Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Disney vacation with multiples

or several young children.

[I would like to note that when I refer to Disney, I am writing about Walt Disney World - the one in Florida. I'm sure that most of my tips are relevant for vacations to Disneyland - the one in California - but there are obvious differences in resorts and transportation.]

Where to Stay

I will go into more detail regarding resorts and the advantages/disadvantages of staying onsite versus offsite in a future post but, for now, I simply want to mention that a new value resort is scheduled to open in May. Most resort rooms at Disney can only be booked for 4 people.

And I know that you can lie and squeeze 5 people into a room designated for 4 people and get away with it (which would require separate purchase of park tickets and not being on the dining plan if it was offered for free for that extra person) but let's suppose that everyone is playing by the rules. It is sometimes easier that way.

Disney classifies its resorts into three categories: value, moderate and deluxe. Obviously, the value resorts are more inexpensive than the deluxe. Currently, the only value resort with family suites is the All-Star Music Resort. These suites sleep up to 6 guests and contain a separate bedroom and two bathrooms.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort, which is scheduled to open in May, features suites with a master bedroom and two bathrooms for up to 6 guests.

These suites may be more cost efficient then renting two connecting rooms.

Strollers - Rent vs. BYO (bring your own)

Even if your kids are older and "out of strollers," you may find that you need one at the parks. There's a ton of walking and standing involved. So much so that some adults have trouble keeping up. My advice is to bring your own and here's why:

Disney does have strollers (singles and doubles) that you can rent in the parks. The costs per day are $15 and $31. They do offer a bit of a discount if you plan to rent for multiple days. In that case, the costs are $13 and $27 per day. These strollers are the hard plastic type but, yes, they serve their purpose.

Another option is to a rent a stroller or strollers from an outside vendor. For example, Orlando Stroller Rentals. They rent all those gotta-have, push with one finger strollers. I would suggest paying for the insurance because strollers have been stolen. (Not necessarily these rentals, just in general.)

So let's suppose that my family is going to be vacationing in the Disney parks for 5 days. Here's how much it would cost us to rent both a single stroller and a double stroller for those 5 days:

From Disney - $200
From Orlando Stroller Rental - $190 (that's with insurance b/c knowing my luck, a stroller would be stolen)

Right now, I would not consider just renting a double and letting the girls take turns. Anna would need to ride for most of the day and like I said before, there's a TON of walking. Sometimes it's much quicker to move from Point A to Point B if all three munchkins are in a stroller as opposed to strolling.

A final word on strollers - as you can imagine, there are a billion strollers in the Disney parks. Make yours stand out so that you can easily find it. We always keep a handful of baby receiving blankets in the van so we simply tied one onto the handle of the stroller.

Must Bring Items

Keep in mind that you can bring food and drink items into the parks and I would definitely take advantage of that considering the cost of those items once inside the parks. Some people suggest throwing some water bottles into the freezer overnight so that you will have some cooler water later in the day. If you have little ones, I would most definitely bring snacks for them.

Sippy cups! When we went to Disney, my kids could easily drink out of regular cups or straw cups but sharing a bottle of water or a large juice bottle became a bit of a headache. Some food vendors did give us extra cups upon request but not all would or could, especially those that had self-serve fountain type drinks. Bringing sippy cups with us was extremely helpful.

Autograph books. The girls were 3.5 years old for our first visit and they LOVED collecting autographs. LOVED it. I actually thought that they wouldn't be into it and hadn't planned on purchasing books for them. One of their aunts gave them the books before our trip and I'm so glad that she did.

Post-it notes. Especially if you have girls who are potty trained. Auto-flush toilets spray and can easily freak kids out. They freak me out. The solution is to place a post-it note over the sensor so that it doesn't flush before I'm ready for it to.


If you are thinking about using Disney transportation (the buses), have a plan for loading and unloading your kiddos, your gear and your stroller(s). Suppose it is you, your husband and your two year old twins. You have all of your gear in backpacks and your husband has folded up the stroller to carry onto the bus. You, the mom, are going to have to get those kids on and off of the bus while your husband is manning the stroller.

Some folks recommend bringing lightweight umbrella strollers, which would also be easier to push around than a bulky double.

Packing the stroller

Theft does happen, even at Disney, so be aware that anything you leave in your stroller may be taken. Folks have noted the theft of resort mugs to diaper bags to souvenirs. Unless you plan on having everything in a backpack, which you bring with you on rides, I would suggest keeping food and drink items in plastic grocery bags in the bottom of the stroller. In my unprofessional opinion, a thief is less likely to bother with it.

Have Fun

Just remember that this is a FAMILY vacation, which means that while you may have the opportunity to experience the "big kid" rides, you should plan on spending a great deal of time riding Dumbo and waiting in line to meet Mickey.

