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Home / North America / Disney Adventure| Secrets For The Best Disney Family Vacation

Disney Adventure| Secrets For The Best Disney Family Vacation

Updated: June 15, 2017
By: Krystal Rogers-Nelson
If you’ve ever been on a Disney vacation, chances are you have a lot of fun memories of the
experience, as well as a few not-so-fun ones. The sheer size of the parks combined with age
disparity between children, teens, and adults can make for a stressful time when you don’t plan
effectively. That’s why I’m going to give you some of my most useful tips for navigating a family
vacation to Disney without cracking under the pressure. Buckle up—you’re in for a ride!

Determine What Your Children Are Ready For

Disney World can be a really magical place for all ages, but let’s be real—it can also be a total nightmare when you’ve got a screaming two-year-old who’s had enough after just an hour in the park. When planning your Disney vacation, think carefully about what your kids will and won’t be able to handle at their respective ages, and plan accordingly. My rule of thumb is to wait until children are at least three before plunging them into a Disney trip.

Consider a Vacation Rental

My mom took our family on a Disney World vacation the year my son turned one (he was too young—stick to my “at least three” rule if possible!) along with my adult siblings and their families. We rented a vacation house with a pool that was close to the park, and it was the best decision ever.

The house had a kitchen, a washer and dryer, a pool, a hot tub with a patio, and a family room with a TV—just in case we didn’t get enough Disney for the day and wanted to watch a couple of movies! Each couple had their own room and bathroom, and there was enough common space to spread out and decompress after a long day.

Don’t Overbook Your Days

It’s tempting to try and cram as much into a Disney vacation as possible, because there’s just so much to see and do, but it can have a detrimental effect on everyone’s experience if you’re not careful. My trip with my mom was ten days long, so rest days were definitely necessary. Ten solid days of park time would have been exhausting. I advise giving yourself a couple of free days to explore outside of the parks, relax by the pool, and generally unwind before hitting the parks again.

Decide in advance what things you want to see and do the most, as winging it can lead to unnecessary stress. If you’re traveling in a large group, break into smaller groups and plan meet-up times and places—this strategy allows everyone to do what they want without overbooking everyone else.Kids meeting their hero at Disney World

Pack for Any Scenario

The best way to deal with the variables of exploring Disney World with young children is to prepare for as many as possible. Don’t attempt a day in the parks without good walking shoes for all and a packed-for-anything stroller, as even the most hyperactive children will wear themselves out after a long day at Disney World. An umbrella stroller is a great option to travel with and will keep the sun out of your little ones’ eyes, lessening the likelihood of them becoming more exhausted by the heat. Pack your stroller with snacks, water, sunscreen, Dramamine or ginger chews (for motion sickness), and anything else you anticipate needing for the day.

Head to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

In case you haven’t heard, more Star Wars attractions are coming to Hollywood Studios in 2019, as part of the largest single-themed expansion to ever happen in a Disney park. Right now, you can check out replica movie props, experience the 3D motion-simulated journey through the Star Wars galaxies, and watch a live show that brings classic Star Wars moments to life before your eyes.

The new Star Wars attractions will include activities for Star Wars fans of all ages, from family pictures with Chewbacca and BB-8 to Jedi training for children ages four through twelve. (I’m not jealous, it’s fine.) If you’re a Star Wars fan like me, budget in tickets to Hollywood Studios, starting at $99 for one day.

Don’t Let Kids Binge on Sugar

Treats are part of the Disney experience, but an over-sugared child is not what you want when trying to enjoy a full day of park time—trust me! Be mindful of how much sugar your children consume, and ensure they eat enough “real food” and drink plenty of water. This should help you avoid any potential vomiting (it happens) and keep them as calm as possible under the circumstances.

Have a Plan if You Get Separated

You should give everyone in your party a plan to follow in the event of separation—don’t just count on cellphones, as batteries and signal strength aren’t always reliable. If your children are prone to wandering off, consider getting a GPS tracker so you don’t have to panic if you can’t locate them in the hustle and bustle of so many people.

Beat the Crowds

All of us have different tolerance levels when it comes to crowds, but most of us would rather not wait in line for hours to go on a ride, so get smart about avoiding crowds with these tips.

