Our first family trip to Disney has come and gone. I have pictures of my kids refusing to smile (seriously, my boy made it his mission to scowl) and some great memories. I even felt a little bit of that thing they call Disney magic. While I still prefer Mardi Gras, we are definitely making plans to go back. Luckily, I learned a few things on my first trip that will help me better prepare for the second. Here are a few things we did right, and a few things we got wrong, in no particular order.
Make Dinner Plans
I think the value of the meal plan depends on factors such as length of stay and where you plan to eat. Those will determine whether or not it’s cost friendly. However, the mistake we made was that, aside from a few character dinners, we didn’t have any plans several of the evenings. We assumed we could just find a place to eat when we all got hungry enough. But with six of us, it was very difficult to find something that wasn’t “park food” or avoid standing in long lines. By day three I wised up and started making reservations for the remainder of the week. But doing so meant eating at weird times and snacking more to avoid meltdowns. I like to leave room in the day for fun discoveries, but next time I will definitely plan a meal every night.
Consider Matching Shirts
This is especially helpful if there are more than two or three of you. Even though I’m a craft junkie, I couldn’t stomach making matching shirts for every day of our trip. So we chose two days to wear them. Those days were nice. If a few of us separated to run to the restroom or browse in a store it was much easier to spot our counterparts in the crowds. Since we sprung for the Memory Maker we grabbed every photo op we could, and the ones with us matching look way cuter (except for my boy who really wasn’t going to smile). I’ve already started looking for sales on cute and clever shirts the whole family can wear next time.
Visit Disney Springs
Since we drove we decided to end our first day by wandering Disney Springs and visiting T-Rex cafe, which was recommended because my son is a dinosaur junkie. I’m trying to remember if he smiled that night. We didn’t have reservations and waited 90 minutes for a table (see above, my bad). But while we were waiting we got to wander around, see a performance on the stage, and visit the Lego Store and other fun sites. It was an absolute treat! If you can, make time for it.
Consider Staying on Property
I fully understand the argument for finding a cheap lodge hotel nearby because you won’t be in it very long. We chose to stay on property for one very strong reason: extra magic hours. Our unhurried evening at Magic Kingdom, with no crowds and almost no line at every ride, was a blast. The kids got a second wind and the parks are beautiful at night. Arriving an hour earlier at Epcot made some of the rides we didn’t get fast passes for possible. Plus my daughter got to meet Elsa and Anna with just a 20-minute wait. My son met them too and *kind of* smiled. As an adorable bonus, the hotel cleaning staff left us with adorable stuffy configurations each day that delighted my exhausted littles when we got home each night.
Plan to Snack
Between the extra walking, vendor carts and food smells we were hungrier than normal. Initially, we planned to travel as lightly as possible and buy snacks there (again, this can factor into your food plan decision). But we ended up very glad we’d brought a stroller, if for no other reason than to carry bags and snacks. And once we were able to easily carry snacks, I wished we’d brought more from home. Easy to pack and carry food items like apples, peanut butter, cheese sticks, nuts, and chips would have satisfied the urge to munch and saved us some dough. We did love the popcorn bucket, however, which was $15 the first day then just $2 every time we wanted to refill it at any park. Who doesn’t love popcorn?!
All in all my regrets about the trip are pretty minor. With a bit more planning and forethought, it would have been perfect, and my kids don’t remember complaining, which says a lot. On one of our last days, we waited patiently for Sorcerer Mickey. My son Gabe ran up to him, gave him a hug and gave me his first genuine smile of the week.
Now that’s what I call magic.