Visiting Walt Disney World is often a highlight of many families’ vacation list. Kids wait years to hear the words, “We’re going to Disney World!” come out of their parents’ mouths.

However, a Disney vacation can also be really stressful.

Parents can get completely overwhelmed and stressed when they start to consider everything there is to do and how much it’s all going to cost. Once you get in the parks, kids can become overwhelmed, leading to meltdowns. No one wants to see an upset kid in Disney World.

Here are some advanced planning tips and some advice for structuring your visit to the parks.

10. Choose the best time to visit

You need to face the fact that Disney World is going to be crowded no matter when you visit. It’s also probably going to be hot. When kids are out of school and colleges are on break, the lines are usually the longest. This is also usually when the weather is the warmest.

Heat and crowds lead to crankiness of both adults and children, so what’s the stress-free solution?

Visit during the winter, specifically January and February. If you don’t mind taking the kids out of school for a few days, there are many benefits of visiting during this time. First, you’ll save the most money on everything from room rates to souvenirs. Prices are down because crowds are low and Disney is trying to entice people to visit. Second, the weather is perfect this time of year! Crowds will be lighter too allowing you to get the most bang for your buck.

High temperatures can lead to hot tempers.
High temperatures can lead to hot tempers.

9. Stay on-site

Many people will tell you that it’s less expensive to stay at an off-site or non-Disney hotel. The truth is it’s cheaper but not necessarily more cost-effective.

Even Disney’s Value Resorts are well appointed with many great amenities including food courts, restaurants, pools, arcades, and entertainment. What’s more, every Disney guest has access to some things that will save you a lot of money. Disney’s Magical Express will transport you from Orlando International Airport to your hotel for free! Just scan your MagicBand, get in line, and you’ll be there in no time.

Once you’re at the hotel, you can use Disney’s many forms of transportation (bus, monorail, ferry) to get to anywhere on property including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, The Boardwalk, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, golf courses, and any Disney Resort Hotel. This means you won’t have to rent a car and deal with traffic! You’ll also save about $20 a day on parking!

Finally, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, which are times during which only Disney guests can visit the parks. This means shorter lines, lower crowds, and fewer reasons to stress!

8. Study the park maps and attractions lists

There is a lot to see and do in Disney World, and it’s almost impossible to do everything. Well before leaving for your vacation, have everyone in your traveling party make a list of their favorite attractions, shows, and parades. Then, get everyone together and combine and prioritize your lists. Some of the lower priority items may not make the final cut, but it’s important to try to accommodate everyone’s wishes.

Younger kids will want to spend more time in Magic Kingdom while older kids and teens might lean toward Hollywood Studios and Epcot where rides are more thrilling. Adults might enjoy World Showcase the most, and everyone will probably enjoy Animal Kingdom. However, this park closes earlier than the others, so planning is critical.

Plan ahead - you will be glad you did.
Plan ahead – you will be glad you did.

7. Invest in the Park-hopper

The Park-hopper option allows you to visit more than one park in a day. Otherwise, wherever you scan your MagicBand first is where you must stay for the whole day. The Park-hopper is a great option and most valuable on the day that you plan to visit Animal Kingdom since that park sometimes closes earlier than the other parks. The Park-hopper is also a nice option if someone in your party really enjoys a particular attraction or area and wants to visit for a second day. It allows you to visit again without be confined to that park again all day.

6. Get the MemoryMaker

The MemoryMaker is a great option because it works with Disney’s PhotoPass but allows you to pre-purchase all of your photos. One photo can cost upwards of $20, but the MemoryMaker only costs $149. Eliminate stress by getting the whole family in every picture, and you’ll have all of the pictures from your vacation whether that means five photos or 500 photos. If you purchase this option, be sure to stop at every PhotoPass Photographer to get your money’s worth.

Leave the photography to someone else.
Leave the photography to someone else.

5. Make reservations early

One of the main stressors that people complain about is the need to make reservations so early. Yes, it can be difficult to decide where you’re going to eat six months from now and when you want to ride Space Mountain in three months, but if you don’t make Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass+ reservations early, you’ll greatly diminish what you can accomplish in your valuable Disney minutes because you’ll be essentially volunteering to stand in longer lines. No one wants to do that! Make these reservations as soon as possible even if you change them later. Some restaurants like Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom and rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train sell out very quickly.

4. Pack Smart

First, choose a suitcase that is the size of the largest carry-on allowed for your airline (if you’re flying) or one that is an easy size to carry if you’re driving. If you can avoid checking a bag at the airport, this will save you time, stress, and frustration! If you do check a bag, make sure you let Disney World know since they can pick up your bags for you and transfer them to your hotel if you’re staying on-property. A rolling suitcase with spinners is the best kind since it can be pushed or pulled. If your kids are old enough, encourage them to carry their own luggage. This can take a lot of stress off of Mom and Dad’s arms!

When packing and dressing for a Disney vacation, comfort is key. It’s never a good idea to wear new (previously unworn) clothes or shoes since you don’t know how they’ll feel for long periods of time. Choose clothes that you know fit well and are comfortable. Layering is always a good idea in Disney since mornings and evenings can be chilly and days can be very hot! Be sure to pack comfortable shoes that you have already broken in. Also, if you know your feet hurt after walking all day in flip-flops, that’s probably not the best option. However, if you hate wearing tennis shoes, choose whatever is most comfortable for you. No one type of shoe works for everyone.

3. Get your rest

Congratulations! You’ve arrived in Disney World! Now, get some rest!

Neglecting sleep will only lead to fatigue, and you don’t want to be tired while visiting the parks. Although I encourage you to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, you should plan accordingly. If you stay in Magic Kingdom until midnight or later, plan to sleep in the next day rather than get up early to hit Animal Kingdom’s Extra Magic Hours at 8AM. If that doesn’t fit your schedule well, opt for the famous mid-day break when crowds and temps are at their highest. Head back to the resort for a nap or at least a rest by the pool. Decompress and head back to the parks later.

Don't become exhausted during your vacation.
Don’t become exhausted during your vacation.

2. Get to the parks early

I know I just said rest is important. If you were in bed early the night before, get to the parks before rope drop. This is when the crowds are the lightest and the temps are comfortable or even cool. You can get more done during this time than you can all day.

1. Stay nourished

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make in Disney World is neglecting food and water intake. You can get dehydrated very quickly, and even if you don’t feel hungry, you should at least pick up a healthy snack. Walking ten to fifteen miles a day can burn a lot of calories, and you need to keep your energy up to accomplish your list! Water is important, too! Pack a refillable water bottle and remember to drink throughout the day. You should also know that all counter-service restaurants offer free ice water to all guests! All you have to do is ask.

Have you ever become stressed during a Disney World vacation?