How to Pack Smart
- Avoid strollers. You can't take strollers inside most attractions, so consider a baby carrier for little ones.
How to Accommodate a Big Family
- Collect everyone's bucket-list items. Also, use the website or app My Disney Experience to plot. Not everyone wants to log in, so send periodic screenshots via e-mail to ask, "How is this looking?"
- Room together. A villa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Kidani Village is cheaper than three rooms and gives great morning and evening hang time.
- Skip the costly buffet. A 12-year-old can count as an adult, and an 18 percent gratuity is usually added for groups of six or more.
- Reserve rides to keep the group together. Large parties can't move nimbly (someone is always stopping to pee or shop) but spacing FastPass+ experiences about an hour and a half apart keeps you going for the same goals.
How to Plan for Bad Luck
- If you encounter inclement weather...The park's ponchos are fairly priced ($8.50 for adults, $7.50 for kids) in case of rain. Don't forget to pack extra socks so you and your kin aren't slogging around with cold and wet feet! Also keep in mind that Disney closes outdoor rides during lightning, but you might be able to cancel dining reservations without a penalty in extreme weather.
- If you lose a MagicBand... Deactivate it on My Disney Experience. Then go to a theme park's Guest Relations desk or the concierge at your hotel for a preplacement. Don't worry -- your FastPass+ experiences won't be lost, and since you have to enter a PIN to make a credit-cart purchase or use your meal plan, no one will be draining your account.
- If you face an injury or illness... Be aware that first-aid centers at the theme parks can handle most common problems. "They have the wildest collection of bandages I've ever seen," says Len Testa, author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. "They even worked with a company to develop ones that will fit between the toes when you're wearing flip-flops." If you've booked a restaurant reservation and getting sick or hurt makes you miss it, you most likely won't be charged the no-show penalty if you call and explain the situation.
- If you forget to carry a portable charger... Disney's Magic Kingdom has two charging stations -- one at Storybook Circus near Disney Jr. and the other in the new Rapunzel's Tower restrooms near the It's a Small World ride.
How to Plan Something Last Minute, or Not Plan At All
- Go To DisneyLand! The reason: Everything is so close together! You can ride It's a Small World, take a spin on the teacups, scream on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and feel like you barely moved. (Disneyland also doesn't offer advance FastPasses so there's no pressure to choose rides two months before your trip.)
Walt Disney World: Ease Your Trip With Magic Bands
Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Parents magazine.