We have just returned from ten glorious days in Orlando, Florida! Two of those days were for travel, one day was spent on the soft sandy shore of Daytona Beach and seven others were spent inside the four Walt Disney World Parks; Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios.

It was a whirlwind of a family vacation!

Many people ask me, “How do you do it?”… “How do you travel with four kids?!” It’s really fairly easy… once you’re organized and decide that when things don’t happen according to plan… to let it slide.

Keep this saying in mind, “Blessed are the Flexible for they Shall not be Broken!” 

Here are 5 tips for surviving a family vacation while still having money and energy at the end of it:

1. PACK LIGHT! If you’re staying in a condo or resort with laundry facilities, plan to do laundry while you’re away and not just a load before you come home! For 10-14 day trips, we only take enough clothes for 3-4 days. When our kids were in diapers & more prone to accidents, we packed more for them, 5-6 days worth.
    1. With the added costs of checking in luggage… we only travel with carry-on. Each of us has a roller case and a backpack. With the extra costs, more and more people are traveling this way and because of that, the overhead compartments have less and less room in them. DON’T WORRY! Most airlines will ask people at the gate, prior to boarding, to check their roller cases in. FOR NO COST! 
    2. Roll your clothing. This gives you way more space in your suitcase.
    3. Don’t forget… if you are just taking a carry-on… you cannot take liquids or gels over 100ml ea. For a 14 + day trip, we purchase shampoo/conditioner when we get to our final destination {when traveling within North America}.
Waiting at the Gate in the Detroit Airport
2. PACK YOUR OWN FOOD! {If you’re wanting to do this cheaply…} Disney Parks are the only amusement parks that I know of that allow you to bring in your own food and drinks. I’m not talking about rolling in a tailgate party sized cooler, but we made lunches for each and every day and took in enough snacks to help us through the day. The backpack fit nicely over the backside of the stroller. 
    1. Freeze a few water bottles or juice bottles. Take others from the cold fridge. They’ll stay colder longer and help the other food in the backpack or collapsible cooler stay cool. You can refill the bottles in the parks many water fountains.
    2. Freeze yogurt tubes and make a pit stop mid morning for a good healthy snack. If they’re cold enough, they may last until lunch.
    3. Pack sandwiches. We did meat slices on buns {they’re still OK to eat when severely crushed}, mustard and pickles. No Mayo! It’s not so good on those long, hot days…
    4. Pack hard fruit like apples.
    5. Fruit snacks won’t melt into one massive glob when kept close to the frozen water bottles.
    6. If you’re at Disney Hollywood Studios, treat the family in the late afternoon, get an ice cream from Hollywood Scoops by the Tower of Terror. It’s a HUGE double scoop of great ice cream for a good price!
Pit Stop in Animal Kingdom

3. SHOP AT TARGET! I know WDW probably won’t like this much but Target near Disney sells official Disney gear. In fact, they sell a WHACK of items that you will find on the Disney properties but for a fraction of the costs. {We found this out at the end of our trip.}

    1. Example: Hubby bought a Mickey Mouse T-Shirt at Epcot our last day there. Later that night… he found the exact same T at Target for HALF the price. Half! I picked up a great Mickey T for $12.99 – similar ones in the park were $29.99!
    2. It’s a great place to pick up your autograph books and pens, pins, key chains and even those water bottle spray fans. Disney towels and more. Trust me… you’ll save a bundle!
    3. One thing you won’t find there… those coveted Mickey and Minnie ears.
My Mickey T-Shirt
4. TAKE A STROLLER! We didn’t travel with a stroller and made the mistake of spending our entire first day at Magic Kingdom making our 5-year-old walk in 92F weather. BIG MISTAKE!

  1. Hubby was smart & asked our resort (The Fountains) if they had a stroller in their lost and found, and borrowed it for the remainder of our trip. Tons of people go down there without a stroller and pick up a cheapo at a store and then leave it behind. Ask and you shall receive! 
  2. The stroller can be used for a kid or a backpack. It’s just a great way to get around the park easier.
  3. If you do take a cheapo umbrella stroller into the parks, remember that so will a couple hundred others… Have a way to make your stroller stand out so you can find it down stroller alley. {I used my Mabel’s Labels bag tag, can you see it?!}
one of hundreds of stroller parking lanes
5. USE THE FASTPASS OPTION! At the Walt Disney World Parks there is no extra cost for being able to use the fastpass option. It’s available to anyone and everyone.
  1. Head straight to the most popular rides to ensure you’ll get a fastpass. Some of the rides fill up fast and close their fastpass options! One such ride… “Toy Story Mania” in Disney Hollywood Studios.
  2. I’d recommend you get the fastpass on the rides where lines are 30 minutes and up. If the line says 20-25 minutes or less, wait in line. 
  3. Once you’ve clocked in for a ride, stick to that area of the park. On your return time, you’ll notice you have an hour-long window to use it. 
  4. At a certain point while waiting for your fastpass time, you can get another one for a new ride. 
Waiting in Line: Kali River Rapids
I have a few more tips and tricks up my sleeve. After all, we’re seasoned travelers and each and every time have managed to come back alive and still liking each other.


I'm the Cool Mom of 4, Married to the Preacher Man, but at times I'm a little more Sass than Saint!

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  1. Great tips. Last time I went to Florida I travelled with someone who was disabled and he rented a scooter because he could not walk around the park. That saved us a lot of waiting times at many places we went to.

    Next time I go it will be me, hubby and kid so totally different and I can use all the tips I can get. Actually make that 2 kids since #2 will be here and probably around 3 when I take the family.

  2. LOVED this post, Shannon. We are planning our trip for this year, and these tips are much appreciated!

    Thanks again!

  3. Thanks for this post! I am planning to plan a trip here in the near future and need all the help I can get!

  4. Awesome tips! I'm actually going to be there in 2 months! I'm so excited and can definitely USE the advice! I'm travelling with a wee one too so, we'll see how that goes!


  5. Bringing three kids is quite difficult for me already and It'll be so hard for me on our Disney trip this summer. Thanks for the tips! Disney Activities

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