Itinerary & 11 Tips for Survival
We recently took the kids to Disney World to celebrate Eloise’s 4th birthday! This is only our second trip to Disney World as Bryan and I both grew up going to Disneyland in Southern California. We quickly learned that Disney World is enormous, and takes a lot more planning than the California version! Below are some tips and tricks that helped us navigate the parks as well as some of our favorite rides and food spots in each park. If you missed our original Disney World post, you can read that HERE.
For reference, Eloise is 4 and Henry is almost 1. We decided to do 4 park days & we stayed at the Grand Floridian hotel:
Monday: Magic Kingdom
Tuesday: Hollywood Studios
Wednesday: Animal Kingdom
Thursday: Magic Kingdom
This itinerary worked well, but we did discuss that in the future we may add a “break day” after two park days. Especially if you’re staying at a resort with a nice pool and the weather is good. Next trip: Park, park, pool/rest day, park, park. Disney is amazing, but we were tired after a couple of days. It pays to be at the parks early, and if you go all day for 2 days, by day 3 we were ready to sleep in a bit and not have to worry about getting anywhere fast.
We do two days here because it’s where most of Eloise’s favorites are: Fantasyland. She loves It’s a Small World, Peter Pan, Little Mermaid, Dumbo, the Tea Cups, and the Carousel. She also really likes Aladdin, Pirates, and the Jungle Cruise.
Food spots here we love: Dole Whip – my absolute favorite! It’s over by Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride (can also get at the Polynesian Hotel – take the monorail). Make sure you use mobile order at the park. If you order after noon, it’ll take a while! Be our Guest (Beast’s castle) – yes, a bit on the pricier side, but we have eaten here twice and love it. (make reservations ahead of time!). The food is very good, Eloise spends the entire meal looking around at all of the decorations and waves reluctantly to the beast every time he appears, and yes – they do serve booze. It’s a good spot to take a break. Food is a little heavier, so either a big lunch or a good dinner option. We also ate at Liberty Tree Tavern before the fireworks and had a lot of fun. It’s loud, great for kids and has a family style menu. If you don’t mind not being in front of the castle for fireworks, you can step right outside this restaurant and you’ll have an awesome view!
picture above: Eloise painting her dessert at the Be Our Guest castle. She loved this part!
Henry’s Mickey hoodie seen above is linked HERE
Just one day for us here, and that seemed to work well. There’s really only a handful that Eloise really enjoys, but I think as she gets older we’ll spend more time here. She loves Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (we love it too), Toy Story Land, and the Disney Jr Dance party. We are not big Star Wars fans, but enjoy walking through that part of the park – it’s incredible. Bryan and I both love the tower of terror!
Food spots here we love: ABC commissary has worked well for us a couple of times. They have lots to choose from and are a good/fast sit down option in the middle of the park. There are several restaurants towards the end of main street that we’ve gotten a quick bite at. Make sure you mobile order via the app!
We had never been here before and had one of our favorite Disney Days ever here! The safari is SO much fun and really cool. We went 3 times (use Genie+ if possible)! We spent most of our time in the Africa section of the park and had some amazing food at Tusker House – highly recommend making a reservation early here.
A bug’s life was a little scarier than anticipated. Eloise survived but was very much attached to Bryan throughout. Henry made it about 2 minutes before losing it. Bryan says the Avatar Ride was incredible, but if you have any kind of motion sickness, you probably won’t enjoy it. We walked over towards Expedition Everest, but it was closed. Just beyond that is a really fun outdoor arcade/carnival at Dinoland that Eloise had a blast at!
Food spots here we love: We had reservations at Tusker House and had an incredible meal here. Food is family style, full bar, kids loved it! Characters come out and dance, take pictures every 10 minutes or so. We highly recommend it! For a less formal option, head to Harambe market. They have covered tables and lots of different food.
**Additional Food Spot: Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort. We had breakfast here after tons of recommendations from you all. The food was very good, but the characters come around every 10 or 15 minutes and our kids had a blast! Definitely need a reservation ahead of time, but totally worth it!
