There are no greater expectations than when guests visit Walt Disney World. So true. Shows about Walt Disney World on the Travel Channel will tell you the same thing. The commercials for Walt Disney World, including the homemade videos of children and families so excited to make their way to the most magical place on earth, support the same message.
For most families, a visit is a once in a lifetime trip. A put all your eggs in one basket scenario. Parents plan and children dream of a magical, perfect (whatever that is) visit to Walt Disney World.
But what happens when the trip isn’t as magical as expected? What if the magic moments never materialize? What if a family returns home having a horrible time, wishes they had never gone, and won’t be returning? It can happen. We’ve had friends who’ve had this type of experience with a Walt Disney World trip, unfortunately.
Let me begin with the suggestion that Walt Disney World hosts nearly 40 million visitors annually and it is in
Crowds and heat are going to be part of the equation almost year
around. If that is something that will
melt your family or cause meltdowns, then Walt Disney World may not be the best
vacation destination for your family.
Knowing that ahead of time and not falling prey to peer pressure or
outside expectations that “all children must go to Walt Disney World” at some
time in their childhood may save some families the hassle of going and having
less than a magical experience. Still
take a vacation—that’s what memories are made of—just consider a cabin by a
lake or a hotel on a beach or something else your family might like.
(Note: Disney offers both of those
It is also helpful if everyone in your family is on the same page, so to speak, about a trip to Walt Disney World. If everyone isn’t behind the concept, then unpleasantness may abound. That one person who is going to be miserable may make everyone else’s vacation miserable. Either leave that person at home, or offer a compromise. Something like, “Okay, your ideal vacation includes golfing. After spending the morning in a park with the family, take the afternoon and go golfing at one of the many Disney golf courses. We’ll meet you for dinner.” There are times when our family splits up to make sure people get to do what they want. For example, on our last trip, the boy and husband went to Star Tours. I grabbed a snack and seats for Indiana Jones. When I told the husband where I would be sitting, he said, “I know. Down on the left.” Yep, that’s where I was and had snacks for the crew.
If, upon reflection, your family is still poised and ready to take on the World, the next step is planning. Yes, I know, it’s a vacation. The idea of planning on and for a vacation sound ludicrous. But trust me, if you want to get the most out of your vacation dollar and not be the parent screaming “this vacation cost a lot of money and you’re/we’re going to do. . .” at your child(ren) then planning is key. After deciding when you’re going, how you are getting there, where you are staying, come the details. Which park on which day? Where to eat and when? How to use Fastpass. How to use Disney transportation. You would be amazed to see how many people follow us at
from the plane to the Disney’s Magical Express Check-in. (It's most likely the Disney lanyards and matching shirts that give them the clue of where we are going!) Orlando
Prepping the children is another key component of planning. We have seen children gladly ride Dumbo as the child can see what the ride entails, but then refuse to go on Peter Pan’s Flight, as the ride itself is hidden to guests’ views. This is where books and videos come in. There are many books available for kids to read about Walt Disney World. The Guide to the Magic for Kids was part of our bedtime reading before several trips. YouTube offers many ride through videos of attractions so kids can see what they are getting themselves into. Having the kids learn about Walt Disney World helps to build their excitement.
Once you arrive, have a daily plan. We start with the first 3 attractions or things, then wing it from there, except for Advance Dining Reservations (ADR’s), leaving plenty of room for magic.
Yes, there are Walt Disney World guests that go without plans, but trust me, they are veterans. They are repeat travelers, not first timers. And, if this trip is your family’s once in a lifetime adventure, then planning is essential.
Now, about the magic. This is a more elusive concept. Yes, Walt Disney World is magical and magical things happen, but what we have found is that we make our own magic. And, when we are making our own magic, even more magical things happen. Some of our magic comes from other guests—on our last trip one guest told us we glowed. What a compliment! Another guest, who saw us later in the day, said she had seen us meeting Mike and Sully and that we looked like we were fun. I would like to think that we are fun. She made our day! We try to help make magic for other guests by helping, offering suggestions to first timers, etc. We were selected to do something special at Animal Kingdom this last trip and the husband grabbed another family to join us. Some magic comes from Cast Members who share a tip, interact positively with guests, provide great service with a smile, or sprinkle pixie dust.
So, showing up with an “I’m here. Make some magic,” attitude isn’t going to create magic and most likely, magical experiences will not happen.
It breaks my heart a bit to write that Walt Disney World may not be for everyone, especially if it isn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Yet, a trip to the most magical place on earth can be memorable. . . and magical!