How to Survive a Theme Park Part 2

We planned a very spur of the moment trip to Disney World in Orlando for spring break. Very out of character for me as I’m a major planner. We just conquered it yet again and while it’s still fresh in my head I wanted to get this post out ASAP. Now I did this post last year and let me just say, it’s stood the test of time. I even referenced it to make sure I had dotted my I’s and crossed all my T’s checklist! Because doing Disney is not easy, especially when you have kids. The key to Disney success or any theme park and I can’t stress this enough, is you have to think ahead and plan so you can enjoy your time as much as possible. I’m a total Disney nut so the planning part is extremely enjoyable to me.

So it all starts with how long do you want to stay, where are you staying and what parks do you want to visit? Once you have that down, make your dining reservations unless you want to go the quick serve option then you’re fine. My girls love eating with the princess’s in the Magic Castle so making a reservation there is always on the top of my list.

Now back to my previous post with a few added updates…

Things to think about and plan

Think about what your kids are into and do research ahead of time about associated attractions. For Evelyn, she was all about Nemo. And Mabel was about the princesses. For mommy, roller coasters. Daddy just goes with the flow. He’s always a good sport

Make sure to make your lunch and/or dinner reservations in advance. You can reserve up to 180 days prior to your visit. We planned a character lunch with the princesses in the castle. It was just magical for Mabel. And Evelyn, well, she was into the food. Making reservations ahead of time saves you the aggravation of long lines to meet characters, and you can also find out in advance what Disney characters will be available in the restaurants you choose. An added plus is that the characters will come to your table for photographs with the kids.

Stay on the property. There are a few plusses to this.

1) You can make your advance Fast Pass selections.

2) You can decompress in the middle of the day. Granted, we have two young children and Evelyn still takes her afternoon nap, so we loved breaking up our day so we could ALL have a rest. We were ready for round two once Evelyn woke up.

3) There are great things to do on Disney properties. We took full advantage of the swimming pool. Nothing like a pool on a hot Florida afternoon to cool off.

I would also suggest having a chat with the front desk and enquiring about any special events or activities for the kids. Often the hotels have a “kid’s room” where they can spend time doing arts and crafts and even make snacks. We stayed at the Jumbo House and took in everything it had to offer. An added bonus is that guests who stay on property are given certain priorities such as early/late “magic hours” where they are allowed in earlier and to stay a bit later than the general public.

I also made sure to keep my kids on their regular routine as much as I could, which meant breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time as we do at home. Evelyn’s nap schedule stayed the same. The same for their bedtime. So that meant no fireworks for us. They go off at 9pm–it’s just too late for my little ones after a full day of stimulation, especially when we had other full days on the horizon.

Of vital importance is hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. With so much stimulation and distractions, it’s easy to forget to stop for a drink. Make sure you and your family are consuming plenty of water. Don’t forget sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses!

Don’t overschedule. I get it, going to Disney is expensive. You want to get as much bang out of your buck as possible. But knowing my kids, I know that too much stimulation will send them over the edge at a certain point. And a full-blown tantrum is not my kind of fun. Even for Bruce and me, we needed a break from the hot sun and crowds. There were SO many attractions we didn’t get to do (and we were there for 3 days!) But I feel we still had a full experience. The kids are still talking about that trip. I really feel doing less was more for us.

Prior to arriving, I spoke to the kids about what we would see and do. I told them that we need to practice patience when waiting in lines and that staying together at all times is very important because there will be so many people around. My kids need things mapped out because of their age. Over-sharing worked wonders for them so they weren’t caught too off guard.

Meeting Elena was a highlight and Ev's loved the tea cups!

The key to Disney success or any theme park and I can’t stress this enough, is you have to think ahead and plan so you can enjoy your time as much as possible...

The Frozen ride was awesome at Epcot and you can't miss the carousel!

As you’re walking into the park, pick a place where you can tell your kids, that god forbid you get separated, this is where you’ll meet. Choose something like the castle or someplace that would be easy for them to find. For younger kids these safety writeable tattoos are amazing. While it may seem a little over the top, I think taking a picture of your kids before setting off for the day in the park is a good idea as you’ll have a record of exactly what the child is wearing, making it easier to identify them should there be an unexpected separation from the rest of the family.

Lastly, I was never into the show portion of Disney theme parks before having children. It’s always been about the rides for me. But now, I’m all about getting in some shows, to be able to sit AND cool off in some cold a/c. We went to see Finding Nemo The Musical in the Animal Kingdom one day, which was great. Don’t underestimate the power of a show!

What to bring

A stroller…I brought two. A light-weight one for Mabel and Evelyn’s heavy duty stroller. I should have just made Evelyn’s stroller into a double but I thought having two made more sense. It really didn’t. But we had extra space to store all our personal effects. So, even if you no longer use a stroller for your child, you may want to consider bringing one along if you plan to spend more than a day at the park. Because quite honestly, unless you’re wearing a FitBit ,  you won’t realize that you actually walked some 10 miles in one day! And I assure you, Mabel definitely needed a break to rest her little legs at times.

TIP: Tie something colorful on your stroller so you can pick it out of the sea of strollers that all look exactly the same. You can also rent strollers on the property if you prefer. I saw a portable fan that was clipped onto a baby’s stroller and I thought that was a great idea! It was hot and humid in Orlando and my kids would have benefited from that. Even this water misting fan would have come in handy. Next time! I also made sure to take our strollers’ rain protectors. You never know what to expect with Florida’s tropical weather. Poncho’s come in handy too. You can even use it on Splash Mountain. But we were so happy to get wet on that ride—it was that hot!

Bring your own Mickey’s ears ! Go to Party City, the Dollar Store or Etsy. You will pay a fraction of the price at these stores than on the Disney property. Grab glow sticks or buy your autograph book here . Just anticipate what your kids will want and buy it prior to your arrival. I don’t know what to tell you about the balloons though. We sucked it up and dished out $40 for 2 balloons. Crazy, right?! Think ahead my friends, because it will save you some money.

Snacks, water bottles, and miscellaneous

There are so many unhealthy snack options at every corner. We packed loads of healthy snacks in my kids’ soft lunch box with an ice pack . My kids munched them while waiting in lines or while taking a break in their strollers. I brought their thermos bottles that kept their water cold, and Swell bottles for us that we kept refilling throughout the day. Like I said–hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I put it in my Jansport backpack and we were good to go.

A change of clothes is key. I took two changes of clothes for the girls. I added light cardigans for when we were inside watching a show or eating. The a/c is always cranked up indoors. It feels great at first but then we were freezing after five minutes!

And the obvious

First Aid Kit


Bug Spray

Kid’s antihistamine



Advil and Tums for the adults!

If you have to get there by plane, this post will help you survive the flight!

Please add your personal survival tips in the comments!

Happy spring to you and here’s to surviving the theme parks this season.


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Amy says:

Thank you for this! We are going in a few weeks and I feel like I’m losing my mind trying to plan. I appreciate your tips! Did you use a loose itinerary on paper for each day?

kerry says:

Hi, Emma! I feel like somewhere on your blog in the past, you wrote about safety bracelets for kids (like the kind that use bluetooth to locate your kiddo if they separate from you). I can’t find that post on your blog, though, so maybe it was just a post that we talked about? Anyway… would love to hear your thoughts on best options out there. 🙂
Love and miss you! xoxox

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