Planning Your Family’s First Trip to Disney: Part Two
Did you catch our last post on planning a family’s first trip to Disney? We’re back today with more Disney tips! Here Organized Mom & and our guest blogger, Disney Addict, will talk about things to consider a few weeks before your departure date.
Question & Answers for Planning Disney Family Vacations: 1 Months Out
Schedule: How should we plan our vacation days Disney? Fly by the seat of your pants or map it all out?
Organized Mom: Map It All Out
With a moniker like Organized Mom of course I recommend mapping out the days of your Disney vacation. Not necessarily what time you’ll get to each ride but knowing what parks you will go to on what days will be a huge help, especially if you’re going with more than just your immediate family. As mentioned in the last Disney trip planning post there are A LOT of decisions to make while in Disney World, so the more decisions you can make ahead of time when you are not trying to calm cranky children or get your husband to agree, the better. In addition to mapping out which parks we would go to and when, I took the time to write down all the key rides for each park ahead of time, height limits and fast pass availability (more on that later).
Disney Addict: Map It All Out
We too believe on mapping out the trip. My husband is the keeper of the Disney Spreadsheet. He plots which park we will go to each day (based on our dining reservations, the weather forecast and crowd numbers), lists the times for shows, parades, Extra Magic Hours and must see attractions. When complete, our last spreadsheet was four pages. The more you plan, the more you will do and see.
Stroller: Rent or bring one?
Organized Mom: Bring One
We brought our stroller to Disney. The Disney parks rent strollers but they are expensive. They also can’t leave the parks so it’s one more thing you have to do when you arrive/leave each day. In addition, we had been told that the strollers at the park weren’’t very comfortable and if your child fell asleep you couldn’t recline the stroller. Since we really wanted our stroller in the airport and to use around the hotel (like getting down to the pool) we opted to bring ours and check it at the gate. It was a pain sometimes to load it onto the buses (you have to fold it up which we didn’t know ahead of time) but ultimately we were glad to have it.
Disney Addict: Bring One
While our children were young we always brought our own stroller for all the reasons Organized Mom mentioned. To make your life easier, tie a bright ribbon to the handle of your stroller so it can easily be found in the sea of strollers that are outside most of the popular rides. Also know that at times, Disney cast members will move the strollers. Don’t panic.
I do have to say that the first trip without the stroller was hard. Nowhere to put all our stuff and two cranky kids moving real slow by the end of the day. While you might find it difficult to always be locating your stroller, you will miss it when it is gone.
Beyond restaurants, what are your suggestions for other family-friend food options at Disney?
Organized Mom: Grocery Delivery
Maybe you decided not to do the dining plan or only booked a few reservations. Now that the trip is around the corner, you’re wondering what you will do the rest of the time. Garden Grocer is a great alternative (or even a supplement to your existing plan). Garden Grocer is local grocery store that allows you to order food online and they will deliver your food (and beverages including alcohol) up to three hours before you arrive. The hotels will store it in a refrigerator until you check in – complimentary. We spent about $100.00 on snacks like goldfish, crackers, cheese sticks, chips, carrots, hummus, apple juice, bottled water, milk, cereal and beer/wine. The resorts have convenience stores but food and beverages are pricey and limited. Ordering from a grocery delivery service is likely cheaper and it’s so convenient to have it all waiting for you upon your arrival.
If grocery delivery isn’t of interest, the resorts will accept packages on your behalf starting two weeks before you arrive. You can use this service to ship items to the resort including food (such as cereal, snack bars, diapers) a stroller or anything else you may want to avoid lugging on the plane.
Disney Addict: Pack It & Grocery Store Trip
Since we usually drive to Disney, we pack a lot of what we need with us. For some of the more perishable items, on our arrival day, we go to the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket. For our children it has almost become a must do on our trips. Here we stock up on items like milk, fruit and muffins to have for breakfast.
Do you have any more tips for general preparation before a Disney vacation?
Organized Mom: Visit the Disney Store and buy an autograph book and pen. Purchasing this ahead of time will save you of this task once at Disney. One of the kids’ aunts sent them Disney themed sunglasses ahead of time and Disney coloring books for the plane. I’ve bought friends’ kids Disney flashlights (to use in the hotel room at night as a night light).
Disney Addict: We have a Disney box where we store items that are used only for our trips. The items in this box have saved us a great deal of money over the years. Our box includes:
- Glow Sticks. Once night falls, Main Street is flooded with vendors selling anything and everything that lights up and glows. This is when I break out the glow sticks and my children (and my wallet!) are happy.
- Ponchos. Let’s face it, it rains often in Florida. We purchase several ponchos for each member of our party at the Dollar Store. Because they are so inexpensive and disposable, we don’t have to carry wet ponchos with us after a 20 minute rain storm. They are also great to cover your stroller from the rain. The ponchos they sell in the parks are $7-$8 and you wouldn’t want to throw them away.
- Autograph Books and Pens. For the first few years we waited until we arrived to purchase our autograph books. Now we have tried other ways to collect autographs too. Hats, t-shirts, pillowcases, photos from previous trips, the characters will sign them all. Thick Sharpie markers work best for the large characters hands. My best advice is store these items in plastic zip close bags when not in use. The rain can ruin them quickly. Also, put your phone number inside the autograph book. If it goes missing, hopefully a kind-hearted guest will turn it in to a Disney Cast member who will call you.
- Miscellaneous Disney Items. Water bottles, crayons, hair clips, battery operated fans, and disposable cameras are also in our Disney box. We use these as we need them and they are a nice way to surprise the children.
- Disney Trading Pins. When my daughter was 6, she asked if she could try Pin Trading in Disney. She was very shy at the time and we told her that she could, as long as she herself asked the Cast Members to trade. This was the best decision we ever made. She really came out of her shell and became comfortable with approaching the Cast Members.
Now if you are not familiar with Pin Trading, the Cast Members are not allowed to say no to a child that asks to trade (as long as they do not already have that pin). Well, the pin trading fever caught on and now several years later, the kids still enjoy it. To save money we purchase pins on Ebay prior to our trip. Depending on how many you buy, you can get them for as low as $.75-$1.25. This is a huge savings since at the parks they start at $7 each. Then while at the parks they look for pins they see they really like and trade our ebay pins for them. To learn more about pin trading, click here or here.
Editor’s Note: There is a lot to consider when planning your first trip to Disney with kids. See the additional parts of this series about planning a Disney vacation to learn more great tips!