How I'd Do Disney Differently With Five Young Kids


The story is out - our trip to Disney World was less than I had hoped it would be.  And honestly, my expectations were rather low in the first place.




(The photo opportunities were gold though!)

I've told a little bit of our experience on Instagram and in this post, but today I just wanted to share a few of the things I would do differently were we to visit Magic Kingdom again with young kids.  These "tips" are coming from a non-Disney person who does not like to plan excessively for trips, so these are basic suggestions in case you are like me and just want to keep your Disney experience relatively simple!  If you are not like me and like to plan your Disney trip within an inch of it's life, I'm hoping that some of you will comment your favorite in-depth Disney planning resources below!

Here are my very basic ideas on how I'd improve our Disney experience next time.

Skip Disney World And Just Get A Character To Come To Your Kids' Birthday Party

I kid, I kid.  Kind of.  But honestly, some of my kids' favorite moments of the Disney trip were when they got to meet the princesses.  They burst out laughing when Pooh Bear found a water puddle right in front of us and splashed in it.  I didn't expect my kids to love the characters so much, because they acted so shy, but it was definitely a highlight. If we went there again, I'd try to meet a couple more characters.  Or save the $750 it cost for us to all get in there, and just hire a character to come to their birthday.  Kidding!  Sort of.  It would be cheaper.




Have A Plan For Navigating The Crowds

A huge reason why we didn't enjoy Disney as much as I expected was the massive amount of people there.  Unfortunately that can't be helped.  However, I had not been to Disney, or anywhere with that many people, in so long that I did not really think through how we were going to get from one place to another with five small children, and only four hands between Derek and me.   We just walked together like we normally would, but I forgot how people cut in front and between groups when it is so crowded. We ended up briefly losing various kids THREE different times while we were there!  Losing my child once in their childhood would be quite enough for me, so feeling that panicky I-don't-know-where-my-kid-is feeling three times in one day was a little much.  If we went back, especially with so many kids, I'd make everyone hold onto backpack straps, shirt hems, or the stroller at all times when we are walking.





Figure Out The Fast Pass Thing Before We Go

As I've already established, I am not a planner.  When I go on vacation, I like to just show up and have fun.  I heard about Fast Passes, but I thought it was a special perk that you paid extra for.  When we bought our tickets, I found out that you actually get three free Fast Passes with each ticket.  However, since I had done zero research, I did not realize that you still have to go to a special Disney Kiosk and pick your Fast Pass time slots for specific rides, or that you could even do it online before you even show up.  By the time I figured this out, there were hardly any Fast Passes left for the day.  So if you want to make use of your free Fast Passes at all, I'd recommend reserving them before your trip, or at the very least at the beginning of the day when you visit Disney.  Unless you want to waste it on the teacups, which never have much of a line anyway.




Only Go On Rides We Could Do All Together 

We picked a pretty difficult age to bring our kids to Disney.  We only have one kid who could ride on the bigger rides by himself.  We had three kids who could ride, but they each needed an adult to ride with them because of their ages.  And of course we have one baby who can't ride the bigger rides at all.  If you are doing the math, that means we'd have to go through the line for each ride twice, while taking turns waiting and holding the baby, in order for everyone to get a turn.  We did this with one roller coaster, and getting everyone a turn, even with Fast Passes, took over an hour.  If I were to do it again, I'd just skip the big rides, except maybe a really special one that we didn't get to go on at all (ahem, Splash Mountain), and I'd just focus on all the rides we could all ride together.  There were plenty of them, and I think we all would have had more fun that way.




Focus On The Movie Themed Rides

Our favorite rides in the park were the really simple ones that basically take you through the stories of Disney movies.  We could all ride them together, and the kids (8 years old and younger) were at the best age to enjoy those rides.  We did a couple of them (Little Mermaid, and Winnie The Pooh), but there were a few we missed because we ran out of time.  If we went with the kids at this age again, I'd do all the movie themed rides first!




Leave During The Fireworks

We had grand plans to sneak over to Splash Mountain and try to ride it when everyone was leaving after the fireworks.  To which plan I can only now say...ha!  The line for Splash Mountain was still quite long, and we decided that we didn't want to keep the little ones up another hour while we waited.  So instead we rode the Magic Carpets, and then headed out of the park.  I expected we'd be back at the hotel in time for a late-night swim in the hotel pool, but...no.  We waited for over an hour just in the line to get out of the park.  There was a lot of complaining about sore feet, alot of asking how much longer, and a danger of developing claustrophobia.  And that was just me.  If we did this again with young kids, I'd probably try to beat the crowds to the ferry and leave while the fireworks were still going.  (Of course, I can say this because we ended up missing the fireworks anyway - that whole lost kid thing.)




