Disney Do’s and Don’ts For The Most Memorable Trip

Two years ago was our first family Disney trip with my then six-year-old daughter. In my opinion, it is the perfect age to do Disney. She was old enough to remember, yet young enough to still buy into all the Disney magic. During this trip I refused to do things like Genie+ because just the thought of it stressed me out. So we did things, as I like to call it, “1991 style.” We waited in line and did the things we could and the rest, we tabled until our next trip.

This past spring break was our second family Disney trip with my now eight-year-old. This trip, however, we dipped our toe into Genie+ and used our three “free” lightning lanes that came with signing up for it. I have to admit, skipping most of the line for Space Mountain was pretty cool.

So which trip was better? Both were great and a lot of memories were made! With social media these days, we are inundated with ways to do Disney and feel all sorts of pressure to do it “right” or the worst will happen . . . their childhood will be ruined. Obviously I’m kidding! When I think back on my childhood Disney trips, I don’t remember my parents losing their minds trying to make everything perfect for us. They took us on trips, we did what we did, and because it was out of the ordinary, it was fun and exciting and I have a lot of great memories.

But, we have resources now that didn’t exist back then, and they can elevate the experience by making things more efficient. So, inspired by my family’s top and bottom ten lists that we do after every vacation (like our recent trip to Mackinac Island!), here are some Disney do’s and don’ts–both 1991 and 2024 style. 

Do . . . the end-of-night park tradition.

Whether it’s the fireworks at Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studio’s Fantasmic, it’s well worth the time to close up the day with a heartwarming–and yes, magical–experience with your loved ones. Whether my daughter was six or eight, she was mesmerized by the shows. She even shouted out during the fireworks on her first visit, “This place really is magical!” Her revelation was in and of itself a core memory for me! So do whatever you have to do to make it to these shows.

Pro tip: Leave the park midday so the kids can take a rest, nap, swim, and return to the park later on. I promise you, it’s worth it.

Do . . . the things you want to do most, first (and get there at park open).

Unless you are going to get a Lightning Lane via Genie+, do the ride your kids (or you!) want to do most, first. AND if you are staying at a resort, you get into the parks a half an hour sooner than other patrons, which gives you a leg up. You will still most likely have a wait, but it will cut it down by a lot. Your stress level will lift a little knowing that their favorite thing is done!

And while we’re at it, get the pictures you want to cherish for years to come first, too. We all want the big family picture in front of Cinderella’s castle, so get that as soon as you get to Main Street when you are all fresh and together. It’s not fun maintaining an overtired three-year-old or rounding up grandpa at Casey’s Tavern after lunch and then Aunt Mary perusing all the shops. Just thinking about it stresses me out!

Pro tip: Make a plan with your kids the night before; this includes figuring out what lightning lanes you might purchase, and planning out your day. It makes the flow of a very intense, highly stimulating day much easier.

Don’t . . . do Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror.

. . . if your child doesn’t know exactly what they are in for. I guess the same can be said for any rides that aren’t exposed; this is just the one that dinged us. Our daughter loves roller coasters and scary things like haunted mansions and ghosts. So we thought Tower of Terror was a no brainer. Yeah, use your brain for this one (see what I did there?!).

If there are any rides that you are unsure of, find out exactly how it goes and explain that to your child. Let them make the decision or if your gut is speaking to you, listen to it and decide accordingly. After that fail, we made the decision to not let her ride Tron at Magic Kingdom.

Do . . . the Hoop Di Do Revue at Wilderness Lodge.

This is a western-inspired interactive dinner theater experience. You’ll enjoy barbecue cuisine family style that is also all you can eat, so come hungry! The actors and dancers get the audience involved, but not too much so if the idea of being in the spotlight makes you cringe, no worries. It’s a fun atmosphere and the whole crowd is into it.

Pro tip: Get there early to grab an adult beverage and take in the views before dinner!

Do . . . eat at Cinderella’s Castle

It is pricey, but of course it is: you are eating in Cinderella’s Castle! In my opinion, it is worth it. From the moment you check in to the time you leave, you are treated like royalty. After meeting Cinderella and taking a picture with her upon entrance, you wait to be called to your table. You ascend the winding staircase to the dining room where you are called by royal names all throughout dinner. You also get to meet princesses as they come through–my daughter met four of them! They stopped, had a meaningful chat, and took a picture with her. 

Don’t/Do . . . Genie+. That is the question . . .

So, we’ve done both. I may be biased, but I think we did it right. The first trip my daughter was younger and didn’t know any different. She just had a ball being with family and going on her first roller coaster. Then we did Genie+ for the second trip when she was older and had opinions on what she wanted to do, like Space Mountain. And now she would add Slinky Dog Dash!

So in my humble opinion, I don’t think you need to do Genie+ if it’s your first time. In fact, a lot of the memories we made were standing in line with family (see pro tip below). However, Disney is expensive and if this is going to be your one and only time, it might be worth it. Do what makes sense for your family.

Pro tip: Here’s the thing if you don’t get Genie+ (and I’m going to get preachy here): when you’re in line, TALK to each other–don’t just start scrolling on your phone. This is a sure fire way your kid(s) will lose their minds. Or, play a game. “Would You Rather” is a fun one, especially with all the new sights and sounds. We also played a game called Headbands to pass the time. It’s an app you can download, but the whole family plays. You’ll be amazed at the other families who follow your lead!

Do . . . go to a waterpark.

We went to Typhoon Lagoon and what a blast we had. Most people think that a waterpark is a waste of time because you can do those where you live. But if you have the time, it’s worth a day of your trip. The lines are short (or non-existent) so you can do everything over and over again. There is also something for everyone. My pregnant sister couldn’t do many things at the parks, but she could relax on the lazy river! If you’re looking for a beach-y day in Orlando, this place is for you.

Don’t . . . stress about doing it “the right way.”

Just do it your way. Whatever makes sense to you–whether it’s leaning into Genie+ 100% or not. Remember that at the end of the day, no matter how you do Disney, your kids will remember time spent with you and that is all that matters!

Planning some other fun family vacations? Stacy shares 6 tips for taking your kids on a cruise!


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