I’m going to do this in pieces and dedicate each post to a park. I will attempt to get this done this week while it’s still fresh in my tired brain… that may be a lofty goal.
My son will be 4 in February and he was the perfect age for his first trip… he absolutely loved it, enjoyed the live entertainment, and was able to wait in lines somewhat patiently. Grandparents joined me on this trip – and we had a blast. My husband had to work so he had to skip.
First, let me be upfront: Disney World sounded very stressful to me, because everyone that talks about it, talks strategy. Race to the back of the park so you can get a FastPass for the rides you want. (Fastpass, say what!?) Have a plan. Make sure you map out your day. Make your reservations to the character breakfasts 6 months in advance. YIKES. YOU CAN’T JUST SHOW UP!?
Well… I’m happy to say that YES, you can just show up if you go at a non-busy time of year and luck for us, the week after New Year’s is very slow. Slow for Disney is still jam-packed, but the longest we ever had to wait in line was 30 minutes. The Disney World App makes it so simple to find the rides and view the wait times… I found it very easy to navigate the parks and we planned our day as we walked around. I had done a little bit of research so I knew some of the rides we wanted to try, but other than those – we just winged it.
When are the slow times at Disney World?
According one book I was given, the slow times are the first week in September, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the weeks after New Year’s until mid February. TouringPlans.com has a very detailed calendar that tracks crowds.
Some tips for planning a Disney World vacation if you don’t want to rush:
- Plan to go when it’s slow: The one thing you’ll need to plan is the time of year you visit if you don’t want to be rushed or follow a strict agenda: go during a slow time. Smaller crowds = shorter wait times on rides = no need to rush.
- Stay in a large place with a kitchen: We stayed at Fantasy World, a timeshare resort my company manages, and absolutely loved it. They offer large 2 story villas with 2 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a full kitchen, living/dining area and washer/dryer. Since we stayed an entire week, I would not have had it any other way. We took our time getting ready in the morning, made breakfast in the villa, and hopped in the car around 10:30 or 11 and drove to the park. It was an easy, stress-free trip to the parks each day.
- Take your time in the morning: We spent the entire day at the parks, and 6 or 7 hours is more than enough. We did not, and I would not again, rush to get to the parks the minute they open.
- Bring a stroller & snacks: Disney has everything at the parks – and very healthy choices (yay!) – but I came armed with plenty of snacks that didn’t require waiting in lines. You can also rent a stroller, but we brought our Maclaren umbrella stroller and it was perfect. There is stroller parking everywhere, and I felt comfortable leaving our stuff with it. I had a bag with extra clothes, snacks, even an iPad for entertainment while dining… and just strolled it around. My almost 4 year old decided to ban strollers as an acceptable mode of transportation around the age of 2, but he happily sat in the stroller throughout the week.
- Plan a character breakfast or lunch at the park you plan to attend: I planned one character event – lunch at Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. Loved it. I wanted to go to Chef Mickey’s but they were booked… so glad. It was great to meet the characters while in the park, rather than making it a separate event that required getting back in the car afterwards. More on that later.
- Park at the park: Get out your cash, drive, and pay for parking. Disney makes it easy. I thought this would be stressful. It was not. The drive was easy, parking was easy.
- Explore and enjoy: We had a loose list of things we wanted to do, but we enjoyed walking around, looking at the map, and then deciding what to do next. When we saw a live show in the street, we stopped and enjoyed it – since we didn’t have a strict agenda, we were able to explore and enjoy the parks. This made it fun and stress-free for us.
It was magical… we had a blast. I want to go back already. I don’t think it would be the same experience had we gone during a busy time because we would have had to have an agenda and plan more – so I guess my biggest piece of advice if you want to go to Disney is to choose a slow time of year so you don’t have to deal with lines.
I’ll be writing more posts about each park and the rides we enjoyed with our almost 4 year old!!