A bit of setup info: This trip involved five grandchildren from the age of 16 months to 14 years,who live in three different states, a set of grandparents in their late fifties, and the parents of the youngest child. A huge advantage, those parents live in Orlando, and they are expert Disney guides. Your results may differ. orlando.momexplores.com @MomExploresORL
- Planning ahead, and using the My Disney Experience website and app.We used it before, during and after the trip to keep everything running smoothly. Also used their Customer Service help desk and had magical results every time.
- Staying at a Disney resort, and using their transportation, instead of renting a car.
- Magic Bands. Used as identification and access for transportation, fast passes on rides, etc. We really didn't want to take them off when the week was over.
- Fast Passes. Studying up on these and becoming proficient at scheduling rides was an amazing way to enjoy rides, meet and greets and shows without the long waits. Also a great exercise in humility as we tried not to gloat while passing those other poor souls who were waiting in the queues.
- The cabins at Fort Wilderness. Ours held two adults and four kids comfortably. The kids didn't have to be extra quiet, since we weren't sharing walls with neighbors, and we were able to cook in the handy little kitchen instead of buying every meal.
- Photo pass and Memory Maker. The professionals handled the pictures so we could concentrate on enjoying the experience, and each other.
- Disney gift cards for each kid's souvenir money. We loaded them up with an equal amount of money, wrote their name on back, and used them at the shops when they found the perfect toy, hat or special treat. The clerk circled the remaining balance on the receipt so we knew how much remained. It all had to be spent at Disney, but that included the gift shop at the resort, Disney Springs, and the Disney shop at the airport. No problem zeroing out before we came home!
- Wearing matching shirts at the parks. Sounds simple, but this was invaluable in keeping everyone within sight.
- Managing the heat. We made sure to have a bottle of water to share, hats for everyone, and SPF 50 sunscreen. No sunburn or heat stress illness for this crew!
- The ratio of adults to kids. Ours was 4 to 5. This allowed for separating for different activities, or staying behind when one of the kids (or adults) needed a rest. Super easy.
What could have been better: (These are by no means complaints. Just observations.)
- Coordination between the Disney Magical Express and the resort staff. We discovered that the Magical Express folks are contractors, and they are independent of the resort. This almost caused an issue with our luggage when we were leaving. (Traveling mercies saved us). Trust the letter that comes from the Magical Express people for the information about the trip to and from the airport, instead of the front desk.
- Swimming. This was just a logistics problem. Since we were in cabins,instead of a hotel, getting to the pool involved a bus ride. When we came home for our mid-day nap, we actually turned off the TV, closed the curtains and Slept! So, there was not enough time to change into suits. gather towels, etc. and still make it back to the park for the evening events.
- Take heed of the warnings and cautions at the beginning of the ride. Day one, first park, first day. Youngest child, who has a history of motion sickness ate very little except a glass of milk before boarding the first ride. It had a height requirement that he barely met (first red flag.) It was a simulator type ride with lots of bumps, loud noises, etc. By the end of the ride, there was puke. Yep, not animated or simulated, but real puke. What a great way to start. Of course, we had convinced him that it would be fine."Come on, it will be fun." It wasn't. That created trust issues on other rides. Oh well, lesson learned. The rest of the day and the next two days were a whole lot better.