We ended our summer with a magical trip to Disney World! After a week visiting and having fun, I'm sharing all of my best tips for Disney World planning and packing, eating vegan and gluten-free in the parks, and migraine tips to help you make the most of your time there!
We just came back from a one week trip to Disney World with our three kids! We've been dreaming of this trip for years and now that they're 5, 7 and 9 years old it felt like they were the perfect ages. It was an incredibly packed and magical week that we will never forget! I also might need a full week of sleep to recover because we packed SO MUCH fun and memory-making into the time we had in Florida. In this post I am sharing my tips for planning, going, and chronic vestibular migraines while also having an incredible time at Disney World! Of course, I've also got plenty of information on how I ate vegan, gluten-free, and with food allergies inside the park. Let's get into it!
In this post...
- The Best Time to Go to Disney World
- How Far in Advance Do You Really Need to Plan?
- Is Disney Expensive?
- Dining at Disney World
- Saving Money on Souvenirs
- Where to Stay at Disney World
- Using a Disney Planner (this was FREE!)
- Food Allergies at Disney World
- What to Bring & What We Bought in Advance
- Our Park Strategy & Disney Agenda
- All About Magic Kingdom
- Highlights from Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios Highlights
- Our Day at EPCOT
- Visiting Disney with Chronic Vestibular Migraines
The Best Time to Go to Disney World
We went after Labor Day in mid-September and it was the perfect time to go to avoid summer crowds. The weather was in the 80s all week! It rained for 1-2 hours in the afternoon on some of the days we were there (but I have heard that afternoon showers can happen year-round). My research told me to avoid spring break, winter break and summer break to avoid the crowds and long lines as much as possible. I think October-November is also an excellent time to go, and potentially mid-January to early March before schools are out for spring break. Early May could also be a good time before the majority of the country is out for summer break. When we arrived they had already set up for Halloween which made it extra festive! In September and October they offer a Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween trick or treat evening admission where everyone dresses up in costumes to trick or treat at night in Magic Kingdom.
How Far in Advance Do You Really Need to Plan a Trip to Disney?
I'd say the minimum would be 60-90 days out! At 60 days out you can book dining reservations, Enchanting Extras (Memory Maker, special tours, Bippity Boppity Boutique, etc.) and rent items like cars and strollers. We booked months in advance to find good airfare prices and lots of lodging options. Obviously, the closer you get to your booking date the less options you have overall.
Is Disney Expensive?
The short answer is...yes, it really can be! We saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime trip for our family so we tried to make it as convenient as possible. That being said, many expenses can be offset or controlled with advance planning. Here are the costs of getting into the park and some of the add-ons that we opted for:
- Park admission is $100 per person per day so for a family of five to go to five parks you are talking $2500 just for park admission. You could absolutely select just 2-3 parks to visit. We did all four...and did Magic Kingdom twice! Our favorite park by far was Magic Kingdom and I'm so grateful we had two full days because there is so much to do there for young kids. Animal Kingdom was my next favorite, then Hollywood Studios and finally EPCOT(mainly because it didn't have many vegan dining options and it is so spread out and more walking and not as many rides). EPCOT does have wonderful character experiences though and I talk about our agenda for each park later in this post.
- In addition to park admission you can add on Lightning Lane. This is $15 per person per day and it felt totally worth it, especially knowing that this was a one-time trip for us. It would be even more important if you are going during a busy time of year. Each park also has one ride that is a paid lightning lane for an additional $12/person. We used this at each park because those rides were the ones we knew we had to do and they had lines that were over an hour.
- Another add-on is Memory Maker, which was $169 for the entire trip. I think this is 100% worth it! This was such a big event for our family, and knowing we'd have fun photos at every stop really allowed me to be present in the moment. We also got both parents in so many family photos without having to stop and ask strangers to take our picture! Memory Maker has professional photographers at all the best spots throughout the park where you want to get those classic photos (like in front of Cinderella's castle). The photos upload directly and immediately to your phone and they're all high-quality, in-focus images! Disney even animates and adds characters to some of them, which my kids keep asking me to pull up. You also automatically get all the pictures taken during rides so you don't have to purchase those separately.
