PLANNING A DISNEY VACATION - By Erika Batista

PLANNING A DISNEY VACATION

Oh Disney! It's truly magic in there... and it's definitely a must do. Over and over. 
First and foremost I am no expert at Disney vacations but I had a lot of messages asking what tips and advice I would give to moms planning their vacations so I wanted to share some things that worked for us. This was our first family vacation of the year and it was to Disney World in Orlando. I had been planning it since last year and I am happy and grateful that I was able to make this a reality this year for my kids. It truly was a memorable one.
On this post I will share what worked for us as a party of 4 and our two little kids. As you may or may not know Ben is 5 and Emme is 2. Fun and being stress-free was on top of the list for me. Of course I wanted a fun vacation but if I am being truly honest, it was overwhelming to think of how much we wanted to do. Disney is big... the possibilities and the magic are truly endless, so with that said, so is planning a schedule with small children. I don't want to make this post too long (but it is!) but here we go, here are my tips and advice for making your Disney vacation truly a memorable one. 












Booking your flight. I prefer really early morning flights, I rather wake up early and have the kids sleep in the airplane. We booked an 8am flight into Orlando. The kids were great and the flight felt super short. We got into Orlando at around 11am, by the time we got our luggage and our car, we made it into the hotel right in time for lunch. It was perfect for us. 
You can also book a red eye if that is what works for you. Now, Orlando is only 3 hours away from NJ so for me, if I am traveling with kids I would never book a red eye, it doesn't make much sense in my case. Also paying for an extra night at the hotel to only get there in the middle of the night, not worth it. But if you are on the opposite coast, then it can work for you. Remember to always make sure you think of what works for your family dynamic. 
Rent your carseats and/or baby equipment. Kids... all their gear is so big! Why? So anyway, we have to suck it up and deal with it right? Right. So in order to make my life easier, we rented the kids' carseats, I literally googled "car seat rentals in Orlando" and voila. We paid $65 for the two car seats for 5 days. Totally worth the money and one less thing I had to check in at the airport. Remember to think smart and reduce your luggage and equipment as much as you can.
Pack less. So if you saw my IG stories, you saw I packed and then repacked, lol. I like to make outfits for each day and then roll them up together so they are ready when we get there. So with kids, it's always nice to bring extras but I was bringing way too many extras initially. So I went back and lined up day by day outfits and reduced my amount of clothes and shoes we were bringing. I packed on big luggage for Emme, Ben and I and my husband packed a carryon for himself. It worked like a charm. Remember, the less things you have the better and you can always buy whatever you forgot over there... hello, Target! Any excuse to go to Target, no matter where I am. 
Consider your children's age.  We have small kids, they have short attention spans and truly I only have so much patience. From the beginning we knew we wanted to do Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom as well as Islands of Adventure. We also knew we didn't want to do back to back to back park days. 
Get a Disney Park Hopper. We had a Park Hopper, with which we were able to visit more than one park in one day, this is why we did Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom in one day. It's totally worth it if you are up for it. I would never do one park with the kids from morning to night, in my opinion it's too much. Below is my schedule and you can see our break in between the two parks.
Download the Disney Park app. Best thing in my life! Truly kept everything in one place. You can see wait times for rides, You ca schedule your Fast Pass options and even have your pics all in one place. I love it, it's free and I totally recommend it. 
Use Fast Pass. I had been telling my friend Lissette, I was overwhelmed with thinking about our schedule and make sure we don't miss anything we truly wanted to do. So she immediately suggested Fast Pass. It saved my life! Lol So you can schedule your shows and rides you want to attend right from the computer or your phone through the Disney Parks app. Having my schedule on there made my life so much easier and it was a relieve that I had reserved the shows and attractions we really wanted to do. Not only that, but the point of the Fast Pass is to get you ahead of the line. So it was perfect for a family with small kids. Heck, it's perfect for everyone, truly. 

So here is what our schedule looked like: 
Thursday: Arrived at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort at around 1pm. We checked in and ate while we waited for the room to be ready. The idea was to relax and explore the hotel before the mayhem. We enjoyed the afternoon at the pool and at night, we headed to Target to get milk and snacks for the room. We always get snacks and drinks for the room, every single vacation, even before kids. 
Friday: Animal Kingdom in the morning (9am to 2pm) and Magic Kingdom in the afternoon into the night. After the Animal Kingdom we went back to the hotel for a few hours, we showered, ate and relaxed for a few then we headed back out. We got to Magic Kingdom at around 4:30-5pm and stayed the park closed. We really wanted to be sure to catch the amazing fireworks at Magic Kingdom, and they were totally worth it. I really recommend that if you can stay till the end, do so. You won't regret it. Again, if you have small kids, I highly doubt they will be up to enjoy and do one park ALL day. I don't think I can even do that lol. It's a lot. The kids were happy with their break in between and truly were rested and happy too. It's important that you are realistic about your family dynamic. 
Saturday: After the crazy long day the day before, we had planned to do a breakfast with Orlando's finest on Saturday morning at our hotel. We enjoyed breakfast with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy at Ravello's inside the Four Seasons Orlando. It was great! After breakfast we headed to the pool and enjoyed the entire day there. We had lunch there, the kids played so much and Ben didn't even want to get out of the pool )only to eat! lol). Emme even napped there, we had such an amazing day and the weather was perfect.  At night time, we ventured out to check out Disney Springs, it was beautiful, packed with people but it truly was so pretty to be there. We met up with family there and had a nice dinner with the kids. We walked some more, shopped a little and headed to the hotel. 
Sunday: The reason we wanted to go to Island's of Adventure was because as you may know, Jurassic Park is in this Universal Studios park. So for Ben that was a must and I was happy to oblige. The kids is obsessed with dinosaurs. We made it into the park at around 10:30 and stayed there until 5pm. We were exhausted but we had a blast. Ben was so happy and we have so many memories. After that we had dinner with family and hung out there until night time. Went back to the hotel to pack and get ready for out final day in Orlando. 
Monday: we left the hotel at around 7:30 in the morning and headed to the airport to return the car rental as well as the car seats. We made it home at 2pm. We were really happy with our vacation and truly was the perfect amount of parks and fun, as well as memories. 
I truly hope this post helps you at least a little with your Disney vacation. Again, I am no expert, this is just what worked for me and I wanted to share it with you in hopes it can relieve some of your stress when planning tour next Disney trip.