Golden Rules for Disney World
by Candyce H. STapen
Like many families, the first time we visited Disney World was to mark a celebration. I’d just completed my doctorate degree, but to make all the required edits by the submission deadline, I spent more hours that April in the library than with my then 9-year-old son Matt. When the university wouldn’t honor my request to allow Matt to march in the procession with me, Matt, my husband David and I ditched my convocation for three days of family fun at Disney World. Matt deserved it and so did we.
Disney World had great rides, exciting attractions and lively shows. But like most novices, we overdid it. We snaked through lines, boarded attractions and hurried on to the next experience. Along with many magical moments, there were more than a few cranky meltdowns. Over the years we’ve gone through the gates with our progeny when they were pre-schoolers, pre-teens, teens, college students and twentysomethings. Here are three Golden Rules we've learned to follow.
Book an on-property lodging.
Disney Resorts has rooms ranging from moderately priced to expensive. Staying on site cuts travel time and allows admission to a designated park one hour earlier or later each day. That gives you more park time with fewer crowds.
Establish an amount for souvenirs.
As soon as I wheeled my 4-year old daughter Alissa down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street on her first park visit, she pointed to the five –foot Minnie Mouse in the window, demanding one. I explained that this long tall mouse costs about twenty times more than we agreed to spend and that these big dolls serve mostly as eye-catching window displays. As Alissa pondered this, a man walked out the door clutching a monster Minnie under his arm, followed by a beaming five-year-old. Alissa escalated her wailing to a wake-the-dead level.
To placate her, I purchased a reasonably priced, doll-sized Minnie and handed her to Alissa, who immediately threw midget Minnie on the ground. I reassured Alissa that our Minnie would be waiting for her when she was ready. It took two Tylenol for me plus lunch and a nap for Alissa until she finally accepted petite Minnie, who became Alissa’s favorite doll and traveled with us for years.
What did I learn? I can survive the souvenir wars by bending the budget a little and by not being guilt-tripped or yelling. Eventually, kids calm down and get back into the fun of the thrill rides and attractions .
Take an afternoon nap.
After a busy day at Disney World, everyone needs a nap, especially mom and dad. Be sure to arrive back at your hotel by 3 p.m. or so. Let your kids splash in the pool and play. Afterwards, nap, then have a quick dinner and head back to the park for the parades and evening fireworks.
And remember, there will be lines, crowded restaurants, costly lunches, and plenty of ways to get overtired and feel underappreciated as a parent. Just keep your sense of humor and remember why you came to Disney World in the first place—to have quality time with your kids. That way, you’ll always find the magic.