As you know, we got back from Disney a few weeks ago and it was a total whirlwind! Like the Child Safety TipsI shared last week, I want to get our Disney Itinerary up and posted while everything is fresh in my mind. Hopefully, this will help those of you trying to navigate the insanity that is planning a trip to Disneyworld. It was a full-time job when I was doing it!
PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO DISNEYWORLD
Since our daughter just turned 5, we decided to keep our Disney trip on the shorter side. After talking with friends who had traveled there this year (like, 3 different families with kids all the same age), we thought a week may be too overwhelming for ALL of us. So, 3 days seemed good for our first trek to Disney.
Our Disney Iterinary included 1.5 resort days (1/2 day the day we arrived and a full day the day before we left). We stayed in a Villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village with the hubs parents and sibs, so we made sure we had at least 1 resort day so we could enjoy all of the amenities (and the pool!).
Before I get into exactly what we planned for each day (that’s further below if you wanna skip ahead), I thought I’d quickly share a few tips and tricks I learned along the way.
DISNEY TRAVEL TIPS & TRICKS
Disclaimer. I’m not going to sugar coat anything here. I don’t want to come off as negative, but I do want to be candid about some of the things we experienced so you can best plan your own adventure! If you wanna know what we really thought of Disney, you can catch up via this post on Instagram – I’m brutally honest about the fact that Disney can be a bit annoying (and tiring, and frustrating), but also transparent about the magic, the memories…the joy. It’s real guys.
WHEN TO TRAVEL. We went to Disney May 1st thru May 6th. I had read that May was a great time to travel there – Good weather and moderate crowds the key factors for May being a great time to go. While our first day in Disney wasn’t too crowded at all (there were TONS of people, but we could move and didn’t feel claustrophobic), the remaining days were INSANE with crowds. Other than it being May the 4th (big day for Star Wars nerds), there wasn’t much of anything to create more crowds than normal. The take home? Disney is a crowded place. Probably any time you go. But possibly less crowded at off times (weekdays). Here’s a handy dandy little chart I used when considering timing.
TALK TO THE MANAGER. Our stay at Kidani Village came with quite a few…issues, I’ll say. I’m pretty sure it was an unprecidented set of issues – like it happened once and then everything kept breaking or going wrong or being gross (grey cloud over our heads?). Nonetheless, we talked to management, they were on our side AND they did everything in their power to make it up to us. We left with a FREE 4-night stay in any Disney Villa (without expiration), free park passes, free fast passes, free meals, over $2,000 in credits, freebies and then some. We were kind in our complaints because we know things can happen, but we stood our ground and they stood up to the Disney promise by giving us even more magic and a totally free trip back. So, on the off-chance you experience issues (like legit issues) at your resort? Tell them. Be kind. And they will take care of you. You’re spending a lot of money to be there.
BE SAFE. Develop a child safety plan and arm yourself with tools that will make you feel super safe in the most crowded place in the world. We used these awesome tattoos (they come with a magic pen so you can write your phone number – and it DOES NOT wash off) and our secret triangle (as my daughter calls it) – this real-time GPS tracker from Jiobit. I wrote up an entire post about what we did to keep our kiddo safe (and our sanity in check) while at Disney. You can access it here if you’d like!
GET TO THE PARKS EARLY. Speaking of crowds…our best times at any of the parks were early morning. Even if you love to sleep in, try to wake up and get to the parks for rope drop or early magic hours (Disney resort guests only). You won’t regret it.
HOLY BUGS. Whenever you choose to travel to Disney, make sure you do some research on any potential pests or weather issues (i.e. hurricane season). We had no clue that May and September are prime time for Love Bug swarms (yup, they are a real bug and yup, they swarm like a plague). They were actually so bad, they shortened our Magic Kingdom Day…considerably. We dealt with them otherwise but they were super annoying especially when you have a 5-year-old with a newly developed irrational fear of insects.
