10 Things to Remember When Going to Disney with a Group of College Students

So you and your friends are heading to Disney World. Maybe for senior week, maybe for spring break… but you’re quickly realizing how overwhelming a Disney trip can become. There are so many things to get ready beforehand. So while you're frantically booking your hotel or Air B&B, it's very easy to forget about the little things that will make your trip go a lot smoother.

In this article, I've created a list that you can go through to make sure you are completely prepared for your next "friend trip" to Disney!


1. Water!!!

I think young adults in Disney feel like they’re invincible. They feel like they have to do it all and so they run around the parks like maniacs and forget to take care of themselves. One of the biggest threats facing you when you spend a day in the parks is dehydration. Seriously! The last time we were in the parks, we saw a girl being carried out on a stretcher, because she’d passed out from heat exhaustion. What a way to ruin a great trip!

So when you’re in the parks, remember to stay hydrated. Especially if you feel like you’re getting a headache. That’s one of the warning signs for dehydration. I like to keep a water bottle in my bag that I can refill at the water fountains around the park, but if you don’t feel like lugging a bottle around, you can simply go up to any food kiosk or tray service dining location and ask for a free cup of water - or three!


2. Sunscreen

Okay, I know I’m starting to sound like your mother, reminding you to drink your water and wear your sunscreen, but seriously, this is a biggie! People typically remember this when heading to the water parks, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the theme parks. Or, people think that they’ll be inside for most of the day, so they won’t need sunscreen. Don’t be this person! You will get burnt!

I’m lucky that I’m not super pale, so I can get away with not wearing as much sun protection. I typically just put it on in the morning, and I’m good to go. (Unlike my sister, who has to reapply every hour, and constantly wears a ball cap to shade her face) But, after day three in the parks, I realized I had a pretty bad burn on my shoulders. Just take my word and stay safe from the sun!


3. Planning

I know that you want to be spontaneous as you adventure into your twenties, but trust me, Disney is not a spontaneous trip. If you plan on just showing up, and hanging out and doing whatever you want to in the moment, you’re going to miss out on a lot of magic.

Take the time before your trip to reserve your hotel, dining reservations, and Fastpass+ choices. You’ll be much happier if you do. Then, when you get to the parks, you can always change your mind. Fastpasses are not binding contracts! You can always skip them to do what you want instead.

Basically, plan before your trip, and then be spontaneous during the trip.


4. Rain gear

It rains literally every day in Florida. Seriously! Every afternoon there’s a thunderstorm. Most last only 15 minutes or so, but you’ll still want to be prepared if you get caught in one.

I recommend bringing ponchos for your group. You can buy these at the dollar store before your trip since they’re much cheaper there than in the parks. If you think that ponchos are dorky, you can always opt for a small collapsible umbrella that will fit in your bag.

Just don’t be surprised by the sudden storms. You’ll actually soon learn to love them, since they drive most of the crowds out of the parks, and after they pass it becomes a lot cooler and less humid!


5. The MyDisneyExperience App

Before your vacation, be sure to get the MyDisneyExperience app on your phone. It can help you track your dining reservations, you can see the ride and character photos that you’ve gotten so far, and you can view and change your Fastpass+ selections. Plus, it has maps of all the parks that include the current wait times for all of the rides. Honestly, a must have for any Disney trip!


6. Park Maps

That being said, you shouldn't just rely on the app maps. (See what I did there?) You should definitely still grab a paper map on your way into the parks each morning. This will help you if your phone dies, or if you just want to save your phone's battery.

If you're staying on site, you can even pick up park maps near your hotel's front desk. I like to grab all of the park maps here at the beginning of the trip and keep them in my bag. That way, if I'm waiting in a long line, I can pull out the park that we're headed to the next day and start planning tomorrow's itinerary. What can I say? I'm a planner!


7. Take Breaks

This is a tip that you often hear about Disney vacations, but it's typically directed at families with young children, so I feel like I should repeat it for the older "kids" too. There's nothing wrong with taking a break from the parks. They're huge and packed with so much to do that it can easily get overwhelming and exhausting. (Especially Magic Kingdom!) 

So go back to your hotel and relax by the pool or take a nap. You can always head back into the parks for the evening, when it's cooler and less crowded. If you don't give your feet and mind a break, you'll burn out really early in your trip. I even recommend, if you're planning a trip that's at least a week long, to take a full day off half way through your vacation. That way you'll return to the parks well rested and with a much better attitude!


8. Be Patient

One of the saddest things that I see at Disney World is people throwing temper tantrums. And I say people because it isn't always the children. You'd be surprised how many adults will get into heated arguments with cast members over seemingly insignificant things. Please don't do this!

Yes, Disney is crowded and hot, but it still beats being at work or in class! So try to focus on the magic of it all and remember that all of the cast members are there to help you. Not only that, they want to do everything they can to make your day as magical as possible. So please, be kind and patient with them and anyone else you encounter throughout your day.


9. Extra Magic Hours

Each day, one of the four parks is open for "extra magic hours." These are either in the morning, before the park opens, or at night, after the park typically closes. Definitely take advantage of these! Use this time to run around the parks and hit as many rides as you can before it gets crowded. If you get to the parks right at rope drop (Disney lingo for right when the park opens) then you can practically walk onto most of the rides!

The last time that I was in Disney, we had an early morning hour in Animal Kingdom. In that one extra hour, we were able to ride the new Na'vi River Journey, all the rides in Dinoland USA, and Expedition Everest. We then went back at 11:00 for extra night hours and only waited an hour for Avatar Flight of Passage, which typically has close to a three hour wait!

Just be warned that the early hours in the morning are only for guests that are staying on site, so if you're staying in an Air B&B, you won't be able to get in until the normal park opening time.


10. Have fun!

Walt famously said that Disneyland is for the young and young at heart, so let yourself have fun and enjoy the parks. Please don’t be that person that thinks that you’re too cool for everything. If you want to see the parade, see the parade. If you want to meet Rapunzel, meet Rapunzel! And don’t forget that you’re never too old to ride the teacups!


If you remember these ten things, you and your friends are on your way to having a magical Disney vacation.


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So what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below if you and your friends have any other tips from your Disney trips!