I think it's fair to say that my family goes to Disney theme parks a lot. Usually we go to Disneyland, but in a few weeks we'll be making our second trip to Walt Disney World this year. And whether we are driving or flying there are always a lot of preparations to be made for a good time. Doomsday my come and go, but before you tackle the Mouse consider these things from a Disney Prepper.
In a Disney park your focus isn't usually on food. But while you're there you are going to have to eat, and a little planning and foresight can get you a reservation in the best restaurants that Disney has to offer. In Disneyland's California Adventure park there is the new Carthay Circle Restaurant (probably the best meal I've ever had on a Disney property) and in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom there is the Be Our Guest restaurant in the newly opened Fantasyland. Both are hard to get reservations for and almost impossible to get a table at without making a phone call in advance.
One thing to remember - typically Disney dining doesn't take reservations beyond
30 days60 days for Disneyland and 180 days for Walt Disney World in advance, but that policy can change at any time. Generally the earlier you book, the better. But keep that number handy in your information phone, because if it's 10AM and you know where you want to eat lunch at noon, it's worth putting a call in. I've made reservations in the park and walked right up to a table while the other stooges were waiting with their names on a list.
Disney Dining Walt Disney World - (407) 939-3463
Disney Dining Disneyland - (714) 781-3463
Download the Apps
Any decent prepper knows that even the best laid plans will always require some adjustment along the way. And while you're enjoying your vacation, the best way to figure out how to adjust your plans on the spot are some of the Disney Apps available to download to your smartphone. The best is actually the app made by Disney themselves, Disney Mobile Magic. It's free, works on iPhone and Android (sorry Windows Phone users) and gives you attraction wait times, maps and a calendar of what is happening that day in the park. It will only give you the most important information if you are in the vicinity of the park, but make sure you download it before you start your trip. Because when the timing of something you've meticulously planned fails, it's going to be the first thing you go to.
I should also give an honorable mention here to the Birnbaum Walt Disney World and Disneyland guide books (available digitally as well as old-fashioned hard copies). If you want a great book to plan your trip with, these are the best. I also recommend the Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids. My kids love going through the book at home to help plan the trip.
Bring ONE Toy Per Child
What's that you say? You couldn't possibly travel with your children unless you were sure they had at least five of their favorite stuffed animals and dolls and action figures and video games? Preppers know that if you've got to bug out, keeping it light is key. Which won't last long, because once you get to Disney your kids will have a strange way of accumulating all kinds of stuffed animals and dolls and action figures and games. Because don't forget - you are going to have to find a way to bring all of that stuff back.
On a related note, one of my fool-proof tricks for taking young kids to Disney is buy them one small toy right after you get in the park. Make it the first thing you do. Because when you've been waiting for 45 minutes to ride Dumbo, having a new toy to play with in line goes a long, long way.
Swimming Suit & Medicine
This one is rather self explanatory, but it bears repeating. You can buy almost everything in any of the Disney parks, but the two things that are going to be a real pain if you forget is medicine and your swimming suit. If your kid has special eyedrops that you only need when their eyes act up, then it's almost guaranteed they will act up on the trip you forget the drops. And the weather is good pretty much year round in all of the parks, and while you can buy a suit at the gift shop, you are going to wish you remembered it when you were packing.
Imagine the Memories Before You Go
If you're reading this then there's a good chance that you are also the person in your family in charge of taking the pictures and keeping the memories. Before you pack your cameras and your MULTIPLE memory cards (always bring more than you think you'll need) try to imagine what kind of thing you're going to make after the trip is over. Are you going to make a slideshow for your Apple TV? Are you going to make a photo album to put on the coffee table? Or are you going to make a full-blown home movie with pictures and video? Whatever the answer is, if you can imagine the finished product it will help you think about what kinds of pictures or video you what to take while you're there. It's understandable that you might want to take a bunch of shots of Cinderella's Castle (one I took is up above) or Sleeping Beauty's Castle during the holidays. But how many of those pictures are you going to actually show to other people? Get the shots you need and keep the focus on the people you're with and you can never go wrong.
And don't forget to pass that camera off to someone else so there is a record of you having fun too!
For more Disney photography tips, check out another post I made a while back, Using a DSLR in Disneyland (or Disney World)
But most of all take a deep breath. Because this time you aren't prepping for the apocalypse, you're prepping for fun.