Why a Disney Vacation Isn’t the Worst Thing Ever

A few days ago, I read a post by Ian on Disney Hacks website titled Disney Vacation—Worst Thing Ever? I’m pretty sure his thoughts about a Disney vacation align with those of my blogging partner, Leana. They tolerate Disney vacations for the sake of their kids, but they don’t enjoy them.

I started to write a comment on the post itself, but then I realized I had way too much to say about the subject.

Before I continue, I want to be clear that I’m not trying to minimize Ian’s first-hand experience at Disneyland or say he is wrong for feeling the way he does. My family has absolutely been drop-dead tired at the parks, gotten sick of strollers and crying kids and wondered if it was all worth it. In fact, that’s why my family started drifting to Disney Cruise Line instead of the parks.

But, for Ian and others who haven’t had the best experience on a Disney vacation, I want to offer hope and tips on how to make a Disney vacation more tolerable in the future.

Photo by Jorge Martínez, instagram @jmartinezz9 on Unsplash

The Cost of Tickets

In the post above, Ian mentions that the cost of Disney tickets is hard to digest, especially for miles and points travel hackers who are used to almost-free and very cheap vacations. He is right!

Technically, you can book tickets through Undercover Tourist and use your Capital One Venture Rewards card points. But, depending on the number of people in your family and the number of days you’re going to the parks, you will need a very large number of points to make the tickets free.

To keep costs down, I recommend skipping the park hopper option. In my opinion, sticking to one park a day is more efficient and saves precious commute time.

Also, one thing to keep in mind about Disney park tickets is that they are pretty much all-inclusive and include more things than many other tourist attractions. The $109 entry fee at Disney World gives you access to a park up to 15 hours in the summer and includes all rides, parades, character greetings, shows and fireworks. I’ve been to local fairs (don’t even get me started on the high cost of the Texas State Fair) and concerts that are much shorter and cost way more. It’s all relative.

Using Hilton Points for Disney World On-site Resort Benefits

Animal Kingdom, 2010

The Crowds, Lines and Exhaustion

In the past five years I’ve been to Disney World five times and Disneyland twice. In my experience, the crowds and lines are easier to navigate at Disney World. The FastPass+ system at Disney World allows you to reserve three rides in advance and continue to add ride reservations during the day. The MaxPass at Disneyland costs extra, and my family waited in longer lines with that system (see my post on Disney World vs. Disneyland: Which One is Better?). So if you’re only tried Disneyland, I recommend giving Disney World a try.

At both Disney World and Disneyland, exhaustion and sore feet are a legitimate issue! I really wish Disney would open some sort of foot massage service either in the parks or in the hotels for the end of the day.

To reduce exhaustion, I recommend four things: get in shape before your trip, wear appropriate footwear, make a lunch reservation and take break days.

When my two younger kids turned three, they refused to sit in a stroller again. That was fine by me, but I took them on walks all around our neighborhood before park visits to make sure they had enough endurance to walk in the parks all day. Walking ahead of a trip is a good idea for the adults, too!

My kids love flip-flops and sandals, but I make them wear socks and athletic shoes for park visits. It makes a big difference!

At Disney World, I always make an indoor lunch reservation for my family. It’s amazing what an hour in air conditioning can do to rejuvenate you!

And lastly, a Disney vacation will feel much more relaxing if you take a few break days and lounge by the pool. My family won’t do more than two park days in a row without a down day in between.

The Emotional Tug of DVC Ownership

My oldest son’s first trip to Disney World at age 4.

A Few Years Makes a Huge Difference

Speaking from experience with my kids, I can tell you that when they get older, it gets easier. MUCH EASIER! Even an extra year or two can make a big difference.

Last summer, I took my kids to Disney Animal Kingdom for one day. We started during the EMH at 8:00 a.m. and lasted until 10:30 p.m. I couldn’t believe it!

My kids were 7, 10 and 14. They were well past the age of diapers and strollers. But I noticed even a huge difference from the prior year’s vacation at Disneyland. My kids were more willing to try the extreme rides and more adventurous food. Progress!

8 Lessons from my 25-Day Florida Vacation

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring young kids on a Disney vacation. Disney is great for all ages, and I’ve been bringing my kids since they were babies. But, a Disney vacation does get easier the older your kids get. And that makes it more enjoyable for the parents.

Why We Keep Repeating a Disney Vacation

In Ian’s post, he says, “I missed the memo as to why Disneyland and Disney World make for a great vacation.” I know he isn’t the only one who feels that way.

I’ll tell you why my family keeps returning. For us, a Disney vacation is like hitting the easy button. We can stay on Disney property and never have to leave. We’ve got rides, shows, great food, fireworks, recreation…everything! I actually find I need to plan less for a Disney vacation than I do for other trips.

Disney World and Disneyland keep changing and adding rides and attractions. No two visits have ever been the same! My kids can’t wait to see the new Star Wars land. I’m looking forward to riding the Frozen ride in Epcot and the Slinky Dog Dash ride in Hollywood Studios. We will try a new restaurant or two and stay at a different resort.

But undoubtedly, nostalgia plays a big role in why we return. My first trip to Disney World was when I was a baby. I’ve visited with my parents and siblings numerous times, and now with my own kids and husband. My husband and I got engaged in front of Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom!