PREPARE FOR HEAT & RAIN. Florida weather can be fickle, but it’s a hot place, guys. While the average temps are from 65-85 in May, we sat (un)comfortably at 90+ every day. Pray for rain on those days. The rain and a few little extras (battery operated water fan, cooling towels, and filtered water bottles) saved us. Bring ponchos. Make sure you have a stroller cover (our stroller rental place included them for FREE!) because when that rain comes? It comes down in buckets. Bright side is that it dries in 5 minutes and is the most refreshing thing ever when you’re baking under the hot Florida sun 🙂
SPEAKING OF STROLLERS. Rent one. If you don’t have any crazy aversions to using strollers rent one. Even if your kid seldom uses them anymore. Disneyworld is HUGE and if grown-ups are getting tired and blistery (moleskin is the bomb for blisters!) from all the walking? Your little people will too. Strollers are a great break for everyone and offer a place for your kiddo to rest (even take a nap). Plus, you can load them up with all your stuff (we brought snacks, changes of clothes and basically the whole farm into the park). Thank god we had a stroller to lug all our stuff! We used Kingdom Strollers and had a great experience. Reasonably priced, dropped the stroller at the hotel the day we arrived and picked it up the day we left. Came with a rain cover and a mini cooler for snacks.
YOUR PHONE IS YOUR LIFELINE. You end up using your phone for EVERYTHING at Disney from taking pics, video, texting or calling to find out where the heck everyone is to ordering meals, changing out fast passes and mapping out your next steps. We used these portable chargers and made sure we charged up when we sat down for meals. Never had a dead phone (even me who pretty much always has a dead phone).
PREPARE TO WAIT. BRING LOLLIPOPS. We don’t feed our kid a lot of sugar. BUT, we brought healthier version lolly’s everywhere. Wanna know why? When your kid is melting down because they’re sick of waiting in line for rides (even with fast passes), bathrooms, food, and everything in between (legit, there’s a line for everything), you’re gonna wanna give them something special to keep things cool (also, that fan thing I mentioned above? It was a life saver in keeping her cool (not hot) and cool (not melting down). So, whatever it is your kid likes, but rarely gets? Bring that. Bring lots of that.
ITS HARD TO BE HEALTHY. MAKE RESERVATIONS. Staying healthy at Disney is tough guys…even for the strongest willed souls out there. We eat grain-free and sugar-free and it was near to impossible to maintain that. We did for almost the whole trip, but it was a struggle and not much fun at all. We brought our fave snacks in the stroller (Nui Cookies, Smart Sweet Gummies, Mixed Nuts, etc) and gave ourselves a pass for the occasional sweet treat (ice cream and Zebra Domes for me!). Most of what you’ll find at Disney is traditional fast food or pub style meals (Ceaser salad is pretty much the only healthy thing on the menu and it’s not that good). If you want to stay healthy, make sure you review menus and make your dining reservations (up to 180 days in advance if you’re staying on property – believe me, they sell out that quick). The wait to get in a restaurant without a reservation at any of the parks was 1-3 hours. We waited an hour for Yak and Yeti and it was the best, healthiest meal I ate there. Worth the wait, but we should’ve planned ahead.
I feel like I could go on for days, but this post is already long enough – you came here for a Disney Itinerary, righhhhht?!
3-DAY DISNEY ITINERARY
There are a million and one ways you can plan out your days and it all really depends upon what you like, don’t like and how old (and tall) your kiddos are. We are not “ride people” and my daughter wasn’t tall enough for most rides anyway – so, we stuck to activities that were age appropriate and experiential. On to our Disney Itinerary (hop on over to my Instagram story highlights to see snaps & vids of the whole trip)!
DAY 1 – ANIMAL KINGDOM
The first day on our Disney Itinerary was Animal Kingdom – my daughter wants to go on a real safari and was STOKED at the chance of getting an “almost real” one at Disney. Animal Kingdom was my most favorite day of the trip. The park is absolutely beautiful, the animals incredible and the shows…OMG. SO. GOOD.
- 7:15 AM. Bus. Hopped on the shuttle bus to the park (we were staying at Kidani Village, so it was a short ride. Ten minutes or less). Coffee in hand and snacks in my bag for brekky.
- 8:00 AM. Made Rope Drop! Walked through security and headed straight to Africa for our first fast pass, taking in the sights as we walked. The music is the best!
- 9:00 AM. Safari (Africa) | Ride Length: 30 minutes. We had a Fast Pass for the Safari but got there so early we hopped right on without a wait. Early morning is a great time to see all of the animals, but they say you can see different things at all times of the day. Definitely worth it at any time of day.
