I am trying to figure out the best touring strategy with young kids. I had initially planned to get them up early to get to the parks 30-45 min before early entry. I am concerned that we are going to wear them out. Is it a feasible strategy to do an early morning, leave around lunchtime relax at the hotel and then park hop somewhere for dinner? Likewise, is it feasible with genie+ to get a late start and stack lightning lanes for later in the day? If so, what is the best time to shoot for a park arrival if taking a leisurely morning?
Any other tips on how to balance efficient touring with keeping little kids fresh?
IMHO, pick a strategy for a day and commit to it, being cognizant of surrounding (previous and next) days. So if you’re up for EE or rope drop, yes, consider a 3+ hour break in the middle for a nap, then return to the park or hop to another. Alternatively, spend the evening resort hopping and grab dinner at one of the resorts (I find dining at the resorts a notch above dining in the parks, in general).
We have some MNSSHP days though where we’ll be in the MK, so on these days, it’s up early, stay and skip nap, and out early with an early bedtime. We’ve been practicing ‘no nap’ days with our 3.5 year old. But if we do this on one day, we’re trying hard the next day to EtpE, then take a nap break, and perhaps stay out for an evening show, etc. Of course, Bob Paychek might be thwarting those plans of ours… Fantasmic! is nowhere to be found just yet, and Tree of Life Awakenings is showing on practically every night except the night we’re planning to be there. Why, oh why? Surely this is a crowd control (or penny pinching?) act. shakes fist at Bob Paycheck.
How old are your littles?
Kids are 3, 6, 9, 12 - mostly worried about the 3 year old… but also my kids like to swim, so a swim break wouldn’t be a bad idea either for the older kids. My 3 year old dropped his nap already so we don’t need to plan a set nap time… Hopefully that happens in the stroller. Any thoughts on what works better for touring? EE with a break or a later start with stacking?
When we go for a week or more we usually split the times.
A few days of early entry, lunch at the park (quick) and then afternoon at the hotel with dinner and maybe a few rides at the parks, but make it an early night.
This works for a few days but we all inevitably get exhausted a few days in so we switch to relaxing mornings at the resort and head to the park around 1 or two for the rest of the day.
Both will work. But be flexible. Kids will get cranky midway vacation and you might need to adjust
Do you think the 3yo will stroller nap? Do your kids normally get up that early? What time is bed? I think getting that many kids out the door and ready for EE will be pushing it. I’d still aim to get to the parks on the early side and maybe leave mid-afternoonish and be done. If everyone is feels up to it you could plan to return but don’t bank on it. I wouldn’t PH.
First, your plan to RD, rest, and hop is a very common plan. It works well.
But also, you can stack your experiences for later with G+ and start late. DH and I never set foot in any park before noon this trip except for the first day at EP. And we got to see and do everything we wanted to each day. It was a glorious, relaxed pace. We could have seen and done even more if we had hoppers and did the RD thing on top of our late start plans.
We have done this when touring with our kids. Do the rope drop thing early on when both excitement and energy are high. As the fatigue creeps in, start later and later. It works really well!!
Definitely agree that early morning touring with midday break and then going back for late afternoon/evening touring works well with little kids - not just because they need a break, but also because that allows you to get out of the parks when lines are longest (and FL sunshine is hottest).
EE gives you time to walk on to at least 1-2 headliners (depending on the park - in MK you could go up to 3-4 because of the double rope-drop: Fantasyland/Tomorrowland open for EE, rest of the park only at regular entry). Then you can still get short waits on other attractions for 1-2 hrs until parks become much more crowded.
Keep in mind WDW is not like a normal day - don’t underestimate how overwhelming the crowds, lines and rides can be, even for the older kids. Our first visit with 2.5 and 5 year-old, both were completely passed out in the stroller by 11am (after doing 6 rides none of which had more than 10-20min waits) and then napped for two hours in the resort. Last summer on an extended family trip, we did the same with four little ones (4, 5, 6 and 7), and all of them napped happily at the resort (even though none usually nap at home any more). A dip in the pool could be equally refreshing of course. Touring in the evening is also a very different experience: many lands and attractions really come alive when lit up at night, and fireworks can be a truly magical way to cap off a day in the parks.
We have managed to do a “long” day (RD until around 6pm) at both AK and Epcot, but only thanks to an extended break for lunch (sitting down in a/c), plus some calmer attractions (like shows/movies) that never have long waits even midday. Don’t be surprised if some family members (kids as well as adults!) end up too tired/cranky to stay for dinner/fireworks on these days though.
A warning that I forget every time - kids have a tough time with the “hurry up we need to catch a bus - now we need to wait outside for 40 minutes until the park opens”. Not to say you shouldn’t rope drop, that’s our go-to with kids, just prepare them accordingly and have snacks/activities, because otherwise they get all amped up and then get very grumpy when things don’t - happen.
I would never get to the parks 40 minutes early with kids to RD. You’d have to leave like 1-1.5 hours before the park even opens and that is way too early for us. I find that arriving around opening time (behind the crowd that’s already gone in) is a good plan.
Everyone’s mileage varies. The best thing is to be flexible - kids want to play in splash areas instead of riding Dumbo. Next best thing is to expect wrenches in your plans - kid throws up 3 times in the bus on the way to rope drop HS. And the third best thing is to be prepared to completely abandon most of your plan because the heat/rain/cold/over stimulation becomes too much.
Our first several trips with toddlers we adults did what we wanted to and the toddler was merely along for the ride (in the stroller). It helps to have a grandparent or doting uncle along to wrangle the toddler.
The other 3 should be just fine. We had an almost 5, 8 and 9 at Disney and they rode whatever they were tall enough for and glad to be on it. We once had a 9 year old that was afraid of everything. That sort of kid might want a person to keep them company. (See grandparent or doting uncle.)
Find out what your priorities are in making this journey. Rides. Memories. Education. Fine dining. A week of no cooking and cleaning. Acquiring a plethora of Disney stuff no one really needs. Like that Simba fanny pack that was so cute on your toddler.
Our trips were about making memories. Which often doesn’t require a ride at all. Tho low crowds at rope drop make excellent pictures more likely. Our 3, 6 and 9 year olds were always awake in plenty of time to make rope drop.
Just like the packing tip where you pack but then remove 25%. And then you’ve still got too much. When you’re planning your day - remove at least 25%. Mostly because bathroom trips will take up way more time than you expected.
Relax and have fun! Whatever you do, three of your kids will have long lasting memories.
edited to add: our go to plan - rope drop till 11:30 (no going past 11) then swim in pool, lie on bed on phone, sleep, do math homework, something, then about 3:30 or 4 get gussied up with your glow in the dark stuff brought from home and go to supper and a little touring until 8 (on the dot) Save your last day or two for the fireworks or night show.
Extra tip: your kids will get cranky - this is an ice cream or pool alert. You are after all at the most magical place on earth. Ice cream several times a day won’t hurt a thing.