I have to admit – there was nothing enticing about a trip to Disney World in my eyes. Yes, I would love for the kiddos to have an amazing and draining experience full of wonder and overpriced toys and tiaras. Is my fake smile wide enough to be convincing yet?

Ok, so it’s not my idea of excitement. But if you’re going to take your kiddos, here are a few tips to make it just as good for you as it is for them.Disney1I put my brave face on and booked a few days at the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, FL to endure a quick sacrifice for the kids before heading off to the beach for the wedding. I’m so glad we did – I was actually surprised to have a really great time at Disney.

First, if you’re taking a WDW trip, it’s a must to take a look at their official site: www.DisneyWorld.com. You can create an account for My Disney Experience, which will allow you to make all the reservations for the park. I highly recommend you bookmark this page, and use the tips I give you to your advantage when booking!

Tip #1: Book everything early: Experiences, photo ops, dining options, and hotel accommodations – they all book up fast. This is not the type of trip that’s an easy last minute thing. The best approach is to research what each park offers, and pick what you think your kids are going to want to do, and just book it. If you just wing it and head to the park, then your kids will inevitably spot an activity they are just dying to do. But chances are, it already booked up months ago, and they’ll be disappointed. So plan, and plan early. For your parental sanity.

  • You can book dining reservations online or over the phone (407-WDW-DINE) 180 days before your trip begins. This may seem a little silly, but trust me! There are enough parents making reservations as early as possible that often the restaurants book up in a snap.
  • You can make FastPass+ reservations (gets you through many of the lines much faster) 60 days before your trip.

**On FastPass+: We paid for FastPass+, and I definitely recommend it if you can spend the extra cash. We were able to breeze through most of the park pretty quickly, and I don’t think we missed out on any rides we wanted to experience. Plus it keeps the momentum and spirits peppy, which keeps smiles on the kids’ faces, in turn keeping all the adults happy.disney nighttime-exteriorTip #2: Weigh your hotel options.

  1. Stay at a Disney resort = higher price, but much more convenience and early access. You have quite a number of options here (ordered by rating):

     

     – OR – 

  2. You can stay further away for a lower price and sometimes more amenities. All options listed below are 4-5 stars and rated 8.5 or higher by guests. In order by stars/rating:\n

We chose option 2. We wanted the ability to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowds that are anywhere near Disney. And it really felt like a completely different world. Reunion had so many options for relaxation, including acres of beautiful lush grounds with walking trails, a golf course, waterpark, spa, restaurants, private homes and condos, and TEN pools. We liked the idea of some relaxed decompression time each evening away from all the crowds in a higher end resort.

Reunion Resort - Courtesy of mgatravel.com
Reunion Resort – Courtesy of mgatravel.com

Unfortunately our arrival was a bit rocky. We arrived at the main building, which was gorgeous. However, check in felt like a revolving door – tons of people come with the territory of booking at such a large resort, so nothing felt exclusive about it. At this point, I was wondering if we were actually going to get a more relaxed experience here than at Disney itself.

Our guests arrived before we did, which I arranged and informed the resort beforehand to ensure the reservation remained on my card. I wanted there to be no question that we were covering any expenses. However, when we arrived, the check in staff seemed irritated that our group did not arrive all together. Even worse, despite my previous arrangements, they refused to let our guests in without placing their own credit card on file.

I can’t imagine we were the first group to ever have people arrive at different times. They also made comment that since our “group” has already checked in, we should know where our condo is located. The customer service for a such a touted high-end resort was lacking. Thankfully, that was the end of any negative experiences. Everything else was roses, and the revolving door feeling ended there.

Villas - Courtesy of wyndham.com
Villas – Courtesy of wyndham.com

Once we arrived at our 3-bedroom, 3-bath Superior Level Villa condo, the luxury experience kicked in. The condo was spacious with plush traditional furnishings, a full kitchen, a living room, dining area, a giant balcony, and a fabulous master suite with his/hers closets, a soaking tub, spacious shower, and granite double-sink vanity as well as separate private access to the balcony.

If you want an even more luxurious stay, there are gorgeous private homes that can be rented out at the resort – many with beautiful private pools.

Superior Villa Full Kitchen - Courtesy of reunionresortcondorentals.com
Superior Villa Full Kitchen – Courtesy of reunionresortcondorentals.com

 

Superior Villa Master Bathroom - Photo by TheLuxeLookbook
Superior Villa Master Bathroom – Photo by TheLuxeLookbook

 

Superior Villa Master Bathroom - Photo by TheLuxeLookbook
Superior Villa Master Bathroom – Photo by TheLuxeLookbook

 

Superior Villa Master Bedroom - Photo by TheLuxeLookbook
Superior Villa Master Bedroom – Photo by TheLuxeLookbook

 

Superior Villa Dining Area - Courtesy of reunionresortcondorentals.com
Superior Villa Dining Area – Courtesy of reunionresortcondorentals.com

 

Reunion Interior
Superior Villa Living Room – Photo by TheLuxeLookbook

The balcony faced east, overlooking a portion of the golf course, and the morning sunrise views were stunning. It was the perfect way to wake up, enjoy my coffee and prepare for Disney torture. (Ok, so the Disney trip was actually VERY enjoyable, even for the adults, despite my assumptions.)

