“Welcome to Disney World. Where Dreams Come True”
Like most my age I grew up on the classics: wishing I had red hair like Ariel, wanting a pet tiger like Jasmine, whistling in the hope woodland creatures would help me tidy my room and captivated by the beauty and simple elegance of my favourite Princess, Belle.
I was fortunate enough to visit Disney World, Orlando when I was 10 years old. Since then I’ve made two trips to Disney Land, Paris aged 15 and 18. So when my brother told us his wedding was only a seven hour drive from “the most magical place on Earth,” I knew Orlando had to be our destination after the wedding. I wanted my own children to experience the magic I had as a kid.
We arrived at the Most Magical Place on Earth half an hour after it opened. It took us over an hour to actually reach the park gates due to car parking, bag checks and catching the ferry to the Magic Kingdom Island. Once we arrived we spilt off into two groups: my Brother and his girlfriend went off to find the more “grown up” rides and my parents and sister stayed with David and I and the kids. We wandered slowly through Main Street towards the castle, our senses heightened. There is so much to see, all sorts of colours. So much to hear, music playing all the time. And so much to smell, sweet baking wafting down the street.
We all met up again at a cafe for lunch and then proceeded to wander through the park trying to tick off the rides I had listed. The Disney World Experience app is fantastic. It has a detailed map of the park with accurate wait times for each ride. It also has filtered searches for toilets or restaurants. I used the app a lot that day that come 9.30pm my battery was at 1%.
In total Finlay managed 8 rides, The Hall of Presidents and a meet and greet with the main man himself, Mickey Mouse. The twins went on 4 rides. They too visited The Hall of Presidents (and found it very thought provoking!) and met Mickey Mouse, neither of them wanting to say bye. We actually had to be ushered out the room and when the door closed Autumn was trying to open it again, up on her tiptoes to reach the handle! We also stumbled upon a dance parade, met The Chipmunks and watched the nightly firework display.
We set foot inside the park at 10.15am and we left at 11pm.
So what tips can I offer to those thinking of visiting Disney with young children?
- Disney is expensive. It cost us £180 for 1 day pass for David, Finlay and I. Under 2s are free. If you really want to go then make sure you budget in all the extras you will inevitably spend your cash on: memorabilia, drinks, food, stroller hire the list goes on and on. Disneyland Paris is slightly cheaper for those in the U.K. and is just as good.
- Check the weather in Florida before you book. It can be extremely hot, like we found out, with temperatures in the high 30s. Or if the sun isn’t beaming down then you’re likely to get caught in a rain or thunderstorm. All these elements can make your day that much harder.
- What will your kids get out of the experience? There are a number of rides pre schoolers can go on in Magic Kingdom, more than other parks. But do they have the patience to wait in queues for over an hour? Do you have the patience for moaning about heat, sore legs, boredom, yes even in Disney they get bored. Mostly of waiting!
- Strollers. By 6pm Finlay was flaking. He could no longer do it. His legs were exhausted. David managed to blag a free stroller for him. But this is one to think about. Can they survive all that walking?
- Best to take a crew with you. It was hard for us even with the extra hands we had purely because of the heat. But if you are outnumbered in the parenting stakes and your children are under 5 might be best to see if extra family members can go with you.
- To make the most out of it Book an all inclusive Disney holiday (and if you have the ££!) This gives you added perks, a place to go back to when the kids get tired and more time to do things at your own pace.
- It gets busy! Like REALLY busy. So make sure you plan for this. We put Finlay in a bright yellow tshirt so we could easily spot him.
- If you can and have time to, maybe make your own packed lunch. We brought lots of bottles of water and snacks for the kids. Best to bring a cool bag and load it up. Helps to calm them down with a snack when they’ve had enough of the heat and the waiting!
- Use your 3 Fast Passes you get with your ticket and book them in advance. We used ours for the top 3 rides saving us time queuing for an hour and half.
- Resign yourself to the fact you probably won’t get to see or do everything you want to, especially with young children. Prioritise those rides or shows you really want to do. I made a list of what I wanted to get out of the day and only managed half of it.
There is so much more I could say. But was it worth it? Honestly I would say no for the twins. They spent 80% of the day in the stroller and struggled to nap in the heat. Finlay on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed his time. There were spells when he would moan about having to wait and his legs were exhausted by the end of the day but he still talks about meeting Mickey and the funny train ride (Big Thunder Mountain). Here’s hoping the trip is a lifelong memory.