First Disney Trip with 3 Kids... advice on park days vs rest days.

Joined
May 25, 2017
My wife and I need some advice. We will be taking our next trip as a family of 5. We have done Disney with 2 kids, but this will be our first time playing "zone defense" at Disney. We are Disney veterans and usual travel at traditional busy times because of my work. This trip will probably be a week before Christmas or in June/July.
Our children will be 5, 3, and 1 during this trip. Depending on Coronavirus/ construction projects in the parks we might also delay the trip 6 months in which case they would be 6, 4, and 2.

How many park days vs rest days we should take on our next trip? We will be staying onsite 6 nights which will give us two driving days (we are around 7 hours away) and 5 full days.

How do folks with several kids like to work their rest days? I am always tempted to go in the parks every day but that is probably a recipe for disaster with so many little ones. We also want to enjoy our resort hotel as we are planning on staying at AKV (we all love animals). Tips are appreciated.
 

BethaJ

Earning My Ears
Joined
May 12, 2018
1 rest day should do it. I'm tentatively planning that as well for my 6 day trip in March 2021.
When we took our kids in 2017 they were 2 and 4. We stayed all day at the parks and the kids would take a nap in their double stroller every afternoon. I think that helps.
We always left the parks early too though, around 7pm (before fireworks). We'd swim in the resort pool a bit before bed.
 

Rory607

Mouseketeer
Joined
Sep 10, 2016
I personally would not do a rest day with five park days, but other people would disagree. Instead, I would plan the days to not be too long. We try to plan a day to sleep in, swim in the morning and go into the parks later. This might not work for your 1 year old, but our kids always napped in the stroller.
 
  • elle21

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 3, 2016
    On our first trip with kids we did 7 park days, one rest day in the middle (character brunch, Disney springs and swimming) and a travel day on each end. We did only two late nights though and mostly rope dropped then left the park by about 6:00 pm. Normal bedtimes helped a lot.
     

    Daisy7425

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 20, 2018
    I personally would not do a rest day with five park days, but other people would disagree. Instead, I would plan the days to not be too long. We try to plan a day to sleep in, swim in the morning and go into the parks later. This might not work for your 1 year old, but our kids always napped in the stroller.
    Same for us. I think a good strategy with a stay like yours is to do no rest days, but to do shorter days in the parks. The FPs are so valuable and the price of the tickets isn't a big difference when you get into a higher amount of days. It works well for us to go into the park basically to use our 3 FPs, get a meal and then get out of there. You didn't mention where you are staying - and if you're staying onsite and at a resort that has great transportation via monorail or skyliner, then this strategy of buzzing into parks for a quick stay makes even more sense.
     

    sparkle78

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 23, 2019
    When we took our 2.5 and 4 year old , years ago on their first trip. We tried for midday breaks the first two days and then gave up. Even with easy boat access to Wilderness Lodge. They were often too excited to nap. Throughout the 7 day trip, one would often nap in stroller in late afternoon. The other would fall asleep for dinner, luckily 50s prime time at HS and Tony’s at MK allowed us to bring a stroller in......very few restaurants will do that now.... so one night we stayed till 9 pm and ride buzzlightyear 7 times in a row ( switching off parents ) with the 2.5 while the 4 year old slept. Later in the trip we rode barnstormer roller coaster till 9 pm with 4 year old. Other nights we left the parks by 8 pm, put kids to bed and enjoyed sitting on the balcony to end the evening.
    Good luck : best advice. The 3 or 4 pm Starbucks coffee for mom and popsicles or popcorn snack for kiddos, but’s everyone in a good mood and the 15 min rest helps too.
     

    2019TripIdeas

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 6, 2018
    We just did a trip in early February with similar age kids (5, 3, 2.5 at the time... they are now 6, 4, and turning 3 at the end of the summer). We did Disneyland with ages 4, 2, 1.5 the year prior and I personally found age 2.5 so much easier than 1.5. Though, he was fine at 1.5 too... he just got so much more out of it this time and was no longer afraid of the characters like he was the first time.

    We did a super long trip, but also did some time at Universal, so we had 7 day Disney parkhoppers + 1 day at Universal. We intended to only use 6 days of the parkhoppers, but one night we did go in to Epcot for dinner so used up a "day" there. That said, it was such a tiny difference between a 6 and 7 day ticket for us that it was really worth it to have the flexibility.

    We went into the parks the other 6 days and the kids were generally great. The further we got into the trip, the more tired they were... but we found that balancing what we were doing and how long we spent in lines helped. They were totally fine with chilling at one of the playground areas (not sure if those will be open again before you go) or sitting and having a snack/breather in the park.

