Let’s face it, things happen when traveling, but being prepared can help stay on track. That is why the real last blog in the How to Plan Series is all about how to plan ahead for a flexible Disney Trip.
While many things can happen, especially while traveling, we are focusing on a few key topics that happen most often. These are things that we’ve had to work with on our own trips, so we are sharing our experiences to help you plan better. In this blog we’ll cover:
- Rainy Days – tips to make a rainy park day worthwhile
- Tired + Cranky Kids (even adults) – what to do when you need a break
- Tummy Aches + Sickness – what to do when the sickies hit
- Migraine Days – being prepared when you suffer from Migraines
- Extreme Weather – we’re talking intense heat and hurricanes
How to Plan Ahead for a Flexible Disney Trip: Rainy Days
Rainy days can be a bummer on any trip, but in Disney they can actually be a good thing. Rain means lower crowds in the theme parks, so if you’re prepared and ready for it, you can use it to your advantage for shorter wait times.
Here are some rainy day tips and ideas:
- Base Tickets – these allow you to Be Prepared – be sure to pack ponchos or lightweight rain coats. We love ones that roll-up into themselves for easy storing. Be sure to also have a stroller rain cover and put it on anytime you leave your stroller for extended periods of time. We once entered Toy Story Mania for a Fastpass, were out in about 15minutes and in that time it poured without any signs that it would. Had we not put our cover on the stroller would have been soaked, so we always toss it on.
- Embrace the Rain – most of the year in Florida it’s hot, so embrace the rain as a break from the heat. Get wet, have fun and just enjoy this unique experience. Be sure to pack a lightweight towel to dry off if needed. Once the sun returns you’ll dry pretty quick, but just in case, we always pack extra outfits that we leave in a backpack on our stroller.
- Enjoy Shorter Lines – if you can withstand getting a little wet, you can use this time to ride all the indoor attractions. We got stuck in a downpour during MNSSHP, which was not ideal, but we made the best of it. The kids stayed dry under the stroller cover and we went from ride to ride dropping them off at the entrance while one of us went and parked the stroller. After riding, we would do the opposite, get the stroller and pick them up. If the rain is light enough for outside rides to remain running, just enjoy it and change after
- Take a Break – use this time as a much needed break. Take in a show, get a snack, do some shopping or head back to your hotel for a nap/rest. We had a great experience relaxing in our room, watching Disney movies with some wine while the kids played one rainy evening. We never even made it to a park that evening, the dark clouds were rolling in, so instead we ate our Resort (Art of Animation) and took some time before it started to explore the Resort. Once the clouds got too close for comfort, we grabbed wine in the gift shop and enjoyed an evening in.
How to Plan Ahead for a Flexible Disney Trip: Tired + Cranky Kids/Adults
Anyone can get tired and need a break during your trip, so it’s important to be prepared for this ahead of time and accept that it might hit at a time that’s not ideal. Like right before fireworks, Genie+ time, or just as you’re headed to a dining reservation.
Here are some tips to plan ahead:
- Be Prepared – bring favorite small toys, snacks or activities for your children to engage them. For dining reservations, watching a favorite show or video can be helpful to get through without a meltdown. Be sure to pack a battery pack or fuel rod to avoid batteries dying.
- Be Flexible – have patience during these times and accept that changing plans is OK, even when you hold a Genie+ pass for their favorite ride. If your child gets tired, let them nap in the stroller. Enjoy thrill rides that they are too small to go on by using the single rider line or check for pass availability. You might just get lucky to snag a last minute Genie+ pass for Tower of Terror or Rock N Roller coaster, then use rider swap so both adults can enjoy.
- Shift Your Plans – don’t be afraid to head back to your hotel for a midday break. Your goal may have been to stay at the park all day, but shifting those plans won’t ruin the day. Enjoy a much needed rest, explore your resort or do some shopping. This is a great time for Mom or Dad to take turns experiencing some casual activities alone while the other returns to the room or even just sits on a bench. If a dining reservation was on the schedule, contact the restaurant, they may be able to accommodate you later or check your app for later availability. If there isn’t that day, you can try for another or select a future time to move it so you can cancel without a fee.
How to Plan Ahead for a Flexible Disney Trip: Tummy Aches + Sickness
It’s no fun being sick on vacation, but it can happen and often is short lived. During a short weekend trip we took in 2017 our daughter experienced a tummy ache midday that caused us to shift our plans. We held a Fastpass (now Genie+) for one of her favorite rides, Frozen Ever After, that had over an hour wait. She felt so bad she insisted she did not want to ride it or meet Anna and Elsa, we knew she was done. While exiting Epcot both kids fell asleep in the stroller.
We were staying at Art of Animation and knew if we tried to get back we’d have to wake them to fold the stroller, which wasn’t an option. Since we had set intentions upfront we had a short list of things we wanted to do and could quickly shift our schedule. For more on Setting Intentions read Blog #3.
With a little quick thinking, we were able to remain flexible and check off one of my must do items, eating Dole Whip, by hopping the Monorail from Epcot to The Ticket & Transit Center and walking over to DIsney’s Polynesian Village. The plus side was that we could leave the stroller open and let the kids sleep. By the time we arrived at the Polynesian the kids were up, our daughter felt better and we all enjoyed Dole Whip and some of our favorite shopping.
