Thursday, 28 March 2019

Top Tips for families and toddlers at Disney

It's no secret that I am a huge Disney fan, and four years ago we were lucky enough to visit Florida to 'do Disney' and Universal. It wasn't all plain sailing, as you can see from the post I wrote called 'the magic of Disney', but it was still an amazing holiday.
Stephs two girls family in front of magic kingdom castle
I wrote some tips about planning a Walt Disney World Florida holiday with a child with autism before we went, and while there I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek post with Ten Top Tips for a Florida Disney holiday. Then last year we went on a family holiday to France, including a stop at Disneyland Paris.
Once I get over the procrastination (one of Sasha's favourite words!) stage I will be doing a long-overdue write up of the place we stayed at, Disney's Sequoia Lodge.
magic kingdom castle at dusk
In the meantime, I've been browsing one of the biggest groups on Facebook, which is all about Disney and Orlando for Brits. It is honestly such a lovely online place to be; so many people all sharing a love for Disney and being excited about travel planning, then coming home and helping others out with advice and tales of what worked for them. Recently, a lovely mum called Carol posted some great tips in the group, and because I thought they were too good to be lost in the Facebook ether, I asked if I could share them on my blog. At the bottom of this post I'll share a few more which I've heard separately myself too, some really key ones!


Top tips for first timers


- Don’t worry about the crowds (it’s going to be busy - it’s Disney!). Do a bit of planning and you’ll be fine. Universal seemed quiet in comparison.

- You won’t get time to do everything so make a list of the top 3 things you want to see/ do in each park and prioritise these (for us it was fireworks, Magic Kingdom parade, Flights of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).

- Book the fast passes for Disney - these saved us so much time and stress. You can then book more on the day if you use all three (this seemed to work especially well in Magic Kingdom). If you can’t get what you want keep refreshing as availability changes by the second.

- Do Flights Of Passage at park closing time if you can’t get a FastPass. You can still get in the queue until a minute before park close. This way you won’t waste any park hours queuing and it’s unlikely you’ll queue more than an hour.

- Schedule a rest day or two (or use the water park days as your rest day). We loved Volcano Bay.

- If you love Harry Potter as much as my hubby and daughter you’ll need at least 2/3 days at Universal. We spent the best part of a day doing Harry Potter and didn’t get round much of Islands Of Adventure in that time.

- We stayed at Royal Pacific for one night to get the express passes for Universal. For us it was well worth it.

- Buy some cheap ponchos in the UK and take with you. Hubby laughed at me but when it rains in Orlando it rains!!

- We stayed off site and took food into the park each day. Saved us a fortune.

- Take in a couple of large water bottles. Lots of places to fill them up during the day and the water is cool.

- Every one says it and it’s true - comfy shoes. And Compeed blister plasters just in case!

- If you have older children the pin trading is great and free to trade. Buy your pins cheap on eBay before you go. The ones in the parks are expensive and lovely to keep but don’t trade these as most of the tradable ones are ‘scrappers’ (like seconds)

- I also bought our interactive Harry Potter wand off eBay before we went, for £25 which is nearly half the price of in the park. It didn’t work properly but Ollivanders swapped it for a brand new one for free!



Top tips for taking toddlers


- take lots of snacks and toys for the plane. Be prepared to walk laps of the aisles to keep them occupied. Jack won’t sit and watch an iPad yet but if your little one will you’re onto a winner.

- USE RIDER SWITCH at both Disney and Universal if you want to ride or you have older children that want to ride. It’s invaluable and depending on the size of your party some people may get to ride twice.

- Go to some of the shows. Jack loved the shows and it’s a sit down with a break from the sun for 20-30 mins. Lion King and Nemo at Animal Kingdom were our favourites.

- Put something on your pram handle to identify it, like a brightly coloured ribbon. When you park up in a stroller park the cast members often move the prams around and it can be difficult to find yours when you come out.

