Dear Kids, Stop Ratting Me Out!
A trip to Walt Disney World ranks as the highlight of every childhood, while simultaneously topping the list of vacations-that-aren’t-vacations for most parents. Having taken 4 trips there in my childhood, I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to return with my little ones in tow, but it turns out that visiting Disney as an adult requires a great deal more strategy than you employed in your youth. Here are my
8 Simple Rules For Enjoying Your Disney Trip.
1) Don’t Take Small Children—Look, here’s the truth, no matter how many Disney movies your toddler watches, they are simply not equipped to deal with the magic of live Disney characters. Picture the time you took your 2-year-old to the mall for pictures with Santa that ended up like this,
only multiply that by a factor of 10. You’re basically spending $100 a day for pictures of your kid crying from exhaustion or sleeping in a stroller. Strollers are another nightmare at the park. You spend half the day trying not to mangle the heels of fellow patrons, and the other half loading and unloading your bags of crap from the stroller so you can hold your wiggling kid in line for half an hour. Kids ages 3 and 4 are approaching the borderline, and you may be tempted to bring them but hold fast! The height requirement for the exciting rides is 40 inches. There cannot be anything worse than telling your not-quite-tall-enough kid that they have to go see the Country Bear Jamboree while their big sister rides Splash Mountain. Again, $100 a day for tears of terror and disappointment…no thanks. It may seem cruel to whisk your older kids away to Disney and leave the little guy at home so….don’t tell him! Kids are gullible and they never expect their parents to lie to them, so take advantage of the opportunity before they can read and blow your cover.
2) Take Your Kids Out Of School – Holidays at Disney World are packed and Hell cannot be hotter than Florida in the summer, so go ahead and plan to take your kids out of school for vacation. Both March and October are fabulous for weather and low crowding, as long as you avoid spring and fall breaks for colleges. Most schools don’t have an issue with family vacations and even encourage them. I don’t care what EOG testing you’re preparing for, there can’t possibly be anything my kid will truly be lacking from missing a few days of kindergarten. Between the history in the Hall of Presidents, the ecology of Living With The Land, and amazing technology of every attraction in the place, who knows, the kids might even learn something!
3) Two Words: FAST PASS – There’s a whole production for booking a trip now, but once you set up an account online and buy your tickets, you can reserve a spot on 3 rides a day for your entire party. Do this as soon as you can, and go for Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train first, or you’ll be waiting upwards of an hour at any time of day.
Don’t bother using a Fast Pass for things like Mad Tea Party, It’s A Small World, Dumbo…the old school rides don’t have the draw they once did. Use the Fast Pass for Haunted Mansion and the roller coasters (which you can ride because you’ve left your short kids at home), and fill in your empty time with the old standards. You’ll find the Magic Kingdom a bit smaller in your adulthood than it seemed in your youth, so 2 days is the maximum you’ll need to cover that ground. Another thing Disney has down to a science is managing expectations. Twice we waited for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad that claimed a 50-minute wait, and were already finished in half an hour, so if you aren’t able to get a Fast Pass for something, you can still give it a shot.
4) Break your own rules – Bedtimes are for babies, and since you’re not bringing any of those, who cares! Why spend the middle of the day waiting for the parade in the hot sun when you can see the Main Street Electrical Parade at 9pm and catch the fireworks afterwards? The best plan is to see the parks during the day, return to your hotel for swimming, sunning and cocktailing in late afternoon, and then head back to the parks after dinner for a spectacular nighttime show. The benefits to this plan include- your kids thinking you’re the coolest parents on earth, not having to spend every evening cramped in a hotel room with overly-hyped kids who are bouncing off the walls, and wearing your kids down to the nub so that they pass out on immediate contact with a pillow. Disney Sleep = The Sleep of the Dead.
5) Get the Dining Plan – Years ago my penny-pinching mother packed our meals in a book bag, which she hauled around every park until it was time to force-feed us the mushed remains of what was once a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While I now understand cost saving measures are a necessity of family life, I also know that a trip to Disney World is not the time to exercise frugality. I also have not eaten a PB&J since that trip. The Disney Dining Plan is just easy. You can use it nearly everywhere, and you get more than enough food. One morning three of us shared the same breakfast platter. Play your meals right and you’ll never be hungry and still have snacks left over for the ride home.
6) Stay on the Grounds – There are few things more agonizing than driving in traffic in a strange city after an 8-hour day of “family fun” with hot, sticky, overly-tired kids. But leaving Walt Disney World to pull the mini-van into the Days Inn of Kissimmee, Florida with hot, sticky, overly-tired kids may rank right up there. Look, I know you think you’re saving a little money, but the Value Resorts at Walt Disney World aren’t that much more expensive and you never have to get back in your car! Disney has their transportation game down to a science, and after all the planning and packing you’re doing to create the perfect vacation, it’s really nice to let someone else shuttle you to your destination. And I don’t know about you, but after fully leaving the park and navigating the streets of Orlando to the hotel, there is very little chance my happy ass is getting back into the car to return to the park for the evening shows. So, in reality, staying on the grounds gets you more value out of every ticket…plus they roll your towels into Mickey-shaped designs, so that’s pretty cool.
7) BYOB- Having not been to Disney World since my own childhood, I foolishly assumed alcohol was available at every venue, for the sanity of the adults footing the bill. Alas, Walt himself decreed there was to be no booze in the Magic Kingdom. While it would be nice to take the edge off after an hour’s wait to shake the hand of a high-heeled mouse, one can also see how drunk college kids riding spinning tea cups could be a messy situation. The refillable (and completely opaque) souvenir mugs that come with the Dining Plan are the perfect vessel for smuggling in a little wine for the evening fireworks show, so stock your hotel room and call up for lots of ice.
8) Don’t Skip Epcot! – Many assume that Epcot is an adult park, and leave it off their plan for the elementary school set. BIG mistake. First of all, attractions like Spaceship Earth (the Epcot Ball), while educational, feature amazing technology and animatronics that will hold any kids’ attention. Don’t forget Journey into the Imagination with Figament – totally for kids. However, the International Pavilion is the true height of the Epcot tour. Not only are you giving your kids a cultural education, but after the temperance of the Magic Kingdom you can finally buy alcohol! Start with a pint in the United Kingdom and drink your way around the globe. Sake in Japan, margaritas in Mexico, and a big ol’ mug of Budweiser in the U.S. of A. while devouring a turkey leg the size of your toy poodle. What are the kids doing during your tipsy tour? Who cares! No seriously, tempt them with the chance to shop around the world, but don’t let them decide on any item until you’ve made your way through all the countries. Of course, they will inevitably select a beaded headdress from Morocco, which ultimately will never be worn again and is all the way back in the second country you visited,but a deal is a deal and by now you’ve had your happy juice and won’t mind the walk around the world.
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