- 9:30 – 11:45 AM. Exploring Africa & Asia We had tons of time to explore until our next fast pass. We walked Gorilla Falls Exploration (Africa) to see the Gorillas (there was a 1 day old baby!), merecats, hippos, birds and other cuties. We also walked the Maharajah Jungle Trek (Asia) to see the Tigers, Monkeys, bats and other friends.
- 11:30-11:45 AM. Festival of the Lion King (Africa) | Showtime 12-12:30. Made our Fast Pass Time and had a little wait in line for the show to start (maybe 20 minutes). Because my FIL was in an electric wheelchair, we got front row seats. My daughter got to participate in the show and the show was INCREDIBLE. You can see it in my highlights on Insta (Disney Trip)
- 1:00 PM. Hunting for Lunch / Exploring. We didn’t make reservations for this day and hunted in the pouring rain to find a spot to eat. We finally settled on Yak & Yeti (an hour wait) and put our names on the list – off exploring while we waited. I can’t remember exactly what we did during that time. I think we checked out a few more things in Asia – probably animals and visited the big, huge, beautiful tree on Discovery Island.
- 2:00 PM. LUNCH | Yak & Yeti. OMG. Eat here. The food was incredible – legit the best thing I had at Disney (saffron chicken lettuce wraps worth marrying)
- 3:00 PM Finding Nemo The Musical (Dinoland) | showtime 3:30-4:10. We had a fast pass for the 4:15 show, but headed over to Dinoland to explore after lunch. We were lucky enough to get into the show an hour early with no wait. It was cute and might have made me cry at the end when Nemo found his Dad again. My daughter was over it and just wanted to eat ice cream.
- 4:30-6PM: Explored Dinoland and Discovery Island! Since we didn’t have any more fast passes to consider, we spent the balance of the day exploring. Our daughter had a blast playing at the Boneyard (a huge kids play gym structure thingy at Dinoland) and rode a few rides with her Dad (maybe 15-30 minute waits for each). My SIL and I dance partied while they stood in line, because they were blasting THE BEST music and also because I would’ve barfed if I watched that thing spin! On our way out, we hit up Pandora: The World of Avatar and even though we did nothing, but explore it was absolutely breathtaking.
- 6PM. DINNER. I might have fed my daughter ice cream for dinner (oops!). Back to the hotel by 6:30, kiddo begging to go to bed and out like a light by 7pm.
DAY 2 – MAGIC KINGDOM
The second day on our Disney Itinerary was Magic Kingdom. TBH, I was probably least impressed with Magic Kingdom (please don’t kill me!). I know I should have loved it, but it was the hottest, most buggiest day and no-one was feeling the love. So, it was my least favorite, but definitely still totally worth our time!
- 7:15 AM. Bus. Hopped on the shuttle bus to the park (15 minutes or less from Kidani, I think?). Another Coffee day with snacks in our stroller bag.
- 8:00 AM Made it for Extra Magic Hours! I can’t stress enough that Extra Magic Hours are SO worth getting up for. We had so much time to explore Mainstreet USA and Cinderella’s Castle before barely anyone was in the park. We got some great shots in front of the castle!
- 8:15 – 9:00 AM: Made our way to Fantasyland. We headed over to Fantasyland and stood in line 5 minutes or so for The Mad Tea Party Teacups (and when I say “we”, I don’t mean me). We (including me) stood in line for about 15 more minutes to ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which was absolutely adorable, but somehow terrified my 5yo (the dark and thundery section). After that we headed over to our first fast pass of the day to meet Belle.
- 9:10 AM: Enchanted Tales with Belle (Fantasyland) | 20 minutes. This was SO cool and definitely recommend for any kiddo that loves Belle, the beast or a little magic. Winnie the Pooh totally took my daughter out of the game and she clung to me the entire time (so sad!). The hubs got picked to be a knight. We pointed and laughed at him 🙂
- 9:30 AM: Hit up the Enchanted Carousel (Fantasyland) and stalked a woman who was carrying a Starbucks Cup. Hit up The Main Street Bakery (Main Street U.S.A.) because it’s actually a Starbucks in disguise and I have problems. Waited in line for like 30 minutes for a Pink Drink and Cold Brew. It was totally worth it!
