The Afternoon Nap Conundrum

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I’ve been writing for TouringPlans.com for a couple of years now, and consistently, whenever anyone asks what I do here and comes over to check out the blog or the Touring Plans, one thing comes up:

“That all looks very cool and interesting, but there’s no way I’m skipping out of the theme parks in the middle of the day for a nap. I paid all that money, and I’m not going to sleep it away.”

It’s at that point that I chuckle heartily at these people, and begin to explain to them exactly what this post is all about – that the afternoon nap is a key to your Walt Disney World success, and will, in fact, enhance your touring, not diminish it.

This could be the smartest thing you do all day at WDW

Let’s start with a simple premise: Len Testa and the TouringPlans.com team are smarter than you or I, at least when it comes to figuring out the best way to avoid waiting in line. They have computers running 24/7 to figure this stuff out, and every Touring Plan is based on hard data, not sticking their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. These plans are proven to work, so if they suggest taking a break for an afternoon nap, there is a good reason to do so.

So how does it work? Pick a Touring Plan like the Two Day Dumbo-Or-Die Plan. Step 12 in the plan is to leave the park and rest for at least three hours. Then, you return to the park for more attractions and dinner. Some of the adult Touring Plans do not require a nap or a break, but you’ll notice that they do feature some of the less popular attractions during that 12-4 period. For example, the One Day Touring Plan for Adults from the Unofficial Guide has you seeing the Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room, Swiss Family Treehouse, Hall of Presidents, and Country Bear Jamboree during this period. None of these attractions is going to be very crowded, and they all allow you to sit.

I love the Tiki Room, but is it worth it at 3p during the heat of summer?

The key to this is the traffic patterns of the Magic Kingdom, or really any of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Crowds tend to build steadily throughout the morning period, meaning that if you arrive early for rope drop, tour through the morning up until lunch and then take a break, you are staying ahead of most of the crowd. By being there when the park opens, your touring is ahead of 90% of the park’s attendance for the day. However, once you reach lunchtime, the park is as busy as it will be for the entire day. After lunch, through mid-afternoon, there is no real way to get an advantage over other guests. This is the whole key behind the afternoon nap.

The idea the team has put forward is that if you get up at rope drop, tour rather rapidly during the morning, then plan to see fireworks or evening parades, you are most likely not going to enjoy your afternoon sweating to death in the park to see the Enchanted Tiki Room. What’s more likely to work is to take a break from the park, rest, take a nap or a swim, then come back later. It’s all about the economics laws of diminishing returns: the longer you are in the park, the less you enjoy the attractions and you are less likely to return.

But the proof is in the pudding. Last year, when I took my children by myself (in a fit of idiocy), I had three days at the parks. We got up every single morning to be on hand for rope drop. By around 1 p.m. each day, the enthusiasm was definitely waning. The first day, we powered through it, because we wanted to see the events of Star Wars Weekends. That was probably a mistake, because by the time the Hyperspace Hoopla came around, I had two grumpy children, and ended up having to carry my youngest child back to the car.

Pool time can be just as refreshing as a nap.

The next day, we did rope drop again, this time at Epcot. After a nice morning with many attractions under our belt, we left around 2 p.m. on a very hot day and went over to the pool for a swim. We spent 3-4 hours out of the parks on what was only a 3-day trip. Sure, we could have stayed and done things like Ellen’s Energy Adventure, but the pool time was just what the doctor ordered. After a poolside dinner, a nice swim, and a quick change of clothes, we were all rested and refreshed, and made it until Wishes that same night at the Magic Kingdom.

The bottom line is that the afternoon “nap” doesn’t have to be a drag on your vacation time. It will, in fact, enhance your vacation by having you spend more time in the parks in the evenings, when heat is less of a concern, and you’ll be more rested for your trip. I was a skeptic, but after comparing results with my two kids, I am sold. Yes, it’s a huge drag to walk out of the theme parks when it feels like there is so much to see and do. But trust me, when you come back, you’ll feel ten times better, and be ready to go for the evening festivities.

What about you? Have you tried the afternoon nap? How did it work out for you?

