Disney Lessons from an Amateur

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that we were at Disney World last week.  When we first started planning this trip (about a year ago) my friends were split into three camps – those who looked at me in horror, those who talked about “getting through” a Disney vacation, and those who were overjoyed at the idea of us visiting the most magical place on earth.  My husband was decidedly in the horrified camp but was sick of me nagging about how much the kids would love it when he agreed to going.  He’s now a HUGE Disney fan is already talking about when we can visit next.
Here are a few lessons I’m taking with me for our next trip:
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1)  Charge your camera battery & bring your charger.  My battery was more than half dead when we got to Orlando and to my dismay I ended up with no camera for a few days while I was waiting for a charger to be shipped from Amazon.  I was fortunate in that Jesse’s parents met us for a few days so I’ll be able to get pictures from Jesse’s dad, but I still missed some great shots not having a camera.
2) Go with the flow.  Part 1.  The resort that we were staying at was undergoing pool renovations that were scheduled to be done by the time we arrived.  I called two days before to confirm that the pool would in fact be open and was told that it was ready to go.  When we arrived, the pool renovations were not complete and when the pool did finally open later that week, we still had closings due to water quality concerns.  Violet and I jumped in line for Space Mountain because we were told wait times were about 10 minutes and found that everyone else had jumped in line for the same reason (and waited a little over an hour).  A perfectly clear forecast turned into a mid-day deluge at Animal Kingdom. Being flexible is not my strong suit, but it’s simply a necessity and knowing that going in helps. 
3) Go with the flow.  Part 2.  That mid-day deluge at Animal Kingdom had us running for cover, listening to a pretty amazing band. I enjoyed a beer while kids had a blast dancing.  That long wait at Space Mountain forced us to miss a fast pass but catch a parade/dance party on the square instead.  The pool renovation issue resulted in us getting a one night’s credit on our stay which I happily put toward a badly needed massage and some souvenirs.  Things don’t always go as planned, but it’s Disney.  If something falls through, there is always something else to enjoy.  Enjoy it.
4) Expect crowds.  We visited during one of the slower times of year and visited Magic Kingdom on a day that was expected to be less crowded.  There were still more than enough people for this claustrophobic girl.  To avoid lines (to the best of your ability), use an app.  We used a combination of the Disney World app (which is free) and WDW Lines app (which requires a membership).  I found the WDW Lines app to be very helpful – especially for planning which park we wanted to visit on which day.
5) Bring a water bottle & snacks.  I spent so much money on stupid bottled water because I didn’t think ahead.  We did okay bringing breakfast bars, goldfish, yogurt pretzels, and a few sweets but I think I’d still add a few things for our next trip.
6) Make your dinner reservations.  Early.  Dining at Disney is no joke. In general, I’d say our meal planning adventures worked for us (we did not do the dining plan so I can’t say anything one way or another about that) but there wasn’t one night where we didn’t see a family getting turned away when they thought they could just “pop in” to resort restaurants.  What worked for us was a few structured dinner nights (our first night & the 4 evenings with Jesse’s parents) and a few nights where we just picked up something at the park or the sandwich stand in our resort.  We had a couple of breakfast reservations (I got lucky one night and made them the night before and one night I didn’t get lucky and we bought fruit plates from said sandwich stand) but mostly had grab and go breakfast bars that we had brought along. 

7.  Use your hand sanitizer. I missed Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party and our last day at the parks because I was sick with 102° fever.  I blame it on the adorable little baby with the big ugly cough who was one seat in front of me on the plane down.  All the same, do everything you can to avoid being sick.  And if you do get sick see tips 2 & 3.  

8. Get a dole whip.  The soft serve kind and not the float.  I can’t say anything about how the float tastes but I can tell you the soft serve version is UN-REAL.  

9.  Accept that you can not do everything (or even everything you think you can).  Looking back at each day, I’m a little underwhelmed at what we checked of the itinerary considering how exhausted we were by the time we crawled into bed.  We certainly could have crammed in more rides or more character visits or more shopping or MORE but no matter how much MORE we packed in we’d still be missing something.   By picking a few “must do” items each day (as in, no more than 3) and letting the day unfold, we kept the meltdowns and tantrums at bay (mostly, mom did have a minor one after our first day in the park).  
10.  Have fun.  I know I made my friend laugh when I sent her a text and said, “This place is crazy.  Even the bathrooms are themed.” but I was just blown away.  Disney World really truly is a magical place.  If you aren’t having fun, I say sit on a bench and people watch for awhile (with a dole whip, of course) and then visit the bathrooms by Rupenzel’s tower.  They’re freaking gorgeous.  AND THEY’RE BATHROOMS!
I’m not an expert.  I’ve only visited Disney twice and only once as an adult.  There are websites a plenty that can tell you when to go and what to do and where to eat and where a good place to relax might be (we took a ride on the Liberty Belle, it was perfect) but these are the very basic things I think everyone should know to have a good trip.

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  • I haven't been to Disney in yeeeears so thanks for the refresher on all this. We have a work conference in the beginning of March at one of the Disney resorts and you better believe we'll be adding on a few days to see Epcot and Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Can't wait to see more pictures!