When it comes to the quality of our Disney vacations, it seems to be a broadly mixed bag of feelings. Some of us are in for the long haul, trying to keep the magic alive — yep! I said the M word! — others are feeling disappointed and resentful. All the emotions are valid as we navigate unprecedented times and expectations. So, this week, I thought we might look at a few ways to make your vacation easier once you arrive. A few of these might save you some money, but most are just tricks I have picked up over the years to keep my sanity when traveling with the family.
Reintroduce yourself to the ironing board, though, not to iron!
Once you bring in the kids, the bags, and everything else, your resort room might not leave space for much else, leaving you serving kids snacks on the beds instead of at the safety of a table like you would at home. Say goodbye to those sticky food stains by dragging out the ironing board. Yes, that old thing. Lay a few plastic shopping bags over the top and use it as a table while they sit on the edge of the bed, keeping food drips and crumbs away from your bedding and clothing.
Save the money on breakfast; let them eat toast!
While we often factor accommodation into our budget from the beginning of our planning, I find that the cost of food can sneak up once you arrive. If you can be saving money on even one of those meals, that could keep a large sum of your vacation budget free to spend on other things. Try buying a loaf of fruit toast or regular bread and using the toasters on-site to make your breakfast. PlanDisney tells us that you can use the toasters in common areas for your own purposes. For example, at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, the Centertown Market has toasters, and at Pop Century, you can use the ones located in Everything Pop Shopping and Dining. A light breakfast is an excellent way to go if you want to hit those more intense E-Ticket attractions first up.
A Box of Cereal to the Rescue
Do your kids not like toast, or perhaps you don’t want to trek to a toaster to get breakfast sorted each morning? Invest in a large box of your favorite family cereal, some milk in the fridge, and the perfect amount of disposable bowls and spoons. This is a great way to tick breakfast off quickly and easily. Even though recyclable bowls and spoons would be environmentally the way to go, I always keep four plastic bowls and spoons in the room as these are easier to rinse and reuse the next day. This tactic got me through many of my low-budget traveling days with the kids when they were little. A bonus is that you can have them go to the bathroom and brush their teeth before leaving the resort. Remember that ironing board above? Serve your cereal on that bad boy to keep the mess under control as well.
Keeping Your Cool while Acclimatizing
Even in the middle of winter, guests are always taken aback by the temperatures experienced in Florida. The heat and humidity don’t take much of a break year-round, making some people feel very uncomfortable when they arrive. Try to avoid cranking up to air conditioning too far as it can make it much worse when you do step out the door and face days of walking through the parks with minimal reprieve. Instead, try and acclimatize a bit faster by using alternative methods of cooling down.
A little trick I learned in Thailand for this was to take some cheap, thin, face washcloths with you; dampen them, place in an open zip lock bag (for the drips) and throw them in the mini-fridge when you arrive. As you return from the parks, use some mild air conditioning and a cool face towel to recover from the heat. If you have a suite or villa with a freezer compartment, put them in there for an even more refreshing experience. Before you leave each day, wash them out and keep them ready for your next return.
An Umbrella Stroller Saves the Day
Skip the stroller rental and have a cheaper umbrella stroller shipped to your resort room for arrival. This will cost you a fraction of the price, and you might be able to pass it on to another family as you leave instead of taking it home with you. When you do this, pay attention to the height measurements of the handles as many of the cheaper ones are pretty low and can hurt your back if you are taller and hunched over pushing them. Also, read reviews that mention the wheels to ensure they are smooth and easy to use. Doing this instead of bringing your own will also save you the hassle and cost of extra baggage if you are flying or free up valuable car space if you are driving.
Save Money on Afternoon Drinks in your Room
Everyone gets to that point during the day where they have drunk all the water and just want to sit down with a fun drink and relax. If you plan ahead, you can take advantage of your in-room fridge by stacking in cans and bottles to give everyone a nice refreshing treat when they return from a park day. Stocking your own beverages is also a great money saver on resort days when you take a break from the action and enjoy the pool and the rest of the resort. Don’t forget to turn that fridge dial down so they are nice and frosty when you are ready for a cool drink.
Choose Your Room Location Wisely
While everyone might rave about the convenient location of a preferred room, I often look for the opposite. For a few extra steps in your day, selecting a building further away and requesting a room preference away from the elevator might give you the vital sleep you need instead of being woken up constantly with foot traffic, especially when late-night events are scheduled. Consider whether or not your proximity to resort amenities outweighs the busyness of those areas and your ability to relax after a long day.
Check for Last-Minute Dining Reservations
Six months out from arrival, we are all excited. You make all the reservations and think we are going to do everything! But when reality sets in and everyone is exhausted, it isn’t uncommon for cancellations to pop up at even the most popular restaurants. If you have been excited to dine somewhere, check for last-minute reservations the day you would prefer to go. You will be surprised how many people change plans at the last minute for various reasons.
Keep Little Ones in the Bed
Traveling with my son, in particular, always came with needing to find creative ways to stop him from falling out of beds. My go-to move in this scenario is to grab the chairs in many of the rooms, and prop them up, back first, against the side of the bed your little one will be sleeping on. Then, I like to get an extra pillow or two and place it against the chairs just to save any head bumping in the middle of the night. I always found this much easier than trying to fit another smaller bed in the resort room with already tight floor space.
Another option, if two younger ones are sharing, is to make the kid’s bed sideways. Pull back the bed cover, place pillows down the center as a divider, and put your youngest child, or the one most likely to wriggle around, on the side against the bed head. Then use those chairs anywhere needed for more stability. The picture below isn’t exactly how I do it, but you’ll get the idea.
Use Resort Room Items to Fix Common Problems
Did you know that some coffee machines can be used to cook instant noodles? While you might not use that particular hack as much in Walt Disney World, there are a hundred other items in your hotel room that can solve a problem. Don’t have a wall charger? See if the back of your TV has a USB plug. Noisy guests walking by keeping you up at night? Try placing a towel at that gap under the door to keep the excess noise out. Use steam from the shower in the bathroom to remove wrinkles from hung clothing. Clip the center gap in your blinds closed with a pants hanger clip. Use a complimentary shower cap to cover food or take away that doesn’t have a lid to save for later. Use the hairdryer to quickly dry last-minute stain removal attempts or when washing your face mask between uses. You get the idea. You can solve many problems without looking too far with a bit of creativity.
What are your Disney resort hacks that help you stay sane while traveling? Add them below, and you might just help someone without even knowing it.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.