 

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Posted on May 8, 2012

69 Responses to “The Afternoon Nap Conundrum”

  • This was exactly what I needed to read. It’s the hardest thing in the world to rationalize leaving the Happiest Place on Earth to nap but I will definitely follow your advice for our coming trip!

  • Plus, there is the added benefit of getting more bang for your buck at your hotel/resort. You use the room/pool/etc more by coming back for a mid-day break than for just sleeping from 11pm to 6am.
    I’ve used the Touring Plans found here multiple times and can not say enough good things about them! They just plain work. Follow them to the letter and you will NOT be disappointed!

    • Totally true. I had always thought of the resorts as a place to lay my head, but taking the afternoon nap and using the pool has made me more picky about where I stay.

  • My family visited in Jan this year, and we took naps every day with the exception of the first day we were in MK so we could see the 3pm parade. My kids are 3 and 4, both take naps at home, and both get up at dawn, so rope drop arrivals were no problem. By 2 or so we all needed a break, and they slept HARD. Then we went back to the parks in the early evening and had a great time–no one was cranky or miserable. I think your advice is great. If the kids nap at home, nap ‘em at WDW, because if not, by day 3 or 4 of a very active vacation, the kids hit the wall in a big way.

    • Completely right. Even my 10 year old who doesn’t nap, likes to have a little alone time to watch TV, read or just relax in the afternoons. He doesn’t acknowledge it, but when we take the break, he is definitely better behaved.

  • When we went two years ago, April for spring break, our first day at Epcot, no nap, did not end well. The rest of the week, we went home for a nap and it made for a blissful week at WDW. It was so crowded, by 10:30, I could rationalize and get my family to agree to this. However, we are going WDW this January for the homeschool events. Are naps still a good idea when hours are shortened and less people are in the parks?

    • I would definitely still take a break, although a nap might not be what you need. Maybe just take a side trip out side the parks for a nice lunch, then some pool time, but shorter than usual? Basically, you need a break from the crowd, no matter how light it is, and time to rest your muscles for a while.

    • We went when crowds were very light (end of Jan.) and we still took the break. We got to do so much in the morning since the lines were so reasonable that by lunchtime we were all tired and needed a rest. I don’t know how old your kids are, but I agree with Ryan–even if they don’t need to sleep it’s a good idea to get out of the park and just relax for a while.

  • Does this apply during slow times of the year when the parks close early. We are going in early November and I feel like if we leave for 3 hours by the time we get back the parks will be closing in a couple of hours. Any suggestions for this?

    • Even when the parks close early, if you plan to do fireworks and the like, you should still take a break. Even if you don’t want to go all the way back to the hotel, I’m a fan of a lunch outside the parks, followed by some shopping or quiet time at Downtown Disney.

      The main thing is you need time for you and your kids to rest, regroup and recharge for the evening. If the parks close at 9:00, even a break from 1-4 is worth it.

  • What if you do not have a car and will be using the Disney buses. Will that bus time kill so much of your break time that it is no longer worth it – especially in the slower times of year???

    • Lisa, that sort of depends on 1) what resort you are staying at and 2) which park you are taking a break from. Sometimes the waits are kinda long, but sometimes you are on and off the bus in a flash.

      • The buses are the worst part of this equation, but yes, it’s still worth it. Even if the bus travel time eats up 90 minutes of your 3 hour break, that 90 minutes in the room with a nap or rest time will make a huge difference.

  • I’m a huge fan of the afternoon nap/break! During our last family trip in October 2010, both of our children were under 5 and still napped at home. The only day that we skipped an afternoon break was the day we went to Animal Kingdom. We stayed until they closed at 5 pm but then we took the night off to relax. When my husband & I went by ourselves in November, we even took afternoon breaks. We “big kids” can use a nap too, especially when you figure in the 7 or 8 miles of walking that we were doing each day.

  • by Michelle C on May 8, 2012, at 12:45 pm EDT

    Yep…even big kids need naps! In July 2010 my kids were 11 & 13. We followed the tween touring plan and trook no mid day breaks or naps. My kids were DONE by 7:00 or 8:00 at night. We missed all the night time shows except the MK fireworks because I insisted on seeing at least one show. When I took my daughter (now 13) in December we took naps two out of four park days and saw all the night time shows. It worked so much better for us!

