20 Disney World Tips for Moms

Having been to Disney World a few times now, I learned a few things from our trips that I thought I would pass along to you. The photos in this post are ones I took from our Disney trip, go here to see more photos from our trip. These life saving tips will make your Disney trip more enjoyable…

  • Purchase autograph books outside of Disney. Local Orlando CVS, Walgreens, Target or Walmart. Any of those types of store will have Disney notebooks and autograph books for about $4 rather than the $11 at Disney. Plus they will have more pages for autographs. Disney books have 20 pages and some even less because some pages are for photos. Each character takes up a page when they autograph. The Disney books do come with a matching Disney pen.
  • Along with the autograph books, bring your own pens. The parks sell them, but a bit pricy for pens too. I found Disney princess pens at Target, $1 for a pack of 5 lanyard pens. But I also found Disney princess pens at my local Dollar General stores – a pack of 4 four $1.
  • Pack snacks for the kids. You can bring food into the parks, just no glassware. They do search your bags and bag pockets at each park. Bring plenty of snacks for the children (especially if they are little) so you don’t spend all of your budget on snacks and food.
  • Definitely do the fast pass. You don’t want to wait in line more than 30 minutes for a ride. That is wasting your time, unless you are there during super busy days such as holidays. The fast pass is free and cuts your waiting time to 15 minutes or less. However, the fast pass is only offered to those who are staying at the Disney resorts. To get a fast pass, you use your park tickets and go to the fast pass kiosk at certain popular rides. The park maps will let you know which rides have fast passes. The kiosk will give you one fast pass ticket per park ticket with a time slot to come back. If you don’t make it back during that time, you can still use it later in that day. However, you can’t use it before the time noted. And at the bottom of the pass shows you a time when you can pick up another fast pass at another ride. What we did was Nathan would go with the kids to wait in line for a ride that didn’t offer fast pass and I would take all our park tickets to get fast passes for everyone at one of the popular rides. Then meet back up with them. The last time we were there, they were testing a new fast pass system where you can sign up for passes online. 
  • Bring things to entertain kids while waiting in line. The hardest time we had with our kids was while we were waiting in line for rides, shows or characters. They had nothing to do, which means the perfect time to act up. We kept them entertained using our smart phones… games and videos. You can also do small travel size games, sing songs, bring travel size books and lots of snacks.
  • Certain little kids rides do not have fast passes and do have long lines. Rides such as Aladdin’s Magic Carpet, Mad Tea Party and TriceraTop Spin. Only because those types of rides don’t have every efficient ways of getting people through the lines.
  • Ask an employee when characters will arrive. If meeting characters is important to you and your children, then you don’t want to wander around the park hoping to bump into them. Popular characters are in multiple parks, some princesses, Mickey and Minnie and Toy Story characters. In the times guide (separate from the park maps) it gives you a general idea where the characters will be and when. It is best to go to the information desk (but there’s usually a long line there) or any street employees to radio in and ask when a specific character will arrive at their meet and greet location. Character meet locations are indicated in the park maps.
  • Epcot is a great place to meet characters. They don’t have all the characters, but quite a few of the important ones and the lines are much shorter because it is not as saturated with children as the other parks. Characters at Epcot are Belle and the Beast, Jasmine and Aladdin, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Mulan, Snow White, Mickey and friends, Chip and Dale, Marry Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and friends and more. If you want to meet all 9 Disney princesses (like we did), you can find Mulan only at Epcot, Pocahontas only at Animal Kingdom and Tiana (Princess and the Frog) at Magic Kingdom.
  • Buy water. Many people complain about the water in Florida tasting disgusting. It smells and tastes like sea water to me. You can drink it but people don’t prefer the taste, even at the water fountains in the park. What we did was stop by the local Winn-Dixie or Target and purchased 2 1/2 gallons of drinking water for about $3. Each time we are in our hotel room, we filled up our reusable water bottles with it.
  • Get there early. It gets busy around lunch time. In the mornings, one person would grab the fast passes while the other took the kids to the popular rides without fast passes (Mad Tea Party, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet) and meet characters. Those had the longest wait.
  • Look for the photographers, if you are concerned about photos from your trip. I had my camera with me and took plenty of pictures. But when I got home, I realized there were only a handful pictures of me on the trip. Being the family photographer, I don’t get in pictures very often. And when I went through my pictures, I realized some of them didn’t turn out as well. Luckily we had the Disney photographer take photos of us just in case. They load it onto a Disney Photopass and you can view the photos they took at the entrances of the parks or online. They photographers are pretty much anywhere that’s a good photo op (entrances, main landmarks and with characters). We ended up having the Disney photographers take over 100 photos of our family on our trip. And they captured moments that I wasn’t able to get. Here’s the best part, they will take photos of your family with your camera too.
  • Not a bad seat in the house for shows. That is as long as your kids aren’t sitting behind a tall person. Other than that, most theaters and stadiums for shows have great stadium seating so everyone can see. So don’t worry about waiting in line 1 1/2 hours early for a good seat in a show, unless you want to sit on the front row.
