If you read my previous article about planning a Disney Trip, you know that my husband and I decided to take our family to Disney World. I spent 5 months planning, as I wanted nothing to come as a shock or a surprise to me (I don’t handle surprises very well), so imagine my surprise, yes I said it, when my trip to Disney was nothing I expected.
I spent my childhood visiting Disney with my family every few years, and have the greatest memories of our time there. So while I was planning this vacation for my kids I kept thinking of those fond memories and sometimes I felt like I was more excited about going then my kids. All my favorite rides, Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean to name a few, were still there, and I couldn’t wait to ride those same rides with my own children! Here’s the thing, going to Disney as a child and going to Disney as a parent are completely different!
Disclaimer: The following is written based on my experience taking 4 children under the age of 8 to Disney World. I realize that every family will have a completely different experience depending on their family dynamic, ages and number of children, etc.
My number one tip – do not pack your children’s best clothes!! Each day your child’s shirt will end up with either ketchup or ice cream on it, trust me! I even brought the Tide pens with me, and still came home with a few shirts permanently stained.
Tip #2 – No matter how “magical’ the trip is, it is still a trip, and you still have the role of parent, meaning, you basically do the same thing you do everyday at home, you just do it at Disney. You will be exhausted and come home with loads upon loads of laundry to do. So while you are there enjoy every moment!
Tip #3 – Do your planning! I admit I might have been a little extensive in my planning, but for me and my family, it was just right. I had a typed out itinerary for each day/park, so that we knew what we wanted to see, and what time our Fast Passes were for. We were flexible, of course, but it was nice to have a basic outline, and the kids knew what to expect. And I like to think that all the planning had something to do with the fact that we did not stand in any line longer than 15 minutes, and with 4 kids, the last thing you want to do is stand in line.
Tip #4 – Your kids might not react the way you envisioned them to react. In my perfect little day dream, my children and I walked hand in hand down Main St towards Cinderella’s castle, their mouths open in wide smiles, thanking me profusely for bringing them to Disney and appreciating every little sacrifice I made to make this trip possible. In reality, I think my kids were so overly stimulated that they went into a state of shock, and basically showed no emotion the whole time we were there. I started wondering if they were even enjoying themselves! It was not until about a week after we returned home that I started realizing how much fun they actually had. I would overhear them playing ‘disney world’ where they would follow each other around the house walking really slow like they were in line for a ride, and then they would create the rides with the couch cushions.
Tip #5 – Get to the park before it opens, ride as many attractions as you can before the park gets too crowded, and then head back to the hotel and go swimming. Many people gave us the advice of going back to the hotel mid day for a nap, and then heading back to the park for the nighttime events and parades, but for our family that just was not possible. My kids are used to going to bed at 6:30/7:00pm, so to keep them up until 10:00pm for a fireworks show was just not going to happen, and if it did, we would have horribly crabby children the next day. So for our family it worked best to go to the park early, we finished up everything we wanted to do by 3:00pm or 4:00pm everyday, and then we went back to the hotel, swam, had dinner, and then were in bed at a reasonable time. If your children really like fireworks, then yes, go, I hear it is a great show, but for us, it wasn’t a must-do. And as a side note, my husband and I noticed that when we were coming back to the hotel from the parks was when the line for the bus going to the parks was the longest, so I don’t mind missing the really crowded time at the park.
Tip #6 – Don’t over do it! We brought 2 umbrella strollers (a must for kids 4 and under in my opinion) for my two youngest kids, and my two older kids walked. I purposely planned our Fast Passes to be in the same area so that we were not walking all over creation and planned them with adequate time in between so that we never felt rushed. If the kids felt tired we would stop and rest. One of their favorite things to do was to get water from the water fountains (its the little things).
Tip #7 – This is by far the most practical tip, and I wish someone would have mentioned this to me before we went. Bring something to mark your stroller!! There is stroller parking everywhere in the park, and amongst the sea of strollers it can be really hard to find yours when you come out of an attraction and a cast member has moved it. A tall flag attached to the handles would help to spot it faster. Also, since their is little to no shade anywhere, the strollers become hot when sitting in the sun fro up to an hour while you are in line. I saw a few people cover their strollers with a blanket to keep the seat of the stroller cooler. It is a great idea!
Enjoy every minute of your vacation as it will be over in the blink of eye, but know that the memories you create will last forever, and your children will appreciate the trip even more after you come home and can re-live those moments through pictures and videos!