Planning a Disney World vacation with kids in tow? Visiting theme parks with children can sometimes be like traveling with a herd of wild house cats on vacation; it can be every man for himself. We’ve gathered some words of wisdom for not only surviving the trip but thriving at the House of Mouse.
1. Rent a locker for your stuff
Don’t feel like toting a bag around all day? You can rent key-operated lockers to store your personal items in both the theme and water parks. A $5 refundable deposit is required for each locker key. You must return your locker key no later than one hour after park closing to receive the deposit refund. Use this link for more information. At a maximum of $10, this is not a budget breaker, but that locker may seem like it’s on the other side of the moon when you get to the other side of a park and need something in the bag.
Large Size – 17.5″h x 12″w x 16″ deep, $10/day + key deposit
Small Size – 11″h x 9″w x 16″ deep, $8/day + key deposit
2. Keep a park map for crafts
There are time schedules and park maps found at the resort front desks and park front gates. The maps are colorful, and kids love to look at them when they get home. Use the maps for crafts like creating fridge magnets. These are also great to put in picture frames, and some moms even turn them into drink coasters by gluing map sections onto small ceramic tiles and then coating them with Modge Podge.
3. Grab some free stickers
From the time you check into a Disney resort, there are Cast Members all over who will hand you free stickers. No only are these great for temporary hat and t-shirt decorations, but stickers are also colorful mementos for scrap books. When your child spills a little ice cream on their shirt, guess what you can use to cover it up? A free sticker! This also works for adults with ice cream stains…I should know.
4. Bring a change of clothes
Accidents will happen on vacations. Your kids will get dirty or wet, or dirty while being wet, and chances are pretty high they will need a change of clothes at some point in the day. Put an extra outfit in a Ziploc bag inside your park bag (or store in the above mentioned locker.) Put the dirty clothes back in the Ziplocs, which keeps the remainder of your bag clean.
Ziplocs are great for a variety of reasons on vacation. Use this for more info.:Disney Food Tip #3: Bring Ziplocks In Your Theme Park Bag
5. Everybody needs to stay hydrated
It’s Africa hot in Orlando mid-summer, and what will put your children at risk for dehydration? Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, direct sun, and high humidity without sufficient rest and fluids. Seriously, that has planning a late spring/early fall vacation written all over it. A child’s body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of their overall weight than an adult’s body surface, and this translates into children facing a much greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illness. So keep those fluids going throughout the day.
Adults will also feel better while staying hydrated, and this can keep you in a better mood to handle the stress of your vacation.
6. When Children Get Sick
Kids get sick all the time. So what do you do when someone in your group gets sick on vacation?
Parks – If you begin to feel sick or need medical assistance in the parks, visit one of the First Aid Centers. Nurses are available during normal park operating hours to offer over-the-counter medications, bandages and other quick remedies. First Aid Centers can store medications requiring refrigeration. For your safety, special containers can be provided for disposal of hypodermic needles.
Resorts – Each resort has a map with directions to local drug stores, Wal-marts, etc., if you need to go buy medicine the gift shops don’t sell.
In-room medical services are available at all Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Touch “Front Desk” from your in-room phone for assistance, 24 hours a day. Use this link for more information.
- DOCS (Doctors on Call Service) offers 24-hour-a-day medical service from AMA-certified physicians who practice family medicine. Call 407- 399-3627. doctorsoncallservice.com
- EastCoast Medical Network (407) 648-5252 offers not only house calls to the resorts but will also perform in-room x-rays and IV services. They are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Offsite Urgent Care – Florida Hospital Centra Care Walk-In Urgent Care Centers are open 8:00 AM to midnight, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday. Complimentary transportation is available and many insurance plans are accepted. Call (407) 934-2273 for more info. or use this website for more information.
7. Hand Sanitizer
You can’t always get little hands to a sink to wash up with real soap, and kids touch everything in sight at Disney. Hey, I still touch everything including Pirate ride walls, merchandise, and benches, because I remember touching these items as a child. For adults, it’s the familiarity, and for children, it’s curiosity. Keep small bottles of hand sanitizer with you and when you can’t wash in a real sink, apply liberally and often. For more info.: Packing for a Disney Vacation? Why You Must Bring Hand Sanitizers
8. Pin Trading
Disney Pin Trading is an interactive experience where guests can trade Disney pins with other guests and Cast Members. It’s fun for the whole family but most especially children. While Disney trading pins themselves are not free, actually trading them is. There are Trading Pin boards located in the resorts and gift shops, and Cast Members wear lanyards specifically for trading. You can make up to two pin trades per Cast Member per day.
Visit the Pin Trading store in Disney Springs if you are looking for more ornate and “non-trading” pins to keep forever.
Cast Members wearing green lanyards will only trade with children, which is really a tip for adults as well.
9. Ready for Characters?
Have you ever witnessed a child freak out when meeting Santa? While you may be ready for your child to pose next to the Disney characters, reality doesn’t always work out as planned. Those characters in costumes are tall, and even if they are very familiar to your child from movies or cartoons, they still may get scared when it comes time to actually take the picture.