Dining at Disney World
A huge cost at Disney is the food and drinks! Everything inside the park is expensive. To save money I recommend eating a large breakfast before you arrive, packing snacks for throughout the day, and packing lunches as well. For dinner you can do quick-service restaurants rather than sit-down places to save money. We decided to budget for a couple sit-down character meals at indoor restaurants. This guaranteed a visit by each character at least once with quality time with each child, plus an autograph and photo. It was definitely more of an experience than just eating out at a restaurant! It also enabled us to sit down mid-day, cool off, and reset for the afternoon. These sit-down meals are typically $27-39/child and $42-67/adult plus tax and gratuity. Keep reading for more info on the restaurants we visited!
Saving Money on Souvenirs at Disney
A big expense is all of the stuff you can buy at Disney World. There are stores and shops everywhere! One of my best friends advised me to have a conversation at the start of the trip letting the kids know they will see Disney toys and cool stuff everywhere. We made a rule that they could take note of everything they saw and wanted, and on the very last day, they would each get to select one special souvenir to take home with a budget of under $30/each. I wasn't sure how this would pan out and it worked perfect! Throughout our week they would see pins, bubble wands, stuffies, toys, costumes, etc...and instead of begging for it they would just mention that they may want it as their special last day souvenir! As we walked out of Magic Kingdom on our very last day we stopped by one of the Main Street shops and they each selected their item. David got a Pluto stuffy, Jade chose some princess figurines, and Riley picked a Belle jewelry box. This also helped offset their overall sadness to leave the park and they have seriously cherished their gifts since we got home. This helped us avoid lots of unnecessary spending throughout the trip! I think this trick could be applied to many other situations outside of Disney as well. I also recommend buying as much as you can in advance on Amazon (matching T-shirts, spray fans, Minnie ears etc.). As an example, at the park one Minnie ear is over $35 and you can get two for $14 on Amazon. They are literally exactly the same! You can also buy the princess dress in advance of the Bippity Boppity Boo Boutique to bring that overall cost down. That was an extra that I always wanted to do with my girls and by buying the Cinderella dresses in advance I was able to purchase the base package and save a lot of money.
Where to Stay at Disney World
Obviously you have to consider airfare, lodging, and car rental (not required but we rented a van) when planning a trip. This all varies greatly depending on where you are coming from, if you're flying direct, etc. We flew BWI to Orlando direct on Southwest. For lodging we decided to go through VRBO and get a house about 15 minutes from the parks at Reunion Resorts. The main reason for this was so I would have a full kitchen with the space to be able to really spread out since we were going for an entire week. I also knew I would want a rental car since I get motion sick on buses and ferries. Being the driver helps to minimize my motion sickness as much as possible. Our home also came with a private pool and access to a water park in the community. My best friend recommended scheduling at least one rest day into our trip, which was perfect advice! On our rest day we did the pool and water park for a perfect mid-trip reset. You can also totally stay at a Disney property but I have heard it takes just as long to get from the Disney hotels to the park because of the public transportation (ferries or boats). And you get access to make your dinner reservations for the entire stay 60 days prior to your first night stay. Whereas we had to make our dinner reservations 60 days prior to each day we were trying to reserve. We didn't run into any issues with this and were able to get reservations at all the restaurants we had selected at the times we wanted. If you are on staying on Disney property, you can book your first Lightning Lane at 7am (whereas others have to wait until they are on property or when the park opens depending on what you are booking). I also believe with a Disney resort reservation you get access to the park 30 minutes earlier than the general public. We are not early risers and didn't intend on being there at the park opening so this was not important to us. I know for many that getting there first is key during the busier season so you can get on the rides you want! Overall, I loved staying offsite and would do it again. I was also concerned about lobby smells with my migraines and I wanted the ability to pack less and do laundry. The price of our VRBO was comparable to the prices we were seeing for the Disney resorts.
Using a Disney Planner - This was FREE!
This tip blew my mind: Disney Planners are 100% free to you. My best friend's cousin, Catherine Conley, is a Disney Planner so we used her. She was the BEST and made planning this trip a total breeze! I was able to chat with her, text her all of my questions and concerns, and outline our priorities. She explained everything clearly and concisely, and because of her I didn't have to do any research in advance of the trip. I even texted her our questions throughout the trip and she always responded immediately with the answer! She was seriously our lifeline and this trip would not have been half as amazing without her expertise. Catherine's email is [email protected] She has been to Disney MANY times with her two kids and has all the inside scoop on everything.
