The utopian Florida village can make for a killer friend fiesta—even if Magic Kingdom is dry and the parks are teeming with children. But, while Walt Disney World is an incredible place for families to vacation, it’s exponentially more difficult to plan when you have six to 10 rambunctious adult women who want to celebrate a lot, re-caffeinate often, and split checks equally.
If you’re too pale to tan and too hungry to binge drink, there’s basically nowhere for you to have a bachelorette party. Think about it. Miami? Too sunny. Nevada? Too much clubbing. New York? Expensive, cold, and I already live there. Which raises the question: Where is an engaged girl with high expectations for fun and a low tolerance for tequila supposed to go to celebrate with her friends?
It’s this line of questioning that explains how I, a woman who hates The Lion King and thinks Elsa is a total you-know-what, wound up at the Happiest Place on Earth for my bachelorette party. First things first: I survived. And I learned a lot. The 10 tips below will help anyone make the most out of a Disney bachelorette—and make anyone who’s ever bought bottles in Vegas feel really, really stupid.
1. Designate a Trip Mom.
Your hotel room will be booked under a single name, and all of your guests’ MagicBands, FastPasses, room reservations, park tickets, and airport transportation are handled through this one person’s log-in. It’s an undertaking. I have cried on the phone to Disney customer service more than once. If any of your friends were in student council, assign this to them and run, fast, in the other direction before the badgering about getting reimbursed begins.
2. Stock up on portable phone chargers.
Managing nine adult women with differing bladder schedules, snack breaks, and ride phobias can be a small-time nightmare. One thing that’s sure to unite everyone is the fact that everyone’s phone dies around 5 p.m. And where Disney excels with magic, it lacks in two-pronged outlets. Make your bridesmaid gifts count—pony up for external phone chargers. After all, $120 is a small price to pay for ensuring your friends make it back from a foreign country(–themed park).
3. Master MagicBands before they master you.
MagicBands are the futuristic bracelets that hold every bit of trip information. They’re an unbelievable piece of technology, and they nearly ruined my trip. MagicBands are your room key, so you need them before you step foot into the hotel. MagicBands are also the Disney version of a MetroCard, granting holders a seat aboard the Magical Express—that is, the bus running to and from the airport. In other words, you need them before you land. You need them before you land! (If you don’t have a MagicBand handy right now, you’re already failing.) The moral of the story: get MagicBands to everyone as soon as possible—even if that means snail mailing them in advance.
Once the MagicBands are in place, you’ll need to physically stop by the hotel’s front desk to link your friends’ individual credit cards—and no, you can’t do it online, lazy. Do this immediately so Trip Mom doesn’t have to pay for everyone’s Olaf souvenirs. She will hate that.
4. It takes more planning to eat at Disney than it does at Le Bernardin.
In a city like New York, getting a table at a popular restaurant one month out feels aggressive—but it’s become so routine that we accept it as part of life. Reservations are a whole different ball game at Disney. You’re competing not with foodies but with parents whose sole purpose is giving their kids the Best. Trip. Ever. Logically, then, dining reservations open 180 days in advance. Reserve anything you think you’ll need now—yes, right this second—but be sure to cancel if plans change, since the $10-per-person charge if you bail within 24 hours can add up. And when it comes to Disney-sanctioned dining plans, don’t believe the hype—one girl will be all churros, all the time, another will hold out until dinner. It’ll be a mess to keep track of.
5. Bone up.
Do you know how pathetic it is to admit I had a secret hour-by-hour itinerary for my own bachelorette party? Extremely pathetic, but holy hell, was it smart. Know which friends are scared of which rides, and check guide maps early so any smokers can take breaks without disrupting the day. Assuming you’ll be using Park Hopper tickets, know when you should leave one park so you have enough time to make it to another with enough time for rides. Check the park hours, and know which attractions are closed. Anchor your ride schedule with FastPass reservations—one early at one end of the park, another later at the other end. In between, your friends can wander and discover things for themselves.
6. Know the booze rules.
Remember playing Around the World in college? That’s literally what Epcot is. It’s a gigantic celebration of different cultures and countries and, just as important, their respective booze. The name of the game is drinking in each location—which, as lightweights, we failed to do. No matter what, though, be sure to stop in Mexico for an avocado margarita. You’ll be riding high when you leave, but since there’s no alcohol served in Magic Kingdom, you’ll either have to overdrink and risk ruining the night, or take matters into your own rebellious hands by hypothetically filling water bottles with liquids that complement Sprite.
7. Starbucks will be your life force.
There’s a Starbucks located in the main entryway of every park except for Animal Kingdom. (Don’t worry, Starbucks fans: theirs will open later this year.) At Magic Kingdom, it’s on the right side of Main Street, inside the Main Street Bakery. In Epcot, it’s at Fountain View on the left of the entrance fountains. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s hidden inside the Trolley Car Café, down on the right side of Hollywood Boulevard. You will forget you ever valued artisanal anything and leave loving corporations and convenience more than ever before. Trust me.
8. Traveling between hotels is a nightmare.
Ubers and taxis are quick, but often drivers can’t even find you within Disney’s serpentine parking lots or get to the gated-off area of your room. If you don’t have park access, try to eat at hotels nearby or build into your schedule the suggested 90 minutes it takes on Disney transportation. Seriously. It’s a pain, but sometimes it’s the only way.
9. Book everyone in one room, far from other humans.
We stayed at the Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, a nine-person, three-room house on stilts. That worked perfectly. We never saw a child; we were able to be as loud as we wanted; we had space to ourselves. You won’t be spending much time in the room, so it doesn’t really matter if you have a full kitchen or not. If you do, though, use one of Disney’s many grocery vendors to stock up on yogurt, granola bars, and cereal for the morning of your park day so you’re not starving before lunchtime.
10. Steal my itinerary.
Seriously. I devoted more time than any living human should to this, and it was foolproof:
FRIDAY: Make a reservation for dinner at O’Hana, the all-you-can-eat meat-skewer feast in the Polynesian Village Resort, and get tiki drinks from the bar just outside.
SATURDAY: Make this your one-and-only park day. With your Park Hopper ticket, start at Magic Kingdom (use FastPasses here), go to Epcot for Test Track and the booze-a-thon that is World Showcase (don’t forget your ID!), have dinner in Mexico’s San Angel Inn, and end the night at whichever park is open the latest. If you stay at a Walt Disney World hotel, you get “extra magic hours,” too, which means Magic Kingdom was open to us from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. on the day we were there. Insane!
SUNDAY: Sunday morning, everyone will be hungover. Grab your girls and attend a character brunch. Fill your tired faces with Mickey-shaped waffles, then plop down by the hotel pool. It’s the perfect end to the perfectly planned trip.