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My family of five recently returned from a week-long trip to Disney World (followed by a few days at Universal). We had a lot of fun, and overall our vacation was enjoyable.
But in the spirit of “keeping it real”, a trip to Disney doesn’t always seem like you’re at the happiest place on earth. Trudging around the parks feels like a chore, and we witnessed many meltdowns (by kids AND parents!). On the other hand, our time at the theme parks also created great moments that are difficult to replicate at home.
How Disney World Brings Out the Best
Obviously, just not being at work or school is a treat. However, the atmosphere at Disney World makes that time extra special. The music, the iconic visuals, being surrounded by excited people…the happiness is contagious!
For my family, being at the theme parks forces us to spend quality time together. At home, my oldest teenager rarely leaves his room. He doesn’t spend much time with his siblings, and we all do our separate activities. But at Disney World, our kids team up for rides. They are forced to wait together in queues and agree on a touring plan. I was so happy to see my kids interact with each other so much on this trip.
At Disney World, my husband and I are a little more fun. Since our kids received gift cards for Christmas, it was nice to see them shop for things without constantly hounding us for money. We say “yes” to junk food and treats more often at Disney. We’re in vacation mode!
How Disney World Brings Out the Worst
One night, my younger son and I stayed at Magic Kingdom past closing. We got in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train one minute before the park closed, and so by the time we got off the ride it was 45 minutes after the park closed. We walked to the bus depot to wait for the bus to take us back to our resort. Due to the pandemic bus rules, the bus drivers must assign seats to guests as we board, and there is no standing. So, it takes more time and busses to get everyone back to their resorts.
After a few minutes, a family got in line behind us. They were beat. It was hard not to eavesdrop since they were yelling at each other.
Mom: “I am just not taking you guys to Hollywood Studios tomorrow. I can’t. I won’t. I know that we will stand in line for that roller coaster for over an hour, and you will just cry.”
Dad: “I told you that if we stayed to ride that last ride we would end up in this long line for the bus. It’s your fault. This is awful. The kids are about to fall over.”
More things were said, but you get the idea. This is not unusual at Disney World. All that family time together I mentioned above? It eventually drives people nuts. Add on the fact that it’s 100 degrees outside and people are tired, hungry and dehydrated. Throw in some blisters from walking 5-10 miles a day and lack of sleep due to sleeping in the same room with kids or getting up at the crack of dawn to avoid the crowds, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Tips to Avoid the Worst
It’s almost impossible to experience at least a little bit of frustration or grumpiness on a trip to Disney World. We are human, after all. But, there are ways to minimize those moments.
- Stay hydrated. Bring a small water bottle and re-fill it in the water fountains.
- Bring snacks.
- Rent a DVC condo or stay in an offsite condo so that you can sleep in a separate room from the kids.
- Wear sneakers/athletic shoes. Bring band-aids for blisters.
- Plan rest days! Schedule park days for two consecutive days, and then plan a hotel/resort day to relax and refresh.
The truth is, going to Disney World gets easier as our kids get older. But, that doesn’t mean we’re immune from these meltdowns. Despite the worst parts, the best parts make up for it, and those are the times we will remember.
Have you ever witnessed a major meltdown at Disney? (Child or parent?)
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.