Disney is a very action packed place. A place where you could spend an entire month, maybe even more, and possibly not see every single thing that is offered at the four theme parks, the two water parks and the Disney Springs area. With so much to do it is extremely tempting to try and fit in as much as possible into a single day you’re at Disney.
Trust me on this: Don’t do it.
Give yourself grace and be at peace with the fact that you will NOT fit it all in. Itineraries might not run smoothly. A child might get sick. You may not WANT to eat three character meals in one day.
Trust me, that would be a LOT of food.
Instead of charging forward when your batteries need to be recharged, structure your daily plans to include breaks. When you stay on property, taking a much needed break can be super simple. It can really make or break your day.
Personally, for our family, that means heading back to our Walt Disney World hotel and taking a quick siesta followed by a dip in the pool. Midday is perfect for this little park detour because Florida is hot in the middle of the day. (Duh.) Hot to the point where Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak station, although super refreshing, isn’t going to make a dent in the type of refreshment you are desiring. We find that we need a break and without it, there is no happily ever after.
After a late lunch in the parks we hop onto our resort’s respective Walt Disney World transportation, which tend to be easy to come by midday, and pop over to our resort room. After a quick nap, swim and shower we are reinvigorated and ready start the second half of our daily adventures.
Easy peasy, huh? Mostly.
The hardest part about taking this rest break is actually doing it. With so many attractions to explore, shows to watch and characters to meet, it’s hard to pull yourself away from any Disney park. Before you know it, it is five in the evening. You could argue this is still the perfect time to head back to your resort if you are planning to return to a park that has a late evening closure or evening Extra Magic Hours.
However, the truth is, if you have kids and if you leave the parks at 5pm, you probably aren’t coming back. Five pm is too late for a nap and little (and big) people get tired and cranky around this time if they haven’t had any down time. Do you work a 9am-5pm job at home? How do you feel at 5pm? Refreshed and ready for an adventurous night out? Without a little break during the day, probably not.
I might not have the night owls on board with this thought, but you early birds know what I am talking about. 5pm is late and 9pm might as well be midnight.
If you calculate it out, taking that midday break gives you the highest number of park hours without meltdowns taking away from your magical day. You basically are saving your vacation.
For example, if you enter a park that opens at 9 am, have park adventures until 2 pm, leave for a quick resort refresher, and head back to the parks at 5pm until 10pm you will end up with 10 hours of park time. As opposed to a nine to five gig resulting in 8 hours of park time without a break and the possibility of not returning to the park due to exhaustion. I’ll take the 10 hours in my happy place with a happy family. Please and thank you.
Outside of my love of all things Disney, I am a runner and an occupational therapist. These paths of life often cross and I often find myself relaying to a patient who is recovering from a surgery or trying to build up strength that they need to take things slow. Taking it slow and steady is the way to improve on your strength, endurance and health as opposed to attempting to do everything in one shot. That won’t help you to recover.
Similarly, in marathons pacing is key. If you dead sprint out of the gate you’re going to feel it in the second half (or maybe the second mile!) and regret it as you’ve burned through most of your energy in the early miles (trust me, I unfortunately know this awful truth). Same is true with your park adventures. If you’re pace yourself, give yourself a break and a rest from the excitement and heat midday, then you’ll be able to enjoy an overall longer park day.
You might argue that there is no way your kiddos could stay up until 10 pm. Or that you have no desire to keep your kiddos up that late. I have found that with the excitement of Disney, my kids have no problem staying up super late. There is so much going on and so many distractions, they aren’t even thinking about sleep. To combat an anticipated crabby start the next day, we often space out our park days. Following a park day, such as the one described above, we often opt for a relaxing pool day or down day.
1. Tell your family ahead of time
There is a certain amount of planning that goes into a Disney vacation in order to help it run smoothly and planning for breaks is part of this planning. If everyone is aware ahead of time of the planned break and on board, one party member just has to say the code word and your party can exit the park to take that much needed break. Okay, you don’t need a code word. It would be cool though, so you probably should have one.
2. Have Everyone Pick a ‘Must Do’ Attraction
If you have a party of 4 or 5 people, this is an easy way to make sure everyone is happy with their morning at the park, in the off chance that you don’t make it back. This gives you a loose time of when to return back to the hotel and have a satisfied party incase you really are just too tired to return. But, don’t worry too much about being tired to return to the parks, you’re in Disney. Just like in real life, worrying doesn’t help anything, so you might as well not worry in your dream Disney life. You might be tired, but you’re probably tired at home all the time anyhow, so might as well take that tiredness and live it up in Disney. You can go back to plain old boring tiredness when you get back home. Trust me, it will be waiting for you.
3. Plan a Late Lunch
Lunch can be sit down or table service, just plan it for a little after the main lunch rush, say around 1-1:30pm. As soon as lunch is over, you leave the park to head back to your hotel. Full bellies combined with the hot sun tend to make humans sleepy, both the big ones and the little ones. It’s the perfect time to make your exit, grab that nap and then take a dip in the resort pool to wake back up. Plus you’ll avoid standing in line with other guests who are sleepy and possibly a little cranky as well.
4. Plan a Resort Lunch Reservation
Piggybacking on the late lunch suggestion, if you stay at a Disney resort that offers a table service meal, make a reservation there! Some of the best dinning in Disney is located outside of the parks and is a perfect way to get yourself back to your resort around lunchtime. Just like lunch in the parks, I suggest making the reservation for a late lunch so you’re not dealing with the lunch crowd when you get back to your resort.
5. Open Your MyDisney Experience App
Open this app and take a look at the wait times for the different attractions. It shouldn’t take you long to realize that lines are long in the middle of the day, especially after lunch. The park goers who arrived hours after rope drop, guests who have hopped over from another park have joined the crowds and those individuals who are riding out the day until 5pm are all causing bottle necks at your favorite attractions. Instead of standing in line for Peter Pan’s Flight, catch some shuteye and come back when wait times are shorter.
Disclaimer: Peter Pan’s Flight might still be in excess of 90 minutes. It’s a Disney mystery that I still don’t understand.