For those of us that visit Disney World several times each year we’ve seen it all, the temper tantrums, the family fallouts and children pushed to the point of exhaustion. Because so much of your Disney planning from dining reservations to Fastpasses has become about organizing every second of your day and cramming in as much as possible, first-time visitors can lose sight of the real reason you’re there- to go on an adventure the whole family can enjoy. A great starting point to eliminate the bad moods, the blowouts and the sheer exhaustion can all boil down to a few simple mistakes that I see parents at Disney frequently make. On their own, they may seem small enough but when combined, they can really put a damper on any Disney day. Here are 9 of the mistakes that we see crop up most often.
1. Skipping the strollers – Even if your child has been out of a stroller for a year or two, if they can fit in one, then its worth considering using one during your Disney vacation. A lot of first-time families under-estimate just how big each of the theme parks is. It’s not uncommon to walk 7 or 8 miles a day which can really be a lot for tiny feet. Not only that but with the hot temperatures and the constant stimulation, kids can get worn out fast. Having a stroller on standby so they can relax or rest those weary feet makes for a kinder gentler Mouse trip on everyone!
2. Planning out days that are too long – The temptation can really be there to try and cram in as much as possible each day while you’re at Disney. However, families can unravel quickly under this strategy. If you are there for park opening at 8 am, don’t expect your little one to stay out until the nighttime fireworks. Fourteen hours at a park would wear anyone out. Rather, on early mornings plan to leave the theme park early to get some rest. Or, if you’re staying onsite, head back to your resort in the afternoon for a nap and then come back in the evening for the fireworks.
3. Not stopping enough for refreshments – My daughter’s behaviour starts to decline when she is hungry or thirsty and with all running around at Disney World not to mention hot temperatures this happens a lot. It’s pretty important to stay hydrated at Disney and for my family that means stopping at least once an hour to get a drink, have a cool popsicle or ice cream bar or to stop at a restaurant for free ice water. It may seem like a lot but its incredibly important, not only for everyone’s health but also to keep spirits high.
4. Not packing sunscreen – Listen up pale northerners (and I include myself in this list), the Orlando sun can be brutal and requires more than just a light dusting of sunscreen each morning. You should bring a really good SPF (I usually start with 5o) and apply it regularly throughout the day. The sun can really sneak up on you and can make your tiny tots lobsters in no-time if you aren’t careful. Painful sunburns will pretty much put the brakes on any theme park day.
5. Forcing kids to wear uncomfortable costumes in the heat- I’m a huge fan of the makeovers at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the Pirates League and my family has done them several times. However, it’s important to remember that the costume, gowns, makeup and heels can be hot and uncomfortable. I’ve seen a lot of little crying princesses that would attest to this. If you’re having makeovers done in the morning have a change of clothes and swap out the costumes when the afternoon heat starts to reach its peak. Or let them walk around in their heels for a while but have some comfy sneakers at the ready.
6. Not leaving early enough to make breakfast reservations. I’ve seen this countless times, you board the morning resort buses only to see a mom and dad, frantic, upset and fighting because they’re running late for their 8 am dining reservation as kids look on worried. This can easily set the tone for the rest of your Disney day. Avoid it by catching that first-morning bus out of your resort. This usually shows up anywhere from 7- 7:15 am and is easily the least busy bus of the day giving you extra time to make your reservation. If 7:30 rolls around and the bus hasn’t shown up then go to the valet or baggage area and ask them to call you a cab. Trust me. It will be easier on everyone.
7. Holding too religiously to a touring plan or itinerary – It really does pay to be organized in the lead into your first Disney vacation but there is such a thing as overplanning especially when it doesn’t allow you to take time out of your days to be spontaneous. Some of your best Disney memories are the ones that you least expect. So if your kid wants to play at Casey Jr. Splash n’ Soak Station but that means missing out on your next scheduled attraction- Do it! Leave room for your kids to show you what they consider to be a good time.
8. Forcing kids to do rides and attractions they just aren’t in to- Parents will have rides and attractions that they really want to do and by all means you should. However, don’t make your kids wait in line for an attraction or character greeting if they just aren’t into it. I forced my child to wait in line for 45 minutes once just to get a picture with Tinkerbell and I won’t do that again. It was a lot of standing around and by the end of it, no one was happy. Just like 7 (above) always be prepared to alter your plans and if there’s something your kids just don’t want to do or if rides are too long skip it.
9. Not spending enough time at the resort – When it comes to a Disney World vacation, you definitely want to get your money’s worth and typically that means spending a lot of time at the parks. However, chances are if you have small children and you ask them to tell you the things they want to do most, I guarantee you that swimming in the resort pool tops the list. Be sure you set aside at least part of the day for them to enjoy all of the amazing poolside activities available at your resort. Some of their best memories may be hanging out in the pools. It’s also a great way to relax and unwind.
We hope these tips will help you have a kinder gentler Disney vacation. Disney can be stressful and tensions can on occasion get high. However, when it comes to keeping kids happy, the strategies are pretty simple, let them relax, keep them fed and comfortable all while avoiding family drama- its a Disney recipe for success!
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