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Family Travel Question:

Q | Can you offer any simple tips that would make planning a trip to Disney easy and fun?

I am planning on taking my three-year-old to Disney soon, but I dread the planning. Can you offer simple tips to make it easy and fun for us? -Laurie, AL

A | Disney planning tips that work for toddlers as well as teens

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Cinderella Castle at Disney WorldWe have been taking our kids to Disney World since our youngest was a year old. For us, staying on property, taking breaks, and keeping the kids rested and fed are top priorities. When kids are young try to visit during non-peak periods like early January or the first part of November when most older kids are in school. Not only will the rates be lower, but, you will find fewer lines and have an easier time getting dining reservations. The downside of going at these times is that some rides may be down for refurbishment and the parks may close earlier than during the more crowded seasons; however, with a three-year-old in tow you probably were not planning to stay out until three am anyhow!

We generally focus our planning energies on picking the right hotel and booking special experiences such as character meals, since they can fill months ahead of time. Seeing the characters at dinner is much more relaxing than standing in line in the parks.

As for lodging, we have found that staying on property in the villas at Disney Resorts such as the Boardwalk, Saratoga Springs or the Animal Kingdom Lodge works best for us since the Disney transportation system makes it easy to go back to the hotel for a nap or a dip in the pool in the afternoon. The villas are also good options because they have kitchens. You can stock up on snacks and breakfast items (or have them delivered) and avoid wasting money and time eating out in the morning.  Younger kids will appreciate not having to sit through breakfast when a quick bowl of cereal is all they want.

As for avoiding the crowds, if you have never been to a specific park it does help to study a map the night before and identify your top priorities for rides and shows. Take full advantage of the Fast Pass program which allows you to get a timed reservation for access to selected rides. As for avoiding the crowds, a good rule of thumb, if you are staying on property, is to take advantage of the early openings offered to guests of Disney hotels. On select days different parks will open the gates early for Disney Resort guests and you will be amazed how much ground you can cover in that first hour or two. If you miss the early opening, or are staying off the Disney property, just avoid that particular park for the whole day as it will tend to have larger overall crowds since the people who show up early stay most of the day.

Finally, don’t overdo–when the kids start to get cranky, head out of the parks for naps and the pool. This last rule applies whether your kids are 3 or 13: a cranky, uncooperative teenager can be worse than a tired toddler because you can’t just pick them up and put them in the stroller! Get tickets that allow you to access multiple parks each day, so that later on, when everyone is rested, you can head out again for another adventure.

For more ideas and lots of Disney World photos visit the Travel with Teens and Tweens Disney Archives

Photo Courtesy Travel with Teens and Tweens

Got your own family travel tips to share? Please leave a comment.