    We also made use of the sitting/more relaxing type attractions (Bugs Life in AK, Little Mermaid Show at HS, Carousel of Progress & People Mover & Philharmagic at MK, Beauty and the Beast singalong at Epcot) to give them a breather and we'd all come out refreshed and ready to get back at it.
     
  • smwisc

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Aug 3, 2019
    We don't do rest days but never spend an entire day in the parks. When our kids were little we preferred rope drop to early/mid afternoon, then done for the day. As they've gotten older we're more likely to do mid-day breaks, or a day where we don't go at all until mid-late afternoon.
     

    Krystal659

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 25, 2018
    There has been a lot of great advice already, but I will say that in the summer, we used longer air conditioning rides to determine if it was time for a mid-day break or if it was just time for ice cold water and a chair (think Carousel of Progress, Fantasia, etc.). Then, we always paid attention to our son, even if we planned to stay longer, sometimes the summer heat just got the better of him and we left a little earlier than planned.

    When he was little sometimes we napped in the stroller and stayed (never until close). Now, he is a teenager and the biggest fan of going early for lower crowds, mid-day break, and going until close.

    Best advise we received was you know your child best, pay attention, and do not try to force something that is not working.
     

    Silvermist999

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 6, 2010
    We never did a full rest day when my kids were that young. Instead we always took a break to go back to our resort (we stayed on-site) for much needed naps or a swim. Even we as parents needed a nap! Then we would rest and head back again to the parks after an early dinner at the resort. Now that our kids are older, we still take an afternoon break, to go back to enjoy the resort pool.
     

    AmberMV

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 28, 2020
    I currently have three 2-year olds. Our twins just turned 2 last month and our older son will be 3 next week. We started our APs in February this year and took them twice before everything shut down. They did great, but we try to follow their normal schedules as best we can. We live 2 hours away so we leave the house at 7am and when we arrive we give them some easy breakfast foods like cereals and fruits. We stick to normal lunch times so not to create tantrums and try to have a place for them to burn off energy safely. Stick to normal dinner time (for them is like 4:30pm) and then go home after that so they can get to bed at normal time (7:30pm for the twins). The key to less tantrums and crankiness is to keep to your routines as much as you can. If you try to "do it all" 9am-9pm at a park your 1 and 3 year olds will probably not do well. It will mean less time in the actual parks but your sanity will thank you :)
     
  • karen4546

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 3, 2012
    We took four of our grandchildren in December 2018. We also brought along their other grandmother. We did not really plan on any rest days even though flying from Northeast Louisiana take several hours. There was one day that it was so cold and raining that we stayed at the resort at AKL Jambo House and did the bead activities, Simba's clubhouse (crafts like ornaments, shrinky dinks etc.) and ate Mickey Bars at the Mara. I would say that was one of the best days there. I mean you can't beat SDD and TOT (my grands loved them !). We had a 2br villa at AKV Jambo House and had plenty of room to spread out.

    I would say that if you are staying somewhere that you can sleep six comfortably then maybe think about bringing someone to help out because it will be difficult for riding any coasters or any ride for that matter that requires an adult with the child. Rider swap will be difficult with the child waiting and the baby and ONE adult. Maybe you could pay for a grandparent (we paid for the other person that came with us) so that maybe you guys could do a night out also.
     

    YesterDark

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 4, 2017
    Obvious statement first: All families are different. Different stamina, interests, patience etc.

    I last went in 2019 with 3 kids 6, 4 and 1.5. I was supposed to go in March with a 7, 5 and 2 yo. So our kids are similar ages. Our last trip was 7 nights and 8 days. I love to rope drop and stay until fireworks on a park day. We also like to do restaurants and eat as well. I'm a huge planner so I love these topics.

    I'm going to assume the park will be at 100% normal or close to it. Adapt as it necessary.

    Never do more than two park days in a row.
    When I say a park day, I mean that is all you're doing that day. You rope drop and you don't leave until the fireworks are done. If you do more than two parks days in a row you're going to be done for. This DOES NOT mean you can do a vacation where you're in the parks every day. Just not 10 hours. Depends on your speed and what you like to do.

    If you're going to do a half day or less at the park, do it in the morning to early afternoon.
    Why? Because you need some time to relax. I made this mistake my last vacation where we had 6 full days on property and on our "non park day" we went into the park, for example, at 4pm to go to CRT for dinner. We ended up going a little early and stay a little late. In the end we still go back to the room late and it felt like a full day.

