Taking the Stress Out of a Disney Vacation

Share This!

*This is a guest post by Jennifer Scott from SpiritFinder.org*

A family trip to Disney World seems like the ultimate dream vacation for families with young children or even teens, yet many parents find the experience completely overwhelming and end up feeling stressed as they try to cope with meltdowns from kids instead of being able to truly enjoy the magical experience. With so much to experience and so many activities to fit into a few short days, the cost of paying for it all can make for a stress-filled trip…unless you follow these tips.

Castle (10)Pack Smart

Whether you’re flying or driving to Disney, the last thing you need is a lot of luggage weighing you down. Remember, you’ll be spending much of your trip exploring Disney’s many attractions so think comfort when packing for the family. Pack clothes that can be layered, comfortable shoes, and hats to protect everyone from the sun. If your kids are old enough, put them in charge of getting their own suitcase from place to place. Small, carry-on size rolling luggage with four wheel spinners are great options for kids because they can be pushed or pulled. When the kids are able to help by getting their luggage to and fro, it’s a big relief for Mom and Dad.

Study the Parks and Know Your Must-Dos (and Where They’re Located)

Disney World has four theme parks and two water parks, each packed with tons of rides and attractions. It’s helpful to study the parks and identify the activities you most want to experience so that you can plan your time accordingly. Families with younger children will want to plan for ample time at the Magic Kingdom, where the most appropriate rides are located. Teenagers will appreciate the more thrilling rides, such as the Tower of Terror, located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Get Park Hopper Passes

Park Hopper Passes are an add-on to a standard ticket, allowing the ticket holder to visit any of Disney’s four theme parks throughout the duration of the ticket. Park Hopper Passes can be a lifesaver if you find that your children particularly enjoy one ride or theme park and want to return the next day. On the other hand, if you have single tickets for each park on a given day, you won’t have the same flexibility with your plans.

Choose the Best Time to Visit Disney World

Every family is different, but few enjoy spending hours after hours idly waiting in lengthy lines. Disney World is likely going to be crowded regardless of the time of year you visit, but certain seasons can be less crowded than others. Also, visiting in the winter months, such as January or February, mean that the weather is less likely to be sweltering hot, which can lead to increased crankiness among youngsters (and adults, too). [Ed – Luckily, I know of a pretty great Disney World Crowd Calendar]

Train Station (7)Stay On-Site and Use Disney Transportation if Possible

Staying on the Disney property can be more expensive than some off-site rentals, but many families find the cost of staying on-site to be well worth the time it saves not having to fight traffic and crowds in the parking lot. Utilizing Disney transportation also takes you right where you need to go, providing easy access to all the Disney properties.

Get to Bed at a Reasonable Time or Plan for Mid-Day Naps

A Disney vacation is exhausting. So much to do, so many sights to see, and the sheer excitement of being in such a magical place is enough to leave anyone feeling fatigued. Making an effort to get to bed at a reasonable time or planning for a mid-day nap can help you get the rest your family needs to cope with the general stress and excitement of such a fantastic family experience.

Hit the Parks Early to Experience Your Must-Do Rides

If your family made a must-do list, with each family member’s most-desired rides and attractions, take advantage of your early bedtime to hit the parks early in the morning. The parks will become increasingly crowded as the day progresses, so get there early and hit your must-do rides first. This allows you to ensure you’re doing the things your family most wants to do, while saving time by avoiding long lines for the most sought-after experiences.

A Disney vacation is sure to be a memorable experience for your family, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed and allow the stress to take over. These tips will help you plan for maximizing your time at Disney World, reduce stressful and frustrating situations, and have a more enjoyable, magical Disney vacation.


Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression. She created her website, SpiritFinder.org, as a platform for advocacy on opening up about mental health. Through the site, she hopes to share the types of steps and success stories that can help others realize their own power. When she isn’t working on her website, she enjoys traveling, working with animals, and seeking out new friendships and adventures.


You May Also Like...

Brian McNichols

In addition to blogging, I also do some analyzin' here at Touring Plans. I am a travel nut, planning nut, Disney nut, wall nut. Husband of 1, father of 2. Hilariously funny in my own mind. Find me on Twitter @YesThatBrian if you like really dumb jokes.

