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Disney vacations are daunting.  First, they can be incredibly expensive.  That’s especially true if you want to make it the best vacation for your family, which for me translates into spending more.  Then, you have to plan to painstaking levels of detail in order to make your vacation the best it can be.  Once you pay the money, the planning begins.  There is nothing scarier than spending thousands of dollars on the “perfect vacation” and having it not turn out the way you wanted.  However, these 11 Best Disney Tips for Dads will set you on a path to that perfect vacation for you, your kids, and your significant other.  So, let’s get started.

  1. Plan, plan, plan – I’m the worst when it comes to expecting impeccable service when I pay top dollar.  I expect all of my family’s wants to be handled when I shell out thousands on a vacation.  Disney is not this way.  Understand that you need to make restaurant reservations 180 days before your trip begins.  You need to make FastPass reservations 60 days before your trip (assuming you are staying in a Disney resort).  And before you do these, you need to have figured out where you’re staying, when you’re going to parks, what tickets you’re getting, transportation, etc., etc.  Don’t worry, there are many resources for planning.  It actually gets pretty fun to do it.  The point is to do it.
  2. Determine your budget – Going into a huge amount of debt for Disney is not the smartest move.  There are many ways to do Disney from inexpensive to very expensive.  You will enjoy it so much more if you’re not worried about the financial impact of this vacation.
  3. Figure out what your family wants – To be a Dad superhero, you need to put your family first.  Once you know your budget, do a little research on what resorts fit that budget.  All Disney resorts are themed really well and none of them are “cheap.”  From there, figure out what is more important to your family.  My family really enjoys meals at Disney and we put more money toward those than we do toward other things like souvenirs.
  4. Your kids don’t understand what this costs; don’t get frustrated – Kids don’t get the concept of money.  They don’t understand this is very likely a once in a lifetime vacation that you really want to come off perfectly.  I’ve heard more than a few parents surprise their kids with a Disney vacation and don’t get the thrilled reaction they were hoping for.  I’ve seen multiple temper tantrums from worn out kids in the middle of the parks.  This typically occurs in front of their confused and frustrated parents that can’t figure out why their kids aren’t happy the entire vacation.  In reality, they’re just tired.  My point is, don’t be disappointed if you pull a Clark Griswold and set high expectations that aren’t met.  Just enjoy the moments you get.
  5. Don’t try and see it all – it’s impossible.  There are four main parks at Disney World.  You could spend two weeks there and not do it all.  Pick the things your family most wants to do and make those a priority.  Consider anything else icing on the cake.
  6. Plan rest time – this is a must.  There are two forms of rest time.  The first is a rest day.  Parks are tiring.  My family can only do two full park days in a row before needing a rest day.  Rest days can still be fun.  You can shop at Disney Springs or relax at the pool.  The point is in a full week, you will need one or two rest days.  The second rest time is during the day.  We like to plan a meal in the middle of the day outside the park.  Listen to our third podcast for a great place to do this at Magic Kingdom.  Some people love to go back to the resort for a nap or pool time.  Either way, a couple of hours rest can really recharge your family for the rest of the day.
  7. Focus on the transportation – your family will focus on the fun stuff.  If you want to make it smooth, figure out the transportation piece.  First, get to Disney.  Second, determine the best way in and around Disney.  Third, have a back-up plan as Disney transportation will fail occasionally.  Finally, get home from Disney.  This picture is my family at a Disney bus stop.  See how happy they look?  Those smiles go away quickly when transportation becomes an issue.  Trust me on this guys.
  8. Do something for yourself – this is important.  You have to take care of yourself.  The old saying that nobody is happy when Momma isn’t happy is true.  It’s also true for Dad.  For me, it’s planning to grab a beer and relax while the kids play each day.  It’s something small, but it really lets me enjoy the moment and take a step back.  Whatever your release is, do it.  Your family will thank you.
  9. Plan a little extra magic – Disney is famous for magic.  After you complete the plan everyone is on board with, do just a little more.  On one trip, I ordered some Disney stuffed animals from Amazon and secretly packed them away.  When we got into the resort, I went to the room first and set them up for the kids as a surprise.  They loved them.  It’s the small things that add a little magic that will make all the difference.
  10. Take a CamelBak – this is my favorite tip.  A Camelbak is a backpack with a bladder you fill with water and a hose.  You can see the hose on my right shoulder in the main post photo above.  I wear this every trip.  Every morning before we leave the resort, I fill the bladder with ice and water.  We then drink from the hose all day.  It really cuts down on what we spend on water or trying to find restaurants that will give us cups of water.  Oh, and I hate drinking from water fountains.  The other benefit is you can put small souvenirs and snacks in the pockets of the backpack.  It works really well.
  11. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” – This is a phrase we use in the military and it has a lot of application here as well.  It’s important to understand now (before you leave on your vacation) that not every part of your plan will be perfect.  No matter how hard you plan, how many reservations you make, and how many contingencies you take into consideration, things will go wrong.  The important thing to remember is to take it in stride.  Enjoy the moment with your family.  Know that you are on vacation and you are with the ones you love.  Who cares if you miss a fast pass or it rains on you?  Let it all roll of your back…like the water from the rain on the day you desperately wanted it to be sunny.

Okay, so those are the eleven tips that will really make you stand out as a Disney Dad.  Good luck and please let me know how it goes!  Also, if you have any other great tips, please send them to me.  I am always looking for great Disney tips.

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