Is it possible to have a relaxing vacation at Walt Disney World?
With four theme parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney, daily parades and fireworks, and hundreds of pressed pennies to add to your collection it’s extremely difficult to say no and plan some time for some R&R.
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing. You’re supposed to return home feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of the world!
I’m learning to do things at slower pace now that I have two little sidekicks accompanying my husband and I on our travels. Like 99.9% of them.
After a few trips to Disney World with our kids under our belt, I have a better idea of how to keep it low key.
1. Avoid High Season
This may be difficult to coordinate given work and school schedules but if you can swing it, I’d highly recommend planning a Disney World visit during the fall or winter.
September, October, November (avoid the week of US Thanksgiving), early December, January and February are great times to visit.
It’s not blazing hot outside, the attraction and rides lines aren’t as long and it’s more affordable than visiting during high season (ie. Summer time, Spring Break, Christmas).
2. Choose Your Accommodations Carefully
If you want to avoid renting a car and car seats, consider staying at a Disney owned hotel. There’s complimentary monorail, bus and boat service for all Disney hotel guests that will take you to all the Disney theme parks and Disney resort hotels. Travel time may vary depending on the hotel you choose but monorails, buses and boats run frequently throughout the day.
If you have little ones, they may be into the bigger than life colorful icons and theming of the Value resorts like Pop Century. You can read our review of Pop Century Resort.
These resorts can be very busy and crowded because of the lower pricepoint.
Disney owned hotels in the Moderate and Deluxe categories are a bit less in your face when it comes to colour scheme although still fabulously themed and offer a wide variety of activities to choose from on non park days or after park hours including: horse drawn carriage rides, boat rentals, surrey bike rentals, or spending some time at the beach.
Off site resorts are generally more spacious with full kitchens, laundry facilities, separate sleeping and living areas and not as Mickey Mouse themed. It’s just a matter of deciding how “Disney-fied” you want your hotel or resort to be and the type of setting your family needs to be in to feel well rested. Check out our review of Floridays Resort Orlando – this is perfect for large families and those wanting to be close to all the major theme parks in Orlando.
Our kids love the Value resorts for theming and organized kids’ activities but my husband and I prefer Moderate category resorts for the extra amenities. Value resorts only have a food court whereas Moderates have a food court, sit down restaurant and a bar/lounge. You can read our review of one of our favourite Moderate Disney resorts – Port Orleans Riverside.
If you’re thinking about a Deluxe category resort, check out what we though about Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
3. Make Dining Reservations in Advance
Speaking of food, if you know your family plans on having a few meals at the parks or Disney owned properties, make reservations as early as you can.
Popular restaurants like Chef Mickey’s are popular year round and having visited 4 times in the last 6 years, we have never been able to get a reservation here at a time that works for our kids.
It’s because most of our vacations are booked only a few weeks in advance.
4. Plan Non-Park Days
Planning a few non park days during your vacation is a good way to fit in some R&R.
Most resorts and hotels in the Orlando area have playgrounds, pools – sometimes more than one, a beach area, game rooms and organized daily kids’ activities so there’s still plenty for them to do outside of the parks. See #2 above for some of the activities and amenities available to Disney resort guests.
The Grand Floridian has a very quiet beach area – especially during the winter months.
There’s Disney Springs and several outlet malls in the area as well if you’re looking for some downtime away from the theme parks.
5. Have a Stroller Handy
Bring a stroller or rent one even if your kids normally do not use one at home.
There is a lot of ground to cover if you are planning to visit all the parks and kids will get tired easily.
Here are a few tips about strollers at Walt Disney World.
6. Make the Most of Extra Magic Hours
Have kids that wake up at the crack of dawn or have little night owls like I do?
Plan to visit parks with Extra Magic Hours either first thing in the morning or later at night when other families with children are still in or getting ready for bed.
This is probably the only time having kids that sleep at 10 PM most days works in our favour. 🙂
7. Think About Transportation
Do you need to rent a car? If you’re staying off site then yes, I would highly recommend one.
If you are staying at a Disney owned property, then it’s really a matter of whether or not everyone can wait in line for a bus, boat or monorail – wait times can vary from 5 to 45 minutes.
Those are just a few ways to plan a less stressful Disney World family vacation. It is definitely possible although maybe a bit difficult for Type A personalities like me. I still have a long ways to go! 😉
What are your tips for a relaxing family vacation at WDW?
You hit all the right points. We loved the Pop Century when we went there last time. Planning non-park days really is the key to relaxing a bit.
Lindsey @ Redhead Baby Mama says
Excellent hotel advice that i had not read elsewhere. We’re staying at Pop Century during the Princess Half In Feb, but it will honestly be just a place to rest our head. We’re going all out in 3 more years with Red’s 5th birthday trip!
