Doing Disney At Any Age
Disney World Definitely Delivers
How many children have visions of Disney World dancing in their heads? If you've ever been to Disney World, I'm sure you'll agree that children are not the only ones whose dreams feature Disney. In May of 2010, we flew to Orlando's Magic Kingdom with our daughter, son-in-law, and their two children, a girl (6) and a boy (4). Our trip during the first week of May was truly magical, and as soon as we found ourselves back on earth, a return trip became a favorite topic of conversation.
To make the most of your trip, as we quickly learned, plan ahead. First, we decided that we wanted to visit Disney during an off-time when older kids were still in school and the weather was warm. (You definitely want to avoid Christmas and Easter weeks, peak-season crowds and hot weather. We managed to avoid the crowds, but the weather was unseasonably hot.) Then we did a lot of research on hotels that were inside the park. (We had stayed outside the park when my daughter was in middle school. Although the accommodations were fine and certainly less expensive than anything inside the property, we decided that, this time, we didn't want to go through the hassle of renting a car and driving to the park each day.) We were looking for a family-friendly facility that could comfortably house all six of us. In-park accommodations that met our criteria were limited; that definitely helped to narrow our choices. We finally decided on a two-bedroom condo at Bay Lake Towers, which is the new hotel affiliated with and adjacent to the Contemporary Resort. Our unit, which was tastefully decorated and user-friendly, had two bedrooms, a kitchen-dining area, a full living room with a pull-out bed, and three bathrooms. (Several other on-site properties, such as Animal Kingdom, offer similar units.) We chose this hotel for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the monorail stops right in the middle of the Contemporary...literally! It also is the resort closest to the Magic Kingdom. Since the kids were four and six, we wanted to spend as little transit time as possible; we knew that we'd spend much of our time at the Magic Kingdom. We actually could see Cinderella's Castle from our balcony.
Dinner Buffet at the Grand Floridian
Don't Wait To Make Reservations
Fortunately, my daughter had lots of friends who had been to Disney World. They strongly recommended (as did our travel agent) that we make reservations as soon as possible for any of the "character" meals and events we wished to attend. We followed their advice and made reservations for Breakfast With Mickey, the Hoop Dee Doo Review, lunch at Cinderella's Castle (followed by a make-over for my granddaughter at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Boutique),dinner with Winnie the Pooh and his friends, and several other "don't miss" events. Lists of character meals and special events are easy to find on the Web and in Disney guide books.The Complete Walt Disney World was extremely helpful, as was Mini Mickey. I even drew up a chart listing various reservations we had made for each day.
Moving Right Along....
It's also a good idea to decide beforehand approximately how much time you plan to devote to each area of Disney World during your trip. Since our grandchildren were at the perfect age for meeting characters and going on rides, we knew that we'd spend over half our time at the Magic Kingdom. Epcot appealed to the over-sixes in the group, so we planned on visiting there twice; it turned out that the kids enjoyed the experience, too, particularly the scavenger hunt in different countries. We spent one evening at Downtown Disney, where we dined at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, after which the kids had a ball playing in the Lego Store. We also spent a few hours at Hollywood Studios. We decided to skip Animal Kingdom during that trip for two reasons: there just wasn't enough time, and our grandson was going through a fear-of-critters phase. We got a glimpse of Fort Wilderness only on our way to and from the Hoop Dee Doo Review. In other words, we chose to spend a lot of quality time in a few select areas and save some of the others for another trip.
When You Wish....
We also decided to purchase Park Hopper passes for the entire week and were glad we did. That way, we didn't have to worry about going to one park in the morning and another in the evening. The pass takes care of that. We also purchased the Basic Dining Plan, which offers one table-service meal, one fast-food meal, and one snack per person per day. You have to be careful with this, though; quite a few of the character meals count as two table-service meals. This is another good reason why you should plan ahead. Also, when it was time to leave, we found ourselves with quite a few unused snack credits which, we learned too late, could have been used to purchase snacks such as cookies, chips, crackers, etc. that we easily could have slipped into a suitcase.
If you search the web, there are always special deals you can find for Doing Disney. If this is your first trip to Disney, however, I strongly recommend that you go through a travel agent. Our agent with AAA Travel was a woman about the same age as my husband and I who had been to Disney World Countless times (I think it was close to forty). She was more than willing to pass on all kinds of insider tips. You can also sign up online for the MouseSavers Newsletter, which is free of charge and keeps you updated on current Disney Deals.
The bottom line is, if you do your homework and take some time to plan ahead, you can have a virtually stress-free time at Disney World. (We suffered minor stress only one time, when we lost my husband in our rush to reach the monorail one night.) Whether you wish upon a star, wave your fairy godmother's magic wand, or merely dare to dream young, your dreams can come true at Disney World.