It may be hard to believe, but this trip was quite spontaneous actually. We started planning and buying tickets about 2.5 months before our trip, which is kind of nuts to do for the time frame we were going. But, it worked and lots of hard work later we had a cohesive trip planned. Ultimately, we did not want to be in Disney for Christmas eve or day, so leaving on the 23rd was enough time for us to get home and resume regular Christmas at our home. We have heard it is absolute craziness on those days and with small children we could not do that. There is also black out dates for Disney members, so we would notice some days were less busy than others. If you’re planning a Disney trip around Christmas, just take that into consideration as well. I’ve been going to Disney since I was 4 and have been going about every 4-5 years since then. I feel like I know a lot about Disney from all that I have experienced over the last several years. I broke up this post into sections of what I thought was most important to cover and go over. Lots of you left questions on my Instagram post, which was so helpful in the direction of this post. I tried to answer everything as best as I could without also over doing it 😉
One thing I want to mention is that we did take advantage o the Disney Photo Pass service. It was actually really nice to have, especially with the large group we went with. Anytime there is a photographer around (and they are everywhere) you can jump in and take any photo with your kids, family, etc. They scan your band and you get all the photos to your app/account where you can instantly download and even share with your family- great for splitting the cost. This was so nice, especially for the group and the character photos. They are all Nikon DSLR cameras so you get quality images. I am a photographer and while I really wanted to bring in my camera, I really couldn’t convince myself to bring one more thing to keep track of. Considering we were there for 6 days, the price was well worth it. I was able to actually be in the moment for so many activities and let the photographer handle the picture taking. All the photos in this post are from the Disney photographers.
Okay, Let’s get started!
Where we stayed:
We stayed at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground this time. We tried to get a reservation at the hotels, but with 2.5 months before we had slim pickings and much higher prices. We had such a big group that it made more sense not to book so many hotel rooms and to just go in the RV. The campground is super convenient to Magic Kingdom, being just a short boat ride away. This was the biggest reason we decided to book there. The campground has so many things for the kids to do! A Chip and Dale S’mores cook out, movie nights, carriage rides, a fire work show, pools, play grounds, dog parks, and a pioneer hall. We didn’t even get a chance to do it all. Fort Wilderness also has cabins as well if you want to stay there and don’t have an RV. If you are visiting during Christmas, don’t forget your lights and decorations. People go ALL OUT! It was so fun to walk around at night and see it all. Ps- we stayed int he premier camp sites due to the large size of my parents RV and it being a very short walk to the boat. I don’t know how many of my readers will need to know this info, but it was very helpful for us!
Our last trip to Disney (just Joel, Scarlett, and I) we stayed in Fort Wilderness lodge and it was so wonderful! I highly recommend staying there for some of the same conveniences as the campground- short boat ride to Magic Kingdom and lots to do with the kids when there.
The photo picture above with the beautiful Christmas tree is at the Grand Floridian! So glad we had a chance to hop over there for a character dining experience because it is so pretty. We look forward to staying there in the future! It’s the first stop to Magic Kingdom on the monorail for anyone considering staying there.
Schedule: 6 Park Days / Choosing a Schedule
We really struggled with coming up with where to go on what day and what parks to do at the beginning and end of our trip. Ultimately, we based our schedule off of extended magical hour days and tried to take advantage of that as much as possible. There was only one park day that we didn’t match up for magic hours, but we didn’t even miss it. Next thing we took into consideration was fire work or light shows. We tried to match those up with the days so we could catch as many of those we could. The big ones were Magic Kingdom fireworks and Epcot fireworks. What I recommend doing is to write down all extended hours, events, activities, parades, and fire work/light shows for every park on the days you will be there on paper. Highlight the things most important to you so you can start planning which park days you will do then create a spreadsheet in google to keep it all organized.
Ideally we wanted to start off easy with a different park and ease into Magic Kingdom since we knew we would do that park three times total. We also knew we would get tired after a few days and needed a slow day followed by a “pick me up day”. It may not have been perfect, but it was pretty darn good and we loved the schedule we made.
Day 1: Epcot
Day 2: Magic Kingdom
Day 3: Hollywood Studios
Day 4: Magic Kingdom
Day 5: Animal Kingdom
Day 6: Magic Kingdom
Fast Passes and Rides
Fast Passes were so nice to have, like, life saving while visiting Disney during the holiday time we spent there. Although, there was a learning curve too. Only 3 fast passes are allowed per person each day- and you cannot reserve fast passes to every big attraction, they limit you. There was also a big learning curve with these. For instance, you can add more fast passes to your account once you have completed all 3 attractions- which is nice. So, the key would be to schedule all your fast passes for the morning so you can add more sooner. But, not too early, because it is hard to get out quick in the morning with kids! They do have a grace period of 15-30 minutes thank goodness. We also had a toddler meltdown and completely had to skip a fast pass. About an hour after I figured it was worth asking if we could somehow still use our fast pass. With very little questions they let us do our ride. This actually happened twice and we were SO grateful for their kindness. So, if you miss yours, it’s worth a shot asking to still get on your ride 🙂
Fast Passes We Booked:
Magic Kingdom- It’s A Small World, Peter Pan, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Little Mermaid, Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of Caribbean, and Princess Meet and Greet.