Great tips! I have only been once but can’t wait to take my future kids one day!
Micki @ The Parent Spot says
Great tips! I’d have to second that strollers are a must. Our kids are used to walking a lot, but Disney World was just way too much walking for even them. We rented a double stroller at the gate, and wow – what a lifesaver. If only I could have convinced someone to wheel me around in it, the day would have been perfect 🙂
We are heading to Disney soon for our family vacation and love all your ideas. And I agree with them as we’ve been so many times. One thing we’ve noticed is that when you stay at the more colorful resorts and use Disney transportation, you are on the bus longer and our little one’s don’t do so well with that. So we stay closer to the parks so we have less time on the buses.
Great tips! I cannot wait to start planning a Disney World vacation for my family. It will be a couple years, as we want the baby to be older. We are considering a February visit so it will be less crowded and hopefully cheaper.
Lori Wall says
It is definitely less crowded and less expensive. Just avoid Presidents Week. We always went the first week in February when my kids were younger and not in school. Just remember though that it can be pretty cold in February. Still warm to me because we are in New York but in the 5 trips we took in February we only had one visit that we really could swim without freezing.
You definitely got the most important things. Reservations for dining are so important, and I like the convenience of staying onsite if possible.
Stacie Connerty says
My family and I definitely like to stay on site if possible. I think its worth the extra money for all the added benefits it affords us. You absolutely got all the high points.
These are some really great tips! We always make sure to have a non park day in the middle of the week. We still feel like we need a vacation from our WDW vacation though LOL!
What great Disney World Vacation tips. We lived in Orlando and when we would go to Disney we would always stay at the hotels in the park. We also loved the character meals and reservations are your friend.
Meghan Cooper says
It would only be relaxing without kids lol one day!
Cassie @ Southeast by Midwest says
I’ve never been to Disney World but I’m trying to talk my husband into it. If I ever succeed I’ll make sure to follow these tips 🙂
We went to Disney for the first time this past summer. We stayed off property and it was fabulous. We are already planning another trip! And this time, we are going to stay on site. Just so we can compare the two!
Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell says
I typically like to stay on a monorail property just because of the convenience and quick park hopping it provides. Making those meal reservations is essential, you’re not kidding!
I definitely agree with planning non park days at Disney, sometimes it just gets to overwhelming to be at the park everyday!
Taylor @ Pink Heels Pink Truck says
I just experience Disney World for the very first time 2 weekends ago. I had SO much fun!!! I definitely took advantage of the extra park hours. My parents and I are DVC members so it was nice to be able to have some time without the general public. 🙂
Great tips! I haven’t been since I was a kid!
These are great tips – could have used them during our Disney trip a couple of years ago. We are planning on visiting next year with a toddler and a 6 year old so I will definitely bookmark this post to reference later.
I like the idea of planning ‘non-park’ days. Heading to the park every day can be really tiring! Good advice!
Anjanette @MommaYoung says
Wow if we plan right we could have the place to ourselves..
Kristi @dragonflytweet says
Great tips for Walk Disney – I know I like a few hours away from the park to rejuvenate. I’m not a night owl, but I do think Disney after Dark is way awesome.
Great tips. I can’t wait to take my kids there!
Cheryl (@loucheryl) says
Thanks for the great tips. I hope to one day bring my boys there. They would go BANANAS!!!
sue f says
Great advice on traveling One day hoping to go with the kids in the near future. Thank you for the post
Cheryl (@loucheryl) says
I would love to bring my kids here one day. Thanks for the very helpful tips!
Tiffany Wilson says
Great tips! We are hoping to go off season in 2015.
Jo-Anne Pfoh says
these are wonderful tips thanks so much for sharing
Blake Rund says
Darlene Schuller says
Excellent advice thank you! My brother is taking his family this summer, their first time on a plane & all.. this will be useful for him. Thank you again.
angela m says
These are some great tips, We are hoping to take our kids in a year or so.
Wow! These are all great tips for parents especially like me because my husband and I will be bringing our kids soon here in Disney land and I’m so grateful to read these tips. I’ll follow these tips and I’m hoping to have a fun vacation with my kids soon here in disney world! Thanks for sharing!
Cassey C says
Great advice, sadly don’t have time or money to go on vacations recently.
those beach tents are a great idea
Melinda L. says
Excellent tips! I don’t really have any good tips to offer up.
Suzie M says
Great tips will help when my little guys are old enough to go
Gwen @ Delightful Adventures says
Really good tips, Cheryl! After our most recent trip, we decided that the next trip will have a day dedicated to relaxation. It may be hard, but I think we can do it 🙂