This year over fall break we took a four-day trip to Walt Disney World and our daughter brought a friend. This was our first experience with taking a child outside our family to WDW, and we learned some things along the way that I hope will be helpful for anyone else doing the same.
1. Call Disney Tech Support Ahead of Time
The friend’s Mom bought her daughter a ticket by phone several weeks prior to the trip. This allowed for the ticket to be mailed and saved us from having to pick it up at the “Will Call” window once we arrived.
Once she received the ticket, she sent us the identifier so we could add her daughter to our Friends and Family list on My Disney Experience. This worked fine: I made the request via her email through the app, she accepted, and it was done. I noticed, however, that on the app, the ticket was listed in the Mom’s name (not the daughter’s). We envisioned major headaches at the entrance of Magic Kingdom as we tried to explain to a cast member why the person trying to enter the park was not the one whose name had been assigned to the ticket.
I could not figure out how to fix this through My Disney Experience app or the website, so I called the Tech Support number at (407) 939-4357 (NOTE: I’m not certain of the exact hours, but this line is not answered on a 24-hour basis—I called on a Sat. morning around 9:30 a.m.) This was the best decision we made related to the entire trip. The cast member I spoke with not only resolved the name-on-ticket issue, but once I explained to her what was going on she added our daughter’s friend to the FastPass reservations we had made long before our daughter even asked if her friend could come along. We had assumed she would have to use my FP’s, so needless to say this was a very pleasant surprise.
If I had to do it again, I would have taken an even simpler approach and just asked a ConciEAR to help with the ticket purchase and FastPasses. I assumed—wrongly!—that they only help with packages that include lodging, dining, and tickets.
2. Clarify Who Pays for What
I can’t take credit for this one since my Wife and the friend’s daughter’s Mom worked it all out, but they talked well in advance of the trip about who would pay for what. In our case, the friend’s parents bought her ticket and gave her money for souvenirs/extras; we took care of the meals/lodging. The friend’s Mom sent her daughter with several envelopes—each marked with one day of the trip—with money inside for that day. This was a great idea since it prevented her from (literally) spending it all in one place. We kept the envelopes in our in-room safe to help make sure they didn’t get lost or stolen.
3. Be Reasonable about Plans
I have to admit that despite everything I’ve read and some of what I’ve even written about not doing this, I fell into the trap of trying to fill every hour of each day of the trip with attractions and shows. My thinking was this: the friend’s parents have spent a lot of money on a multi-day ticket for their daughter to visit the World with us. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to make sure she has as much fun as possible. Sounds reasonable, right? Except that by the second day both girls were totally exhausted and ended up going back to our place for long afternoon naps. (Then we went back to the parks with everyone re-energized and had a great evening.)
4. Make Plans for At Least One Early Day
It turned out that Magic Kingdom opened at 8:00 a.m. on one of the days we were there. This was not Extra Magic Hours, but just an early regular opening. We followed the well-documented strategy of getting to the park about an hour before “rope-drop” and although—as always—it felt crowded at the entrance, once we got inside we were able to enjoy multiple high-demand attractions before 9:30 with little to no wait. For example, we walked straight on to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without stopping anywhere in the queue. I don’t think we could have pulled this off every day of the trip (teenagers and early mornings don’t get along), but it was well worth it to take advantage of this park’s early opening. Regardless of all the changes over the years in how people “do” WDW, most guests still won’t get up that early while they are on vacation.
Would we do this again? With a friend as well-mannered and agreeable as the one we took this time, absolutely. Have you taken a friend along on a Disney trip with your kids? If so, please share additional tips in the Comment section below!