Earlier this summer we took a nice little family drive to Florida and spent a few days on St. Pete Beach. If you missed out on either of my most recent travel posts, by “little drive” I mean 19 hours -I can just feel the envy oozing from everyone right now. That being said, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that I wanted to add a day at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to end our trip before heading back to Illinois…our 17.5 hour drive back to the lovely state of corn. You guys -it was totally worth it. Yep, I know some of you think I’m crazy and yes, I was flat out told before we went on vacation that I was crazy…okay, not flat out told (except by my husband of course) but I easily picked up that vibe from others as well, despite polite conversation. Is experiencing Disney this way for everyone? Absolutely not. However, for us it did just the trick for what we needed and maybe it could for you too.
So let’s get a few questions and answers out of the way before diving into our day at Magic Kingdom.
- Why Disney? “It is the most magical place on Earth.” No, really. Not to mention our boys love pretty much anything that is Disney related. Are there going to be breakdowns? Yes. Will it be hot? Will it rain? Will there be some type of weather to get in your way? There is a good chance. Isn’t that kind of the case no matter where you are or what you do though? Disney World is swarming with people and I found it comforting to feel like I was in the same company…meaning I giggled when I heard another couple bickering or sympathized when I saw another kid crying. I like to think that people did the same when they saw our family doing these things!
- Your kids are 2 and 4, why even bother going? See comment just above -they love all things Disney. I know the chances of them remembering everything from this day are slim, but I will remember the looks on their faces as they took in everything with amazement. Memories for parents are important too!
- It is SO expensive, how do you justify? No joke there, Walt Disney World IS expensive and if there were one reason as to why I wouldn’t go -this would be the one. However, if you can find a way to make it work financially then I have no other reasons (for my little fam at least). Plan ahead and save whether you are doing it through your own savings account or utilizing a payment plan through Disney. *Bonus* – toddlers under 3 years old are free. We took advantage of the opportunity to go to Disney as a family of 4, but only had to pay for a family of 3, totaling $373.83. We also nixed things like character dining experiences and professional photos. Lastly, we didn’t stay at a Disney Resort Hotel -though you can find some of these at reasonable prices.
- Where did we stay? B Resort & Spa which is a Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel so not a Disney Resort Hotel, but close enough. Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels have buses that run to and from all of the parks which was convenient. One of the other nice perks is the Disney Extra Magic Hours -extended hours of the park before and after normal park hours. With the resort fee included we paid $163.88 for a night, pretty darn reasonable for Disney I think. So our 2 largest expenses of the trip totaled $537.71.
Loved our room here -spacious, modern, clean, and the boys were welcomed with a stuffed frog -bonus.On our way to the bus stop to go to Magic Kingdom, so excited!
Patient boys – well, at this point :-).
5. Why only 1 day? Well, we did not plan ahead as I previously suggested hence we were not saving for Disney by any means. Ticket prices do go down the more days you choose to go, but in the grand scheme of things this wasn’t helpful for our specific situation. Being that we were already going to be within driving distance, we opted for 1 day to fit within our budget needs. Some day we will do the whole shebang -when it is planned well in advance!
6. Of all the theme parks, why Magic Kingdom? Best fit for the boys in terms of the amount of attractions for their age and height range. Plus, it has the iconic castle. I think they would have really enjoyed Animal Kingdom too, but we had to make a choice. Luckily Toy Story Land wasn’t open so I didn’t have to battle with the decision to go to Hollywood Studios too.
So how in the world do you see all of Magic Kingdom in a 1 day? Well, we didn’t. Hello, 2 toddlers = not possible and even if we didn’t have 2 toddlers, I’m still not sure that is possible. How do you make the most of Magic Kingdom in 1 day? Have a game plan ahead of time. Do your research to familiarize yourself with the park and have a list of your “must see” stops. I cannot stress this enough. With so much to take in and being in somewhat of a time crunch, I think some sort of rough itinerary is the best way to go. You might not stick to the itinerary, but at least you have it as a starting point. I’ve compiled a list of the resources that I found most helpful in planning below:
- Park Hours – Confirm opening and closing times -and then compare those to your Disney Extra Magic Hours if you have them. For us, this meant we could be at the park from 9AM (or 8AM taking into account their opening procedures)-10PM and then 10PM-1AM for the extra magic hours. Know your plan for transportation before the day of.
- Online Map *Hint use the filters to avoid being overwhelmed looking at the map! You can also get a printable map here. We used a combo of these maps as well as the map that can be found in the Disney App.
