Family vacations are supposed to be fun, yet planning a family vacation is no joke! By sprinkling a little pixie dust to planning, I’ve gone from doing a thankless job to being the family MVP. So whether you are planning your first Disney trip, a long overdue vacation, or looking to add a little magic to your travel routine, here are my Top 5 Walt Disney World Planning Tips.

One of our favorite family moments is when Anna decided to draw a mustache on Hans while signing Ella’s book.

Turn Character Meets Into Magical Encounters   

Pack a Disney Encyclopedia or Disney’s Who’s Who book instead of  “shelling”out way too much money for Ariel’s, John Hancock (see what I did there). Buying an autograph book at the parks is a “No.” for me. 

Movie Nights In   

Let’s face it, Disney vacations aren’t cheap. When planning a trip, we try to cut down on our entertainment expenses by trading nights out for nights in. Disney nights in, to be exact. There are tons of Disney themed recipes out there, find one that’s inspired by the movie and get the whole family involved with the theme of the night. So if we are planning a trip to Animal Kingdom, we rewatch Avatar for Pandora paired with a create your own salad, rice, or noodle bowl. You can sip on grape soda while you watch Up for Up! A Great Bird Adventure Show. You save money by staying in, and when you’re in the parks, you can relive some of your favorite film moments.

Up! A Great Bird Adventure Show

Make The Journey Magical, Not Just The Destination                                                                                                                                                               

Take a page from the Imagineers, who have made the “ride queues” an immersive part of the ride. Research fun Disney facts throughout the parks to share with your crew. Like taking a break on the side street of Main St USA to listen to the Main St residents. You might hear dance lessons coming from the School of Dance on the 2nd floor. Or find “Easter eggs” like Lady and The Tramps paw prints in front of Tony’s Restaurant or the hidden Steamboat Willie near the Journey of The Little Mermaid. 

I’m not a Disney V.I.P. Tour guide, but I play one on T.V.

Dine With Your Faves           

 If meeting characters is a must-do, schedule a Character Dining experience. I much rather get Mickey’s waffle wasted while waiting to meet Minnie than standing in line wasting away in the Floridian heat. Also, unlike standing in line, you know who you’re going to see; there’s nothing worse than having a character swap out right before you flick it up with Flik. This is also a great way to see hard-to-meet characters, and if you schedule the character dining at a resort, you can see if that’s somewhere you’d want to stay on a future trip.

I signed the petition to bring that Meet & Greet back, did you?

It Won’t Always Be “Rope Drops and Rainbows, and That’s Ok                                                                                                                                                    

To avoid full-on meltdowns from kiddos and adults alike, schedule time to leave the parks mid-day. If your trip is over 5 days, plan for a park-free day. There is something about spending a couple of hours at the hotel pool that helps recharge and reset. We stayed at All-Star Movies for Ava’s 8th birthday. While at the pool, she started a game of Marco Polo. Instead of hearing just our voices, the whole pool joined in. That’s still one of my favorite memories. Also, be on the lookout for deals that include water park and mini-golf admission. I usually schedule a Typhoon Lagoon/ Disney Spring day around day 4 or 5. Chilling in the wave pool followed by retail therapy ensures the crew is in theme park mode for the rest of the trip. 

I hope this list has you ready to get your plan on! Pack your bubble wands (I refuse to pay park prices when I can grab some from the Disney Store outlets), matching family tees (let’s face it, the pictures in front of the castle are priceless), patience, and perspective. Of course, you won’t get to do everything you planned, but you can plan on making magical memories. Be sure to share your planning trips and tips in the comments below.

Want to travel like The Rude’s? Check out their family travel vlogs.

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