So after reading this over, I realize that it may not be that helpful. I tried.

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Cassidy said...

The one piece of advice I would give would be to buy a "all inclusive" package plan. My family went when I was 16 (10 years ago). It includes your hotel, any transportation, all your meals and once people at Disney know you have the card they suggest things you would never think to try. I have been on many vacations since we went to Disney and it is still by far my favorite!! Your girls are so lucky to go when they are little, hopefully you can go for years to come because Disney has something for every age group!!

Wendy said...

M&L have learned about Disney and are now begging to go. There is no way we can afford a Disney trip and we've told them in no uncertain terms that we will not be able to go to Disney, because it's really REALLY far away (even farther away than Far Away Grandma's house!) Maybe after they get jobs... :P
The post-it note over the toilet sensor it brilliant.

Lease said...

We just returned from a 9 day visit at WDW. Bringing our own strollers was a must for the parks and just navigating through airports.
One thing that can save money and the amount of stuff you have to tote into the parks is that any counter service restaurant will give you a ice water that you can pour into sippy cups or just use straws.

Michelle said...

I would love to take my kids to Disney someday! But I must say the post it note is excellent. My oldest can't stand the auto flush toilets. They freak her out and i never thought of that. Thanks for the tip.

ps~I see you are in the the #1 spot! yay!

saraheeyore said...

everything depends on the kids on a disney holiday. Be prepared to ride its a small world several times in a row or in our case the people mover 3 times a day at mk. my dd did manage to walk it all at 4 even world showcase (deciding to then walk to hollywood studios from epcot was a bad idea though)she always been a great walker. my ds however won't walk to the shop and back at 2 and a half

BabyWheels said...

We've been to WDW 3x and every time was a unique experience - really it is more about FUN and EXCITEMENT. Especially my 2 little boys, they always look forward to traveling WDW and I made sure we rent strollers for them. It's quite an SOP for us.

Heather Sullivan said...

We aren't going back to Disney World for another three years, but we were engaged there and honeymooned there as well. I am obsessed with going on our five year wedding anniversary and I love your intesity about the upcoming trip! I am already so stoked for ours, I'm sort of planning on living vicariously through you guys. :) Excellent advice, especailly about the strollers.

Angela said...

Love this post! I've been to WDW three times and have loved it every time! You offer good advice, but I do recommend bringing your own strollers for airport purposes, downtown disney, etc. I went in 2008 with the family I nannied for at the time when J was 5 and M was 6 months. It went really well! Basically everything you offered as advice was what we did. Oh and eat breakfast in your room except if you eat bfast with the characters...which I highly recommend doing one day!


Angela said...

Btw- you're sitting pretty at #1 now!

Momma Z said...

Great information. I didn't know All Star Music had suites. Just updated my spreadsheet with the information.

Kari said...

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! We are heading to Disney with our quads in September and I have been reading your disney posts in preparation!

Karen said...

Thess are great tips.
I'm a big Disney fan. I used to work at the Kilimanjaro Safari in the Animal Kingdom and my husband and I have the after four passes for EPCOT (Florida resident). We take our six month over a couple of times a month and walk around.
Here are a few tips you may already know, but I thought were worth mentioning:
Fast passes: Take advantage of them. If your window says return between 10 and 12, you can come back anytime in the day after 10. If you are going to EPCOT and planning on going on Soarin' (which the girls may be old enough for) get your Fast Passes as soon as you get into the park.
Baby Centers: I'm sure you know, but these are amazing. They have one in each park, and even when your kids are potty trained it's worth taking advantage of. It's just a quiet area where everyone can regroup, go to the bathroom, and even sit in the small lounge and play or watch TV.
Extra Magic Hours: If you're on property and you're going to take advantage of the extra hours, awesome. If not, go to a different park than the one with the extra magic hours because they are the most crowded on these days.
Try to avoid the Magic Kingdom on the weekends.
Resort pools: If you stay on property, you can use any resort pool except the Yacht & Beach Club.
Dinner Shows: The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review is a blast.
Private photos with Mickey: if you have the Disney credit card, they have different places in the parks where you can bypass the line and have a quick meet and great with him.
Hope this helps!

watzzy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
watzzy said...

My aunt used stroller rentals for her 3 boys ages 6, 4 and 1 year old. I think it's the most convenient way to keep the kids stress-free during the trip and going around theme parks as well as the best idea for the family because it sure will be a hassle flying 3 strollers to WDW LOL...They got discount on renting a double strollers and they're happy with it =)

izza said...

You have very practical tips, It will be more helpful for the first timers. I have tried Disney World stroller rentals and they do have excellent service and affordable rates that you would surely enjoy.

drew said...

Thank you so much for your tips. They have been great to read. We are so excited on our next trip and will surely make use of them.