Snafu, then Success with MyDisneyExperience and Hilton Reward Reservation

Flashback to 2013 trip

My family has developed Disney traditions. We eat at the Crystal Palace every time (ever since I was a kid) and get pastries at the French bakery in Epcot. I love seeing photos of my kids with characters over the span of different ages. I hope to continue the tradition with my future grandkids.

Final Thoughts

I’m not trying to convince Ian and other Disney skeptics that a Disney vacation is the end-all be-all of family vacations. If you never want to go back, that’s fine by me! That’s one less family in line in front of me.

But, if you are reluctantly returning to Disney for the kids’ sake, I sincerely hope your next trip is more enjoyable and that you find the joy of a Disney vacation.

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Author: Nancy

Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.

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16 thoughts on “Why a Disney Vacation Isn’t the Worst Thing Ever

  1. I enjoyed reading this post! It didn’t occur to me before, but I think part of the reason I’m not attached to Disney is because I didn’t go there as a kid. I can see how it would have sentimental value if you vacationed there with your family, while growing up.
    Also, I know there are ways to minimize all the Disney annoyances that drive me bananas. Long ride lines, of course, is the main one. I know if I can get ahold of 60 day FastPass and reserve popular rides ahead of time, it will increase my enjoyment exponentially. I did really love Pandora section when we went there last year for my daughter’s field trip. Disney has really created something special there. My husband is looking forward to seeing Star Wars land because he is a big fan of the franchise. Oh, and I would love to treat my kids to a one-night stay at Star Wars hotel. However, I would probably have to sell my kidney to do it!

    • @Leana I’d love to stay for one night at the Star Wars hotel (or at least have my husband and the boys stay there). The details on the hotel have been kept under wraps, and I’m not even sure if it will be open for our trip next summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if it costs $1000+ a night.

  2. I took my oldest there when she was about 8 yrs old (old enough to ride everything).
    We did 9 parks in 10 days.
    EPCOT, Animal and Magic Kingdoms, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, Universal Studios and Islands Of Adventure, and Disney Quest.

    My wife said that we need a vacation from the vacation because I got everyone up early and we rode at LEAST every thrill ride at each park and more.

    While we had extreme fun, I’d never do that again (Disney Quest is gone anyway). When my youngest (now 7) gets tall enough, maybe next year, she will get maybe 2 or 3 parks in 7 days. Taking a chill pill at the resort would be great.

    Now regarding some of these advantages, FastPass is great. It shows Disney has class unlike Universal, which charges a verrry high fee.The crowds are STILL dismal.
    The “all-inclusiveness” is grossly overstated. Parades, shows, rides, and fireworks being “included”? Well yeahhh. That’s part of the park. That’s not a distinct advantage or something to tout.

    “Parades included!!”

    I find it’s best to wait for a child to be “tweener” age to hit Disney. Young enough that they like little kids stuff but tall enough to ride extreme rides. I find Disney is too expensive now, to go every year. Maybe go to different Disney(s) with many years in-between.

    Me and the wife recently did 2 weeks in Japan (9 in Tokyo/5 in Osaka) and did Tokyo Disneyland, Sea, and Universal Studios Japan. I’d like to take my kids there and also head to Disney World, Disneyland, and other Disney parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Paris.

    • @Busyman 9 parks in 10 days, wow!
      Regarding the all-inclusiveness, in my area there are several events that you have to pay extra for everything…the State Fair, a couple of local Hot Air Balloon Festivals, pro basketball games and even the recent circus that came into town. For the state fair, riding the big Ferris wheel costs $15 per person, and most other rides cost $5 – $6 each. With a family of five, that adds up to a ridiculous amount. And the rides are nowhere as cool as Disney rides. The fair also has shows and concerts that cost extra. I’ve been three times, and each time I leave feeling I would have rather spent my money at Disney.
      I’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland but I really want to plan a trip to China and Hong Kong to visit the parks I haven’t seen. I hope you had an amazing trip to Japan!

  3. I agree with all of this. Our Disney vacations have highs and lows just like any other vacation we’ve ever taken. I still love to go back when we can. Even my husband, who isn’t a huge Disney fan, enjoys returning again after a couple of years. For us, the muggy summer weather in Orlando has been one of the biggest negatives on our trips so we’ve decided not to go to WDW in summer anymore. If we want to do Disney in summer we will go to DLR.

    • @Julie Yes, highs and lows like every vacation does! I agree with you about the summer weather. I’m hoping that by going in early June next year it won’t be as bad.

  4. I recently got two two-day tickets to Disneyland using Citi TY points obtained from signing up for the Citi TY Premier card. So, our park tickets were covered by points just as our hotel stay is covered by Hyatt points and our flights were covered by Delta SkyMiles. I also used Citi TY points for our rental car. The only thing not covered by points will be our meals.

  5. My Disney secret to limit meltdowns with a toddler (or anyone really): ridemax.com

    It will change your life;)

    It may not make a big difference if you go on low crowd days but if you are there with lots of people, it’s a life saver. We used it when at Disneyland during New Years and we we able to ride all our rides by lunchtime and never waited more than 20 mins in line!

    • @Tammie I’ve heard good things about ridemax! Four of our last five times at Disney World have been during the summer, and I’ve been shocked at how short the lines have been by getting to the parks early and using FastPass+.

      • Yes getting to the parks early is KEY. We line up 45 mins before opening time to be one of the first ones in. It’s amazing the difference an hour makes!

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