It may be known as the happiest place on earth, but having a good experience at a Disney theme part can require a lot of work! Here are my best tips to make sure that you get the most out of your magical experience:

–Stay on property if you can. Sure, there are hotels nearby that are cheaper, but there are definite perks to accommodations at one of their resorts. Free shuttle service back and forth from the airport, free transportation to the different parks, extended hours at the parks, and more. I like that you can make reservations for restaurants earlier than other people planning to visit at the same time, and you can also get your fastpass picks sooner, too. Another great thing about staying at a Disney resort? The amazing decor you find at their various themed properties!

–Make your reservations as soon as possible. It’s harder to get in to some Disney park restaurants than it is to score a seat at a Michelin-star fine dining establishment! Read reviews of the restaurants available and find out what the lead time is to make a reservation there. Be sure to be on the phone or online (and when I say be ready, I mean when that clock hits the right time, not later that day. Also be aware of the time difference) when that time comes so you can score seats at the tables you covet! The same thing goes for fastpass selections. Know what goes quickly and snatch them up first.Having said that, if you miss out on something you want, keep checking. You never know when someone is going to cancel their trip or make a change in their reservation, and you can slip right in and snatch it up.

–Do as much of the planning as you can before you go. I have found that the more time I spend prior to a trip making arrangements and working out logistics, the more fun I have on the actual trip. Yes it is a pain to reserve a table 180 days out from your trip. But then the day of that reservation, you’re not wandering around a crowded park with a couple of cranky, hot, and hungry children trying to figure out what to eat. And you’re also not spending your entire trip on the line for one ride, saving you time at the park. If you are going to need things like food or staples like baby care items, remember that places can, and will, deliver to your room. Even Amazon. Call your hotel for details.

–Once you get there: remind yourself not to try to do everything in one day. It is impossible. It won’t be enjoyable, either. Plan your day by things you are absolutely dying to see or ride, grouping them together by location to maximize fun and minimize crisscrossing the park. Then, as you have time, you can add other things to your list without missing out on the big-ticket stuff.

–Be sure to eat, hydrate, and take breaks! You can easily burn yourself or your kids out while you’re trying to cram fun into every day. Sitting down every once in a while, drinking some water, or having a snack might seem like a waste of time but it really isn’t. Taking care of yourself will give you the energy you need to enjoy all aspects of your trip, and it will improve everyone’s’ moods. Disney can be an overwhelming place, it’s ok to go back to the hotel and swim in the pool or take a nap for a couple of hours.

–Enjoy it! Your trip will go by in the blink of an eye. Don’t be so worried about getting to the next ride or what you’re missing while you’re on line for a character meet and greet. Focus on where you are and what you’re experiencing. Don’t let all the crowds or the heat get you too riled up. You are on vacation after all.

If this all seems overwhelming to you, don’t fret. And especially don’t use that as an excuse not to go. There are plenty of websites and books on how to plan your trip. There are also travel agents who live and breathe the House of Mouse and will make all the arrangements for you.

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