Things that I learned from Disney and Universal:
1) Don't go.
Seriously, I really don't think that people realize that it isn't magical until you are an adult. I recommend waiting until your kids are at LEAST 10-20 years old. That way they can ride the rides and won't be miserable walking.all.day.
2) If Chuck E. Cheese freaks your kid out, it won't be any more magical if they are meeting Mickey, Pooh, or Cinderella.
I don't care how much your kid loves Stitch. I don't care if they have the whole dang movie memorized. If giant fuzzy costumes are scary to them, they won't see any more than the giant walking nightmare...and 7 days won't change that either. Charlotte screamed the.whole.week. Flippy Dippy.
3) Do take your kids to Six Flags or Kings Island or your local amusement park before you buy a week's worth of passes to Disney or Universal.
Because they are AMUSEMENT PARKS. They are full of rides, people, walking, noise, standing, public restrooms, and auto-flushing toilets.
4) Auto-flushing toilets are scarier than the giant fuzzy characters.
If your child is scared of auto-flushing toilets, buy a small packet of sticky notes to put over the sensors. If your kid is not scared of auto-flushing toilets, bring a packet of sticky notes to put over the sensors. Your kid is short and apparently moves more while on the potty then you are supposed to, and the auto-flush will flush while your child is sitting on the toilet. If I had one kid leap off the toilet mid-pee once, it happened 20 times. I was lucky that I didn't have to change anyone's clothes due to this...but it wasn't from lack of attempts.
5) Do a dry run on sunscreen.
Slather your kids up about a week before and make sure they aren't allergic. Because if they are they will be itchy and hacked off about walking at an amusement park. Bring Benedryll and band-aids. Because it's easier to carry it, than find it if you need it.
6) If you cannot re-plan having kids closer together, or take them in shifts, plan your day in shifts.
Go on x-number of rides with the Big Kid and then x-number of rides with Little Kid...this way the misery gets spread out a little. And don't lie to yourself, there will be misery.
7) The Fast Pass is worth the money.
It assures you that you will stand in line long enough that your feet hurt, but not long enough that you feel like committing hari-kari. I don't care how financially tight you are, it's worth the money.
8) Bring several pairs of shoes. And a light wind-breaker/rain jacket.
If you are wrong and the shoes do rub...which they will if you are wearing them for 6-12 hours...then you at least can have rotating rub spots. And they can dry out in shifts for the next day if the weather man is wrong. And you will be glad to not have to buy a $8 rain poncho that doesn't really fit.
9) If you do go on a holiday weekend, do not lie to yourself.
It will be busy. There will be long lines. Just don't be all shocked. I wanted to slap the person complaining, 50 whiney idiots in...do you seriously think you are the only person who took advantage of the days out of school to go?? Really???
10) Do pay attention to the bus pick-up times.
And do be exponential in what your kids will feel like in 2 more hours...just because they are having fun now and only a little tired doesn't mean that they won't bow up and decided that fun is all done in 30 minutes.
11) If your child has special needs ask what accommodations can be made on a special needs discussion board before going to Disney, because they won't volunteer ANYTHING.
Seriously, Disney was very tight-lipped about helping us. They volunteered nothing. It wasn't until I got on a sensory discussion board that I got any information at all....we had to ask for every specific intervention.
12) Universal was amazing.
They intervened and gave Elise special treatment at every turn. We had to ask for virtually nothing. I cannot compliment them enough. It made a truly hellish vacation magical. And that's not even their MO.
13) If your kid has sensory issues, physical disabilites, and can't take it anymore, you will not get an award for not getting a wheelchair.
That $12 rental fee will be worth every single penny. And purchasing one for yourself for long-term may not be a bad investment, because there won't be snagging plactic that will tear up the back of your kid's legs...and the foot rests will actually fit and not be too long.
14) Just because your child is in a wheelchair, doesn't mean people will be any less rude.
Seriously. I have never been so aware of rudeness. I got cut off so many times I lost count. I started out terrified that I would drive Elise into someone's ankles...I finished off the week figuring that if I destroyed their Achilles' tendon, it would pretty much serve them right.
15) Go to Disney's shows.
They are amazing. They allow you to sit and rest in A/C. And they are incredibly well done.
16) Universal's food is really good.
Way yummier than Disney's. Although Disney can dish out some pretty great ice cream bars...I would pack food to Disney and get treats. At Universal, they actually have some really good food plans that you can get there, day of, even. And make sure that you buy some fudge at Honeydukes! It was crazy cheap and DELICIOUS!!