  • Do get early to the parades and fireworks. You will see Disney employees marking the roads and sidewalks with tape as to where people can stand during parades. Get there early to get a good spot. Or else you will be carrying your kids on your shoulders. The floats are elevated, but some of the characters and dancers are walking and shake hands with some children closest to the front. Another trick is to go toward the end of the parade route. The parade gets to you last, but the crowd is usually not as bad as on Main Street. If you want to attend Fantasia fireworks show at Hollywood Studios, they have limited seating. You have to get there early to wait in line to get in. Some nights they do two shows. However, a sure way to get a seating in the show without waiting in the long lines is to get the Fantasmic! dining package at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. Really good Italian food and you get tickets to the Fantasmic! show, guarantee seating and just show up half hour before rather than waiting in line for over an hour. The Fantasmic! dining package doesn’t cost anything extra than your meal. 
  • If you have a car, it was faster/easier to drive to the parks than to wait for the Disney bus system to take you to the parks (sometimes). The bus system is free to those staying at Disney resorts. Sometimes you have to transfer buses because it doesn’t take you directly to the park. And to ride the bus, you will need to fold up strollers such. The bus does drop you off at the front of the park (except Magic Kingdom where you still have to take the ferry or the monorail). It was easier for us to drive to the parks that were about 5 minutes away. We had free parking because we were staying on their resorts. We could leave and come back anytime we wanted to the same park the rest of the day. And the parking lots had trams that picked up and dropped off pretty frequently.
  • Remember where you parked. The parking lots are gigantic. They named sections of the parking lots and give each row a number to help you identify where you parked. But you have to remember it. Take a picture with your phone if you have to. You don’t want to walk down each aisle clicking your car alarm. We had to do that once and it wasn’t fun in the hot heat with kids anxious waiting to go back to the hotel. By the way, we weren’t the only ones who forgot where we parked. Each day you can see people wandering the parking lot looking for their car.
  • Know your budget and be aware of the 12 percent tax. Oh yeah. At the Disney World parks they have county tax plus resort tax that comes out to be 12 or 12.5 percent depending on which part of Disney you are in (Disney World is actually in two counties). You will find plenty of things to spend money on at Disney parks. At the parks, people mostly spend money on food and souvenirs. But mostly food, which are actually pretty reasonably priced. We have discovered that the toys and most souvenirs are priced as if you would get it at Target at home. The expensive souvenirs are the hats and some of the Disney Park only merchandises. It’s the tax that gets you. So if you really want to do it cheap, bring your own food. Or the meal plans worked out great for us. The Disney meal plans are only offered to those who purchase a Disney vacation package (hotel and park passes). You will get more than enough food at each meal with any of the meal plans. 
  • Make reservations early. Being Disney World newbies we didn’t realize how serious making reservations was. For character meals and the pirate or princess makeovers you have to book your reservations exactly 180 days in advance for a chance to get the time and location you want. You cannot make reservations more than 180 days in advance. A month and half prior to our vacation we tried to make a breakfast reservation with the princesses at Cinderella’s castle. Ha! No way. They were all booked except one cancelation for dinner at 9:50 p.m. on a Thursday night. Who eats dinner that late?! And since Disney started the dinning plans, you have to make reservations at any and all the nicer restaurants to eat there. So plan ahead.
  • Bring your own stroller. You will need it if you have little kids because on average we walked about 5-6 miles a day per park. To rent strollers from Disney is outrageous. $100 refundable deposit and $15 per day for single or $31 for double strollers. Slight discount when you rent multiple days. Still. We were there 6 days and it would have costed us $162. Could have bought a brand new stroller with that price. And the stroller straps are awesome. We strapped shopping bags, water bottles, diaper bags and my purse to the stroller handles. Made it easier for me to walk the 5-6 miles around the park in the heat. Also, the stroller was nice because our little Elle tends to run off, so strapping her in a stroller prevented her from getting lost. 
  • Bring your own ponchos. I’ve heard it rains every so often in Orlando. But it’s not a torrential down pour, usually rains on and off throughout a day. We were prepared for the rain with ponchos and umbrellas. The parks doesn’t close when the rain comes down, only where there is thunder and lightning. And if it’s only raining, it’s actually the perfect time to go because the lines are shortest. But bring your own ponchos because Disney sells theirs for $8 at the parks.
  • Take it at your own pace. Don’t go faster or do more than you or the kids can handle. There’s a lot to do at Disney World and you won’t get to them all. That’s why people keep coming back. So pick out the attractions you and the family would really like to do and keep it to just a handful of rides. The parks also have fun recreation areas for toddlers with slides and such. That was great for allowing our kids to let loose after a day of waiting in lines. Also, each day we took the afternoon off and spent it resting at the hotel. Then went back to the parks in the evenings for dinner and night attractions. It was nice for us to stay at a Disney resort because it was close to the parks and it wasn’t a hassle for us to go back to the hotel for Elle’s nap time. If your have older kids who can go all day, then it probably doesn’t matter to you how close your hotel is to the parks.

