2 days. I would also use Park Hop if you were going to other parks like Epcot or Universal Studios, etc. – this way you can get more out of your day. Lastly, have 1 full day at your hotel pool (no parks or do half a day at a park). This gives you a break and your kids a break so they aren’t overtired.
Also, don’t book a relaxing 4 days at The Breakers BEFORE you go to Disney hah. We should have pushed this with our family until afterwards so we could relax before flying home! The Breakers is an amazing place to vacation at in Palm Beach (I grew up going there almost every summer and it does not disappoint)!!
What to Bring – I planned like a crazy mom, and this is what worked for us with three kids.
- Backpack to store everything in and a belt bag. I kept the belt bag on me at all times and stored our phones and cc’s/money in them so we didn’t have to leave them with the stroller when we went on a ride. I have the Clean Lines belt bag by lululemon and it also fit our small portable fans inside.
- Stroller – bring your own stroller if you can. My older kids have clearly outgrown strollers, but they fought over who got to ride in the double stroller with Hudson, so they rotated after every ride haha. Stroller caddy / cup holders were a plus to have as well! Disney does rent out strollers, but they looked really uncomfortable for kids.
- Stroller hooks – these were awesome and held so much stuff for us!
- Reusable straws – Disney only has cardboard straws, so if they bother you like they bother me, bring reusable straws for everyone.
- Insulated cups or water bottles for yourself and for your kids. Disney now allows you to bring your own, so you can keep your water cool and refill when needed.
- Snacks – you are allowed to bring in snacks so we packed these snack containers for the kids. These were also a lifesaver on the plane rides!
- Fans – Portable fans were a lifesaver. I had this one for the stroller for Hudson, and these for us to use. A lot of people also had cooling towels which I thought was cool. At the end of the day we were drenched in sweat anyways, but the fans definitely helped!
- Portable Phone Battery – This was SO handy. Since you use your phone a lot for the app, pictures, etc, I ended up using this to recharge my phone while at the park.
- Ponchos and rain covers for you and for the stroller – You never know when a rainstorm will come in, so we had these in our backpack at all times…and we ended up using them!
- Comfortable shoes – I got these right before we left and they were SO comfy!
- Disney Ears – much cheaper to buy ahead of time! These are the Mommy and Me ones we had.
- Disney family outfits – obviously haha. We loved these from Etsy and they came within a week!
- Sunscreen and purell – Disney was VERY clean, but I still felt the need to purell our hands after every ride.
- Autograph books!
Traveling with a baby – Extra water, empty bottles / formula dispenser, portable white noise, change of clothes, changing pad, diapers and WIPES! For the hotel, the SLUMBERPOD – best purchase I’ve ever made and I can’t believe I didn’t have this with my older two!
Hope this helps and I hope you enjoy your next trip to Disney!!