When you’re looking forward to a Walt Disney World vacation, it’s easy to imagine that the sheer amount of fun to be had will drive away any effects of fatigue—that you and anyone traveling with you will have endless energy and enthusiasm. The reality is that the typical Disney World vacation is far more active than restful, and underestimating just how tiring the fun can be is a common pitfall. Fortunately, a little planning can go a long way toward fending off some of the usual fatigue-causing culprits and keep the fun rolling.
Here are some of the common causes of fatigue during a Disney World trip and steps to take before you or your fellow travelers find yourselves overtired and crabby in the most magical place on earth.
Disney World is huge! If walking is your main mode of getting around in the parks, plan to do a lot of it. My family generally covers 7-14 miles a day, even when we take an afternoon break. I love that we get so much exercise to help offset all the yummy meals and snacks at the World, but reaping the benefits entails some precautions:
Wear comfortable shoes that you have broken in before the trip. Shoes with socks can give you extra cushion.
- Give your feet a rest by sitting whenever you can in attractions, at shows, and during meals and snacks. Or just grab a seat on a bench for a few minutes. Lacking a bench, lean against a wall or a fence for a bit. Even a short rest can make a huge difference for feet.
- Take advantage of no-charge package pickup. If you buy souvenirs in a park, there’s no need to carry them around for the rest of the day. With package pickup service, the store can send purchases to a package pickup office near the park entrance where you can pick them up when you exit the park. Or, if you are a resort guest, you can have your purchases sent directly to your resort. Stores will even ship your purchases home for a charge. See Erin Foster’s “Moving Merchandise at Walt Disney World: Getting Goods to Your Hotel and Shipping Stuff Home” for more detail.
- Use a stroller for “little ones” and even “older ones.” The last place either of my children ever sat in a stroller was Disney World. If you have a mix of younger and older kids, let the older children have a turn in the stroller. Not only do strollers give kids a break, but they allow parents to navigate more quickly and efficiently.
Hunger, Thirst, and the Heat
With all of the walking involved in getting around, it’s crucial to keep up your energy and stay hydrated. Being hungry or thirsty can make the difference between an exhilarating and a gut-wrenching ride on Space Mountain. And the effects are magnified when Florida heat gets into the mix:
- Pay attention when someone in your party wants to stop for a snack or a drink. It’s tempting to forge on ahead when only one or some people in your party need food or water, but one unhappy person will affect everyone.
- Keep some small snacks handy for times when you can’t take the time to stop.
- If you don’t want the added weight of water to carry during the early or late part of the day, you can of course pay for a bottle of water in the parks. Or bring in an empty water bottle to fill at a water fountain. Even better, ask for water with ice at any quick-service restaurant and you will be given one free of charge.
- If your plans include touring in the middle of the day, keep in mind that that it will be the hottest part of the day and is a good time to take a break for food.
- Definitely get off your feet when you eat. Ideally, and especially if it is hot, skip outdoor seating and eat in a restaurant with air conditioning. Bonus point for finding someplace quiet. My favorite place to rest during a quick-service meal is the upstairs at Magic Kingdom’s Columbia Harbour House.
Making sure everyone in your party gets plenty of breaks, naps, and night-time sleep can make a huge difference when you head to the parks:
- If you need a break in the parks, head to a low-key attraction such as Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover or The Hall of Presidents, Epcot’s Ellen’s Energy Adventure or The American Adventure, Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Muppet*Vision 3D or The Great Movie Ride, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Finding Nemo—The Musical or Conservation Station.
- Let your kids take a “sneak nap” in the stroller. Whether on purpose or by accident, take advantage of a break if your child falls asleep in the stroller.
- Heading back to your resort for a mid-day break to take a nap or swim is a great way to rejuvenate everyone for more time in the parks.
- See my blog article “Disney World Planning Challenges: Managing Your Disney Morning” for tips on how advance planning can help you get a good night’s sleep.
Even with using the various TouringPlans.com strategies for avoiding long waits in attraction lines, some waiting is an inevitable part of a Disney World vacation. Whether waiting for attractions, restaurant reservations, or transportation, keeping your party occupied can stave off some of the fatigue of waiting:
- Experience attractions with detailed/interactive queues. Peter Pan’s Flight, The Haunted Mansion, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Soarin’, Test Track, Star Tours, Muppet*Vision 3D, and Expedition Everest are some of the attractions that give you something to look at or do while you wait.
- Play a game like I spy, blow bubbles, or look for Hidden Mickeys (images of Mickey Mouse hidden in design elements throughout the Disney parks).
- People watch.
- Discuss what you are going to do next.
- Use the restroom while waiting for a restaurant reservation.
- Waiting for transportation is the worst, particularly for buses when leaving a park! You often don’t know how long the wait will be, the scenery can be uninteresting (again, bus stops are the worst), and there is sometimes nowhere to sit, especially when leaving after a long day at the park. I would love to hear some suggestions for this one.
Disney is definitely driving guests to plan as much of their vacation as possible in advance. The ability to make dining reservations 180 days in advance and FastPass+ reservations 30-60 days in advance has practically turned scoring these reservations into a competitive sport. Although there are advantages and disadvantages to this system, one unfortunate side effect can be the feeling that you are missing out if you don’t do everything in your plans:
- When your party just can’t stand another moment of fun, it’s a good sign that you need to rethink your plans. If you can, move must-dos later in your trip. Or you may find that an experience you thought would be crucial to enjoying your vacation is less important than some downtime. The key is not to be disappointed. In fact, skipping part of your plan may leave room for an even better experience or much needed rest.
- By charging a fee when guests are a no-show for an advanced dining reservation (see more details here), Disney has made it harder for people to be flexible with dining and the parks to visit each day. One approach is to continually assess your dining for the next day. If you decide to make a new dining reservation or switch a dining reservation, you may find availability as other people make last-minute cancellations, especially the evening before. While Disney says it requires 24 hours’ notice, you can cancel up until midnight of the day before your meal.
- Like dining, FastPass+ can cause stress when you feel like you must press on to your next FastPass+ attraction even when fatigue has hit. Take a breath and check the My Disney Experience app or an in-park FastPass+ kiosk for other options. Maybe your party needs to split up if some are ready to take a break instead of experiencing the next FastPass+ attraction. If you decide to change plans the night before, there may be availability due to last-minute cancellations. Disney also appears to release some FastPass+ slots the day of, so check in the morning on My Disney Experience or at a kiosk.
Too Much Togetherness
When traveling with a large party or with teens in your family, it usually becomes painfully obvious when people are experiencing fatigue from too much togetherness. The good news is that adults and teens can split up into smaller groups or take some time alone:
- Plan for your party to split up for most of the day but meet at a specific attraction or have a meal together.
- If parents and grandparents are on a trip together, take turns giving each other a break from the kids.
- Teens especially might need some alone time. Be willing to give them some space by letting them sleep in or hang out at the resort while you go to the park (or vice versa).
Focus on fun, not fatigue, on your Disney World vacation! Being aware that fatigue can happen and knowing a few strategies to handle it could be the key to avoiding unmagical meltdowns. What strategies have you found to be the most effective for handling fatigue at the World?