» Tell me… What are your tips for vacationing at Disney World?

46 Responses to “20 Disney World Tips for Moms”

  • Diane

    Awesome tips everyone! Thanks! We are taking our 5.5 year olds twins this Hune, can’t wait!!!
    We are staying at the Fountains, a timeshare resort. Anyone stay there before? We are renting a car, do the parks charge to park? They shouldn’t, we already paid and arm and leg to get in! I’m super exited, we will surprise them and tell them early June and start a countdown chain. I bought tons of Disney shirts at local stores for $10 or less. Can’t wait!

    Reply
    • anna banana

      If you stay on-site parking is free. I recently visited and didn’t stay in a Disney Resort. Parking is pretty cheap. We paid about $14 for the whole day–they don’t charge hourly, you just pay for the day.

  • anna banana

    I’m not a mom, but when I was a kid, we used to split up our day. We would get to the parks before they opened–that’s a great way to avoid some of the crowds! We would tour the parks in the morning and then go back to our hotel room for a nap/snack/pool time. The parks are always really crowded at midday and especially in the summer it gets very, very hot at that time of day. As a kid I always enjoyed the break (and I’m sure my parents did too because then I wasn’t cranky or overtired). Then after about 3 we would go back to the parks and usually do dinner and/or see the evening parades and fireworks shows there. If you stay on-site this is really easy to do and I would really recommend it, especially for families with younger children. It definitely shortens the day and you avoid some of the more miserable noon-hours.

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  • Kandy

    Love these Tips. Echoing what someone said about us being a right handed society – start on the left side of the park. Most people turn into tomorrow land, staying right, like car traffic.. We go to frontier land first (left turn after Main Street. We love to come in the front gate and get on the train and head to the back.

    There are splash pads for young ones. Disney sells boy bathing suits but not girl bathing suits (or so I have found). I think they don’t want girls in bathing suits.

    Don’t miss the dole whip (in liberty?)

    I pick my disney resort on bed size – I ask if they have queen size beds because double beds won’t do!!!!!

    At the transportation center I think the boat is faster than the monorail. Take the monorail at low traffic times. Take the boat at peak times.

    Do the people mover!!! Great chance to sit, relax and cool off.

    Cell service is not that great in the magic kingdom.

    Remember, it’s the happiest place on earth. Don’t stress your family by thinking it has to be perfect. Just enjoy the time u have together!!

    Reply
  • Sara

    If you aren’t planning on taking your own snacks and purchasing things from the park I suggest taking ziplock baggies with you, that way if your child can’ t finish a cookie,piece of fruit/ other snacks you can store it until later instead of throwing it out.

    Reply
  • Patty

    There are also outside companies that rent scooters as well for those that have grandparents or someone who can’t do all the walking in the parks. The cost for scooter rentals in the parks last I saw were close to $75.00 per day. You can get them delivered to your resort room for the same price for a WEEK.

    Reply
  • Danielle

    My hubby has worked for Disney for over 25 years so, luckily, we know lots of Disney tips and tricks. The one listed in the article, as well as some in the comments, are wonderful and right on target! However, there is one thing I’d like to add. Three of the parks offer a little something special that kids of ALL ages can do – for FREE – that will take you into parts of the parks that many usually don’t go or notice. Each park is different and offers different things so I’ll go park by park.

    MAGIC KINGDOM: “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” – This is an interactive role-playing game where you are given ‘Spell Cards’ that will help you unlock Magic Portals around the park to help Merlin defeat various Disney villains.
    The great part of this is you can keep the Spell Cards and the ‘Magical Map’ that Merlin gives at the start of your quest. Each portal location is somewhere out-of-the way so you get to see nooks and crannies that most walk right on by. And you can choose to either play the game and see where it leads you or just play when and where you want to.
    The main location to sign up is located at the beginning of Main Street next to City Hall.

    EPCOT: This park actually has two things – KidCot and Agent P.
    Agent P is much like the Sorcerers at MK, but based on the show Phineas & Ferb. You go from country to country helping Agent P defeat Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

    KidCot is especially great for the little ones. A KidCot station is located in each country. At your first country you will get a cardstock picture of either Agent P of Duffy the Disney Bear (on a wooden paint stick) that the kiddos can color. Then, go to each countries station and the attendants will draw a little version of that countries flag on the back of the character or on the stick. In China and Japan, they will also write the child’s name out in their native alphabet.
    It’s a great way for kids to learn a little about each country and meet people that are actually from the country too!

