Last month contributor Amanda explained why she’s never taking her children to Disney World. Her post may be a reaction to our affluent culture’s FOMO (and very entitling!) ideas about Disney World. So this month I thought I would share a reasonable approach, as well as some practical tips, after my first Disney experience with children.
Recently my sister (who is a “Disney” person!) moved to Orlando so, of course, when we visited last month she took us to Disney World. And these are my candid thoughts:
1. Erase the guilt.
Disney World is great. Magical. Fun. All those things we hear. But your child is NOT going to be scarred for life if he/she doesn’t go. I hate that we live in a culture that makes parents feel like we are depriving our children if we don’t do something that may involve taking out a second mortgage on our house. As we all know – but sometimes need to be reminded – the best thing we can give our children is our love and attention. Everything else really doesn’t matter in the long run.
2. You don’t have to spend 10K to experience the magic.
Now that we’ve addressed the guilt-factor, let me debunk the myth that you have to spend a TON of money to visit Disney World. Yes, it’s expensive. But the notion that the only way to do Disney is with a 5-Day Park Hopper Pass, a luxury hotel on the monorail’s route, and the expensive extras like the Bippity Bop Boutique is just plain wrong.
We did the Magic Kindgom in one day (the itinerary of which I outlined on my blog if you are interested). No Epcot or Animal Kingdom. And my children were none the wiser. And they had a fabulous time.
We rode just about every ride we wanted to ride (in the summer, no less, never waiting more than 15 minutes), did a character meet-and-greet with Cinderella and even watched the fireworks. And I guarantee you they had just as many sweet of memories as a child that stayed seven days.
Think about it: how much do you remember from a vacation when you were six years old? Just a few things, right? Well, my children’s “few things” just took place in one day ;).
3. Monorail hotels are not all they’re cracked up to be.
I went in two of them and was not that impressed, at least for how much they cost. Basically, you are paying for convenience with these hotels. Don’t let the fact that you can’t afford these hotels deter you from possibly making a Disney World trip.
Yes, we had a free place to stay (my sister’s house), but let me tell you: it was NOT a big deal to drive to Disney World the morning of our visit. In the future, I would not hesitate to stay off the Disney property in a more reasonably-priced hotel. I don’t know about your children, but it doesn’t matter if it’s the Hampton Inn or the Ritz, any hotel is exciting for my children. Plus, you’re not there long anyway.
4. It’s not as overwhelming as you think.
Just because thousands of people write all sorts of blogs and guides about it doesn’t make it something that can’t be navigated by the average parent. One thing that took the mystique away for me was driving through Disney’s back entrance where the employees park (it’s closer to my sister’s house.) It’s just a theme park, people. And, maybe I am crazy, but I didn’t feel like the Magic Kingdom was even that big (although you do walk a ton!).
5. A little research, and a little perspective, pays off.
Yes, research and plan out your day. But do research from people that aren’t Disney fanatics; otherwise you may get overwhelmed. (Contributor Amanda Hunter has fantastic tips!). And go in with the attitude that your children are going to have fun whether you meet eight characters or one, whether you buy three fancy souvenirs or none. (We bought one Christmas ornament.)
Here’s an example: my daughter commented off hand, “Oh I hope we meet Elsa.” Instead of beating myself up over it or apologizing to her for not making that happen, I just said, “Oh, that would be fun wouldn’t it; but, gosh, isn’t it cool we got to meet Cinderella!” And that was that. If we make things a big deal, our children will make things a big deal. If we act in a cool, calm, collected (and grateful!) manner, our children will learn from that, too.
6. The Bottom line.
My girls had a fantastic time at the Magic Kingdom and I am so thankful we were able to take them, even just for a day. Bottom line? Going to Disney World is not a childhood rite of passage, by any means,. But if you find a great airline deal (or better yet, can drive!), and can secure an affordable hotel for a few nights, I think it’s totally worthwhile to plan a reasonable and fun Disney trip that will create memories to last a lifetime.
To help, here’s a wonderful and completely sufficient itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive, check into hotel, go to Disney Springs shopping center that night (it’s free but has the Disney feel). It used to be called Downtown Disney but they’ve revamped it! They have a Disney Kids Dance Party that is so much fun!
Day 2: Magic Kingdom. Go in with a plan. Take advantage of fast passes. Stay for fireworks if children are up for it; otherwise, not a big deal.
Day 3: If you have time in the morning do the Mickey’s Breakfast at the Contemporary Hotel. (You get to meet and get cute pics with a lot of characters so it takes the pressure off to wait in line and meet characters at the park). If you don’t leave until night time, and have the budget, go to Epcot. Go home with wonderful memories and still money in your savings account ;).
Thoughts? Would love to know from both Disney and non-Disney people!