12 thoughts on “Taking the Stress Out of a Disney Vacation

  • January 17, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    Great post! Plan, plan, plan is my motto and DH and I enjoyed a great stress-free trip because I knew what we wanted to hit and what could be skipped if we ran out of time or energy (which always happens). We were at HS on a day where they were only letting people with Fast Passes ride the Toy Story ride. I was glad we had planned and booked ours way early because there were lots of very unhappy families.

  • January 17, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Great article and sound advice, I find planning is a great way to keep anxiety in check. The main thing I have to watch out for is thinking by planning everything will be perfect. I love my WDW holidays but perfection is a high bar.

  • January 17, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    I know everyone is all about early rising and rope drop.
    But for those of us traveling without small children. Sleep in and stay up latter. As closing time approaches. People are staking out fireworks viewing or taking tired kids home, leaving a lot of rides practically walk ons.

    • January 17, 2016 at 10:38 pm

      For us real heroes, the two are not mutually exclusive. 😉

  • January 17, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    #1 advice i give to all my friends who visit. SLOW DOWN!!!

    You’re not going to see it all, so don’t kill yourself trying. Slow down and enjoy every second. Also, let the photopass photographers do their jobs so you don’t see your entire trip through your camera or phone.

    • January 18, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Easier to say and do when you go regularly. For people who can only go on very rare occasions, or even only once, it is very hard to not try to do and see everything.

      • January 19, 2016 at 9:15 am

        You’re not going to see everything whether you try to or not. Better to relax and have a good trip than be stressed beyond belief and needing a vacation from your vacation.

      • January 20, 2016 at 7:30 pm

        I agree. If I were only going once, I would like to think I was maximizing fun in the whole trip, not simply maximizing number of boxes checked. No one is having fun when they are tired, hungry, feet hurt etc.

  • January 19, 2016 at 10:17 am

    “Stay On-Site and Use Disney Transportation if Possible

    Staying on the Disney property can be more expensive than some off-site rentals, but many families find the cost of staying on-site to be well worth the time it saves not having to fight traffic and crowds in the parking lot. Utilizing Disney transportation also takes you right where you need to go, providing easy access to all the Disney properties.”

    While generally an article with good advice, the section quoted above is just flat-out untrue. Some reasons:

    1) Staying on Disney property is in almost EVERY case more expensive than staying off-site. We regularly rent a 3 bedroom/3 bath unit with private splash pool (and huge complex pool) in a gated community for around $100/night. Try that on-site at Disney.

    2) We have never had to “fight traffic and crowds in the parking lot”. Perhaps you would if you went at the absolute peak times, but any other time of the year, it’s a non-issue.

    3) No “time is saved” by staying on-site and using Disney transport. Our max commute time from the townhouse to the parks is 20-25 minutes, often much quicker. I don’t think the buses are going to get you there faster, especially if the park you are going to isn’t close to your resort. As a further bonus, when we arrive at or shortly after rope drop, we are often parked close enough to just take a quick walk to the TTC or park gate, bypassing the trams entirely.

    Our stress is greatly lowered by staying off-site and using our own transportation. Why? It’s cheaper, which means we can afford to stay longer, we don’t have to worry about cramming onto crowded buses, and we are more in control of our trip.

    • January 19, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Lee & Robin – Thanks for this perspective! I’ve always been pro-“On Property” because it is a more immersive experience, but you do pay for that experience and the convenience of it all. In terms of decreasing money spent, you can’t argue with staying off-site, and I don’t think anyone would take you to task on that. That said, in terms of overall “vacation experience and convenience” – I think staying on-property, using the transportation, and taking advantage of the dining plan is a pretty great system. But you have opened my eyes now to trying an off-site trip sometime to compare the experience. Thanks for posting!

    • January 19, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      As you said, it really depends on when you visit. I talked to a couple who saw the New Year’s eve fireworks and left magic Kingdom around 12:30 AM. It took them over an hour to get a tram to get to their car in the parking lot, and they arrived at their hotel, a 25 minute drive away, around 4:30 AM.

      There’s plusses and minusses to everything, and whatever works for you may not work for others. it’s all about making your own vacation the best for you.

  • January 19, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Great article. For us, parents travelling with their two pre-school aged kids, having dinner ADR’s at nice table service restaurants each night was a key stress alleviator. Granted it can be expensive, but it was totally worth it for us. No matter how our days went, we knew that at the end of each night we had a relaxing (yes, even with our kids) and tasty meal with a glass of wine waiting for us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.