Kennedy’s big 5th birthday gift was 2 days at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom! Ryan had a work trip in Orlando, and we thought it would be the perfect time for Kennedy and me to fly out at the end of it to visit the most magical place on earth. The bummer is that Kennedy wasn’t feeling good for most of it, but we charged through Magic Kingdom like champs! She has some precious memories – and if she forgets, she’ll always have the photos to remind her.
Now, I’m no Disney expert, but, with a lot of friends with littles traveling there for the first time this summer, here are a few tips I learned with this trip that I wanted to pass along!
1. We asked relatives to keep our 2-year-old, Haddon, so we could have a special time with Kennedy and be able to maximize our visit since it was a shorter trip. I know that some people want to take their little ones, and I applaud you in that decision! However, we are so grateful to Ryan’s parents and my brother, Pete, and SIL, Emily, for keeping Hads! We were able to ride all the rides together (and not sit out because Haddon wasn’t tall enough), didn’t have to break up fights about who wants to do what, stop for 40,000 diaper changes, or have two kids on the airplane etc. I do not regret this one bit! Hopefully, we’ll be able to take them both when he’s older.
2. We used a Disney travel agent. Even though it was a two-day trip, I wanted the benefit of having a Disney pro answer all my questions and help me book what would be best for us. We used Andrea Bowman of Mouse Counselors because she’s a good friend and is known for her knowledge of all things Disney. She goes multiple times a year, too, so she knows the ins and outs. Andrea recommended that we spend our two days at Magic Kingdom because of Kennedy’s age and interests (princesses!), and she stalked the Disney website for us so we could get a last minute reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. She truly loves Disney and wants everyone to experience and love it, too!
3. The Fireworks show is a must! This was the highlight of the trip. It was unlike any other fireworks show we have ever seen! Between the music, backdrop of the castle, and Kennedy’s face of awe and bursts of clapping, I had to hold back tears. It was awesome! Everyone lined up on Main Street and around the castle to see it, and, for 15 minutes, it was pure magic.
4. Kennedy wore an ID bracelet and an Air Tag necklace. Disney is so crowded, and a child can get easily lost. I bought these ID bracelets on Amazon and bought an Air Tag to put inside this cute girly necklace for her to wear. The ID bracelet helps an adult who find her know our names and phone info, and the Air Tag helps us see her current location.
5. Genie+ is worth it. We were able to plan our day and skip the long lines for an extra $15 per person per day. While some people waited 90 minutes for a ride, we were able to show up at a specific time and only wait 10 minutes. It helps you fit in other rides as you use the mobile app to schedule your day. Andrea can tell you more of how to utilize Genie+ to maximize your experience.
6.Wear Mouse gear. One of the fun things is dressing the Mouseketeer part, so channel your inner child and get dressed up! I found Mouse ears and tees on Amazon, thrift stores, and borrowed some from friends (shout out to Jess Cannon and Katie Miller!). I love these rose gold Minnie ears because they go with every outfit. For this Minnie shirt, I ordered a men’s medium and cut it so it’d be more of a boxy crop. For Kennedy, I packed some princess dresses in case she wanted to dress up, and I put a pair of comfy clothes in my backpack for the park days so she could change if she was over wearing the costume. Also, pack warm clothes – and disposable ponchos – in your suitcase (just in case!) because our first day was warm temps and the second was rainy and chilly!
7. Your feet will thank you for wearing comfy shoes. The day before we flew out, I got online and saw these sneakers and ordered them for last minute pick-up. Yes, I thought they were cute, but I’d also heard rave reviews about this brand being amazing for walking and running. They did NOT disappoint. Hands down, the comfiest and cushiony-est shoes I have ever worn. We also saw several people wearing On Clouds – just make sure they’re ones with more padding.
8. Prioritize what your child(ren) wants out of the trip. Kennedy wanted to go on the rides, but she really wanted to see the Disney Princesses and characters. Due to COVID, they aren’t all walking around like they used to, so, we made it a priority to see Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire, a musical performance in front of the castle with Mickey and Friends, Tiana, and Elsa, Anna and Olaf. There are also character parades throughout the day, and she talked to 4 princesses at the Princess Fairytale Hall and then at Cinderella’s Royal Table. It was so sweet to see how shy and cute she was talking and laughing with the princesses! Also, the Disney app allows you to see if any characters are making an appearance in real time, and we were able to see Belle, Stitch, and the Chipmunks using that option.
9. A stroller makes the day. Kennedy is 5 years old, but her little legs got tired from standing and walking. We opted to rent a stroller in the park ($15 per day) instead of traveling with one, even though a lot of people bring their own. There is stroller parking close to every ride. They have made it so convenient for us parents! Kingdom Strollers is a great Orlando option, too.
10. Don’t get overwhelmed! During the morning on our first day, I was over it. I didn’t have the hang of the Disney app yet, it was crowded and hot, Magic Kingdom is huge, and Kennedy didn’t feel great. It did not feel magical at all. BUT, early afternoon, we took a break and napped (best decision ever – and you don’t have to pay for parking again. If you’re staying off property, just show them your parking receipt from earlier that day), and, when we came back, I had a second wind! At night, it feels different, too, and the fireworks sealed the deal. They’re open til 11:00pm, so there is plenty of time to take a break mid-day. Then, when we arrived the next day, we had already scheduled some Genie+ rides. We were like pros: rode all the rides we wanted to, Kennedy saw characters and princesses, and she ate at the castle. We owned it. So, if you get overwhelmed at first, take a break and catch that second wind.
*BONUS TIP* Orlando’s airport is crazy! Be prepared on your return flight to get there with plenty of time to check your bags and get through security. We had an early morning flight with only one bag to check, and Ryan barely made it in time for the flight because the airport was so packed.
WELL, I now have the Disney bug! I want to go back, visit the other parks, and visit Disneyland in California, too! 🙂