Surviving Disney | How to Navigate the Happiest Place on Earth
How to Survive DisneyAh Disney, the happiest place on earth… or is it? For every few smiling faces you pass, you may observe the unfortunate grimaces of the discontent not exactly having the happiest time. Personally I think this Jim Gaffigan comedy bit kinda nails it. Yes, this place can be the living breathing version of all our fantasies. There is no doubt the staff are doing their best to make that happen. But let’s face it, when you put a bunch of parents with their kids all day in a crowded park waiting on mechanical rides and spending lots and lots of money, there are bound to be some melt downs… from the kids too. After our recent trip to Disney (taking our 5 year old daughter for the first time) we learned in all the wrong ways, how to do the right things to survive the Happiest Place on Earth.

Amy West and family on a ride at the Magic Kingdom
Riding the Magic Carpet Ride at Disney

Help Technology Help You 
1. My Disney Experience Website and App (Free)
Download the My Disney Experience App
There are no paper tickets at Disney in this modern world. When you purchase your ticket they will come with barcodes and ID numbers. The first thing you should do when you purchase your ticket is download the My Disney Experience App and pull it up on your browser. Register your ticket numbers and link them if you are traveling as a family. This may seem overwhelming but in reality is pretty simple. You just may want to reserve a hour or so one evening to get it done. 
What else can you do? On My Disney Experience you will also have the ability to reserve your Fast Passes (you get 3 daily) and make dining reservations. 
Tip: It’s important to register as early as possible. The sooner you reserve your Fast Passes the earlier you can get them. 

How we learned the hard way: We learned the hard way as we bought our tickets only a few weeks before our trip and the only fast passes left were for late in the day which were not as ideal for us. 
Tip: In Addition to registering your tickets it’s not a bad idea to take a picture of the back of the card and make sure you have the ID number for the ticket in case they are lost or stolen. Also make sure to bring the card you purchased the tickets with in case you lose them. It will be much easier to get them replaced if you take these precautions.
We reserved Munchkin’s meet and greet with Ariel as a Fast Pass on My Disney Experience
Download Disney World Wait Times
How we learned the hard way: As a busy mom I was much too concerned getting the kiddo packed and in the car… Sadly I forgot the important part of the trip… THE TICKETS! Fortunately we were able to get them replaced since I registered them on My Disney Experience. Unfortunately since I hadn’t brought the card I purchased them with, we had to wait in the Will Call line for over an hour. P.S. The Will Call line is also where you purchase tickets if you buypass the main gate. The lines are long, and can really kill the “happy” vibe upon arrival. No kid or parent wants to stare at the gates for an hour and wait to have fun. 

This app gives you the real time wait for each ride and character meet up. It will help you navigate away from the long wait rides and get to the fastest so you can have the most fun! 
Tip: Do your research ahead of time and find out which rides typically have a long wait time and which have short ones. Don’t reserve fast passes for the short wait rides, that’s a waste, use your fast passes only for the long wait rides. 

DILFS of Disney 

Money Savers

1. Purchase your tickets at AAA for a Great Deal 
We compared and AAA had by far the best deal. It was worth buying a membership just for the discount. Also if you live in FL, check out the terrific Florida Resident deals. Also multi day passes and sometimes the Park Hopper passes carry special savings. Make sure to do your research if you want to save. 
Tip: Multi day passes also take the pressure off having to fit everything in one day. Do a half day, then enjoy the pool at the resort and return the next few days to take in attractions you missed the first. This is helpful if you want to go later one day and take in the fireworks instead of trying to stay from sun up to sun down.
2. Save Your Gift Purchases for the Last Day
This saves you the effort of hauling it around the whole trip, and allows the kiddos time to really decide what they want. It also saves Mom and Dad from purchasing at the beginning and the end. 
Amy West and daughter at Magic Kingdom
What a perfect place to make a baby announcement….
3. Purchase Gifts in Advance at your Local Disney Store
Consider purchasing Disney gifts in advance at your local Disney store and giving them to your kids the last day. We found the local store prices to be much lower than in the park. (that goes for autograph books which every kid deems a “must have”. 
Bring your own food. I was surprised to learn that Disney allows you to bring in your own food. This saves you tons of money. We did PB&J sandwiches, waters, cheese and crackers, fruit, and snack foods. We just stored the mini cooler in the stroller storage and went on our merry way.

Happy Child with Kitty at Magic Kingdom

Play Smart

Amy West and family at Disney
Minnie excited about the new addition
1. Stay in a Disney Resort if Possible
If you can stay in a Disney Resort it’s really worth it. There are so many perks such as transportation to the park (save on parking fee), and Magic hours (special times the park is open just to those staying in the resorts). Right now Disney has also launched their wrist bands for resort guests which serve as your room key and your park ticket as well as your fast passes. 
How we learned the hard way: We did not stay in a resort, but did have a close resort that provided shuttles. Unfortunately the shuttles left at odd times keeping you stranded at the park if you needed to leave earlier. 

2. Avoid Peak Season, Weekends, and Peak Hours in the Day
Summers are crazy hot and plagued by afternoon showers, and weekends are full of events. Do yourself a favor and go during the week on off season (late fall, winter, early spring). You won’t have to battle the crowds as much and you’ll be able to get so much more of the park in. Also if you get to the park first thing you have more opportunities to score rides that usually have long wait lines. 
How we learned the hard way: We arrived at 1pm on a Saturday (during off season) which happened to be an event weekend. The park was packed with folks and we nearly lost our nerve trying to navigate the throngs of people. We hadn’t used strategy reserving our fast passes which were spaced out and and at odd times. Our wait times were terribly long for rides that weren’t exactly the most popular. The second day we went first thing in the morning and were able to get twice the amount of rides in by mid day than the day before. 
Little girl on the ferry at Disney
The perfect Disney sunset

3. Strollers = Crowd Control
Take a pic of your parking lane
We have a 5 year old and unashamedly brought her stroller. Why? Even though she is a “big girl” a full day in the park on her feet is tiresome. Bringing the stroller allowed her the opportunity to rest between rides and us the ability to navigate the crowd easier by weaving in and out without pulling her through the crowd. It also kept her from getting lost and we had a place to store our food. Fortunately Disney is ready for this and has “stroller parking” at every ride. 
4. Extra Power
Consider getting an extra battery for your phones. If you are using the apps, they are likely to drain your phone and no one wants to be without their phone aka camera while making memories. 
5. Take a Picture of Your Parking Space
After a long day your brain is fried. Who can really remember the row they parked in? Save yourself the memory jog and take a quick pic of your parking lane so you will remember where you parked at the end of the day instead of wondering aimlessly through the parking lot with children in tow.

These simple tips can make a world of difference the next time you venture to the land of magic and make believe. Make it a happy trip and save yourself some stress. I know there are some of you with even more tips. Share them in the comments below and you may see them show up on the blog sometime. May your Disney trips be magical!

Until then…
Enjoy the Journey!
xo- Amy West

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