~ Remember, we had 3 days in Magic Kingdom, so we were able to grab fast passes for popular rides for 3 separate days. If you are doing this as well, I highly recommend doing your fast passes in sections. Like, get fast passes for frontierland one day and fantasyland the next. We wish we could have done Seven Dwarves mine train, but the fast passes had already been sold out and the line was like 80 mins minimum. Next time 😉
Eocot: Frozen Ride, Test Track, and Soarin.
Hollywood Studios: Tower of Terror, Rock n Rollercoaster, Belle’s Live stage, and Indiana Jones Live stage.
Animal Kingdom: Everest, River Navi, and Safari. Highly recommend the safari and trying to get on the Pandora ride- they are the most popular.
Once you go through your 3 passes for the day, I’d look immediately after you scan your magic band and look for openings to new rides. The sooner you can get to another ride, the more fast passes you can add. We were able to add some character meet & greet’s this way which was really nice since those lines usually are pretty long.
Stroller suggestions/rental service:
If you are driving down, you probably are bringing your own stroller. But, if you are flying or just don’t want the hassle of bringing one on your travels, there are a few amazing companies who do stroller rentals. Kingdom Strollers and Magic Strollers came highly recommended by friends and readers. If you are bringing your own or are investing in a stroller, I have a few I’d love to recommend. I have owned several strollers and still have more than I really need. But, you also benefit in getting my honest opinion 😉
Large Strollers: If you don’t care about size and how big the stroller is, I’d recommend the Double BOB, Bumbleride Indie Twin, or Baby Jogger Jogging stroller. There is something to be said about the ease of rolling a double stroller around Disney. Especially if you have an older child you are toting around in it. Disney makes it so easy to transport them and fit through areas. If you don’t mind the size in the crowds, I’d say bring it. These are the most popular ‘bigger’ ones I saw being used. We own a double BOB and I kind of wish I had just brought it. We also have owned a Bumbleride Twin for a short time and loved that stroller so much- it would be perfect for Disney since it’s not ultra big like the BOB.
Mid Sized Strollers: I had hoped to purchase the City Mini GT for our trip, but I couldn’t justify buying one brand new when our oldest is 4.5. I never stumbled across a second hand one in time. For our family, I thought this would be perfect. The size is great and I love the designated foot rest area. The rubber wheels are great for rolling over un even surfaces too. Another great option that is slightly cheaper is the Britax Double stroller. The wheels are not double, but it has great reviews and so many are very happy with this stroller. We own a City Mini Select and have owned an Uppababy Vista before. These are both excellent choices for bringing a mid size stroller that you can also add a seat to for an additional child. Scarlett no longer fits comfortably in the City Select seat, so this stroller was not an option for us unless we brought the kick board- but that did not allow her to sit either. If you have two smaller children you are bringing to Disney, these two strollers would be an excellent choice as they are so easy so maneuver and have large baskets.
Small Strollers: Maclaren, Uppababy, and Zoe make a great umbrella double stroller that come highly recommended. We own a single Maclaren stroller and it rolls so well! We were so grateful that Sarah Tucker let us borrow her umbrella stroller while we were in Disney! I really think that if you have one child who is walking a lot and a toddler, an umbrella stroller is very doable. Scarlett really only needed to be in the stroller for breaks and getting through crowded areas.
Must Do For Toddler/Pre School/ Young School Aged Kids (geared towards girls):
Tales with Belle (Magic Kingdom)
Princess Meet & Greet (several locations)
Bippity Boppity Bootique in Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs
Frozen Ever After (Epcot)
Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride (Magic Kingdom)
Beauty and The Beast Live Show (Hollywood Studios)
Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
Festival of Fantasy Parade (Magic Kingdom parade)
Little Mermaid Ride and Meet Ariel at the Grotto (Magic Kingdom)
Shopping at Castle Couture (Magic Kingdom)
~ I plan on having a designated in depth post on what to do with little girls in Disney World! Stay Tuned!
Where We Ate:
Disney has a lot of really great places to eat and you should definitely take advantage of making some reservations at them while you are there. Most days we brought in our lunch and that helped a ton! I can only handle so much of the fast food restaurants and sitting down at a sit down restaurant for every meal takes time away from your day. I know not everyone who goes to disney will be able to bring in lunch, but if you can, it’s so worth it. Ease of eating on the spot and eating what you want is so nice.
