Time is precious on any vacation, and a Disney World vacation in particular can create the feeling that time is passing at a far quicker pace than in everyday life. With so much Disney fun waiting each day (and the feeling that time flies at the World unlikely to abate), who wants to spend a lot of time getting ready in the morning. Whether your goal is to be at the parks at opening or to eke out a bit more sleep before you start your day, getting up and out of your room efficiently will help maximize your vacation time. And the rewards for your efforts can be significant.
Whether you need to get your entire family up and out the door or just yourself, there are several steps you can take to smooth the morning routine. These steps will not only save time but make the morning (and the people getting ready) more relaxed so that you can leave the room happy, stress-free, and ready for fun. This article highlights specific tips for your morning as well as TouringPlans tools and information that can extend the benefits of a calm morning to the rest of your day.
Getting a Head Start—The Night Before
After a busy day at the parks, your motivation to get ready for the next day can be extremely low, but try to fight the urge to immediately collapse into bed. Even 5 minutes of preparation the night before can pay off by saving time and hassle in the morning. Here are some steps you can take the night before to get a head start for the morning:
- Prep your park bag. Before dropping your bag in exhaustion, take a few moments to refresh it for the next day. Empty out any receipts, souvenirs, and park maps. Toss and replace or replenish supplies such as sunscreen and hand sanitizer. Ensure your sunglasses, your camera, and anything else you normally carry is back in your bag and ready to go in the morning.
- Gather the essentials. Have everyone in your party deposit the items that are essential to your departure in the morning in a central spot where they can be easily found. Such items can include park bags, MagicBands, tickets, hats, autograph books and pens, and pin lanyards. This step can save you from a last-minute scramble that spoils the mood right as you go out the door.
- Set out clothes for everyone. Lay out the next day’s clothes for yourself and kids so that it’s a no-brainer to get dressed. This way, kids can at least start to get ready by themselves even if the adults are busy with their own preparations. It also means that early risers can get ready without turning on as many lights or making as much noise so that others can catch a few more minutes of shut-eye.
- Decide on a bedtime. Whether your night is winding down early or you’ve been partying with Mickey late into the night, consider the next day’s plans when deciding on a target bedtime. If your plan is to be at park opening the next day, it’s sensible to get to bed at an earlier hour, sticking close to your normal bed time at home—especially with kids. If you took advantage of evening extra magic hours, a more relaxed plan for the following day is probably the best move.
- Be ready with a touring plan. Before your trip, choose from one of our many step by step touring plans for each park. A touring plan will turn your efficient morning into an efficient day by showing you the best order to experience attractions so that you avoid long waits in line.
Determining a Wake-Up Time
With a bit of evening prep eliminating some basic tasks from your morning routine, your last step before getting some sleep is to decide on a time to wake up and to set the alarm.
- Work backwards. If your plan is to get to a park at a specific time the next day, a good strategy when deciding on the time for your alarm is to work backward from the time you need to be at the point of transportation—whether it be the parking lot or your car, the monorail station, the bus stop, or the boat dock. Unless you have a car, be sure to account for the 15-20 minutes you may need to wait for your transportation to arrive. Our family’s rule of thumb is for the alarm to go off 1.5-2 hours before we need to be at the point of transport.
- Consider commuting times. The hotels section of the TouringPlans.com website shows commuting times to the parks from Disney resorts using resort transportation. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for each resort to see the times. If you own a copy of our 2015 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, there is an excellent chart of “Door-to Door Commuting Times to and from the Disney Resorts and Parks in Your Car Versus the Disney Transportation System” on pages 398-399.
- Set a backup alarm. Setting a backup alarm is a must. There is no worse feeling than waking up to find that your day will be starting much later than planned because your alarm failed to go off.
- Plan for no plan. Even if your plan is not to have a plan the next day, you may want to set an alarm for the latest possible time you’d like to get up. This way, at least you will be conscious at some point that you are relaxing in Disney World.
Getting Up and Out in the Morning
- Decide on a wake-up order. While setting your alarm the previous night, you should also decide on a wake-up/getting ready order. This step is more important when children are involved. If adults get up first, they may be able to enjoy some peace while they get ready before the kids are awake. If kids wake up at the same time as the adults, let them relax a bit longer in bed reading or watching TV while the adults get ready.
- Have a shower strategy. To avoid some of the morning rush in the bathroom, one strategy is to have everyone or at least some people bathe the night before; this tactic may be especially appealing if you’re visiting during the hotter months of the year. Even if the adults shower in the morning, the nighttime showering approach is helpful for kids. For girls with long hair, braiding their hair before bed after they shower can save even more time in the morning. For boys, a baseball cap or, of course, Mickey ears work wonders to hide bed head after sleeping on wet hair.
- Consider breakfast options. Some quick breakfast strategies are to have breakfast items already in the room (such as cereal, granola bars, yogurt, pastries, nuts, or fruit) or to have the adult who is ready first venture out to obtain breakfast and bring it back to the room. This way, you can eat breakfast either in your room or on the way to the car/bus/boat/monorail. Another option is for everyone to have breakfast at your resort’s quick service restaurant; after leaving the room, plan enough time to wait in line, sit and eat, and then walk to transportation. If you’ve opted for an unhurried sit down breakfast, your timeline for getting ready can be based on your reservation time.
- Plan time for sunscreen. For many people, applying daily sunscreen may not be a big deal, but one unhappy night up with a child suffering from a severe sunburn has made me a sunscreen stickler. As a result, my children now consider a run for the hills when they see me with a bottle of sunscreen. Seriously, though, applying sunscreen (and staying hydrated) is crucial when you are outside for much of the day, so plan time to get sunscreen on those kiddos (and yourself). If not in the room, apply sunscreen at the bus stop or when waiting for park opening.
And Finally … Reaping the Rewards
Once you’ve taken these steps to manage your morning routine, you will enjoy some definite benefits that will improve your overall vacation experience:
- First and foremost, the strategies in this article can allow for a less hurried pace throughout your Disney vacation no matter what time you start your day. And everyone in your party will be in better mood if they have gotten enough sleep, have had a good breakfast, and were able to get ready for the day without much effort.
- Enjoying the less busy hours in the parks can make a huge difference in term of your fun on vacation. There is no doubt that being among the first to get to the parks gives you a leg up on the vast majority of Disney guests. Indeed, arriving at the parks at “rope drop” is key to many of our touring plans and backed by years of data showing much shorter wait times early in the park day.
- Part and parcel of enjoying short morning lines is the chance to experience some of the more popular experiences at Disney World. Even if you have a FastPass+ for experiences such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom or Test Track at Epcot later in the day, you can ride them more than once by using standby lines in the morning.
- When kids (and adults) have a less hectic morning, they will likely have more stamina in the parks. As a result, you may be able to stretch your time in the parks before a break is needed.
- Making it to breakfast at one of the parks is another benefit of following a morning routine. Having breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends at Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace or with the princesses at Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a great start to the day.
- Even when your plan involves just lounging at the pool, enjoying Disney World’s resorts and dining, or approaching the day with no plan at all, an easy exit from the room will enhance a relaxed pace.
- I have saved my favorite benefit for last … seeing Magic Kingdom’s Welcome Show when the park opens. A “Good Morning” routine will ensure that you will arrive in plenty of time to sing along.
What are your biggest morning challenges at Disney World? Have you experienced benefits from an efficient morning routine? Can you share any other strategies that have worked to get you and your family up and out in the morning?