Parent to Parent

Disney Vacation- Know Before You Go

Miley Cyrus

Speaking to the Disney adventurers, again. Oh, you haven’t made the plunge yet? Don’t think you can afford it? That may be so, but you’ll never know until you go to their web site and try a sample itinerary. I’m not the only one who was pleasantly surprised. It seems in this recession that Disney is really working hard to make your dreams come true at an affordable rate (aka fill the parks). New promotions are being added or extended all the time, so don’t give up hope just yet!

If you took my advice and checked out you now realize that there’s practically an entire army out there gathering intelligence and reporting it in such a way as to help you maximize the fun of a Disney vacation. And why do we need all this help? Because Disney World in Florida is HUGE. Maybe one of the largest resorts in the world?

Walt Disney World in Florida sits on approximately 25,000 acres or 38.6 square miles (nearly half of that is devoted to the Wilderness Preserve). There are approximately 22 different Disney vacation resorts, with an additional 7 hotels not operated by Disney but located on the property, with over 25,000 rooms, and that doesn’t include all the campers at Wilderness Campground. It also doesn’t include all the hotel/motel rooms and condos in the surrounding community outside the park. It’s exhausting just thinking about it, and I haven’t even gotten to the four theme parks yet, or the two water parks, or any of the other myriad activities that are carried on all over the Disney property.

On and on it goes. It seems like there’s something new or expanded every year, just like the typical American waistline. So on an average day you can expect to share the Magic Kingdom with up to 14,000 of your closest friends. Which means you will most likely spend a large portion of your day waiting in line. In the hot sun. With tired, cranky, hungry children. Surrounded by other people’s tired, cranky, hungry children. And this is the happiest place on earth?

So this army of Disney fanatics has compiled loads of information to speed you happily on your way to Space Mountain, or maybe just a nice quiet sit-down meal. Whatever your pleasure, the keywords are Fast Passes and RESERVATIONS. For dining, there is every conceivable option available, but you must make your reservations before you even arrive, in most cases, even up to 90 days in advance. There are special character breakfasts where the kiddies will enjoy being visited at their table by an assortment of Disney characters. There is tea with the Disney princesses, which no self-respecting princess would miss (if her daddy would just make the reservation). They still have the Hawaiian Luau at the Polynesian Resort, which is another not-to-be-missed family treat, especially if a trip to Hawaii is not on your horizon.

If reservations are not your style, then be prepared to stand in line at any of the various counter-service (read fast-food) style eateries that can be found throughout the theme parks and individual resort hotels. Unless you’re lucky enough to be there on an off day or week, there are lines everywhere for everything. And there are ways to avoid them, or at least minimize your wait times.

About that off peak day or week … there are ways to find those, too. Besides just luck, that is. Yes, another web site,, is devoted entirely to the scientific collection and reporting of data – the people-moving kind. What was the slowest week last year? And what factors may have contributed to the low attendance? Is it the weather? Local school vacation weeks? Or is it influenced by the school calendar way up in Massachusetts? Yes, yes, and yes!

The team of researchers at have compiled the data and come up with predictions, wait times at each of the theme parks’ peak attractions on any given date. A subscription to this site will get you an entire year’s worth of those predictions, updated regularly. You can even request their detailed tour plans, which plan your day at the Magic Kingdom for you, based mostly on the time of year, the ages of your children, and any special events or closures going on that day. What do I mean by closures? For instance, Space Mountain will be closed for refurbishment as of April 19th this year. Yikes! Well, it has to be done sometime. Good information to know ahead of time, don’t you agree?

Now for those elusive Fast Passes. Information is pretty sketchy until I found the 411 on, yet another unofficial Disney World information clearinghouse. Fast Passes are another way Disney uses the reservation system. You go to the ride, see the long line, grab a Fast Pass – it gives you your appointment, a one hour window when you can come back and go through the shorter Fast Pass line. Fast Passes are not available for all rides and attractions, just the most popular. And because there’s only a certain number available, you have to try to get them first thing in the morning, because once they’re gone, they’re gone for the day. Just another item on the to-do list to plan ahead.

Still have questions about a Disney Vacation? What to pack? What to carry around all day at the theme parks? Special needs such as wheelchairs, autistic children or trying to stick to a vegetarian diet? Seriously, it is all covered at the sites I’ve mentioned, and much more. Do your homework and you can have a no-surprises fun family vacation, all thanks to the Disney fanatics on the web.

Photos Courtesy of DisneyTM

Patti Hermes

Patti Hermes, Parent to Parent, is living the dream with her high school sweetheart, raising their boys in the Midwest because it's a good starting point for epic road trips. While writing, reading and homeschooling take up most of her time, she still blogs at HermesParent to ParentParentingParent to Parent Disney Vacation- Know Before You Go by Patti Hermes Speaking to the Disney adventurers, again. Oh, you haven't made the plunge yet? Don't think you can afford it? That may be so, but you'll never know until you go to their web site and try a sample itinerary....Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids