Hey, when you’re reading this, I’ll actually be on my way out to Florida with 5 kids in tow, meaning that by the time you read this, I might have even more to add to my idea list, seeing as I’m writing this 13 days ago.
But, needless to say, I’m pretty darn excited about my vacation. Sure, I love Disney World, as can be noted by my recent discussions about such, but I’m also just happy to get the family out of the state together for the first time in 2 years (Minnesota doesn’t count).
However, I’ve also come to the realization that in my few trips down to the world of the mouse, I’ve gathered quite a few useful ideas on what you might want to do in order to prepare them for such a trip. And since Thursdays are the day for me to give you actual grounded useful information about pretty much anything (and Disney World tips are always a great SEO phrase)….(speaking of which… Disney World tips, Disney World tips, Disney World tips…is that enough times yet to be an expert?)
Let’s get down to it, shall we? I’ve got a lot I can offer for advice…we’ll see how much we can fit before I reach the cut off.
1. How old do my kids need to be to go?
The first question asked on every single post of this nature is this one. Of course, this question isn’t as much about how to prep as it is about whether or not your kids are able to be prepped. My kids are awesome, so I’ll admit that my experience could be skewed. But honestly, I think any kid could be the perfect age to go. More often than not, it’s the parent that comes into question with this one. If you’re not willing to carry your 2 year old as you walk for miles, or throughout a long fireworks/parade, have troubles with being eagle-eyed, and don’t know how to just let loose and let your kid break the house rules from time to time, then you might not be ready. Ultimately, Disney World is a kid’s paradise, no matter the age. I can’t even express how amazing it was to watch my daughter at 2 years old see the castle for the first time. It’s documented in pictures, but even that doesn’t truly do it justice. And the rest of the trip just kept getting better from there. Or my son, when he was about the same age, getting kisses from all the princesses…he went from there to try to get similar affection from every female he saw.
2. How to tell them you’re going.
Honestly, this is really my first dilemma when it comes to a vacation of any sort. My kids get super excited about everything…I mean, everything. Tell them that Grandma (you know, the one who lives in town and they see fairly regularly) is coming over tomorrow: They won’t sleep a wink. So, when it comes to something as huge as Disney World…well, yeah…they haven’t really sleep a full night since I told them…the day after Christmas. Many people like to go with the surprise aspect, something we tried the last time we went, to great effect. However, you don’t have to look too long on the internet to see that this doesn’t always go well…Turns out, if you tell your kids that you’re doing something, get them excited about it, and then tell them that you’re actually doing something completely different, it doesn’t matter how awesome the new thing is, you already got them excited about the other. When we surprised them, we actually told them all about the place we were staying, just didn’t include that Disney World was next door. That wasn’t any form of insight into this particular issue I bring up above, just happened to get lucky on this one. The surprise one was pretty awesome, but I personally have been enjoying getting to spend the past couple weeks counting down the days with them…even if I’d really like it if they would sleep a little more.
3. Okay, so, they know, how do we actually prepare them for what’s to come.
This is the big issue here. Actually, whether or not you’ve told the kids that you’re going, you’re going to want to make sure that they’re prepared for what they’re going to be doing. Disney World is exciting in concept (and in reality, if they’re prepared for it), but can be quite devastating to a kid who is looking at a human-sized Mouse for the first time ever.
So, how about we break things down into the few basic food groups of Disney World prep:
If you’re not going to see at least one princess or anthropomorphic animal while you’re there, you’re probably not human. I mean, even adults love to get themselves a picture with the main mouse himself. But take a kid into that situation unaware of what they’re truly getting into and you’ll quickly find that it doesn’t work as well as you might have hoped. Don’t believe me? Stand outside the line for Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny for about half an hour. You’ll find at least one kid who will cry at being placed near this stranger and several more who can’t bring themselves to go anywhere near them. However, those exact locations are perfect spots to get your kid acclimated to the idea. The more your kid sees costumed characters, the more accustomed to them they become. I know if my home town, you can go to pretty much any community function and find someone in costume, our parks and recreation department has a shark that comes everywhere, and one of our banks likes to bring along its fish (we are the town of clear water, after all…). I’d suggest seeking out as many of these characters as you can before you make your way to the house of the mouse. Coax your kids into saying hi, don’t force it. Sooner or later they’ll get up the courage to do so (hopefully) and once they see it isn’t that bad, they’ll have a very hard time not wanting to get a hug from everyone in costume they find.
