Here we go! If you're planning to visit Disney World in the near future, I've compiled a list of suggestions for a magical vacation. Some of these I've pointed out in prior years but some are new based on changes and updates made by Disney.
Don't wait, make those reservations
Trust me when I tell you that your life will be so much easier if you just make those reservations at the earliest date allowed. At the 180 day mark, make your dining reservations. I wrote a detailed post on advanced dining reservations (ADRs) that you can read here. Remember, you can always cancel an ADR, but trying to add one later on can be frustrating and time consuming.
One of my least favorite planning activities is securing FastPass+ reservations, but having those in place will save you so much time during your vacation. If you're staying at a Disney World resort, you can make your FP+ selections 60 days prior to your vacation.
Download the My Disney Experience app on to your phone
Not only was I able to keep track of my dining reservations and FP+ selections through this app, but I was able to view updated wait times for rides and attractions, make any changes to my reservations and view PhotoPass photos. Honestly, this app saved us time, especially when it came to FP+. I was able to delete FastPasses that we didn't need and add others right there on my phone.
Don't underestimate this app or judge its usefulness on how much I have written here, which isn't much. It really did make planning on vacation so much easier.
Understand and use the FastPass+ system to your advantage
Let me start with an example: As we were boarding Living with the Land, located in Epcot, a ride that probably never has more than a 5 minute wait, a couple scanned their magic bands at the FP+ kiosks and entered the line. Except there was no line and the wait time was listed at 0 minutes. Yes, zero. When they realized this, they asked the attending cast member if there was a way to cancel that FP+. They were told that no, they couldn't, not after they had scanned their bands. So they essentially wasted one of their three FastPasses.
You can hold three FP+ reservations a day. Once you use all three or the time period runs out on the three you have reserved, you can add another FP+ for that day. After that is used, you can add another. While this sounds like a nice benefit, and it can be, keep in mind that the popular rides will not have any FastPasses left. If you don't use a FastPass for whatever reason, cancel it and add another. One night, we jumped on the Little Mermaid ride because there was no line at all. Apparently, most of the other guests were waiting to watch the fireworks. We had FP+ reservations the next morning for this ride. I asked the girls if they wanted to ride it again and they said no, they'd rather do something else. I canceled via the My Disney Experience app and made a new FP+ selection.
I believe Disney allows guests to make FP+ selections for rides that rarely see wait times greater than 10 minutes (outside of holidays) in order to keep availability more reasonable for the popular rides. Do your research and know which rides have longer wait times!
Parade and Fireworks
If you were unable to make FP+ reservations for popular rides and you don't want to wait 60, 90, 120 minutes for those rides, consider skipping the night parade/fireworks. Wait times for rides and attractions drop dramatically during nighttime entertainment.
If you do decide to watch the parade, the route along Main Street is the most crowded. Don't expect to saunter up 20 minutes before the parade and find front row seats. It won't happen and those of us who have been sitting there for over an hour aren't going to make room for you. (Not sorry.) If you don't want to spend precious time holding seats, head over to Frontierland. The viewing areas do not fill up as quickly. You can also view the fireworks from most areas within Magic Kingdom. I know the experience isn't the same as watching from Main Street, but sometimes the crowds aren't worth it.
Disney Without Tears
I bring this up quite often because of how important it is. Be realistic with your expectations of what your kids can handle. If kids are kept up late and woken early and then forced to walk six miles, you shouldn't be surprised when they lose it. Be realistic with what you can handle yourself. This is supposed to be a vacation, not boot camp.
If you or your child has a medical need, please visit First Aid. They are extremely helpful. This is where I cath Anna and every single nurse we've met has been nice and welcoming. Anna needs to be cathed approximately every three hours so we've visited First Aid quite often. It is never crowded and most of the time, we are the only guests there.
Don't listen to the travel bloggers who tell you to pack a first aid kit along with all the other stuff you need to carry with you when visiting the parks. They don't know Disney very well. If you need a band-aid, pain relief, or other like items visit First Aid. They'll have whatever you need and are there to help. (The stores within the parks do not sell these items.)