In Epcot we enjoyed La Hacienda (has a boat ride inside) for some latin fair. It was good! We are used to Tex Mex, so this felt a little more on the authentic side. We also enjoyed Akershus for the princess dining experience and it was wonderful! The food was Norwegian fair and we enjoyed it. If you want American food there, book for a morning reservation. We got the cheese ravioli, roasted chicken, the appetizer bar, and dessert sampler– it was wonderful! My in laws ate at the marakesh restaurant and raved about how good it was! We got some german beers later than night in Germany and learned that the one we chose- the grapefruit beer, had like 2.5% alcohol in it. Ha! Oh well, at least it tasted good!
Magic Kingdom: The most spontaneous decision we made was on our last day to reserve dining at Tony’s! This is the italian restaurant where Lady and the Tramp shared their first spaghetti dinner together. It was adorable! We had no idea we timed it so perfectly because we reserved dining for 2pm during the parade. The restaurant sits on the parade route on main street. Twenty minutes after we sat down the parade was passing and we had a clear shot of it from our seats. Just be sure to request seats outside or by the window so you can see the parade. We had chicken parmesan and spaghetti. Everything tasted great, but it was a tad bland. We didn’t mind, because everything still tasted good either way! Other than Tony’s, we ate our own lunch, went back for dinner, or grabbed something quick at the fast food place.
Hollywood Studios: We actually did not eat insde the park this day. We had a late character dining reservation at Hollywood and Vine, but we ended up canceling and eating at Disney Springs that night since we had a shorter day at the park that day. Hollywood and Vine would be a great option though if you need a character dining reservation.
Animal Kingdom: Pizzafari was the best place for all 10 of us to enjoy a meal while we were in Animal Kingdom. We have a gluten intolerence in our family, and they served gluten free flat bread pizzas! We enjoyed the variety of flat breads and the location inside the park.
1900 Park Fare at The Grand Floridian: The experience for Scarlett overall was amazing for her. She adored having the characters come to her table. It really was the sweetest thing. We chose the one with Alice, Mad Hatter, Pooh, Tigger, and Mary Poppins. It was precious. We chose breakfast at 8:35 and it was the perfect time. The breakfast was okay. Your typical buffet breakfast, but they do have fun little sides for kids, so it was sweet.
Disney With Young Toddlers & Pre School Aged Children:
Let me start of by saying immediately, that Disney would not have been as easy or enjoyable unless we had our children’s grandparents with us. There were several days where my Dad and husband took Sully back to the RV for his nap or just took him back early because he was tired. My mom would stay with us and do the ‘girls’ activities. This was so helpful! We could not have done it without them. We had a few nights to enjoy Disney Springs and the hot tub just us two after a long day which was really nice! When Scarlett was 19 months we took her to Magic Kingdom for one day. So, we have some experience with doing Disney with just a young toddler, just a pre schooler, and both. Disney is doable for a child at any age with the right amount of time devoted to the park. We realized with Sully (24 months old) that he would not be able to really do Disney for 6 days straight. He came to the park every morning, but left shortly after lunch most days. For the long duration we were there for, this is what worked best for him and luckily my Dad or husband was happy to bring him back.
Scarlett is 4.5 so she was able to handle a full day better than him. She did still require a stroller and mentioned how tired her feet were at times, so I am glad we had a double stroller for her to rest in. There were definitely hard days for her when she tired out mid afternoon or was grouchy in the morning. The main reason we did 6 park days was for flexibility and ease. We didn’t want to feel guilty getting to the park for noon or leaving the park at 3 because the kids were tired. We planned for that with the extra alotted days. The days she woke up very grouchy, we tried to get to a ride SHE loved very quickly. We did this in Animal Kingdom and headed straight to the safari ride which changed her whole attitude.
The TRAIN. It’s something I think a lot of people forget about since they just rush into Magi Kingdom, but if your kids need a break, I highly recommend getting on the train and seeing the park from some different views. It’s also really nice because you can use it to hop on and off in frontier land and fantasyland. So, if you know the park is packed that day and you want to skip the entrance, hop on the train so you can get to the back of the park quicker.
We also did not get hopper passes. We honestly were torn for so long on what we should do, but we honestly had no issues with not getting the hopper pass. Maybe if our kids were older it would be something to consider, but our small children were just not up hopping around from park to park. We did have to schedule our dining and character dining experiences meticulously because of this… but still, it all was fine and we just made sure we were in the parks on those days.
I hope this post was helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions and I’d be happy to answer them in the comments! Disney is so very special and I hope this post will help you plan your trip better and know what to expect. I have 2 more posts I’d love to share with you ASAP- that is what my kids wore + what I wore shoes/athleisure. Thanks for reading!