This past March my family and I went on one of the vacations I've had on my bucket list forever - Disney.
I had a lot of specifics about how I wanted this vacation to go. I wanted my kids to be old enough to remember it and enjoy it, and young enough to still feel the magic that surrounds a place like Disney. My older son is 9 and my twins were 6 and I think that was definitely a great age to go (though I'm sure a few years earlier and a few years later also would work.)
Because this was a bucket list trip we decided to go all out. This trip was exclusively Disney, we had seven day park passes, we stayed on resort, we had a meal plan and we bought the photo package. I recognize not everyone will do Disney this way.
When I decided to write a post for Kids in the Capital about Disney I kept getting really overwhelmed at where to start. It was such a big trip with so many parts to talk about! I asked the Kids in the Capital community for some help and so I'm going to be answering some of the questions that came in through there, and also a few questions I've decided you should have asked but didn't :)
Let's start with the doozy
Why is it worth it? To me it seems like a lot of money and stress (and line-ups) so I'm still not convinced it's something I ever want to do....but maybe you can convince me
Disney knows what they're doing. Like, REALLY knows what they're doing.
My nine year old declared "This is the best ever and we haven't even done anything yet!!" when all we'd done so far was get up at 3am to catch a plane and then check in to our hotel. I think that alone was a great testimonial to what makes Disney special - it's clearly just magic :)
So why is it worth it?
- Every detail is on point and adds to the experience (Check out my podcast on some of those details from a more marketing perspective on my business site)
- Every ride and experience is well thought out - from the lines, to the fast pass system, to the incredible detail put into each ride - they are all quite spectacular.
- There is something for everyone - let's say you have one son who is particularly unimpressed with princesses... he will be very impressed by the Jedis, the Toy Story rides and the cereal bar at the hotel.
- The looks of wonder on your kids' faces. My daughter walked away from meeting the little mermaid and looked and me and sighed and said "I just didn't know that she would be SO beautiful."
The kids still haven't stopped talking about the fact that they met Kylo Ren (or that he invited my son to join the dark side - HILARIOUS, but also clearly because he saw that he was wearing a Darth Vader baseball cap at the time.)
How to do you handle all the walking? (My son was 4 when we went, so we used a stroller. When we go back, he'll be 7. What is reasonable to expect from a 7-year-old?)
So here is my first thought on this - you can walk all day and wait all day at Disney. You need to decide what you want YOUR experience to be.
We kept each day fairly light.
Now - keep in mind that we had a seven day pass for exactly this reason. I didn't want us to feel like we had to go go go - so we didn't. We generally went to the parks from morning until early evening. We only did a few rides that we didn't have Fast Passes for (30 minute wait times or less). We took it easy and enjoyed instead of rushing. So while there was quite a bit of walking, particularly at Magic Kingdom, there actually wasn't a whole lot of complaining, other than from me on the day I wore the wrong shoes and got a blister ;)
What are the meal plan pros and cons?
We got the meal plan that included one sit down meal per day, one casual meal per day, and one snack. (The meal plans only come with full Disney packages when you're staying on resort.)
We got the meal plan because our friends had raved about the quality of the food - we agreed, it was quite good though the restaurants we chose were not picked based on food as much as experiences.
We got the meal plan that included the sit down options because we wanted to have the meals with characters. These were a big hit, though they often were buffets and the food was no more than okay. But the kids loved having character after character come and see us right at our table. And I got a few selfies in too.
We were told that there would be lots of food in this plan, even though it only included two meals per day and that was completely true. We kept trying to save so that we wouldn't use all our credits up and in the end we had a lot left over at the end, which we attempted to use by buying character cookies in the gift shop at 6 in the morning before our shuttle to the airport ;)
A few tips about how you can use your credits - the casual meals don't distinguish between kids' meals and adult meals so you can get 3 adult sized meals to feed a family of five and then save extra credits for snacks and breakfasts. You can also turn a casual meal into three snacks, which we did several times for evening and afternoon snacks.
Was it worth the cost? I didn't do the math but I will say this. I got much nicer food because it was already paid for than if I had been choosing a la carte. It took away the daily "how much should we spend on food" decisions and we were just able to enjoy the fun restaurants.
So are there any cons? It was kind of expensive and we probably could have gotten away without it. That being said, I'd probably do it again.
Should you get the photo package?
This is the question I added! :) I loved having the photo package. Any time we saw a park photographer I knew we could get a photo and because I love photos (and that may be key) I wanted lots of photos.
It was a great way to get lots of photos with me in them (one of the things the main photographer in a family often struggles with).
We got magic pictures which are super fun and the kids loved asking for (and you have to ask.) Being told to pose a certain way to be able to see later what gets added in is a lot of fun :)
I didn't have to carry my big camera around with us or feel like I had to be managing taking photos. We got hundreds of photos during our week and it was well worth the cost. But again, I LOVE photos and prioritize that a lot in life.
We had an amazing trip and I could happily go on about many more parts of our trip, including the resort we stayed in (Art of Animation). If there's anything else you'd like to hear about, leave a comment and I"ll work on a second post!