  • As a local, I cannot tell you how often I watch families with disgruntled, exhausted kids slogging through the early evening hours after a day in the parks, parents chastising kids for being unappreciative or behaving poorly when it’s the adults who are to blame for not giving kids the break from stimulation that they need to get through so much in a day. Be the grownups and give the kids the downtime they need! It will greatly enhance the entire family’s enjoyment of the trip. Remember, you’re supposed to be showing them a good time, not putting them through boot camp.

  • I am 29 years old and have no children yet, but I still take an afternoon nap every day when I’m at Disney!

    • Us too Betsy! Two forty-something, childfree adults but most park days include a mid-day break. Amazing how much more energy you have for the evening with just a little rest & break from the heat. We also take a day off in the middle of the week on longer trips. A down day mid-way through the week makes a big difference too.

    • My family of 5, with the youngest 11 yo, ALWAYS takes a break in the pm. Mom, Dad and kids all need the down time too!! Makes the evening much more enjoyable for ALL!! Can’t stress it enough, NAP< NAP NAP!!

  • by Meredith McCutcheon on May 8, 2012, at 12:55 pm EDT

    This plan works really well for people whose children get up early. Ours get up EARLY. I mean, it’s usually still dark. So, we hit the parks at rope drop. If there’s morning extra magic hours, we often take advantage of those, too. We hit the popular attractions HARD until mid-morning. Then we see some of the higher-capacity attractions (i.e. Mickey’s PhilharMagic) or shows before lunch. We always make sure to get a FASTPASS for our “on the way out” ride earlier in the morning, so after an early lunch, we hit one last favorite on our way back to the hotel for a nap. We are usually back at our hotel by 1:00pm. After 3-4 hours at the hotel, we are ready to tour again, completely refreshed!

    On the other hand, we have good friends whose kids sleep really late. It’s hard for them to get to the parks before 11:00am. Therefore, mid-afternoon, they usually opt to find a quiet place to cool off and let the kids run around IN the parks.

    Of course, we always pick one afternoon parade that we want to see. On that day, we still hit the parks early and tour hard in the morning, but we have a leisurely sit-down lunch and we make sure the kids have time to run around somewhere out of the way. We then usually leave soon after the afternoon parade, and we spend the rest of that afternoon/evening at the hotel swimming.

    • I agree–you have to know what works for your family.

      I know I’m in the very small minority, but taking a nap/rest at the hotel is the one “rule” that we deviate from. When my daughter was 3, we took a break (either swimming or resting) at our hotel for the first couple of days–it was a disaster. The rest of the trip, we just stayed at the parks enjoying a late lunch, doing indoor rides (Carousel of Progress), and riding the monorail around before leaving the parks at 4:00 or 4:30.

      We simply can’t burn the candle at both ends–if we take a hotel break and then go back later, it’s nearly impossible to get up for rope drop the next morning(and we don’t go for EMH). Even now, if we want to stay late, we arrange our schedule so that the late night proceeds a sleep-in day.

      Again, you have to know what works for your family–a mid-day break can greatly add to (or in our case, work against) enjoyment.

      • I was glad to read that other families can’t “do” afternoon naps either. I have been going to WDW since my kids were little. Now, my daughter and I go with her 5yr, and 2yr old. (Sadly, my husband has been Disneyed out, and my son-in-law, can’t seem to get into it.) We have tried to listen to my other daughter, who swears that an afternoon rest is a necessity. Every trip we plan, she “reminds” us how foolish we are being. For our two little ones, we find that going to a quieter place during the afternoon is best also. Most of the time, one or the other falls asleep in the stroller, sometimes at the same time, sometimes not. But, oddly enough, they never are upset, crying, or unruly during the day, because we have made it a decision to go with their schedule. Seeing other families with crying, etc children, is upsetting. There are so many other ways to deal with a day at the park. It may be hard for some to realize, but, running little ones around all day and not giving them a break to rest, run in circles if need be, getting a snack, should be normal, and it doesn’t have to be at the resort in bed. Sometimes the best money spent is just watching them look at everything in delight.

