After all the planning that goes into a Disney vacation, after all the days of waiting to arrive, after all the hours of dreaming of your Disney adventure, the actual trip itself can be quite stressful if you don’t have a plan to stay sane. Vacations should be fun, exciting, and relaxing. To ensure you don’t lose your cool on your Disney vacation, here are my 7 ways to Stay Sane on a Disney Vacation.
Have a Plan
While it is always fun to see where the day takes you, wander through the parks and take in all the sights, it can be a little hectic if you don’t have some sort of plan before hitting the parks.
I highly suggest making Advanced Dining Reservations and choosing your FastPass+ options before arriving at the parks. I have been in the situation where I am starving in the parks, have no reservations, and quick service just isn’t going to cut it. Learn from my mistakes. Plan your meal times with dining reservations (or plan on when you will break for meals at quick service) and avoid the hunger pains.
As well as planning your meals, pre-selecting your FastPass options can help your day run smoothly and ensure that you are able to ride all of your favorite attractions. Take advantage of these free services and save yourself some stress.
If you are more of a Type-A personality, like myself, consider planning your route through the park the night before (or weeks before if you are super excited). I like heading into the parks with a clear idea of where I’m going, what I’m doing, and what comes next. Along with planning your day, find out the times for the parades and fireworks in advance so that you aren’t rushing through Frontierland at the last moment to catch a glance of Wishes before it ends.
Remember, it is okay to deviate from the plan. While it is great to have anywhere from a rough mental sketch of your day, to a full out printed itinerary broken down into 30-minue intervals, vacations are all about making memories and enjoying yourself. Don’t hurry yourself away from the Dapper Dans or impromptu Peter Pan sighting because you have told yourself that at exactly 11:30am, you would be approaching the line for Splash Mountain. Let the memories happen as they come, and be flexible with your plan.
Set a Budget
Nothing puts a damper on your vacation like maxing out your credit card on your first day. Before leaving for your vacation, create a budget so you know how much you are willing to spend on souvenirs and extra items. If you know that you won’t be able to resist picking up 1 or 2 Pandora charms, or you can’t turn away from the latest Dooney and Bourke purse (I may be speaking of myself here), budget for those items. If they are in your budget, you will feel less guilty for buying them, and you won’t have to make sacrifices somewhere else later in your trip.
Before your trip, think about what souvenirs you know you want. For me, I always plan for a new pair of Ears, a couple of pins, a couple of vinylmations, a Dooney and Bourke purse, and a few Pandora charms. If I don’t find something that I want, that is just money saved that I can spend on something else, or bring home with me.
If you are travelling with kids, I suggest giving each child a gift card with a pre-determined amount loaded on to it. This way, the kids can decide for themselves what souvenirs they want to purchase, and they are in control of their own money. Of course, this works better for older children, but even if you are travelling with young children, set a limit for yourself and try to stick to it. Not buying a light up wand on the last day of your trip is not going to ruin their memories of the vacation. It’s okay to say no every now and then.
Disney is not the place to show off the latest fashions or break in your new heels. You can walk miles each day during your vacation, so dress appropriately to save yourself a lot of misery. I suggest either sneakers, tennis shoes, or very comfortable sandals. Make sure that you have thoroughly broken in your shoes before your trip; multiple blisters can really be a bummer.
Also, please remember you are at a theme park, not a fashion show. Go with comfortable clothes that will breathe and move with you. Opt for shorts or capris, and cotton shirts or tank tops. Please remember that you will be surrounded by children, so keep leave the offensive shirts at home.
There is no better place to bust out all your Disney gear than the parks. Wear a different Disney shirt everyday if it makes you happy! Don’t feel shy or awkward for wearing matching family shirts either; tons of families do it and it can make for some really great pictures.
If you have dining reservations at a nicer restaurant, dress appropriately. I like to leave myself time to change at my resort into something a little nicer, and not sweaty from the day. For most restaurants on property, you can wear shorts and a tank top without issue, but do ask ahead of time if there is a dress code when you make your reservations.
