Like I said before, this was our first time going to Disney World with the babes. We are not experts. But we had an amazing time and learned some tricks along the way that I'm sharing as future reference for myself and with any of my blog readers that might be planning a Disney trip. Georgia asks 2-3 times a week when we are going back and I usually echo her to Marcus :) We can't wait to go back.
I started planning our Disney vacation last June while I was home with newborn Jack. I cherished my days at home soaking in all the newborn goodness but I also couldn't wait to travel again and do something really fun for our Georgia Grace. I did all the planning myself through lots of research and reading. I highly recommend The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with kids for planning your trip. It's the Disney bible. I also used wdwprepschool.com and blog posts linked to Pinterest (my Disney World 2016 board). You can start making character dining and Bibbidi Bobbodi Boutique reservations 180 days in advance. You can totally wing a Disney trip and I'm sure you would have the time of your life but if you want to do the "extra stuff", early planning is required. My Type A self relished in it.
My Disney Experience
Once you have reserved your trip, create an account at mydisneyexperience.com and download the app. You can see all of your reservations, make dining reservations and select your Fast Pass reservations. You can also add other things to your account like the Memory Maker and Photo Pass options. I used the app while we were in the park often to check wait times and the quickest route to get from A to B. This is a must-have for your trip. One additional feature that will be a game changer is that it is now set up where once you use your three fast passes for the day you can request three more from the MDE app instead of going to a kiosk in the park. Just another convenience at your fingertips!
Our favorite thing that had come about since our last Disney trip in January 2012 was the magic bands. If you stay at a Disney resort, you receive a magic band in the mail before you leave for your trip and the band acts as your park ticket, room key, fast passes and photo pass. You can customize your band on My Disney Experience. You can also link your credit card to it and use as payment at Disney restaurants and stores. I loved having everything programmed in one band and not juggling tickets and a room key. It's also waterproof so you can swim with it on at your resort.
Fast Pass Plus
You are able to pre-select your Fast Passes 60 days in advance (if you are staying at a Disney resort) and you can reserve up to three per day per person. Once you have used your fast passes for the day, you can reserve more. It's advantageous to get the passes as early as you can so you can reserve more. Selecting which rides to use fast passes for is important because some rides it is crucial and some rides it doesn't really make a difference.
I used this reference guide from wdwprepschool to help me with our selections. The guide book also noted which fast passes would be best for the preschool age group.
I had heard so many good reviews about the photo pass option so I made sure there was room for it in our Disney budget. As much as I love candid photos, who doesn't want a posed family picture in front of Cinderella's castle taken with a DSLR camera? And who doesn't want to wag around your DSLR the whole trip? Me for both of those questions. I actually just left my DSLR at home and only used my iPhone camera for our candid shots and relied on the Disney photographers for the rest. For $149 you have unlimited access to the photos taken throughout your entire trip. Photographers are located everywhere and the photos are almost instantly downloaded to your My Disney Experience account (the photographer scans your magic band). No doubt we will use this service again in the future.
If there was an achilles heel to our trip it would be the shuttle transportation. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for free shuttle service to and from the parks with nearly around the clock service but it comes with its frustrations. Wait times were sometimes long, shuttles were often crowded and disassembling the stroller to get on and off was not a good time. I envied the resorts that had access to the monorail and boats. We survived though and didn't have to worry about parking and getting in a hot car everyday. There is a silver lining :) Also, the Magical Express transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport was very convenient since we did not rent a car. Be sure you make advanced reservations for it.
We brought our Baby Jogger City Select stroller from home and I can't rave about it enough. I loved the tandem design so I didn't have to navigate a huge side-by-side stroller in heavy traffic areas. We tried different positions but what ended up working best for us was the seats facing each other. Georgia rode in the stroller like a champ, Jack did well for a while but needed his breaks because he was an 11 month old that loved to be held. We could not have survived without our stroller. Another point to note-we brought ours from home because we wanted to be able to use it in the airport. You can rent a stroller but it isn't available until you arrive at your room.
I made four separate lists (Jack, Georgia, Mom and family; Marcus packed himself) using sample pack lists on Pinterest. It is endless all that you need for a week at Disney! We had mild-warm weather so we mostly packed shorts (with pockets, I know a lot of moms like wearing the workout gear but I enjoyed having pockets for my phone and miscellaneous items I wanted readily available) and tanks/short sleeves with a light jacket just in case. We all had rain ponchos I found at Mighty Dollar but thankfully we never had to use them. I bought all four of us new tennis shoes for the trip. As I mentioned, I packed food and drink from home to have in our room and for snacks in the park. For the babes I used the ziplock bag packing method and it was a great time saver. A little work on the front end saved a lot of headache on the back end.
Everyone as different opinions about taking a baby to Disney World and there are pros and cons to both no doubt about it. We love traveling with Georgia and Jack. Jack has already taken a week vacation to the beach (drove), Disney World and we are headed back to the beach for a week next month. He is such a mama's boy and I would have felt sorry for whoever we would have left him with ha! There is always the option to delay the trip until he is a little older but I knew this was a special age for Georgia Grace to enjoy all the magic and that had to take priority above convenience.
Overall, he did well to be an 11 month old at Disney World. He enjoyed the characters and any opportunity he had to get down and explore. They both slept wonderful in the resort room and were healthy the whole trip. Anything else above that is just gravy really :)
The Unofficial Guide to Disney book strongly recommended taking a break midday so we did that. We didn't necessarily use that time for naps everyday but it was a chance to regroup, rest our legs and grab something to eat. The babies napped whenever and wherever. Stroller and shuttle naps were common. We didn't have a set schedule since each day was different. I knew our limits so we didn't overdo it and respected our need for rest.
I would consider the first week of April to be a moderate crowd level. You could tell the summer crowds hadn't rolled in yet but spring breakers were present. Since we were a pretty slow moving party we didn't get to as many rides as most families probably can so we really didn't wait in that many lines once we used our fast passes and took advantage of arriving at the parks early. Thankfully, a lot of the toddler favorite rides (Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo) had fun things to do and see while you waited.
We chose to forgo the Disney Dining Plan and just buy our food as we went. I think for our needs it was the cheapest and most convenient. We always ate breakfast in our resort room (or on the shuttle) so we only ate two meals a day in the park/resort. We also packed some food and drinks from home so our snacks were pretty much covered. I'm sure it is nice to already have your meals paid for but with young kids and limited use of park/resort food we opted out.
I have all our Disney daily recaps in my April/May 2016 archives.
I can only speak to our experience but I’m happy to try to answer any questions you might have. I think this officially puts a close to our Disney 2016 trip. Until next time!