11 Tips and Tricks to Navigate the Parks
***We are not Disney Experts. This was only our second trip here, but these 11 definitely helped us out.
- My Disney Experience App – Download this before you go. Make sure your magic bands are connected. You can use this app to order food, get you into your hotel room, chat with Disney if you have questions, check wait times for rides, look at a map, etc. You need this app, it would be hard to do Disney without it.
- Genie+ – This is a daily add on to the app. It’s $15, per day, per ticket. Once you get the hang of how to use this, it’s worth it in our opinion. This is the new “fast pass”. You can book a time window to get into a “lightning lane” and skip lines. The general idea is to book a ride with the Genie, then go wait in line for another. By the time you’re done waiting in line, hopefully it’s time to get into your lightning lane. Once we got the hang of this, it saved us a ton of time and we got on several more rides. Note: you can make your first reservation at 7 AM each day. If you have bigger kids, book the bigger rides first as the lines only seem to get longer as the day goes.
- Have a Plan – Our ‘strategy’ both days at Magic Kingdom was to get there when the doors opened and head straight to Fantasy Land. It gets busy quickly, but in that first couple of hours (especially with Genie+) we got in 7 or 8 rides.
- Plan Part 2 – When you’re mapping out Genie+ and deciding what rides you want to do, try to keep to 1 section of the park at a time. If you are walking from Fantasy Land to Frontier Land and back again, you’re wasting time. It was really busy on Monday in Magic Kingdom and we made this mistake in the afternoon. There are only so many hours in the day, and you’ll spend a few of them in line, so plan accordingly.
- Check with your hotel (or via the app) daily for opening times – If you stay at a Disney resort, there are early opening times available (8:30 most days). I have also seen in a couple of different places that it seems like they open the gates a few minutes ahead of that. 8:30 worked great for us.
- Measure your stroller ahead of time – Disney has a policy on how big your stroller or wagon can be. We took the Uppa Baby double stroller on this trip and LOVED it! Perfect for both kids to take naps in, great storage & very easy to push!
- Know ahead of time that unless your child is sleeping in the stroller, you cannot take your stroller into restaurants – So you’re either trying to time meals around nap time or put your baby into a high chair.
- Mobile Order your food via the app – When you’re around meal times, you have to do this early. If you want to eat lunch at 12:30 or 1:00, I recommend logging on almost an hour before to check and see what the wait time is. Again we didn’t know this on Monday and went to place an order around 12:30 for lunch. I believe the next available window was almost an hour later.
- Make Reservations for sit down meals – In a perfect world, you do this when you book your trip as there will be more availability. We didn’t know this and had zero reservations prior to landing in Orlando. People told us there was no way you would get reservations last minute. Well, people do cancel or reschedule and if you periodically refresh your app, new availability will pop up from time to time. We were able to get reservations and eat everywhere we wanted to, but you absolutely need reservations at places like Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort), Tusker House (Animal Kingdom), and Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom).
- If you have smaller kids, and are planning on spending at least a day at Magic Kingdom, definitely consider staying at one of the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, or Polynesian Resorts as they are connected to the monorail – There is a train station at each hotel and they’ll drop you off at the front gate of the hotel. Our review of the Grand Floridian will be up on the blog shortly!
- Every single park has a baby care center – We didn’t know this but if you run out of wipes, diapers or all of a sudden need some Tylenol for a teething baby, the baby care center has is ALL. Like I was shocked! Tons of changing tables, a section for your toddler to watch a Disney movie or color while you feed your littlest baby, etc. An awesome spot that I feel like not a lot of people know about! (the picture below is Eloise coloring at the baby care center while I changed Henry’s diaper!)
Other cute kid’s matching clothes that we brought on the trip linked below:
Like I said, we are in no way Disney World experts but I hope this post helps you at least a little bit! If you are Disney bound, remember to slow down and enjoy it. Make the memories and enjoy the magic!