I can’t take credit for that title. That is all my friend Missy. You’ve heard me talk about her – she is the one who helped me during my underwear crisis. So Missy took her family to DisneyWorld earlier this year and sent me that text. I laughed so hard I made her write me a story to share with you all. SHe’s got some great tips to share.
As you all know – our family just got back from vacay in California (blog post coming shortly). Our travel trips are legendary – so much so that we even had a camera crew follow us around at the airport in case of any travel disasters. Which this time, there were none (well, that is a relative term – we did have some sickness, poop explosions, the occasional meltdown and my son making out with the airline seat…). Travel Gods decided to give us a much-needed break. We also spent one day at Disney. Wow is all I have to say. I’m still trying to recover. For those of you that make it an entire week – I am in awe. There needs to be a club for you brave families…
But I am digressing. My friend Missy has two darling boys – Noah, age 5 and Eli, age 4. And she is married to Dr. Bruns. (who has stitched up our kiddos a time or two). And here is their Disney story. (with italicized commentary and occasional photos from moi).
Take your kids to Disney. Go on. I dare you! – By Missy Bruns
As soon as we announced that we had a booked a last-minute trip to Disney over President’s Weekend, we were flooded with advice from all of our Disney friends. At that time I did not yet realize that there are two kinds of people: Disney People and Non-Disney People. (Missy – the Fernandez Fam belongs in the latter category). I think we had two weeks to plan our trip. I now know that people plan these trips for months, even years. Even before we left I was a little concerned that we might not be getting the full experience because locations and dinning options would be sold out.
All of our Disney friends strongly encouraged us to read books. They all had their favorites. Some even offered to buy them for us. One of my normally level-headed friends, Jason, recommended The Disney Guide. I read it cover to cover in about two days. Lets pause right here. I don’t normally read anything above the Pre-K level these days. So there was already Disney Magic at play.
Still in Tulsa-
We decided to do the Disney Deluxe meal plan for our family. They were offering a ‘special’ and our kids ate for ‘free’. Believe me, there is nothing free in the Magic Kingdom. If you are on a real budget- stop right here. Book a trip to Silver Dollar City and call it good. I will tell you right now, we could have taken our kids to Europe for what this trip cost. The Disney resorts and parks allow you to make meal reservations months ahead. The online system is easy to use or you can elect to (after being on hold for 30 or so minutes) speak with a reservation specialist. I actually tried both, and would recommend the online resource. Before we left Tulsa we had at least two meals a day pre-planned.
In planning ahead I did a few things on the front side that saved us some money.
I pre-bought some Disney toys and packed them for our trip. Thinking that we could have Mickey leave them in the room each day- to avoid having to buy high-priced ‘junk’ at the parks. I mean, you must have room in your bag to take them with you- why not buy it before you go and save some cash and stress at the park. Just tell your kids that we have our Disney surprise come to our room! (Missy – this is genius).
I had our travel agent pre-book a town car to pick us up from the airport. We did not ride the FREE Disney bus to or from the resort. And here is why. I knew that after travel with two young boys, we would be more than ready to get there. I knew that they would not tolerate multiple stops along the bus route, dropping off at multiple resorts, before arriving to our location. We also like to be able to call our own shots when it comes to bathroom stops, if you know what I mean. But even more importantly, we wanted to be able to make a quick stop at the grocery store to pick some essentials: PB&J, frozen pancakes, milk, beer, wine….you know the family basics. (Yes, Missy – wine being the MOST important). The towncar company actually had the 30 minute shopping trip built into the cost of the service. I did not do the math, but it feels like we almost paid for the town car by avoiding buying wine on property.
Where to stay:
We knew we wanted to stay ON PROPERTY. The Disney empire is vast. It is far more expensive to stay on property, but the ease in getting our family to and from our park adventures was made easier. Disney offers different levels and plenty of on site options. We knew we wanted to stay at one of the premier luxury resorts. But even under that umbrella of level, there were still choices to be made.
We have two young boys, neither are good sleepers. So we were hoping to avoid a standard hotel room with two queen size beds. We opted for a two bedroom villa at the Old Key West. Our room exceeded my expectations. We had a large master suite and the kids had a great room with their own private bath. We also enjoyed having a full kitchen that was open to the living and dinning nook. The room also had a nice balcony. So we had a place for the kids to play and watch TV- and a refrigerator to ice down Mommy’s wine. (MIssy’s got her priorities straight).
