Friday, February 1, 2013

How to Really Make Disney the Most Magical Place on Earth

Today is my last day of my mini series of Disney Tips. If you missed the past 2 days, here are the links:

3 Tips to Make Planning Your Disney Trip Easier

15 Things to Definitely Pack for Disney

And today, I want to share How to Really Make Disney the Most Magical Place on Earth:

1. Set Expectations. I needed to do this mainly for me. I needed to continually throughout the week remind myself that Disney is not a relaxing vacation. You are going to be tired. It is a tremendous amout of work (mentally, physically, and emotionally). The strategizing and trying to outsmart the crowds, with kids in tow, wears you down. So. . .that brings me to Tip #2.

2. Don't Be Afraid to Take a Break.  We would go hard from opening to lunch. After lunch we would go back to the resort for a rest. We would make everyone lie down. The kids said they were not tired. The kids squirmed all over the place due to an overdose of sugar and excitement. So we required our kids to look like they were asleep. And I tell you, if they lay still and were quiet, they fell asleep. . .even the big kids. Around 5ish everyday, we would go back to the park for more rides and the evening festivities.

I wish we had taken a whole day break. I wish on Day 4 we had just stayed at the resort. The resorts offer a lot (heated pools, movies on blow up outdoor screens, games led by staff). We did shorten rest time a few days and took advantage of the pools and games, but I wish we had spent a whole day at the resort. I would have appreciated a full day break.

Ginger, the Disney Travel Specialist we used and blogger at The Mouse Connection has similiar thoughts and recommends not overplanning or overdoing. Ginger says:

Once you have done your basic fact finding, it is time to put your plan into action. Take all of the information you have collected and prioritize. What is going to be important to your family? What are realistic goals? Most importantly, what are your limitations? I recommend you come up with a general “plan of attack” for each day, but try not to schedule every moment. I have been guilty of leading the family through the parks as if I were commanding the troops. This works just fine for a little while, but believe me, a revolt is inevitable. Build in a little time to relax. An afternoon break for your family may go a long way to the overall success of your trip. Also, be mindful of bedtimes. Staying up to late one night toward the end of your trip may be a reasonable gamble. Staying up to late every night can be a recipe for disaster. Finally, do not be so absorbed in your agenda that you forget to embrace the magic and spontaneity of where you are.

3. Agree with Your Spouse in Regards to Disciplining the Kids. Remind yourself and your husband that the kids are going to be so excited, so overstimulated, so oversugared, and so tired and therefore, ya'll are not going to see the very best side of your kids in Disney World. This is not a real great time for training the kids. But at the same time you will need to reign them in and exercise some sort of discipline so that the vacation is enjoyable. The key is for you and your husand to be on the same page and agree on what you are going to let slide and what you are not. Big lollipops like below: we let slide. Sidenote: these lollipops were a snack credit on the Dining Plan.

4. Set Souvenir Limits Ahead of TIme. The kids are going to find it hard to pass by balloon bouquets and carts overspilling with light up goodness and not want one. A lot of rides have you walk through a gift shop after the ride is over. The gift shops are just as beautiful as the attractions. The kids are going to want to bring something home.  

We gave each of our kids $20 for the week. When they asked for something, we said, "Sure, you can spend your money on it."  Once the $20 was gone, they were done. Jonathan got a CD and some tattoos in Downtown Disney. Anna got a purse but had to put $15 of her babysitting money with our $20. Brooke bought some trading pins. David saved his $20 for a stop at a South Carolinian firework store. And Daniel actually saved his money and put it in the bank.

We did not buy all the cool hats at Disney, but we sure did take pics of ourselves in them. The cast members did not mind; we asked. Here's Anna and David is Star Wars hats:

5. Since we are talking about money. One of Ginger's tips for How to Really Make Disney the Most Magical Place on Earth is to Have a Reasonable Budget. Ginger says:

What constitutes “reasonable” varies by family. A family vacation should leave you with great memories, not feeling cash strapped. There are many factors that drive the overall cost of a vacation. Resort, tickets, and meals are the three major expenses of a Disney vacation. The time of year you choose to go can greatly influence the overall cost of your vacation. As a general rule, non holiday weeks during the school year have the lowest crowds and best chances of discounts. Holiday weekends, Christmas Break and Spring Break are among the busiest times. Not only are the room and dining plans more expensive, but there are usually no discounts offered.

Disney has many resort hotels to meet a variety of budgets. Consider an on property stay to avoid extra hidden fees that inevitably follow an off property stay. Be aware that sometimes spending a little extra can get you a lot more, but the opposite can be true as well. Making sure you have all the ticket you need, but no more can help keep the budget in line. The dining plan can be helpful and can really help you plan your expenses. It is possible to lose money, so it is worth it to do a little research.

6. Find Out Ahead of Time What Rides Will Be Closed. It can be quite disappointing for the kids to hear all about the best rides from their friends and to look the rides up on You Tube and then when you get to the park, find out the ride they were so looking forward to is closed for construction or cleaning. Splash Mountain and Kali River Rides were closed when we were there. Before your trip, check out Disney World's Refurbishment Schedule on You can aslo go directly to the Walt Disney World website to get this information. And there are also Smart Phone Apps that have up to the minute information on closures as well as line wait times. Here's J and Anna on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin:

7. Know that You Will Be Behind When You Get Back Home. Family vacations are hard work. You work hard before you leave, preparing, planning and packing. You work hard while you are there keeping a good attitude and making sure the kids are somewhat controllable. And then you work hard when you get back, catching up on all the laundry, cleaning up all that has been dumped from your van to your living room floor, and getting back into a rhythm of grocery shopping and cooking meals.

When I get home from vacation and am behind, I focus on 2 things. The kitchen and the laundry. Because everyone needs to eat and everyone needs clean underwear. Everything else can wait. These 2 posts elaborate on that:

3 Tips for Keeping the House when You are Overwhelmed

Moving Beyond Survival Mode in terms of Housekeeping

And just for the record, we have been home for a week and half and I am still not caught up. It is ok. It was worth it. Intentional women know what is worth the hard work, what is worth the time, and what is worth the expense. We are not shooting for perfection, we are shooting for excellent, intentional, magical.

Whether you trek to Disney or host a family board game night, may you create magical memories for your family.


  1. Su,
    Thank you for this wonderful series! We are heading to "The World" near the end of this month. We are SO excited to get back to one of our favorite places. Your tips are wonderful reminders for me on how to keep it all in perspective. Thank you.

  2. I definitely agree that you shouldn't be afraid to take a break. My husband strongly insisted that this year we take a break day. I wasn't thrilled with the idea initially but he was totally right. In the middle of the trip it was nice to have a day to lounge in the morning and enjoy all the resort had to offer. We were much more refreshed for our next days at the parks after taking a break day!

    Great series!!!


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