Get the most out of Disney by planning ahead

This was first published May 9, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” Years ago, when I lived in Cocoa, Fla., my friend had a press pass to Disney. We would “drop in” for an hour, parking in VIP spaces up close. Fun!

Amy and Douglas Yatsuhashi, and their children (left to right), Laura, Andrew, Kevin, Lindsay, at Disney World.

WHO: Amy, 38, and Douglas Yatsuhashi, 45, and their children, Andrew, 9, Lindsay, 8, Kevin, 6, and Laura, 4, of Reading, Mass.

WHERE: Disney World, Orlando, Fla.

WHEN: One week in August.

WHY: “My husband and I went as children and for our honeymoon. His family is a real Disney family,’’ Amy Yatsuhashi said. “We waited until the kids were old enough to enjoy the magic, but under 10, because Disney charges adult rates at age 10.’’

KEEPING A SECRET: “We usually go to the Cape every summer. We didn’t tell them until the end of June so they’d get through school without being too distracted. It was their first airplane ride, too. They were so excited.’’

Kevin, Lindsay, Andrew, and Laura hang out with Goofy

PLAN OF ATTACK: Yatsuhashi read up on Disney and especially relied on Fodor’s “Walt Disney World With Kids 2009.’’ She booked a family suite with a dining plan at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, one of its budget-minded “value resorts,’’ and even made restaurant reservations 90 days in advance for “character meals,’’ where the kids could see and photograph themed characters during lunch and dinner.

GETTING AROUND: “Where we stayed was perfect. Even though it was budget for Disney, it was first class. Buses went from our place to everywhere. We had a Park Hopper pass so we could go to all the different places like Blizzard Beach [Water Park] or Epcot or Animal Kingdom. We got a double stroller for the younger two, and the other two would hang on to the stroller. We pinned our cellphone numbers into their shirts in case we got lost.’’

Andrew, Laura, Lindsay, and Kevin at the Barrel o` Monkeys.

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: “The best advice I could give anyone is to go early. We were at the doors when they opened at 9. We didn’t have to wait that long for rides. They have a neat thing called Fast Pass where you make ride reservations. The kids’ favorite was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. They must have gone on it 10 times.’’

A PENNY SAVED: For souvenir buying, the children had “earned money from chores, and their grandparents gave them Disney dollars . . . like dollar bills but with Mickey Mouse on them.’’

Andrew, Kevin, Laura, Lindsay, with their grandparents Tony and Pam Carrara

ADULTS ONLY: Yatsuhashi’s parents joined the party for a few days, thrilling the children and giving the parents a little alone time. “One night they had the kids overnight and my husband and I went to Pleasure Island and then had dinner in The Land at Epcot.’’

SIGN ‘EM UP: “The kids were great and were happy almost all the time. You get to say yes a lot in Disney World. Even before we got home they said, ‘Mom, we decided we’re going to put together our allowance to make a reservation for next year.’ ’’

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