Don’t Let the Weather Get You Down
Before you leave for your trip, accept that without a doubt, it will rain at some point, if not every day while you are there. Especially if you are headed to Florida. The afternoon rainstorms in Florida are almost a guarantee, but save your sanity, and don’t let the weather get you down.
Personally, I love when it rains at Disney World because the crowds almost completely clear out, and I am able to walk right onto almost any ride. Look at the rain as a tactical advantage and head over to Space Mountain, Rock n’ Rollercoaster, Dinosaur, or any other ride with typically high wait times. Most guests with race for the nearest gift shop during the rain to wait out the weather.
Before you plan to play in the rain, remember to pack your own ponchos. These items can be pretty expensive if you purchase them in the parks. To bring your own, it will take up very little space in your bag, will save you money, time, and the headache of waiting out the rain with every other unprepared guest.
Get Some Rest
Disney exhaustion is real, and nothing can drive you crazier than sleep deprivation. Take breaks throughout the day to keep your energy up. Even something as small as a 20 minute mid-day break can make all the difference.
When it comes to Extra Magic Hours, choose between morning and night hours. While some people can tackle the parks for 14 hour stretches, this extreme touring plan isn’t for everyone. I suggest choosing the specific days and hours you want to take advantage of, and forget the rest. Use some of that extra time not spent at the parks to sleep in or get to bed early. You will be more alert when you are in the parks, and your body and mind will thank you for the sleep.
I sometimes find it hard to sleep in an unfamiliar bed, with new noises surrounding me. It’s no fun to be up all night on vacation tossing and turning, only to be groggy and cranky the next day. I suggest bringing some home comforts with you to help ease your bed time ritual. Try ear plugs, or a white noise machine. At home, I always sleep with a fan on and I find a white noise machine helps to mimic this sound. If you are traveling with kids, make sure you pack any comfort items they may need such as a special blanket or stuffed animal.
Everyone is happier and able to have more fun when they are well rested, so remember to take breaks and get your sleep to save your sanity.
Thousands upon thousands of people walk through Disney Parks each year. Thousands and thousands of guests touch hand rails, lap bars, ride seats, and souvenirs. In short, there are potentially a lot of germs floating around. Save your sanity and do everything you can to stay healthy during your vacation.
Use hand sanitizer often and wash your hands before each meal. This is probably the easiest way to cut the germs and help yourself out. I also suggest taking a multi-vitamin each morning. Travelling can be stressful for your body and mind, and there is no better reason to make sure that you are getting all your required vitamins and minerals each day. It’s a quick action each morning before you leave your resort that can save you a nasty cold later on.
While you are in the parks, consider the healthier options every once in a while. It’s great to indulge in cupcakes, burgers, fries, cotton candy, and all the other treats that Disney offers, but your body still needs fruits, veggies, and protein. Opt for the Chicken Caesar Salad occasionally, use one of your snack credits for some fresh fruit, or order a side of veggies instead of fries now and then. These simple tips can make all the difference.
And finally, the single most important way to save your sanity is to have fun! Remember that you are at Disney – you have been saving for, planning, and dreaming about this vacation for a long time, so remember to enjoy it!
Let the little things go. It’s okay if you miss your FastPass time, it’s okay if you drop your ice cream, and it’s okay if you don’t get to every single attraction. Look at the bigger picture and think of all the fun you have had already, are having now, and will have the rest of the day.
Take some time to enjoy to the little things. If your children want to spend 10 minutes watching the ducks, let them! It’s all about making memories, and you never know, that one might end up being your favorite.
By having a plan and budget, dressing appropriately and planning for adverse weather, getting some rest and staying healthy, and having fun, you can be sure to save your sanity on your next Disney vacation.
How do you keep yourself sane on vacation? Do you have to hit Starbucks first thing in the morning to keep yourself going? Let us know your own tips and tricks in the comments.
Monica is an Alumna of the Disney College Program. When she is not walking down the middle of Main Street USA you can find her wandering the World Showcase, or enjoying a Dole Whip while racing to her favorite attractions. When she is forced to endure life outside of Walt Disney World, you can find her in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she lives and works. You can visit her Disney lifestyle blog here.