  • Parades are a great time to hit your favorite rides, as lines tend to be significantly shorter.

  • TouringPlans.com is a great resource when planning your Disney vacation, as it provides crowd information that helps you know when the parks will be least busy.Walt Disney Castle

  • Eating your meals at less-conventional times means less standing around listening to “Mom, I’m STARVING!” on repeat.

  • Certain rides, such as Space Mountain and the Hollywood Tower of Terror, have longer lines most of the time, so consider visiting these first when you arrive at the parks.

  • The earlier you can get to the parks, the more in-demand rides you can enjoy before the crowds come. Try to get to bed at a reasonable hour before a park day so you can be up bright and early.

  • If you stay at a Disney hotel, you should take advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, which let you enter the park an hour before everyone else and leave up to two hours later.

  • Consider investing in Disney’s FastPass+ program, which lets you schedule your visit to certain attractions and beat the lines for your favorite rides. You can make reservations with FastPass+ using the My Disney Experience planning page or the mobile app up to thirty days in advance, or sixty days if you stay at a Disney hotel. They’re flexible, so don’t worry if you change your mind once you begin your trip.

Make Waiting More Bearable

While there are things you can do to reduce waiting times, you’ll inevitably have to stand in line at some points. Snacks, games, and electronics can all make time go faster, as can Disney’s interactive queues for certain rides, such as the Haunted Mansion and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Disney also has some free apps like Nemo’s Reef that you can download for your children. I like to prepare some Disney trivia questions for my family in advance, as we love competing with each other as we wait in line!

Enjoy Some Adult Time at Epcot

Don’t let children steal all your Disney vacation time—have a grandparent or older teen watch over them while you enjoy some adult time at Epcot. You can devour some fancy food, get a real drink (or three), and unwind without wired-on-Disney kids screaming at you for a few hours. If you haven’t been before, check out some of my favorite attractions:

  • Boulangerie Pâtisserie in France
  • La Cava del Tequila and Mariachi Cobre in Mexico
  • Brass Baazar in Morocco
  • Soarin’ Around the World in “The Land”
  • Dragon Legend Acrobats in China

Sure, Epcot isn’t just for adults—it has lots of amazing child-friendly attractions for everyone to enjoy—but it’s my favorite place for grownup time on a Disney vacation. I highly recommend you check it out when you need a break.

Epcot Centre Disney

Keep Grandparents Happy

Grandparents are, in my experience, the real heroes on a Disney vacation, and they deserve to be treated as such. The responsibility of tending to kids’ needs often falls on them and can definitely be exhausting, so make sure you find shady spots around the park so your parents can rest. Consider renting a wheelchair even if Grandma or Grandpa don’t usually need one, as the level of walking required in the parks can be very high and takes its toll even on the youngest and fittest among us.

Keep Teenagers Happy

There are plenty of things teenagers will love at Disney. If your teenager is too cool for school (AKA Disney), try to involve them in planning your trip, and don’t try to fight their sleep schedule too much. If teens feel like they had a say in the plans, they will usually be less opposed to things during the vacation.

Also, Disney parks are a relatively safe and closed environment, so if you have more than one teenager, give them some time to explore by themselves. Nighttime activities like fireworks are a teen favorite, as are the behind-the-scenes tours, most of which are only for those sixteen or older.

Don’t Fall Prey to Overpriced Souvenirs

If you want the classic mouse-ears-in-front-of-the-castle picture, or want to snap a picture with Chewbacca dressed up as your favorite star wars character, buy your mouse ears or Jedi robes from a party store in advance, rather than shelling out for in-park prices. You should also buy things like lanyards, and character autograph books from a party store too, as this will save you a lot of money.

It’s impossible to cram everything into one Disney vacation, so try to stay focused on what you want to do the most, and keep everyone’s stress levels as low as possible with effective planning.

Share this article with your friends and family if you found it helpful, and leave your best tips for surviving a family Disney vacation with other readers in the comments!


