I just returned from a Walt Disney World vacation with my parents and my two daughters, ages 4 and almost 2. This was the 4th trip within the last year but every time we go we seem to have a different group of adults and of course, the girls are changing quickly at these young ages. As I was thinking through how to structure our days, I asked the Minnie Moms for tips on how they do things. Thanks to the ladies for sharing their ideas! I'll share what did and did not work for us soon. ~Amy
Natalie: Typical Vacation Days with the Henley Family
Touring with the Henley Family is really not for the faint of heart. We head to the parks and attach the attractions, taking in as much as we possibly can in the time allotted. We walk fast, moving from one thing to the other. Here are the details for the travels with my huband, my son (age 7) and myself:
· Before we leave for vacation, I have found which theme park we will tour each day. This may be driven by dining reservations or by events my family hopes to attend on a particular day.
· We wake at some point and head to the theme parks. We are armed with everything we will need in order to make it though the entire day. If we believe it will rain that day, we carry all gear to prepare for that. If we are heading to an event (such as the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), we take our costumes with us as well.
· Breakfast is typically had in the room or as we make our way to the theme parks. As you may know, I wrote the book Strategies for Paying for Disney where I detail a variety of ways to save money so you can afford Disney at all or more often. I found in past vacations that eating breakfast in the quick service restaurants was often so crowded, expensive and time consuming that my family decided that the actually preferred eating in the room instead.
· Lunch is often times purchased from the quick service restaurants. Some days, if traveling just my son and I, I also pack my lunch and bring it in the parks. My son and I love having a picnic in the parks and again, it is really a great time and money saver!
· By dinner time, my family wants to sit down and have a hearty meal at a table service restaurant. We love the time sitting and cooling off out of the hustle and bustle of the day.
· My family (when not traveling with my husband) typically sees the parade and/or fireworks show. If traveling with my husband, we forgo the shows and see more attractions during this time.
· My family does NOT spend much down time at the parks. We are going from one attraction to the next. We typically stay at one theme park per day but sometimes hit up more than one. One of our favorite tricks is to hit up EPCOT for the full day, leaving right after Illuminations. Next, we head over to the Magic Kingdom quickly to see the presentation of Wishes. You have to be quick or you will miss the beginning of Wishes.
· The family nearly always stays at any park that is open until around midnight. Sometime after midnight, my family becomes pretty tired and ready to head back to the room. We find that the hours after the fireworks are the very best for seeing attractions. The parks are typically the most empty and are not hot! Great for touring!
My entire family loves this way of touring. Even my son loves to stay late and sleep in the next day. Just discussing the fun makes me want to pack and head south now!
Danielle: Hi Amy, how great that you've been able to visit the World so often this year!!
My children are also currently 4 and 2, so I can tell you what has worked best for us.
We are a rope drop family. We like to try and stick to the kids' regular routine as much as possible on vacation so the kids are usually up early. We order groceries for breakfasts and snacks from Garden Grocer ahead of time, and so we eat breakfast in our DVC villa.
Being there for rope drop allows us to get through most of the rides we are interested in by noon. At that point, we either choose to eat a quick-service meal at the Park or return back to the resort to eat there. After lunch, we may head for some swimming at the resort's pool, and then nap time is a must for my 2 year old, but the 4 year old often falls asleep during her "quiet time" as well.
The kids are usually up by around 5pm, and then we usually head back into a Park for a table - service dinner. Don't get me wrong, sometimes we prefer just to eat at the quick-service location at the resort for a more relaxed evening. On those evenings, we'll partake in the resort's activities, such as a movie under the stars. If we're in a Park for the evening, though, we usually head back to the resort before any fireworks or parades start. We've seen them so many times that it's just not worth the wait for transportation at Park closing once everyone leaves the park at the same time. We'll usually do one evening parade or fireworks show per trip.
We don't head into the Parks every day, either. For about half the week, we have "pool days" where we simply enjoy the resort's amenities and head into the Parks at dinner time.
Because we visit the World so often, we seldom have "busy" trips anymore. We enjoy picking and choosing our favourite rides and restaurants and allowing ample time to enjoy the resort.
Janine: We have a very simple way of dealing with a 3 year old - we follow her schedule. We eat when she wants, we rest when she wants and she goes to bed at her usual time. I know a lot of people wouldn't think that was much of a holiday but it worked for us. The few times we tried to take her out to a table service place and a) we had to wait for food and b) it was later than she normally eats, we had such a meltdown that we ended up leaving and taking the food to-go back to the hotel.
I would also advocate if your child is up early anyway, make the most of it! Since Tink is an early riser and doesn't care for much for breakfast, it worked out for us to have some cereal in the room and then to the parks for rope drop.
As for staying late for fireworks, she was fast asleep by 7pm in her bed in the hotel, every night. We are however hoping that there will be a slightly earlier showing of Wishes this year. Last November there were a few at 8pm, I'm hopeful she will be old enough this year (3 instead of 2) to make it til then.
It can be difficult travelling with others with your children. We are in the same situation in November, my in-laws will not want to eat at 430pm and be in bed at 7!!! But this is our entire reasoning for staying on-site this year, I can take Tink back to Port Orleans Riverside and feel perfectly safe in my room when my husband and the in-laws go out in the evening. Everybody is happy then!!!