Reunion Balcony
Superior Villa Balcony – Photo by TheLuxeLookbook

 

Balcony - Courtesy of airbnb.com
Balcony – Courtesy of airbnb.com

 

Reunion Balcony1
Morning View – Photo by TheLuxeLookbook

Tip #3: Plan your days with breaks – this is not a figure it out as you go kind of trip!

We didn’t plan as much as we should have, so don’t get caught making the same mistake. You’re going to be exhausted, and there’s no getting around that unless you’re that super mom that can run circles around the rest of us. But your kids are another story. So plan around the most important things you want to do, and throw in some nice-to-haves if you get to them. That way, you know you’re going to do the top priority stuff, and if the gang is just getting tired, you know which activities to dump in order to rest up for the next must-do.

For us, we planned on recouping at the resort each evening rather than staying until the park closed. So late in the afternoon, it was nice to come home to the pools and water park at Reunion and watch the sun go down.

Villas Pool - Courtesy of totalorlando.com
Villas Pool – Courtesy of totalorlando.com

Each community has its own pool, so we took a 2 minute walk to the pool and lounge while the kids played with their new friends at the resort. I cannot stress enough that as the adults of the group, you are going to be exhausted…just as your kids are getting their third wind and are wanting to run wild with the other kids at the resort. So take your pool lounge time. Or at Reunion, you can drive over to the water park, grab a tube and float down the lazy river before catching a bite to eat.

Lazy River - Courtesy of reunionrentalsorlando.com
Lazy River – Courtesy of reunionrentalsorlando.com

 

Reunion Resort Water Park - Courtesy of reunionresortcondorentals.com
Reunion Resort Water Park – Courtesy of reunionresortcondorentals.com

Now, the important part that you’re probably going to struggle with is balancing the schedule. You want to cram in as many amazing experiences in as possible. BUT (and this is a big but), in order to salvage some semblance of a vacation experience, you have to plan well.

Tip #4: Gauge the endurance of your youngest kid based on their age and how they’ve done at your local theme park. If they’re small enough to need a stroller, take your stroller and make sure they get breaks from walking as well as the sun. Assume that the worst case scenarios will happen, and the kids will have eyes bigger than their stomaches, and will be completely drained before completing the day’s itinerary (if you have one). Then, as soon as they wake up, they will be disappointed about whatever they missed. Just plan for this. Don’t make promises you aren’t 100% positive you can keep, and make sure all kids understand that you probably won’t be able to do EVERYTHING. If everyone knows to look to the youngest/slowest child, it may manage everybody’s expectations (if you are fortunate to have kids old enough/empathetic enough to roll with this!).

disney sleep
Photo: dlrprepschool.com

 

If you think they’ll only be able to do 3-4 hours, break up the days and get a multi-day pass. Try not to push them beyond that reasonable point. You want them walking out of the park with a smile and an “I can’t wait to come back tomorrow”, rather than anybody in the group being tired to the point of misery. If your kids look back at that Disney trip thinking how miserable it was…then what was the point of spending all that money?! And while you’re planning for this, make sure to communicate the plan to the older ones so they can manage their expectations. Mitigate the damage before it happens!

 

Tip #5: Take your downtime. Don’t be a slave driver. Seriously. We saw it. It’s not a flattering look. Parents yelling at their children that they WILL do such and such since it’s already paid for.

You may not have a picture perfect experience. You may have pre-paid for an amazing, non-refundable meet and greet, or a meal plan that ended up not being used as much as you wanted. Just let it go. And schedule some spa time. A facial or a massage will feel amazing and revitalize you for the next day’s events.

crowd-waiting-for-star-wars-motorcade-walt-disney-world1
Photo: Disney Dining

 

Don’t murder the joy of the experience because you want to get your money’s worth. Read the energy of your group, and keep smiles on people’s faces by ensuring there’s a good flow of downtime and up time to keep everyone reasonably happy (understanding that kids will inevitably be kids).

Tip #6: Take turns kid-watching for an evening and/or take advantage of kid programs!  What an incredible feeling to know that after a long day of chasing the high-volume minions around a hot, crowded park, you’re going to get a break with some adult time. A spa date, dinner out, or just some drinks at the bar.

No matter what you choose, it feels like an amazing luxury to kick back with no worries, along with the rest of the cocktail-sipping adults. If everyone in your group picks one night or two where they volunteer to watch over the kids, take them to the waterpark and feed them pizza, everyone will get a chance to experience some pampering for more of the trip. Or, you might get lucky enough to have a resort with kid zone events, where you can drop the kiddos off at organized events for an hour or two.

All in all, the resort was a wonderful place to stay to ensure we had a little more luxury added to our Disney trip. After a long day walking around the park, the adults were exhausted, and it was that much sweeter to return to a gorgeous, spacious place that felt like home.

 

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8 Comments

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    • Thanks! Hopefully I get a do over sometime soon now that I’ve got some practice in what not to do. 🙂

  2. Disney is the best! I’m glad you got to see why Disney is magical even for adults! I loved your tips 🙂 I’ve been many many times as a kid and even now as an adult and I can tell you I will be taking my kids a lot. Lol My family always stayed in condos off the parks too and it’s way better that way because you do get peace 🙂 When your kids get older it gets better bc you can do all the rides and they don’t get tired as fast. I always recommend doing a trip when everyone is older as well!

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