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Preparing your kids (and you) for a trip to Walt Disney World

So you’ve booked your first trip to Disney with your kids and you know they are going to be so excited!  But wait, will they really?  We’ve all seen the online videos of the kids being surprised with a trip to Disney World only to be disappointed.  Odds are the younger your children the less they will really understand what a trip to Disney World really means.  I had these same thoughts when I was planning our first trip with the kids when they were going to be 2 and 4.  My biggest fear was spending all this money and time planning the trip and all they wanted to do was hang out in the room or want to go home.  My oldest has special needs so this was really an issue I was struggling with.  Would he wait in line for the rides?  What about the food?  Would he only want to eat chicken fingers?  What about the crowds and the noise?  My fears went on and on.

A trip to Disney can be overwhelming for kids and adults so start early by preparing them for what to expect.

So, in order to prepare both my kids for the trip I did the following over a period of several months.

  • Watch the movies

The reason we love Disney so much is because of the movies and characters.  Some adults have been known to swoon for Jack Sparrow and I secretly have a crush on Buzz Lightyear.  Little girls of course love their princesses and fairies while boys want to become Woody, Luke Skywalker, or Jake.  Where else can you see these characters and films come to life!

NOTE:  Some kids are afraid of characters in costumes but there are ways around that.  Don’t schedule character meals until later in the trip because you can always cancel them if you know your child won’t want to see an 8 foot Tigger bounce up to them.  And characters don’t randomly come up to you like they show you in the commercials. You have to actively seek them out.  If you’re careful, your kids can go an entire trip without coming face to face with a character.

Before you go, you need to watch the following movies:

Anything with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto

Toy Story

Beauty and the Beast

Little Mermaid

Frozen (who hasn’t seen this?)

Pirates of the Caribbean – if they’re old enough

Peter Pan

Star Wars

Mary Poppins



Also watching Disney Junior will help for the younger guests (Sophia the First, Handy Manny, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates)

Any of the Pixar movies (Up, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Brave, Cars, Finding Nemo, Bugs Life)


  • Watch ride videos (noises, getting wet, etc.)

Thanks goodness for YouTube because I watched so many videos with my kids and was able to talk to them about the roller coasters, parades, and fireworks.  You can find videos people who have filmed videos of the park by just walking around which is a good way to get acclimated to the parks, crowds, etc.  You can spend HOURS watching a virtual Disney World.  Talk to your kids about the noise of the rides, fireworks, smells, and that sometimes they might get wet.  Bring a set of ear plugs for those who are sensitive to loud noises and a towel for when they get a bit wet.

  • Older kids need to practice walking long distances

You will do A LOT of walking so get in shape now!  I always rent a stroller for my kids because odds are my youngest will want to be pushed all day.  Older kids will get tired and cranky so practicing walking around your neighborhood or in a local park.   Average distances range between 4-7 miles per day in the parks so you’ll want to be ready for this.

  • Check online for the menus of different on-property restaurants

My kids will eat chicken fingers and fries 3 times a day if I let them but not every restaurant serves them.  Be sure to look at the menus of any of the table service restaurants.  Prepare your kids by trying to get them to eat grilled chicken or pasta because if chicken nuggets are not served then this will usually be an option.  Bring snacks with you in case of picky eaters because no one wants a grouchy and hungry kid at Disney.

  • Manage expectations for yourself

It will probably rain, a child will probably have a meltdown, you will probably have a meltdown, etc.  Just because you’re in Disney doesn’t mean the world is always magical and happy.  Life still happens, someone spills a drink, leaves their just purchased brand new toy on a ride, drops their ice cream cone, etc.  Just do as Crush says and “go with the flow”!

So, are you ready to go?  I am!!!

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