Wednesday, January 20, 2016

An Ordinary Momma's Guide to Disney

Yes, we recently returned from a week at Disney!  It was our gift to ourselves for Christmas.  I do not believe in "we deserve" because frankly no one deserves anything.  But friends, we needed this trip. A year apart from dad and husband took its toll on us all and we needed some family time away from real life to bond and reconnect.  We spent a year saving up (more on that soon) and did it big!  Next year you will find us vacationing in the back yard.  You CAN do Disney thriftily, but you CANNOT do Disney cheaply.  No matter what anyone says.

There are a million books and websites out there with helpful hints for "doing" Disney!  Trust me, I know, because I have read a lot of them.  And some of the hints were very helpful.  But, I am an ordinary momma with mostly ordinary kids! ;)  And there are a few things I learned our trip that I think need to be shared. 

Mom to mom!

Don't wear shirts that have to be tucked in. No laughing. Because we went in January we also had on light weight jackets. Pair that with an over the body bag and trying to get a shirt tucked in in the small restroom stalls was a pain.  Drove me crazy the whole trip.

If you are paying as you go for meals, share when you can!  The portions at most Disney dining locations are very large!  I felt like we ate our way through Disney!  

Order water!  Even if you pay for a bottle once, you can refill it for free.  To take the boredom factor out, we took lemonade packets with us to add to them occasionally.

Consider the Disney Dining Plan!  After being a wife of a deployed husband for a year, I needed a break from even having to think about meals so we splurged in this option.  I could not say how much we saved, but I will tell you that without the dining plan, lunches would have cost anywhere from $70 to almost $300 for our family of six.  Now, that was with drinks and dessert which we would not have gotten if not on the dining plan, but still- it is expensive.  Swiping your bands and knowing you have already paid in advance was wonderful!

That being said - get Disney's Magic Bands!  They are your room keys (if staying on property), meal plan, Fast Pass+, and PhotoPass hook up.  No more pulling out your wallet everywhere and so, so easy!  Plus fun!

Snacks!  Disney does allow you to take food in and trust me this is cheaper!  In the past, we allowed the kids to split a special park snack once a day.  Yes, I am frugal like that!  On the basic meal plan you can get one snack a day.  I was worried it might not be enough.  HA!  What a joke.  Because of all the food and desserts at meals, we found ourselves not wanting snacks several days.  Best advice we have heard- pick up snacks that can be easily taken and enjoyed on your trip home.  We had Disney cookies and crackers all the way home, plus a few bottled waters and other drinks!

Go on off times!  We have gone to Disney at busy times and waited in long lines.  And waited some more.  Not a lot of fun.  But if you are flexible I encourage you to check for reservations for off times.  We rarely waited in line more than 10 minutes.  A few times not at all. This was the line to Lights, Motor, Action.  Yep, just us.  It did pick up after us because we were really early, but still- it was great!

Make reservations to eat!  If you are planning to eat at a sit-down restaurant, make reservations in advance.  We rarely waited more than 10 minutes for our table when wait times were often over an hour long.  I recommend doing counter service at lunch and sit-down at dinner but that is just my preference.  It seemed that when we were looking for counter service in the evening, they were more crowded or harder to find. Most also seem to close early- probably in an attempt to send you to a more expensive sit-down meal at night.

Tell your kids no to buying souvenirs on the first day!  There is so much to see and buy that it is easy for young kids to become overwhelmed with all the choices.  Our "no buying on the first day" rule took the pressure off.

If you pass a bathroom, use it!  It is less stressful to make pit stops frequently than to be hunting for a bathroom NOW!  

Sleep in occasionally.  Disney can wear you out!  Take advantage of sleeping in on a day that a park has later hours.  Your children will thank me. So will your husband!

Consider waiting until the kids are older. I remember it being fun to see the excitement of my kids at Disney when they were younger, but honestly, taking older kids is so much better in my opinion.  I know, I know, there is that whole Disney Magic thing.  But I will have to tell you, we saw more toddler meltdowns and frazzled parents than I care to remember.  It was sad.  For the parents and the kids.  At 8, Colby enjoyed this trip so much more because of no fears and because he could do so much more.  Just something to think about.  

Let someone else do the planning.  I have been in charge of this family for a year.  I am so done making decisions and being in charge.  So I let a Disney expert help me.  Our friend Stacy works for Kingdom Konsultants and we let her work her magic.  She took care of our reservations, meal plan, and park tickets.  Before the trip we received a pack of goodies from her and she even checked on us once when we first arrived.  Between she and my friend Marcy, (who loves Disney almost as much as Riley!  Thanks Marcy!) we were in good hands.

Assign a kid a day!  Speaking of planning, each day we were in a park a different child was "in charge" of that day.  They chose where we ate, what we rode, and what we saw. We followed their lead.  It was great.  One, I did not have to be in charge, and two, there was no debating the schedule. We just follow the lead of the one in charge.  (Though the youngest had a little guidance.)

More pictures, some thoughts about Disney property and more on Friday and next Monday!  I promise not to drag it out too long, but there is so much to share.


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