During our eighteen years of marriage, our mixed family of yours, mine and ours has been through a variety of ups and downs. As I look back on it, which I often do, I think of the greatest times and the worst times we had while trying to combine our family into a harmonious symphony. Through the trials and tribulations, two things are for certain: we all love each other and we all love our annual trip to Disney World. I originally called this blog, “Disney Is Family: A Glimpse into a Disney Mom’s Heart,” but I shortened it to fit on the title line. I hope you will learn a valuable tip here, the most important tip for a treasured Disney family vacation.
When we took our first trip, our youngest was six. Our kids have not always behaved at Disney World. When they were young they may have gotten tired or hungry or cranky. I am saying they may have because I truly cannot remember any negatives about our trips. One thing I know for sure is that the relationship you build with your child on your vacation is something he or she will remember much more than any rides or characters.
I see families struggling sometimes on their vacations and I try so hard not to butt into their business. I want to hug them and tell them to hang in there; that they are creating little memory stores that will seep out through the years. I want to assure them that those memories will be invaluable in their lives and in the lives of their children. Since I really do hate to pry, I decided to write this blog today for all of them, and for each of you — to encourage you and give you support.
When your children look back on your Disney vacation, they will reflect on your time together. They will remember how happy you all were. Your son will remember having more fun with you than ever before. Your daughter will remember when she was Daddy’s little princess, even if only for a day. Looking back and reminiscing over the years about the trip should be full of wonderful memories. No mom or dad who has taken the time, trouble and expense of taking their child to Disney World would ever want their child to remember the trip by saying, “remember that time you yelled at me in front of the castle because…”
Your child might indeed get tired or hungry or cranky and, although I am not an advocate for letting a child run wild no matter where he or she is, I would like to encourage you to keep love in the forefront of your trip. I wish for you to know that more than anything else it is the family bond that makes it magical.
My husband was raised in a family that never went on vacations. In contrast, I am from a family that went on a summer vacation every year (we even went to Disneyland when I was eight). For the past ten years, we have spent every family vacation in Orlando and I think both of our past histories play a large part in our unwavering commitment to taking these trips. We go every year because, to us, our family time is precious.
My youngest son is now seventeen and this year he will be graduating from high school and then starting college. My oldest is now twenty-five and just bought a home of his own. I absolutely LOVE my family and when we are all in that one resort room and sharing space, time, hugs, laughter and memories that will last a lifetime, I am the happiest ever. On vacation, we are not bound to technology and, believe it or not, none of my three kids has ever complained about having to wait to text their friends once we are back at our room having down time. Our Disney time is family time and they know how much it means to their dad and me to spend quality time with our children who we love dearly.
All of my family is in love with Disney World. Our family vacations are priceless and I cherish these moments with them. At any time during one of our trips, you can find me daydreaming, thinking to myself that THIS is surely what a happy life is all about. For me, Disney is family!
Below I have listed some tips that I have learned throughout the years. I am hoping they will be helpful to you in make your vacation the best possible. For parents of very young children, you might find Lisa Battista’s new book, Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers, helpful in planning your vacation for the maximum enjoyment of both parent and child. There are many other Disney-related travel books available as well – from couples to honeymoons to traveling with teens and young adults; one would surely be right for you.
Before the trip
1. Make a realistic itinerary. Make up a fun daily schedule with input from everyone, including children who are old enough to express their ideas. Make a “Must Do” and “Can’t Do” list. The Must Do list should consist of everyone’s favorite rides and things to which each person is looking forward. The Can’t Do list should include ride rehabs and closings, as well as any parks that will be closed during your visit. This will save you from hassles later. Also, be sure to fit in some relaxing down-time too.
2. Research ride rules. Be sure to find out ride rules ahead of time. You wouldn’t want your son to look forward to driving his own car at the Indy Speedway only to find out he is not tall enough and must ride with you instead. Knowing this ahead of time will help you deter any pouting as well as keep you from having a heartbroken child to console.