        • For us we were able to make a hybrid strategy work well. We went in January when closing times are early, and some days we took breaks, and others we did not. We definitely did not do two no-break days in a row. Part of it depended on the park:

          AK – Did not leave the park because of short park hours. But by an hour before closing we were bushed and left early.
          EP – Left the park for lunch and nap/swim then returned for the evening, worked well.
          HS – Left the park for lunch and naps, came back for the evening, worked well.
          MK – Stayed in the park, worked fine. Especially when staying off site the whole TTC thing makes it harder to come and go at MK. We did visit Tom Sawyer Island at lunch time and that was a great thing to do. And the littlest one napped anyway even in the park…

  • When my sisters and I were little and my family lived about 20 minutes from Disneyland, my parents would take us home around 2pm for a nap, bath, and dinner, returning around 6 pm. You can bet we kids were *not* happy about leaving, but now I can see that this was a smart move by my parents. Refreshed and refueled, we could all function way past our usual bedtime and the threat of meltdowns was significantly reduced.

    To be fair, it’s much easier to pull this off at Disneyland, where even offsite hotels are often walking distance away. At WDW, it would be harder to balance the ease of getting back to the hotel, the length of the park day at a given time of year, and the budget constraints faced by many families with young children.

    • True. So much easier at Disneyland. But Walt Disney World involves so much more walking that it’s probably more needed there.

      • We always stay off-park at WDW, but relatively close to the exit and it’s never been a problem. Another benefit of leaving mid-day is there is very little traffic heading out of the park. We can usually get to our hotel in about 15 minutes. It really wasn’t that much longer than the walking time to our nearby hotel on our Disneyland trips.

        Oh, and benefit #2 of leaving? We often eat an early dinner off-site before returning. Saves a lot of $.

  • by Alicia M. on May 8, 2012, at 1:00 pm EDT

    I really enjoyed this blog post. Thanks so much.

  • by Andrew Drummond on May 8, 2012, at 1:03 pm EDT

    On our upcoming trip in November, we have a better than ideal kid-parent ratio (6-2). But we’re going to get a break in every day except our day at the studios. With only 10 hours of park time, it is really tough to get everything in (though we do have a table service meal planned)

  • by Jon Landis on May 8, 2012, at 1:10 pm EDT

    This is definitely something people should listen to!!! I have two boys (now, 11 yrs old and 7 yrs old). Our next trip is in June, but they’ve each been to WDW 4 times. Our first trip, we stayed in parks all day and the kids were miserable, not just each afternoon/evening, but as the week wore on, they didn’t even care that they were at WDW!!! Every trip since then, I’ve left the parks somewhere around 1PM or 2PM (them kicking and screaming, “I don’t wanna leave”), but the overall success of the trip has been much better! No question this strategy is the key to success with kids!

  • I also laughed at those who said you should take a midday nap. I went to WDW with my boyfriend for the first time last May & we crashed on day 3. From then on we took naps every afternoon :)

  • Great advice. We are taking our grand-daughters 9-6 and plan on taking a break each day around 1-4 or 5 then stay til close! Your article made it very easy to make this decision. Thank you!

  • Rest time for kids? Rest time FOR ADULTS, too. My husband and I spent most of last week in The World, sans children. (I know, it was amazing.) Because we were at each park for rope drop, we finished our must-dos around 1 or 2 pm each afternoon, including sit down lunches in all 4 parks. We returned to our resort every afternoon to escape the heat and crowds, and to lounge by the pool or sit on our balcony. With a cold drink in hand and a few hours of down time, we were refreshed and ready to take on another park around 6:00 each evening.

    We always take an afternoon break when at WDW with our children, so why do it any differently when it’s just the grown ups? Being at the parks each morning for rope drop is our number one Disney vacation tip. Number two is to TAKE THE AFTERNOON BREAK/NAP. Last week I witnessed so many hot and harried parents screaming at their equally hot and harried children. Where’s the fun in that? I wanted to scream back, “TAKE A REST, Y’ALL.” (But I didn’t. Yay, me!)

