It’s a family vacation to remember. I can already picture it: Me, lounging poolside with a fruity cocktail as my carefree husband applies sunscreen to my back. We laugh, charge another round to the room, and bask in the sight of our happy kids splashing responsibly in the shallow end of the hotel pool. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

If you’re considering a trip to the Most Magical Place On Earth, it’s likely you’re feeling a little stressed and maybe even confused on where to start. With four theme parks, two water parks and a giant shopping district, it’s easy to see why. This was our first big family vacation and the planning felt more in-depth than planning my own wedding.

Where to Start When Planning a Disney Family Vacation

The first step you’ll want to take when you plan a Disney World trip is getting prepared. I started with reaching out to friends and family who’ve recently gone to Disney World. I also reached out to a co-worker who used to work at Disney—she helped out tremendously.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, which I highly recommend if you have the budget, you’ll have an account created on Disney World’s website. This is where you’ll be able to access the My Disney Experience that holds your reservations and links your dining reservations and FastPass+ selections. The preplanning took my co-worker and I a couple of dinners to select and plan. So make sure you decide early on selecting your FastPasses and dining reservations! When you’re at the parks, you’ll be able to use the app to view maps, restaurant menus, your plans and more. It’s a must for any Disney World vacation!

How to Properly Pack for the Family

The next step is packing. Here, it’s all about packing smart from the start—remember, less is more!

I went above and beyond on the Disney clothes beforehand and planned out a new outfit every day we were at the parks. This was not necessary, but it made it feel more special for the kids. I figured that we are probably only going to offer Disney once, so why not! Also, don’t forget to pack ponchos as it rains almost every day in Florida.

While packing don’t forget that snacks, games and movies are a traveling must! Both kids had a backpack full of these items to help with boredom on the plane. Luckily, this was their first airplane experience, so the newness of flying helped a lot! After the major things are complete, try to enjoy your time as a family.

Expectation vs Reality

Without going into every little detail about the trip here were my expectations vs. realty.

  • Expectation: We’ll get an early start first thing in the morning! Let’s do this vacation thing!
  • Reality: Why can’t we sleep in; we are on vacation?
  • Expectation: Let’s go to all four parks starting from when they open and stay until the fireworks at night.
  • Reality: “Mooooooom, can’t we just swim in the pool?”
  • Expectation: Let’s take hundreds of pictures at every location. Everyone is very posed, smiling big and happy.
  • Reality: Nobody really wants to take a picture; they just want to have fun! The smiles are only half smiles and everyone’s thoughts are, “Fine, let’s get this over with.” And of course, there’s always that one person, my five-year-old daughter that just doesn’t want to cooperate, making everyone else annoyed.
  • Expectation: Even if the lines are long, we’ll enjoy the family time together.
  • Reality: “Mooooom, can I have your phone!”
  • Expectation: This is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my children will act perfectly and be happy.
  • Reality: “Mom, my feet hurt, why is this line so long?” And then there was at least one melt down a day!

One Last Piece of Advice

My one big piece of advice when planning a trip to Disney is plan down time. I wanted to visit as much as possible, but my daughter wanted pool time every day. We did see all four theme parks and visited the shopping district, but in reality, we could have spent several days at just one park.

We crammed a lot into a short time. However, Disney World exceeded my expectations. Even though the trip wasn’t always what I had planned, we created memories that will last a lifetime. And it is safe to say, we are all ready to go back!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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