    On your non park day, as parents, you need a night where you can decompress with the kids sleeping. Get the kids to bed, grab two chairs and set them up outside the room and have a beer or coffee or some dessert (whatever makes you happy). When we did 6 days, every day was coming home from the parks and getting to sleep. It was physically and mentally exhausting. It felt like we never had time to relax even though we spent two days morning and early afternoon at the resort. That little night time relaxation really helps you take a deep breath and think about the vacation a bit more and appreciate it.

    Always plan rest times during the day. Always!
    Rest times can be anything from a character meal, a show or something where you sit down for 40-90 minutes in air conditioning and relax. For example, if you're at the MK do crystal palace for an early dinner. Or take the boat over to Trails End and grab some quick service dinner/lunch. Or do Chef Mickeys or Artist's Point.

    Once the train is back up, take a few laps around the park.

    Anything that gives you time to relax that also doesn't feel like you're wasting your time.

    I personally would say never go back to the resort. The logistics with small kids is a nightmare. 20-40 minutes to get out of the park. 20-40 minutes waiting for a bus and riding it back to the resort. 10-2 minutes walking back to your room. Then 1-2 hours for napping/swimming/eating then the reverse to get back out.

    However, if you're the type of family that takes it easy, this might be right up your ally. For me, way to difficult with 3 young ones.

    So if I've got a trip where I'm 5 full days on property and check in and out days are essentially used for travelling and getting set up I would do something like this:

    Day 1: Arrive
    Day 2: Magic Kingdom Full day
    Day 3: AK/EPCOT/DHS Full Day
    Day 4: Resort Day - Dinner at a resort (Hoop-de-doo or something similar)
    Day 5: AK/EPCOT/DHS Full/Half Day depending on your speed
    Day 6: Magic Kingdom Full Day
    Day 7: Departure

    Rent a side by side double stroller and let the two bigger kids take turns. Let em nap.
     

    sparkle78

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 23, 2019
    I took a stroller until they were 8. Granted it got wheeled in and parked for three hours, then after lunch they got a quick ride to the other side of the park. Then came in handy around 7 pm for he cranky 6 or 8 year old and let us stay in the park till 9 pm. Bonus : great place to store rain gear and extra jackets.
     

    Anna131517

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Nov 19, 2019
    Just saw this. We have three kids. We always do five park days in a row. We never do open to close - either open to 2 pm or 11 am to close. With your kids ages get two strollers - a double and a single. Citi mini double for the younger two and citi mini GT for the oldest. Makes it much easier to keep track of them in crowds when entering/exiting the parks or covering large distances like at Epcot and the stroller rentals come with a rain cover. Since you’ll have a car consider driving to Hollywood studios as the parking lot is close to the entrance. Take a baby carrier to hold the youngest in line. Good luck!
     
    Joined
    May 25, 2017
    Thanks all for the awesome feedback! With the 3 kids in tow, Im actually leaning towards the 6 partial days with heavy fastpass use (again this is assuming things are "back to normal" post COVID if not we will delay 6-12 months) Since the biggest hassle with two kids for us was getting on and off the buses and Animal Kingdom Lodge relies on buses. (We love the busses except during the end of the day cram in with sleeping kids)

    I think the optimal strategy is to only schedule partial days every day. I have always felt midday breaks require a lot of transit and waiting with little ones and may be undoable with 3 unless the kids and us are feeling especially energetic. We will want to enjoy the amenities of AKL. When we stayed there before I wish we had taken in more of the hotel's features. Im thinking we would either arrive at park opening and going until 3-4 in the afternoon or arrive around lunch time and stay into the evening.

    Bringing an extra family member or friend is something we have done before and is an option. My wife and I keep going back and forth on this. Part of me wants this trip to be just us. When we have brought extra folks in the past I have always put a lot of pressure on myself. We have always appreciated the help but I get really stressed and anxious when a kid has a meltdown or things don't go to plan. I had never had the "pressure to have a good time" mindset until we took a helper.
     

