10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney


April 17, 2024

It’s not too hard to find the melanin in the magic!

Summer is right around the corner! With it comes traditions like summer vacations and memorable activities with the whole family. Still, there’s one American rite of passage that combines both–a fun-filled trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. But beyond the thrill rides and iconic castles, there’s also a desire to feel connected to our culture and see ourselves reflected in the Disney experience. Recently, our friends at Disney Parks invited Because of Them We Can to enjoy all the magic there is to offer! Here are 10 tips to plan a perfect vacation for for young Black families headed to Walt Disney World. 

Utilize the Expert Guides

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Watch: LeAndra Lalanne, a 2024 planDisney Panelist, took a moment to chat with Because of Them We Can

Planning a Disney World trip with a Black family in mind can be both exciting and overwhelming. Here’s where expert guidance comes in. Disney Parks’ planDisney panel is an online resource that features a panel of experienced Disney enthusiasts who offer personalized tips and insider knowledge. The planDisney panelists can help you navigate everything from dining reservations to character meet-and-greets in both Disney World and Disneyland. They also share insights for Disney cruises and the Disney Vacation Club. With advice available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, planDisney is invaluable for a Disney vacation.

LeAndra Lalanne is one of this year’s planDisney panelists. Learning from her bio that LeAndra also has two Black sons, it was a green flag to ask questions that perhaps only a parent of Black children can answer. For example, “My daughter has 4C hair. Can she be serviced at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique,” or “Can my son get a haircut at Harmony Barbershop?” LeAndra’s response to the latter question was a resounding yes, which added a comforting layer to the expertise.

“Black families in particular can get customized answers from other panelists who are similar in diversity and culture [when they use planDisney],” Lalanne told Because Of Them We Can. “My older son’s hair type sounds like it is similar to your son’s,” she added.

Take Time to Make the Trip Fun for the Whole Family

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Tai Nichols/Because Of Them We Can

If there’s one thing Black people are going to do in the summer, we’re going to get together with our families! There’s no better way than with a family reunion trip or a multi-generational getaway. One guest, Toni Brown from Jacksonville, FL, shared with BOTWC that she was on a vacation with 13 other relatives, including her twin sister. Her family decided to take an annual trip, and Walt Disney World was the perfect follow-up to last year’s cruise. For families wanting to stay right on Disney property, take advantage of lodges with family suites at varying price points. While some resort lodging is catered to scenic views or cultural experiences, there may be others better suited for your family’s needs. Art of Animation, for example, has family suites in various themed buildings, just steps away from amazing pools, activities, and a well-stocked food court. 

Lalanne also emphasized the website’s assistance with planning trips for every member of the family, offering recommendations for spacious hotel rooms and services like Rider Switch, which allows families to take turns on rides without waiting twice – perfect for keeping everyone happy! Lalanne also shared the fun of character dining at Disney for families, lighting up at the sounds of nostalgic music and delicious food at Hoop-Dee-Do Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Campgrounds.

Immerse Yourself in the Inclusive Experiences

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Tai Nichols/Because Of Them We Can

If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World, you may be familiar with EPCOT’s celebration of cultures. When it comes to finding Black history and culture in EPCOT, every part of the diaspora has been considered. EPCOT’s Vice President, Kartika Rodriguez, is actually the first Black woman vice president to lead a Walt Disney World theme park. She spoke with us about the intentional aspects of inclusion at Epcot, from the food to the horticulture, and how Disney is always working to make sure everyone can see themselves reflected in the magic.

This was evident in the placement of the Princess Tiana topiary–right in the American pavilion. There are also topiaries of Antonio from Encanto, as well as Asha from Wish. “The detail and beauty of each topiary is amazing, and you can clearly see the passion and commitment of our horticultural team,” said Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez also pointed to the launch of the CreativeSoul Doll Collection as a powerful example of inclusion and the ever-present “Disney difference.” These dolls reimagine classic Disney princesses through a diverse lens, offering children and adults a chance to “feel seen and celebrated.”  Rodriguez shared her pride in owning the entire collection, reflecting the importance of representation for her personally.


Don’t Forget the Annual Festivals

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Olga Thompson/Walt Disney World

EPCOT is also home to four annual festivals. The current festival, the International Food and Wine Festival, is ongoing through the end of May. Rodriguez shared that these festivals are opportunities for the park to showcase cultures outside of the 11 permanent national pavilions. “We also introduce and change food items from other regions/countries,” she added, citing chicken and waffles at the Honey Bee-stro (hosted by the National Honey Board) as a must-try item. During the festivals, it’s also an opportunity for Black performers to shine. For example, “Boyz II Men has been playing at EPCOT’s International Food & Wine Festival’s Eat to the Beat series since 2007 and continues to pack the house,” Rodriguez excitedly shared.

