With March Break fast approaching (and summer just around the corner), many a Canadian family is busy planning a trip south to Florida and Walt Disney World (WDW). The Happiest Place on Earth is a massive, massive place, with four theme parks (the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and EPCOT), two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), Downtown Disney, dozens of hotels and hundreds of restaurants spread across an area the size of two Manhattan islands put together.
It can sometimes be a tiny bit bewildering for first-time visitors—but Canadian Family has been there. Travel editor and resident Disney expert Tim Johnson has consulted with numerous families and has visited WDW himself a total of ten times, collecting some invaluable insights along the way. This is the first of four posts, providing advice and guidance for those heading to Disney (and those hoping to, a few months or a few years down the road).
First up: Ten great Disney tips. Here are the first five.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead (long term). Before you go, make a list of can’t-miss priorities for your family to do and see. The Walt Disney World website offers tons of great information, and, even better, Disney offers a free DVD that allows you to preview attractions and rides, letting you pick and choose what to do, and plan on when to do it.
Tip #2: Plan ahead (short term). Your first stop at Disney should be just inside the park gates to pick up a park map and Times Guide (Disney hotels and even some off-site hotels also offer these at the front desk). Shows, parades and fireworks presentations operate on a slightly different schedule each day, and this guide, presenting a few days at a time, is a great resource for planning out the daily schedule.
Tip #3: Be cool. A trip to WDW involves a large investment of time—and cash—and, for some families, there’s a strong temptation to be overly ambitious, packing too much into each day. But the combination of heat and fatigue can foil the best-laid plans. So allow time each day to take a break, even returning to the hotel pool for a midday siesta, and be realistic about how long to stay at the parks in the evening.
Tip #4: Go deep. When a park opens at the beginning of the day, the rides and attractions near the front gate are typically much busier than those near the back of the park, as families rush willy-nilly to whichever thing they see first. Be smart and head first to the furthest reaches of the park, where things will be far less busy and lineups much shorter, then work your way back toward the front gate.
Tip #5: Cool down. All Disney parks include misting stations and small splash parks, so you may want to throw in some bathing suits and take some time to chill out during the heat of the day.