Week #34 of 52: "Mom Down... Mom Down"
This is what my inside voice was yelling on Friday. Yep, Mom was down. Down not in the way of feeling sad. But down from sheer exhaustion. So much so that I cancelled my own planned mommy break of going to see Bad Moms 2 to instead settling with Christmas decoration shopping without kids (which I will admit was quite enjoyable). Now you know I must have been pretty tired to deviate from my mommy break plans. My mommy breaks are the highlight of each week. I look forward to them with great anticipation and intention to ensure nothing gets in the way of making them happen. I was going to be stubborn and ignore my inside voice but my mental will power was not enough to conquer my physical body saying “Nicole, sit down somewhere.” The root cause to this compounded exhaustion: DISNEY WORLD!
Moms, I had my virgin Disney World experience this past week. We went Saturday through Wednesday. It was AMAZING! A truly magical place. Everything I thought it would be and then some. This trip had been in the making for a few years! For me, it was one of those check the box experiences I wanted to afford my kids but wanted to make sure we went when they could both enjoy it AND remember it! We went to Magic Kingdom the first day, Epcot the second day, and closed the experience with Animal Kingdom. Prior to going I didn’t really quite understand why there are some families who go more than once, but I get it now. It is impossible to take in the entire experience in one visit… really impossible. I believe it would be a disservice to you my followers to not give a brief recap of some tips that I learned along the way.
Inflatable Booster Seats: We invested in inflatable booster seats, Bubble Bums. The best $40 I spent on the trip. It allowed us to get to the airport via uber safely, as well as to the theme parks where we shared a car without schlepping bulky booster seats.
Tablets: Not sure where you are on the tablet spectrum. We do regulate their use significantly, but on vacation: HUGE lifesaver when waiting at the airport and on the plane. Just don’t forget to download a movie and include the headphones.
Time of Year: November is a great month to visit Disney World. The weather was perfect staying in the mid-70s (and sometimes got up to 80), most days and maybe getting down to mid-50s in the evening (don’t forget to pack the light jacket). It was not too hot, not too cold. Perfect weather. I can’t imagine going during late spring break or in the summer with that Florida heat and the crowds. Sounds like a recipe for multiple child (and adult) melt downs.
Age: We intentionally waited until our youngest was 5 because we did not want our trip to be dictated by nap schedules. Granted, both my 5YO and 7YO act like they still need naps on the daily basis, but that’s not the point. We did not want to have to worry about trying to get back to the hotel room to hit their nap schedule and integrating that with where we would be in the park waiting to get on a line. Too much! There are tons of families who are schlepping around babies and toddlers but it looked painful for them. They are not even old enough to truly enjoy it because many of the rides have a height requirement of at least 38 - 40”. One parent enjoys riding solo or with the sibling while another parent has to pop a squat on a bench somewhere with the baby to wait for the other parent to finish. Not my idea of fun but a lot of parents do it… so to each its own.
Fast Pass and Restaurant Reservations: Fast pass allows you to reserve your time for your favorite rides. You can have up to three fast pass reservations per day for each park. If you stay on resort, you can make fast pass and restaurant reservation 60 days in advance, if you stay off resort 30 days in advance. I was a few days past my 30 day mark when I went on mydisneyexperience.com, but I didn’t think it would make a big difference. WRONG. Ride availability was definitely more sporadic which can also be attributed to the time of year we were going as well. Restaurant reservations were almost non-existent. My recommendation: Don’t delay, make your reservations your first available day. The whole restaurant and fast pass reservation process mentally overwhelmed me. The solution: I called the Disney vacation specialists directly, not only did they walk me through the entire process but also made the reservations for me. Also, if possible, make the fast pass recommendations back to back so that you can have momentum experiencing rides and be able to quickly “re-up” on new fast passes once you have completed your initial 3 for that day at the park. Some of our fast passes were up to 4 hours apart, which can add a challenging element to the trip if the wait times in the stand by line are too long. We were able to get dinner reservations for one evening, took advantage of being a walk in at a Disney Springs restaurant another evening, and ate off resort for one evening at a regular chain restaurant.