Go See Princess Tiana!

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Tai Nichols/Because Of Them We Can

The representation doesn’t stop at one park either. In Magic Kingdom, families have the opportunity to meet Princess Tiana in person, in addition to watching her in the daily parade. You may also catch her–peering from a window in Magic Kingdom Parks’ Liberty Square– looking in the direction of her soon-to-be new attraction, which is set to debut this summer. 

Then Go Under the Sea With Live-Action Ariel

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Tai Nichols/Because Of Them We Can

At Hollywood Studios, you can meet live-action Ariel! Parents with sons may not think to stop for princess meet and greets, but there’s something magical for them, too. Imagine seeing your child’s face light up while comparing his locs to Ariel’s cowrie shell-adorned locs–just like the ones Halle Bailey wore in the film. Whether toddler, tween, or teen, there’s something special for everyone.


Take a Voyage to Animal Kingdom’s Africa

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Tony Award-winning actor and singer Heather Headley, who originated the role of Nala in the Broadway production of “The Lion King”, reconnected with Simba and Timon at “Festival of the Lion King” in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park/Photo Credit: Steven Diaz/Walt Disney World.

Let’s also not forget that there’s a whole land themed around our mother continent with lots of learning opportunities for little ones! Animal Kingdom has fully immersive storytelling that takes place as soon as you step foot into Harambe Village. You see the little details that make you feel a world away. You can smell the terrain mixed with fragrant spices in the air. And guests are greeted by the drumming on djembes–and can even play them yourself. Harambe Village is filled with delicious foods, sounds, and vivid imagery that makes it feel as if you’re back on the continent. It feels familiar. It feels like home.

While in the Africa section of the park, make time to enjoy two of the park’s highly praised attractions, Kilimanjaro Safari and Festival of the Lion King. The safari allowed the kids a close-up view of amazing wildlife, including white rhinos, giraffes, wildebeests, and lions. Children are also able to pick up some basic Swahili phrases and learn about the diversity of African animals. While headed to the festival, we were met with vibrant lights, bursts of color, spirited performances, and African dancing–all to the familiar tunes of The Lion King.

Enjoy the Flavors of Tusker House

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Walt Disney World

While in Animal Kingdom, have a meal at the buffet-style restaurant Tusker House. It’s the perfect place to go with young families, as adults can eat familiar African-inspired foods while younger kids can try them for the first time. This is one of Disney’s many character dining options, so your family will meet Mickey and the gang when they make their rounds through the dining hall. It is a time-saving alternative to waiting in queues throughout the park–all while enjoying a delicious meal. Some favorite menu items include jollof rice with plant-based sausage, za’atar braised beef, chermoula salmon filets, and mini zebra loaves. 

Enjoy the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe Village

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: JustinDoesDisney/YouTube

Even after a busy foot-to-the-pavement day in the parks, kids may still have energy to burn! Thankfully, all of the parks have at least one dance party for little kids to enjoy. In Animal Kingdom, we enjoyed the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. This 15-minute show is just enough for littles to get their wiggles out, all while learning dance moves from The Republic of Congo.

Take Advantage of the Accommodation Services

10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Tai Nichols/Because Of Them We Can

Travel can be daunting for Black families–especially as we seek out spaces with minimum micro-aggressions and maximum relaxation. Additionally, the Associated Press reports about 3% of Black, Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander children have an autism diagnosis, compared with about 2% of white kids. For Black families that may include varying ages of people with special needs and accommodations, the stress of vacations is a bit greater. However, the unparalleled customer service of Disney Parks and its culturally adept staff of cast members lighten the load.

Programs like the Disability Access Service and the Rider Switch program ensure everyone gets to enjoy the Disney magic. If your family follows a halal or plant-based diet (or if you have a very picky eater), modifications and substitutions are also readily available. With the PhotoPass service, you can also worry less about those picture-perfect moments wrangling the whole family. A PhotoPass photographer will happily take your photos (with their camera or yours) to make sure everyone is included.

While Disney can’t realistically take away all of your vacation worries, they do their best to get all of their guests pretty close. With opportunities to experience thrilling rides together, navigate wait times seamlessly, and encounter cast members who understand our unique experiences, Disney Parks go beyond mere entertainment for young Black families. These efforts create a space of belonging, where children see reflections of themselves in the stories and characters, and families feel truly welcome to relax, create lasting memories, and know they are an important and integral part of the Disney magic.


Cover photo: 10 Tips to Plan A Perfect Vacation for Young Black Families at Disney/Photo Credit: Tai Nichols/Because Of Them We Can

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