Our family of six just returned from a trip to Disney World in Orlando, and we survived! We had been planning this trip for about nine months, and our girls had a good amount invested in the trip. They helped us plan and coordinate schedules with their grandmother in Florida, pick out which rides to visit, and the excitement was about to boil over.
As with anything, I think it’s important to set expectations (stealing a phrase from my mother). We explained the trip to our daughters in detail, they packed their own bags, and we tried to anticipate each and every need that they would have a plane ride away. We had one birthday girl on the trip, and she helped us plan a day fit for a princess.
Through abundant planning and preparations, we had the girls ready for Disney World. On reflection, I think we gave them a clear reality of what they could expect on the trip.
Bet you can guess who had slightly unrealistic expectations of the trip…
This lady right here.
What Disney is Not
I’ve been to Disney World before. Twice as a child, and then once about four years ago when the children were younger (and there were only three of them). I think a piece of the magic that Disney gives parents is amnesia. It’s almost like childbirth, where they say you only have more children because you don’t remember what it was really like the first time around.
Well, I definitely remember childbirth, and I had what I thought was a fairly reliable memory of Disney World. Lots of people, crying children, glitter and tiaras abound. Children are having a mostly amazing time, while their parents look exhausted and confused. There is a subset of the Disney population that has it all together, and these are the folks with the matching T-shirts. The cute ones on Etsy that help identify who is Mom, Pop-Pop, and Auntie Bess, all covered in mouse ears and sparkles. These groups are all having an awesome time, and I’ve never heard one of them fuss at their children.
This trip showed that my recollection was intact, with a couple of additional revelations.
There is currently a bottle of prosecco that I’ve marked to consume prior to looking at our AMEX bill this month. Disney World is not cheap. At all. There are ways to do Disney on a budget of just about any size, which The Engineer and I reviewed as we were planning our first trip a few years ago. One thing I found is that you can really choose any amount of money that you want to spend for this trip, and Disney will help you spend it. As you cap your spending, you will pay for it in aggravation.
Our Disney planner was exceptionally helpful navigating cost saving options, and she was free of charge if we stayed at a Disney resort. I would love to share her contact, just opt-in for the blog’s email list, and I will send it your way. We elected to have a Disney meal plan, which helped shoulder the blow of the cost of food in the parks. Personally, I don’t think I could swallow seeing a bill for $90 for our family of six to eat pizza for lunch, when I know I can get the exact same meal at Costco for $13.50. When it comes to food, ignorance is bliss.
This is just a hunch and my own bias, but I bet Disney World is cheaper if you don’t participate in any of this:
For these parents, there was nothing at all relaxing about our trip to Disney World. This might have come from sharing a room with our kids, or maybe that we spent all four days of our trip in parks with no down time. I might have, at one particularly frazzled point, turned a glare towards my experience-maximizing husband, who was glued to the app that allowed us to add extra Fast Passes during the day. Of course, The Engineer is the type who would be happy to graph and analyze each moment of our trip. I’m more of a spa and umbrella drink kind of vacationer.
There are ways to make Disney more relaxing, but they come with a price tag, and, I’m assuming, would mean that I spent less time with my children, which was not the point of this trip. Disney does feed off of maximizing the experience, and seeing everything that you can, which adds a small bit of guilt for me if I’m caught with a margarita by the pool, trying to avoid looking like this:
What Disney Is
For all the things it is not, Disney is a great many good things as well.
We spent A LOT of time together as a family in Disney World. Our focus was entirely on our children, which is something that they don’t get all day, everyday. There was no work to worry about, or house to keep clean, or meals to prepare. They didn’t have school or sports or music lessons, and could play and eat sugar all day long. Obviously, they loved it.
We chose to make our trip at this point because of the ages of our children, who range from nine to two years old (though she tells everyone she’s three, so we just play along). We really felt this would be the last year that we had the opportunity to have our girls on a vacation where they were all (mostly) interested in doing the same stuff. And, I think we were right.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much my oldest daughter remembered from our first trip four years ago, which gives me hope that my older girls will remember this trip for many years to come. Disney does a great job making your time in their parks and at their resorts special for your children. Everything is truly catered to them, which makes the entire experience much easier.
Since our first trip, Disney has added quite a few things that are huge perks. Though I never prevailed in the discussion that we should take one and not wait for the bus, Disney has it’s own Lyft line know endearingly as “Minnie-vans.” This allows you to never have to wait for the bus (definitely my least favorite part of the trip), and can even prevent intoxicated collegians from falling on your stroller on the Monorail.
Fast Passes, which allow you to enter a much shorter line for the most popular rides, are an absolute must, especially if you are traveling over a holiday weekend, as we were. Part of setting expectations for our family was to realize that our perfectly impatient children were not going to magically become patient once they entered the happiest place on Earth. Waiting in a line for 130 minutes was not an option, nor how we wanted to spend our time in the parks.
And finally, the best perk for two weary parents:
Disney Dining Plan, you had me at complimentary breakfast cocktail. And, since The Magic Kingdom is no longer dry, everyone wins.
Not today, dear husband of mine. Disney is magical, but I don’t think I’ll do it frequently. Our kids had a great time, but part of keeping it magical is making the experience rare. And, to avoid the Disney-Detox, which is very real and present in our house this week.
In the mean time, until we meet again, thank you for the memories.