found! not lost blog

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver

Disney World: tips for the six-and-under set

We returned from our week-long vacation to Disney World over a week ago, so I’ve been meaning to share a bit from our trip but have been stuck in the “catch-up” game from being away!  I came back to find work piled up as well as a bunch of decisions and phone calls needed to keep our remodeling project moving (more on this later!).  This reminds me of something people always say at work: “The scramble to get things done before going on vacation and then the re-entry upon your return and flooded email inbox almost makes it not worth taking a vacation.”  Oh, really?! No. I don’t think so. Sorry, but that work’s there whether I’m getting hit with it all at once or if its spread slowly and sometimes painfully across an entire week. And an entire week away almost completely unplugged from any work or remodel talk was so, so needed.

So, this was our family’s second visit to Disney World. We went almost exactly two years ago in October 2009, when our girls were just 18 months and four-years-old. Crazy when I think about it. Seeing those poor parents with their infants and toddlers at the park this go ’round made me realize just how exhausting the whole ordeal was. Anyway, the whole reason we went was because or oldest was getting to an age that we thought she’d enjoy the parks and we wanted to try the vacation with our friends who had a daughter who was our oldest’s close friend. We did have a great time, but I was really looking forward to this trip because the girls are now three-and-a-half and almost six years old. HUGE difference.

If you’ve never planned a Disney trip before, be forewarned: it’s not to be entered into lightly! I found that the first time we planned it was the least magical part of the experience. The site is challenging to use, especially when trying to go in and check out pricing for different resorts with and without meal plans, park passes, etc. It never seems to remember your dates or family configuration so you keep re-entering it which is annoying. Also, I quickly realized that apparently if you want to stay at the actual Disney resorts near the parks (vs. Downtown Disney or nearby) you will pay a pretty hefty premium. That said, if you can get past the trip planning logistics and pricing schemes (and definitely use vacation reservation number to call with questions along the way – they can help explain how it all works) the actual vacation IS magical, and so worth the effort and money, if you ask me. Just look at these faces!

This visit we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Resort, it is very close to the Magic Kingdom and a massive resort area which includes great pool areas, several restaurants, and a supervised kids activity area (which we didn’t use, but looked pretty cool). We had a standard room with two queen beds, it even had a little balcony which the kids enjoyed, and from which we could see the woods and the MK fireworks every night! As I said, the amenities and decor are not so deluxe, but the service was good and the room was clean, etc.  We liked this experience much more than the last time when we were at the nearby Cabins at Fort Wilderness.  We chose the cabin because it was the best value for a resort in MK area that actually had a 1 bedroom and kitchenette. This was important to us at the time because of traveling with our toddler. The cabin was OK, but the resort was also further out from the park and we needed to rent a golf cart to get around the sprawling Ft Wilderness resort.

So, I’ve rambled enough, better get down to business – what are the essentials you need to know? What have we done that we’d recommend and that we wouldn’t? In no particular order:

  • Book the Magical Express (FREE option with your Disney resort package, shuttle bus from and to airport) and skip the rental car – save money and if you stay on the resort you really do NOT need or want a car.
  • If staying at the resorts check out the dining plan – for us, it seemed to be a good value. Just as beneficial is the fact you don’t have to exchange a lot of cash, etc. in the parks because you use meal credits from the plan. Only possible downside — part of the meal credits includes a dessert with each adult meal at lunch and dinner. So, some of that “savings” is not real if you’d never have ordered the dessert anyway.
  • On that, I’d also say to maximize the meal plan don’t waste your snack credits on waters and drinks — it seemed to me like it was worth it to just put it on your tab if it was <$3 and use the credit if it was more. On your receipts they typically state how many credits you have left, so if you check half-way in and aren’t burning through them, then forget that $3 guideline! 🙂
  • Speaking of food – RESERVATIONS are important. Because kids run short on patience when they’re tired and hungry from running around in the parks. You can do most of it online now and can always cancel via your mobile phone as long as it’s a few hrs out (if your day is changing direction, etc.)  But, that will guarantee you aren’t having to have fast food every lunch and dinner, you can mix it up. We really liked the Artist’s Point in our hotel, Wilderness Lodge, and have also liked Wolfgang Puck’s and Portobello – both in Downtown Disney.
  • And on reservations… be sure to book out your Princess breakfast, Pirate experience, or Mickey’s BBQ way in advance – they are extra $$ (or double meal points from the plan) but super popular. They are fun and a time saver since you can meet characters there rather than waiting in a lot of lines to meet those same characters. You can book up to 180 days in advance of your desired date.
  • If the kids are young (i.e., six-years-and-under) and your time is limited consider more time in MK and less time at parks like Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. There are more kiddie rides and young-child geared shows, etc.
  • That said, one of the most fun rides for the older 6-8 yr olds is @ Hollywood Studios, Toy Story!
  • At MK – Small World, Pooh ride, carousel, MK train, and Peter Pan ride all went over well. Also, be sure to see a parade or two (they happen constantly there!)
  • Epcot – people have mixed views on this for the little ones, but our kids enjoyed it, and we liked the variety of food there too. If you go, DO get a FASTPASS as soon as you enter the park for the “Soaring” ride. It is the best! Find the Kimpossible stations and get your little one to try out some of the “missions” around the various countries. Our daughter loved it – like a cell phone propelled scavenger hunt. DON’T see Captain EO. It’s Michael Jackson’s video revived, but a little freaky/scary for the kiddos. Our kids also liked the Nemo ride, very gentle and calm.

  • Download a good, free, iPhone app to help figure out lines for rides and shows (like Disney World Wait Times) to help you figure out which rides to go to when, and which ones to run for a FASTPASS for when you enter the park. This may seem obsessive, but its really such a bummer when you’re waiting in a line over 20 minutes with a toddler or even a preschooler. But, it is Disney World, so there will be a few experiences where it is worth it, esp if you’re going during a peak time.
  • Bring wet wipes with, even if you don’t have kids in diapers. In the parks there are always some places your kids are touching that are sticky, dirty, or otherwise causing them to need wet wipes.
  • Oh, that’s my other advice: it really does make a difference in terms of crowds to go off-peak. We felt totally fine with the crowds both times we went in Oct., but have heard different if you attempt one of the holiday breaks. Obviously, not everyone’s comfortable pulling kids out of school, but ours is only in kindergarten and we felt fine about it and had her teacher’s blessing!

I’m sure there are other things that will pop into my head, but think that covers it for now.  For a lot more “expert” mom advice, check out the Moms Panel on WDW site, almost any question you could have they will have a variety of real moms (not WDW employees) with their answers and opinions. Happy planning and remember: dreams can come true! 🙂

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2 comments on “Disney World: tips for the six-and-under set

  1. Wendy Brown
    November 6, 2011

    Loved all your tips Carrie! Was waiting in line at Thunder Mountain as I read off the details to my mom. The Wilderness Lodge rocked esp the firework views at night. Em was in heaven. xo

  2. found not lost
    November 6, 2011

    Hey Wendy! I am so sorry I couldn’t get my act together to job this BEFORE you left and email to you. I’m really glad you liked the resort and had a good time though. Look forward to hearing about it over dinner this wk.

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2011 by in adventures, kids/family and tagged , , , , , , .
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