Many moms anticipate their child’s first visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth: we want it to be magical and memorable—after all, there is a good bit of money and time that goes into a Walt Disney World vacation. And I have seen too many negative social media posts by parents failing at Walt Disney World (#noearsonlytears #magicalchaos). It certainly does not have to be this way. By being as knowledgeable as possible, you will experience Disney as a “whole new world” by seeing it though your preschooler’s bright eyes.

Pre-planning is essential. Winging it with tots in Walt Disney World is not an option. Here are five key strategies to start you traveling in the right direction.

Avoid Peak Seasons

Do your best to avoid peak seasons. Being a preschooler, school schedules might be flexible enough to miss a few days of school to make a long weekend during a traditionally slower time of year. Avoid the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day at all costs. If you want to experience the glorious holiday festivities, check the Disney calendar. Disney celebrates seasons for a long period of time. This year, the first Halloween party was in August with nice low crowds. The holiday season decor goes up before Thanksgiving.

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Be Smart About Your Resort Selection

Staying at a Walt Disney World resort sets the backdrop for success. Choosing a room close to the parks allows quick and easy access so that you can return to the room for a late afternoon nap if needed. Some rooms even offer nightly views of the fireworks and water pageant. Take a bath, get comfy and watch in PJs from inside your room!

Also, resort guests get first choice of advanced dining reservations and Fast Passes. Why is this key? Snag a character lunch so that you can enjoy a meal while having the characters come visit you rather than waiting in the lines to meet the characters. Meal times are more fun if the kids are entertained! Popular dining locations fill quickly and well in advance so as a resort guest, you will have first choice to your princess or pirate’s favorite character whether it’s Mickey, Doc or Ariel.
The same is true for Fast Passes. Resort guests select Fast Passes 60 days in advance of their reservations, way before all other visitors—so reserving that must-do Fantasyland attraction at your child’s optimal time of day is literal MAGIC. Disney’s Magical Express (free airport transfers for resort guests) does not require booster seats, nor does the rest of Disney Parks’ transportation system. Yay one less thing to lug!

Thoughtful Daily Planning

Give yourself at least four park days so that you can stay on a leisurely schedule. Didn’t get to it today? You have another day to fit it in. Rest when needed to avoid late afternoon meltdowns. Try to maintain your preschooler’s schedule throughout the week. If Princess Belle is an early riser, plan early activities but turn in at a decent time. If Pirate Parker is a night owl, let him sleep in the morning and have plans to do some attractions in the evenings when crowds are thinner.

Park Amenities & Your Bag of Magic!

You can bring water, juices and your preschooler’s favorite snacks into the park so that she has her favorite items to get her through the day. Pack a lightweight toy or two to entertain if waiting for an attraction or show. Many of the new attraction queues now have TV screens and activities to occupy the children while they wait. The new Dumbo attraction even has an entire play area under the big top. Pack your extra phone charger in your day bag. Playing on the phone in lines (and snapping the cutest pics ever of course) might drain your battery.

Take advantage of the Baby Care Centers in each Disney park. These are as precious as a Seven Dwarf’s gem! Toddlers and preschoolers are also welcome to enter with a parent. There are quiet rooms with rocking chairs, breastfeeding rooms, baby supplies available for purchase and secluded restrooms. Mickey Bar melted all over your princess’s pants? Duck into the Baby Services Center to clean her up or change.

Make Celebrations Even More Special

Celebrating a birthday? There are many ways to make it extra special! At Walt Disney World, celebrations of any kind are extra special and larger than life! What 5-year-old wouldn’t love a fancy in-room surprise celebration from his favorite character?

With proper planning, you might just have a magical time acting like a kid again with your preschooler. There will be a smile in your heart when you leave your hectic world behind to connect with your precious little one!

Featured Photo Courtesy: Keiko Zoll/Instagram