Food Allergies at Disney
I usually feel like my diet and food allergies are too much to ask of most restaurant chefs! I'm vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs, honey), follow aspects of the Heal Your Headache migraine diet, and I'm allergic to gluten, peanuts, corn, soy and bananas. Everyone assured me that Disney was allergy-friendly but I felt like my case would be too much. I'm so happy I was proven wrong! In advance of our trip I emailed the WDW Guest Services Special Diets Team ([email protected]) and shared my reservations and detailed allergy information. When we arrived at each restaurant I was greeted by a chef that walked me through the menu and, in most cases, designed a custom option based on my food allergies and plant-based diet. One chef even brought out a can of chickpeas, researched a preservative on the label, and chatted with me about it! I was absolutely blown away at this level of service and how seriously they took my dietary restrictions. I felt like a VIP and very safe with ZERO reactions the entire trip. This is incredible for me when eating away from home! Even if you don't see something on a menu that you think you can eat, book it anyways. Disney will 100% accommodate you and there was no additional cost for these custom creations! The quick-service restaurants can share allergen information with you if requested but they cannot make substitutions or custom orders, so sit-down dining was an incredible option for me that was so worth it.
- My favorite allergy-friendly spot was by far Boma Flavors of Africa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is a buffet with tons of plant-based allergy-friendly options. I went twice for dinner and absolutely loved it both times.
- We dined at Frontera Cocina at Disney Springs (not inside of a park) and loved it there.
- I absolutely loved Chef Mickey's! There's no park reservation needed and you get to meet Mickey and friends. We did this early on in our trip and it had our kids starry-eyed!
- Cinderella's Royal Table is located inside the castle in Magic Kingdom and you get to meet Cinderella. Having a custom creation was just as magical to me as meeting a princess was to my girls!
- The Crystal Palace is a buffet at Magic Kingdom, but when nothing on the buffet was safe for me, they made me a special dish of veggie chickpea curry with rice, dairy-free mashed potatoes, and a side of broccoli. It was INCREDIBLE! They also had vegan ice cream for Riley, which she loved. Starting just this past week they brought the Winnie the Pooh characters back so this restaurant will be even more amazing.
- My family loved dining at Woody's Lunch Box in Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. It was a great quick-service option for vegan grilled cheese and vegan chili tater tot nachos ("totchos"). My husband Bobby especially loved this one and all the plant-based options.
- I've heard really good things about Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at EPCOT, but it was closed while we were there. You can meet many of the princesses there and I would definitely have gone if it had been open!
- I also heard good things about Tusker House Restaurant at Animal Kingdom but we ended up cancelling our reservation because it was hot and we incorrectly thought it was outdoor dining only (it is not!) and we had already met Donald Duck and friends at Chef Mickey's.
What to Bring to Disney & What We Bought in Advance
My number one tip for saving money at Disney: buy everything in advance! It's so expensive to get in and enjoy the park that it's really worth a bit of planning ahead to avoid spending in the parks as much as possible. Here are the items we packed in that were so worth it! Disney allows you to bring food and drink into the park as long as it is not in a glass container.
- Hydration packs - my best friend recommended that we get a couple of these and I'm so glad we did. My husband put just the water insert part inside his larger backpack since he had more to bring and my oldest wore hers the entire week. It kept her hydrated and was one less thing for them to ask for. We filled them the night before and put them in the refrigerator. You can refill water at any quick service restaurant! My five year old was able to wear it for a full day as well and enjoyed it on one of our hottest days.
- Spray/Misting Fans - These are a must for the kids. They also keep them busy for long hot walks between rides or in ride lines. We bought this and this and loved them both. We also bought neck fans which I thought would be great for hands free but they didn't blow a lot of air and were bulky to pack.
- Backpack - Bobby and I each brought a backpack each day. I had a gift card to LuLuLemon and treated myself to this one, which I'm now absolutely obsessed with. It has amazing compartments throughout and was absolutely perfect for this trip.
- Cooling Towels - you just wet them and they get cold! They were great for hot days at the park. Everyone has them and they sell them inside the park too. We didn't use them a ton but they fold up small and were nice to have at times.
- Signature Books - We opted for personalized signature books as keepsakes for the kids. They absolutely loved having the characters sign their autograph books and have been flipping through them ever since we got home! We plan to add photos opposite each signature. Riley and Jade also used some of their pages to journal at night about their day at the park, which is already so fun to look back through. Make sure to also buy and bring retractable sharpies (the ones with a push button instead of a cap; the characters prefer these and it guarantees you won't lose the cap!).
