1. Have you bought your tickets yet?
Some say that the best time to buy airline tickets is 60 days in advance of your flight. But airline tickets aren't the only tickets you should be buying before you leave. You really should get your theme park tickets before you leave, too. Not only will buying your tickets in advance keep you from wasting time in line at the front gate, it will allow you to shop around for the best deal. And if you are visiting the Walt Disney World Resort on your vacation this summer, having tickets in hand earlier is essential for the next item on our checklist.
2. If you are going to Disney World, don't forget your Fastpass+ reservations
If you are staying at an on-site Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you can make advance reservations for rides and shows at the Disney theme parks up to 60 days before your visit, using the new Fastpass+ system. If you're not staying on property at Disney, you can make your Fastpass+ reservations 30 days in advance. But you must have your tickets and register them with the account you step up on the DisneyWorld.com website to make those reservations. Popular attractions get booked early, so make your reservations as soon as you can.
3. Think about food
If you are planning on eating at any sit-down restaurants or character meals during your theme park vacation, make those reservations as soon as you can. Disney World accepts dining reservations up to 180 days in advance, so some popular locations and times will be booked already. It's not too late to find a great place to eat, but don't take a chance by waiting much longer to book. If anyone in your family has a food allergy, now's a great time to learn about your options so that meal times don't become stressful or frustrating. (If you're planning on making any of your own meals during your trip, you'll want to make note of the links in our final checklist tip, too.)
4. Think about spending money for your kids
Who else hates hearing a child whine, "can I get this?" Don't think for a minute that your superior parenting skills will keep your children in line when they walk into a theme park store. Disney and Universal employ huge merchandise and marketing divisions that have perfected the business of appealing to children. The best way to silence the "can I get this?" question is to respond with, "can you afford it?" That's right — make your kids spend their own money on theme park souvenirs, then stand back and watch your little comparison-shopping bargain-hunters evolve. But kids need their own money before they can spend it. Start a "vacation fund" for them now and offer them opportunities to earn money for it, by doing extra work around the house in the weeks leading up to your vacation.
5. Time for a height check
Another kill-joy moment on vacation happens when kids run up to the roller coaster or thrill ride they've been dreaming about, only to find out that they're too short to ride. You can find the height requirements for major theme park attractions in our Theme Park Insider park listings, as well as on park's official websites. Measure your child now, then compare that with these requirements to know which attractions you can safely plan on enjoying, and which ones you don't want to hype to the kids before this trip. Yes, parents know that children can grow a lot in two months, but while your 46-inch child might make it to 48 inches by June, he or she probably isn't going to be 54 inches tall by then.
6. Check your clothes, shoes, and swimsuits, too
If you've got growing kids in the family, it's likely that last summer's clothes no longer fit. If you haven't started looking already for this summer's clothes, get going! You don't want to be left making a desperation purchase the night before you leave because you discover while packing that no one's swimsuits fit anymore. If anyone in the family will need new shoes before your trip, you want to get those well in advance, too, because...
7. Start walking
You'll be hours each day on your feet when visiting the parks, so you definitely don't want to be breaking in a new pair of shoes. Even if you're not buying new shoes, get walking now if you're not in that daily habit, to start building the endurance you will need to get through multiple days in the parks without getting tired and cranky.
8. Prepare your 'last minute' shopping list
Don't buy anything inside a theme park that you can buy outside the park. You'll blow your budget buying stuff like sunscreen, toiletries, painkillers, and other odds and ends inside a park or hotel when you can buy them at home or outside the park for far less money. If you're driving to your vacation, come up with a shopping list of the stuff you'll need to bring for your trip. If you are flying — and subject to TSA carry-on rules — pull up Google Maps and search for convenient grocery stores between the airport and your destination where you can stock up on supplies for the week. (Or weigh the cost of checking bags you can fill with our own stuff against the mark-up cost for buying the stuff you need on-site.) If you are visiting Orlando and taking a shuttle from the airport, such as Disney's Magical Express, several services will delivery groceries to your hotel. Start researching them now to find the best deal for you. Sometimes, even paying a delivery charge can end up saving you money if it allows you to make and eat your own meals instead of dining out all the time.
What else still is left to be done on your planning checklist for this summer's vacation?Tweet
It also easier to talk about tough situations when a family has some familiarity of the parks layout. Knowing where First aid is, Guest Services, or even picking a good check in place are all things we have a better chance of doing well if we talk about it more than once.
Plan as much or as little as you like, but be aware.... and have fun out there!
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