- Don’t expect to do too much each day. As I’ve said above already, make a list of the top three things you want to do at each park.

- You’ll probably be up early in the first few days as you adjust to the time difference. Use this time to do rope drops and do the fireworks/ evening shows later in your holiday.

- We found it better doing 8-9 hour days in the park (rope drop to close would have been too much for little ones).

- Do your character breakfast / meal towards the end of your holiday. Jack was pretty scared of the characters for most of the holiday and a character meal would have been a waste of money (not so bad if you have the Disney dining package).

- Water spray fans are great for keeping cool but are expensive to buy in the parks. Buy and take with you.

Thanks to Carol for all those pointers. My top tips (honestly, I have hundreds but I'm trying to narrow these down for you!) are:


PLANNING


Visit the most popular planning websites as they have the most up-to-date info. The top sites which I would recommend are Undercover Tourist, WDW info and WDW prep school.

One tool we found especially helpful was the crowd planning calendar - if you are not limited to which day you go to which park, then it makes sense to avoid the busiest parks on their 'red' days. This calendar from Undercover Tourist was a good starting point, and this list broken down into groups of days from WDW prep school is also a good one to look at if you're flexible about when you head to Florida.
map of magic kingdom
Maps of the other parks are available too, at www.undercovertourist.com
We found the maps and park plans on the Undercover Tourist site to be even better than the full-on Disney ones. Really clear about which rides are where, and good advice about finding rides with the lowest wait times.

For anyone like me, who assumes that a better price for holidays can be found by shopping around and buying components such as flights and accommodation individually, then my advice is to not get complacent. Disney themselves do actually offer amazing deals which are hard to beat - even if you don't want the dining package. But if you do manage to get free dining on top of your deal, then it's an even bigger bonus! In terms of flight prices though, it appears that Disney manage to acquire great rates, so it is always worth checking their own website disneyworld.disney.go.com.


ONCE IN FLORIDA


I definitely recommend all the videos made by Touring Plans and suggest you subscribe to them on YouTube for clear, concise videos which will help once you're in the parks. From rope drop tips to hotel room reviews, there's enough on there to keep you busy for the whole flight!

Every morning, and when in the parks, it's worth checking and re-checking the Disney app to see if any Fast Passes free up for rides you would like to do, or do again.

I haven't tried this one myself, but apparently there's a place called Club Cool at Epcot where you get a cup and can sample fizzy drinks from around the world for free.


SAVING MONEY


My best bit of advice is to look carefully into Tesco vouchers. Their current offer allows you to exchange points for 3 times their worth on some hotels. So for £5 worth of vouchers you get £15 to spend against a hotel room. Or to look at it another way, a £150 hotel room only costs £50 in Tesco vouchers. When you book through hotels.com, using your Tesco vouchers to pay, you have access to a lot of hotels in Florida.

It was mentioned briefly above, but I'll say it again as it's relevant here. When you book to stay at one of three Universal hotels situated close to the Universal parks, you get unlimited express passes included for all days of your stay. Similar to the Disney Fastpass system, these allow you to walk onto the rides via shorter queues, which means you can get much more done in a day. The main difference is that for Universal you have to pay for this version of a fast pass (at Disney they are free but limited initially to three per day). If you pay for a hotel room at either the Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay or Loews Royal Pacific hotels, then you get the unlimited express pass included. If you factor in the above deal of Tesco vouchers being worth three times their value when booking at hotels.com, then you are 'quids in' (a Northern expression I believe). As a side note, I've not been asked and am not being paid by anyone to let you know this, I'm just being kind!


There's so much more I could write about this magical place but I'm going to leave it here for now; watch this space for more posts in the future though!




To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page. If you are looking or more information on Pathological Demand Avoidance, why not try some of these, my most popular posts?

What is PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?

Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?

The difference between PDA and ODD

Strategies for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for Schools

Challenging Behaviour and PDA

Is Pathological Demand Avoidance real?

Autism with demand avoidance or Pathological Demand Avoidance?





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