Yes, that’s right. It is finally time to take my sweet children to the magical place called Walt Disney World. Why now?
Because the Mini Athlete turns 3 in June and at age 3, children are no longer free. Right now, our family of four can go to Disney for the price of two adults – in my mind, there is no time like the present!
I grew up living less than three hours away from Disney so it’s safe to say I’m pretty familiar with the place. But let me tell you, planning a trip to Disney with toddlers is a a completely different experience. Or at least I’m anticipating it will be. If it were just me and my husband, we would pack up first thing in the morning and drive to the park and enjoy the day. With toddlers? We’re planning to do things a little bit differently.
1) Staying “on property”. My parents and sister are planning to go with us, so we decided to rent a cabin at Fort Wilderness. There are definitely perks to staying “on property”, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Check out some of the “Value Resorts” – their rooms start at $90/night (or $49 at Ft Wilderness if you want to camp). Staying on property gives you free transportation to the parks, “Extra Magic” hours when available, and several other perks just for resort guests. One of our biggest reasons is being able to get to the park EARLY as first thing in the morning is usually the best (read: happiest) time of day for my toddlers.
2) Bringing our own snacks. You know all that Disney magic? It can cost a pretty penny. But one nice thing about Disney is that you can bring in your own snacks! Before we go, I’m planning to stock up on all my kids’ favorites to keep them satisfied throughout the day. They are just as happy with a PB&J I make in the cabin as they would be with some expensive Disney food. Or at least I’m hoping they will be.
3) Set toddler-level expectations. I’m trying to coach myself on this one. As a mom (spending quite a bit of money for this Disney experience), I have visions of how the “perfect day” at Disney will go. But I’m trying to prepare myself for anything – and just enjoy the ride. I’m kinda approaching it like I did the birth of my children – I can have a plan, but will do my best to enjoy however the day turns out knowing that there are some (many) things outside my control. I have seen way too many parents dragging their child through Disney, demanding they have a good time and thereby ruining the day for everyone. If my kids are happiest watching the squirrels play on the trash can, then that’s what I’ll let them do. (I hope. We’ll see how I actually get once the Disney adrenaline gets pumping…)
We’re actually spending two days at Disney World – the first at Animal Kingdom and the second at Magic Kingdom. My hope is that the first day will help my kids acclimate to the crowds and the characters in a slightly less chaotic environment. But I am a little worried that the Mini Athlete will spend the whole day asking where the castle is – we have been watching YouTube videos about the parks and to say he is excited is an understatement. We’ve actually made a little chart to countdown the days until we go. He loves putting a little Mickey Mouse sticker on the calendar as each day passes!
As you can see from his Halloween photo, he is a BIG Mickey fan.
I’m sure I’ll have many things to report when we get back from our trip, but I’d love to hear YOUR advice before we go. Do you have any suggestions for making a first trip to Disney with toddlers? I’d love to hear them!