  • I agree 100%! I’m currently sitting on my balcony at Kidani village while my husband is down in the pool with one child while the baby sleeps. We were at Animal Kingdom for our 8:00 Tusker House ADR and headed out at 12(AK closes at 6 so we want to make it back for the parade. I’ve been people watching and there have been some GRUMPY children around the dinner hour. Yes, mine are tired but we avoid the “meltdowns”. The nap is key to our sanity while at the most magical place in the world!!!

  • None of us, including our 5-year old son, are morning people so getting to the park before rope drop is out of the question. We usually arrive around 10:00 am and go straight through to closing. We’ve never taken a break to go back for naps, but on our son’s first two trips (at 14 months and 19 months) he would nap in the stroller in the middle of the day. We used this time to swap out riding the things he couldn’t ride while one stayed somewhere cool with him while he napped. The last few trips, naps were out of the question, but he still did fine staying through until close.

  • Couldn’t agree more. Unless you happen to be visiting during a time when the parks close unusually early — like AK sometimes does — a mid-day break is the best recharger you can have. There’s a lot to be said for being on hand for rope drop and park close, but it’s just too hard to do without really tiring yourself, particularly if you are there for multiple days. Staying on property — even if the bus system is your only option — is one of the hidden benefits to maximizing the enjoyment of your trip.

  • When we were there in 2010, we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge. One of the best memories I have of that entire trip is coming back for the afternoon nap, joining the kids at the pool party, and playing Uno in our hotel room. We’ve even canceled dinner ADRs just to extend the break and not stress ourselves out during the vacation. It’s a must for Disney World patrons of all ages!

  • by Debbie from Chicago on May 8, 2012, at 1:53 pm EDT

    We are all about the nap. Even though my 6 year old doesn’t really nap anymore….the exception Disney. We pretty much all take a nap so we can head back out. She really doesn’t argue about it either.

  • by Katherine on May 8, 2012, at 2:05 pm EDT

    I like that you use the term “nap” loosley. A real nap was great for our oldest, but we quickly discovered that forcing our youngest to nap was the WORST IDEA EVER because it makes her miserable from the time she wakes until bedtime. After several attempts, we came to realize that what she needs is a swim and time to veg at the hotel, but NOT sleep. This has been the case every trip since she was 3- she’s now 11. My husband still needs the nap though ;)

  • On a related note, for those on longer vacations, it’s a good idea to stress non-park days and schedule them wisely. If you’re planning on attanding the Halloween or Christmas parties, or if the extra magic hours are especially late, consider not going into the parks the next day. Staying up late and trying to make it to the parks for rope drop can be a miserable experience.

    Several years ago, my family was in the parks durring New Years. The night before New Years Eve, we stayed at the MK until after midnight to see the special MP fireworks. Then, we woke up early to make it into the (very crowded) Epcot the next day, intending to make it through the day with no breaks AND to stay up to ring in the new year. Needless to say…. we didn’t make it. Also keep in mind, we were all adults/late-teenagers with no small children. We were miserable and cranky so I would hate to imagine how it would have been for a family with small children!

  • It really is a conundrum, because we know that there is very little chance of our daughter actually napping when we go back, but we also know that asking her to just power through until the fireworks isn’t good for any of us. We err on the side of going back to the room, because even if she doesn’t actually nap, it’s at least good for us all to just relax for a bit. You make a lot of great points, though, makes it even easier to justify stepping away from the parks for a while.

    As a related aside, the ability to easily go back to your room is the primary draw for the deluxe properties for our family. The rooms themselves are nice and the resorts are obviously more elaborately themed than the Moderate and Value properties, but knowing that we can be from gate to room in less than 10 minutes makes it a lot easier to swallow leaving the parks, and is itself worth the price premium.

  • I cannot agree more. This is the #1 piece of advice we gleaned from Touringplans. We made our first visit to WDW with a 4-year-old who’s now 8 and we nap every single time. Guess what? Mommy and Daddy need it as much as she does!

