A little over a year ago Second Rate Dad and myself had the brilliant idea to book a week-long trip to Disney World. Our oldest daughter has been begging us to take her to Disney World ever since she was about 2-years-old and saw an advertisement for it on the Disney Junior channel. So we decided that 5 & 3 years old would be the ideal ages to take the girls to Disney.
In the year between booking the trip and then actually taking the trip I tried my best to get up to speed on everything I would need to know prior to going to Disney. Not having been to Disney World myself in about 20 years, I knew I had plenty to try to figure out. In my attempt to plan I spoke with people I knew were frequent Disney-goers and those that had recently visited. Mostly this just left me feeling overwhelmed and confused. I also turned to every second-rate mom’s faithful frenemy, Pinterest. Oh Pinterest, you evil bitch. You keep me coming back for more even though you often leave me feeling inadequate…
My quest for all things Disney World on Pinterest was no different. So. much. information. One article after another about what rides to ride on and when, how to get the most out of your Fast Passes, how to use your meal plans, the best places to go for quick-service and table-service meals, which character meals are the best, where to find the characters you want to meet, and on, and on, and on. And then there are the timelines to consider. You need to make your meal reservations about 6 months ahead of time to ensure you are able to snatch up the most coveted character meals. Then you get to choose your Fast-Passes for the rides you want 60 days prior to your visit while keeping in mind your already scheduled meal reservations. It started to feel like planning a trip to Disney required the completion of graduate level course work.
And don’t even get me started on all the Pinterest lists detailing what you need to bring with you to the parks. Oh Lawdy! I’m pretty sure that my packing list for a trip to the damn moon would not be as comprehensive as some of the lists I came across during my research! Some of these freaking lists sounded less like you’re taking a trip to the “happiest place on Earth” and more like the contents of MacGyver’s backpack during wilderness survival training!
I’ve learned a lot during my Disney planning journey, so I’ve decided to impart my new-found wisdom for all my fellow overwhelmed second-rate moms. Here are my top 6 recommendations for stressed out mamas planning a trip to Disney World.
- Use a Disney Travel Agent. This is an important one and there’s a reason I listed it as #1 on my guide. I am fortunate enough that I have an old friend from college who is a travel agent and one of her specialties is Disney travel. Her guidance was invaluable and without her direction and assistance I’m pretty sure I would have cried on numerous occasions during the planning process. These people know their Disney stuff, folks! She answered my questions, made suggestions, sent reminders, and even booked my dining reservations for me. The best part is that you don’t pay extra to use them! I used (and highly recommend) Jenn Whitney at Whitney World Travel. Here is her link if you are interested in getting more information for yourself: http://www.whitneyworldtravel.com/walt-disney-world.html
- Bring a stroller to the parks. My kids are past the stroller days in our everyday lives. In fact, I sold our double stroller a while back. No fear; just rent one! You can rent the ones at the park, but I recommend renting a nicer one from Kingdom Strollers. https://www.kingdomstrollers.com/? Not only did this prevent me and the hubs from needing to carry the kids around when they got tired, but it also provided for a convenient place for them to catch a nap when they needed one. At Epcot my youngest took a 2+ hour nap while Second Rate Nana and myself strolled our way through the Epcot countries enjoying a glass of wine…or 3. Not to mention the added benefit of built-in cup holders and storage underneath. If you have kids age 5 and under, I think a stroller is a must!
- Go at your own pace. My first day at Magic Kingdom was super stressful! I felt like a slave to our Fast Pass and dining schedule. All the scheduling took a lot of the fun out of the day for me. Once I decided to not stress about the schedule, it go so much better. Change Fast Passes around if it turns out not to be convenient. If you have smaller children don’t expect to be able to get to every ride and attraction you want to do. You’ll need to prioritize. Take a break midday if you need one. You’ll also need to remember you’re traveling with little people who also have little bladders, so frequent bathroom breaks need to be considered along the way as well.
- You don’t need to bring everything plus the kitchen sink with you! Many of the advice articles I read ahead of time listed suggested items to bring with you to the parks. The lists appeared quite daunting and intimidating to me. My first day at Magic Kingdom I over-stuffed my backpack and I ended up regretting it. I felt like a freaking pack mule. The parks allow you to bring in your own food and drinks, so the first day I brought plenty of bottled water and snacks. The truth is that if you are utilizing the meal plan like we did then you really don’t need to bring in outside food and drinks. The meal plan provided us with more than enough for the day! And if we did need to purchase an additional drink or 2 it was worth it to me to just pay for it instead of having to schlep all that heavy stuff around. I perfected my backpack inventory by the last day carrying only the necessities plus some hand sanitizer, small pack of wipes, travel size sunscreen, cheap disposable ponchos, and something for the characters to autograph (if that’s your thing).
- Research the best times of year to visit. We visited in October, which is known to be a less busy time for Disney World. Truthfully, it was still pretty darn busy so I can’t imagine going during a very high-traffic time. Also, the weather in Orlando this time of year was ideal for our visit. It was mostly lower to mid 80’s and we only saw a couple of very brief rainfalls. Visiting Disney World during the summer months will bring with it a different dynamic of combating the heat that we were lucky enough to be able to avoid.
- Everyone brings their own “baggage” to Disney. If your kid gets whiny and bitchy when they are hungry and tired that won’t stop just because they’re at “the happiest place on Earth”! If your spouse gets irritable after spending an entire day with the little ones, being at the Magic Kingdom isn’t going to magically cure that. Everyone is still going to lose their patience at times. All the more reason for frequent food and rest breaks. Try to keep a “go with the flow” attitude and make the most of the magical moments when you can.