The Happiest Place on Earth

I admit that I am a vacation nazi, and I'm not going to change in the foreseeable future. I plan my guts out for weeks, sometimes months, before a trip or any big event in my life. I did it for my wedding, the births of my kids, birthday parties, family vacations...I have no control over it. The up side is that because of all this planning, I can really be chill once the trip, party, event begins. If I haven't planned it by then, there is nothing I can do about it. So far, this anal retentiveness has worked out for me.

We're preparing for our annual trip to Disney in a few days. Here is my bag of tricks for surviving the "happiness" with 3 children and a Big Guy in tow.

1. Before the trip I purchase a subscription to Ridemax This is a God send for planning psychos like me. You can get lots of insider's tips about how early to get into line, when to pick up your fast pass, where to sit for the best view, the best plan of attack, etc... You can even choose the attractions you'd like to see each day and print up an itinerary that literally holds your hand through the park, saving you time, waiting, and walking.

This was so valuable for me the first time I took my three boys to the park alone while Hubs was at conference. I was unfamiliar with the layout (I have no sense of direction) and didn't know where to begin. We followed it loosely for the first few days until we got the hang of it, then didn't need it for the last few days. I'm not really regimented about the itinerary, it just gives me some direction when we're all standing there going, "What do you want to do? I don't know, what do YOU want to do?"

I purchase the 90 day subscription for under $20.

2. I always dress my three boys in matching shirts and hats each day we are at the parks. It is easier for me to locate them and if one gets lost, and I don't have to think about how to describe their outfit to the security. I can just point to one of my others and say "he looks like that!" Disney Shopping has a great outlet where you can get cool licensed Disney T's that even my 11 year old will wear for under $5.

Some of my friends think this is overkill, but I also carry their most recent school picture and the student ID cards they get from school with their height, weight and eye color, and fingerprints on them. I just do NOT want to loose my kids, I'm a little paranoid about whack-jobs that prey on little kids.

3. If they wear a Star Wars t-shirt to the Jedi Training Academy show, it will greatly increase their chances of getting called on stage to train for battle. If they get called on stage, it will greatly increase your chances of not listening to them whine the rest of the day. Bonus.

4. Pack lunch in snack form and refill water bottles throughout the day - stick each person's food in a lightweight string backpack. Once they eat, the small backpacks will fold up neatly and fit into your backpack. I made it through each day by spending less than $10 (for a snack) in the parks each day. We ate breakfast at home, ate our lunch on a bench and refilled bottles, then waited for the Big Guy to take us out for dinner at night. The kids didn't complain, because granola bars, gogurts, and goldfish didn't seem like boring home lunch.

5. Keep a master packing list on the computer. I add to it when I get home if I've forgotten something and print out the new one each year. I do this for vacation, camping, beach trips, etc... It saves time and assures that you will remember everything, and you just check off items as you pack them.

6. Do homework in the morning before you loose all leverage. You can't go play until you finish a page of school work. No homework no Mickey.

7. Bring a couple pairs of shoes on the trip in case one pair causes a blister from walking, getting wet, whatever. For some reason, shoes my kids have worn for months with no problems cause blisters when walked in for 5 miles a day/3 days in a row.

To the park always bring bandaids, neosporin, moleskin, and children's tylenol. Trust me, one of them will spike a fever when you are there and that stuff costs a mint in the park.

8. Pay attention to the Magic Hours schedules and do NOT go to those parks on those days. I know it seems counter intuitive, but they will be the most crowded parks on those days due to that little "perk" they dangle in front of all the on-grounds guests. Stay away, far away!

9. Purchasing your tickets through AAA will get you up-front parking for no additional fee. Oh, and make sure to keep a pen and paper on you, all of those characters names and numbers begin to run together after about the 3rd day there. (Were we in Pinocchio 17 or Tinkerbell 71?!? Wait, where am I? Who am I? How did I get here and why am I so happy?!?)

10. Collect fast passes all day long and use them when kids are the crankiest, and less able to wait, in the afternoon. In the morning when it isn't busy, you can usually get a fast pass every 15 minutes or so, then stash them for when the "magic" is wearing off, and the lines are getting long, from 3-6. There is a window of time when you are supposed to return, but they only check to be sure you aren't coming early, you can get in line late.

11. Tips for travel to and from Disney can be found in it's own post tomorrow.

If you have any tips you'd like to add, please add them to the comments section. Happy, happy thoughts!



  1. Do you think these rules will work with my boys? Billy is 29 and Sean is 27 ;-) Just asking!! Have a great time!

  2. How smart to carry their most recent school picture and student ID card. Great tips, thanks. We might be going to Disney in August. Have a great time!

  3. If I EVER take a vacation, I will check back here and use your wonderful tips!

  4. I love the idea of the master packing list on the computer. I'm a packing nazi and pack as few items as possible - just to make my life easier and if plans change last minute (or we get stuck somewhere making the drive from MN to GA) I don't have 500 bags to move around.

