Ever feel like you need another vacation after your vacation?
It’s a thought that resonates with many visitors to Disney parks—time at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort is undoubtedly fun, but somehow the refreshing vacation you planned quickly turned exhausting. For some, perpetual tiredness and stress can ultimately turn the Disney experience sour and leave families not wanting to return.
While a Disney vacation is usually a more high-energy venture than, say, a trip to the beach, to often it is assumed it has to be an arduous affair, that there’s no way around the draining aspects of a trip to a Disney parks.
I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World and Disneyland for over thirty years, and I’ve learned that Disney vacations don’t necessarily have to be exhausting. While individual personalities and energy levels may vary, there are some specific things that tend to wear most people out visiting the Most Magical (or Happiest) Place on Earth…
1. Your trip is too short
One of the most common reasons people end up exhausted at Disney parks has to do with a decision made well before your vacation—how long is your trip?
More often than not, people vastly underestimate how much time is needed to fully experience Disney parks. This goes for both Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California. We assume one day is enough to experience each park, only to realize halfway through the day our estimate wasn’t even close. More often than not, we wear ourselves out trying to make up the difference.
There is a lot to experience at Disney parks—much more than just rides. While Magic Kingdom and Disneyland are both very ride-heavy parks, other Disney parks like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and even areas like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge all include areas for guests to explore freely, immersing yourself in nature, adventures in far away lands, or in serene settings. These all require some time beyond that spent waiting in queues.
How much time you will need at each Disney park will vary due to a number of factors. First-time guests will need more time to explore than local Passholders or veteran visitors. The age groups in your party will determine which attractions you’ll want to visit. These factors will determine how much time you need in each park and will help you determine how much margin you need to explore.
What Can I Do About It?
You will notice a recurring theme in our advice throughout this article: the more margin you have, the lower the stress. Lack of breathing room is one of the top factors that exhausts visitors to Disney parks.If at all possible, plan a longer trip with some margin for flexibility rather than strictly following the one park per day model.
Off-hand, three days is a good minimum length for visiting Disneyland Resort, though four is better. As for Walt Disney World, many experts still encourage trips of 5-7 days when possible. Most families will have a park that feels like a “one day” park—for some, this may be Disney’s Animal Kingdom while for others, it may be Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Epcot (for me, ironically, it’s Magic Kingdom).
Research the parks well and identify which parks you might want to visit more than once. While park hopping is still currently limited to after 2PM, purchasing a park hopper addition to your ticket is another great way to give yourself some margin to revisit other parks throughout your trip.
One other note on this—Disney tickets are expensive, and it’s understandable why some families may be reticent to spend more to add days onto a vacation. It is important to note, however, that you will spend less adding days onto a Disney vacation than you will planning a second vacation to come back. The reason for this is Disney tickets get progressively cheaper-per-day the longer you stay. For this reason, longer stays can prove more affordable than they first seem in some cases. The margin for flexibility you gain may prove well worth the extra funds.
2. You’re packing too much into your park visits
There’s a second common reason people get badly burnt out on a Disney vacation—wearing yourself out trying to do too much.
This ties very closely to the issue of trip length. While there are plenty of great strategies for planning ideal Disney itineraries and reducing time in lines, you can still only do so much per day.
Particularly due to the high cost of a Disney vacation, there is often a temptation to pack every minute of your park visit with activity to make the investment worth it. While you may get to experience a lot, exhaustion can suck the joy out of the day quickly. Many families wear themselves out trying to fill Disney days with attractions, shows, dining reservations, and activities from dawn to the late evening. This is a recipe for exhaustion.
What Can I Do About It?
Set realistic expectations for what pace you’ll be able to explore Disney parks. For some, this may look like having several versions of your itinerary to leave some room for slowing down when appropriate. For those who prefer a more off-the-cuff approach to exploring the parks, it will mean giving yourself permission to take that gentler pace.
If you pack your Disney day with activity from morning to nighttime, you are leaving little margin for spontaneity, unforeseen circumstances, or even just dealing with normal human energy levels. Something unexpected is bound to happen on your Disney trip—whether it be blistered feet or tired kids-- and leaving yourself some breathing room to deal with it can do a lot to reduce Disney-exhaustion.
One important note on this subject: the recent arrival of Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes can factor heavily into your decision making if you are looking for ways to create breathing room in your Disney day. While there is good reason many fans are not happy with Disney’s choice to introduce a paid Fastpass system, there is no question that Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes can help reduce your time spent in line. In particular, it’s an appealing option for families visiting from abroad for a once-in-a-decade Disney vacation who want to make the most out of each day without exhausting themselves. It is not a perfect system nor a fix-all, but the extra expense is worth considering for some visitors.