How to Plan Ahead for a Flexible Disney Trip: Migraines
As a Chronic Migraine warrior this has been an ongoing struggle for me.
No matter how much I prepare, I almost always experience a crippling migraine on day 2 or 3 of our Disney trip. While I do many things to try and keep them at bay, I also make sure I am prepared in case one hits. Here is a checklist to plan ahead for a Migraine is Disney:
- Pack any and all maintenance and preventative medications
- Ice packs or travel gel eye mask that you can freeze
- Topical treatments such as CBD oils, peppermint oil, muscle creams or skin sticks.
- Pain medications and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen
- Medicinal treatments such as teas and supplements (I take magnesium and B2 daily)
- Foods and beverages that aid your improvement, some people do well with caffeine while others don’t. This really depends on the headache for me.
- Replenishing electrolyte drinks
- Nausea or stomach settling medications, supplements or teas
- Light food for post migraine reset
- Quiet games or electronics to keep children calm while you recover.
- Reusable water bottles to stay as hydrated as possible to prevent a migraine
Most importantly, prepare your travelers for this. I set intentions upfront for our trip to ensure we have at least a 1 bedroom so I can separate myself from the rest of our family if I need to. A dark quiet room where I can rest is important.
How to Plan Ahead for a Flexible Disney Trip: Extreme Weather
While harder to plan ahead for, it is something you can set expectations for and remain flexible if the situation arises. Intentions become really important in this instance because without knowing your must do’s it’s hard to shift your schedule. We’ve experienced to extreme weather situations during our travels:
Extreme Heat – since we often travel to Disney World in the summer months it’s common for us to experience days of extreme heat. We deal with this in several easy:
- Stay Hydrated – reusable water bottles are a must for us that can stay cold in the hot Florida heat. We love Takeya and Thermoflask, both keep ice cubes for 48hrs.
- Schedule Shifts – we realized during our first summer trip for Independence Day 2017 that we couldn’t take the heat all day. Instead of rope dropping and hitting the parks early, we relax by the pool and head to the parks in the late afternoon and stay until close. It’s common for us to start our park day around 2pm or 3pm with a meal.
- Try New Things – consider indoor activities like bowling, shopping or Resort hopping that can reduce exposure to heat. During our last trip in July 2019 we actually cancelled our Animal Kingdom day (that park is SO HOT) and stayed at the pool until late afternoon. Around 6pm we decided to head to Hollywood Studios, took in the Little Mermaid show, met a few characters then decided to leave because it started raining pretty hard, a break finally from the real feel heat index of 115 degrees! From there we grabbed an early dinner reservation at Kona Cafe and enjoyed an unplanned great meal.
- Be Prepared – pretty sure I am making Scar proud with home many times I’ve used his motto in this blog, but if you want to stay the course with extreme heat then you need to be prepared with these key tools, read more about our park must haves in Blog # 14:
- Reusable Water Bottles
- Cooling Towels
- Misting Fans
- Take breaks often
Hurricanes – for our first family trip home in October 2016 we were met with the biggest obstacle yet, a hurricane! We decided after much deliberation to take the trip as a Category 3 Hurricane was potentially headed towards Disney World. We weighed our options and watched the weather and decided it would be safe enough since we were driving to take the trip.
Here are some things we learned through our experience:
- Consider Your Options – in a situation like this it’s important to consider all options. Since we were driving to Disney World and would arrive an entire day before the Hurricane was scheduled to hit we decided it was best to get down there and wait out the storm at our Resort. Disney had already announced park closures for our first day there so we were prepared to wait it out. If you can move your dates that can be a more ideal option, be sure to work with your Travel Provider if caught in such a situation.
- Watch Weather Reports – be sure to stay informed by watching local weather reports, not just national. We really liked Denis Phillips from ABC Action News Tampa and would watch his reports daily. By watching local reports it gave us a more realistic view of the situation.
- Understand the Risks – weighing the risks of going vs staying is really important. We made a decision upfront that we would only go if the Hurricane was category 3 or less. We also watched the path projections to decide if it was safe or not. We also called Shades of Green, our Resort for our stay to discuss options and protocols if the weather was severe and we could not stay in our rooms.
Be Flexible – with parks closing for our first day we had to shift our entire trip. We inevitably made the decision to skip Universal and just shift our first two days down, heading to Magic Kingdom on our 2nd day and Animal Kingdom on our 3rd. We did scramble to get new dining reservations, but luckily we succeeded. In the end we needed to decide what was important to experience.
Overall, we lucked out with our experience. Hurricane Matthew stayed closer to the Atlantic side and we only got hit with the outer bands. But other states were not lucky. North and South Carolina were both hit really hard when the hurricane turned back inward after hitting the ocean again. We were really sad to see the flooding and destruction it caused. It even took out miles of our path home on I95, making our 16hr drive into over 20hrs. The aftermath of that storm took months if not years to rebuild.
For more on setting intentions read Blog #3: Setting Intentions
If you missed the previous blogs in this series, tap How to Plan Series to get started!
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