- Stroller - This is a personal preference. We brought our single stroller and honestly didn't feel we needed it. We used it in Epcot for one day and it was a hassle to park constantly and slowed us down a bit. It was easier without although I know MANY people who swear by strollers even for their older kids. You can also rent strollers at the park.
- Ponchos - These are a MUST! It really does rain every day in Florida. Ponchos are easy to pack and even if we didn't wear them, they kept our backpacks dry. Buy them in advance on Amazon and save yourself SO MUCH money in the park.
- Water shoes - Since it rained everyday we were there it was helpful to have water shoes in our backpacks so our shoes and socks didn't get wet. It was also nice for wet rides like Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom. I kept them in a wet bag and switched back into my shoes once the rain stopped and the ground dried up. We also brought bathing suits for the kids to wear on wet rides, but didn't end up needing them!
- Portable Charger - You absolutely have to have a portable charger for the long day at the park. My phone died by mid afternoon each day thanks to non-stop photos, videos, and accessing the Disney app for the park map and booking Lightning Lanes throughout the day.
- Magic Bands - This is not a must-have, but they were very nice to have! It makes the day that much more seamless and convenient. Your magic band is a bracelet that is linked to your Disney account so when you book a Lightning Lane you just scan the bracelet before getting on the ride. It can be used to purchase food and also can be scanned by the photographers if you purchased the Memory Maker package. This enables all your photos go directly to your phone/account automatically. If you don't get a Magic Band you'll get a card that you can take out for all these instances. It works just as well but it was nice having it on our wrists.
- Tablet for Long Lines - There were a couple times where we gave David his tablet when we had a longer line to meet a character. Since he is five he doesn't have the same patience as the girls and it saved us. I recommend bringing for five and under to use for long lines. Tablets usually go on sale for Prime Day and Black Friday.
Our Park Strategy
I've heard families swear by waking up early to be the first in the park, but we aren't early morning people! We didn't rush to do that and were totally fine. I think it is best to go with your normal flow so you don't tire out too early. Our kids no longer nap so we knew that if we arrived at 9 or 10am we could go until 4 or 6pm to fit everything in. As soon as you arrive at the park you should book your first Lightning Lane for the day. Go with something that has the longest wait. Each park has one paid Lightning Lane and I do think this was worth it if it's a ride you definitely want to do. As soon as you scan your magic band for that ride you can book your next Lightning Lane. We organized our day in advance and prioritized getting to the rides/experiences/shows that were most important to us! The Disney app told us what time and where character meet-and-greets would be, so we made sure to get in line at least 15 minutes early. Whenever possible we tried to group together rides by park location to avoid too much walking for the younger kids. Another part of our strategy was making indoor lunchtime reservations. This allowed us to sit down in the air conditioning, recharge our phones, and have a nice meal to help power through the afternoon. If you're choosing between a lunch and dinner reservation, my suggestion would be lunch!
Our Disney Agenda
As soon as we landed (around 4pm) we were all starving so I was incredibly grateful we had booked a dinner reservation at Chef Mickey's. It is not located in a park and was on our way from the airport to our VRBO so it was the perfect stop to kickoff the Disney magic excitement. The kids were dying to see characters and this was the perfect way to guarantee they met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto! All of the characters dance around multiple times and it's so much fun. This made the next day at the park so much more relaxed because they had already met the main characters and gotten that out of their system. We all loved every second of this dining experience and I would for sure recommend kicking off your Disney trip with this restaurant! Each character comes around to your table twice for photos, greetings and signatures. It is such a dream! They had vegan options and even a huge vegan dessert platter for Riley.
All About Magic Kingdom
We did Magic Kingdom on both the first and last day of our trip which I highly recommend. It was the perfect way to kick off the trip and by far my favorite park! You definitely need two days for the full experience. Having it as our last park day was also super special! I loved having this plan and would repeat it this way for sure. At 9pm each night there is an incredible 15 minutes fireworks show at Cinderella's castle that we would have loved to go to but with David being five years old we felt it was too late so we didn't even try. Definitely for our next visit!
- Bippity Boppity Boutique - You need an advanced reservation for this. It was by far my favorite part of the trip! You get to choose which princess you want to become and they do your hair, makeup, nails, and you get in full princess costume with face jewels, etc. The Fairy Godmother talks to you before in the magic mirror and it is the most magical experience for a little girl. This was $100/child since I brought my own costume. They also get a goodie bag backpack and princess shirt. Afterwards you go to Sir Mickey's right next door for free professional glamour shots (if you have the Memory Maker package). While we did this Bobby and David did the Monster's Inc. Comedy Show and the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.