On Resort vs Off Resort: We enjoyed the trip with close friends and decided to find a place on VRBO.com. Staying on resort gives you greater accessibility to the parks and connectivity with your meal plans. It also allows you to make fast pass and restaurant reservations sooner. We rented a 3 bedroom 2 bath condo equipped with bunk beds, kitchen and all. Staying at a vacation rental allowed us the flexibility to cook breakfast every morning before heading to the park which was a HUGE money saver. The added perk: our condo was only 10-15 minutes away from the theme parks.
Packing Snacks: I am not sure about your kids, but my kids are snack monsters. I hear “Mommy can I have a snack?” at least once a day. Disney World was no exception. My best friend, whose family joined us, did a store run before arriving (they drove in from Atlanta) and loaded up on goldfish, cuties, cheezits, and other kid-approved snacks. We made them snack bags each day and packed bottles of water. This also saved a ton of money. Instead of spending the whole day buying snacks at the park and paying a premium we were able to get away with just buying the occasional ice cream sundae or treat once a day.
Strollers: You would think, 5YO/7YO, “I can forgo the stroller”. NOT. The theme parks are so massive and vast, I felt like I needed a stroller some days. If you don’t own a cheap umbrella stroller either pick up one from Walmart OR just rent one from the park. Disney had single and double strollers available to rent and offered a discount if you rented them for multiple days. They were life savers and prevented the “Mommy, my legs are too tired to walk.” (Yes those are my children).
Have a Plan: We did a pit stop at the Disney store inside the Orlando International Airport only because we needed to kill some time. I succumbed to spending about $20, but I also took advantage and played 20 questions with the store clerk and picked up some free maps. Her most invaluable advice was to have a plan. It is easy to walk into a park and just be overwhelmed with the crowds and attractions. That was us the first day at Magic Kingdom when finding things to do in between our Fast Passes. We got smart the 2nd and 3rd day and my girlfriend’s husband looked at the maps and identified the rides we were interested in doing contingent on the wait times. SIDEBAR: We really really wanted to do Avatar in Animal Kingdom. Not only did the 44” height requirement not work for the two 5 year olds in the group but it was up to a FOUR HOUR wait! We heard the ride was amazing but we could not subject ourselves to standing in line for literally half a day. We will try to hit it up next time.
Pick Age Relevant Parks: Disney World has several theme parks. Out of the major ones: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, we decided to forgo Hollywood Studios and save it for when the kids are older and pair it with Universal Studios. Our favorite park was Animal Kingdom. It is awesome! From the real life African safari to the miniature Broadway show of the Lion King, they left nothing out. It is the zoo, carnival, and theme park all in one.
Enjoy the No (To Low) Wait Stuff: When wait lines are too long and you are waiting for your next Fast Pass reservation, take advantage of the no wait stuff. Epcot and Animal Kingdom had 4D movie experiences that only had a 10-15 minute wait. Animal Kingdom also had this fossil park for kids to run around in. They got to burn off some energy and it allowed us to kill a solid hour before the next fast pass reservation.
Ponchos: Although the temperature was perfect, we were hit with some rain spells, however, it was most times light sprinkles. Do not let that ruin the show. My girlfriend was ingenious and purchased some cheap ponchos for all of us. They allowed us to stay dry and keep it moving.
Managing the Souvenir Wants: We gave each kid a set amount that they could spend on souvenirs (another ingenious idea of my girlfriend). If your kids are not old enough to understand how to budget, simplify and allow them to pick out one souvenir/day. We also ordered back packs, mouse ears, lanyard wallets, and notebooks (for Character autographs) online, which gave the kids the same experience without the premium price tag.
I think that’s it! Theres a ton more I can share on the rides we enjoyed and the restaurants we ate at, so if you are interested feel free to email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org