3. Decide how long is too long. I have seen adults arguing loudly over whether or not to wait for a ride. Once I witnessed a lady get in line for a 40-minute wait, just to have her husband complain the whole time about making him wait 40 minutes when they could have been doing something else. Couples should decide ahead of time how long they are both willing to wait before seeking a fast pass or waiting in line. Then, stick to it. This will curtail having an argument in the park.
4. Give teens room. If you have teenagers, allow them some time to have fun separate from you and then plan to meet back up for meal time. They love you but they need their own space. Remember when you were their age?
5. Decide on the ground rules. Decide and discuss as a family the ground rules for the trip. Your spouse and/or children will appreciate the fact that you love them dearly and want to have fun with them. Tell them that you are taking this vacation because you want everyone to be happy and have a trip they will always remember. Everyone should commit!
6. Set a realistic budget. Include all your expenses in the budget and stick to it. Let them know that the money you will save by eating breakfast in the room or sandwiches for one meal a day will afford you the opportunity to spend another day in the parks. If you have young children, I am sure you know that everything in every souvenir shop looks good to them. Here is a good rule to follow: tell your children they can buy whatever they want with their own money, but they cannot ask you for more. If they want to make a collection jar at home to save their money before the trip they can. If they don’t, they can choose not to. The day you leave, give each child a set amount (I usually give them $20 each) in addition to what they have saved. Tell them that if they spend it the first day, that is all they will get. If they choose to spend it the last day, that is their choice as well. But they cannot ask for anything else except what you gave them already.
During the trip
1. No work on vacation. Vacation literally means “a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation.” Your family will truly appreciate your willingness to focus on your relationship with them during this trip. If you absolutely must be available to your job, tell your employer that you will not be available during the daytime but you will check for messages at the end of each day.
2. Go over the ground rules. No arguing, no name-calling, no yelling – whatever your family needs are, everyone needs to make a pact. If someone starts to argue or act in a way that will keep others from having fun, remind them that they are breaking the rules. Make it important to them to be part of the family and tell them how much you love them and want to spend this happy time together.
3. APOLOGIZE. This is the most important tip I can give you. In the course of everyday life at home, arguments happen. Good or bad, they do become a habit. If you accidentally start to argue or yell, a-p-o-l-o-g-i-z-e. Tell your loved one that you are sorry for expressing your feelings so strongly and assure them that they are more important to you than any silly argument.
4. Be flexible. Be flexible enough in your schedule to change it if needed. If your family has been looking forward to riding Rock N Rollercoaster and it is closed during your Tuesday visit, maneuver your activities for another day in order to go back and ride it then.
5. Give in a little. It’s a vacation so if you normally have to argue every night during dinner about ‘eating your vegetables’, maybe you could let it go for this short period of time. One of the rules my kids have always loved is that while we are on vacation, and only then, if they choose to eat their dessert first they can. After the first few times of enjoying the pleasure, they decided to eat their food first so they would have the dessert to look forward to at the end of the meal. If they want to switch it up, though, they can at any time – but only on vacation.
6. Stick to the budget. If you gave your child(ren) a certain amount of money on the day you left (see #6 above), stick to that amount. That way you will not be asked for a million things each day of your visit. As I stated before, if they spend it the first day, that is their choice. If they choose to spend it the last day, that is their choice as well. You might remind them that they cannot ask for anything else except what you gave them already.
7. Share lots of hugs and kisses, and make many special memories together. This needs no further explanation. Have a wonderful time!
Brenda is a native Texan born and raised on the Gulf Coast. She visited Disney World twice as a teenager and always dreamed of growing her family Disney. She took her first-timer husband and their three children to Disney World in 2000 and they now spend every Thanksgiving there. Brenda writes with a comedic twist on various Disney topics. She will be sharing tips she has learned during her travels and also hopes to enlighten people on little-known freebies that Disney has to offer. She wishes she could have met Walt Disney and considers herself to be a student of Walt. In parallel to his dream it is her wish that everyone would take at least one trip to Disney World in order to share in its magic with their families.