    2019TripIdeas

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 6, 2018
    Bringing an extra family member or friend is something we have done before and is an option. My wife and I keep going back and forth on this. Part of me wants this trip to be just us. When we have brought extra folks in the past I have always put a lot of pressure on myself. We have always appreciated the help but I get really stressed and anxious when a kid has a meltdown or things don't go to plan. I had never had the "pressure to have a good time" mindset until we took a helper.
    I think you've got great plans and you'll have a blast. We have the three similar ages and usually travel with just my husband and I with the kids. Occasionally, I have flown solo with them as well (most recently at ages 5, 3, 2.5) and while that's challenging, I find it do-able. That said, of all the traveling we've done, Disney was the only place I wished I had an extra adult. I too wanted it to be an "only for us" type of deal but to be honest, the age grouping made it hard at WDW. Our kids are all pretty adventurous but there were many times the youngest didn't hit the height requirements, and the 3 year old fairly often as well, meaning one parent would have to ride with one kid, come back and grab the other kid or do rider swap, because none of our kids were old enough to ride solo.... Having a timid kid who didn't want to ride things would've compounded the issue. I would've loved to have experienced some of the rides, particularly roller coasters with 2 kids AND my husband, versus hanging on the sidelines with the youngest or the younger two. There is also the waiting around to consider- sometimes it wasn't worth it to wait in a 30-40 minute line, knowing it would take another 10-15 minutes on top of that to go thru as rider swap and suddenly you're an hour into just once attraction.

    Even the Barnstormer- I had to ride that 3 times to get all three kids through one by one! They were all tall enough but its 2 to a row, so with 3 kids and 2 adults, there was no way to make it work.

    We've said we're likely to wait now until we're fully past stroller and height limit age to go again (6ish for our youngest maybe) OR we'd bring an extra adult if we go sooner. That said, we did Disneyland the year prior (ages 4, 2, 1.5) and I found that to be way more manageable for 2 kids and 3 adults. Maybe the shorter walking distances? Not having to finagle the buses and transport? Not sure, but I didn't have the thought of "I wish I had an extra adult" there like I did every day at WDW.
     

    sparkle78

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 23, 2019
    Yes, we took our kiddos at Around 6 and 7.5 to Disneyland. Less planning, easier to get around. Spent 4 days in the parks , plenty of time and got two full mornings of just experiencing Cars land. Relaxing trip. However, coming from the Midwest with airplane and hotel 6 days in California = 10 days for a Florida vacation
     

    Bete

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 14, 1999
    Thanks all for the awesome feedback! With the 3 kids in tow, Im actually leaning towards the 6 partial days with heavy fastpass use (again this is assuming things are "back to normal" post COVID if not we will delay 6-12 months) Since the biggest hassle with two kids for us was getting on and off the buses and Animal Kingdom Lodge relies on buses. (We love the busses except during the end of the day cram in with sleeping kids)

    I think the optimal strategy is to only schedule partial days every day. I have always felt midday breaks require a lot of transit and waiting with little ones and may be undoable with 3 unless the kids and us are feeling especially energetic. We will want to enjoy the amenities of AKL. When we stayed there before I wish we had taken in more of the hotel's features. Im thinking we would either arrive at park opening and going until 3-4 in the afternoon or arrive around lunch time and stay into the evening.

    Bringing an extra family member or friend is something we have done before and is an option. My wife and I keep going back and forth on this. Part of me wants this trip to be just us. When we have brought extra folks in the past I have always put a lot of pressure on myself. We have always appreciated the help but I get really stressed and anxious when a kid has a meltdown or things don't go to plan. I had never had the "pressure to have a good time" mindset until we took a helper.
    I think this is a wait and see proposition. Right now, there's no extra magic hours, no fastpasses, no dining plans, limited availability on restaurants, no parades or fireworks and shorter park hours. Who knows how fast this will get any better. I would think the later your trip is the better it will be on all counts.

    We believe in strollers. The average trek is 6 miles a day. Some people will go 10-14 miles a day. It's a pain in one way, but it allows staying in the parks longer. Our 6 year great grandsons appreciated having them last year. Park tickets are not cheap; so, we want to stay in the parks as much as possible. I'm not against an afternoon break if you go back to the park for the evening. I would not skip an entire day. With 5 days I see two days at MK and one day at each of the other parks. In your case Epcot could be a shorter day.
     
    Last edited:

    Disneyfan754321

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 19, 2019
    For us the hard part is we dont want to come back from vacation tired.
    This last March our first day was extra magic hours so we went to MK at 7am left around 10:30 had lunch went swimming with the older one and the younger one stayed in the room to "watch" a movie. Went back to MK at 3 pm to 10pm
    The other days were something similar.
    When (if) we go back in October the hours are so different and so much shorter we will stay the whole time. The opening/closing times are staggered epcot opens at noon
     





    Connect

    Disney News and Updates





    SUBSCRIBE TO OUR DAILY EMAIL
    Subscribe and never miss out on Disney News, Deals and Updates.






    Top