    We had to power through in one day at Disneyland one year because California relatives had come to meet us and we barely lasted until the fireworks.

    Take the nap, take the nap, take the nap!

  • I think this article has convinced me that naps are worth it during seasons when park hours are extended.

  • I’d like to offer an alternative to nap breaks – simply starting and ending your day early. We went to WDW last fall with our 5 year old and 3 year old, and we were commited to taking nap breaks. We splurged and stayed at Contemporary for this very reason. BUT…what happened was this: we start our day early (rope drop), tour and lunch and then come back for nap, but the kdis were too excited from seeing so many things that they could not calm down. We’d stay in hte room for 3 hours, reading, coloring, (attempting to) lie down with them, making puzzles…nope. An then we finally left the room for dinner reservation and within 5 minutes on the monorail they were out. So we’d be in the park and they were fast asleep in the stroller.
    I think for us it would’ve been better if we stayed just a liiiittle bit longer (say, till 3pm) and just called it a day after that rather than trying to go back out later. Of course, each kid is different, so it may not work for everyone, but I think for our kids, if we just finished the day early it would’ve been better.
    Just a thought ;)

  • We don’t do midday naps or breaks of any kind. But…

    1. We don’t have kids.
    2. We travel during off-peak seasons when the parks close early, so taking a midday break would leave us with maybe 4 or 5 hours of touring time at Animal Kingdom and not much more at Hollywood Studios.
    3. Also, it isn’t hot when we’re there, so no need to escape the heat.
    4. We’re not young anymore, but we’re not old (yet) and we’re fit enough to walk around all day without suffering.

  • My biggest question is why WOULDN’T you? Heat definitely can make someone grumpy, cranky, or even sick. It’s best for your sanity and your health to take a break out of the heat. I have done midday breaks with all my friends when I take them to Disney, and it’s made a huge difference. I can remember being more cranky on days when we were in the parks in the afternoon than the days when we went back to the hotel. And once my family gets back to WDW, I am going to make them take breaks, too. They’ll love me for it!

  • by Disney Dustin on May 8, 2012, at 3:48 pm EDT

    Last trip my son was 2 1/2 and my wife was pregnant, so afternoon nap / break was a must. Stayed at the Poly — very convenient to hop on the monorail or boat for a few hours form the MK. Also grabbed nap time between AK and Epcot (just walked to tic from poly after nap, and easy trip to epcot). It was definitely a life-saver for us, and did not greatly affect our touring (albeit with the little one and pregnant wife our attraction list was pared down)

    • by Disney Dustin on May 8, 2012, at 3:48 pm EDT

      Also…… grabbing a dole whip at the poly to eat on your ride back to the MK is a must!

  • Great article! I cannot get my hubby to leave mid-day no matter how I position it. By 3 we’re all so tired and grumpy–not how any of us want to spend our vacation! So we leave at 3 and are too tired and grumpy to come back for the fireworks, sigh. I have a mommy-and-me trip planned for August and we’ll definately be taking the afternoon break!

  • Just got back from an April WDW trip (19-26). We took breaks on three of the seven days (and one of those days was a half day so it shouldn’t count). One our first full day of touring, we left MK and it started raining on our bus ride back to the hotel. Since it wasn’t pool weather, we tried to get my kids (6,6,4) to “rest” but it turned into wild, jumping on the beds kind of play. I at least got a ten minute nap in. We headed back to the park at dinner time — and even with the “break” my kids lost it during the electric parade.

    On nicer days when we were able to use the pool during our break from the parks, I felt like everyone had more energy and staying power… If nothing else, using the pool is means a little less time on your feet.

    I agree with the person that suggested taking a break for AK isn’t necessary (I can’t remember if the plan said to take one or not) — but we lasted until park closing without much issue.

