One of the greatest dad experiences is taking the kids to a Disney Park for the first, second, third and more times. Disney World, outside of Orlando, Florida, expands the experience with five resort areas and parks. Heading to Disney World can be an overwhelming experience, and it’s not uncommon to see the kids bouncing off the walls or tired-to-tears. Check out other stories from Traveling Mom and Traveling Dad.
Making Disney Affordable
A visit to Disney Parks is an expensive trip. There is no other way to classify the total cost of bringing a family to the “happiest place on earth.” Stay in the park. This seems counter-intuitive at first, but staying inside Walt Disney World Resort eliminates the need for a rental car, parking fees and gas. It also saves travel time to and from the parks by using the free shuttles, boat taxis or monorails.
Disney has resorts AAA rates from two to four diamonds, and they are priced accordingly. Travel agencies, like AAA, Costco and others also offer packages that discount the rack rates in the resorts and can include tickets and other premium options at less than list price.
Personal experience: I’ve stayed in discounted nearby motels and on the last trip, an in-park resort. Next trip, I’m staying in the park. The extra hotel cost is equal to the avoided expenses of commuting to the park.
The One Thing You Must Do at Disney World
Everyone has a favorite ride, but the one thing that has to be part of a Disney trip is a photo with one of the characters. This tradition, now dating back over nearly 60 years, creates a family photo that is turned to again and again. Dad, you’ve got to be in the picture with the kids, too. Before you know it, they will be grown up, and you won’t ever have a photo opportunity like this one.
Personal experience: I was too aloof to pose with the kids – I had to “take” the photo to ensure it was right – and missed the opportunity to be in the moment with two wide-eyed children completely taken with Mickey Mouse.
Best Tip for First (and Any) Timers
Charge!! It’s a three-pronged tip. Visit the park mid-week during an off-peak time. The first visit to a Disney Park was a Wednesday through Sunday in fall. Time away from school was pre-arranged, homework was completed prior to the trip, and special Disney-related assignments were culled for a number of courses. Yes, visiting Disney – especially Epcot – can be an educational experience.
Next, sit down and plan the rides you must experience before leaving home. Involve the kids in trip planning. Set your priorities. Know where you’re going to go.
When arriving early at the park, charge! No, not the credit card, grab hands and head for the ride you want at the furthest extreme of the park. The vast majority of visitors start the experience closest to the entry gate. By starting at the far end of the park and working back towards the exit, the lines will shortest at those rides the crowd flow reaches last.
Personal experience: On the mid-week visit to Disney Parks, without Fast Pass, the longest line—Space Mountain—was under 30 minutes.
Disney Magic Bands
Everywhere, it’s “have a magic day” at Disney World. The key is the new RFID-driven Magic Band. If ordered in advance of the trip, these colorful wrist bands are packed with park admissions, fast pass capabilities and serve as in-park resort room keys. The wrist bands stay in place reasonably well, but here’s what you need to know.
For kids old enough to understand that losing the band has consequences, the bands will stay in place. For younger children, parents grumble that the bands are too easy to remove and lose. Disney has service centers at each of its parks to facilitate replacement, but the lines can be long and you’re losing precious park time for “administrative” time.
Personal experience: Until Disney comes up with a way for parents to “lock” the Magic Band to a child’s arm—like hospital IDs—several parents with whom I spoke said they were holding on to the bands for their youngest children.
Eating Healthy at Disney
Why? This is a vacation, so allow some culinary splurging. Seriously, too much sugar and a poor diet means tummy aches and other inconveniences.
Traveling Moms Dana Zucker, Sherry Wernicke and Sue Rodman have done the work for all us, “10 Tips for Healthy Eating at Disney World” and “4 Ways for Kids to Eat Healthier at Walt Disney World.” TMOM Judy Antell covers special diets in “Vegetarian Dining at Disney: Lots of Choices.”
Personal experience: We kept control over breakfast and dinner to ensure healthy eating, but allowed splurges within the park. In the future, I’d keep closer measure of sugar intake. The peaks and valleys shepherding a trio of kids through the park were challenging in the afternoon.