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Using UX Principles used for Travel to Disney

Being a UX/UI designer, I naturally plan our trips with the same methods I use in my work. When you plan a trip for a family, it’s important to plan/predict around these key unavoidable “pain points” and get ahead of them:

  • Hunger

  • Fatigue

  • Boredom

The Hornbeaks have traveled all over the US living in a camper van. Although we have seen a lot, it doesn’t take away the desire to visit iconic places like Disney. In fact, the theme park giant is an inspiration for what I do! I first visited Disney as a little girl over 30 years ago. Then, I didn’t have any friends in school who had been. It wasn’t an expected family vacation. My dad lugged his enormous camera around most of the day to get footage of our glorious time. One thing I noticed watching this footage were the lack of crowds that summer in June, the short lines, and the soft music playing in the background.

Today, Disney is completely the opposite but the magic is still there. To cope with the intensity and enormous expense it has become, our family of four have traveled to Florida by car every two years and visit one park. I found a friendly KOA cabin (that we really only sleep in) nearby with a large, clean pool that is rarely crowded. Our 4 1/2 day, 3 night trip is $850 plus gas and food. Because the boy's birthdays are a few days apart and our youngest’s birthday often falls on MLK weekend, we go in January. This is a great time to escape to warmer weather. One time, we had a winter storm in Kentucky (common in January) so school was canceled and we booked an extra day in the sunshine! Our strategy is to visit one park only and head to Disney Springs the next day. This gives us the luxury of soaking each park in one at a time and focusing on memories.

For Christmas, we ask for Disney gift cards and instead of wrapped birthday gifts, the boys pick out their own at shops like the Lego store. Combining birthdays or anniversaries with a trip like Disney is a budget win as it indirectly saves money and provides a memorable experience. We have also had the Disney credit card where you can earn Disney cash on a special Disney gift card. Parking is free at Disney Springs. One hack I’ve learned is that you can hop on a Disney bus at Disney Springs to one of the hotels that connects to the monorail. We ride the monorail for free to see the resorts while catching some of the fireworks. Even if you aren’t a guest, you can hop off and walk around the beautiful resorts and eat dinner there. The dining plans aren’t easy to understand in the package options so this eliminates having to navigate dinner plans and just order what you'd like.

Happy Tummies:

Disney restaurants are not cheap. If you buy the Disney gift cards at Kroger, it’s easy to earn gallons of free gas during their sale days. Download the Disney app before traveling to find your options that are $$ or less. I’m a nerd and memorize the map ahead of time so we don’t have to struggle to find places while we are there. Disney allows some snacks as well, so bring a small backpack with granola bars, fruit leather, etc. Even if we got to the entrance a little later, we load up on a big breakfast at Chick-fil-A or donuts on the way. It will keep everyone full longer so you can avoid the lunch rush. On a non-theme park day, eat at Disney Springs or take a bus to a resort for dinner. We try to keep in mind that we didn’t come to eat, we came to play! The food is certainly good but it’s nothing you can’t get elsewhere (except for Epcot… yum), so prioritize convenience and experience when it comes to eating. 


When the boys were really young, I put a hiking bladder filled with Gatorade into a flash pack! I don’t know if it’s allowed but my hydration bladder was tinted blue, so it’s hard to tell if it’s water…or maybe blue Gatorade:) If the boys were thirsty, I just handed them my straw! The sugar kept them energized and they stayed hydrated. And it kept us from having to stand in line to buy $15 worth of drinks. Water fountains are found near bathrooms as well. I also packed skittles, starburst and other small candies. It’s amazing what a couple of skittles can do for a kid that’s whiny! 

When we visit a theme park, the goal is to stay long enough they are kicking us out! Every theme park (ski parks too) we have visited, the crowds seem to disappear a little after dinner. Everyone is drained and ready to go. The kids are crying. The baby never napped. To keep everyone’s energy and spirits high, we always go to our car to rest during the busiest time of day which is usually around 2pm. Even if it’s just 1 hr, it’s enough to give our brains peace and quiet from all the stimulation. Ask for a stamp on the way out if needed. I almost guarantee, if you make it until until the evening, you’ll ride more rides in the last 2 hours than possibly all day! If you get in line near closing time, many will let you stay in line until the ride is over so you could get as much as an additional hour in the park!

Content children:

It’s hard to be bored at Disney. This part is mostly for the trip there and back. Our drive is about 11 hours. That is a lot for most people, much less children. The first day in the car, the boys are usually ready to screen veg after a long week at school. We normally pack everything the night before, pick up the kids from school and drive straight from school. We stop to grab dinner that can be eaten in the car (we like Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, Chick-fil-A, and Chilis to go) and land halfway outside of Atlanta at a hotel.  My budget is $100 a night, so nothing fancy. It’s just to sleep. Day 2, we grab a free hotel breakfast and keep driving. Georgia gets warmer as you drive south and we stop a couple of times for food and playgrounds. On roadtrips (we’ve had many living in a van), I’ve learned kids hate getting out of the car to sit again in a restaurant. So, we usually get our food to go or pack a cooler to make a charcuterie on plastic camping plates. Playgrounds are great for everyone! Just a couple of 15-20 stops to walk around and explore a different play place is so exciting! 

Traveling back, we make the hard grind back home. We are all so worn out, it’s a good decompress time. I spend the rest of the way editing our videos and photos to post, order prints for our family album, while navigating GasBuddy app, finding fun playgrounds, and reading or listening to podcasts. The boys usually play with their new toys they purchased for their birthday. We really don’t rush it and take our time. Our boys sleep well while riding, so as long as the driver is ok, the arrival time doesn’t really matter. 

If you are worried about your kids being bored in long lines, you may be surprised how entertaining Disney has made the waiting experience! The lines normally go pretty quick so you are often walking slowly and enjoying the design work of the area. At Disneys Star Wars land, we had just as much fun looking at the props and observing how things were made as we did the actual ride! But skittles or the Disney app game doesn’t hurt either!

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1 comentário

Sarah Franzen
Sarah Franzen
03 de mar.

Love this! ❤️ You really have some great tips in here.

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