When planning a family vacation, I love to get advice from other moms that have "been there". So today, I am sharing tips from our recent trip to Disney's Magic Kingdom.
1) Buy your tickets ahead of time. (affiliate link) Even if you are only buying one day tickets, buying your tickets ahead of time will allow you to register your tickets using the My Disney Experience app. Then, before you arrive at the park, you can link your account with anyone you are going with and select your fast passes. If you wait to get your fast passes at one of the kiosks in the park, you may find that many of your choices are no longer available.
To optimize your options, I recommend booking your fast passes at 7am 30 days before your visit. You'll also want to book some of your fast passes for 11am-2pm when the park is most crowded.
Note: If you register your fast passes ahead of time, you will still have the opportunity to make changes later in the day at any of the kiosks in the park. You can read all about the FastPass+ system here.)
Money saving tip: Kids under three don't require a ticket.
2) Buy glow sticks, souvenirs, and rain ponchos outside the park. The kids will love having "something that glows" during the night time parades and shows, and glow sticks are super-cheap at the dollar store.
And if the forecast is calling for rain, rain ponchos can also be purchased inexpensively at the dollar store. They don't take up much space, and you'll be happy when you don't need to pay the inflated park prices.
Also, Disney souvenirs are cheaper outside the park, and if you don't have them with you, you won't have to carry them around all day.
Note: There is one souvenir that I recommend buying at Disney parks -- "pressed pennies". They are a lot of fun, easy to carry, and very inexpensive. Pack some pennies and quarters, and have some fun pressing pennies!
3) Bring a backpack, and fill it with everything you'll need for the day. We always take water bottles (which can be refilled for free throughout the park at fountains or restaurants selling soda), sandwiches, lots of snacks, sunscreen, a camera, and a sweater for when it cools down at night.
4) Dress for the day. Wear a sunhat, sunglasses and comfortable shoes. I also like to wear special "Disney" shirts on my boys. It's fun, it looks cute in pictures, and it lets people know they are part of the same group.
5) Arrive early. It is a time consuming process to get from the Magic Kingdom parking lot to the front gate. Also, at 8:45am there is a train that arrives at the entrance with many of the Disney characters. They put on a little show, and countdown to the park opening. It's really worth seeing! Also, if you arrive early, you can head straight for a popular ride and avoid a big line up.
6) Rent or bring a stroller. Magic Kingdom is huge, and children will get tired. When we were there, we rented a double stroller, and all three of my boys (4, 6, and 8) used it. (It is also useful for carrying stuff and sitting in to watch parades.)
7) Have a plan. You are not going to get everything done in one day, so you should make a plan that incorporates each family member's "must do" ride/activity. You'll also want to use your fast passes for some of these rides/activities. (Don't forget to use the "My Disney Experience" app to check wait times for lines.)
8) Take advantage of rider switch passes. If you have a child that doesn't meet the height requirements for a ride, you can ask a cast member for a rider switch pass. One parent can ride while the other waits, and the they can switch.
9) Don't just focus on the rides. Magic Kingdom has many excellent rides, but a lot of the magic comes from the parades, the light show on the castle, and the fireworks. Arrive at the parades early if you want a good seat. Cast members will be able to give you advice about where you should stand and how early you should arrive.
10) Meet some characters. Meeting (and getting pictures taken with) characters can be magical for kids, but it can take up a lot of time. It is important to prioritize as to which characters you really want to meet. Then, you will want to check the schedule for character meeting spots and times, and you may want to consider using fast passes. Also, if meeting characters is a priority for you, you may want to think about booking a character breakfast, lunch or dinner. We make it a point to meet Mickey Mouse at Town Hall, and it is always a special moment for us. (Note: Don't forget your autograph books!)
Money saving tip: If you are interested in a character meal, you may want to consider choosing a breakfast. It's a much cheaper option, and the kids are often so excited that they aren't that interested in the food anyway!
11) Have Fun! Don't forget that the whole point of the trip to the park is to have fun. So... relax, take lots of pictures, and make memories that will last forever.
What's your best tip for a successful trip to Disney's Magic Kingdom? I can't wait to start planning our next trip!
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
PS (If you are looking for Disney money saving tips, you might want to check this collection from a wonderful group of Disney moms and bloggers.)