Planning your first trip to Walt Disney World as a single parent and getting those planning jitters? Worried about how you’ll manage just you and the kids? With a bit of a game plan and an understanding of your needs as a single mom or dad, your visit to the mouse can be surprisingly relaxed.
Start with these 10 tips to get the most out of your Disney holiday:
10) Use Fastpasses for Parades and Fireworks – Opinions differ on whether or not parade and fireworks viewings are a good use of Fastpasses. However, if you are a single parent and they’re on you “must-do” list, Fastpasses are worth considering. With FP’s there’s no staking out a viewing spot hours in advance, defending your spot from last-minute intruders or losing your spot if your little one needs to use the restroom. FP areas are spacious with great views. You can check in up 20 mins beforehand which means less time standing around and more time enjoying other attractions. Also, having a reserved space means that if you need to dodge out for a soda or the bathroom, there will still be room in the roped off Fastpass sections when you return.
9) Take Advantage of Resort Activities – Campfires, cookie decorating, dance-offs, ping-pong tournaments, pool parties, ceramics and drum circles are just some of the activities you may find at your Disney Resort. Whether you kick up your feet while your kids enjoy some supervised activities, lounge by the pool while they take part in a pool party, or roll up your sleeves and help them make Mickey tie-dyed t-shirts, these resort days can offer some much-needed downtime for single parents after a hectic day at the parks. Ask for a Resort Activity Calendar at check-in and be sure to set aside time for your family to enjoy all the “little extras” your resort has to offer.
8) Get to the Parks Early – For the same reason you avoid doing your Christmas shopping on Black Friday, arriving at the parks during peak times is just a bad idea. Yet most people will sleep in, enjoy a relaxing breakfast and arrive at the parks between 11am and 12pm the same time as everyone else! If this is your first time visiting Walt Disney World as a single parent, get to the parks for opening. Disney regulars know that the best time for visiting attractions is in the first 2 hours that a park is open. This is when lines, crowds, sun and tempers are all low. Set the alarm, you’ll be glad you did.
7) Make a Schedule for Each Day of Your Trip – Even if you’ve been to Walt Disney World before, your first visit as a single parent is not a good time to “wing-it”. You’ll be holding the maps, carrying the shopping, pushing the stroller, weaving through crowds, all while trying to keep your kids happy. Now add Fastpass windows, dining reservations, parade schedules, and the fact the you’ll definitely get lost or turned around at some point. Starting to feel frazzled? Then let’s agree that Walt Disney World is better with an action plan. Establish a “must-do” list with your kids and plot out what attractions you’ll be visiting in advance. Keep track of dining and Fastpass reservations. Bring a touring plan with you. The more organized you are, the easier your days at the parks will be.
6) Book a Few Hours in a Children’s Activity Center – Even the most devoted parents will want some alone time during a Disney holiday. This is especially important for single parents who don’t have a spouse to trade-off with. Luckily Disney has 5 Children’s Activity Centers (at the Polynesian, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Dolphin). Kids can visit these clubs for a few hours while you enjoy a dip in the pool, a nice dinner or even a nap. Rates vary between 15.00 an hour (2 hr minimum) to $55.00 for the evening. Dinner for your children is included in the price.
5) Rent a Stroller – Nothing conjures up more dread than a child saying, “Mommy my feet hurt. Will you carry me?” within the first few hours of visiting a park. So here’s some advice: If you’re heading to Disney as a single parent and you have children under the age of 7- rent a stroller. It’s not uncommon for a visitor to a Walt Disney theme park to walk over 7 miles in one day. Imagine what that does to little feet. Remember, we are doing this for our kids. If pushing your child around in a stroller keeps them happy, stops them wandering off, and keeps the sun out of their eyes, then it will ultimately mean a more enjoyable holiday for everyone. Disney offers stroller rentals at the 4 theme parks at $15 a day for a single or $31.00 for a double. Discounts are given for multi-day rentals.
4) Purchase Memory Maker – As a single parent, you probably have hundreds of vacation photos but aren’t in a single one. Step out from behind the camera with Memory Maker. At $149.00 (for an advanced purchase), it isn’t cheap, but still a worthy addition to your holiday budget. You’ll get unlimited snaps during your Disney vacation and will find Photopass photographers at every character meeting, landmark or vista in each of the four parks. Extras included in the package such as Magic Shots, ride photos/videos and same day downloads make Memory Maker a worthy add-on.
3) Have a Safety Plan – Ask any single parent what they fear most about visiting Disney and chances are they will say their children getting lost. Tackle this fear head-on by working with your children to come up with a safety plan. Have a family discussion about what to do should you and your child become separated. Decide if you want additional support like ID bracelets or temporary tattoos with your cell number on them. And once at the parks, enact simple strategies like taking a photo of what your child is wearing each day or teaching them how to find and speak to the nearest Cast Member should you become separated.
2) Use Companion Restrooms – Potty breaks are a tricky business for single parents, especially if you are travelling with multiple children or smaller kids that still need help. That’s why Companion Restrooms are a godsend. They are big, with plenty of room for mom or dad, multiple children and maybe even a stroller. They’re easily accessible and often on the outside of buildings with their own door (handy for when you send kids in alone) Look for Companion Restrooms at First Aid Stations and throughout the 4 parks.
Please Note: Families, including children with special needs, may also be waiting to use Companion Restrooms. Since they are limited please be courteous.
1) Speak Up – The biggest tip for single parents heading to Walt Disney World? “Speak Up!” The Cast Members at Disney are dedicated to making sure you have the most enjoyable vacation possible. If you’re running into difficulties let them know. If you need help managing a lunch buffet with your kids or carrying trays at Quick Service restaurants, there will usually be a staff member on hand to aid you. If the location of your room presents difficulties for you as a single parent let Guest Relations know. If you need help getting on Disney transportation let your driver know. Don’t let technicalities ruin your holiday. Don’t be embarrassed to make suggestions to Cast Members that would make your life easier. This is your magical holiday after all.
If you’re a single parent and would like help planning an upcoming Disney holiday, I’d love to hear from you. As an agent with MickeyTravels – the preferred agency of Chip & Co, I can help you plan and book your vacation, watch for discounts so that you are always getting the best Disney deals, and offer a wide range of concierge level services at NO EXTRA COST to you. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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