I’m a planner. I like to make lists and slowly check off each item. I recently planned our first big vacation and Disney World (Florida) was the perfect destination for my two year old. My blissful visions of over joy seeing the castle, meeting Doc McStuffins and seeing the amazing firework display quickly turned into headaches and major “overwhelmness” with all the information/research needed to be done to ensure a smooth trip. Sure, you can just buy your tickets and “wing it” but when travelling with a toddler my experience has taught me to prepare, prepare, prepare! So to help any fellow mommas who may be a bit confused as to what the Magical Express is, what bands are used for, and what fastpasses are and how to get them, here are a few of the basics I learned while planning this trip.
Disney Prep 101
To Resort or Not to Resort:
I can’t really offer too much advice on this portion because I was fortunate enough to get a discounted rate on my resort hotel stay. I’m assuming off resort hotels are less expensive. However, if you go that route be sure to budget parking expenses. When you stay in a resort hotel, transportation to the Disney parks is provided. Either bus or monorail will take you the park, depending on where you stay. We traveled with 2 two year olds without carseats so a resort stay was the best option for us.
Another great Resort perk is the Disney Magical Express. If you plan your trip at least 10 days in advance, you can book your Magical Express ride. So what is this magical ride? Simply, it’s a bus that takes you to your resort. So why so magical? Well, when traveling with tiny tots the last thing you probably want to do is deal with a hectic airport, baggage claim, finding transportation to a destination that is at least 45 minutes away. So the Magical Express takes care of your checked luggage and delivers it to your room! Holy cow!!!! Talk about making things convenient! Well done, Disney. You get my mommy stress and took care of it. Oh and if that’s not magical enough, there are TV’s on the bus that show short cartoons, trivia questions and helpful informational videos to make your trip more enjoyable.
Start My Disney Experience. Com
A few weeks before my trip, I went to startmydisneyexperience.com and created a username. I was able to link my hotel reservation, my park tickets and customize my band.
Wait, hold up…what band? Well, Disney has kinda done away with traditional tickets (if you order your free band). So basically, your band is the key that opens all doors at Disney (well all doors you’ve paid for). On the website, you are able to customize your color and even add your name. A few days later, the bands arrive in a super cool “Incredibles” box.
It was like Christmas in July opening it! The bands (if linked through the website) will open your resort hotel door, gain you access to the parks, and let you skip lines with the Fastpass (more on that later!) Through the website, you can make additional purchases or reservations. For example, you can make dining reservations. Unless you plan to eat fast food at the parks at all times, I would highly recommend making dining reservations in advance.
Packing for Disney
This is the part that most worried me. I didn’t’ travel with my carseat so I needed to be sure to pack all things needed because a trip to the nearest Target was not really an option. I divided my packing list into two categories: carry-on and checked.
• Crayon/Coloring book
• Small Toys
• Lollipops (to help with the ear pressure in the plane)
• Sippy cup
*We arrived late in the evening. If you use the Magical Express luggage delivery, it can take up to 3 hours for delivery. So be sure to pack anything you may need for immediate use.
• Shorts (Mom/Kid)
• Shirts (M/K)
• Socks (M/K)
• Water Spray Bottle
• Comfy Travel Clothes for return flight
**I went to Party City and bought a handful of Disney themed goodies to use as souvenirs. Theme parks are ridiculously overpriced and it saved a few bucks buying cups, crowns, bubbles and key chains locally. I also bought glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces at the dollar store so the kids could wear at night during the parade of lights and firework shows.
To ensure I didn’t forget anything, I packed by outfit for my daughter. I placed the shorts on the bed first, then the shirt on top of the shorts and then topped it off with the socks and basically made a clothes sandwich.
I then rolled it into an “outfit burrito”. I placed each clothes roll in a gallon size Ziploc baggie. I fit 3 outfits per bag. This helped ensure I was packing complete outfits and helped keep my suitcase in order. For the littles, I would recommend packing two outfits per day. Sure there could be a spill or accident but I recommend it mostly because of the SWEAT! Oh-Em-Geezy, I have never sweat so much. We were pretty much soaked in our own sweat by midday so I think overpacking is probably best for Disney.
Fastpass is a really cool feature offered by Disney parks that I highly, highly, highly super highly recommend. It amazed me how many people did not take advantage of this free perk. Each Disney park guest is given three fastpasses per day. That means, you are able to make a reservation time for rides, shows or meet and greets. Lines at the park were insane! I spoke to a park employee and was told that the longest wait time they ever saw was 4 hours! Can you imagine, spending four hours for a 30 second ride?!? With a fastpass, you can bypass the line and go straight to the front…it’s glorious! There are Fastpass kiosks throughout the park that you can use or you can download the Disney app to your phone and do it on the go. Plus, the app will provide you will real time wait times for rides.
The best thing about Fastpasses is that you aren’t tied down to your schedule. For example, if you are in a show and miss your window for your reservation, no problem! You aren’t penalized for missing it. You can just make an adjustment to your existing Fastpass for a different time or even different event. The only caveat about Fastpasses, is that you can only make your reservations for one park per day. Another tip: If you use all your fastpasses, you can go to a kiosk and add an additional fastpass…but those additional ones can only be added one at a time. But seriously, use your fastpasses…just look at the face below! That’s a non-grumpy face because we are on an awesome ride without having to wait in a long line.
Disney prep is no joke. I spent weeks trying to learn as much as I could about the parks. This was our big trip of the year, so I wanted to know as much as I could to help provide my little one with an experience of a lifetime. Of course, there was a ton of information I learned while there…but it really did help me to get an idea of what to expect. Last but not least, just enjoy yourself. I personally like to plan things ahead of time, but you can go on the fly and still have an amazing trip. Hope this information is helpful as you prepare to visit the happiest place on Earth.