by Nicole Loughan

We just made our first family trip to Disney, for me it was my first ever. From the moment we stepped onto our first Disneyfied shuttle the magic was palpable. Songs from Moana played on the sound system overhead or classics from The Jungle Book and my kids were enchanted. Sure it was expensive and hot and tiring, but it was also magical. I’ve never seen my kids so. A lot of pre-planning went into the trip, but I’m sure we would have fun even without. If you are a little or a lot type A and want to get the most out of the experience read on to see how to make a Disney vacation as magical as you can. Before you get started download the My Disney Experience App in the App store and start looking around. This is the app you will need to schedule everything on your trip from Fast Passes to dining experiences.

The countdown – Disney now gives fast passes with every ticket. With those, you simply schedule your ride times and you get to walk right up to the ride and get on, bypassing the line. The fast passes are available to people staying on Resort 60 days in advance and for other guests 30 days in advance. The fast passes become available at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Thirty days before each scheduled day I logged into my app, just after seven and scheduled our rides, the hardest Fast Pass in all of Disney was the Frozen Ever After ride in Epcot, but it was so worth it.

Stand tall – In order to get the most of your Disney experience, ride wise, your kids should be over 40 inches tall. Almost all of the larger rides had that height as a cut-off. If you are going with babies there were plenty of rides that allowed even babies in arms to ride. The height restrictions are clearly stated in the attraction information for each ride on the Disney App.

What to ride – The Fast Passes that we enjoyed with a four and six-year-olds, both over 40 inches, were Peter Pan and the Seven Dwarfs Roller Coaster at the Magic Kingdom. At Animal Kingdom we loved the Safari. At Epcot we enjoyed Frozen and The Little Nemo rides. At Hollywood Studios, we enjoyed Star Tours and the Frozen Singalong.

Some magic is too scary – I couldn’t find much guidance on the rides that are too scary. It depends on your child’s level of fright. My six-year-old daughter was more scared than my four-year-old son of some rides. The scariest ride we rode was Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. You want to have a very brave young person to try that ride, where you are “chased” by dinosaurs in a car that jostles quite a lot. My daughter thought it was too much, while my son proclaimed he defeated the dinosaurs and was the bravest of all. The other shockingly scary ride was the Bugs Life Movie “It’s Tough to be a Bug” at the Animal Kingdom. It’s an interactive movie, which wasn’t scary on its own, but the effects for the ride made kids throughout the theater scream, like puffs of air in the face, smoke, and spiders. Some kids cried from the first effect all the way through to the exit. As we made our way out we overheard many people say, “That was way too scary.” We agreed.

Leave the stroller at home – Not that you don’t need a stroller, you may need one, but Disney and the surrounding resorts have a great stroller rental system. In some resorts the stroller is waiting at your room for you, at others they will bring them as soon as you arrive and rentals were as cheap as $19 per day. If you want to rent them at the park they are right at the entrances as well.

If you need a ride – Most of Disney has some sort of shuttle, monorail or even boats to get you where you need to be. But if you need off resort you can grab an Uber with a car seat. In order to find one of these cars use the Uber app look for an UberX car, when you choose that car you will see the option to upgrade to an Uber with a car seat. This option said it would be $10 more on the website but we were only charged $7 more and the driver came with a fully installed five point harness car seat. We had a portable booster for our older child.