Smart Parent's Guide to Walt Disney World

Get More From Your Next Disney Vacation

Cinderella's Castle, Magic Kingdom
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 Michael Gray Wantagh/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Planning a trip to Disney World with kids? At twice the size of Manhattan, Disney World can be an overwhelming place unless you take advantage of advice from folks who've been there.  Follow these tried-and-tested tips to make the most of your time and money.

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    Hate crowds? Loathe lines? If you want to spend more time enjoying Disney World's rides and attractions, it can be worthwhile to time your trip at a time when the parks are at their least crowded. Not surprisingly, that will mean avoiding holiday periods, school breaks and summer vacation.

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    Lion King Wing, Disney's Art of Animation Resort
    ••• Lion King Wing, Disney's Art of Animation Resort.  © Walt Disney World

    Want to cut costs? Consider choosing one of the hotels in Disney's value category or staying at Disney's campground. No matter which property you choose, you'll get the same resort benefits as you would at the pricier hotels at Disney World, but at a fraction of the cost.

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    CoronadoSpringsPool_LostCityofCibolaPool.jpg
    ••• Lost City of Cibola Pool, Coronado Springs Resort. © Walt Disney Parks

    Did you hear the one about the kid whose favorite thing about Disney World was the hotel swimming pool? The old cliché holds a lot of truth; children just love to play in the water and the highly themed pools at Disney World Resorts are nothing short of tremendous.

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    Looking to score a great deal on a Disney vacation? Your next Disney getaway will be even more magical if you land an affordable price. Here’s a selection of handpicked special offers that are currently available at Disney World and other Disney vacations, including Disney Cruise Line.

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    Kitchen Sink
    ••• Kitchen Sink ice cream at Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.  © Walt Disney World

    On a sweltering day in Disney World, nothing can kill the fun like overheated kids. Letting them get doused with cold water can be just the ticket. Luckily, you'll find plenty of splashy attractions that offer a refreshing spritz or spray of H20. Alternatively, head to one of our favorite Disney World ice cream shops.

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    AnnaElsa_FPH_MattStroshane.jpg
    ••• Anna and Elsa in Fairytale Princess Hall. © Walt Disney Parks

    For many kids, meeting a beloved character is a highlight of any trip to Disney World. If your child has a favorite character, don't leave it up to chance. Disney's new MyMagic+ planning system makes it easy to get organized and schedule character experiences (as well as dining, rides, and other attractions) even before you leave home. 

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    What do you need with you for a fun day in the parks? Having the right stuff with you will not only keep your troops happy, but you'll be less stressed. Pack these essentials in your day bag and you'll be good to go.

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    Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    Love sleeping in when you're on vacation? Sorry. When you're at Disney World, it's important to resist the temptation to hit the snooze button and be an early riser instead.

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    DisneyWorld_FastPassPlus_Girl.jpg
    ••• © Walt Disney World

    Nobody sets out with the goal to visit Disney World when it's super crowded, but sometimes crowds are simply impossible to avoid. Here's how to minimize the wait time for rides and attractions any time of year, and especially when crowds are massive.

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    MyMagic_FastPass.jpg
    ••• MagicBands give FastPass+ access. Mark Ashman/Walt Disney Parks

    Want to lock in ride times and dining experiences? There's an app for that. Disney has rolled out an innovative new planning tool called My Disney Experience, which has essentially replaced the old paper ticketing system by combining a powerful smartphone app with MagicBand bracelets. The app lets you program your attractions and dining experiences with FastPass+Here's a quick primer to get you started.

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    Disney World Richard Petty Driving Experience
    ••• Disney World Richard Petty Driving Experience. © Walt Disney World 

    So you already knew you could ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and meet Anna and Elsa from "Frozen."  But did you know that there's much more to Disney World than rides and characters? These fun and unique experiences are guaranteed to make your visit even more memorable.

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    Since theme park admission is free for kids under age 3, many families try to come at least once before a child's third birthday. Visiting Disney World with a toddler? Here are tips for squeezing the most out of your trip.

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    One of the best things about Disney World vacations is that your experience will evolve as your kid grows up, so no two trips are quite the same. Here's the side of Disney World your teen is guaranteed to love.

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    DisneyWorld_PrincessStorybookDining.jpg
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    If your child is obsessed with Disney princesses, the chance to meet one in person will likely be a high priority of any trip to Disney World. Here's where to dine like—and with—a princess.

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    As you can imagine, Disney employees are well trained in finding lost children and reuniting them with their families. Here are tips to keep your children safely with you as well as advice on what to do if you get separated.

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    Parents often stress about when to introduce their kids to Disney World, but the perfect age is whenever you can make it happen. Whether your child is 2 or 12, the first Disney World vacation can be magical.

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    DisneyWorld_MickeysNotSoScaryHalloweenParty_KentPhillips.jpg
    ••• Daisy and Donald Duck at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. © Walt Disney World

    Disney World really knows how to throw a party, whether it's Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in September and October or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in November and December. 

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    DisneyWorld_DessertParty_Wishes.jpg
    ••• Walt Disney Parks

    Disney World's fireworks spectaculars are jaw-droppingly fantastic, but after a long day in the parks, the last thing you may want to deal with is crowds. If you're looking for a really special, low-stress experience to cap off your day, consider attending one of the ticketed dessert parties held during the fireworks spectaculars. 

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    DisneyPins_DisneyParks.jpg
    ••• Collect and trade pins. © Walt Disney World 

    Planning an affordable Disney vacation means being thrifty when it comes to souvenirs. On a budget? Limit your time in the gift shops and turn on on your kids to these less expensive options.

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    Heading to Disney World in the summertime? Better pack your rain poncho. While it can and does rain throughout the year in Orlando, summer is the wettest season, with the average rainfall at its highest June through August. Here are some favorite rainy-day activities to keep you busy until the clouds part.

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    Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort
    ••• © Walt Disney World 

    If you want to visit Disney World on a budget, timing is perhaps the single most important factor to consider. The best time to visit Disney World is when crowds, prices, and temperatures are all bearable—or when there is an irresistibly great Disney vacation deal on the table.

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    PortOrleansRiverside.jpg
    ••• Port Orleans Resort Riverside. © Walt Disney World

    For families with three or more kids, the typical standard room just isn't big enough yet ponying up for two rooms is pricey and inconvenient. Luckily, larger families have plenty of options at Disney World. Here's a range of solutions for ​families of five or more, and for every budget.

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    Like the idea of an all-inclusive Disney World vacation? During certain times of the year, you can save big with a package that includes the Disney Dining Plan.

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    Alien Swirling Saucers
    •••  © Walt Disney World

    Twice the size of Manhattan, Walt Disney World encompasses four theme parks, 24 resorts, two waterparks, five golf courses, as well as dining and entertainment galore. Best of all, there's always something new to look forward to. Find out about upcoming hotels, events and attractions.

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    Power Shop for Souvenirs With Your Smartphone

    Disney has launched a new shopping app that solves problems for souvenir hunters. The Shop Disney Parks app provides access to merchandise available all over Disney World. you can search for a specific item or scan the barcode of an item with your phone. The app lets you deliver your purchases to the front of theme parks, to your Disney resort hotel, or directly to your home.