- 10:00 AM. Stopped at Cinderellas Castle (Main Street USA) to watch a cute little performance on stage. Sweet girl cared more about making bubbles than watching gigantic mice and real-life princesses sing and dance on stage. A bit of a bummer, but hey…the kid knows what she wants. And, it was a $45 bubble maker in the shape of Cinderellas Royal pumpkin coach thingy. #priorities
- 10:30 AM. Casey Jr. Splash & Soak Station (Fantasyland). It was already around 90 degrees so we hit up the soaking station and it was broken. Wah. So, we sat for a few and then made our way over to It’s a Small World (Fantasyland) to meet the rest of our crew (they slept in!). Stood in line for around 20 minutes and it was totally worth it. Was one of my faves when I was thirteen and loved it just as much now. Our daughter was mesmerized by all the “stuff”.
- 12:00PM. The Muppets (Liberty Square). We had a fast pass for Under the Sea. Journey of the Little Mermaid, but canceled it because she was scared of everything. So, while the rest of the gang waited for the Haunted Mansion, we took a stroll through Liberty Square and had the best Muppet surprise ever (it’s in my highlights on Insta under Disney Trip!)
- 12:45 PM CHARACTER LUNCH at The Crystal Palace (Main Street USA). This was a buffet lunch with table meet and greets with Winnie the Pooh, Tiger, Piglet and Eyore. Food was pretty good (I was able to find some healthy options) but my daughter informed us (after meeting Piglet) that she would be giving no hugs, high fives or hellos to any of the other characters and that they should not come to our table. So, basically, we paid $425 for a 7-minute hug with piglet (no seriously, she would not let him (her?) go – it’s in my Insta Stories too).
- 2:30 PM Swiss Family Treehouse (Adventureland). We took a walk over to Adventureland and hit up the Swiss Family Treehouse. It was cool, but nothing I would’ve been sad to miss. After that, we found a little splash area (the heat was INSANE) and felt the wrath of the Florida Love Bug. Legit, kids were screaming, families were running and the swarm was like a plague. It was so bad, we canceled our Jungle Cruise Fast Pass and high tailed it outta there.
- 3:00PM- 6PM. Back on the bus back to the resort. Spent the rest of the afternoon, exploring the hotel, Savannah (giraffes, zebras, and so many other wildlife right outside our window!). Ate dinner at a cafeteria-style restaurant at Jumbo House (Mara) and had a pretty damn good Cobb-style salad (made to order).
DAY 3 – HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
The third day of our Disney Itinerary was Hollywood Studios. We chose Hollywood studios for our final day in Disney because it was Star Wars Day and someone (not naming any names but probably my husband) would have literally died if we were that close to a Star Wars-infused Disney park and didn’t make an appearance. We were a bit too soon for Galaxy’s Edge (coming this Summer, I think), but there were plenty of Wookies and Darth Vaders and stuff to fawn over nonetheless.
- 8:15 AM. Bus. Didn’t rush to get to the park since we didn’t have any fast passes to worry about too early in the day (took about 20 minutes to get there from Kidani Village).
- 9:00 AM. Star Wars Launch Bay + Character Meet & Greet (Animation Courtyard). We went straight to the launch bay and stood in line for maybe 5 minutes to meet BB8 (also known as “baby 8” – I die every time my daughter says that!). Right after, we headed over to meet Chewbacca (probably a 25-minute wait). FYI, Chewbacca is giant. And, when he gives a 5-foot tall girl a hug, her face gets lost in his armpit.
- 10:00 AM For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Singalong (Echo Lake) | 30 Minutes. This was the most adorable show. We had a Fast Pass, so we went straight in. We sang the whole time, the emcee’s were hilarious and it snowed (for real) inside. Super fun and worth it!
- 11:00 AM Trolly Car Cafe’ for Starbucks (Hollywood Boulevard)! More Pink Drinks and Cold Brews. Stood in line for 9 million years, but a girl’s gotta do what girl’s gotta do. Watched the Storm Troopers march the streets (they did it like every hour?) along with another special show they were putting on for May the 4th (more people in suits talking with weird voices).