  • After reading the UG before our last Trip in November 2011 we employed the nap strategy. My 2 year old was an ANGEL. Yes my 2 year old Son was an angel our entire trip. I almost couldn’t believe it! My 2.5 year old niece who came back mid-day and often went straight to the pool struggled in the parks for the first 4 days of the trip until her Mother realized the importance of the nap! It allowed us to head back out for the evening shows (Wishes & Illuminations boat cruise) and later dinners (Hoop Dee Doo) without incident or meltdown. We’re planning another trip for his 3rd Birthday and will be employing the same strategy. My husband & I don’t mind the mid-day naps either most days :)

  • Take it from someone who has spent a lot of money traveling to Disney World many times from far away and has never once followed a Touring Plan from this or any other operation: TAKE THE NAP. From our very first trip to the part, years and years ago, my wife and I have taken a break from the parks during the hottest part of the day for lunch, swimming, watching TV, and resting. Quite simply, neither you nor your feet will be in any condition to get the most value out of your trip to Disney World if you don’t take some time for relaxation in the middle of your day.

    And, frankly, as the author of the post pointed out, you don’t really want to be in the park at its hottest and most crowded. That’s a recipe for frustration. Trust me, you’d much rather have your second wind saved up for the cool evening hours, when crowds diminish (somewhat) and the lights come on.

    • I should note, also, that my wife and I are youngish people with no kids. We take the break because we tend to go full tilt on our trips to Disney World, and this absolutely allows us to stay in the parks later, go to parties, see fireworks, enjoy Extra Magic Hours, go out for dinner, etc. I think of each of those things as more important than a miserable 3 hours spent in a hot, crowded park at midday.

  • I’m all about taking the nap breaks. My biggest concern is that we are unfortunately traveling at a peak time (first week of July) and I’m very worried that during the time we are gone,t he parks will fill to capacity and we won’t be let back in! How often does this happen?

  • For those that worry about the bus time, we were there the week before Christmas. I got back to the resort (All Star Sports) within an hour of leaving the park. My daughter, who had driven, took much longer to get back by car. In all our trips, we have never experienced long waits for the bus. I was told the All Stars use cameras at the bus stops to adjust the buses as needed.

  • by smallworld on May 9, 2012, at 10:24 am EDT

    We are definitely rope-drop, midday nap people. I remember the first year that my kids were no longer taking daily midday naps — we wondered, how is the midday nap going to work at WDW? We spent about 1/2 an hour having a lie-down in the dark, then we all put on our bathing suits and headed for the pool. Turned out to be a terrific solution.

  • by Bryant Helms on May 9, 2012, at 10:38 am EDT

    We discovered years ago, before children, that it was so much better for us if we went back for rest and a shower at lunch. Besides the parks take on a different persona at night.

  • I wish I could convince my wife to let ME leave the park for a nap.

  • There’s only the 2 of us, no kids. We never called it a nap. It’s “Us Time.”
    The first 2 trips, 25 years ago, we ran ourselves ragged (and had never heard of the Unofficial Guide).

    After that, we started to find quiet places to de-stress, most often at a MK loop hotel – a favorite is to take the launch over to Wilderness Lodge, get lunch from Roaring Forks and just hang out in the upper lobby dozing off in those nice big comfy chairs 8)

    I’m sensitive to chlorine, so a pool dip is out, unless we stay at Coronado Springs; but when we are there, that’s a must do – it clears the ‘park mentality’ and gets us ready for a busy evening without feeling like we’ve just taken our last step in the MouseMarathon.

  • For us we’ve found it’s best to be flexible in the afternoon. And KNOW your own kids. Ours won’t nap at hotels, and that’s pretty much the end of the story. They will nap in strollers and carriers, so that’s what we do. We stroll and take things slowly in the afternoon and let our kids rest some, but we’ve found the trip back to the hotel almost always makes the evening much more challenging for us- it wears them (and us) out more to wait on the bus than to walk around the park calmly, ride the Railroad or TTA in Magic Kingdom, etc. We usually do rope drop in the morning and only plan on seeing 1 fireworks show on our 8 day trips, so we’re making it back in time for a normal “bedtime” for the kids most nights. Know your kids… nothing works for everyone.

    When we went without kids- WE took an afternoon break at the hotel, quite successfully. That definitely made the evenings easier for me (in my 7th month of my 5th pregnancy.)

