The Final Details
Now that you have booked your hotel at the resort of your choice, and made a schedule and dining reservations, it is time to put the final touches on your fantastic Disney trip with your family. There are some final details to get taken care of before you head out, so make sure you check these things off the list!
If you haven’t booked your flight, the best time to book is about 3-4 months prior to your dates. It is best to keep watching fares before in case of sudden specials or deals. If a travel agent is booking this for you, they may have a better idea when fares are lowest to book, although it is all speculation. When booking, keep in mind any additional charges like baggage check. Most kids suitcases can fit easily in the overhead, and strollers can be easily gate checked (see stroller section below). If you are traveling to Disney World and using Magical Express, only certain airlines use the resort check-in system for bags. Those airlines are AirTran, Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United and US Airways. If the airline you are flying isn’t on this list, you can still use the Magical Express, you will just have to bring you bags to the bus yourself.
TSA has revised it’s guidelines for children going through security at airports. Here are the biggest changes:
- Children 12 and under can leave their shoes on
- Children can make multiple passes through the metal detectors or imaging to clear alarms
- TSA will NOT separate parents and children
- Babies need to be carried through the metal detector and taken out of an infant carrier
- All carry-ons will be screened, including kids bags
- All baby/kid gear must go through the x-ray machine (i.e. stroller, car seat, boosters)
- Infant and small children can be carried through the metal detector. If a child can walk independently, they can walk through the metal detector on their own.
Here are new guidelines for liquids for children:
Medically necessary liquids and gels, such as formula, baby food, breastmilk and juice, are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule on liquids. They do not have to be in a ziploc bag.
If your kids have never flown, or it has been awhile since they traveled, it is a good idea to talk with them about what is going on at security so they aren’t frightened by it.
Traveling by car
If you are traveling to either park by car, make sure to book any hotels along the way if you will stop overnight. We have used AAA for TripTix which have been very helpful, especially figuring out stops along the way for the kids. We stopped at Target and WalMart stores along the way just to let them walk and stretch their legs. Finding a playground can be difficult on some routes.
For both ways of travel, plan activities and entertainment along the way. Some airlines offer TV during the flight, but it may not be free and it may not be suitable for young kids. Portable DVD players or tablets for movies are a great addition, just be sure to have headphones. In-car TV can be helpful as well. We always pack new coloring sheets and books as well as new crayons/pencils. And I always have a surprise toy. See the packing tips below for more ideas for traveling packs for kids.
Airport Shuttle or Magical Express
If you are traveling to Disneyland through Los Angeles International Airport or John Wayne Airport, and you are staying on property, Disneyland partners with an airport shuttle company from these airports for an additional fee. Small children are not required to sit in a car seat on their busses. As I said in Part 2, the shuttle service is fairly mediocre for Disneyland and has time restrictions depending on when you arrive.
If you are traveling to Disney World through Orlando International Airport, and you are staying on property, the Magical Express will take you to your hotel for no additional fee. It is a very organized and well run system, although it does take awhile to get to your hotel depending on how many other stops it will make before your resort since the buses are shared between groups of Disney properties. To make Magical Express reservations, call (407) 939-6244.
If you are planning to rent a car on your trip, there are lots of options and of course, shop around for discounts. While there are plenty of car rental companies at both airports (Orlando and Orange County), there are also rental locations at both parks. At Disneyland, there is an Alamo in Downtown Disney that has good deals and lots of cars. We rented a car from them on our last trip and it was easy and simple. It is a great option if you are staying near the parks and simply want a car for a day or two to go off property. At Walt Disney World, there are two car rental companies on property: Alamo and National. They have locations at the Magic Kingdom and the Dolphin resort. They also provide shuttles to pick you up at your resort and bring you to them so you can get your car. And rumor has it their prices are better than the rentals at the airport.
There is a discount on the PhotoPass CD if you order it prior to your visit at the parks*. There are two choices: PhotoPass and PhotoPass Plus (now called Memory Maker for Disney World). The regular PhotoPass CD will include all photos taken by PhotoPass photographers throughout your visit. The Plus means you will receive all the photos taken during your trip as well as any photos taken on rides and special dining.
*Order must be made 14 days before your trip to receive the pre-order discount.
At Walt Disney World, the pre-ordered regular Memory Maker is $149. At Disneyland, only the PhotoPass Plus is available but it is a deal at $69.99.
Families with young kids rely on a stroller to get through the parks, especially at Walt Disney World, due to the huge amount of walking. Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World offer stroller rentals but frankly, we don’t recommend their strollers. Disneyland does not offer double strollers so you have to rent two if you have more than one kiddo. If you have three kids, you’re out of luck. Both parks have different styles and designs of strollers. The Disneyland strollers are very worn and look cumbersome. The Disney World strollers are hard plastic that gets hot in the sun and look very uncomfortable. They are also very wobbly. In addition, you can not take your stroller with you when you leave the parks. This means that when your little one is exhausted at the end of a magical day, you must turn in the stroller at the park entrance and carry them back to your room.
