Taking Kids to Disney … Tips

Filed under: Just For Fun,Leisure,Theme Parks,Vacation Tips |

When I read articles like the one below, I chuckle to myself at how mythical and frightening a trip to Disney World seems to be.  Maybe it’s because I have lived in the “House of the Mouse” for over 15 years that makes these trips less daunting.  The theme park industry has boomed and expanded during the time I have been here … There was Sea World, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney MGM and Universal when I first arrived … and trust me, none of them were as big as they are now … in fact Sea World was tiny.  Anyway the point I am trying to make is don’t look at the quantity of Theme Parks and attractions when you are planning to visit, that will overwhelm you … actually just look at what is suitable for the ages of your kids … then you will find everything else is manageable.

My son is three years old and a Disney junkie already … but there is only limited things he can do … is he dissappointed?  Never.  When we take him to Animal Kingdom, his routine is this … Kilimanjaro safari ride … Pangani Forest Trail … Visit the Tigers … take the train to Rafiki’s Planet watch, then the Dino Dig … occasionally the bird show or A Bug’s Life.  By then he is tired and happy and the biggest pleasure we get is discussing everything he has seen.  I think you would agree 7 things to do in a short day, with some eating is hardly stress inducing.  And in case you think it’s not exciting enough … consider this, he sometimes will do this 7 times a month.  Same at Sea World … animals enchant.

The biggest problem I see with vacationers is this drive to try and see everything … IT CANNOT HAPPEN!  You are setting yourself up for failure and the stress you feel trying to do this, will trickle down and ruin the vacation for everyone.  Anyway enjoy these tips … also Florida Leisure’s staff may come from all walks of life and all areas of the world, but they share a love for Orlando and were brought here by the enjoyment they had when they were visitors like you.  they have never stopped loving the place or the attractions and are frequent visitors, keeping themselves up to date with what is great and not so great … they could be your most valuable resource when you want to plan your days.  www.floridaleisure.com

Mention that you’re thinking of taking the kids to Orlando — especially if you’re first-timers — and you’ll hear how your mother-in-law’s sister’s cousin scored discount tickets to Walt Disney World. Your son’s first-grade teacher will fill you in on which character breakfasts her sister-in-law’s aunt raved about (never mind that you know that your preschooler will be terrified of the giant fuzzy creatures).

Your next-door neighbor insists that he has the skinny on finding bargain lodging (you can find rooms, especially in winter, for well under $100 a night). Vacation Homes are always the best value. One friend says she wouldn’t leave home without “Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2007,” the official guide to Walt Disney World, while a co-worker says her bible is the “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.”

Then there are the Web sites —www.floridaleisure.com,  www.orlandoinfo.com (great for discounts like the Magicard that can be downloaded for savings on everything from hotels to attractions), www.disboards.com and www.passporters.com with all varieties of online forums and discussions, or for the latest deals www.mousesavers.com. And let’s not forget the official www.disneyworld.com (order a free planning DVD).

So where do you start? There’s so much information, so much to see (Walt Disney World covers 40 square miles, about the size of two Manhattans!), so many people (more than 34 million vacationers a year to Orlando) and the temptation to spend way more than you planned. (Why shouldn’t your preschooler bring home a Minnie Mouse that’s bigger than she is?)

The folks at Walt Disney World feel your pain — and your frustration. That’s why they launched a contest that seeks candidates for the first Disney World Moms Panel (dads weren’t excluded; it’s just that moms typically are the family vacation planners.) “The goal was to establish a forum for vacation planners where they can get insights from parents just like them on what might be considered vacation challenges, as well as insider tips,” said WDW spokesman Michelle Baumann.

The prize: a free Walt Disney World vacation for the family. There were 10,000 entries — in a week. Disney officials ultimately chose 12 members for the panel (including one dad) and you will be able to pick their brains at www.disneyworldmoms.com.

They’re a pretty varied group: a middle school librarian with three kids from Nebraska who has been to WDW so many times she’s lost count; a stay-at-home Pennsylvania mom with a 7-year-old who has been hooked on the Mouse since her grandparents gave her the keys to the Magic Kingdom when she was 11; the only dad on the panel, a partner in a suburban Chicago consulting firm with three kids; a home-schooling mom from Kentucky; a freelance writer from Arizona. … In short, the group looks a lot like those families you see every day pushing strollers and following tweens down Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom.

They re-use water bottles to save money, visit when the park is less crowded (January and fall are particularly good times, with plenty of bargain hotel rates), budget carefully to get the most bang for their buck. Panel member Heather Roberts-Naul, a mom of three from Kentucky, says all-you-can-eat character meals give you a lot of bang for your buck not only for the food but also for the characters (call 407 w-Disney). “The personal interaction with the kids and grown-ups without waiting in line is priceless,” she said. Just make sure that you choose the one that features the characters your kids most want to see.

Laura Spencer, who is from Massachusetts and has been to WDW more than 30 times, adds that it’s also important to research exactly what kind of entry tickets you will need. Don’t buy more days than you think that you’ll use or add-ons like water parks that you won’t have time for, she says.

Kara Bacon, the middle school librarian from Omaha, says old-fashioned games like I-Spy have “saved us over and over again” while waiting in line. Play I Spy for the Hidden Mickeys that are everywhere in the parks.

But no matter what anyone tells you, there’s really no one right way to “Do Disney.” The only real mistake you can make is to overload the schedule to the point where you and the kids are exhausted and cranky. No matter how long you spend in the park each day, you can’t see it all — not with new attractions and shows constantly being added.

Figure out your absolute “must dos” for everyone in your group and try your best to fit those things into your plans, said Bret Caldwell, the lone dad on the Moms panel and the father of two young daughters and a son.

“Slow down, notice the details and soak up the magic,” said Kimberly LaPaglia, member of the panel from Annville, Pa., and the mom of a 7-year-old. Best tip for first-timers: Check out maps of the parks before arriving in Orlando so you can appreciate the sheer size of the place. “And bring comfortable shoes!” That means insist that the kids wear sneakers, not flip-flops.

Caldwell adds that like any vacation with the kids, be prepared at Walt Disney World to shift gears. That means forgoing a ride if you get to the front of the line and your kids decide that it’s too scary or eating when you are hungry, although it’s too early for lunch.

“Course corrections are often needed,” Caldwell said. “Even the best planners will encounter unexpected opportunities and/or hiccups along the way. You may be surprised to find that one of these adjustments turns into a magic moment and the best memory of your trip.”

And that might be in the private pool of your luxurious Florida Leisure Vacation Home.  Just enjoy.

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