    ANIMAL KINGDOM: AK has something similar to EPCOT’s KidCot, but more focused on nature and animals. It is called Discovery Club (although they might have recently changed the name) There are six locations throughout the park (Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Dinoland USA, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia, and Africa) were kids can participate in activities geared toward that location. For example, in Dinoland USA, kids dig for dino fossils and then help identify what dinos they found. When you go to the first location, kids will receive a Passport in which they will get a stamp from each location. When they get all 6 stamps, they will get a mystery surprise.

    As of now, Hollywood Studios doesn’t have anything such as what I listed above. However, they do have a lot of character meet-and-greets with some characters that are only there, such as Phineas & Ferb, Lightning McQueen & Tow Mater, Star Wars characters, Disney Jr. characters, and more.

    Hope this gives you guys some more great ideas and helps you be able to see the parks in a new light (even those of us who have been more times that should be allowed LOL)

    Reply
  • Erika

    Hi.. so im going for the first time to DW … do you all recommend a 2 day for magic kingdom…

    and also is Universal Studios worth it..

    Reply
    • Tiffany

      what are the ages of your children? i would recommend 2 days at magic kingdom. there’s a lot to do there. and do you mean hollywood studios? hollywood studios have great shows and the buzz lightyear ride that is really fun. my girls loved it.

  • Robin

    I buy glow necklaces and wands from our local dollar store and bring them with us for those nighttime parades. They sell all sorts of light up gear before those parades and it can be pricey!

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  • Sandra

    Don’t forget large zip lock bags to store your wet ponchos in after it rains. Nothing worse than stuffing your wet poncho into your backpack when it stops raining. Also think about packing a small umbrella in your backpack for wet weather. The ziplock bags will come in handy for the small umbrella too! I was surprised at how many people were in awe of my idea of the bags and said “why didn’t I think of that?”

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  • Camille

    We”ve been 8 times. My twin girls are now 17 and still want to go back! Birthday kids can ride with the conductor on the monorail. We love Splash Mntn, so we wear two piece bathing suits under our clothes and I take plastic grocery bags–no weight to lug around. In line, I put our tee shirts and electronics in the bags. No worries! We also created a Disney guessing game to play in line. Series of questions to guess a Disney character, so, Is it male, female? Animal? Princess? Etc. til you narrow it down and guess. No game pieces to carry. Our fave place for afternoon Magic Kingdom parade is the space by the bathroom “alley” in Frontierland. We get ice cream early, find our spot and if necessary, the bathroom is right there. At night, we choose Main Street in front of the fire station, bathroom behind you, easy to get out of the park. Have fun!

    Reply
  • Orlando Security Detail

    Then the night before we go to the park I let them choose what they think they will need for the day and it all gos into a pocket in my backpack.

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  • Lesley

    The Disney Fastpass is actually free to anyone. I checked the Disney mom panel and it is for everyone that holds a valid disney ticket. Therefore you do not have to stay on a a WDW property to get a Fastpass.

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  • Shannon

    I haven’t been since my 19 year old was 4 years old, but we are going back next month.

    My tip from 14 years ago, if you’ve already gotten rid of your stroller buy a cheap umbrella stroller to take on the trip. My daughter would have never made it without a stroller, and I sure couldn’t have carried a 4 year old around all day.

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  • Nancy

    wait, you said you had to be a guest on property to get fast passes? We are going in May for one day at the Magic Kingdom with 1 day 1 park tickets, does this mean we won’t be able to get fast passes at all?

    Reply
  • Katrin Mayfeld

    I have a recommendation that helps when you go during the hottest months (July/ August). Pack a bandana for everyone! You can wet them at the water fountains and then put it on your head or around your neck. It´s a great way of cooling down (and avoid overheating.

    Another recommendation for people who are on a budget: There is a great Ebook about all kind of ways to save money on your DW vacation. It´s written by a former Disney cast member and they had a TV report about her that you can watch on http://www.disneyworldforless.com – I can really recommend it.

    Reply
  • Carrie

    I just wanted to mention that one of the things you wrote is incorrect.

    FastPasses were never for resort guests only. You can stay off-site and still participate in FastPasses. We purchase park tickets from Maple Leaf Tickets and the tickets have no way of detecting if you’re staying in a Disney resort or not. The only thing you had to be an on-site guest for was early entry (Extra Magic Hours), where you show your room key in addition to your ticket at the gates for them to let you in early. But for FastPasses, anyone and everyone could participate.

    But, now, of course, they have done away with the old paper FastPasses and now you have to use FastPass Plus to book your FastPasses via the app or online in advance, or by waiting in line at a kiosk in the parks. But still, you do not have to be staying on property to do it.

    Reply

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