How to Go To Disney Without Going Crazy

Shannon GreerShannon GreerJeannie Kim was pretty down on Disney - until she and her family shared two fairy-tale trips to Orlando. Here's how this skeptic-turned-devotee made the most of the happiest place on earth. What she learned from her repeat visit can help you make yours more magical:

Have a plan. There are tons of books (I like The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World) and websites that can help you map out each day you spend at the parks, practically down to the minute. We hit the most popular attractions at each park first, before the lines got too long, and skipped the ones that weren't really to our taste (but that we might have accidentally wandered into if we hadn't known any better).

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Go early and go late. We like to sleep late. No, we loooove to sleep late. On our first trip, we never made it to the parks before 11. But this time around, we dragged ourselves out of our hotel room to get to Magic Kingdom soon after it opened at 9. We were rewarded by thinner crowds and shorter lines. Another day, we didn't arrive at Magic Kingdom until after 7 p.m. We walked on to every ride and had plenty of energy left to stay up for the fireworks, which go on sometime after 8 p.m. On that note...

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Ditch bedtime.
Yes, we kept our daughter Rose up hours past her bedtime so we could see the evening parade and fireworks. I know some kids really don't deal well with disruptions to their routine, and a lot of moms will disagree with me big time on this one. But for us, it was worth it to mess with Rose's sleep schedule a little. We just made sure to schedule an extra-long nap on the days we wanted to be up late, and planned for sleeping in and taking it easier the day after.

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Don't try to do it all.
The first time around, we hit three parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot) in two days. It was way too much. This time, we did just two parks (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom) in four days. Even with all that time, we covered only about half of each park, but it was more important to us to take lots of breaks and really savor the things we did than to try to see everything. And hey, we had to save something for next time, right?

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Go on a date!
On our second trip, we were lucky enough to have my sister-in-law traveling with us, and one night she babysat while Adam and I escaped for a rare date. It was a treat to get some special couple time in the middle of a very family-oriented vacation. P.S. If you don't have an awesome sister-in-law handy, you can arrange in-room babysitting with a service called Kid's Nite Out through your hotel.

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Savor the little moments.
As much as we all loved the big attractions, some of my favorite memories were the tiny moments you just can't plan: the three of us sharing a giant smoked turkey leg, feeding bits of it to the birds (and yes, I know that feeding turkey to birds is all kinds of wrong). Hanging out at the dinosaur-themed playground in Animal Kingdom and watching Rose go down the slides over and over and over. Even in the rush to see all our favorite attractions, we made sure to slow down enough to leave space and time for those magic moments to happen.

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Plan your adventure online with these amazing websites

I'm no Disney expert, so I relied on the experience of others to help plot out our trips. Whether you're going to Disney World for the first time or the 21st time, these sites - all created by longtime Disney fans - will give you the real scoop on how best to capture the magic.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.