By Alice Burdick Schweiger
From the moment my grandchildren were born, my not-so-secret wish was to take them to that magical place “where dreams come true”: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Last year, with my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons (2½ and 5 years) in tow, I finally realized my dream. And it was everything I’d hoped it would be.
Here are my top 4 tips for having a grand time at Disney World:
1. Plan ahead. Disney World has four theme parks—Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios—plus, two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Each park is huge and features a whole world of wonders to experience, with a lot of things for everyone and others for certain ages and/or abilities. So it is wise to plan your itinerary in advance. Go to the WDW site for details (including age/size/ability specs) on attractions and entertainment (shows, parades, etc.) as well as on special events and guided tours. You can also download and print a Map Guideline of each park. Or use My Disney Experience (a suite of online and mobile tools) or Disney’s free DVD to plan your visit.
2. Visit weekdays and off-season. Lines are longer and the parks are more crowded during weekends and vacations (Christmas, Thanksgiving, President’s Day, spring break, summer).
3. Stay on-site. Disney World has more than 20 resort hotels, plus a campground. Guests get free transportation to/from the parks, Extra Magic Hours (1 hour before opening or after closing), and the new FastPass+, which enables you to reserve a spot for popular attractions and events in advance.
4. Come prepared for lots of walking and variable weather. Bring drinking water, sunscreen, sun glasses, and rain ponchos. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Rent a stroller and/or wheelchair, if needed.
Disney World is a magical place. The time goes by fast, so enjoy the experience. You are creating memories with your grandchildren that will last a lifetime.
Alice Burdick Schweiger is a freelance writer specializing in travel, entertainment, and medical. She has written for national magazines, including Good Housekeeping and Family Circle, and co-authored Secrets of the Sexually Satisfied Woman.