- 11:30 AM Toy Story Land! Toy story land was INSANE, like almost impossible to move. We made our way back to the Alien Swirling Saucers (45+ minute wait for a 30-second ride) and afterward, begun the hunt for lunch (PS – the Green Army Drum Corps was awesome!). Sadly, we had canceled our reservation at Hollywood & Vine the day prior when my daughter decided she didn’t want to meet any characters. There was no way we were dropping another $500 bucks for nothing!
- 1:00 PM LUNCH at Sunset Ranch Market – This was a counter order joint (you order and pray to god you can find a table to sit at). We ordered pizza, caesar salads (I use this term loosely as it was basically lettuce in a tiny cup) and totally scored an umbrella table in a prime people-watching spot. By the end of lunch we were all roasting, the love bugs were swarming and we were all ready to head out.
- 2:00 PM Star Tours – The Adventure Continues (Echo Lake) – We made a detour to Star Tours so the hubs and kiddo could go for a quick ride. It down poured while they stood in line (35+ minutes), so I found an umbrella to chill under. The Jedi Training was canceled due to the rain, so we didn’t get a chance to see it. We ended up walking to the front entrance of Galaxy’s Edge so the hubs could fondle the gate a little before we went back to the resort. We missed the Grand Opening by a few months!
- 3:00 PM Back on the bus to the resort! We hung out at the resort arcade, hit up some of the fun little activities and animal watched until dinner time. We ordered room service and I ate THE BEST Coriander Chicken Wings I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. I think they put Cilantro on everything (including water) in Africa and it has my heart. OMG.
As mentioned above, we spent the fourth and final day of our Disney Itinerary at the resort – swimming in the pool, taking advantage of the hotel amenities (authentic African face painting!), and roasting smores over a campfire before bed. It was a great, last day.
DISNEY MUST HAVES & GIVEAWAY
I mentioned a few must-haves that made our trip all the better above, and am popping them below so you can quickly link up to them for your own trip! And, since I know it’s super expensive to get all the fun t-shirts and gear you’d like to take on your journey, I’m offering up a $25 Disney Gift Card to one lucky winner! You can use it at Disneyworld or Disneyland (at any of the shops) or at the Disney store in the mall or online. Enter below – winner will be announced on June 3rd.
- Kingdom Strollers We were referred to Kingdom and they were awesome. You order ahead, and they deliver to your hotel the day you check in. You leave it at bellhop when you leave.
- Minnie Mouse Ears. I purchased 4 pairs for $50 bucks (including tax & shipping) off this shop on Etsy prior to heading off. They were like, $12.50 each vs the $30+ bucks we would have paid for one pair in Disney. And, the quality was really good for the price – the headbands fit well, but don’t dig into the back of your ears and there are tons of themes to choose (you can see more of them in my Insta Stories – Disney Trip Highlights)!
- Safety Tattoos Coolest things ever and super cheap. They didn’t wash off and lasted the whole trip!
- Real-Time GPS tracker Can’t say enough great things about this. Total peace of mind is an understatement.
- water fan They sell these at Disney, but they are SUPER expensive. Do yourself a favor and get it beforehand. Packs easy in the suitcase.
- cooling towels Everyone laughed at me when I handed out these cooling towels. They also said they wouldn’t have made it in the heat without them 🙂
- filtered water bottles If you want to grab water quickly, you can fill up at the water fountains. The water is NOT cold, but these bottles will filter it. Cheapest ones I’ve found.
- ponchos are a must have.
- moleskin is the bomb for blisters! I read these were great for blisters, and YES. I got terrible pinky toe blisters and the balls of my feet were raw on DAY 1. I cut these up and stuck them to my feet and legit, felt no pain whatsoever the remaining four days of the trip.
- portable chargers Another must have. You will use your phone constantly. These work great and can charge up your devices at the table (or anywhere) while you’re eating lunch!
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Let me know if you have any questions or other hacks you used to make your Disney trip all the better. Feel free to drop links to your own Disney Itinerary and other tips in the comments below so we can all share the love 🙂
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER GIVEAWAY. Ends at 11:59pm on 6/2/19. Open to legal residents of the 50 US, 18 years of age or older. Subject to official rules available in the rafflecopter entry form above. Void where prohibited.
*DISCLAIMER: This post is a combination of my personal insights, opinions and thoughts on various topics and products and may contain affiliate or referral links. I earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my links, which helps me continue on this fabulous journey of blogging! Full disclaimers avail. here.