Before I begin I feel compelled to mention that you go to Disney World to have fun. Do not let yourself turn into one of those yelling stressed out parents that you see there. Just don’t do it. You don’t want to be the mother that other park attendees remember when they go home as the quintessential stressed out parent.
These are in no particular order other than how I thought them up:
I. Press pennies:
This is a cheap and fun souviener. Look on the park maps to find the penny press machines. My kids enjoyed hunting for these, like treasure hunters! Disney also sells little penny press booklets to keep your pennies in. While I personally didn’t buy these on our trip, I think it would have been a good idea as I still find these press pennies laying aroung the children’s roms. A booklet for them would have kept them all together better and would have been easier to store neatly once we got home.
II. Passports at Epcot:
Epcot prides itself on being educational, though I would call it edutainment. We really enjoyed Epcot, but we are a family of nerds. The passports were a great way for the children to have something to do after we visited the 11 different countries. They also have people in each of the pavillions who will stamp your child’s passport.
III. It will rain:
Yes it will. It will rain at least once while you are there. Suddenly the sky will open up and people everywhere will go scrambling for shelter. And you will pay for the overpriced hefty bags, yes, you will.
Go to wal-mart and spend $2.00 for cheapy rain ponchos for you and your children. Also bring a few large hefty lawn and leaf bags. Keep them folded and in your diaper bag. You will want these to cover your stroller, diaper bag, and any other personal items. Wear sandals, like tevas, that can get wet. If you decide to wear sneakers, like I did because I was pregnant and needed good support shoes, bring extra socks or you too will be forced to buy a $10 pair of socks with mickey mouse embroidered on them. Because NOTHING in Disney world is character free or inexpensive.
If being wet will bother your young children, bring a spare set of clothes. There are numerous opportunities to play in fountains. Even just a onesie or sundress which don’t take up alot of room. My children who older, say age 5 and up, just have to suck it up and deal with being a little wet. I know. I am mean.
IV. Character meals:
Kids love these and you may find yourself balancing between thriftiness and making memories. Breakfast is the least expensive and the one that children in general are most likely to actually eat. By dinner time the crankiness has set in and they may not be as enthusiastic about meeting the characters.
Do your kids care what characters they see at the meal? Mine didn’t really care. We ate at the Cape May Cafe, which has a fabulous breakfast buffet and the characters are dressed in 1920 style beach attire. It was not packed with people, the food was great, the character to guest ratio was high, and all the characters came over to our table.
The added benefit was that we were able to park our car at the resort for the day and walk in from there instead of going to the main parking lot. If you are goint to go to a character breakfast make sure it is located near the park you are going to be attending that day. Make your breakfast reservation for before the park opens for the day. The you will be finishing up your breakfast as the park opens and be ready to start your day.
V. Seeing your favorite characters:
One of the things that surprised me was how few characters are actually just wandering around the park. If you want to make sure to see a particular character check the parks daily entertainment schedule, which you will grab on your way into the park. There will be character showtimes listed and character wranglers who will make you form a line.
Be prepared for obnoxious parents of other children who will push, shove, and think their child is entitled to spend a half hour with the character, while your child stands there. But that is what the wrangler is for and most of the time the issues I saw were resolved quickly and peacefully.
VI. People, they suck:
I know this really isn’t a tip per se, but there is a HUGE segment of the population who does not think twice about doing things like standing in front of your child at a parade, being rude to your child and you, or just being loud and obnoxious. There is nothing that annoys me more than people who complain constantly. What did you think, people, that Mickey Mouse himself was going to hold your hand and escort you through the park?
I can think of so many examples of adults who were poorly behaved and how shocked I was at their behavior, and then in turn shocked that I was shocked. But one in particular stands out.
We were waiting in line for ice cream cones and there was a group of 4 adults with no children in front of us. The girl at the counter was having trouble with the ice cream machine and the icecream was too soft and drippy. She handed one of the men his ice cream cone and the icecream began sliding sideways. He went nuts. Threw the ice cream and cone down on the ground while shouting, “Didn’t you go to school to learn how to do this?” as well as several other expletive laden things.
Ice cream cone serving school? Seriously? Get a grip. Also, keep your crazy self away from me.
VII.Take a break in the afternoon:
I heard this one so many times, but we never really did. We would find a quiet place in the park to sit. Maybe watch a show in the street or listen to some music and enjoy a Mickey Mouse icecream cone. If you are feeling like you want to sit and rest, check your entertainment schedule and see what is going on that might be relaxing and enjoyable. But we never left the park and came back later. It seemed like a big waste of time.
VIII. Use the Fastpass Wisely:
(Not to be confused with the Photopass)
Here’s how it works. You insert your Park entrance ticket into a Fastpass machine at the attraction that has a line. You then receive a designated ride time window to return to the ride., When your time rolls around, come back to the Fastpass entrance and bypass the line completely.
A word of caution about the fastpass. You can only have one on your ticket at a time. Be sure to check the return time on the machine before you put your card in. Otherwise you may end up with a return time 6 hours later in the day and not be able to use the Fastpass option for other attractions for the entire day. There is no way to undo your Fastpass.
Because we travelled off season we only used them once, to go on the Peter Pan ride in the Magic Kingdom. It was well worth it.
IX. Baby swap:
Probably the best thing EVER for families travelling with with a mixed age group where some of the children are too young for a given ride. Really this should be named parent swap. In a nutshell what happens is that you wait on line all together. When you get to the front of the line one parent goes on the ride with children who are big enough while the other parents stands off to the side with the too small children. Once the first parent child team is done on the ride, the parent gets off and the other parent gets on. The children get to ride it twice.
X. Use Priority Seating for restaurant meals.
It is not a reservation There is no commitment on your part. What it means is that when you arrive at the restaurant you will get to jump the line and be seated next. So call ahead and do this if you think there is even a remote possibility that you want to eat somewhere at a given time. If it works out, great. if it doesn’t, well that is fine too.
XI. Photo Pass:
How does the Photo Pass work?
There are official Disney photogfraphers all over the park. For every opportunity that there is a photographer take advantage of his/her services. The first time you have a photograph taken you will recieve a card from the photographer. From that point on you will hand over your card to every photographer who will scan it. At the end of your trip you go to the desiganted photo pick up locations where you can view your photographs.
This can be a good deal for some people.
The photos are expensive (VERY expensive) when purchased individually, but there is also a Photo Pass CD option, an unlimited amount of photographs on the CD for $99. And while that does sound like a lot of money, you should keep in mind that you can accumulate 100 photos in a weeks time. And if you are travelling with other relatives or grandparents you can split the price between all of you and have all of you in the photogrpahs if that is what you desire. The you can go home and print them out in the thousands for all your friends and relatives to admire. Or toss the CD in your drawer to collect dust.
Tomorrow I will be concluding the series with some final helpful links, tips, and small ideas to make sure the trip is fun and memorable (in a good way) for all of you.