Disney Dad’s Dozen: Tips for a First Timer

4. When to go?

The busiest times of the year at WDW generally fall in line with school holidays. Keep in mind; with Airlines and hotels the busier the season the higher the price and the slower the season the lower the price. Disgustingly crowded: Week of Christmas, Week of Thanksgiving, Week of Fourth of July (typically the park is at capacity by 11am and closed to new guests after that). Really Crowded: Presidents Day Weekend, Spring Break, Columbus Day Weekend, most of June, July and the first weeks of August.

Don’t be this Dad

There are special events throughout the year that also bump up attendance: Mickeys not so scary Halloween Party, Christmas events. Best time of year to go: First few weeks of September, The week after Thanksgiving, January. I have been to the world in September. Tumble weeds were blowing through Epcot. We rode Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom and the cast member let us stay on for a second ride because no one was behind us! There are a lot of arguments to be made, that in order to save time and money, you should pull your kids out of school to go during the low season. As a teacher I can tell you I hate that, but that’s for another column. My family’s favorite time to go is late August. Florida goes back to school in early August. WDW prices fall and we have had really good luck with low crowds. The caveat? It’s August. In central Florida. 100% Humidity with 100 degree temps.

5. What to Pack?

Central Florida tends to be well, you know…. hot. There are only a scant few weeks in Orlando that require a jacket. I suggest active comfortable clothes. Shorts, t’s, and casual shirts. Only two restaurants in the whole WDW resort have a dress code. So casual is the style. Cushy athletic socks and running shoes are a must. With flip-flops you are just begging for blisters. I average 5 miles on an average day at the parks. I walked 17 miles on one occasion (don’t ask). You may want a few dressy outfits for some nice dinners out. My wife always brings a zip up hoodie with her everyday for going into attractions. Outside it may be 90 degrees but inside Splash Mountain its 65 degrees.

In summer it seems like it rains almost everyday for 30 minutes. Disney will be happy to sell you a 10$ disposable poncho for each member of your family. Or… you can get one at Target in your hometown for $1.99.

On a rainy days the ponchos come out!

If you are traveling with small kids you will need the Disney Dad backpack. Fill it with snacks that done melt (Yes Disney Allows you to bring food into the parks), diapers, wipes, a towel (to wipe wet stuff down), your rain ponchos, extra socks, sun block (spf 50!), and any other baby or kid stuff you usually drag around. Putting it in a back pack is a must. Dads look cooler with a backpack anyway.

6. Where to stay?

Disney has a wide variety of themed resorts for every taste and every budget. Cheapest (about 95$ per night average) are the All Star Resorts and the most expensive are the hotels on the Magic Kingdom Monorail loop (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian) can run up to $500 per night. Our favorite resorts all have the same things in common: Mid to lower priced, family friendly, great pool, adult beverages available, close to a park and a fun theme. My cant miss list of resorts include: The Caribbean Beach (our go to resort), The Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs and our secret weapon the Dolphin Hotel. While the Dolphin isn’t technically a Disney Resort it is on Disney property (right behind he Boardwalk) and it comes with all Disney privileges and transportation to the parks.

The Swan and Dolphin Resort
The Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. Yes, they know it looks like a fish on the roof and not a dolphin

From there you can take a boat to the Boardwalk, The Hollywood Studios and Epcot. They have a crazy great pool, a wide variety of food options and most times you can score a room for around 150$ a night. You can always stay off property but for the sake of brevity I wont open that can of worms here.

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