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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Disney World With Kids, Part 4: Lessons Learned

by Ken Newquist / November 28, 2012

My family and I recently went to Disney World. This is part 4 of my 4 part series looking at the trip. Read Part 1: Downtown Disney, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Part 2: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Part 3: Pin Trading, Autographs, Fastpass, Card Games.

Disney Boot Camp

When we got back from Disney World my wife and I joked that we'd figured out the perfect way to prepare people for going there:

  1. Walk two miles.
  2. Watch 15 minutes of a Disney movie.
  3. Repeat.

We knew going into our Disney vacation that it was going to be different from anything we've done before. We don't do destination vacations like this; Disney was easily the most money we've ever spent on a vacation, and it was the most event-packed of any trip. But it was worth it ... even if it did feel a little like we'd been through the happiest boot camp on earth.

Looking back, I think the only thing I would have done differently was to spend another day there. As you might have gather from ready the previous posts in this series, we did a lot in Disney World. All joking aside, we did not drive our kids to exhaustion, but we were almost always doing something. We didn't have much downtime where we could just hangout by the pool or take a bike ride around the Port Orlean's resort.

I don't think this was a problem; the kids had a blast, and Sue and I enjoyed ourselves, but a few more opportunities for downtime would have been nice.

The Meal Plan

We got the meal plan, and it worked pretty well. We made reservations for all of our major dinners at places like the Primetime Cafe, Tony's, and The Sea before we went, and then planned out our schedules around that.

The snack portion of the meal plans confused us in the beginning; at our first meal at Downtown Disney the cashier said snacks were anything under $2.50. We mistakenly thought that was the case throughout Disney, but by the end of the first day we'd realized that wasn't true.

The key with the meal plan is to have at least a tentative plan for your day, and to pack our own supplemental snacks. Without a plan you'll end up spending more money than you wanted to on food as you suddenly find yourself buying dinner when a snack could have sufficed. As for the snacks, the Disney allotment in the meal plan is ok, but my kids like to graze. We made sure we had granola bars and dried fruit on hand just in case they were hungry now.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's Flordia and even in October that means rain. It rained every day we were in Disney World, usually in the afternoon, and usually accompanied by a rolling thunderstorm.

I found the difference in threat levels amusing; the storms we saw in Disney World would have earned at least a Severe Thunderstorm Watch back home in Easton, Pa., but in Flordia it was just "weather".

We were prepared for that weather thanks to the new rain jackets we'd bought ourselves and the kids earlier in the summer and fall. Modern rain jackets are light, remarkably water repellent and can easily be stuffed into a backpack, and that made a huge difference in our day. The kids took the storms in stride, even StarGirl who hates thunderstorms, and they weren't a big impediment to our day.

Six and Nine: The Perfect Ages

Sue and I debated exactly when we should go to Disney World for a long time. We started talking about it when NeutronLad was four, but we felt that Disney World would be too exhausting for a four year old. At the same time though, we wanted to go when StarGirl was still a kid, and not a tween or -- worse yet -- a teenager. We wanted NeutronLad to be able to keep up with us, and StarGirl to be young enough to still be struck by the wonder of it all.

Six and nine ended up being the perfect ages for us. I know there are families who have gone with kids far younger than ours and still had a good time, but for us these ages were ideal. We did have some griping about all the walking, particularly in Epcot, but we rarely had to carry NeutronLad, and StarGirl was a trooper throughout. Moreover, at six and nine the two kids shared enough interests to keep us focused. It wasn't like we had a 9 and 12 year old, with the older kid always wanting to go one roller coasters and the younger one sticking to the more kid-friendly rides; they were almost always in agreement on what to go on (or at least, what not to go on).

Reasons to Go Back

We did a lot on this trip, but we didn't do everything. There were rides in every park that we didn't go on, including Space Mountain and Peter Pan in Magic Kingdom, Expedition: Everest in Animal Kingdom, and The Great Movie Ride and Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios. We also left half of the World Showcase in Epcot unvisited.

That's ok though. We fully expect to go again in a few years, perhaps with our extended families, perhaps not. Either way we saw enough for the kids to have favorites they want to see again as well as missed rides they'll want to try. I think it's good to have a few things left undone; it gives all of us even more to look forward to when we return.