Saturday, May 12, 2012
The Secrets to Enjoying Disney World with Little Kids
I've heard many discussions between Moms, wondering about the perfect age to take your kids to Disney World. Will they remember it? Will they do okay without naps? I've also heard people say that Disney World is the happiest place on earth. We just came back from there, and I have to say that it felt more like a war zone to us. By lunchtime, I am not exaggerating when I say that about every third child was having absolute melt-down. Kicking, screaming, running from parents. Think of a mall experience but on steroids. In fairness to the kids, I could hardly blame them. The heat and the long lines made me feel like I was going to have a melt-down too and I'm a grown adult.
Okay, I'm teasing a bit. The truth is, the kids really did have fun, and we are so glad we made the trip, but it's just plain exhausting to take a two year old and a four year old to Disney World and you really will see a ton of melt-downs. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you shouldn't go to Disney World and if you have kids over age four, this article really doesn't apply because that is a whole different ball game. However, if you do have kids under age four, it will really help you to know some secrets. I scoured guidebooks and blogs before we left and still there were a few things I wish I'd known, so now you can learn from our mistakes! Lest there is any confusion, I want to make it clear that I am not a travel expert, but I did find out some things that might help you if you have the desire to visit Disney World. So, in my humble opinion, here is what you need to know to make it a fun day, instead of a war zone experience:
- Consider staying at the beach, and just going to Disney for a day. That may sound crazy, but we thought it was MORE than enough time. We stayed near Sarasota and it only took us about 1.45 hours so we left our hotel at 7:15 and we there right as the doors opened at 9:00. Disney World is stressful and who wants seven days of stress on a vacation? It really does take almost an hour to park, stand in line for the shuttle bus, stand in line to buy tickets, stand in line to get on the train, stand in line to have your backpack checked, and stand in line to give your tickets to get through the door (That's five lines before you even get on a ride in case you weren't counting). I can't imagine doing this for several days in a row with kids under age four. They don't exactly wait patiently in line, especially two year olds. Plus, Disney World is incredibly hot. Because of all the concrete and the people, it is estimated that it is typically 10 degrees hotter in Disney World than the rest of Orlando. We were there in early May, and it was staggeringly hot, which simply adds to the stress and reinforces my advice to only visit for a day or two. Not to mention, I don't know how anyone could afford to stay for seven days! The cost to get in alone is crazy!
- Before visiting the Magic Kingdom, buy a guide book and read carefully about all the rides so you know what you want to see and do and this will prevent you from making promises you can't keep. Truthfully, a lot of the stuff they have kids under four isn't relevant to current day movies (Dumbo ride, It's a Small World, etc). There are no rides with Lightning McQueen or Ariel, so don't get the kids all pumped up to see every Disney movie character they know. Most of the rides for this age are located in the area called "Fantasyland". Disney obviously realizes that the rides are slightly outdated because they are currently going through major construction to bring more current rides and themes to "Fantasyland". You can read more about the future projects here. These new changes look really fun and I think we will definitely have to come back and stay longer when the new Fantasyland is created. Keep in mind the guide-books will do a much better job of explaining all your options, and all of this will be changing soon, so try to visit the Disney website for more info before you go.
- When you get there, consider not standing in line for the shuttle. The walk isn't that far, especially if you get there right when the door opens. By the time you wait in line, break down your stroller, load it on the bus, and find a spot on the bus, you could have practically walked there. Don't just assume that because there is a bus that you need to get on it.
- When you go, buy your tickets before-hand. They do have automatic touch-screen kiosks, sort of like they have at movie theaters, but these are only open on certain days for some reason. We planned on using these machines, but they weren't open the day we visited so it took 30 minutes to get through the line to buy tickets.
- They aren't very strict about ages of kids and it's free for kids below 3.
- If you have a little girl, consider getting a Fast Pass right when you walk through the door to visit the princesses. This will be the highlight of her day but there is limited space and it fills up fast. It might be tempting to hurry through Main Street, but DON'T!! Instead, head to the right on Main Street (Or ask someone if you don't see it) and pick up a Fast Pass to visit Mickey and visit the princesses. Even if you just have boys, they might enjoy meeting Mickey and this is done at the same place as the princesses. Then, you can come back at your allotted time. If you don't do this right away, you might miss it. During the visit, they get to take pictures with the princess, have them sign autograph books, and chat with Belle, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. It is definitely worth visiting Disney World just for this alone, assuming your daughter likes the princesses. If you plan to let her buy a princess dress or wand, make sure you do this before she visits the princesses. This shop is located in Fantasyland (But be warned: we paid $64 for a Rapunzel dress. If I had known I would have brought her own, but I didn't think they have the prices so incredibly inflated)
- Consider making a reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table. If you don't make a reservation, you won't have a prayer of getting in and it is conveniently located in Cinderella's castle. Trust me, by lunchtime your kids will be begging you for something to eat inside, and what better place than a restaurant where they get to mingle with the princesses? It is pricey, but totally worth it.
- Make sure you look right when you get there for the times for the Mickey character parade. The kids will likely enjoy this and it's a nice break but it's only done at certain times of the day. We found one at 1:15, which was perfect.
- If you decide to stay longer, consider visiting Hollywood Studios on your second day. They have some neat rides and things to do with more current Disney characters.
- Before you go, make sure to read carefully through what you will find. Some of the rides were closed or re-located when we were there, due to reconstruction. Here is what I mean about the rides for little kids. Here is a rough list of options:
- The Dumbo Ride (Very fun, but a super long line and most kids haven't even seen Dumbo)
- It's a Small World (You get on a boat and it takes you around to see lots of dolls dressed up in costumes from around the world. This ride was one of the originals from when it was built in the 50s and it shows. The dolls were a little weird looking and the kids had no idea what they were looking at, but if you need a break from the weather, this ride is nice because it's truly inside and so is the line.)
- The Carousel (The line is usually pretty short and kids always love a carousel, but again, not a big thrill because there are no Disney characters involved)
- The Winnie the Pooh ride (Usually a very long line, but you can get a FAST PASS for this).
- Snow White's Scary Forest Adventure (Title said enough for us. I didn't even want to try it, for fear of making the kids cry, which sort of defeats the purpose, although I did see people really like this ride. It will be closed when the new rides are released)
- A Goofy roller coaster (My kids love Goofy, but weren't old enough for this roller coaster, which again was a disappointment that they didn't have more stuff for young kids)
In conclusion, we really loved Disney World, but are so glad we didn't subject ourselves to a whole week with it. Please bear in mind that this is only my opinion. My sole intent behind writing this was to hopefully enhance your ability to enjoy Disney World if you choose to go. Honestly, it was worth going just to see my daughter's face when she got to meet the princesses! Plus, it was really cute to see her princess dress and Mickey Ears at the beach. She was very popular with all the old folks!!
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