Friday, July 22, 2016

Disney World in Four Simple Steps

I'm a few days out of our last day at Disney World, and I think I have some clarity (and I've caught my breath...) around what worked.  Really, what worked highlighted what didn't - so, I'll stick with the positives!

I'll put the honesty up front (since, you know, I usually write in half-truths, ha!): Disney World with two tiny humans (one age 4, one age 1) is EXHAUSTING.  It's also exhilarating, exciting, and highly enjoyable!

Here we go with the simple steps (though, let's pause to acknowledge that when dealing with children, nothing is every actually simple).

1. Either don't plan or have a flexible plan. I'm a BIG planner, especially when it comes to getting the most out of a vacation. I had to admit with this trip, though, that my GO GO GO mentality wouldn't work. I might want to ride Haunted Mansion and then realize before getting in line that my four-year-old would probably be terrified, and I didn't have the energy to talk him down from his terror (for the record, he was scared to drive a car on his own at LegoLand...so my worry about his terror was, shall we say, justified).  If I felt too committed to my plan, and it fell apart, well, I'd likely fall apart. NOT COOL. Must remember that I am the adult... So, I didn't have a plan.  And it was glorious.  Have a Fast Pass for Buzz Lightyear at 2, but the ride is right here with a 10 minute wait? Let's do it.  We're starving and the only thing nearby is a Dole Whip? Don't mind if I do.  Seriously...I took a vacation from myself, and it was magical.

2. Understand the power of naps.  As much as I wanted to be able to stay in the park for like...ever...that isn't possible with my particular children.  They crave, need, desire, must have nap time.  Our days tended to look like this: Get up, MOOOOVE IT to the park by 9ish. Play, ride, saunter, handle the whining, eat lunch, BACK TO NAP around 1/1:30, back to the park around 6 for play, ride, saunter, handle the whining, eat dinner.  My kids were shiny, happy, people, and that made all of the adults shiny, happy, people, too, and not just because we were basically non-stop sweating machines, because Florida is HOT.

3. Eat.  So, the parks allow you to bring in your own food. I got exhausted just looking at the families pushing strollers full of kids, thermals, coolers, and like, their whole houses. I get it, theme park food is freaking expensive. But in that sticky (soooo sticky) heat, I'm willing to pay for food rather than carry it all in with me.  We started with breakfast at our rental house (like 1/3 the price of most Disney area hotels) - my husband would make bagels, eggs, and cheese that we could eat in the car - and then willingly bought food in the parks. We found a few gems like Columbia Harbor House (Lobster Roll?? Air conditioning and SEAT?) in Magic Kingdom and Harambe Market (really deliciosu gyros, curry corn dog, and unique sodas and cocktails) in Animal Kingdom - seriously, we could have just hung out in Harambe Market (and we did, during a thunder storm - it was one of my favorite experiences).  If you're this committed to an amusement park trip, just buy food there...it made our lives in the oppressive heat so much more enjoyable! Plus...we were limiting the budget of souvenirs (see tip #4); so, the cost of food was okay. That, and we're from Napa...stuff's pricey here, so that $12 taco salad? That's what I pay on a Saturday, anyway.

4. Limit the Souvenirs - We like camping and hiking and "leave nothing but your footprints" kind of travel, but we realize after one (memory filled, super fun) camping trip, that we also need some structured activities with our little ones.  This trip came along not because we'd budgeted and planned for it (like sensible people), but because my work was willing to pay for me to go to a conference in Orlando.  We decided to go for it, but I didn't want to come home with 1,000 new stuffed animals. We squeezed our  lives into two suitcases and two tiny carry-on backpacks, and that meant we had a valid reason for no souvenirs, other than, "My name is...no." My son came home with one book, one droid he got to custom build that can fit in the palm of his hand, and a t-shirt his grandmother really wanted him to have (that he loves). My daughter talked us into a Boo doll that's small enough for her teeny tiny 14 month arms...and by talked into us, I mean, she hugged it and snuggled it and made us want to weep with the cuteness. So, four tiny souvenirs? Not bad.  Now, my phone's memory is almost full of photos and videos (that my son keeps asking to watch), but that's what I'd rather have!

There you have it. We survived, happily, with two tiny humans under five at Disney World. We ran through Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. My MIL, hubby, and the kids also did Typhoon Lagoon, and we bought Costco tickets to LegoLand and ran through there like maniacs.  It was worth it.  I'm okay spending my money on memories, and that's exactly what I did.


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