- Cinderella's Royal Table - this restaurant is inside Cinderella's castle and the most magical experience. We ate lunch there. On the way in you meet Cinderella (greeting, photos, autograph) and then dine inside her castle. The food and service was incredible and they give you a wishing star and magic wand. There are lots of dessert options but Jade's favorite was the decorate your own cupcake. Allow for at least an hour! Be Our Guest is another sit-down restaurant option at Magic Kingdom and I've heard very good things about it. You get to meet the Beast.
- Peter Pan's Flight - This is a Lightning Lane ride and always had the longest lines. The ride takes you in a flying boat through Neverland. The kids ended up loving this one and did it twice! You can view the rides on YouTube in advance if you are curious if you will like them.
- The Festival of Fantasy Parade runs every day at noon and 3pm. It's a must for kids under age 9! It has all of the characters on themed floats and they go by with music and dancing. A spot in the shade near Splash Mountain is ideal for the best experience. If you can get in the front you'll have the best view. We even had some characters come up to us during the parade and say hello which was super special! The parade goes from Splash Mountain all through the park to the castle. If you end up going closer to the castle you will have to wait a bit longer since it starts at Splash Mountain. Try to grab your spot 15 minutes before the parade starts.
- Meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tiger outside the Winnie the Pooh ride - There was a line but it was totally worth it! Just pay attention to their appearance times and get in line early. If it rains they go away because their costumes cannot get wet, so if it is important to you to meet them, do this early.
- Watching the characters sing/perform on the castle stage - This happened around 10:30 or 11am. They had Anna and Elsa sing along with tons of other characters. There were even brief fireworks at the end!
- Splash Mountain - The classic Disney ride! You will get slightly wet, but everyone loved it and the pictures are some of the funniest from our trip. Definitely get a Lightning Lane for this one!
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - This is another Lightning Lane ride since the lines are always long for this one too. Everyone had so much fun on this one!
- Space Mountain - Riley and Bobby loved this one! There were long lines at Space Mountain, so it's another one to try to get on Lightning Lane.
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor - This is an interactive animated show. It was great for sitting down in the AC and it was really cute. We even got selected to tell jokes during the show and it was so fun!
- Meeting Aladdin and Jasmine near the Magic Carpet Ride - Look up their appearance times on the app and get in line 15 minutes prior. The Magic Carpet Ride is also fun! The camel spits water at you on the ride and outside of the ride too, which was absolutely hysterical to my kids.
- Meeting Princess Rapunzel and Princess Tiana at Fairy Tale Hall - this was so special and each princess really spent time with each kid. They really talked to and connected with them along with taking photos and signing autographs. You can also meet Cinderella and Elena at Fairy Tale Hall but we had already met Cinderella at lunch so we skipped that.
- Lunch at Crystal Palace - this was another huge highlight for us. It is expensive but worth it to meet all the Winnie the Pooh characters, get extended AC, and rest. It is a huge buffet and very accommodating with food allergies. It is gorgeous inside and you can do mobile check in via QR code for the fastest service.
- Other rides we enjoyed - It's a Small World, Mad Party Teacup, and Prince Charming Regal Carousel were all easy to get on and fun for the kids. Seven Dwarf's Mine Train is a roller coaster (38" or taller) that Riley loved but the younger two could have done without. It was a paid Lightning Lane but in retrospect we didn't really feel it was worth it. The kids loved Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and you can ask for no bouncing if you get motion sick. Under the Sea: Journey of Little Mermaid was fun for all three kids!
Highlights From Animal Kingdom
This park was more walking than Magic Kingdom but still very doable in a day! We did everything from 10am-4pm. It also had the most shade out of all the parks and is just so beautiful to walk around. It is safari and jungle themed throughout, there are monkeys everywhere, African drummers performing throughout, and the attention to detail everywhere is incredible. My kids were all tall enough to go on all the rides, but make sure you pay attention to the height requirements and measure your kids in advance so you know what to expect and which rides they can get excited for!
- Kilimanjaro Safari - This is a must! It is like an entire zoo visit in one ride. You cruise through a safari on a Jeep, and the workers are so knowledgeable about each animal. It feels like an actual safari and the animals are all so beautiful.
