I just returned from an amazing trip to Disney World with my family. I can remember entering the gates of The Magic Kingdom as a child and being in complete awe of Cinderella's Castle as it towered over me. So, I was super excited to return with my children and share the experience with them.
Going back as a parent is totally different. Gone are the days of running from ride to ride carefree. No, when you're the grown up it takes lots of planning and organizing to make the trip run smoothly.
I did as much research as I could before leaving for the trip. I read guide books and asked experienced friends for tips. Yet, there are some things that you can only learn by living through them. Here are a few things that I learned from my time at Disney World that will ensure that it remains the happiest place on earth for your family:
Take a few gifts for your children with you. My mom came along with us and she had gathered as much Disney themed trinkets and toys as she could locally and then each morning presented the kids with a "gift bag". This really cut down on the kids coming down with a case of the "gimmies" at the gift shops and saved a ton of money because toys at Disney don't come cheap.
Also, bring plenty of glow sticks and things with flashing lights because when the sun goes down at the park, the vendors switch on all kinds of amazing looking light sabers, spinning wands, and blinking necklaces that are like beacons in the night.
Your children will be drawn to them and beg for you to buy them unless you beat them to the chase and slap a glow bracelet on their wrist that you brought from home. Once again saving you money and heartache.
Expect everyone to have at least one meltdown at some point during the trip. Running around the huge park is exhausting and tensions can run high while you're rushing to have fun.
My 3-year-old had an epic tantrum on the shuttle ride back to the condo. I had my own personal meltdown on day 2 when we had to rush back to the room to grab the tickets that I had left sitting on the counter. At those moments, it's best just to give the person space to freak out for a moment but stay close by to give them a hug when it's over.
That leads us to the fact that you will get in at least one argument with your spouse. At first glance, Disney parks are filled with happy and skipping children, but if you look a little deeper you will notice parents having hushed spats. So be prepared to get in a disagreement or two but be quick to forgive. We all can get a little nutty from so much stimulation.
Okay, this tip may seem cruel, but it totally worked so I'm going to share it woth you. Throughout the park there are Disney characters who sign autographs. Your child will suddenly be desperate to get Pluto's signature, but the lines can take hours.
So, we told the kids that our condo had a special deal that if you slipped an autograph book under the door of your room that a cast member will fetch it and run around the park getting the characters signatures while they sleep soundly. Then, just get the grown ups in the group to forge the signatures, slip it back under the door in the moring and Voilà, your kids are thrilled and you didn't have to wait in long lines. Everyone is happy! What happens at Disney stays at Disney, right?
Finally, it's important to go with the flow. My mom and I had mapped out a path through the park to maximize our chances of hitting all the rides by the end of the day. We eventually had to slow down and throw our plans out the window. My advice is to tarry through the park and stop when the kids show an interest in something. Rushing around can make a kid poop out fast.
So there you have it. My foolproof way to have the happiest of holidays at Disney World.
Have you ever taken your children to Disney World? What sort of tip and tricks do you have to make the trip more enjoyable? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.