Taking a trip to Disney World is supposed to be a dream vacation where you can leave all your stress and worries behind, right? Well, that’s how the commercials and social media posts make it look. However, a Disney vacation can be extremely stressful and overwhelming for a lot of families. If you’re going with a large family, you’ll have to plan around everybody.

walt disney world.” by Diana Kelly is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Maybe Grandma Joan refuses to go on any rides, Aunt Rebecca is a vegetarian, Cousin Tyrone is a penny-pincher and Little Ray Ray hates waiting in lines. It can be frustrating when things don’t go perfectly right at Disney World. These Disney World tips and tricks can help families be more prepared for the trip and get the most out of your time and money.

Map It Out

Mapping your trip out is meant quite literally – look at a map. This tip is especially helpful for first-time visitors, but regular visitors can benefit from it, too. The Disney parks are huge, and it’s very easy to get lost if you don’t know your way around. Be sure to familiarize yourself with each park you’ll be visiting as much you can. Understand the different areas, pathways and base locations like Cinderella’s Castle or Tree of Life.

If you can at least know where general areas are related to the famous icons in the park, you’ll save so much time. A lot of your trip can be wasted on wandering around the parks looking for a specific attraction or restaurant. Of course, don’t be afraid to ask a cast member if you do get lost.

Another important tip for planning is to map out your must-dos. Be sure to communicate with other family members on their priorities while visiting the parks. Know which rides are scary for children, which restaurants are within your price range and what shows you all really want to see. Being able to narrow down exactly what the group wants out of this vacation is key in making it memorable.

For example, it’s never a good idea to force a child that’s terrified of roller coasters to ride one – especially by tricking them into thinking it’s a kiddie ride. Be sure to get a general idea of what each park has to offer and come up with a plan of how you’ll include the entire family in the must-dos without making anyone upset.

Smart Phone = Smart Choice

Having a phone during your trip is one of the most important things to pack. You might be thinking you’ll be so busy having fun that you won’t even check your phone. Your phone will be used more often than you think. A very important tip for using your phone is to download the My Disney Experience app. This app will make your Disney vacation so much easier. It’s helpful to connect your app with your magic bands and Disney resort if you’re staying on property. Try to make your Fastpass+ selections and dining reservations as early as possible.

Here are some features of the My Disney Experience app:

  • View wait times for attractions
  • Make dining reservations
  • View photos
  • Find show times
  • Check the map
  • Create Fastpass+ selections

There are many other ways you’ll use your phone while at the parks. You’ll want to take advantage of the great photo opportunities. If your group splits up for any reason, it’s important to be able to regroup quickly. Also, there are some apps available that can make waiting in line more bearable for the family. There are many fun games that you can download on your phone to play together while you wait.

With all these different uses for your phone, the battery will run out quickly. It’s very important to bring a portable phone charger because outlets are hard to find and inconvenient. Thankfully, Disney understands the importance for having a charged cell phone. There are portable charger kiosks in each park that dispense a phone charger for a price the first time and a free replacement each time after.

Don’t Take A Rain Check

Florida weather is unpredictable, and there’s a chance that it could rain at least once during your trip. It’s very common for visitors to leave the parks when it starts raining. Don’t do this! If your plan was to spend the entire day having fun in the parks, don’t let the weather change that. Disney is very expensive, and even a Florida thunder storm shouldn’t have to make or break your trip. You should bring umbrellas or ponchos every day, even if the chance of rain is small. The weather can change quickly, and it’s best to be prepared.

If it does start raining during your trip, most of the rides will still be running. Throw on a poncho or rain jacket and continue having fun. If it storms, find somewhere indoors that you can spend a long time at to wait it out. Stand in a long line for an indoor ride, go shopping in a large store or eat at a nearby restaurant.

The storm will likely pass quickly, and you can continue your day. If the entire day is filled with passing storms, take advantage of the visitors leaving the park because of weather. Lines for attractions will likely be shorter and reservations at popular restaurants could open. Despite any gloomy weather, Disney will resume regular operations as much as possible to give you the magical vacation you paid for. There’s even a special parade in Magic Kingdom for rainy days!

Create a Reasonable Budget

The memories of a Disney vacation will be priceless, but that’s about the only thing you’ll get for free. It’s important to understand that everything in the parks will be expensive and overpriced. There’s no way to avoid spending money here. You should prioritize how much you want to spend on the experience.