- Kali River Rapids - This was their favorite ride at this park! I suggest changing into water shoes and bathing suit or wear a poncho if you don't want to get wet. We used Lightning Lane for this and they did it twice in a row because they loved it so much!
- Avatar Flight of Passage: Fly a Banshee in Pandora - This was Bobby's favorite ride in all of Disney. It is a MUST! It was a paid Lightning Lane and worth it because the lines really were insane. Riley went with Bobby on this one and loved it too.
- Seeing the Tree of Life was honestly awe-inspiring. It's huge and incredibly beautiful! I love the pictures we got around this spot.
- Finding Nemo Show - It was great for the adults to sit and an incredible show for little kids. We checked showtimes on the app and I did this with the younger two while Bobby and Riley did the Avatar ride.
- Festival of the Lion King show - This is another MUST! It was an incredible live performance and every seat had a great view of the show.
- Seeing characters at Characters Landing: Pocahontas, Donald, Mickey, and Pluto!
- Na'vi River Journey - This is a slow, peaceful, Avatar-themed boat ride that the kids enjoyed. It wasn't Bobby's favorite but beautiful to be on!
- It's Tough to Be a Bug - This was a 3D show that was too scary for Jade and David - we ran out in the first minute!
Hollywood Studios Highlights
Hollywood Studios was definitely doable for us in one day! Our favorite part was Toy Story land. It is incredible to walk around and, once again, the attention to details in the design is jaw dropping.
- Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster - Bobby and Riley loved it and it is the most popular ride in this park. Use your Lightning Lane for this since it has long lines otherwise. It was a little too scary for David and Jade but they were fine overall. It is fast with lots of ups and downs.
- Woody's Lunch Box for lunch - great vegan options and fun to watch the slinky dog rollercoaster as you eat. There are tables in the back left with fans so grab those if you can!
- Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway This is another one to use a Lightning Lane! It's a very popular ride that's great for all ages and any height.
- Disney Junior Dance Party - This is a short indoor dance party for kids run by Disney Junior characters with bubbles at the end! The kids can jump and dance around, and grownups can sit on the ground in the AC 🙂
- Character Meet - We met Olaf right after the Frozen Sing a Long show since it is next door. It is a great set up indoors with a cute beach scene in the background. We also met Mickey and Minnie at Disney Stars Red Carpet Dreams.
- Beauty and the Beast Live Show - They condense the entire movie into a 25 minute musical that is so well done. The seats are outdoor bleachers and they had a couple showtimes throughout the day.
- Rock'n'Roller Coaster Ride This Way - Bobby and Riley loved this one! It's 48" or taller and plays loud Aerosmith music. It is dark and goes upside down, so it's one of the more exciting rides!
- Alien Swirling Saucers at Toy Story Land (32 inches or taller) is like the teacups ride. The kids loved it but I wouldn't categorize it as a must!
- Character Meeting: Fancy Nancy - you can also meet other Disney Junior characters like Doc McStuffin, Vamparina and Pluto at Animation Courtyard which is where the Disney Junior Dance Party is located.
- Shows at Hollywood Studio - We saw the Frozen Sing a Long and Muppet Vision 3D Show, which are indoors with AC, so they're great to sit for a bit and cool off if you need a break or are waiting for a Lightning Lane. The kids loved the Frozen sing a long show, but Bobby and I thought it wasn't that great. It does snow at the end, which was a big hit! They had lots of showtimes throughout the day. In the Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy Show the car moves and talks like it is alive, which our kids loved! This is a pretty short show and it's nice to sit semi-inside.
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Toy Story Mania (a 4D shooting ride) were both closed while we were there, but I've heard they're both fun. We didn't do the Indiana Jones stunt show because I heard it can be boring for little ones.
- We skipped all the Star Wars experiences too since we are not into it, but it was cool to walk through and I imagine it would be super exciting if you're a fan. I do have friends that are fans and did the rides and absolutely loved it.
Our Day at EPCOT
EPCOT is a lot more walking than the other parks! You will need to be strategic in terms of the order you do everything to avoid too much walking if possible. There is an incredible nighttime fireworks/water show called Harmonious that we wanted to do but it starts at 9pm and the kids were too tired to go back. When they are older we definitely plan to check it out! EPCOT also hosts festivals throughout the year. The Food & Wine Festival was going on when we were there (mid-summer to fall), and the Festival of the Holidays runs November through December. Each country showcases holiday traditions, food, and drinks and they even have a Holiday Cookie Stroll. During these festivals there are food and drink stations everywhere.
