Many of us have grown up visiting Walt Disney World. Visiting the parks for the first time as a parent is an entirely new experience. Here are a few pointers to help you look like your child's super hero...
1. Take a Day Off From the Parks - Disney resorts are more than just a place to sleep. Every Resort has at least one cool themed pool. Take a day off from the hustle, bustle and lines to chill, swim and recharge. Rent a family bicycle and take a ride. Explore the resort themes. Often decor around the property is often different from one building or one section to the next. Find out if there are tours or do a craft in the store--check the activity schedule. Have dinner at a different Disney resort so you can check out where you'll be spending your next Disney vacation.
2. You can't do everything. Know it and accept it. Then you can have a great time enjoying the shows and attractions that are special for your family and your kids. Resist the urge to rush from one spot to another in order to see and do everything in the park at one time.
3. Let them Play. Every resort and every park has a playground area just for kids. Let little ones get dirty and get wet -- they want to jump in puddles, climb, they want to slide. Find the play area and have a seat. From Splash zones where water pops up from the ground to actual playgrounds, there are spots where kids can just be kids. Pack some Ziploc bags and a costume change and you'll be ready for more attractions.
4. Dress Them Up- You don't have to spend a small fortune on special Disney costumes to let your princess be a princess. Shop ahead at Halloween clearance sales or catalogs that sell princess costumes in a trunk --they're very similar and it's fine little kids love to dress up in the Parks. Check out Etsy or dust off your sewing machine. Just bring a change of clothes in case they get hot or uncomfortable.
5. Get them a balloon - And do it early in your trip. And let them bring it to the park every day. First of all the balloons are not cheap, so you want them to really enjoy it. When my daughter was 8, she wanted a balloon, and, like most parents I just didn’t want one more thing to worry about during the day, so I offered it at the end of the day. Her answer? “But I wanted it all day long to show off. Now it's just going to sit in the room and no one will see my pretty balloon.”. Lesson learned! Plus, if you have a stroller it will help you find your stroller--just tie an extra ribbon or something on your balloon to make it stand out in the sea of strollers. Note balloons are not permitted at the Animal Kingdom Park nor at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the safety of the animals.
6. Come prepared with snacks & goodies. Yes everybody should have a Mickey bar at least once during their trip absolutely. And yes, I just said buy a balloon. But really, $8 for a glow stick that you can find in Five Below or the Dollar store? Balance your budget by bringing a few things with you -- like fruit snacks, non-chocolate snack bars (chocolate melts!), that glow wand or the spray bottle fan that kids love, especially on hot July days, and then you are the winner when you pull it out of your backpack just in time for the parade (and you don’t lose your prime seat!)
7. Get in those family photos - For $169, the Memory Maker photo packages are worth every penny. If this isn't in your budget, Disney cast members will take photos of your family at all of the prime spots. Here is your chance to show that you actually all did go on vacation together and go ahead and take ones of just the kids. Yes, there will be a line behind you, but go ahead and ask for special poses -- it's your vacation too!
8. Pack extra patience - Seriously everybody has a meltdown at some point at Disney World. It might be a quick 2-minute thing or could be a full-on temper tantrum -- there's so much to see that it's easy to feel over excited, overwhelmed and overtired. This fact is true for both parents and little ones. Take a deep breath, address what you need to do and then move on with your day. Sometimes a meltdown just means maybe it's pool time where you can relax and cool off or sometimes it means hangry is hitting...just try to be a little extra patient and not let one challenging moment wreck your day or your trip.
9. Spread the magic. Sometimes little things we do to make someone else’s day are the most memorable parts of a trip. Talk with the cast members, say thank you, ask about their home town (every cast member’s name tag has their home state on it), ask about tips. Share a smile with a stranger, have a family of 3? Chat with another family of 3 in line & you can buddy up on an attractions--On a recent trip, we chatted with a family from Australia while in line at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. They were also a family of 3 and had never been to Disney World. Their daughter sat with our daughter in the first car of the mine train and we all whooped it up. Just another way to spread some Disney magic.
Use a travel agent to plan your vacation. I'm not saying that just because I am one I'm saying it because it's true. A travel agent will be on top of changes in park hours, attractions closing down mid way through your trip, how to make the most of your day with dining and fast passes, fireworks times and more. A travel agent will have helpful tips and advice to plan out your trip ahead of time so that when you get there you're not stressed you are just enjoying vacation.