Insider Tips To Maximize Walt Disney World Magic For Families

Tips for traveling to Walt Disney World!

By Macaroni KID June 12, 2023

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World® with your family? Get ready for magic, no matter if your Mouseketeers are preschoolers or high schoolers!

We asked members of the amazing team from planDisney to meet with three Macaroni KID publisher moms — Essy, Ariel, and Jamie — whose countdown to Mickey was seriously on! The planDisney team offered insider tips to help these moms make the most of their trips to Walt Disney World® Resort's four theme parks. In all, 12 Macaroni KID publishers and their families traveled to Disney for an unforgettable four-day trip.

We checked back in with our families post-trip to see which of the tips from the planDisney team was most beneficial to our group as they navigated Walt Disney World with kids ranging in ages from 1 to 16. Here's what they told us!

Enter now to win a trip to Walt Disney World!

You could win a magical vacation to Walt Disney World Resort from Macaroni KID! 
Contest ends July 31, 2023. See details and complete rules.

Here are the insider tips about planning, staying, and making the absolute most of your Walt Disney World Theme Park visit from the planDisney team — Samatha, Aena, Raquel, and Mike, along with some peeks at how the trip went for our Macaroni KID team and their families!

Natasha Bethea Goodwin: The most amazing character experience we had at Disney World was when our preschooler met Mickey Mouse for the first time. We had seen Mickey on TV, in books, and in toys, but seeing our child's face light up with pure joy as she saw Mickey in real life was absolutely magical. It was a moment I will never forget.

Take advantage of advance planning opportunities

A great place to start your dreaming is planDisney, where you can find a wealth of knowledge from experienced Disney visitors. 

"Planning is a big part of the fun for us!" Aena says.

Samantha recommended downloading the My Disney Experience mobile app before your trip and taking advantage of the complimentary Disney Genie service you'll find there. It offers customized recommendations and suggestions based on the information you provide about what your family is most excited about doing at Disney.

"It gives you a good basic itinerary you can follow," Samantha says. "It's really helpful."

And don't forget your dining reservations! Hop on the My Disney Experience mobile app 60 days before your trip to make dining reservations at Walt Disney World restaurants. Don't delay! Some restaurants, especially those with character experiences, can fill quickly. If you do miss out? Keep checking back! Other visitors change plans frequently, which can open up a spot for your family.

PhotoPass photos like this are added right to your app so you can see them instantly!

We asked: How did planDisney and My Disney Experience work for your trip planning?

Jamie Zagar: The My Disney Experience App was GREAT! We were able to see wait times for attractions, book dining reservations, get directions, enter the Virtual Queue, mobile order food, view PhotoPass photos, find showtimes and even unlock our Disney Resort hotel room door! All from my phone! It was a lifesaver! 

Choose the right Disney Resort hotel for your family's headquarters

Staying at a Disney Resort hotel gives you easy access to the parks and immerses you in the magic of the Walt Disney World Resort for your entire trip (you never know when or where your favorite characters will pop up!).

It also makes it much easier to take a mid-day break if needed, says Mike, a planDisney team member, and dad to two young children.

"One of the benefits of staying on property is it's easier to head back to your Disney Resort hotel to take a nap or a quick break," he says.

We asked: Was it the right choice staying on a resort property?
Ariel Chamberlain: My favorite thing about staying at the Boardwalk Inn resort was being able to get back and forth to the parks easily. With our little one, there were times that he got hot or needed a break, and it took us no time to get back to the room. It was a game-changer for us! We also loved the pool!

There are various resort options available to suit different budgets, and each resort offers magic in its own special and unique way, he adds.

And don't forget your swimsuits! 

Mike highly recommended Disney Resort hotel pools — especially his daughter's favorite, the lava pool at Polynesian Village Resort. He also talked highly about the great water slides and fun at Walt Disney World's two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Watch the Q&A with our Walt Disney World-bound moms and planDisney insiders! You'll hear about their favorite rides, their favorite spots to watch parades, and many more tips and tricks:

3. Make the most of your time in the parks!

Are the Park Hopper option and Lightning Lane entries worthwhile?

Considering Park Hopper® or Lightning Lane options? Our planDisney team says go for it! The Park Hopper Option allows families to visit two parks in a day, while Lightning Lane, offered through the Disney Genie+ service and individually (a la carte), allows you to bypass the standby queue and join a separate queue to select attractions and experiences.