- Frozen Ever After - We did Lightning Lane for this ride which was worth it because of the long lines. The kids all loved it! Afterward we Met Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus. Our kids went insane for this character meeting. They're HUGE Frozen fans, so this was a trip highlight for them!
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind - This is a NEW ride and requires 42 inches or taller. This is the most popular one at this park right now and you have to book it on the app the morning of to get in the queue. Riley and Bobby absolutely loved it!
- Soarin Around the World - Everyone loved this ride!
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends - The kids absolutely loved this and the Turtle Talk with Crush was hilarious and a nice break from walking.
- Living the Land - This is a slow-moving and interesting boat ride about sustainable farming practices at Disney. It was fun (and long - about 12 minutes) but not a must-do!
- Character Meetings - There are so many in EPCOT, all organized by country! In the UK you can meet Alice, Mary Poppins, and Winnie the Pooh. Norway has Anna and Elsa, France has Belle and Aurora, and Germany has Snow White. In Morocco you meet Jasmine, in China you meet Mulan, Donald Duck is in Mexico, and Daisy is in the United States! You can also meet Joy from Inside Out at Image Works. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is not currently open, but I heard it's amazing for a character meal where you can meet tons of princesses without having to jump from country to country (reviews on the food were mixed, though!).
- We didn't get to Test Track, Spaceship Earth, or Remy's Ratatouille Adventure (which is the most popular kids ride at EPCOT!). I've heard the pizza at Via Napoli in Italy is the best pizza in all of Disney but we didn't get there in time for lunch. I also heard you can get henna tattoos in Morocco!
Visiting Disney with Vestibular Migraines
I have had chronic Vestibular Migraines for several years now (since having kids!). This is so much more than a bad headache. For me, this means I will have periods of dizziness, nausea, brain fog and extreme fatigue in addition to the headaches most people associate with migraines. I work every day to manage my symptoms through my diet and lifestyle, but this makes traveling difficult since motion sickness is another trigger for a flare up for me. Our trip to Disney required extra planning, but I am so happy we made it happen. I was so grateful my family was having a blast and that I could be there having fun with them! My number one advice is to keep in mind that there is so much to experience at the parks outside of the rides: shows, parades, character experiences, dining...even just walking around Disney is incredible! I used CoQ-10, magnesium, ginger, Ubrelvy and Gamma Core throughout the day as well, and that saved me. You can read more about gamma core by clicking here.
- Bands - I wore my motion sickness bands all day every day. Blisslets are a recent discovery for me, and I love that they just looked like part of my outfit! Get 15% off with code eatingbyelaine.
- Hydrate! We brought HydroPacks to carry in our backpacks and having water that accessible really helped me stay hydrated.
- Keep up with daily supplements - For me staying on top of ginger, CoQ10, B2 and magnesium helps keep my symptoms at bay.
- Food - Pack snacks and don't let yourself get hungry. We scheduled lunch mid-day to rest, recharge, and cool off. Be sure to speak up about MSG and other common dietary migraine triggers!
- Patience - Take breaks in the shade as needed and use a spray fan. You'll be so much happier overall if you don't overdo it and listen to your body every step of the way!
- Come prepared - Bring ear plugs for louder shows and migraine glasses (or even just sunglasses) for indoor shows that are bright or have flashing lights.
- Don't go on most rides - this was a personal decision I made because I get severely motion sick, which is a huge migraine trigger for me. I asked the people working the rides and they seemed to not understand motion sickness; they can speak to how fast the ride goes but not how jerky it is. I was totally fine missing most of the rides and taking the chance to rest, hydrate, and eat for a couple minutes since the rides are not that long. I got to see the kids off and greet them immediately after each ride. Bobby even took videos during the rides so I didn't feel like I missed anything!
My friend Alicia, the Dizzy Cook, has incredible tips and resources for living with migraines! I loved her 5 Tips for Visiting Disney with Vestibular Migraines and General Travel Info for Migraines.
Phew...this post was a doozy! We put so much planning and thought into our trip and I am so glad it paid off with a truly magical experience. I hope some of these tips help you make the most of your time at Disney! You can see even more of our trip on my Instagram highlights. Are there any tips or experiences I missed? If so, leave them in the comments below so other families can have the best Disney experience possible!