Home / Travel Talk / Ian's Travel Thoughts / What it’s like to visit family in Italy

What it’s like to visit family in Italy

Updated: October 8, 2013
By: Ian Yacobucci
Visiting family

Visiting family in Vieste, Italy

No matter where you’ve traveled, how many countries you’ve been to, or what you’ve done around the world, there’s one experience that impossible to have unless you’ve got family in another country.  Lucky for me and my sister our family origins start in Italy, and we still have family there today.

After taking an overnight Montenegro Lines ferry from Bar, in Montenegro, to Bari, in Italy, (a Montenegran boat that will no longer be running after December due to financing) we began a two week adventure visiting our relatives across Italy.

The first stop on our Italy trip that did not include famous cities like Rome or Florence, world class museums, famous art stops, or the best gelato in the world, was a small town on the Adriatic called Vieste.

A growing tourist town Vieste is surrounded by a national park and home to about 14, 000 people. It’s located in the province of Foggia in a region known as Gargano (perhaps my future dog’s name?). It’s also the place where my grandmother (nonna) was raised nearly 100 years ago.

So, what’s it like spending a week with your distant relatives who only speak Italian and live in a small town on the Adriatic coast that can only be reached by bus or car, bearing in mind that I don’t speak Italian. Hint: it’s incredible!

Let’s start with the lifestyle here. Everything in Vieste closes from around 1/2 o’clock till about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. That means you can’t get gas, you can’t go to a restaurant, you can’t visit the post office, and you can’t go shopping. During this time the town is a virtual zombie land, almost no one is outside but a just a few stray dogs who are napping away on the street corners.

You’re probably wondering what my day in Vieste is like. Well, every morning I wake up to the smell of fresh brewed Italian espresso which I drink with 3 quarters of a glass of milk and a few biscuits; a traditional Italian breakfast.

Family, dinner

Enjoying a family lunch in Vieste, Italy

After breakfast our cousin, who’s 80 years old and used to be a life guard in the city, drives us around to all the best beaches and views in the city. At around 1 o’clock, our entire family (plus or minus 6-10 people) gets together for a 2-3 hour lunch, which includes a minimum of 3 courses.

Let me enlighten you with a typical lunch menu. Usually, lunch starts with a light snack like taralle (a type of twisted Italian cracker) and an espresso. This is followed by a plate of pasta, then a fish (stuffed whole cuddle fish was one such delicacy).

Afterwards bread with fresh cold cuts and cheese finds its way onto the table. Finally, we enjoy a fruit desert of fresh grapes, and when it’s all over we nap.

During the day everyone watches Italian television (mostly junk news – owned by the politician/ex-Italian primeminister Berlusconi – and soaps). It’s so much fun watching these shows with our cousins because they get so into it!

One of our Zia’s favourite is Beautiful, an American soap completely dubbed in Italian. A viewing of every episode ends in a deep discussion about what’s next, or ends with a gasp followed by a whispered, “Madonna” (referring to the Christian holy mother).

In the afternoon, my sister and I will usually head to the beach or into town to run errands and sight see. When we get back around 5 or 6 the city is just starting to pick up again and the streets are filled with people.

For us, this is time to chill out and prepare for the upcoming 3 hour dinner. At around 8:30 dinner is served and usually consists of several more courses of food over television and conversations. After we eat, I’m usually a zombie and struggle to make it past 10:30 pm, “la dolce vita” as the Italians say.

Vieste, Italy

Old town Vieste, Italy

During my time in Vieste, one of the coolest things I was able to do was visit the one room house my nonna was raised in. One of our distant cousins still lives in the house and showed us a picture of our deceased great grandfather, in the house surrounded by our relatives (some of whom are still alive today).

Even more amazing is the fact that my nonna raised her 10 step brothers and sisters while she lived in the one room house, and her legacy still lives on in the hearts and minds of our family that was raised by her. As we looked through old photos and chatted in Italian I couldn’t believe how unique it was to connect with relatives here because we’re family!

To be honest, my days were just what you’d expect. I ate amazing Italian food, slept, napped, listened to and practiced Italian, explored the ancient town my grandmother was raised in, and loved every minute of it.

You can travel everywhere in the world, but to have a family experience like this is something truly special.

Have you ever had an experience visiting family overseas? If so share it with Borderless Travels readers because these experiences are great to learn about!

Happy travels,