Walt Disney World. A land of magic, wonder, and fantasy. The happiest place on earth. You’ve seen the commercials. The one with Mickey Mouse crouching down opened armed as a child happily races in to get his hug (in dramatically slow motion). The one with the family of five donning Mickey ears as they stroll past the Magic Kingdom, laughing and holding their souvenir bags. Or maybe you’ve seen the one with the family spinning wildly in a teacup, having the time of their lives. With everything Disney has to offer, it’s no wonder so many families choose this as their #1 vacation destination. It’s a place separate from the real world, where you can connect with your children and tap into that inner child that still waves at the characters like they are for real. The rides are safe, the parks well maintained, the staff (or rather, “cast members”) so friendly. Visiting this magical land is a no-brainer. You’ve saved a long time for it, planned the details so intricately that you know how to avoid that 3-hour Anna and Elsa meet and greet and can’t wait to watch the delight on your family’s face when they dive into their own personal pineapple Dole Whip. You’ve got your Magic Bands, your matching neon Mickey t-shirts, your park maps, event schedules and your comfy sneaks—what could go wrong? Well, plenty of things. And if you don’t consider them ahead of time, you may possibly be setting yourself up for a pretty un-magical day. Here’s a list of what NOT to do when taking your kids to Disney World.
#5. Do NOT plan everything down to the minutest little detail. Why? Well, for one, rides break down. Sometimes it’s a temporary technical glitch and sometimes it’s down for weeks on end due to maintenance and you just won’t know until you get into the park. No use setting yourself or your family up for a giant letdown. DO make breathing room in your schedule and allow for spontaneity. Structure can be a good thing in planning a trip to the park, but too much structure can suck the fun right out of the day. There is SO MUCH to see at each park and I understand why many people want to cram as much as possible into their day to get the biggest bang for their buck. But know that lines can be lengthy and sometimes there is just no getting to that parade in time to see the first float pass by. And your kids’ feet might be screaming in pain too much for that long trek to Adventure Land to climb up the 116-step Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Let’s face it, you probably won’t be able to fit in every single attraction at Disney World with your sanity intact. Why put yourself through the exhaustion of trying to do it all? Just do what you can, take a little leisure time in the midst of it and enjoy yourself.
#4. Do NOT force fun. Kids like to have fun on their own terms. Disney is amazing and wonderful and awesome and you will see more smiles on their face than frowns but sometimes kids just melt down. And who can blame them? Lines are long. Florida is hot. And sometimes they get to that point where they’ve just had enough. Resist the urge to squabble. Telling them they “WILL HAVE FUN” is certainly not going to magically fix their mood. Just because you are convinced that they will LOVE zapping the evil Zurg on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Ride doesn’t mean they will be on board with you. Instead, try to read the cues as they come. Do you have a toddler that could really benefit from a nap? Go back to the hotel or the park’s Baby Center and let them catch a couple of z’s to recharge. If your kids are older, there’s no shame in skipping rides or shows if they just aren’t into them. Have a discussion ahead of time to get a general game plan on what may or may not interest them so there are no surprises. And again, be flexible!
#3. Do NOT go into the park with unreasonable expectations. Sure you’ve spent a small fortune to make this day happen and your expectations of it being a perfect day soar higher than the multi-colored helium balloon propelled house from Up. Remember that family from the commercial I was speaking of earlier spinning and whirling in that whimsical tea cup? They didn’t show the scene after that that has their kid throwing up on themselves 15 minutes later and the parents having to shell out unexpected cash for an overpriced gift store shirt because they didn’t bring an extra change of clothes (yes, this happened to me). Kids are some of the most unpredictable creatures on the planet. My toddler aged daughter talked for the weeks leading up to our trip to Epcot about The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride and how excited she was to go on it. About five steps from the entrance on that day, she absolutely refused to step foot inside. Reasoning with her was not working. She did NOT want to go on that ride. I was disappointed but quickly reminded myself that there was plenty else in the park that would help her make it a memorable day. This goes back to not forcing the fun—let fun happen to you. And trust me, it will!
#2. Do NOT overspend. It is so easy to do this at Disney. The prices are high on, well, everything. Planning ahead is key to avoid letting your guard down on spending. You can purchase majorly discounted Disney timeshares from Vacation Club owners off of Ebay instead of purchasing directly from Disney saving hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. If you know your kids would want souvenirs, buy them ahead of time off the park grounds and have the front desk put them in your room for when you return back from the parks as a surprise. Pack a small cooler with snacks or even sandwiches for lunch to save on meals. Snap a pic with your phone instead of shelling out the cash to purchase that Splash Mountain photo. Instead of purchasing that water bottle from the kiosk, ask for a free cup of ice water from the nearest restaurant. The list goes on and on. You don’t have to sacrifice your child’s college education for your Disney vacation!
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#1. Do NOT wait in line for everything. They have FastPasses for a reason and are amazing if taken advantage of. Do your research before you get into the parks. Include your kids in the planning. If they MUST meet Rapunzel, you can get a FastPass for her meet and greet. And there are rides that do not warrant a FastPass, like, ever. The Small World ride is a good example of this as the line is rarely long and generally moves pretty fast (and is even considered a pretty skippable ride in general). Splash Mountain or Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are definitely FastPass worthy rides. Again, don’t forget to include your children in the planning and come together on your top must-sees!