If you are visiting with small children, maybe you’ll want to spend a lot money on souvenirs and toys. Vacationing with a large family group might mean spending much of the budget on a resort or hotel. Prioritize what aspects of the trip you want to spend the most money on.

If you need to have a strict limit, invest in a Disney gift card. Disney gift cards allow you to spend money on several products and experiences throughout the parks. Just load a specific amount of money onto it, and it’ll make it much easier to stick to your budget. These cards can be used for dining, merchandise and even purchasing tickets to the parks. This is a great way to restrict yourself from overspending at a place that makes it so easy to.

Location, Location, Location

When it comes down to planning where to stay during your vacation, it might be helpful to stay in a Disney resort. There are many benefits of staying on property that could give your trip a little extra magic. Besides the amenities the resorts offer, it can be nice to stay in the Disney “bubble.”

Staying in a themed resort is fun and continues the nostalgic and welcoming atmosphere that the parks provide. This allows you to stay in a constant family-friendly environment filled with Disney magic. It’s a great idea to stay on property if your family wants to spend some time relaxing at the resort. Look at the list of the Disney resorts to find which one would be the best for your family

Also, the resorts provide convenient transportation to and from the parks. This can be helpful for families looking to avoid losing time and energy by driving around. Depending on where you stay, each resort offers different forms of transportation. Every resort offers bus transportation. Some have boats that take you to specific parks through connecting waterways. Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort provide transportation by the monorail to Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

Pack a Lunch

Visiting the parks with a family means spending a lot of money on food. Everyone has their own taste and appetite, so it can be hard to accommodate everyone without spending too much. A great way to decrease this spending is by packing food. It might be annoying to carry around a bag of food, but it can save a lot of money.

Disney World does allow food to be brought in, but you must be practical with it. Don’t bring food that can melt, has to be heated up or makes a mess. Stick with things like granola bars, sandwiches, or fruit. This is especially helpful for any members of the family that have allergies or special food restrictions. Cast members will accommodate any guests with allergies or restrictions, but sometimes it’s easier to have fast access to food.

There’s an overwhelming number of restaurants in the parks, and it can be hard to avoid eating at them when the food looks and smells so good. Figure out how many meals you want to get in the parks. Eating at Disney World can be extremely expensive, so munch on several snacks throughout the day to curb your appetite. If you do decide to eat at a restaurant, order from the kids’ menu for those picky eaters in the family or those with a small appetite. Kids’ meals are much cheaper and come in smaller portions. Water is free at all dining locations, so be sure to get a water instead of soft drink if you’re trying to save some money.

Make Time for Downtime

There are so many attractions, shows and characters to see during a Disney vacation. It’s easy to get in the mindset of having to constantly go from one place to the next. However, this isn’t the best plan for elderly or young members of the family. Walking around in the sun all day can make most people tired, and it’s important to realize that.

It might seem like a waste of precious time to sit on a bench or head back to the resort for a nap, but sometimes it’s needed. The last thing you want from your family vacation is for people to be cranky, tired and crying. Some of the best memories can be made with an ice cream cone in hand and sitting on a bench with each other.

It’s very likely that your family will want to split up and do different things. That’s perfectly fine. Don’t force older children to ride Winnie the Pooh with the young children if they really want to go on Space Mountain. It’s not fair to focus on the interests of one age group when Disney World has so much to offer for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to split up a large family group for certain rides or shows. If quality family time with each member of the family is important to you, make plans to regroup for a specific attraction that everyone can ride or to a fun dining reservation.

Wear Some Matching Shirts

Yes, this might seem cheesy and cliché, but it has some benefits. For example, it makes for great pictures. Taking photos in Disney World is a great way to remember your family trip. Matching shirts make these photos more personable and adorable. Add the year to the shirts if your family takes an annual Disney vacation.

Then, you’ll be able to remember specifics of that trip and the memories you made that year. It can be fun to customize the shirts based on your family’s favorite movies, characters or other Disney themes. There are so many possibilities of what you could put on the shirts, so be sure to have some fun with it!

Another benefit of the shirts is to stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t mean you have to buy a neon orange shirt. Anyone that’s been to Disney World before knows how crowded it can get. If every member of the family wears the same colored shirt, it becomes much easier to narrow down the swarms of people.

Wearing matching colored shirts is convenient for very large families that might split up or walk at different paces. It’s especially great for young children who might wander off easily.

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