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There’s nothing like taking your family to Walt Disney World. But do you know how to make the most of your trip? A lot of research goes into planning a great Disney trip. But let’s face it, dads don’t really do that kind of thing. Not to worry, fresh off my last trip to Disney World, The Secure Dad has the top 10 things Dads need to know for Disney.
The first thing you need to know for a Disney trip is that lines are for losers.
Note: I can’t take full credit for this information, the awesome Secure Mom did all of these things for our trip and it was a lot of fun! So I’m passing it on to you in one easy to read article.
1) Lines are for Losers
The first thing you need to know for a Disney trip is that lines are for losers. You need maximize the FastPass+. My family spent 5 days at Disney World and we stood in normal lines maybe 55 minutes out of 41.5 hours in the parks. Yea, let that sink in. The rest of the time we were using the FastPass+ like crazy! If you’re not familiar with it, FastPass+ is a way to skip the long, “standby”, or “normal”, lines at Walt Disney World. Most rides have two entrances, Standby and FastPass. If you have a FastPass+, simply walk up to that entrance, scan your MagicBand and walk on in. You’ll be whisked away to a much shorter line with a wait time of maybe 10 minutes. Some rides even have special boarding areas for FastPass+ folks.
You can schedule your FastPass+ opportunities well before you get to the parks. Like weeks before. So you can tactically lay out our plans for the park while still at home. This will lead to a better understanding of how your day might go. Thanks to the Disney App, you can create more FastPass+ opportunities while you are in the park. You can schedule up to three FastPass+ events before you can schedule more. But as soon as your first three are up, you get to schedule more. Make sure you do!
2) Be Tactical About Your Day
As you can tell, in my family we are planners. The Secure Mom found this great tool online that planned out your trip based on what you wanted to do and what you wished to avoid, like crowds. TouringPlans.com was a great investment for our trip. A full year membership was about $12. With this site you can see projected crowd levels, Magic Hours, weather forecasts and a lot more to plan your trip. So when we saw that Animal Kingdom has smaller crowds on Monday, we went on Monday. Generally we avoided the Magic Hour parks because more people went to that park so they could stay longer.
TouringPlans.com even has printable maps and an itinerary for everyday were were there. The Secure Mom printed these out, laminated them, punched a hole in a corner and attached it to our stroller. Did we follow the plan exactly? No. We made changes based on what we saw and wanted to do, but we still had an outline to consider.
Planning out your day does not take the fun out of your trip. It gives you a guideline to make the most of the crowds, FastPass+ and other factors. Don’t think you can waltz into Disney and create a magical day with no planning or foresight. You will not enjoy yourself trying to make up stuff as you go. That is a stress you don’t need.
3) Rent a Stroller
If you have a child 6 or under, I highly recommend you rent a stroller. Yes, your kids can walk. Yes, walking is free. BUT kids have shorter legs, less stamina and cry much louder than you do. So a stroller is a great way to let your young ones rest while you move through the parks.
On our last trip, we walked 33 miles. No joke, 33 miles. Can your kindergartener do that? I didn’t think so. My son was very happy to get a stroller. I was a little worried that he might think it was too babyish for him, but he really enjoyed having it. I can’t tell you how many red-faced crying little ones I saw being drug through the park by the hand. Put your kid in a stroller and they are out of the sun and have a mobile place to nap. Don’t worry about where to park the stroller because there are stroller lots all over the place with attendants.
Do not rent a stroller from Disney. Those strollers are cheap and you’ll regret it. Rent from an outside vender. We rented from Kingdom Strollers. What was great about Kingdom Strollers is that they delivered the stroller to the bellman’s desk our Disney resort. And when we were done, we turned it in there too. No need to ever leave Disney to get it. No need to waste space in your car to bring one with you. It was well worth the money.
4) Packing for the Parks
This could take up an entire article on it’s own so I’ll keep this simple. I was surprised to learn that Disney allowed snacks and water into their parks. So take as much of snacks and water as you feel you will need for a day.