Let your children take the lead here, which can prevent child and adult tears. These are tips from our readers on getting character autographs: Over 20 Disney Character Autograph Tips from Fans and Parents
10. Where are the Characters?
If your child is looking for a specific character in the park that day, just ask Cast Members where to find them. If you want to make advance plans, which is always a good idea if the child will crumble in a crying heap if they don’t find “their favorite character ever,” then use this list on Intercot.com to see where characters are normally located. Locations can change at any time without any notifications.
11. Get a Button
When you celebrate a special event at Disney, stop by Guest Services or your resort front desk for a free button announcing (essentially advertising) your special event. They call these “buttons” so you don’t get confused with “pins,” which are sold and traded. Buttons are free, and you can get them for first trips to Disney, birthdays, anniversaries, and occasionally special events. Use this link for more information: Why Celebrate with a Birthday Button at Disney World? Let a Cheapskate Princess Tell You!
12. Get on the Correct Bus
A majority of those Disney busses look almost the same, or they look pretty similar, which can be confusing if you are in a rush to make park-opening. Just to make sure before you exchange wasted travel time for valuable rollercoaster riding time to ask the driver where they are headed, because it never hurts to double-check anything.
13. Transportation Trading Cards
Cast Members on the various forms of Disney transportation often have transportation trading cards available if you ask. Sometimes they are out of stock, so if you strike out with one Cast Member, just ask another.
14. Travel Takes Time
Traveling ANYWHERE at Disney World takes time. From walking through the parks, to your car, to a resort, to traveling by bus, monorail, and let’s not forget waiting in line, everything takes time. Be sure to give yourself just that, a lot of time to transition from place to place. Traveling from a resort to a dinner reservation, give yourself an hour’s worth of time.
It’s a good idea to have some entertainment ready during the wait, or you could just talk to the kids while they are stuck right next to you!
Some thoughts on Safety…
15. Child Gets Lost?
Kids are fast, and they sometimes wander off at the speed of light, especially in crowds and unfamiliar surroundings. If my husband still gets lost in the parks after all our trips, your child might as well. If you look up and can’t find your child, or they aren’t at a designated meeting spot, immediately tell a Cast Member. Lost children can also be reported at any Guest Relations and Baby Care Centers.
When a lost child is found, they will be taken directly to the Baby Care Centers.
16. Take a Daily Picture
Take a quick cell phone picture as you walk out of your hotel so you know exactly what each child is wearing that day. This could come in handy if you need to show someone what your child looks like that day, or if like me, you can’t remember what anybody wore as they ran out the hotel room door to jump on a bus.
17. Utilize those Buttons
Remember the special buttons we mentioned in #11? Take a Sharpie and write your contact information on the back. Teach your child to show Cast Members this info. if you get separated. It’s important to make sure they know to specifically search out Cast Members and show or tell them your how to reach you. Cast Members wear white oval name tags.
18. Cell Phones
In general, I advise people to put their phones away on vacation. But cell phones can be really helpful with children that are old enough to A) answer them B) not lose them and C) tell you exactly where they are if you get separated on accident. And I’m not talking about using a brand new iPhone but just one of your older phones or a pay as you go phone.
They can also provide entertainment during long lines when the novelty of looking around has since worn off.
Many people believe if your child gets lost, a Cast Member can scan their MagicBand for information about your child or about you. This is incorrect, according to a phone call to Disney in January of 2017. MagicBands will not provide any information about a lost child, so they must be able to give the Cast Member helpful information on how to find you. Have your child memorize your full name and phone number, or write your information on a Disney button (#46) or on a piece of tape you secure inside their shirt collar. Until the technology changes, MagicBands won’t help when a child is lost. For more info.: Walt Disney World MagicBands: A Cheapskate Guide
20. Hand Holder/Harness
It should come as no big shocker that kids don’t follow instructions all the time, and with the amount of overstimulation they get at Disney from rides and gift shops, good luck on keeping up with them. Some children run fast! If you’re afraid your kids could impulsively run off, there are toddler harnesses and “hand holders” (Playskool made one called the “Baby Hand Holder for Toddlers”) that can help, on those occasions when you need a little extra help besides just holding a little hand with your own.
Pictures of my then two-year-old son, now 17, on a Disney bus strapped into a harness are still passed around once a year during holidays for a laugh.
21. Deliver Foods to Room
Having groceries, water and snacks delivered to your hotel can save money and provide small picky eaters with exactly what they will consume. Goodingsdelivers.com, Amazon.com, gardengrocer.com, staples.com (no perishables), and wegoshop.com are reputable companies that deliver water, snacks, and groceries.
Taking children to Disney World can be an amazing, memory making experience. By following a couple of simple tips, you can make it a less stressful journey as well.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you and the kids standing in line for the signature of their favorite character.
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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