With the Northern hemisphere Summer in full swing, many around the world will be heading to Disney World (Orlando) for what will be an amazing holiday – especially for the kids.
We were fortunate to visit last December, so here follows what I hope will be some helpful tips – especially for Muslim travellers.
- Connectivity: Make sure you have mobile data on your phone. The Disney World app is immensely useful, but if you’re relying on the public WiFi, it can be super frustrating because that gets so congested and you lose signal a lot.
- Thirsty business: Don’t buy water all the time. Just take your own bottles, and refill at the fountains. The water is fine to drink, and you really can’t keep paying $3.50 a time for new bottles.
- Don’t eat too much into your budget: Take your own food and snacks. You’re allowed to bring your own food, so take advantage of that. Prices are high – for EVERYTHING. And if you have special needs – like Halaal food – it’s a struggle because the options are questionable and limited. You can get plain macaroni – but the standard comes with bacon…there’s no separate cooking. It’s the same with pizza and everything else. There’s just no proper Halaal food anywhere. The refillable popcorn bucket, though, is worth it if you want fresh snacks.
- Fast passes pass too fast: Book your fast passes AS SOON as you can. They go very quickly – especially for the popular rides. If you miss a fast pass for something, the waits are sometimes prohibitively long. And you don’t want to waste time waiting. So do the research before – see what’s in each park, and pick the ones you want to fast pass. Then book those as soon as you have access to do so. Don’t worry about planning timelines so that you do things close together. You’re going to be walking all day anyway – so just get your most important stuff booked, then fill in other attractions between those.
- Managing toddlers: If your kids don’t have stamina, don’t worry…just let them nap in their strollers when they need to. You could go early in the morning, then leave the park and go back to your room for a rest, then go back afterwards. But if you can manage with them napping in the park, it’s more practical. The firework shows are quite late in the night (by kids’ standards) – so do what you need to to let them rest so they can be up for that.
- Expectations: Don’t expect to do it all – unless you’re there for a very long time. There’s just too much, and too many waits. Prioritise, plan (including the fast pass advice mentioned above), then enjoy. There’s no use rushing through everything and stressing your group out – because you’re there to have fun…not race to do as much as possible.
- Let kids be kids: While you obviously want to get pictures of your kids in these fun places, remember to not rush them after the picture. The photo op is more for the adults…the kids just want to play and enjoy the environment and attractions. So don’t be in a rush to get them away from what they’re enjoying. Let them play and have fun (within reasonable time limits, of course). It’s not a race to get as many photos as possible of them at different attractions.
- Strollers are safe: The stroller parking is perfectly safe, so use those areas. Sometimes, if you park ‘illegally’, the staff will move your stroller to the parking area – so you may have to search for a while to find yours. But the parking is very safe. People don’t steal…which is a culture shock for those of us from crime-ridden countries. (I even saw someone reclaim his lost iPhone from Lost & Found.)
- Special needs: If you have kids or adults with disabilities or special needs, research the facilities and concessions available beforehand. The parks are very accomodating, apparently.
- Prayer in the parks: Don’t be tempted to just skip your salaah and ‘make it up’ later at your hotel. You can pray almost anywhere, and in this suspended reality that is Disney World, it’s easy to just forget – or forgo it, because of the challenge. But a little effort goes a long way. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can make wudu in the disabled toilet cubicles, or take a spray bottle if you’re more comfortable with that. And, if you’re a traveller, use the concession of combining salaahs. Just take your compass and prayer mats with, and keep an eye out for quiet spots to pray when the times come. My recommendation for Magic Kingdom is the section for younger kids (the one with the Dumbo ride and circus tents). Between the two circus tents, there’s a nice secluded area that’s perfect. Others have listed places online, so do some research to find the most recent spots. For example, the Morocco section at Epcot has an area to pray.
Other useful resources for Muslims at Disney:
If you have any more to add to the list, please leave a comment below.