I am so excited to share how you and your family can get the most out of your Disney experience. This trip worked out wonderfully despite being totally unexpected. At the beginning of 2020, before COVID-19 hit, we were planning to go to Disney for the first time with our girls and my mother in 2020. We went as far as booking accommodations only for the world to get put on pause. During that time, we canceled the plans and never really pursued booking again until we received a great opportunity.
One of my in-laws’ neighbors was renting their timeshare, and it was a deal we couldn’t pass up. Our family was able to stay in a 3 bedroom suite equipped with a full kitchen at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. This property was gorgeous and had so many fun things for the family to do, including several swimming pools, a splash pad, miniature golf, a lazy river, a giant boardwalk around a beautiful lake where you could feed ducks and koi fish, and more.
One of the things we did to keep costs low was cook our meals at the resort. We had groceries delivered via Shipt to our room that arrived at the same time as we did. A bonus is that in Florida, you can also Shipt from a liquor store. This saved us a great deal throughout the entire trip as food within the parks and restaurants can quickly get pricey.
We purchased park passes for five days. This was a bit aggressive. Three days is plenty for little kids, but 4 was quite nice, given day 1 was definitely a learning experience. I would suggest 2 days for Magic Kingdom if it is your first trip, and definitely a full day at Epcot. If you can, I would highly recommend visiting Epcot both during the day with the kids and in the evening for adult-only time.
Below are our key takeaways for experiencing Disney.
- ARRIVE EARLY
Parking lots open anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour before the parks themselves open. Check the park times for the days you are there because they vary. I recommend arriving when the parking lots open so you can get the closest possible spots and head straight for the rides you care most about. You can even drive loops outside of the entrances until they open if you get there too early.
- PREMIUM PARKING
We only found it worth the expense at Magic Kingdom. Typically it cost between $40-$50 vs. $25 for general parking (this is off-property pricing). It takes about 20 additional minutes to walk from general parking, whereas premium parking allows you to enter right where you access the monorail or ferry boat. You select then select either the monorail or ferry to deliver you to the park entrance. I recommend the premium parking at Magic Kingdom, especially with young children.
- BRING TO THE PARKS
Tons of water (some frozen and thawed), juice boxes, snacks, neck fans, and stroller fans, sunscreen, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, wipes, diapers/pull-ups, change of clothing for kids, a stroller with sun-visors, ice packs, or frozen towels in a cooler during summer months, a small bag or fanny pack with essentials that can be worn on rides and in line. You can bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages into the parks.
- WEAR TO THE PARKS
Comfortable clothing, sneakers, hats, sunglasses. I suggest bringing a spare outfit for kids. It can be long days at the parks, and accidents happen (food messes, drink spills, potty accidents, etc.).
If your little one is in the process of potty-training, consider having a pull-up on hand or locating bathrooms ahead of time (this can be done on the Disney app). Use the restroom before entering ride lines. You will leave your stroller at stroller parking near each ride, but make sure you have a pull-up on hand if your little ones have a change of heart during your 25+ minute wait in line.
- DOWNLOAD THE APP
You can find up-to-date wait times for all of the rides in each park daily. The times are shown on a map of the park that uses GPS to show where everything is located according to your location. Plot the course ahead of time for the rides you care most about and know visually how to navigate the park before you arrive.
- WHERE TO HEAD
Head to most popular rides first. For example, if Frozen Ever After is on your list, I suggest studying the map before going and heading straight to this ride from the moment the park opens. I sent my husband ahead to quickly get in line while I strolled with the girls to meet him. After 30 minutes of the park being open, the line was nearly 40 minutes long, just from the initial flow of people working their way to the one ride. By the time we exited the ride (45 minutes after park opening), the line was up to a 75 minutes wait time.
- THE NIGHT BEFORE
we headed to a park; I selected our “must-do” rides. I can’t stress this enough, but I found where they were located and plotted our course to make sure we made it to each other accordingly. We suggest doing the attractions you care most about first. Then fill in the remainder of your time with rides that have low waits, cooling off in places with air conditioning, snacking, and finding photo ops.
I hope you find this useful and have the best time at Disney! Stay tuned for my blog post on Disney During Covid for precautions being taken and changes to their normal operations specific to Covid-19.