We recommend either renting a stroller from an off-site company, or bringing your own. If you choose to rent a stroller from an outside company once you are there, it is fairly easy to find one nearby that will bring the stroller to your hotel and pick it up when you are leaving. At Disneyland, one company we have heard good things about is City Stroller Rentals. In Orlando, there are actually many companies that rent strollers. Most of these companies rent higher-end models of strollers and are priced very well.
If you are bringing your own stroller, here are a few tips.
- Have a sturdy and durable bag to put your stroller in when you gate check it because it will get thrown around under the plane.
- Have luggage tags for it just in case
- To gate check, simply stop by the check-in counter at the gate and let them know you have a stroller for gate check. They will give you special gate check tags. Then when you start to board, you simply leave it in the designated location (usually right outside the airplane door) and it will be set there when you arrive.
- Remember to have a bright tag with your name on it for the parks, just in case others have your same stroller. This will make it easier to distinguish which one is yours and keep others from accidentally walking away with your stroller instead of theirs.
We always pack special travel backpacks for our kids so they have plenty of entertainment and snacks on the plane. I always make the contents of the bags a surprise until the trip, which makes it more exciting. Here are some ideas of what to pack:
- Crayons or colored pencils
- Zipper pouch for crayons or colored pencils (so they don’t fall all over the floor)
- Coloring books
- Coloring sheets (I like to print Disney ones from their website)
- Travel games (Uno, cards, Tangoes, Tangoes Jr.)
- DVD player and DVDs
- Gum or lollipops (for ears during takeoff and landing)
- Small toy that doesn’t have small pieces
- Disposable camera or toy camera
- Journal and pencil (for older kids)
- Headphones & music player
For the parks, we have a few suggestions for special things to pack for your trip:
- Rain jacket or poncho (depending on when you travel)
- Travel blankets for sitting on during parades and putting on sleeping kids in strollers late at night
- Soft-sided cooler for bringing snacks into the parks
- Wet wipes and sanitizing wipes
- Quick-change bag (if changing diapers) that includes diapers, wipes, changing pad and diaper cream
- Bag for park
- Mommy Hook (to hook things onto the stroller) or a carabineer
- Walkie Talkies (in case Mom & Dad split up for a time)
- Misting Fans
- Sunglasses and sunscreen for adults and kids
Medical Emergency Bag
One thing we always bring on each vacation is an emergency medical bag with everything we might need in case something happens. We have had sick kids and adults, so it has come in handy. Here are some of the things we pack in our medical bag:
- Neosporin spray
- Children’s Motrin
- Children’s Benadryl
- Peptobismo tablets
- Children’s peptobismo
- Blister Band-Aids
- Mini scissors
- Adult cold medicine
- Disinfecting wipes
Its also important to have the phone number and information for the nearest emergency clinic, just in case you have a sick child. Disney does have medical staff at each park in case something happens, and they are always ready to help. We know that some of the resorts have on-site nurses available if you have questions or need minor assistance.
Before you leave, fill in the final details for each day of your trip. It is important to have a general plan for when you will get fastpasses, which days you will take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and have a list of your must-do rides in each land. This is also a good time to have a general idea of what characters you really want to see and get a picture with. This is a great question for your kids, and if they aren’t sure who will be there, you can look on both the Disneyland or Walt Disney World website and it will list character meet and greets. It is a good idea to narrow down your kid’s top picks for characters. Also, compare this list to any character meals that you have planned to avoid waiting in line to see a character that you will see later at dinner.
The last thing to add to the plan is rest time. Young kids need a rest and will eventually meltdown if they aren’t given some downtime. If you are staying on property near the parks, it is easy to jump back to your hotel and either have nap time or quiet time for the kids. If you aren’t staying close, you may want to plan some quiet time at a play area, or plan a complete afternoon off while you all go swimming. It is better to plan extra time for rest so your kids aren’t fried, rather than try to squeeze everything in and they end up crying and sad.
The last thing to do is…go and have fun! Enjoy the special moments and experiences with your kids, take lots of pictures, laugh a lot, and just have a great time. Your planning and preparation will pay off, and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor!
I hope you have enjoyed this series on How to Plan a Disney Trip. For more tips and advice, visit the main preschoolears website. If you missed some of the earlier posts, here is a link to each:
If you enjoyed this series and found it helpful, please leave me a comment and let me know how your trip was!
Another series you might enjoy is our Disney Travel Planning for Families that includes tips and tricks for getting organized before you head out the door! Click on the icon below to see some of our fun planning posts!