By Amanda G.
The Disney World parks cover 47 miles and the parking lots seem to go on forever. They say the average guest walks about 9 miles a Day! This is the second post in our Parent’s Guide to Disney World — go here to read our first post. The parks rent strollers but I feel they are not worth the money and time. Mostly because they must stay in the park so the long trip to the car has to be done hauling all of your bags and heavy exhausted children. They are made of hard plastic, do not recline and have small storage space and little sun protection. There are many rental companies in Orlando but I want to recommend Kingdom Strollers. They are a fantastic company run by a local family. We rented the city mini double and it was delivered to our hotel in almost new condition, clean and labeled with our name.
They are the only company I found to offer a free cooler which was invaluable at keeping our water chilled! Saved us a lot of money in the parks, not to mention the rental price would have been triple the price if we rented from the parks. When we were ready to go home we left the stroller with the hotel desk and it was picked up, no effort on our part! We recommend using Kingdom Strollers. Disclosure: I was given a rental to review on the trip.
I understand some people may think a five year old is too old for a stroller and normally I might agree. However on a trip like this I believe it saved everyone’s sanity. It is a lot of walking, often in humid heat, and kids need a break. Our five year old was able to have shade and rest any time she wanted, she even took a short nap one day! Our toddler napped easily every day and everyone was happy. I was thrilled with the amount of storage space as well. I did not have to carry a bag at all, I kept the camera in my pocket and used a wristlet hooked around my belt loop and in my pocket to hold my phone, necessary cards and money. That’s about as carefree as you can get with little ones and it was wonderful.
Speaking of cameras, make sure you have enough memory and yours is in working order. I forgot this and went on a panicked search for a bigger memory card the day before the trip! Disney has something called a photo pass and photo pass plus which is basically using their photographers and then buying photos from them. Their photographers are everywhere and totally optional. Photopass is free to use, you pay only if you decide to order. They are also post immediately on the photopass website so if you send your password, folks back home can see some of your pictures while you are there. We let them take photos throughout the trip, ended up only buying one photo of all of us in front of the castle, one digital download was $15. Tip: If you want a family shot in front of the castle do NOT do it at noon with the sun in your faces. They say the best times are dusk and early morning. In our photo, my kids are squinting and we look a bit uncomfortable, oops. TIP: While you have that camera ready to go do yourself a favor and immediately take clear pics of your ticket numbers, then of your photopass cards, and one of your kids in their day’s clothes (should you be separated) and possibly your parking space.
Characters are such a big part of the experience and especially if your kids are believers in this kind of magic they are a must do. Check your free Kenny the Pirate app to find out where the characters are going to be daily! My daughter was a bit in awe and was shy around the princesses until we used some of his tips like asking Belle what her favorite book is. Belle opened up and my daughter had a great little chat! The Beast reads Sleeping Beauty by the fire with her and it is very romantic, if you were curious.
All of our photos of our toddler are with him about 2 feet away from every character! Don’t feel bad if the kids are spooked, it is pretty weird for the little ones. And don’t be embarrassed if you have the urge to get your picture taken! Adults do it all day in the worlds….I may have a photo of myself and Snow White’s evil queen but don’t tell anyone.
Character meals are perhaps the best way to spend time with specific characters and have a nice break in the day. Tip: Character meals require reservations as early as 180 days in advance so plan ahead if you can. Cinderella’s Royal Table is the only one that requires payment when you reserve, refundable if needed later.
Best Food At Disney: Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom
We all agreed the meal at Tusker House at Animal Kingdom had the best food on the trip and we had so much fun with Mickey, Daisy and Goofy. Daisy led the kids around in a conga line, Goofy followed the baby and I to the bathroom and we had nice photos with them all. Donald does photos before you enter, he is not inside.
Because of the expense I took my daughter to Cinderella’s Royal Table as a girls’ lunch, so my boys rested and napped. It was so much fun, we were at a small table and were seated in the window overlooking Fantasyland. The princesses are wonderful, we got lots of photos including the Cinderella folio that is included in price. If you want to buy one or already have a costume bring it, almost every girl was in their finest polyester. At each meal they give the kids a wand or sword and a wishing star. It was one of those magic moments we hoped our kids would have on this trip- she really believed the magic and it was precious. Best tip for character meals is actually one we did not do….book as early as possible for the first seating of the day. You will enter the parks before they open and get to take photos, look around a bit with a nearly empty park! Well worth the effort and cost.
Autograph books are a must when you plan on meeting characters, kids go wild over collecting everyone’s signatures. They are sold in the parks, many people make cute ones on etsy, or you can make your own. I bought a small sketchbook, decorated with simple chipboard stickers and some ribbon. Tip: Sharpies are best especially for characters wearing big gloves, I hot glued one with a retractable tip right to the book with ribbon. We did not collect pins but I have heard kids a bit older really get into them, if you want to save money collections can be found on eBay and trip planning forums at a discount, make sure they are authentic or people will not trade with you. Even the cast members get into trading!
Collecting pressed pennies is also great, bring the coins stacked in a mini m-n-ms container to make your life easier. We bought a case for them the first day and my daughter loves looking over her collection! There are hundreds to be found, and this map is a big help if you want specific ones www.parkpennies.com.
It’s funny how most people think the parks are just characters, rides, a parade or two and that’s it. There are so many small moments and experiences you can have, some I have mentioned here already.
Each Disney resort offers great things to do and see, Downtown Disney is a fun place to unwind. There are fireworks dessert parties, pirate cruises, princess and pirate makeovers. You can customize your trip for your kids’ interests and end up enjoying some great food and fun for yourself too. The cast members work to create magic every day like the glitter pixie dust they sprinkled on my daughter at the castle dress shop, stickers given out by the ice cream man, she even got to drive the jungle cruise boat and get a special license!
Walt Disney World is the success it is because it is an imersive environment with experiences around every corner. Take time to notice the detailed theming that makes it so special. So many people miss these fun times because they are searching maps, rushing to see everything or being upset they can’t walk into the castle with no reservation. It does take planning and research but when you get there it will all fall into place if you are prepared and relaxed. We were so sad to end our trip and look forward to planning the next one and even though I spent a year researching I will definitely be checking out these resources again. Have a wonderful trip!
www.touringplans.com Planning and crowd calendar
www.kennythepirate.com How to find characters, interaction ideas
www.gardengrocer.com Grocery delivery, diapers too!
www.kingdomstrollers.com Best stroller rental
www.pscalculator.net Calculates the day you should make dining and activity reservations
www.parkpennies.com Pressed penny map
www.disneyfoodblog.com Menus, reviews, tips on restaurants
www.etsy.com You can find autograph books, custom family shirts, cute character hair bows!
Don’t miss our Family Guide to Disney World, Part 1.
Thank you to Kingdom Strollers for making our trip so much easier! As always, all opinions are my own.