How to do Disney World
My kids and I make our annual family trek from greater Milwaukee to Walt Disney World every spring. We are on trip number 12 together making lifetime memories.
I started going to WDW pre-children, mostly for Toy Tips business and speaking at conferences. But when my son Maxx was born, a trip south took a whole new role. Just to see the smile on his face (at age four months) when he first saw Mickey Mouse was worth every second.
When my daughter Mia was born, toting two kids could have been a challenge but we quickly learned to balance our time and fun with age-appropriate entertainment. I've been documenting each trip as a parent with ideas on the best things to pack, best parks to visit and the best rides with kids and without them.
Below is my personal opinion on how to "do" Disney!
Start by reviewing resources, advice and tips, on-line, in books, or from the advice of experienced friends. WDW can be overwhelming and is geared for all ages; you want to be sure to do things you really want to do, but still make time to discover the rest! There are many bloggers writing reviews of their personal experiences. The reviews that offer the most details are usually the most helpful.
In today's economy, parents need to carefully determine a realistic budget for a family vacation, knowing there will be last-minute changes to plans wherever you go.
Allow your school-age children to help with the planning. The more excited they are and the more input they give will reduce stress once you get there. For kids, waiting in line for rides may not seem as long if they are the ones who can't wait to do what "they" planned. And splurge for the Park Hopper Pass. You can visit more than one Disney theme park in the same day. There is free transportation between the parks and you usually can get at least two in! (Three is pushing it.)
Once you determine travel dates, airline reservations and the number of days you plan to spend in the WDW parks (I never recommend less than four), decide if you will stay at one of the WDW properties. If you do, you can avoid having to rent a car (that is a nice expense to save on) and avoid worry about directions or finding your way through the WDW property.
Worth the Read: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Walt Disney World" by Doug Ingersoll. The 2010 edition is the most current in bookstores but there are recent changes to the parks so check the Walt Disney World website.
Disney MOMS panel: The Mom's Panel is a chat room on the WDW.com website where you can log in and ask questions of the members, who are professional Disney-goers. You can also search for answers to many commonly asked questions that are kept in their database and arranged by topic or keyword. You won't find advice from a firsttime parent but you will find advice on questions that many parents would like to know ahead of time. I found this to be a wonderful way to ask those real-life parent questions to other parents.
Example: What do I do if I have three older kids and a baby? How can the kids ride on a ride even though I can't? Answer: The ride-option is to wait in line, but don't get on. Just wait on the other side when they get off. If you really want to ride, you can do an adult swap parent switch so no one misses out on the fun.
On site? Off site? Or both?
Well, this depends on how long you stay, how many people are with you, if you want to rent a car or not, and if you plan to do things in Orlando outside WDW.
Personally, I love staying at the resorts. And we love to stay at a different one every time we go. Each has a theme and a great pool, which - you will learn quickly - needs to be factored into the day (or night). Most pools are open late but parents must be there to supervise. Kids love pool time and find this as exciting as some attractions at the parks.
This is the best part. If you are staying at a WDW resort, there is never a need to rent a car. WDW buses will pick you up at the airport, pick up your bags at baggage claim and magically deliver them to your WDW resort room. You need a reservation to secure this service and it is free but don't forget to make it at least a week in advance before your leave. You can do that online at wdw.com
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