What I Learned At Disney World

Disney_2006_073 Last Disney post, I PROMISE.  But I’ve received several e-mails and comments from people that you’d like to do a Disney trip yourself.  While it’s still relatively fresh on my mind, I thought I’d share what I learned.

  1. Absolutely, first and foremost, realize ahead of time that you SIMPLY CANNOT SEE EVERYTHING.  Unless, of course, you’re planning to stay for six months.  Realize you’ll have to pick and choose; otherwise, you’ll be exhausted.  And realize your kids might enjoy things you didn’t think they would–be flexible.
  2. Contrary to what the books and websites would indicate, you do NOT need to be a logistical engineer to have a successful Disney vacation.  You do NOT need to know everything about every ride and every restaurant and every character to enjoy yourself.  In fact, I really believe now that over-researching may only cause stress.  My advice?  Find a friend who is knowledgable about Disney (in my case, it was Chilihead).  Ask him or her for the "highlights"; what you MUST know.  The rest is just gravy.
  3. Stay on-site, and get the dining plan.  It seems like a lot of money up front, but it is actually a great value.
  4. Travel with another family!  We went with dear friends, and it was extra fun.  Having more adults on hand to help out makes a big difference. 
  5. As for individual rides and attractions, every family is different.  Go to www.allearsnet.com to get the run-down on individual rides.  Actually, that website is indispensible for all things Disney.  Surprisingly, the official Disney site is hard to navigate and essentially useless.
  6. Rent a stroller, even if your kids are typically too old for one.  You do SO much walking at Disney World that it’s just too much for little legs.  We rented a double stroller for our 8, 7 and 4 year old, and it was the best money we spent all week.
  7. Buy the Park-Hopper variety of park tickets.  It allows you to go back and forth freely between your hotel and all the parks.  This is especially nice when you’re pooped by 3 pm and need a rest before evening activities.
  8. One word:  FIREWORKS.  Find out when they are at each park, and don’t miss ’em.  Ever.
  9. If time or budget requires that you miss a park, I’d recommend passing on Animal Kingdom.  It’s certainly fun, but it’s essentially a glorified zoo.  (Though read up on this for yourself–if you’re a real animal lover you might have a different opinion).  Also, we skipped the water parks on our trip, and we were glad we did–for us, five days wasn’t enough to have included that. 
  10. Take a deep breath, and have fun!

17 thoughts on “What I Learned At Disney World

  1. peach says:

    Thanks for the lucid and completely objective review, friend. You have already made our planning for our trip much smoother. I have hooked up with the Chilihead (expert extraordinaire!), and I’ve not been disappointed!! We are looking forward to our trip after Christmas this year, and I am getting ziplock bags for my 40th birthday this year to prepare. Hee Hee!!

  2. Stephanie says:

    I agree with a lot of this! We were in San Diego in January with no plans to go to Disneyland, but found ourselves with a free day and decided to drive up there. It was our first Disney experience. It was great! We had no expectations since we hadn’t researched it through & through- we just went & had a blast!

  3. Diane says:

    What a great review filled with practical and essential advise. I’m so glad your trip is still ongoing–that’s the wonderful thing about a Disney trip–it keeps on giving! Which is a good thing–as it amortizes the expense of the trip over years! 🙂

  4. Rabbit says:

    Spot-on with your suggestions! And may I add: do a character meal! My kids still talk about meeting Pooh and the gang at 1900 Park Faire, and Mickey et al at Chef Mickey’s. 🙂

  5. Saved by Grace says:

    Skip ANIMAL KINGDOM? sigh… AK and Epcot are tied for my favorite parks! (Ok, and I’m a safari driver at Animal Kingdom and used to work at Epcot but I’m sure that doesn’t figure in to things!)
    Actually, when it comes down to it, we spend less time at Disney/MGM studios than any of the other parks. It’s mostly shows there and I find it hard to time things properly to see enough to make it worthwhile. Although Fantasmic! is pretty awesome!

  6. Shalee says:

    I really needed this post. I want to go next year with the kids if God will allow us to do so. Watch out Shannon because you may be the friend that I call on to tell me all the good stuff to see! And I love Rabbit’s idea for the character meal!
    And I’m with Peach, the ziplock deal is so on the to-do list!

  7. maria says:

    just stumbled on your blog and wanted to give my 2 cents to Disney planning…book the character breakfast in Magic Kingdom, you get in early and we walked into an empty park with mickey and minnie, goofy etc starting their day. no lines, no wait…just step up and meet and greet and take pics. It was the best!

  8. GiBee says:

    I’m in overload mode… This trip sounds like it would cost a FORTUNE!!!
    I’m sure my son will love vacationing at the local beach and watching everyone’s home-videos of their trips to Disney…
    Care to share?

  9. allismom says:

    Thanks for the Disney tips. We’re going in October and I was and still am lost in the Disney maze. The website you suggested does seem to be great, I can’t wait to have time to really explore it.

  10. HeatherW says:

    Loved and agreed with it all – especially staying on-site and getting the dining plan. Money sooo well-spent!
    One more tip, which I got from my super-crafty sister: we bought the blue autograph books that they sell on-site for each of my daughters and got tons of character signatures. Then every time, we got our picture with the character. When we got home, I taped copies of the pics on the page across from the character’s signature. On the blank pages, I just put random Disney pics (at shows, fireworks, etc.) It’s been the best momento! My girls love their “albums” – took them for show&tell at school. And it’s been so easy and fun for them to tell their friends about our trip.

  11. Laura says:

    Great perspective! We’re huge Disneyland freaks (would be Annual Passholders if we lived closer) but I’ve never been to FL. Someday!

  12. chilihead says:

    Ditto on everything you said. It’s just so much fun! If you overthink it you lose sight of the important stuff–like the look on the kids’ faces when they see it for the first time. You don’t want to miss that just becuase “you had to be” somewhere.

  13. Faith says:

    I want to go as soon as the little man gets a bit older. Thanks for the tips. I’m counting the days. Hubby is counting the cash for the stash.

  14. Nettie says:

    Thanks for the ideas! We’re planning our first trip next year and after reading a couple planning books I was feeling overwhelmed by the need to plan already. I’ll have to check out that site you mentioned, too.

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