Disney is everywhere, and really has been for almost 100 years now. But when you get yourself into those parks, you’ll realize that you haven’t seen anything yet. Sure, you can’t go far without watching another trailer for yet another Marvel movie, or a pile of Frozen merchandise, but when you get into those parks, that’s it, you’re not going to see anything else for as long as you’ve decided to hand your money over to Mickey. Might as well get as much out of it for your kids as possible. Best way to do that, hands down, is to have them watch the Disney movies which are most shown in the parks. Best ones to start with are things like Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo, any of the princess flicks, a collection of Mickey Mouse cartoons, and…well..the list could easily go on. This will also help with the previous item. Getting them intimately familiar with these characters will only serve to get them more excited about meeting them in the parks. And the second they see Buzz Lightyear in the ‘flesh’, they’ll geek out, even if they won’t go anywhere near him.
This is a hard one to go through simply. Obviously every kid is different and not every kid will be good for every ride. The first step you need to take here is just understanding who your kid is. For instance, I have one kid who is fearless (my daughter) and one who is fearful (although trying to change). With my daughter, I’ll actively coax her into pushing her personally believed limits. Hey, you’re tall enough for Tower of Terror now, you think you want to ride it? It’s pretty scary! With my son, however, there’s a bit more of a preparation involved so he knows what he’s getting into. Sure, I can convince him to ride Splash Mountain if he has no clue of what it involves, but if he gets on it and gets completely scared, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to get him to ride the tamer rides, like It’s a Small World. My personal favorite option with him is youtube. The ride videos on youtube are annoying to watch, they’re generally not filmed well and give a paltry example of what it really is like to ride the rides…but it builds excitement while also making him aware that there’s a big ass drop at the end. Unfortunately, for all the excitement he has over riding this one, it’s supposed to be closed while we’re there.
Before I go any further here, I’m going to reiterate something I glazed over above. You WILL be carrying your child. Well, unless you want a complete and utter breakdown in the middle of the line for Pirates of the Caribbean. Just be ready for it. It’ll happen. But, you can make it better with two things. First, a stroller. Well..sorta with a stroller anyways. No strollers are allowed in the lines for the rides, and many times it’s easier to just part the stroller in one spot for a while as you enjoy a particular area. It helps, but more than that, you need to get your kid walking beforehand. The more you can strengthen those leg muscles now, the more you can save your back muscles later. Again, you WILL be carrying your child (assuming they’re under the age of…let’s say 10), but you can lessen the load, so to speak.
Which brings me to my final point (I could honestly go on much longer, but I’m way over my limit for today). Rest. This is more of a mental preparation, and again, more for you than for them. You will need to rest. It can be rather annoying to go all the way back to a hotel in order to take a nap. Luckily, there are a few options here as well. First, not all kids will need a nap, so just finding a spot to sit and get off your feet for a half hour or so is a great plan. If they do need a nap, this is where the stroller can come in mighty handy.
But might I suggest an entirely different option? Almost every park in the whole place has a great show or ride where you sit in one spot for at least a half hour. Some of them seem to have been made for nap time. Here’s my list of spots to take the kids for each park if I see them needing some down time:
Magic Kingdom: Has the most rides in general, therefore has the most options for resting
Hall of Presidents
Carousel of Progress
Honestly, outside of the Hall of Presidents, I love these rides, and absolutely MUST ride the peoplemover every time I’m in the park. But I have to admit, they do a great job of putting a kid to sleep.
Epcot: Universe of Energy.
Hands down. It’s 45 minutes, it’s air-conditioned, and even dinosaurs can’t make this ride interesting. I’d love to say things like Spaceship Earth work for this, but my kids always seem to stay wide awake for everything else in this park except UoE.
Hollywood Studios: The Great Movie Ride
Again, I love this ride, and to be honest, I’m not sure my daughter has ever fallen asleep during it, and it does have some loud noises. But it meets most of the standards of Universe of Energy. Just depends on how tired the kids are before you get there
Animal Kingdom: Finding Nemo the Musical
This musical is one of the best shows on property (only surpassed by another one in Animal Kingdom, Festival of the Lion King), but there’s usually a long quiet wait in there before you get started, and the show is rather lilting. If you can get your kid to sleep before the show starts, you’re golden. If not…well..it is Nemo after all.
There’s my tips. Use them if you wish. I know I will be doing so, starting today!
Have fun out there!