In just a few days we’re off to Disney World for a winter escape! While the temperatures here have been up and down, I know that Orlando greets me with sunny skies and temps averaging about 20 degrees Celcius next week and that sounds absolutely perfect to me. When planning a Disney Vacation, many parents debate whether to tell the kids ahead of time, or surprise them with a very magical wake-up call the day-of. We have done it both ways, and each has their own perks and pitfalls. This time, we decided to tell the kids about a month ahead of time.
While counting down the days to your magical holiday, there’s several different things you can do together to prepare. Here’s what we’ve been up to this past month!
1) Ensure that your passports and travel documents are in order.
– Check expiry dates on the passport of every member of the family – note that children’s passports have a shorter lifespan and expire before an adult passport typically would. New ePassports have a 5-year expiry for all children under the age of 16 which should help families out greatly!
– If you’ve booked transportation with Disney’s Magical Express, ensure your tickets and baggage tags are accurate and in a safe place (I keep ours with our passports).
– Purchase travel insurance.
– Purchase US cash at the bank ahead of time. If you’re savy, you can keep an eye on the rates. If you’re like me, you watched the Canadian dollar plunge this week faster than Ariel can dive and reluctantly went to the bank arguing with yourself for not going a week earlier.
2) Measure the height of all family members (with shoes on!)
Unlike the local exhibition that travels through your community in the summer months, Disney Cast Members are professionals who care about your family’s well being and will not look the other way because you want your child to go on a ride with you, even through they’re not tall enough. In our experience, Disney has been rigid about height requirements, so to avoid tears at the entrance to the ride it’s best to measure everyone at home.
I like this chart at allears.net that highlights ride height restrictions at Walt Disney World for easy reference and also details things on the ride you should know about with kids (darkness, loud noises, etc.) If you and your spouse would both like to try a ride and the kids are too small, note that both Chev Test Track and Everest have Single Rider Lines. You can also ask the Cast Member at your favorite ride about Rider Switch – where one parent can wait with the kids and switch with the other parent who has just exited the ride, saving you lots of time waiting in line twice over.
3) Have a Family Movie Night – On YouTube
We utilize YouTube to find details on all the Walt Disney World Attractions. Thanks to handy GoPro and other cameras, guests have recorded their experience on the rides, giving viewers a window into what it’s like on an attraction like never before. While kids may think they want to ride Everest, seeing all the twists and turns (and the Yeti!) helps show them what to expert more than standing at the entrance ever will.
4) Utilize Disney MyMagic+
This is the first time we’ll be trying Disney MyMagic+ and so far, I’m really impressed with this new service at Disney. If you’re like me and have your life organized on your smart-phone, the MyDisneyExperience mobile app is going to blow your mind. First, sign up for a MyDisneyExperience account. Then, once your park tickets and hotel reservation have been decided (we have stayed at both The Contemporary Resort and Art of Animation in the past), you can actually link those to your account! Amazing. But it gets better.
Next you can personalize your MagicBands that are basically a virtual assistant on your wrist! All that info in your MyDisneyExperience account is now on your MagicBand, including reservations (including MyFastPass+), a “key” to unlock your hotel room door, PhotoPass experiences and you can even make purchases using the MagicBand that links back to the credit card you have on file with your hotel room. I wish I had a MagicBand for my everyday life at home!
5) Prepare For Your Flight and Hotel Room Stay
While packing, ensure you have all your travel documents of course as mentioned, but also your family survival kit. For the flight(s), remember things like books, tablets, coloring books and snacks. Prepare for delays and ensure you have the snacks in your carry-on to get you through. Once at your hotel, ensure you pack snacks for your room. Canadians can’t bring produce across the borders but you can bring packaged food. We always bring mini-boxes of cereal, plastic spoons, and lunch-box portioned snacks (single serving bags) for our hotel room and park days. Pack a plastic water bottle for all members of the family and fill them up at water fountains in the parks (we also pack water flavoring drops to add to our bottles!)
We let our kid’s teachers know well in advance about their travel. Sometimes teachers send along homework and sometimes – like this trip – they offer their student a travel journal to help make the trip a learning experience as well. Here’s a link to a printable travel journal that’s one page for younger kids, though you can certainly Google “printable travel journal” to find a ton of other options!
I hope our own family’s tips are helpful to you in planning your Disney vacation. We’re off for a week of sunshine and magic in Orlando – follow along on Twitter and Instagram as I’ll be sharing some highlights of our trip along the way!