  • I can’t believe how much difference midday breaks make. I admit to not wanting to “waste” our WDW time with going back to the resort/pool on our first visit. As a result, we often slept late in the morning. It worked out fine, but when we changed our strategy to rope drop – nap/swim – close, it made a huge difference.

  • I just have to say that this is a piece of one-size-fits-all advice that, like most one-size-fits-all things, does NOT work for everyone. We tried the mid-day break (nap, swimming, hanging out in the room) on one trip, and it was the most miserable trip we have ever had. It was the ONLY trip (in 15+ trips) that our kids ever had meltdowns. We did it because I was 6 months pregnant, because we were going during a crowded time (Memorial Weekend) in the heat with small children. When we finally said half-way through the trip that we would go back to our normal touring style, our trip became nice again.

    We find that letting the kids wake up on their internal clock (which is early), letting them nap (for the preschool set–we have a largish family) IF and when they want to, taking a break in-park (table service lunches), and just being done for the day when the kids are done, leads to the BEST trips. A successful vacation is one were everyone is happy, not when you cover the most attractions possible. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a good touring plan–won’t subscribe to the site otherwise–but we don’t feel the need to do it just because it’s there. We do go often, but even once-in-a-lifetime people feel better about their trip if they enjoyed it rather than accomplished a lot.

  • As a travel agent, I always recommend (sometimes repeatedly) my Disney World clients plan on some kind of down time. Whether it is retreating to the resort for a nap and/or pool time in the afternoons, alternating full days with half days, or whatever else you think will work for your family- it is important to not push too hard to see everything. I can’t stress enough that your families health and well-being is more important than anything. Planning a little time to relax can make the difference between an enjoyable trip and a miserable one.

  • I just got back from 1st ever trip w my daughter turning 3 on day 2. We had super late arrival rushed to dinner at cindys castle and then proceeded 2 ride 13 rides from 930-11 at the direction of my toddler. I had every intention of following plans the entire trip – had them ready printed etc. the late night on day 1 threw off the day 2 early wake up & the plans became directions of what to ride. We never got to a park before noon – so the need for naps was gone – we rode more rides than was in the plans – we park hopped for late night extra magic hrs & rode tons of stuff. I used the mobile lines app from touring plans & the general tips I picked up from the books & we had an amazing vacay. The only thing I really regretted not being early for was soarin. I finally broke down in the last hr of the day there & waited the 45 mins but other than that a loose guide was way better w a 3 yr old. I’m lucky she’s 42″ & we weren’t knocked out of many rides. The best thing was her asking to ride again & Disney never denied. We rode splash 6 times n a row w/o ever leaving the boat :-) my advice is tailor the plans & if u don’t want to do early then hit that part of the plan in the evenings & you will rock!

  • For those of us staying off property and driving to the parks. Are you allowed to leave the parking lot for the “mid-day nap” or your version of it and return the same day without having to pay for parking again?

    • Brian, while I’ve never been to WDW. Everything I read says that you do not have to pay to park twice. Just hold onto your receipt also you don’t have to pay if you park hop.

  • We just returned from WDW (May 17-May 21). I did a lot of research for our first trip, including this website (thank you so much!) and we had a fantastic trip. I have a 3 year-old and he has two forty-year-old parents. He’s an early riser, so rope drop was no issue. We did a 7 am Chef Mickey’s res, rope drop at the Magic Kingdom, hit every ride in Fantasyland with no wait (we skipped Philharmagic) did a quick pass through Adventureland (Pirates) and saw Woody & Jessie in Frontierland (we decided to leave Splash Mt for another day). We head back to our resort, swam, napped, did dinner at ‘Ohana followed by a trip to Once Upon a Toy in DTD. We did Epcot the next day, afternoon nap, Ft Wilderness Campfire Sing-a-Long. Our last full day we hit the Magic Kingdom at rope drop and caught all the rides we’d missed on the first day, went back to the resort at 2:00, napped, changed and had dinner at the MK, hit Haunted Mansion and then had great seats for the Electrical Parade and Wishes and my son lasted through them all. (We did Hollywood Disney our first half day.) The nap plan worked for us, and we saw and did a LOT of the parks. Thanks for the tips!