    One question - do you have separate lists depending on what kind of trip you're taking? We're going camping for the first time this summer and the thought of packing for that trip terrifies me!!!


  5. Great tips! We've never been...kind of sounds like a parental hell ;)...and going it alone the first time?!? I like vacations, but I hate them too...I stress way too much. My husband and his work partner signed us all up for cabins 10 hrs away on a lake (boat nerds)...surprise hun, it'll be like we're going away for your birthday! He really has no idea how lucky he is that I have never held a pillow over his head in the middle of the night...just kidding...maybe!

  6. We went on our first trip to Disney just over a year ago and I learned a lot. We too packed a lot of snacks and water bottels and it made a huge difference in how much we spent. I also brought along crystal light drink mix packets so we weren't just drinking water all day. Reading up on things helped me be prepared with pens and autograph books and the pin trading. My kids loved it all. We went in October and had almost no line the entire trip. We chanced the ran but the weather was perfect.

  7. Have fun! I'm hoping we make it to Disney soon...still haven't been as a family. Totally saving this post and the rest of your tips.

  8. I love Disney! My cousin works in Downtown Disney, so he gets us in and gives us tours when we go.

    i am more of a laid back vacationer, but I have been to Disney so many times that I know the cheapest places to eat and what I can't live without when we go! :)

    It does help that my cousin gets a discount, though, if I forget something.

  9. Disney is the BEST! Love everything about it! Our fave place to be...have fun!

  10. we go annually too..sometimes twice a year! and i plan my booty off for each & every trip too. i can't help it...i ♥♥ everything Disney!

    We spent the 1st week f Feb. in Disney World, and are already planning our next trip in Nov.!

    I sew special Disney outfits for my daughter and my hubby & I wear Disney t-shirts...I make my daughter's autograph books and we always seem to get a little bit of extra time with he characters because of it!

    have a fantastic, magical, wonderful trip..be safe & i hope you will share some of the highlights with us when you get home!
    Please give Mickey hugs from me & tell him I miss him! :)


  11. "vacation Nazi" I love it! Me too! I have never been on a vacation in which I didn't say "the message boards said" or "I read that..." I love the research leading up to a vacation just as much as the vacation itself.

  12. Sounds like you've been there A LOT! I know what you mean about vacation nazi. I like to plan things out too, but my husband thinks that ruins the fun, so sometimes we compromise and see where we end up. ???
    Haha, and what is 'a mint' cost exactly? I thought that was so cute. I've never herd that expression before. Thanks for the tips, I'll use them for sure when my babes are older!

  13. I didn't believe your nazi talk in the beginning but by the end, you had me convinced. You know exactly what you're talking about. I'm SO impressed!

  14. WOW....amazing tips for anything really!!!!!!
    i need to hire you to come organize me!!!!! :)
    have a great trip!!!!!

  15. I live an hour away from Disney and you taught me something new! lol I have been so many times, you can drop me blindfolded at any park and I will know just where I am. Fastpasses are definitely the key! That and water bottles that can be refilled. We bring chex mix and lemonade add-ins for the water, and that seems curb their drink and hunger issues. In epcot, the best kept secret is a little bakery in NORWAY that has GREAT prices, and wonderful food! Try the School Bread - yum!

    Other tips:

    Buy ponchos from the dollar store and pack them in your backpack. They are smaller than a credit card and are invaluable when you need them (Kali River Rapids, monsoon downpours, etc.)

    Bring a sharpie for autographs.

    Bring pennies and quarters to get the pressed pennies. They are a cheap and you can even buy a cool album for them! Fun to collect!

    In adventure land, get an orange julius or frozen pineapple drink to cool off. You can also bring a spray bottle with the fan on it during summer days. They are wonderful!

    Little kids love to play with stickers, so buy a ton of disney ones and bring them so the kids can play with them while they are waiting in line!

    We have a routine at each park we go. Enjoy!

  16. You seem like an awesome mom. You should seriously write a book. If I ever have kids, I would love to have your wisdom in hardcover format anytime I felt completely clueless, which would most likely be always.

  17. GREAT tips! We are heading over to Disneyland next month and some of these tips will definitely be used. Thanks!!

  18. I took that same picture on my cell phone and made it my screen picture....hope you're having a blast!!! Bummed the Harry Potter attraction won't be open yet for you :(

  19. See, Jen! You'll totally understand why Scott and I both took a picture of Sam each day to have on our phones and tied a disney luggage tag to him that said "If I'm lost call my Mommy or Daddy at..."

  20. Girl!!!!! I AM SO SAVING THIS INFO for the future trip with my 6 (soon to be 7 littles) to Disney. I'm an anal fool too! HUGS!

  21. You're pretty organized, girl, I have to admit.

    Disney can seen intimidating, but I think you have it in check.

    We'd like to go there over the next year. My daughter had a fear of people in costumes that finally passed over the last year. Thus, we think we're ready to experience Mickey and his crew.


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