Other items to include:
Ponchos, Stuffable rain jacket
Change of clothes for a child, adult
Play packs (for long lines)
5) Dad Gear
Okay so that is quite a list up there. What are you going to carry it all in? Enter the High Speed Daddy Tactical Diaper Bag. Yep, I carried this bad boy around Disney for 5 days and 33 miles and it was awesome. Read my full review on it. Do not discount the value of a well made, easy to carry backpack while you visit Disney. So dads, you can spend a little on dad gear getting ready for the big trip.
Going to Disney World is quite a financial commitment. This is why many families save for months even years before they book their trip. Online I’ve seen an average $871 per person per day. That includes meals and hotel. Luckily, Disney has an Account Budget Estimator that you can fill out to give you a realistic number to plan for. Once you get that number, add about $1,000 to $1,500 to the total for gifts, gas and other incidentals. Yes, this is a lot of money. But you don’t want to pinch pennies in the park or worry about blowing a budget. Set a budget and then save well beyond that number so you can relax when your daughter wants to buy princess dress.
7) Buy Gifts in Advance
The Secure Mom found a great plan online that talked about giving your kids gifts for every day you’re on vacation. The catch is that these gifts are purchased in advance and come from Target or a dollar store. This can save your some serious dough. You can curb your child’s appetite for expensive park stuffed animals if you give them a stuffed animal from Amazon the morning before you leave for the park. We did this and it worked great. But you will give in when you see you child rush over to a stuffed Tigger, begin to love it unconditionally and give you those pitiful eyes. I can’t help you there, man.
Disney offers a bunch of different ways to get to the parks from their resorts. To get to a park you can drive, take a monorail, take a ferry, ride the bus and wish upon a star. I tried all of those routes and let me tell you the best way to get to a park is by driving yourself. With driving you have the most freedom and personal space. Two things that will matter to you on your trip. We took the bus one day to Magic Kingdom and this is when I first heard Disney’s unofficial motto, “If you see floor, there is room for more.” We were shoehorned into the bus after a long wait accommodating two folks in rental Rascals. Don’t take the bus.
I do suggest you ride the monorail and take a ferry somewhere because it is fun for your kids. But make those special trips. For example we took the Monorail into Magic Kingdom for an early Be Our Guest breakfast. Then later in the week we took a ferry to Disney Springs from our resort, Port Orleans. It was fun, but don’t count on Disney transportation every day.
As a side note, when we went in March of 2017, most of Orlando and Disney roads were under construction. Under no circumstances do you trust Apple Maps. Google maps is serviceable, but Apple Maps got us lost multiple times. As we tried to leave at the end of our trip, Apple maps sent us on a figure 8 loop and put us right back at our hotel.
9) Disney Security
When you go to the parks you will have to go through a metal detector and have your bags searched. This is the world we live in now. Disney has some great procedures and technology protecting their guests and employees so don’t worry while you’re in the park. Bags are searched first by Disney security. They have cute little Mickey badges. But behind them are some real Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies. Next you have to go through the metal detectors. If you’ve flown, you’ll know what to do. (But you can keep your shoes on.)
Disney has a no weapons policy. They are very vague about what constitutes a weapon. Obviously this means concealed carry guns, cannons or brass knuckles. But what about knives? The Secure Mom carried in a small Swiss Army knife each day. It was plainly in the bag and she was never questioned about it. But if you carry a decent sized blade, like me, you might better leave it at the hotel. A small Swiss will get you through what you need inside the parks.
Disney takes security very seriously.
10) Home Security
Being that this is The Secure Dad I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about family and home security. When you plan your trip, don’t post it on social media. Also before you go, avoid sharing pictures of your MagicBands when they arrive in the mail. And as always, don’t share pictures in front of Cinderella's Castle unless you actually live in Cinderella's Castle.
Posting vacation pictures while you are away is sure to catch some unwanted attention. I know you’re excited, but thieves are just as excited when they know you’re not home. You can post all the pictures you want once you have returned home. For more on this, check out my book Home Security: The Secure Dad's Guide.
I suggest you select family members for texting photos. When we were gone, I was able to burn up some of my excitement by sending my parents pictures. My parents knew we were gone and didn’t share any of the photos. But it was fun to keep them in the loop and pick what pictures to send them every day.
I hope you have a fantastic trip to Disney. Feel free to share any Disney hacks with me at by emailing me.