When friends and family have asked me about my advice for the best way to plan a Disney vacation, I usually start by asking them if they have discussed as a family, what exactly they want to see while in Disney World. In my opinion, this is absolutely where everyone needs to start!
Why? Because the success of a family trip to Walt Disney World, perhaps more than any other kind of vacation, is related to how much fun people are having, especially little ones! This is an on-the-go vacation, without a lot of rest or downtime (unless you specifically plan for it, but more on that later).
People get hot, people get tired, people get cranky. And by “people” I don’t just mean children, ‘cause adults get hot, tired, and cranky too!
And this is just not the way the “happiest place on Earth” was meant to be!
So if ya wanna have fun, you’re gonna have to work at it a bit before you go. Believe me when I say this: deciding to just “wing it” when you get there is more than likely to result in some crankiness along the way! And over our past 10 or so family trips to Disney, we have certainly witnessed many situations where folks could have used a little extra pixie dust to get them through the day!
We planned our first family trip when our daughter was seven. It was a great age for a first Disney World trip: she was old enough to deal with the rigors of touring 4 parks without needing a stroller, but young enough to still believe in the “magic” of it all. And she was also at a great age to help me plan! Which, I realized very quickly as I started to do my research into this trip, was going to be an important key to the overall success.
Why? Well because….
We were traveling in July, which is the hottest, most humid time of the year in Florida, and I knew it would be crowded. I could see that there was NO way that we would last at the parks every day, from early morning till close at night…. with a cold-weather-loving-husband and a seven-year-old… without a break…
And because of this, I realized that there would be rides or attractions that we might not get to see….and choices that we were going to have to make. And the person that would probably care most about those choices was….you guessed it….our daughter. Because nothing guarantees crankiness (or for that matter, a downright meltdown right in the middle of the Magic Kingdom) than a 7 year old who is heartbroken because we were not going to be able to see the ONE THING that she just HAD to see.
So rather than me trying to guess what I thought would be important to her, I got a great Walt Disney World vacation planner that was geared towards a kid’s point of view, and then we read it together. Again and again. In fact, it became one of her favorite books. She highlighted what she liked, read the other kids’ points of view, and made her own lists. Then we got together as a family and went over everything. We prioritized: what was most important to each of us in each park, and what could we live without? With this list in hand, I was able to put together a touring plan of sorts, specifically geared towards what our family wanted to do. And then figure out how to do it all and still remain un-cranky.
Did it work? You bet it did. Lots of fun and magical moments, and we pretty much got to see everything on our “Must Do” list.
And nobody got cranky!