"It's a good way to make the most of your park day," Mike says of the Lightning Lane entrances. "It's especially helpful if you're traveling with little ones who aren't going to be able to hang in there from park open to park close."

We asked: How did you make the most of your time in the park?

Tessa D'Ippolito: Rider Switch is the perfect solution for young families and especially helpful for neurodivergent families, whose members have varying comfort levels for rides. Using Rider Switch is easy! We used it at Alien Swirling Saucers in Toy Story Land. It allowed us to take turns riding without having to wait in the regular line again! It's a great feature that allows everyone to be included in the fun!

Mike also says he enjoys park hopping from time to time so his family can enjoy one park in the morning and another in the evening.

"There's something magical about visiting two theme parks in one day," he says. "It's also great for shorter trips. It allows you to visit more theme parks in a shorter amount of time."

Walt Disney World makes bringing young kids easy

Our moms also wanted practical advice — Essy, for instance, asked where she could take her pre-K tots for some downtime while at the park.

Aena told her about the Baby Care Centers in every park. These Baby Care Centers include everything from private nursing rooms to a kitchen with a sink and microwave. Aena noted there are even TVs so older siblings are entertained while waiting. Aena also told Essy to feel free to stop at Walt Disney World Quick-Service restaurants, which offer a place to sit and cool off, along with free ice water.

We asked: What was your preschooler's favorite ride?

Essy: My daughter loved the Tomorrowland Speedway! She thought it was the coolest thing to be tall enough to be able to drive ME around (even though she couldn't reach the pedal, haha). We also loved how they have machines for you to get a license after the ride. We got her a license afterward to make it more official!

But my favorite photo from the trip is this carousel photo — you can see the pure happiness in her eyes and smile. As she says, it truly was the "super best trip ever." Thank you, Walt Disney World!

One teen's list of favorite rides

Jamie, meanwhile, wanted to know the best rides for thrill-loving tweens and teens. Racquel was happy to provide her 14-year-old son's can't-miss list of attractions, including:

  • TRON Light Cycle / Run presented by Enterprise® 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
  • Test Track®  Presented by Chevrolet®
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway
  • Space Mountain®
  • Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain®

"Add them all to your list," Racquel says.

We asked: What was your tween and teen's favorite experience?

Noelle Monaghan: We loved Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge! The look on my tween and teens' faces was priceless. It was surreal to see the ships in person towering over us. It was easy to imagine that we had entered the world of Star Wars rather than just experiencing an attraction. They also loved the Star Wars thrill rides the most! The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run was my tween and teen's favorite because they each got to be a pilot and a gunner while flying the Millennium Falcon ship.

Walt Disney World tips for those with special needs

Other tips from our experts on making the most of your time in the park?

  • Take noise-canceling headphones for children with sensory sensitivities, and bring something like a coloring book and crayons to entertain kids when waiting for parades or fireworks to start.
  • Fear not if your family has dietary restrictions! Use the My Disney Experience app to view menus and find family-friendly allergen-friendly selections. You'll find a lot of options — even quick-service restaurants like the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain provide dairy and gluten-free options, ensuring everyone can enjoy delicious treats!

We asked: Did your family find great choices for your dietary needs?

Laura Miller: It was very easy to find great meals to meet our dietary needs. All we had to do was open a restaurant's menu from the dining page on the My Disney Experience App and scroll down to the allergens we were avoiding (gluten and sesame) to see what was available, and then let them know we were ordering for a food allergy. They prepared the meal separately from everything else, and it was all delicious.

Before signing off, our planDisney team offered one top tip to our traveling Mickey moms:

Don't try to do everything in one trip, and allow time for those spontaneous magic moments.

Walt Disney World Resort is too big to cover in one trip — but, as Racquel said, that means there's more to discover and see on your next trips!

As our group of moms and their Macaroni KID families experienced, the magic of Walt Disney World is like no other.

We asked: What was the most special moment of the trip for your family?

Brigette Schroeder: The most memorable moment was the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom, which was unexpected! As soon as the castle started lighting up and the music came on, I could feel the magic and see the joy in my daughters' faces — just like when they would see a Disney princess when they were very young. It made my heart happy!

We hope these tips help you, too, get ready to make lifelong memories with your kids at The Most Magical Place On Earth!

Enter now to win a trip to Walt Disney World!

You could win a magical vacation to Walt Disney World Resort from Macaroni KID! 
Contest ends July 31, 2023. See details and complete rules.