The travel book that I had read had rated all of the Disney resorts. You just need to predetermine what is important to you and your family before selecting a property. Things to seriously consider in selecting a resort:
Proximity to the Disney Parks
Resort dinning options
Pool or other resort play options
Getting Around the Magic Kingdom
I will say that the Disney fleet of buses runs tirelessly from dawn to well into the night. If you miss a bus, there will be another one in 30 minutes. The buses were all clean. There were not bathrooms on the buses- a pre-boarding bathroom stop is a good idea. It can easily take and hour (or more) to get from one theme park to a resort. It can take as little as 30 minutes, depending where you are going. But plan for the hour transfer time. Mom, have some bottle water handy and a snack. The transfer times can be good snuggle time if manage your little passengers. But we saw some ugly melt downs happening all around us. While on the bus rides, I would get my travel book out to show the boys photos of the park that we were about to tour.
Lines, Lines, Lines…and more lines…
The first day we were there we waited two hours in a line so that the boys could do the Buzz Lightyear ride at Hollywood Studio. The ride lasted 10 minutes. And is was OK fun. From that point on we vowed not to stand in lines again. And for the most part that plan worked. They have a FASTPASS system at the Disney parks. Allowing guests to make reservations to do a ride. Most of the main rides have a FASTPASS option. (There are catches to the FASTPASS option…we tried it and it did not work for our fam).
If your child wants to meet the characters well, good luck to ya. Pack a flask. Because you will be needing a drink. I am so thankful that the Bruns boys did not seem the least bit interested in meeting the characters. The lines to meet them were re-dic-u-lous! We took the boys to a breakfast where we knew the main characters would be doing meet and greets at the tables. HIGHLY recommend this as an option for you and your family. If you have a child with their heart set on meeting a princess, book a character meal or get to the park early and hope for a good spot in line. Some cellular phones have Disney Aps that will help guests track wait times in lines and even where to spot famous Disney characters in the park. (Disney Apps?? I have now heard it all).
I did not have anyone interested in meeting a princess, but we did have two padwons desperate to go through Jedi Training. Hollywood Studios is home to the Star Wars ride and Jedi Training. This activity was the highlight of our trip. As soon as the park opens Jedi Training is booked first come first serve. If you aren’t there right when they open- well, may the force be with you. They book all of the Jedi classes first thing in the morning. So we were there bright and early, got our spots, and then headed to a different park for the morning. We returned later that afternoon for the class (which was only 30 or so minutes.). Our boys are still talking about doing battle with Darth Vader himself. I think this must be comparable to being invited to have a tea party at the Magic Kingdom castle with a princess. I will say, the look of disappointment on the faces of the kids that did not get to be in the Jedi class was heartbreaking. Call ahead and make sure your child meets the age requirements/ limits. And don’t forget, get there early with your younglings (children must be present to sign up).
Overall, I would say the live entertainment is what makes Disney a unique experience for guests of all ages. When a performance would start on the steps of the Magic Kingdom Castle it was magical. When pirates jumped on stage and started to recruit my boys to become pirates, it was out of this world. Something that none of us will forget.
We lost our son at the Hollywood Studios Honey I Shrank the Kids play park. The idea for the park is that kids can run and play inside of a dark, small, tunnel system. Noah jetted into an opening and dashed out of sight before we could grab him. I got a phone call from my husband saying that he could not find Noah. I ran FULL OUT a city block to get to the park to help look for Noah. There were kids everywhere. I immediately grabbed one of the Disney workers and had her assist in the search. Longest 10 minutes of my life. We found him inside one of the tunnels. Needless to say, I would not recommend taking young children to this attraction.
I would recommend taking a black Sharpy marker and writing your cell phone on your child’s arm. MOM’S CELL- written BIG. Always be aware of what your child is wearing.
The parks are unbelievably busy and crowded. It is loud. Play it safe and never take your eyes off of your kid. I was yelling at the top of my lungs and he could not hear me.
We found our reservations to be both limiting and necessary. The parks are so full that you need to have a plan on where you will eat. Or the children will be crashing and you have to wait an hour or more to get into a restaurant,
Plan where you want to tour. And pre-book a meal at that them park. We chose to eat breakfast at our lodging property each morning before we left. We always ate lunch at the theme park. And at night we would go back out for a meal at a different theme park. That got old pretty quick. By the end, we just wanted to go back to the Old Keys Resort for our dinner meal. We found that the meal plan provided our family with wayyyyyyy too much food. We could have done with having one big meal a day. By the end of the week we were skipping meals because we weren’t even hungry.
I could not help but notice the number of handicapped children and their families at the park. I was so touched at how the Disney staff assisted these families. It appeared to me that every effort was made to make sure that these families feel the Disney Magic. If you have a special needs child, I think this has to be one of the best places in the world to take your family.
At the end of the week I wasn’t sure if we would ever return to the Magic Kingdom. I am still not sure I am in the MICKEY MOUSE club. There is a long list of things that people told us that we HAD TO DO that we chose to skip. We had two young boys that were worn out. When they started to fade, we would head back to the resort to swim (in a Mickey Mouse shaped slide and pool), go for boat rides, play games… Maybe we will get to complete the list on our next trip. Which I am not planning, just yet.