- FastPass+; more details here. This is your way to skip the lines! Depending on your hotel, you can book these anywhere from 30-60 days in advance. In our case…like 5-10 days considering we didn’t buy our tickets until last minute! Basically you can pick a time frame for up to three attractions that you want to be able to go to without waiting in a line. Once you are at the park and have used all three, you can pick three more whether you do that by the Disney App or at a station there. We picked Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight. I can say all of these were great decisions because they all had lines of 50 minutes plus almost the whole time we were there. I also will say that we sadly missed Peter Pan’s Flight (one of my favorite memories as a little girl) because we did deviate from our rough itinerary to get much needed naps. That’s another thing to keep at the forefront of your mind, it likely is not going to go all as planned…but hey, we also missed the rain by doing this. I’ll note that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is another good idea for the FastPass. The passes for this were already all taken by the time we made our selections and the wait for this ride was ALWAYS an hour plus with the exception of right at opening and during the Extra Magic Hours.
- Disney Parks Moms Panel -This is an online resource to get answers from real moms about all things related to a Disney vacation. You can search by topic or simply type your question into a search bar – I was AMAZED at the amount of information here. If you can’t find the answer in a FAQ section that you are looking at, check this site out and chances are you can find it here. People ask things from whether or not they will have enough time to get from the airport to a dinner reservation, to advice on keepsakes for children, to utilizing gym facilities at another hotel if their hotel does not already provide them. I can immediately think of 3 moms that I know that could probably serve on this panel. If you are one of these magical moms and not a novice like me –Disney’s 2019 Panelist Search looks to be just around the corner!
- My Disney Experience Mobile App – Genius. You’ve probably already noticed that I mentioned their app multiple times already -it is a lifesaver. The Disney App at Disney World served my needs like Google does on a daily basis, it has all of your answers. Want to know how long the wait is for a ride? Got it. Want to reschedule a FastPass? Done. Want an interactive map? Okay. Feel like ordering food? Why not?! Seriously, download this if you are going. The only negative thing I will say is I felt like it drained my phone battery which was unfortunate for picture taking…then again picture taking was just hard in general. Disney is one of those experiences where you truly want to experience it with your kids rather than seeing it all from behind a screen…a constant battle (for me at least). Someone who works for Disney right now is saying “that is why we can take the pictures for you!” Also, genius -we just weren’t willing to fork over the money this time around!
- My Tips – Bring a double stroller and a cooler with drinks/snacks -these were huge for us.
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Utilizing the resources above with about a 10 day window of planning, our day for toddlers at Magic Kingdom ended up as follows:
Walked into the park just after opening and did the following:
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station
- The Barnstormer
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (FastPass+)
- Mad Tea Party
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (FastPass+)
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic (This is an indoor show and in 80-90 degree weather the air conditioning feels wonderful!)
- Ice Cream Time (We were starting to hit a wall here, I had made lunch reservations at T-REX Restaurant in Disney Springs with the thought we’d leave the park, go eat lunch, and then head to the hotel so the boys could get an afternoon nap before going back to the park). Jack fell asleep in the double stroller about this time so we decided that I’d do one more ride with Chase while Ben hung out with Jack. Of course, Jack woke up while we were in line, Ben got him popcorn, and then he proceeded to dump it all out -yay!)
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- Snack Time & Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire (We grabbed a Mickey pretzel for our walk out and this performance happened to be taking place at the castle so we watched while we finished up our snack…then it was time to go…boys were tired, sweaty, and hot…Ben and I were arguing over the right transportation to get on (hate to say it, but he was right).
- Boys napped at hotel (It happened to down pour about this time so it worked out perfect that we were inside).
- Fireworks at the Castle (I was adamant about seeing these…Ben probably would’ve been okay with just staying at the hotel the rest of the night but I was able to drag him back to the park where it was already crazy busy around the castle…no moving room, hot temps, kids that wanted picked up, and empty stomachs -I’m thankful Ben was a trooper with me on this one. I’m more thankful to the little girl who was standing next to us who told her mom “he looks just like Mr. Incredible” -referring to Ben, I think this was just enough to perk him up for the wait until the firework show went off -which was amazing :-))
- Late dinner
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid (Repeat Ride -park was about to close under the regular park hours and this was supposed to only have a 15 minute wait…unfortunately there were some technical difficulties with the ride so it took more like 40 minutes).
- Tomorrowland Speedway (Our Extra Magic Hours kicked in here, we maybe waited five minutes)
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Same with this one -about a ten minute wait – – take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours if you can!!)
At this point it was after 11PM…Jack was overdue for bed, Chase still had some energy, Ben…was ready to go, me…”the wait for Peter Pan is only 15 minutes now…” We went back to the hotel :-).
Our short trip to Disney was perfect for us. I think if we would have left the park earlier in the afternoon we could have had a dinner at normal hours and we did miss a few attractions that I know the kids would have loved…but really, in their little minds they are content. They went to Disney World where Mickey Mouse lives and got to see all his friends! I look forward to going back with my fam when the boys are both older and for longer, but that is probably a ways a way -so I will happily wait as the time goes by way faster than I want it to.