Photo by Jeanne SagerThe sheer cost of a Disney vacation means you want to do everything you can to get your money's worth.
And the Extra Magic Hours are one way to make your cash go a long way.
Open to anyone who opts to stay in a Disney Resort, they're just as the name implies -- extra time to spend inside the theme parks to enjoy the "magic" a Disney vacation offers your kids.
So how do you make them work for your family?
Thanks to my family's trip to Disney World in Orlando this May with our toddler, I've got a few tips:
1. Don't pre-plan your park visits. Waiting until you get to Orlando and have the Extra Magic Hours list in front of you will make a difference. Because while you may have planned Animal Kingdom for day 4 of your trip, it's day 2 when they'll open early so you can see the animals before they get hot and sleepy. Likewise, you may have planned Magic Kingdom for day one, but day two is when they're open late and you'll get to go on rides after the fireworks display.
2. Keep bedtimes in mind. It's part of the fun to keep your kids up late on vacation, but if you're out until 2 a.m. because the park is open until 1 a.m. realize your kids will probably sleep late the next day, so you'll sleep past the park's opening. And then what are you really gaining? As one former Magic Kingdom staffer told me, the late magic hours are always the hardest on the kids because parents expect them to power through. Remember: the park will be there the next day, it might be better to bring them back when they're awake enough to enjoy it.
3. Check the park listings for rides. Only certain rides are open during the magic hours, so don't disappoint your kids. A quick review on the Disney site will let you decide what to hit with the crowds and what to hit during the extra hours.
Are you planning a Disney vacation?