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Despite a few of the rough patches and lessons learned, I am really glad we did visit Disney!  I think the kids had fun overall, and it'll be fun for them to be able to talk with their little friends who have already visited Disney.  It is just naturally a fun thing to experience in childhood, and I'm glad we got that chance.  It wasn't all bad.  We made plenty of fun memories at Disney too, so I'm tacking on a few things I'm glad we did...

Using The App

The Disney World app tells you all the wait times for the rides, meeting the characters, etc.  I'm so glad we had that, because we were able to get on a few rides when the lines were shorter!

Packing Snacks And Eating At Casey's Corner

We got out of Disney World only spending about $50 on food.  I think that's pretty good for a family of seven!  We packed a ton of snacks in a backpack, and we snacked straight through lunch.  Then when they shut some of the rides down for rain in the evening, we took that opportunity for dinner.  We got two corn dog nugget meals for the kids to split, and Derek and I each got a hotdog.  I think we accidentally found the cheapest restaurant to eat at in Disney, and I'm glad we didn't have to spend an extra $100 on food like I thought we would!



Watching Movies Beforehand And Enjoying The Atmosphere 

Alot of you have seen every single Disney movie, but my poor kids have not.  Alot of them are too scary yet for my particular kids, and we are not as into Disney as alot of people are.  However, I did try to pull out a couple new Disney movies before we went, and I'm glad I did!  One of our favorite parts of the day was visiting the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse.  I bought the movie for our kids to watch on this trip, so when we visited the treehouse at Magic Kingdom my kids were fascinated!  It was also a slower area of the park - so many people are focused on the rides, but alot of the atmospheric elements were just as fun to us!






I don't think we'll be visiting Disney World again in the near future, just because of the distance and expense.  But if we did, I know what to do now!



Disney Experts, now is your chance!  Give me all your additional tips, especially for making the most of Disney with young kids!  

You never know, maybe we'll end up going back sooner than expected!

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Rachel said...

My brother got himself lost several times in his childhood, and one of my sisters as well, and I still remember how scary those moments were for my mom and family, so you definitely have my sympathy! Once my brother simply decided to take himself to the bathroom at Silver Dollar City. And my sister made friends with a neighbor kid and went into their house while we were literally unpacking the moving van to move into our new home in a new state.
The atmosphere is, to me, what makes Disney feel so much different from the amusement parks that focus mainly on rides and thrill..and I like that a little better, because I'm not really game for the huge roller coasters anymore!
I think my best tip for Disney has been to go at times when it's not busy (when planning for Tokyo Disney I had to pick our days carefully, because those parks can be mad!) and also that going with a higher ratio of bigger people to smaller people makes everything much easier. :) We took my parents and two of my sisters to Hong Kong Disney last year, Cyrus was 8 months old. I was surprised by how much he responded to it, how excited he got on the rides and how much he loved meeting characters. I've never really met characters before Cyrus! But doing Disney with four adults, one teen, one preteen, and one infant made for a really easy ratio. My parents weren't so interested in riding anything too adventurous, so they would just sit with their grandbaby and their coffee while Angel and I took the 11 and 15 year olds around the park for some big rides, but we were able to do the shows and parades and all the boat rides/dark rides all together as a family. The 11 year old was at a really perfect age to experience the wonder of it, I took her to meet Cinderella and Moana and it was so fun seeing it all through her eyes.
My sis-in-law took the same strategy when they took their two little boys to Disneyworld last month--they have one older and one younger than Cyrus, and she took her parents along.
This seems to have been the advice of most of my young parent friends who are Disney fans..budget for an extra two tickets and bring grandma and grandpa. haha!
But I think summer busy season would just be a hard time to experience everything no matter what because there are so many people...I like the homeschool perk of vacationing at weird times of year, but now that Angel works in a school we have to follow a school schedule to some extent.

Emily Powell said...

Ha. This was great. You know I am not a fan. The world makes you feel like you should be but it's totally lost on me. I just don't get it. The lines and the weather are the worst...and that's coming from someone who lives on the Gulf Coast. And, since Jonathan is a principal we can't ever go on the "off" season and I hate rides. I get such bad motion sickness. Waste of money that would be better spent exploring a National Park.

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